If we had to compare the impact of Audiofreq’s latest album “Audiology” on the Hardstyle scene, we would have to go way back in time and meet our predecessors the dinosaurs, and ask them how they felt when they got pounded by the last asteroid they encountered. As adaptation is the key to survive to such a massive event, those who won’t adapt will also perish when listening to this masterpiece as the content of “Audiology” will definitively change the vision of hardstyle. So many explosive tracks that are crossbred with other genres such as Dubstep, Trap, Drum & Bass, Freestyle, Rawstyle, Hardcore and so many more. We had the honour to ask Sam Gonzalez aka Audiofreq a few questions on his album, and he also shared with us his vision about the future of Hardstyle.
Now, Sam we are so glad to have you today! How are you doing?
I’m good. Strangely and calm now that this album is done and out there in the wild. I don’t know what to do with myself!
You have recently released a new album, Audiology that has shaken the world of hardstyle like no other album since Project One. It took you 2 years to produce this album and when we listen to it, we can feel the inner passion that drives you to produce music. What a Masterpiece! Can you say a bit more about this album?
This album is a culmination of all my musical experiences and influences up into this point. I believe that albums should have a purpose, a solid idea and story that weaves through all the tracks – sometimes that can be a deep obvious story, sometimes it’s how it’s put together. Album’s should challenge the listener but more importantly, the artist. It should push the artist further creatively and musically, and that resonates with me because I’m always looking to improve as an artist.
I also prefer putting together a long experience that can be digested over single tracks. It’s how I listen to music, to whole EP’s and albums rather than single tracks. Think of me like a chef: sure I could put together a nice little burger for you to snack on but where I really shine is when I put together a 3 or 5 course meal for you to enjoy over an evening. That’s how I think about this album, a long, involved experience.
I heard that when you produce Hardstyle, you try not to listen to Hardstyle at all. Why?
We are like machines and our brains are like stomachs that digest our experiences in life. You are what you consume. So it stands to reason that if I want to make interesting music, I need to properly digest as much different music as possible and look outside of where everyone is looking. The most precious treasures are found where other people aren’t digging and I’m always digging.
Before getting into further details of some tracks of your album, can you tell us what are the other musical genres that influence you?
I’m really into technical metal at the moment. I discovered a band called Periphery via Mick Gordon’s Doom score (which is amazing!) and they’re blowing my mind with really tight playing, lots of switch ups in their songs and lot of intensity while still staying musical and not devolving into screaming noise. I’m also a big fan of movie and game soundtracks, old school hip hop, drum & bass, future-bass and salsa. I do my best to look past genres and find magic in everything. I like well made, exciting music; stuff that either makes me wanna move about or that tickles my ears and brain.
I think that diversity is really the key to bring new melodies and new ideas to the scene. I know that a lot of artist tend to do the same and listen to other musical genres. Now something that I also notice when I look at the cover of Audiology is this feeling of getting back into the 80’s and playing to this retro video game, where the difficulty gets harder the longer you play, til you finally meet the “final boss”. Is that the way you wanted use to construct your album?
Definitely. The story behind Audiology is the journey of the little scientist as he explores and experiments until he opens a portal to another dimension and is confronted with the Audio God; which is both the final track and the giant being on the front cover. This album is a journey through a sonic landscape I’ve created; diving deeper into the rabbit hole as it goes on.
I wanted to express this journey and adventure through the music and the artwork. Metal Slug is one of my favourite games of all time because of the art, the journey and the ridiculousness of that journey. Nothing gets me more excited than pixel art which no-one is really using as covers and I felt it really fits the image of Audiofreq, see that’s me digging where no-one is looking again!
Well we have a true visionary here ! Now Sam, I don’t want to scare you off, but I have selected all the tracks that have deeply touched me and wrote everything that came through my mind while doing so, and I wanted you to comment and explain us further in detail what message or what history was hiding behind all of them. Fair?
Alright so let’s start with the introduction track called Invocation: So we know that some kind scientist finally breaks all the enigma behind your logo Audiofreq and gets himself trapped in another dimension and begins his journey through Audiology.
