Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble! Saxon Higgs aka Brujo’s Bowl is a psychedelic warlock with a magic bowl of musical goodies. ‘Brujo’ – which also means ‘witch’ – is a rather apt name for this talented young man who entered the ‘scene’ to critical acclaim back in 2009.
Founder of Triple Drop Productions – he’s worked alongside labels such as Zenon, and more lately, Shanti Planti. All the while, he’s remained true to the nature of his free spirit, evolving well beyond any genre-specific sounds. He joins us at Sunrise this weekend where he’ll also play as his alias, Beatroots. His dubtastic, bass-infused vibrations are sure to bring out the sun!
Saxon took some time to hang out with Anu Shukla for this rather special interview where he speaks openly about the consumer-driven wrath of the city – and about his love for the countryside, sustainability, conscious festivals, and of course, for music…
1. Hey-hey Saxon! Nice to catch up with you for this Sunrise interview. Howz tricks?
Ello. Yep, all good thanks. Nice to finally emerge from the long hibernation of winter. Felt a bit too long at some points in time. However, I think a winter without any gigs has definitely helped towards a boost in new material from both my projects. So, I can’t complain too much. Hehe. Festival time is here, and I am very keen indeed.
2. So it looks like we’re all gonna be hanging out at this rather gorgeous green location down in Chepstow…
Aye aye, looks like a beautiful site. Intrigued to see how it compares to the previous site the last time I went. I hope it isn’t going to be muddy like that time though. The sun will come out though! I have a strong feeling that it will. If it doesn’t, well… I’m not going to be too happy about that. Done muddy. Been there, done it… Got the T-shirt… But I’m pretty good at just getting in to an event whatever the weather be.
3. You’re a man of the country yourself. Last time we spoke you were telling us about hiking and biking through the rolling hills of the Welsh countryside…
Yes, I love the country side. Me, my partner and boy live right next to the sea at the moment. But hopefully we’ll be moving a bit more inland from the west coast of Wales soon. Going for walks along the same stretch of beach just isn’t as satisfying as going for a massive stride up a hill and getting to it’s top. And walking through protected forests which are hardly touched at all.
Mountain bikes and mountain trails are my new-found pleasure. Yes. Nothing quite like it. Especially here in Wales. It’s a fantastic form of meditation. I find myself imagining a little fire man, shovelling coal on to my fire. Like on a steam engine. He shovels in time to the rhythm of my respiratory system. When I begin to feel the lactic acid build up in my muscles, I know that the fire man isn’t working hard enough. This imagination helps me to get in to a more intuitive state of mind. Especially fast, on the down hill. I lock myself to the dithering terrain… I’d recommend it to anyone!
When I lived in a city, I found that the enticement of a constant stimulus actually wore down quite hard on my senses. I wasn’t so fussed about my health. I went to Tesco to do my shopping. The enormous amount of entertainment meant I wasn’t able to simply sit down and be. That’s the nature of the city I suppose. Buzz-buzz-buzzzzzz. Do, do. DO! It’s the biggest problem of western societies. We’re continuously force-fed to think we need the things we don’t.
When people say, ‘don’t spoil your kids!’ – Take a closer look at that ‘old saying’ and then take a closer look at every aspect that makes up society – the core ideal of every city and town comes down to: consumerism, capitalism, economics, the demand for oil, trade, etc etc etc.. The list goes on. We are spoiling ourselves constantly without even realising it. This is why I can’t live in a city…
You hear things like: “There’s a problem with our economy.” Oh no. The circulation of money, debts and trade of inanimate objects is coming to an end! What shall we do? How will we import ridiculously huge HD 3D televisions to all the poor westerners who can’t go a day without stimulation of the entertainment receptors in their brains? More importantly. How will massive companies like Tesco have any food in stock? People will have to start buying their food from local independent businesses and actually just circulate currency locally rather than giving it all to international scum bags who are wingin’ the whole system. Damn!
I just try to keep savvy of the monotonous and illusive crimes which are dealt to the human race as much as I can. And I believe that the heart of these crimes come from the beckoning call of the city. So I stay well away from it unless I need to go there.
4. Psytrance stole your heart back in 2009 – what was it about the scene that really attracted you and made you change music direction?
