‘Legend’ is a term so often over used by promoters and clubbers alike in today’s dance music society. However when describing London’s very own Trance superstar Ian Betts I honestly cannot think of a better word to use.
Having rocked some of the largest parties in the World from Dance Valley in Amsterdam to SW4 on London’s Clapham Common, founder of Six Thirty Records one of the UK’s leading trance labels and with a vast array of highly acclaimed productions under his belt it’s fair to say that his mark has well and truly been made on the scene.
He’s also one of the most enthusiastic, passionate and awe-inspiring performers in the business and above all one of the nicest DJs you’ll have the pleasure to meet. So how does he manage it all?
Ahead of his forthcoming set at The Addiction X Mas Ball on Sat December 9th @ Hidden, I caught up with Ian for a quick chat about being Bettsy… AT: So Ian it’s been well over a year since the last time you played for Addiction and so much has happened for you since then. SW4, Dance Valley & Cream @ Amnesia for the third year running, not too mention playing for some of the biggest brands in the UK. What’s been the highlight of your DJ career in 2006?
IB: That’s hard to call as it’s been a great year with a number of memorable gigs. Dance Valley was pretty special again, as was Cream @ Amnesia. And playing the last set at this year’s South West Four was a real highlight too - to see the whole tent jumping was an amazing sight! AT: I remember way back seeing you play for parties like Sleepless @ Crash. That must have been going on 7 or 8 years ago now and since then so much has moved on. Trance has made a real come back over the last 12 months and is now more diverse than ever before. How do you feel about the sounds of 2006? And the direction the music is moving?
IB: We held our first Sleepless at the infamous ‘Grays’ venue at the end of 1998, just when trance was beginning to make such an impact on dance music. It’s been an interesting journey in the subsequent 8 years - I’m forever being asked why trance isn’t as good as it was back then, but as far as I am concerned it is better! People forget that for every ‘Binary Finary’ there were a dozen or more real stinkers – the general quality of the music being produced today is far higher, there is a whole new generation of producers coming through who are shaping the way the scene is moving, and it is genuinely exciting. AT: You’re known throughout London for your trademark sound of “High octane, energy fuelled, euphoric trance music” However you’ve also been personally requested for warm up duties by Marco V, John 00 Fleming and Mauro Picotto! How would you approach such a warm up? Compared to preparing for a typical Bettsy set?
IB: Getting warm-up sets right is something I’m passionate about, it sets the tone for the whole night and for my money it is every bit as important as the headline sets. You just cannot play anthems at 140bpm from the off – where do the DJs that follow you go from there? It seems obvious, buy you need to warm the crowd up gently, slowly encouraging them onto the dance floor. I remember reading an interview with Nick Warren where he said that just because the punters don’t have their hands in the air doesn’t mean you are not doing your job – if people are on the dance floor wiggling their hips and bums, then your music is working. I love all styles of music, so warm-up sets give me the chance to play the groovier, funkier more electro and progressive tracks that I like. AT: Just for my own curiosity I have to ask about the Silent Disco which I believe you were lucky enough to play in at this year’s Dance Valley. Can you describe what it was like? and also the concept for those unfamiliar with it?
IB: Ha, it was quite an experience but loads of fun! At the end of Dance Valley they shepherded people into one of the arenas and gave them all a set of headphones. Two of us were DJ’ing at the same time so everyone there had a choice of two channels to listen to – there were no monitors, no PA, no sound at all, the music was broadcast wirelessly to the headsets. It was very bizarre to take off my headphones at one stage and hear the shuffling of feet and general hubbub interspersed with cheers, whoops and clapping! AT: Your label Six Thirty has achieved major successes since its launch in 2005. With a back catalogue surely envied by any serious trance imprint featuring productions and remixes by some truly gifted young producers and established artist’s not forgetting your own immense productions. What do you think the main contributing factors to its success have been?
IB: Hard work, a good ear for what music works and a little bit of luck! I’ve been really happy with how things for the label have gone – it’s not been easy and there were times when I came close to jacking it all in, but I feel that the label is starting to make a genuine name for itself now and I have been really proud of the last 5 or 6 releases. As I’m sure you know, running a label has its share of highs and lows – battling against illegal internet file sharing is constantly demoralizing, unearthing a hidden gem that gets played by the big guns is a real buzz. I’m just passionate about the music, that’s why I started the label and that’s what drives me. AT: What have you got signed for release over the coming months? Any particular gems we can look forward to? Plug away…
IB: At the moment I’ve got a full release schedule planned up until around May next year! There’s a new Rowland & Wright track called ‘Mysterious Movement’ which is every bit as big as ‘Hybrid’, tracks and remixes from several exciting new producers including the Armin championed ‘Senses’, and a couple of follow ups from the Sequentia boys. I’ve also got plans for some new harder edged tracks on Pandemic Sounds. AT: Also what other Ian Betts productions should we watch out in the near future? I hear there’s a bit of a stormer with Nick Rowland. When will we get another ‘Koinomia’ or ‘Polarise’?