I tried several different approaches with the introduction track, trying to be more orchestral or more dirty and distorted but in the end I wanted something to set the tone of the album: we’re entering another world, a sonic landscape, we’re (unwittingly) invoking the Audio God, who we don’t see/hear until the end of the story.
Audiofreq - Invocation
MDMAUDIO. I must admit that the first notes of this album are like a true relief, as we feel like visiting a new place where no one has ever set foot before, a place where freaky bass lines and harmonical noises are kings. To be honest the first impression I had when listening to this track was as if I was going to the cinema to watch a movie I was expecting so long to watch!
This song basically sums up what I believe Audiofreq to be about in its purest form, an uplifting feeling while still giving an adrenaline surge, 100% Pure ‘Audiophetamine’ as it were. I wanted to open the album with a really strong powerful moment to set the tone for the rest of the adventure, combining the familiar with unfamiliar.
While a lot of my music can get complex, when it’s go time on the dancefloor, I keep it simple and driving. This track is a party starter and boy does it slam! That first drop still makes me screw my face up every time it hits!
Audiofreq - MDMAUDIO
Let it Flow (Dave Raven). This track is for me some kind of a lesson you learn about life. To “Let it flow” and smile at what all the beautiful things that life has to offer. The melodies of this tracks are so emotional, and really translates these beautiful moments you have in life. This is I guess one of the hardest things to do as an artist. To translate emotions through music.
I found this track the hardest to write because it’s actually pretty far outside of my comfort zone. I guess when people learn to expect the unexpected from me, the unexpected thing to do would be to do something way INSIDE the box.
Full credit to Dave Revan for doing a spectacular job on this one, his vocals really made the track. I’d abandoned this track a few times and if it wasn’t for Code Black’s encouragement/insistence, I would have never had finished it. I can make glitchy noisey music until the cows come home, but something beautiful, soft, emotional and easy to digest? Thats a real challenge for me.
Audiofreq - Let it Flow with Dave Revan
Audiofile 001. A pure reverse bass track. Simple, and it cuts right through all the speakers. I don’t know why but while I was listening to this track, I could picture you going crazy at Reverze 2014. No doubt, this is 100% Audiofreq!
Definitely a crowd pleaser that’s energetic from start to finish. It follows a similar approach to Warcry (native chants laid over kick and reverse bass), so it’s a familiar treat for those than crave that. I feel that a lot of artists get a bit scared when using reverse bass too, they don’t use it for the entire track, just a small section of it. That’s a shame, but it gives me the chance to fill that gap! No compromise, pure dancefloor hardstyle.
Audiofreq - audiofile.001
Audiofile 002. In this track we are overwhelmed by 100% Australian Hardstyle. There is no doubt. It’s punchy, aggressive, and same as it’s big brother Audiofile 001, it electrifies as soon as we press play.
Haha, is it Australian? I don’t think of my music that way haha! Often when I play with a song too long it ends up a jittery, glitchy mess. But that’s not a bad thing at all, it’s me being me. A lot of music I listen to is just that, and I keep on trying to out-do myself with the messes I make. Why deny myself? Why can’t I ‘unleash the Freq’? Audiofile.001 is giving the people what they want, Audiofile.002 is taking that thing and destroying it.
Audiofreq - audiofile.002
Analog Alchemy. I was so surprised to hear some early hardstyle kicks and even more delighted to see how you mixed it up with nowadays hardstyle… It’s really like I don’t know playing some retro video games that have been remastered, but with this old school you can only find when you listen to the first qlimax editions on youtube.
A lot of people wondered why I didn’t have any (producer) collaborations on this album and when the tracklist was released, were a little disappointed there was no Bioweapon. And even when Code Black and I released Make A Move/Reload the Weapon, there was a feeling that our earlier style had been left behind.
