The last twelve months in music production have been prolific to say the least for Craig Connelly, with no less than 11 Beatport Top 10 selling Trance productions.
Recently, the Manchester based DJ/Producer released his debut artist album – One Second Closer, which marked a new chapter in his career. We caught up with Craig for a chat on his album, collaborating with other artists and finally on the question that’s been driving ever trance fan nuts – Is Trance making a comeback?
Akshay – Hey Craig! Massive congratulations on the news of releasing your debut album. How was the period leading up to the release date for you?
Craig Connelly – Insane. Ive never been more excited, worried, panicked and broke at the same time. I fully recommend it, oh wait hang on no I don’t.
Akshay – How did you decide that now is the time to go solo on an LP?
Craig Connelly – I’m not sure to be honest, it’s something I always wanted to do but always had too many commitments until April last year and then I had all the time and resources to do it so thought, why not. I was always going to launch my own label and thought it would be better to launch it with an album, two huge projects at once.
Akshay – How long has this album been in the works? How has the production process been like?
Craig Connelly – I’ve had a lot of these melodies / chords and ideas for years, they just never made it into the more club records I’ve made in that time. That being said, the writing process I guess started as far back as 2011 (I wrote the backing for “How Can I” that long ago). The actual graft work of doing all the production started at the start of 2016 and finished around November 16. I only really committed to an album in the summer when I had 90% of the ideas and could see it would turn out well, as I couldn’t put something mediocre out there. The hardest part, which was surprising, was engineering “How Can I” and remaking “Black Hole.” On paper they sound fairly simple in terms of a production but they both drove me up the wall. Everything else came together fairly easily, but those two were shocking to finish haha.
Akshay – I am sure you might have faced some challenges during the creation of this album. Whom did you look up to, for pieces of advice or inspiration?
Craig Connelly – I’ve worked closely with Gareth Emery and the Garuda team on 2-3 artist albums over the last 5-6 years now so I’ve seen the process up close. Not only in terms of how to release and market one but also how to make it interesting and engaging. That being said, Gareth was an inspiration. Musically I’m inspired by so many artists it’s hard to pin it down to just a few: JoC, Armin, PvD, Rank 1, Andrew Bayer, The Jezabels, Lorde, M83, London Grammar, so yea a real mixed bag haha.
Akshay – What is the story behind the title – ‘One Second Closer’? What is the message you would like your fans to take from this?
Craig Connelly – I like to leave this title open to my listeners’ interpretation rather than insisting what it is about. The journey on the album is as much about the listeners experience as it is mine creating it, so my listeners can define “One Second Closer” however they like. Personally, I experience it as my journey from where I was to where I want to go, the passing of time, and also my journey to ultimately the end of my days where I believe I’ll see my father again. We’re all on a limited timeline and our time can be up in a heartbeat so we should spend everyday doing what we absolutely love, keeping the end in the back of your mind helps you enjoy the present. This is coming from someone who has spent their life worrying unnecessarily which has escalated at times to almost depression levels, but when I lost my dad it all just hit home that what I was worrying about just wasn’t worth it at all. I try to keep this in mind daily but sometimes I slip back into my old worry habits, One Second Closer as an album project and a title/experience reminds me to stay present in the moment. If you where looking for a deep answer, there you go… haha.
Akshay – The album features a lot of vocalists, but no other producer as such in terms of collaborations. Was this a conscious decision, to make a 100% Craig Connelly album?
Craig Connelly – Yes it was, sorry. haha. There is a collaboration with Dan Dobson so it’s not all vocalists, but the way I work just lends itself to create an album in this way. I’m very particular over my music and honestly I find it hard to work with other producers, as arrogant as that sounds. I just do a better job on my own. Maybe I’ll meet someone on my wavelength one day but don’t think I’ve clicked with many other producers in this way yet. And I’m not suggesting I’m better than everyone else, I just don’t think like a lot of producers do.
