INTERVIEW: Cosmic Gate (2013)
It’s hard to believe that a chance meeting in a studio led to one of the most successful and enduring dance artists of all time. Meeting by chance in a studio more than 15 years ago, Claus Terhoeven (aka Nic Chagall) and Stefan Bossems (aka Bossi) jammed together and created a track that they pretty much forgot about. A few months later, they sent the track out to labels and everyone wanted it. They’ve consistently released top-notch trance tracks (“Exploration Of Space,” “Firewire,” “Be Your Sound”) and albums over the years and continue to stay true to their roots. 2013 sees them continuing to tour but planning to take a break to work on some new production. We caught up with them at the Winter Music Conference for a chat.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: How was the Yacht Party?
Bossi: It was amazing. This was our 4th time doing it and it was sold out again. Fortunately, just like every other year the vibe was insane. There are usually about 400 fans there that really enjoy that type of music and are there especially to hear it. It has become the highlight of our year, of course playing at State of Trance and Ultra is great, too, but the vibe at the Yacht Party is unbeatable. It is like a big family coming together each year and we have an amazing time.
RS: How did the Juicy Party go?
Bossi: We have been coming to Miami for about 12 years and we usually go to the Juicy Party just to hang out. To be one of the headliners this year has been amazing, our music is a little bit different to most of the house and electro DJs but the reaction was fantastic.
Nic: It went surprisingly well and we didn’t even have to change our sound.
Bossi: We played a nice progressive Cosmic Gate set, it was great.
RS: I was going to ask about that because to me the Juicy Party is house and electro and you guys are more progressive trance, were the kids up for it?
Bossi: Nowadays they are very open to different genres, and the genres are pretty close anyways. If we play a progressive trance set it still has the progressive beats that the house people know and are used to.
Nic: Every set is different, and we cut out the trancey and floating tracks and made it on the more bouncy side. It was still a 100% Cosmic Gate set, though, and the transition over to Bob Sinclar went very well and the crowd loved it. The venue felt a little bit like Ibiza and we are happy to be part of the team.
RS: How do you hear your sound progressing, I kept hearing last year at ADE about this trance 2.0 that is coming, do you see that as well?
Nic: I would say that happened many years ago. I think that trance is going back to where it was and getting slower with more melodies added. We are actually kind of sick of the bouncy, annoying house music in your face with a new track every two minutes. We want to try to change that a little bit to go back to more feeling and atmosphere in the tracks.
Bossi: More real music.
RS: I think that younger kids have less of an attention span for longer tracks, are you experiencing that also?
Bossi: This is a big part of what Nic just mentioned; music is changing, for example because of the attention span being so short- a lot of DJs play tracks for 2 – 3 minutes.
Nic: They are making it worse by doing that.
Bossi: Yeah, they are making it shorter and shorter and mashing up with more mash-ups and putting 3 songs into 1. That is not what club music is about, what is getting played these days is more pop and it is more aggressive.
Nic: It sounds like they are playing radio edits.
Bossi: This is not what club music is about and it has to stop, hopefully it will get better. We try and do our part because we feel that we have a responsibility to show the people that there can be a mixture with the flow, club DJs have to play in waves.
RS: I am smiling because I have wanted someone to say that all week, thank you. Your last artist album Wake Your Mind was in 2010 right?
Bossi: It was the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012. We have just recently started to set up again and work on new stuff like a single or an EP and then later on there will be an album.
Nic: We wanted to start working on it this summer but with all of the touring it has been really hard to be in the studio.
RS: When you are working on an album do you take time off the road and just focus in the studio or is it not possible to do that?
Bossi: It is always possible, but we will probably have to take time off because the gig schedule is crazier than ever and we never expected this to be possible.
Nic: It is funny that you ask this because that is how we used to do it, we never took off, but in Germany- we were based there and always had time in between to work. Now we travel and DJ even more and can’t find the time to work on tracks. We just talked about it and decided that in the next couple of months we are going to have to take off for a couple weeks to get in the studio and get in the production mode again.
RS: When you two are in the studio together do you have defined roles, how do you collaborate?
Bossi: Nic has the classical education and he is the man for the keyboard and from there things start to come together.
Nic: We are always in the studio together and make our decisions together as well. I also do productions alone but it takes so much longer because I am never sure about the melodies. Having two people in the studio is a lot better.
RS: Do you DJ the same way and go track-by-track?
Bossi: Yeah we go back to back, that is actually why our mixed compilation is called “Back 2 Back.”
Nic: We had been doing this for 12 years, and had never heard the English expression of two DJs playing together being called “back to back,” we liked the name and so we called our compilation “Back 2 Back.”
RS: When you work with a vocalist like Emma Hewitt, do you send her a track that she writes to or do you go to the studio together.
Nic: We work both ways. For the first track, “Not Enough Time,” we wrote the whole backing track and sent it over to her and she sent back the lyrics. With “Be Your Sound,” the other track, she sent some pads and harmonies with the vocals on top and then we made the track and even changed the harmonies underneath. It is exciting and works for both ways.
Bossi: I think in general it is 80% that we make the vibe and beat first, but sometimes it doesn’t give us many options to give to the writer. If you have a writer like Emma that knows about how trance progression works in terms of beats or sounds then it can work the other way around. Like Nic said, it was the first time we got the vocal first and as you know it worked well.
RS: How did the two of you guys meet up?
Nic: We met through some friends back in ’97. Bossi was working for a record company that I produced some tracks for and that is how we started talking.
Bossi: We were both resident DJs at two big clubs and we ended up chatting about what was working on each other’s DJ sets. We ended up jamming around a little bit, and three months later we sent out a jam session track to some record companies. The very next day everyone wanted it, we actually didn’t even send it out for a couple months, it just sat there. That was the start of Cosmic Gate, it wasn’t planned- it was just one of the many projects that we were running at the time; we had no clue that we would be sitting here 15 years later.
Nic: It’s so fun because a lot of duos have been friends since childhood, and we actually met right before we produced the first track. It was funny that it all worked out so well after we had just met.
RS: Where did the name Cosmic Gate come from?
Nic: Like I mentioned before, Cosmic Gate was just another project that we did, we just needed a name. We felt like the songs and the vocals had a “spacy” feel and idea to it and we had a “floating” image so we named ourselves Cosmic Gate, it doesn’t have a deep meaning to it, though.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Bossi: That’s pretty simple. Thank you. Without you guys, we wouldn’t be here.
Nic: Keep your ears open for new music.
Bossi: We hope that our fans continue to follow us because we are never going to be mainstream or following trends. We are always going to be Cosmic Gate and we hope that our fans will have the same taste as us and feel the vibe and atmosphere that we feel when we produce it.
Interview conducted during WMC 2013.