This is a direct response to that – it draws a lot on the influences and feeling that brought Bioweapon into existence, piercing sounds and a spooky atmosphere. This is a tribute to that 2007/2008 sound and the early Brennan Heart influence is obvious; who doesn’t love ‘Get Wasted’ or ‘One Blade’?
Audiofreq - Analog Alchemy
The Grid. Talking about Retro and Video Games, this track is an absolute masterpiece. This 80 vibe swirling around and lifting you up. How do you do that Sam? I think it’s my favorite track of this amazing album.
The Grid is one of my favourites too and really highlights what I like in dance music and what keeps it exciting: contrast. I’ve always loved 80’s sounds and you can hear them in Audioception, so after watching “Kung Fury” I couldn’t resist and had to jam out with retro sounds! Synth-wave and Hardstyle are wildly different, but it’s those contrasts and blending between the two that made the whole idea so exciting.
I wanted to take a concept that people were familiar with: The “Spoken Word Hardstyle” track, and challenge the whole stereotype by doing it differently, creating a world but yet making it accessible to the dancefloor. That idea of plugging into The Grid as presented by the vocals automatically conjures up ideas of futuristic sounds and Tron-esque elements, it’s very sci-fi, very Sam and I wanted to explore those ideas as far as I could go.
Audiofreq - The Grid
‘They say music… this hard-pounding beats, steady pulsing, bass heavy and warm, reminds us of a heartbeat from before you were born. What is it that brought you here? Kept you awake all these hours. Drove you to Dance into your shirt clung to your body in sweat… Bass Kicks and Reverb !’ ‘ Into this track I have put my whole life story’.
When I listen to the lyrics of this track I feel like you are trying to tell us something about your own perception of hardstyle. And also a bit of your own story … Am I right? Though I don’t understand this part ‘They say music… this hard-pounding beats, steady pulsing, bass heavy and warm, reminds us of a heartbeat from before you were born’. Are you questioning yourself why we love so much this music? Why we come from so far ‘Dance into your shirt clung to your body in sweat’?
I feel this resonates with why we all come to parties in the first place. Its part of everyone’s story. That feeling of togetherness when we unite in the cover of darkness, that elation when the kick drops. It’s less of a question of my own state of mind and more of a statement of reflection on the mindset of the of all of us. Why do we do this, party till the crazy hours in dark places? Well the answer this music and how it makes us feel is why.
I wanted to capture the feeling, of when you walk out of a party after it’s all over and you’re still in awe at what you’ve experienced, that ‘Afterglow’.
Audiofreq - Afterglow
Psychosonic (with Dave Revan): This track reminds me a bit of some old Prodigy tune, like “Breathe”. Were you inspired by this artist when you produced Psychosonic?
Definitely. Both Breathe and Firestarter were there main inspiration for the vocals, again great job by Dave, I love that guy. The first kind of music I started experimenting with when I first picked up a DAW was nu skool breaks and I always go back to that kind of music.
The Prodigy is probably the most well known group, but I loved (and still love) artists like BT, Toksin, Orbital and Ed Solo & Skool of Thought. While this might be very unexpected for some people, it’s definitely a ‘back to the roots’ for me. It’s like a track straight out of The Matrix soundtrack which one of my favourite movies.
This song serves as a palette cleanser from all the hardstyle that had come before and functioned much like ‘Mutate’ did on Audioception. If an album has too much of the same or isn’t laid out well it get boring fast.
Audiofreq - Psychosonic with Dave Revan
Rampage. Definitively one of my favorites from this album. Dirty dirty dubstep sounds mixed up with Rawstyle. Amazing banging tune, I feel like going deeper and deeper in a jungle with all the bizarre bugs and monsters sounds that are lurking around. I love the atmosphere ! I can already see the crowd going crazy with this track ! But how did you come up with this brilliant idea?
I like the idea of taking something people hate and presenting it in a way they can accept and digest it, again: contrast. In this case, a lot of raw fans abhorrently despise dubstep so I wanted to challenge that feeling. I did something similar with Riot, mixing ridiculous kicks with Trap.
