The trajectory of producer Adam Pits is one that appears to have come from nowhere, but this upsurge is by no means unfounded. This craftsman’s engagement with music has been there from the start, destined to become a cellist and studying classical music at University, those formative years would later manifest in the gripping sound we know of him today.
Incessantly involved with music, Pits first found his feet last year, debuting on Desert Sound Colony’s no-nonsense club-centered label, Holding Hands, with his ‘Socket Power/Balance Beam’ EP. Here, Pits delivered a markedly unheard style of club sensibility that found DJ’s and producers the globe over urging to track him down. Now his high turn-over of tracks are pumped out on sound systems in an equally high degree, as his music continues to become a staple in many a DJ’s arsenal, regardless of its release status.
As an exciting emerging producer, we sat down with Adam Pits to unravel his journey up to now, digging down into his wildly colourful and deeply impactful sounds.
Firstly, for those who don’t know, can you tell us in your own words, who is Adam Pits?
Adam Pits is a music enthusiast, who wants to see other people enjoy music as much as he does.
You’ve been engaged with music from a young age, playing the Cello. You later went on to study classical music at University. How have those studies informed your work as an electronic producer?
It’s helped me in pretty much all aspects of my music, particularly with phrasing and building. Things like crescendos and diminuendos, these are all the little things you pick up when you study classical music, that don’t necessarily directly apply to making electronic music, but they’re just embedded in you. I understand how keys work and how they affect you emotionally. I know how to make you feel uncomfortable by using dissonance, I can make you happy by using major keys, I can make it euphoric by going from a major key to a minor key, or a minor key to a major key; this kind of stuff. When I’m producing, I’m not thinking in that way, I just do it.
What attracted you to start producing electronic music and move away from those classical roots?
The freedom within production. As soon as I got a grasp on production, I fell out of love with classical music, almost straight away. As soon as I felt like I could make what I wanted to make in my head and put it down, I was done with classical. The last year of uni was quite a drag because I already knew what I wanted to do but I was doing a major in classical and I had to get a grade. It was really tough and then the last two weeks before my final exam, I had to slap myself in the face and say ‘right, I’m going to practice for at least three hours every day’. It was quite unlucky, for the exam we had a really harsh marker from The Royal College, but I managed to get a 2:1. Considering my interests weren’t in classical at all by that point, getting a 2:1 was the best thing ever.
Now, I keep forgetting that I have a degree, it’s completely irrelevant to my life, but I don’t regret going to uni. There are some moments of regret as I was destined to become a cellist. I started playing when I was eight and I was pretty good. If I’d put in a little bit more work that’s what I would be doing now, but I’m also happy I didn’t because I’m happy with where I’m at now. Playing an instrument like that is such an art and I dedicated half of my life to it, but then as soon as I finished my last performance, I put it down. I’ve played my Cello once since I did my last exam and that was a year and a half ago. But, it’s fine because I’m happy.
You talked about the freedom in making electronic music, I’m guessing there are a lot of rules in classical music, but electronic music allowed you to break them? Was this the appeal?
Yeh, 100%. It was a mixture of the freedom but also at the time when I started getting into producing, I started going out to nights and experiencing electronic music, sound systems and frequencies; how they affect you and what they do to your body. I became obsessed straight away and that made me realise how limited classical music actually is.
When you’re producing, you’re producing mainly within your laptop. How do you get the most out of the sounds that you make?
Using good plug-ins and a good knowledge of EQing. I know where the frequency should be hitting. To be honest, most of my friends are better than me at that sort of thing. I feel pretty behind in a way, but then other people come to me and say ‘ah, how do you make it sound so good’ and I feel like I’m still learning a lot at the moment. I’m by no means a finished product, I’ve got a lot of things to improve.
When you look at how you’ve progressed from when you started producing, what sort of challenges have you faced?
In terms of production, my memory isn’t great so retaining information is quite difficult for me. I had to really apply myself and do things over and over again in order to remember how to do them. Through doing that, I learned the actual science to what I was making. I started off by doing everything by ear, looking at one knob and figuring out what it did and how it affected the sound. After a while, once I knew how to affect sound, I worked backwards to understand things like opening filters, but I struggled a lot. That’s one of the great things about producing with Marlon (Lisene), I started sitting with him whilst he was producing and asking him questions; that helped me a lot.
Where does the production process begin for you? Where do your main points of reference come from? Are there any artists who particularly inspire you?
I never really plan when I’m going to do it, usually. Even though I do it all the time, it will just happen. I’ll be listening to a track on my way back from work and I’ll pick up on a specific sound and that will be the beginning. That’s all I need, just a sound or a little motif from a track to give me an idea. It can also be the vibe of a track, but it’s literally just listening to other music and getting inspired through that.
The artists who inspire me have changed over the years, but the one who has really stuck with me is Skee Mask. I think he’s an absolute genius with sound manipulation and frequency perfection; he’s perfect. Djrum is a very big inspiration, he also draws parallels from his background in jazz and gabber. You can hear the different aspects of his life in there, that’s quite inspiring.
At the moment, a lot of my friends and producers who are up and coming are really inspiring me too. In the beginning it was Bonobo, he was my gateway; these instrumentalists who make beats or songs without words. When I listen to music, I really struggle to listen to the words of a track and my ears naturally gravitate towards the sound. If I do like a track with singing or rapping in, it’s the tone or sound of the voice, rather than the words that inspire me.