Haha, the openness. The people and the acceptance of unique behaviours. The psychedelic scene can be a very welcome place indeed. Another thing that I absolutely love are the record labels which are ‘usually’ managed by unpretentious, helpful and humble business folk who are usually artists themselves. They’re willing to give constructive feedback on an artist’s demo rather than chuck it over their shoulder with the rest of the pile of ignored material…
Of course, there are a select few labels (won’t name any) that are run by a bunch of ‘know it alls’ who couldn’t tell a decent tune from the end of their nose to their ears. But generally, there are far less of them than there are in other scenes, that’s for sure… A person’s art should be respected. And by starting a record label, one should be prepared to engage with that responsibility more so than the consumer. They should be encouraging, unprejudiced and kind.
5. The psy scene is also pretty much focused on one-ness, unity and consciousness. In your view, do you believe that ideology (in general) extends beyond the dance floor?
Some places more than others. It’s hard to say. I’d say that some people are just ‘literally’ flinging all sense of responsibility out the window And are just lounging about taking psychedelics (and other things, unfortunately): they’re having gigantic epiphanies and then not giving a monkeys about their insights once the party’s over. It’s because they’re having to recover from their gluttonous endurance of popping this that and the other in to their systems all weekend. I guess here, I’m kind of penalising the festivals and raves that are focused on ‘partying’ and nothing else.
On the other hand – we have festivals and events that focus on keeping everything as green as they can. Where parents can feel confident taking their children along because there’s a sense of community, family, purpose and forward thinking. And that means future. Hehe, and the children are the future man! No two ways about it. Hey, we’re back to that consumer topic again. What’s the use of all those gadgets and gizmos, mass-produced for stimulus if our future children can’t even breathe in the air we’ve mucked up?
Sustainability is all about thinking about what we’re gonna leave behind. Our grand childrens’ inheritance. And some events such as Sunrise, cherish this aspect. They provide fat tunes which are played through fat rigs, run on good clean energy. The music isn’t just ‘doosh doosh’ throughout the event, with an intention that’s only, ‘Mash Up! There are acts, bands, circus, story-telling and rows of food stalls serving up an array of good nosh for vitalization. Vitalization, good word eh? Vital. A balance is vital for vitality in one’s life. 😉
6. Actually, 2009 was also the year that you kicked off with Brujo’s Bowl… And by the way the word ‘Brujo’ is Spanish slang for ‘witch.’ Are you a witch?
Hahaha! Brujo does mean witch. But like wizards, witches can have all sorts of agendas. When I started the project, Brujo’s Bowl, I was a very experimental young man. I was intrigued by the entheogenic properties of select medicinal plants. And I was very inspired by the writings of Carlos Casteneda. (Who isn’t, eh? His books about his apprenticeship with Don Juan are legendary). Don Juan is referred to as a Brujo. Witch Doctor, Warlock, Shaman, Healer. Someone to go to for a spell.
Anyway. I am a Brujo. And my pipe bowl, or, bowl of mysterious looking liquid is there for anyone who wishes to use it. Generally, my music has only the best of intentions for myself first and foremost. And the same for those who are searching and can find a good comfortable place for it in their lives. However, like my personality, the ‘brujo’ in me is very sceptical, and sometimes cynical in an inappropriate and playful manner.
7. So as well as Brujo’s Bowll, you’re also playing as your other alias – the dub-infused project, Beatroots – tell us about that project and how you came to start it.
Beatroots is exactly how it sounds. I’m getting back to my roots, to the original expression of sound that I first discovered when I first started getting into electronic music as a youth. Dub, bass-music, emotional chord progression and intelligence in poly-rhythmic beat construction. Although, I do incorporate a lot of this direction in my Brujo’s Bowl project, especially on the break downs. I’m never truly satisfied with having just one genre in a track. Mix it all up. Dynamics. Emotion. Rhythm. Experimentation.
What’s the point in sticking to the same things that have been routing around rigs for years on end? I know punters are comfortable with the recognisable, safe and predictable. But I ask them: Why? To be unsafe is exciting and awakens intuitiveness. Especially in music. Intuitive dancing. To go with what your body is yearning for.
8. Your EP, Foundations was lately released on the awesome Shanti Planti label – nice work young sir! Tell us about your collaboration with those guys – they must be a very inspiring bunch to work with…
I just love the openness that Shanti Planti have adopted in to their ethos. We all are part of its management. We all have a say. And we lend the helping hand where it’s needed. Shanti Planti is sustainable in that sense. A co-operative collective of producers who incorporate each set of skills accordingly.
