Exclusive interview with Highstyle: We’ve got it good here

Our beloved Vortex turns 21 in less than two weeks’ time. This year’s instalment is shaping up to be massive with a lineup that reads as a “who’s who” in the world of top-notch psytrance –  home-grown and abroad. We spoke to Highstyle, another headlining act, ahead of the legendary event.

Highstyle is Corbin Todd Duff – a prolific yet illusive artist whose sound is best described as an underground psychedelic experience. Aged 24 and from Cape Town, Corbin was born a groove addict and has always been interested in experimental sounds. He is currently signed to Looney Moon Records but borrows inspiration from various other labels and sources to fuse into a unique melting pot of low end bass lines, twisted leads and darker atmospherics.  His fun-loving energy combined with a well-honed technical knowledge and a true passion for what he does, results in a fresh and crunchy sound that is guaranteed to pack the floor.

Highstyle psytrance south africa

With special thanks to Brandon Lee Menzies and Louise Harford.

PSYKED:
Hi Corbin.  First of all, how psyked are you to be part of the epic celebrations this year?

HIGHSTYLE:
Since I started going to parties, Vortex has always been a favorite. I remember hearing about them as a young kid which goes to show how long they’ve been around. You can always expect a truly professional event from them.

PSYKED:
Tell me a bit about yourself; what sort of music were you into as a kid? And, did you ever imagine becoming a renowned DJ?

HIGHSTYLE:
As a youngster I listened to a lot of hip-hop, slowly getting into drum ‘n bass and moving onto hard house and more dance music when I was about 15 years old. Shortly after that, I discovered psytrance through my friend, Matt, who used to organise it from his older brother. I never imagined I’d become a producer- not until I started writing music, of course!

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PSYKED:
What was your deciding trance moment – the one where you decided you wanted to start mixing and producing psytrance?

HIGHSTYLE:
The deciding moment for me was at my first big-proper-outdoor which was Earthdance with the Nano Guys. It was in 2007; they had done such a beautiful stage and I checked this DJ spinning his tunes and totally fell in love with the idea of playing my own music. The weekend after that I went to a Vortex with a friend who had just started writing music and he started showing me the ropes. Shortly afterwards I started producing music.

PSYKED:
Who planted your first seed of inspiration?  

HIGHSTYLE:
I’d say, in those years, it would be Cosmo and Highko. They were the ones who made me say, “Wow, I want to make music like that!” The sounds that they were making were the most psychedelic at that time – they really pushed the boundaries.

Highstyle psyked vortex open source 2015

PSYKED:
Can you describe your most memorable gig?

HIGHSTYLE:
Hmm… There have been so many. One of the more recent ones was Modem Festival in Croatia last year; it was amazing. A truly psychedelic festival. I’ve had some funny ones in India too. Another memorable one was my first big gig in South Africa – an Easter Vortex. Standing up on that stage and playing all my own music to a good crowd felt really rewarding.

PSYKED:
How has your taste in musical changed over the years?

HIGHSTYLE:
In the beginning, in the local scene, I used to enjoy the Timecode Sound, Nexus Media, Twisted System, Shift, as well as some of the newer guys at the time like Rubix Cube, Frozen Ghost and Headroom. This all changed after my first Noisy Radicals event which was hosted by Free Radical Records; I got to hear Dirty Saffi, Asimilion, Illegal Machines, Highko and Cosmo. This was my first time hearing real high-tech, dark psy, forest type music.

highstyle corbin psytrance

PSYKED:
Have you ever played at a Vortex Festival before? And, if so, what would your favourite moment be?

HIGHSTYLE:
Yes, I have played a Vortex before; it was an Easter Vortex at the Circle of Dreams. I was playing a brand new live set that I wrote for the party which later went on to be an album. Grant had asked me for some slower music as I was writing 160 bpm high-tech at the time; he booked me a year in advance so I had time to prepare. Getting to play an hour of new tunes on that rig was a moment to remember. I guess you could say that Grant and Vortex have played a small part in the style and tempo of music that I now write.

PSYKED:
How do you typically prepare yourself for a performance?

HIGHSTYLE:
I don’t really do any preparation before a set though a few stiff drinks always help me through *laughs.* Other than getting my music together, I don’t really think about it. My preparation is done in the studio during production and getting my set ready. I’m really confident in what I do and I really enjoy getting up there and blasting. Sometimes my heart gets a bit jumpy but that is more from excitement than nerves.

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PSYKED:
Who are you most excited to see playing on this year’s line-up?

HIGHSTYLE:
The two people I’m most excited about seeing this year are Killer B,  who is also signed to Looney Moon Records, and Moog Mushrooms who plays some really killer night time tunes. Watch out for these guys!

PSYKED:
Vortex has a standalone policy of re-introducing the DJ and getting rid of live acts. Do you think this is a good or bad idea?

HIGHSTYLE:
Eish, that’s a touchy one for me. Personally, I believe that there should be live sets at a festival, whether they be one or three hours long. I’ve had many a long debate with festival organisers about this policy and can fully understand what they are after – to create longer seamless journeys which flow through the different sounds as opposed to a live set which has the same sound for one hour. This year I have agreed to play a DJ set, something I haven’t done in five or six years, which is going to be fun. I’m mixing in my own music and some of my other projects as well as all my favorite artists. It is my mission to push the kind of sound I play in South Africa, so I want to give people a broad spectrum of the deeper more psychedelic night time sound. So, yes, for this purpose, the idea is great.

highstyle dj

PSYKED:
On a more serious note, do you feel there are the problem areas within our scene right now?

HIGHSTYLE:
I do see a few problems within the scene actually; I could rant all day about it. A serious problem for me is the lack of quality international acts. Sure, we get some  but they get recycled and it’s mostly prog or full-on-twilight. We need more styles of trance in South Africa. We are especially lacking in the night time, darker, forest psychedelic as well as some quality European full-on psychedelic stuff, dark prog, zenonesque etc. People are asking for it every day. Other than it not being my favorite music at home, I can’t complain much. We have a very healthy scene and we should really be grateful. We’ve got it good here guys. Yes, we can do more to elevate it to European and UK levels but we’re getting there.

PSYKED:
Any words of the younger generation entering the scene?

HIGHSTYLE:
Be humble. Be polite. Respect everyone. Make many friends and have a lot of fun.

highstyle dreads psytrance psychedelic

PSYKED:
What about words of encouragement for up-and-coming DJ’s?

HIGHSTYLE:
My advice? Work hard and play even harder! Oh, and if you want to start making music, go for it! These days you can acquire all the tools you need easily and cheaply. Don’t be intimidated by it. It’s great fun and hey, who knows, maybe in five years’ time, you’ll be blasting all over the world.

vortex experience the magic open source psytrance 2015

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