Toronto has been for many years a top tier destination for all types of dance music. So small is the list of artists who have not played here that the community has become bloated and desensitized to some degree by the gluttony of names.
However for the Trance community arguably the most demanded name to make a debut was none other than ‘Full-Prog’ Psy-Trance powerhouse Neelix.
His infectious and enthralling music swept through Toronto over the course of the last couple of years and when he was finally announced by Ozmozis Productions to play in the summer the universal reaction of sheer joy was seen across all forms of social media.
In the real world he is known as Henrik Twardzik, who originally began his journey in the late 90’s in Germany. However it wasn’t until the mid-2000’s when his sound truly became his own, and people around the world couldn’t get enough.
After his incredible, yet short set at Toika this past July we were lucky enough to sit down with the master of movement, and peel back a few layers to get to know Henrik on a more personal level.
Trance United: Hi Henrik. Welcome to Toronto. We hope you are excited to play here for the first time. How do you feel about playing to a smaller intimate audience at Toika vs at a bigger festival?
Neelix: I like it better actually. There is an interesting fact I heard about some big DJs, they don’t really like to play in the big outdoor parties because they’re so big with so many people, they can’t run away if they fail. In the club, if you start playing and it’s not good, people can go to the bar, smoke a cigarette; it can get empty. If I play for 20,000 or 200, I still have the same level of nervousness but I prefer the clubs. Today, I was jumping and the audience was just one metre away from me and we were all jumping together… it was awesome!
TU: Psy-Trance seems to be making a huge comeback in Toronto. The Psy-Trance scene has been showing immense growth here and around the world. Did you ever think it would get this big?
N: It’s always the same; it’s over and over again like that. The mainstream sound takes influences from the underground and then the underground becomes the mainstream. And then something else is underground which mainstream will take from and it’s always the same. And it’s good that it’s like that. It makes me try to do something new.
TU: In a video interview you did in 2013 you said that you weren’t really into electronic music before and you don’t really listen to it unless you are producing/mixing live. Has anything changed since then? How does it feel to become a producer, in a way that’s different to most other DJs?
N: I didn’t start producing thinking I would become a producer. I was just bored at home and my flatmate had a computer… I had friends that produced and that were DJs and one of them showed me some good music and I didn’t really know what it was, I didn’t have a name for it.
A lot of people will say you’re a sell-out, you’ve changed so much but this story is proof (that I’m not)… a couple weeks ago, my friend said he found a CD of some tracks I had produced a few years ago. I can’t remember the names of the tracks but they were from me and they sound 100% the same as today. I think it should be called “Looking Forward” and it should be on my Soundcloud.
Before I was producing, I was an artist drawing pictures. Then I decided pictures were not enough, music was the next step. And then next would be movies. That would be my dream. I worked 10 years in the movies but my fee on the weekends (as a DJ) was double my income for the month. I could not come on Fridays and can only show up on Wednesdays and Thursdays which wasn’t enough so I had to quit my job. Sometimes I regret that…
TU: What makes you regret it?
Imagine wanting to have a family… but who would want a boyfriend that is away 8 months a year? I’m old! I may not look old but I am. One day I would like a family, but right now I can’t even have a dog. It’s not really bad but that’s a downside. I think the main problem of all human kind is that you always think forever, you need to stop that. I will do this another 5 years and maybe 10 but then I will retire.
TU: Do you still enjoy being involved in the electronic music scene? Having said that you don’t really enjoy the genre do you still take pleasure in live performances?
N: Yes I do. I don’t know how to explain it, in every artist there is a point where you are not sure if you’re doing it right or playing what people expect. This pressure and fear is always there and is part of the flow of creativity.
Imagine a picture in black and white and I show you the picture. I ask you “Is the upper 50% or lower 50% more white?” You wouldn’t need a second to tell me because it’d be obvious. If you ask 100 or 1000 people, they would all get it right. But if you repeat the experiment with another group of people and tell them that they would get $1000 if they got it right, a lot of people would get it wrong and it would take 3 minutes for them to decide. It’s the fear that you can lose something, which can take the fun out of it. When I play now it’s good because before I had a moment where I thought I needed to do something different. So you just need to have no fear.
TU: How would you describe a Neelix live set to someone who has never heard of you?
N: Coming here, I asked the driver what kind of music they liked as well as who else was playing. I didn’t ask specific things. I was in the hotel for about 2 hours and I arranged everything and I put sayings inside. Like some spoken word from Youtube, you can hear that in my set.
TU: Have you ever thought about experimenting with genres other than Progressive Trance or Psytrance under a different alias or even just with your current productions?
N: I did already but no one knows. I make music for myself. My scene is underground and the thing with underground and hippies are that they are the most conservative people in the world. They are not free and relaxed. They may say no to pain killers because they’re ‘bad for your body’ but then they ask for LSD?! They always try to teach you how to live but you can’t tell them what to do.
TU: Have you ever thought about starting your own label? If so what genres would you cater to?
N: I suck with label work. I have someone that does all my label work. I get to do nothing. Even my letters are taken care of. How can I answer letters when I’m not at home all the time.
(Referring to the comments about the underground scene) Usually when people have strong opinions, it stays with them, in their circle. Now there’s the internet. A lot of people follow me and they write so many bad things. I played last week at Tomorrowland, a big festival in Europe and they told me I was a sellout, asking me how could I play for these people… but it was the best party ever! I wish I could tell these people to just follow people they like.
TU: Are you working on any big releases or projects right now that you would like to share with your fans?
N: I’ve been in the studio for two years but this last week I started on my album.
Stay up to date with Neelix:
Interviewer: Erika Razzo
Intro by Greg Baron