So with the ‘rawstep’ concept in mind, I contacted Messinian because he’s got a really rough voice and is very familiar with dubstep, so I thought it would suit perfectly! From there putting it all together was easy! Just add kicks, lots of kicks! Hell, even the bass sounds are made up resynthesised of kicks!
Audiofreq - Rampage
Tripwire. Now when I listened to this track, my first impression when I heard beatboxing was like ‘Oh my god… but this album is so rich!’. Listening to this track we feel that the atmosphere has changed and that we are approaching the final chapters of Audiology. This track reminded me a bit of some tune from Skrillex, but with your own freaqy touch…
My background is Latino as both my parents are Colombian and I grew up with a lot of latin music. For the longest time I felt like I’d been neglecting those roots and influences, denying my heritage. Both Tripwire and Primal Rage have a strong Latino undercurrent throughout them but while being punchy, driving and exciting. Tripwire has Mariachi influences, and Primal Rage features Cumbia.
The strings in the intro are a cheeky little tip of the hat to one of my favourite anime: Gurren Lagann which is about giant mecha’s in space (it really couldn’t get more Sam!!) and I thought they give that feeling of ascending through the imaginary levels of the imaginary game conjured up by the cover art.
Audiofreq - Tripwire
The Hornet. The Giants Hornet from Hell that break lose as the drum & bass vibe kicks in. I must admit I am not a drum & bass fan at all. But I absolutely love this track. The Atmosphere and even the sound of the bugs flying around during the entire track! I keep asking this question, but where do you take your inspiration from? I know that as Australian, you must have seen it all with all the deadly insects and dinosaurs you have down under (I mean the cassowary).
Its funny, I’ve had quite a few people saw the same: they’re not normally drum and bass fans but they really like The Hornet. That’s a real blessing, to be able to show present and something to people they normally didn’t like and for them to accept and digest it.
STUNG by a TARANTULA HAWK!
We have a type of wasp in Australia called a Cicada Killer which is known as the Tarantula Hawk in some parts of the world. It’s one mean sonofabitch, it’s sting is the second most painful in the world. I dare say it’s a lot more scary than a hornet, but seeing one of those buzzing around the front yard of my parents house years ago kicks off the thought process: if there’s all these tracks sampling stuff out of documentaries, why can’t I do one about an insect? ‘Cicada killer’ seemed too long and obscure, but ‘Hornet’ is a lot more catchy and National Geographic had a cool little segment on Japanese Giant Hornets which helped cement the concept in my mind.
I love drum and bass and been looking for an excuse to do a full drum and bass track, so the two things just matched!
Audiofreq - The Hornet
‘And that was like I entered the cave of wonders,
standing there before me,
was the Ancient Audiogod’
The Final Chapter of Audiology is one heck of a way to finish the album. Nothing better than good old hardcore. It goes to the roof and we really feel like facing the final boss of this amazing journey into sound. What a beauty!
When I started working on this album I already knew how I was going to finish it. I’d been looking for the right reason to do a hardcore track. Before Audiofreq and Bioweapon, I used to do UK hardcore as Orbit1 and I’ve missed working at higher tempos (170bpm+). So with that in mind, what would soundtrack of that giant being on the front cover sound like?
After doing Lock & Load (Q-base 2015 Anthem), I really loved those robotic, mechanical sounds I created and wanted to more music with those futuristic elements, so I combined them with big symphonic horns and choirs to really instill the feeling of being in the presence of the Audio-God. I love the sense of completeness it adds to journey, it’s a wonderful conclusion.
Audiofreq - Audio God
Thank you for your time Sam, the whole Hardstyle Mag crew, bows down before your amazing, I mean tremendous album, that has really shaken the entire Hardstyle community. I think it will maybe change the vision of the people who don’t necessarily listen to Hardstyle but other music genres and maybe show them that after all, we are not these nerdy and weird people that go to club to listen only to hard pounding beats!
Not that there’s anything wrong with being a nerd that listens to hard pounding beats! Thanks for the chat, I’m honoured! – Audiofreq