I had the privilege of mastering the first VA compilation to be released soon. I was able to put my skills to the test. And after doing so, I’ve been awarded with more confidence in my hearing and judgement of sound. Another amazing thing about the collectivity of Shanti Planti is that the royalties form the VA compilations that are released will go towards future mastering and artwork (if needed). Truly honoured to be part of it all… By the way. The VA is amazing. Definitely one to get your ears in to.
9. There’s trillions of artists and bedroom DJs dreaming of celebrating themselves on the podium. But of course, production quality comes before looks or ego (even if it is a rarity) – so tell us Saxon – what makes a good quality production?
That all depends on the desired sound of the consumers at the time. Artists are tricked by the masses to go into a particular direction quite often. What is popular? What isn’t popular? What makes a crowd flippin’ go for it? Not very often (especially in dance music) do you hear the question: what makes a crowd melancholy? Of course, not Saxon! Who the heck would want to feel sad on a dance floor? True that…
However, we put ourselves through the epic-ness of ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ whilst sitting completely still on a sofa. That film has some really sad scenes. Like when Gandalf falls. So emotional and epic. What if we could be dancing for our lives? Emotionally and intuitively… I’d love it. I know Lord Of The Rings is a pretty bad example. But what I’m trying to get at is… A quality production to me is one with sequences of emotion. This coming after the technical side of quality. But even then, that is just a desirable of the masses. Just another opinion of standards, put there by the ‘know it alls’.
It doesn’t have to be perfect to the nano second. A linear quality makes things sound over-produced. Programming music as if it were battery farmed chickens, or, as if we’re on an assembly-line isn’t my cup of tea really. It’s why I (sometimes, we) hate pop and commercial Dubstep. Heard it all before haven’t we?… It’s art at the end of the day, so we should just try and be constructive about the technical side of production. A producer should learn the technical as he/she goes along. And as they’re learning, bring out the composer and the emotional spark inside… Whenever anyone asks my advice on production, I normally say: Emotion, Structure and Composition. ‘But Structure and Composition are the same thing?!’ Well… Not really…
10. You’re also on the label known as Zenon Records – tell us about that and how you became part of the label.
I was really into the Zenon sound when Tetrameth released Eclectic Benevolence. That was Zenon for me. It was around the time I released the 900 EP on Ektoplazm under Glitchy Tonic Records. I was still learning quite a bit of basics then. And it shows if you were to listen back to 900. That was when I had my Zenon obsessiveness. I wanted to be on that label. And I was persistent with producing prog. Aiming to get on there with the rest of them one day.
When I finished ‘The Real Picture,’ I sent it to Tim Sensient, and was gob smacked when he said that he’d release it. Quite funny really. I look back now, listen to that EP and think not much of it. It’s like that for many artists I have discussed this topic with. Everything before seems to lack in something. But I appreciate the fact that it is a true representation of where I was at in my skill and knowledge. And that, through out my discography, is apparent along the time line since I first started producing. And I’m still learning now and will continue to do so.
11. Some consider Zenon to be quite the ‘elite’ label – specially with the incessant global emulation of that so-called ‘zenon sound.’ What are your thoughts on that?
Hehe, well tell you the truth. I’m not all that bothered about the hype that has exploded over the past year and a half. I’ve had my Zenon phase. And I’m unlikely to slip back in to it unless I see more boundary crossing. But it’s kind of like that with all psychedelic trance music for me at the moment. Has to be pretty damn special to entice me in to listening.
I’m finding myself getting keen on my bass music and minimal drum and bass a lot more. It’s what I listen to in my spare time. I live in a fairly chilled environment with my partner and son. And don’t really feel the mood ever suiting to trance or techno. So the Zenon discography in my library is unfortunately, gathering some digi-dust.
I also feel that there are so many people getting on the Zenon sound at the moment that I’m just feeling lost with it. I’m searching to find a new path. There’s an artist in the bass-music scene hitting up some fantastic sounds at the moment. ‘Thelem’ is his alias. My future Brujo’s Bowl exploration is going to take me in a similar direction as he. More poly-rhythmic exploration. Thrusting deep tones in a variety of directions. But with an overall progressive nature.
12. And finally – what are you: Pixie, Pirate, Fairy, Goblin, Leprachaun, Wizard, Warlock, Elf, Tetramorph, Centaur, Griffin, Goose Tree, Unicorn or Merman?