Applescal talks Diamond Skies, Atomnation and more
Much respected Dutch producer, Applescal, releases his sixth artist album, ‘Diamond Skies’ on 29th May. The alter-ego of Atomnation label founder, Pascal Terstappen, Applescal has developed his own melodic house sound with lush soundscapes and a nod to the analog ’90s, catching the ear of a wide range of global tastemakers. Tracks from ‘Diamond Skies’ are already being supported by Pete Tong (BBC Radio 1), Joris Voorn, Ame, Dixon, Kolsch, Eelke Kleijn, Eagles & Butterflies, Hernan Cattaneo, Nick Warren, Michael Mayer, John Talabot, Tim Sweeney, Rampa, Red Axes, Theo Kottis, Digitalism, Kiki – the list goes on.
Still only 31 years old, Pascal has been running Atomnation full-time since his early twenties, shaping it into one of The Netherlands’ leading independent labels and a home for an eclectic mix of electronic music. Some of those signed to the label include Gidge, Polynation, Tunnelvisions, and Sam Goku, with remixes such as Gerd Janson, Fort Romeau, Dauwd, Eagles & Butterflies, and Innealla stepping up to add their influence.
With the latest single ‘Synthlove (The Sky)‘ out today we thought it was time One Foot In The Rave caught up with this enigmatic artist to find out more…
Welcome to One Foot in The Rave, Applescal. Please tell us a bit about your history in electronic music.
15 years ago there was a 16-years young Pascal that started to make music on his computer. I soon realized it was my calling. I worked on music 24-7, but I didn’t know anything about the scene, about certain rules, history, or mechanisms. I learned and released a lot, played a lot of shows, but also made mistakes. Looking back on those 15 years, a tipping point for me personally was when I started Atomnation in 2012. I became more conscious of my own sound and found a new passion by helping other artists with releasing their work. It laid the foundation of what I am still doing today.
What do you look for when you sign an artist to Atomnation? Would you say that ‘Diamond Skies’ is typical of the sound of your label?
What is most important to me when it comes to Atomnation artists and new signings is that they have this unique rawness that nobody else has. It sounds cliche and it’s hard to explain in words what that rawness really is. But when you hear it, you just know it. I see Atomnation like a small cluster of islands, or artists, that all live by the same rules and are located in the same ocean. Yet, they all operate independently and have a very own identity. My music, our sound, fits Atomnation in a way of that I’m also just one of those artists that are releasing there – doing his very own thing.
You were very young when you started Atomnation. Has it got easier running the label as you got older? What are the main challenges you face?
Atomnation started off as an experiment. There was no plan. Over the years, everything grew. The label did, the artists did, I did. The digital and vinyl music business did, festivals did. Everything just got bigger and better organized. This means facing new challenges, like responsibility, managing a team, learning to work different and new music services, social media… I’m happy that some great people and partners have got my back. The main challenge is to keep everyone involved happy. All the artists I work with are on a different ambition, mission, or point of their career. It’s important to know what that is and to respect that – make sure everyone is equal and looked after.
Which artists and labels have been influential for you when it comes to producing as Applescal and why?
Border Community in my early days. Later on, my taste broadened and I was listening to artists such as Flying Lotus, Tycho, and Bonobo. When I started DJing more often in 2015, I got more interested in all kinds of underground house, and techno music. Digging for a lot of hidden gems and older works. There are so many great labels and artists, from the established ones to more boutique. I’m sure I’m still missing out on lots of them, and a mix of all has been influential to my work, I think…
“On purpose, I kept a lot of happy accidents in the tracks and kind of built around those moments to deliver that free, vivid sound…“
When talking about ‘Diamond Skies’ you said “The album sounds free and brings back a certain mystery to dance music…” What did you mean by this and was it a deliberate approach?
Club music today sometimes sounds too much designed for a certain purpose. Like it’s made to be played by a certain DJ, or stage, or for a specific label. That’s okay, but it does lead to the fact that some music sounds too much the same. On my album, I tried to do dance music but I didn’t want to overdo it, it had to sound free, and different. On purpose, I kept a lot of happy accidents in the tracks and kind of built around those moments to deliver that free, vivid sound.
Dutch electronic music has been dominated by EDM for many years. How do you feel about this music and its impact? Does it make it more difficult for underground artists and labels like Atomnation to get heard, or does it help put the spotlight on The Netherlands?
Listeners of electronic music know what they are listening to, and what they are digging for. They are very educated in clubbing culture and genres. They know that EDM has not much to do with what we do. There are many different styles, and I don’t see Dutch EDM as an advantage, or disadvantage. It’s just there, and that’s okay.
Obviously the electronic music scene has been greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Do you think we will see permanent changes or will things just go back to the way they were?
Over time, I think we will go back to how things were. But not immediately – it might take years to get bigger events of international status up and running again. Local, much smaller initiatives will be back first. I truly hope that festivals and clubs will survive. Recover financially, mentally… Same for everyone related to the industry such as bookers, promoters, crew, and touring artists. I hope we can rebuild sooner than expected with a vaccine ready this year. But I’m afraid we need to take a deep breath first and a big shake-out is inevitable.
What is up next for Applescal and Atomnation?
For Applescal it’s just the new album. Atomnation has lots of work in planning. We’re on Bandcamp – follow us to stay in tune https://atomnation.bandcamp.com
Applescal ‘Diamond Skies’ is released on Atomnation on 29th May. https://atomnationrec.lnk.to/DiamondSkies