Akshay – How did you know, which vocalists would perfectly fit with the sound that you have tried to create on this album?
Craig Connelly – They were chosen on a track by track basis. I always write backings first then send them to vocalists rather than just making a dance version of a vocalist’s demo. I find I get my best results by working this way. The good thing about creating the demos and backings first is you really get to look for the right vocalist for each track rather than just working with what was supplied. This way of working helped me keep the quality of the vocals as high as possible.
Akshay – This also marks an exciting chapter in your career, as you are also launching an independent record label – Higher Forces Records. What do you hope to achieve with the label?
Craig Connelly – The label is going to be first and foremost a home for my music but also a place for the highest quality Trance and Dance music. I say Dance music because fuck it, that’s what we all make at the end of the day. If I hear an amazing melodic techno track I want to play in my sets, I’ll sign it. I always want to be in a place were I’m as proud of the music I release as the music I create myself, so it won’t just be a machine that churns out tracks all the time. We don’t need the money or hassle so the bar is set pretty high.
Akshay – You’ve come a long way since we last spoke, back in 2014. What are some of the most memorable moments you’ve experienced since then? And whom would you say are the people that have helped you the most along the way?
Craig Connelly – Well since then my dad died so that was a deflating experience to say the least. I spent the back end of 2014 in a near depression-like state, started to pull my shit together in the summer of 2015, left my job at Garuda in 2016 and then set these wheels in motion. So yes, that sums up what has been a bit of a rollercoaster for me personally and career-wise since 2014. At one point I was ready for just fucking this whole thing off– I had no tracks, the music I was making was terrible due to the stress I was feeling, I felt lost and scared but then I decided to stick at it and push it to the point where I know for sure whether full-time music/DJing was going to work out for me (still working on this, maybe I’ll never be content). I had to sort my personal life out in order to make good music again, this period of non/poor activity did negatively effect my career quite a bit, but now I feel like I’m back. I’d have been lost without my sister, mum and girlfriend tbh, and of course my close friends from back home in Wigan.
Akshay – A bit off-topic, but a lot of people seemingly think that ‘Trance is making a comeback in 2017’. What are your thoughts on it?
Craig Connelly – Where’s it been? Depends on what context, it’s never been short of fans in the whole 15 years I’ve followed it. If you mean commercially then maybe, who really knows until it happens. The media are saying it and some acts are saying it also, it’s like a buzz topic at the moment, ‘TRANCE IS COMING BACK’, says who? I’m not saying it isn’t, it’s just one of those things that makes me cringe a little haha. Someone needs to make an impact big enough to inspire a whole generation, once they do then we will see it for real. It’s a good thing if it does, I’d like to see my own records played on the radio you know.
Akshay – Last question Craig, recently, John O’Callaghan shared his views on people who produce what they love vs people who produce commercial sounds in order to earn more money. Well, a producer needs to earn too right, in order to pay bills etc, and if making commercial sounds enables him/her to do so, why is the hatred that follows justified?
Craig Connelly – I think the whole situation has been overreacted, myself. John didn’t even say it was a bad thing, never mind use the word ‘hate’. There shouldn’t be any hatred at all let alone questioning whether or not it’s justified. The hardcore Trance fans are just like any other underground music fan base, they thrive of authenticity and integrity so anyone that appears to be selling out they reject them, regardless of how good their music is. In any music scene it’s important to have an underground hardcore fan base that provides authenticity and also to have artists that strive to cross over into commercial markets because those acts provide a gateway to the underground. No one woke up one day and said ‘omg i just love underground trance’, there has to be an introduction so having both creates a healthy eco system within a sound. You can make good money as an underground act also, but like any art form you need to be performing at the top of your game.
A thrill-inducing producer/remixer, a floor captivating DJ and an intuitively savvy A&R man – its safe to say that Craig Connelly is a next-generation Trance triple threat. Listen to his debut album here and let us know what you think of it!