IB: The next release on Six:Thirty will be my track with Nick called ‘State Of Becoming’ which both of us are really excited about – I’ve been playing it out for a few months now and every time it’s been getting a huge reaction! I’ve also done a collaboration with Anjunabeat’s Dan Stone which will be out early next year on the label. Apart from that I’ve been snowed under with remix work but I’m hoping to clear the schedule to start on some new original tracks at the start of next year. AT: Pandemic Sounds, Six Thirty’s sister label was launched earlier this year as an outlet for the harder sounds of trance and kicked off with the massive dance floor anthem ‘Bring It’ under your Airspace pseudonym. Are there any plans for future releases on this label and also future productions under the Airspace guise?
IB: I’ve been a little slack with the Pandemic label but in the last few weeks I’ve been sorting out a couple of new tracks to kick things off again, including gems from Technikal and Marc French. I’ve also been in the studio with Brad Thatcher working on an Airspace collaboration – I’m hoping to get things rolling again early next year, so watch this space! AT: How do you think the internet has affected the dance music scene – do you think it has been a good or bad thing?
IB: As with many new technologies and innovations, I think a bit of both. As a DJ it is amazing to be able to be able to get sent tracks fresh from the studio and have them burnt to CD for a gig from anywhere in the world. Unfortunately the negative aspect is that most people still prefer to download their music for free rather than using legal download sites, although I hope this will slowly change over time. I also feel that the internet has made people become lazy – “why watch a DJ perform in a club when you can download their set and listen to it t home?” For me that is missing out on one of the fundamental parts of dance music, and that’s the interaction between DJs and clubbers. Listening to a DJ on your computer just cannot compare to witnessing a DJ perform to a crowd of like-minded music lovers, and I think it is sad that many people chose to miss out on this. AT: And what about the sudden growth in ‘digital’ dance music labels?
IB: Digital distribution has definitely made it easier for people to enter the market but unfortunately this has meant that the quality of music being released has suffered. I personally don’t think that it is that much worse than back in the late 90s when I used to spend hours ploughing through a pile of records to find the one or two hidden gems – the only difference is that instead of doing it at a record shop it can now be done on-line. The key to having a successful label, irrespective of which format you release your tracks on, is having a high level of quality control. There are many labels that have proven it can be done – Joof and your own Addiction label are both prime examples. At the start of this year I took the decision to make Six:Thirty a digital only label, and I can safely say it was the best move I’ve made! Vinyl is a dying format and whilst it may still have a few years left in it yet, the new generation of DJs are not buying 1210s and more but CDJs so it is obvious that digital music distribution is the way to go.
AT: Moving onto your long awaited return to Addiction on Dec 9th, you’ll be completing what is an extremely fresh and forward thinking line up packed with the some of the most talented artist’s out there at the moment, some old and some new but all firmly at the top of their game. Who are you looking forward to seeing the most? IB: Sean Tyas! I’ve yet to hear a bad production from him, his tracks are always in my sets and I’ve been chatting to him on email so it will be great to catch up with him in the flesh and to hear him play. I’m also looking forward to hearing Jason Cortez play – he’s been supporting my productions recently so it will be nice to hear him too. And then there’s Nick too – his sets are always fresh, interesting and innovative. AT: Do you have any secret Addiction’s of your own?
Trainers! I’m always fighting the urge to buy more!! AT: And Finally mate, with another year almost at a close have you any major plans for 2007? Any ambitions not yet fulfilled? Music related or otherwise?
IB: That’s a hard one – when I started DJ’ing I never imagined things would end up where they are today, so in many ways I’ve achieved more than I ever thought I would! There’s lots I’d still love to do though – I’m hoping to go back to play South Africa next year, as well as tour Oz and NZ and I’d love to play one of the UK festivals. Musically there are a lot of avenues I’d like to explore, both in dance music and outside of it. I’ve got a whole folder of ideas on my Mac in the studio just waiting for me to find time to flesh them out. I certainly won’t be stuck for something to do! AT: Thanks very much for your time mate! We can’t wait to have you back at Addiction again! See you on Dec 9th @ Hidden !!
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