When we talk about sound, your own sound is very powerful, it can be quite heavy in terms of its weight with bass and feeling. What attracted you to making this style of dance music?
In terms of heaviness, I think that came from when one of my good friends Ross showed me Ilian Tape. They’re a Berlin based label but they’re releasing music which is very much UK and industrial inspired. That was my gateway to heavier, big sounds and crazy production. I think my music has always had a bit of colour or a feeling. It’s very rare that I’ll make something dry, but I have been trying to recently because it’s quite a useful tool, to be able to make quite dry, open music, where there isn’t a lot going on. I’ve started listening to a lot of minimal and it’s helped me progress in my production one hundred percent.
In honesty, I actually can’t hear my sound. I feel like I adapt to whatever I’m liking at the time. If you compare my Holding Hands release to the track I put out on the V.A. compilation with Wex, the moods of them are completely different in my eyes. That was because I was inspired by different things at the time. The other records I have coming out are completely different as well. For me, the only constant in my production is the colour, that’s the core. There will always be a little bit of colour somewhere.
When you’re talking about colour, are there any visual aspects that inspire you?
Definitely! I associate sounds with shapes mainly because they are shapes, if you think about frequencies. Now that I know how a waveform looks, when I’m listening to a track, I’ll be moving my hands in different shapes without thinking about it. It might look really silly, but for me it feels really good.
Your Instagram is an array of video recorded snippets from your production ideas. You’re obviously making music a lot! I’m sure no-two days are the same for you, how intense is your production process?
It’s not really intense for me. I’ll be invested in one sound for hours and I won’t get bored. I never really get bored with production so I can sit there for twelve hours and do it, time flies for me. When I’m doing it, it’s in the moment. I never really get frustrated with it.
Your music, regardless of whether it is released or not, is getting played out by a lot of respected DJ’s and producers. You also receive a lot of open support from them too, how does that feel?
It’s a good feeling. I used to be listening to all of these people and going to see them before I ever even thought I was going to be a producer. Now that some of them message me and tell me they like my music, it’s an amazing feeling. That’s the kind of stuff that really inspires me and pushes me on. That would have the same effect on anyone.
Who are the most notable people that have spurred you on with their support?
Definitely Cindy (Ciel), she’s been there from the beginning. Peach, she’s been great! Moxie’s also been good. Obviously, Desert Sound Colony! There are lots but those are definitely the ones who are closest in my heart.
Speaking of Desert Sound Colony, I’d like to talk about your relationship with him. You guys went to the same school and went to university in the same city, but there’s a little bit of an age gap between you. How did you end up releasing on his label?
At school I didn’t really know Liam (DSC), I was friends with his brother Rueben. When I moved to Leeds, he’d already left, but I’d met him a couple of times and I knew who he was. I eventually hung out with him properly one year at Secret Garden Party. Throughout this time, I’d been making music and Rueben would send stuff to Liam that I’d been doing, through that we became closer. The first EP was a hybrid between Breaka’s EP and Desert Sound Colony’s second release on the label. I tried to make something in the middle and I feel like I succeeded.
Liam’s idea for the label is that he wants to release music from friends and family, people who he knows and respect, so he approached me. He knew I was really getting into making music and he said, ‘look Adam, if you deliver some stuff to me, I will be happy to release it’. I can’t remember how long after that it was that I sent the first track to him, but I remember I was in Italy on holiday, sat in my room making ‘Balance Beam’ and I felt confident it was right. I sent it to Liam, and he said it was definitely the right vibes. I finished that track and then towards the end of that University year I made ‘Socket Power’ on a whim, in a day or two it was ready.
That EP was really well received, particularly with a lot of people playing it out. Essentially, this was the start for you?
Yeh that was pretty exciting! Although I can’t listen to those tracks now because I’ve heard them too many times. I was living in a house with eight of my best mates when that record came out and they’d literally shout the main theme from ‘Socket Power’ at me every day, whenever they saw me. Now I can’t listen to it or play it.
You have another EP out now on Holding Hands, ‘Stagga’ EP. Again, the sound of this is extremely big and powerful. What inspired you to make this EP? How is different from ‘Socket Power/Balance Beam’?
Well, Holding Hands is just about big tunes with big moments and big motifs. When you hear a Holding Hands track on the dancefloor you know it’s Holding Hands. I wanted to make everything big on this release. By the time I came to make this new EP, I had a synthesiser and that was ideal for ploughing out big sounds. I can’t remember how I started it, I was probably pretty pissed to be honest, but I do remember being gassed because the sounds were so big.
The energy of it makes me feel uncomfortable and that’s what I wanted it to do. It’s not a happy track, it doesn’t give you life, it just makes you gurn your face off! It’s an impact track. I guess it’s quite electro driven. Electro is quite popular at the moment, although I’m not actually a fan of it anymore, I think it’s quite boring. If I had to make another Holding Hands EP right now, I’d be able to do it, I’d just get all the previous Holding Hands releases, listen to all of them, soak up the information and plough something out.
Where do the names on this new EP come from? ‘Stagga’ and ‘Pest Control’?
‘Stagga’ is contemporary UK slang because I’m not spelling ‘Stagger’ right, but it mainly came from the fact that the track makes me feel like I’m falling over. With ‘Pest Control’, I made these weird sounds and I wanted them to be quite alien. It’s like an invasion, call in the pest control! The track names on this EP are the first that actually have a story, before this one, my track names represented the feeling or mood.
Aside of your releases on Holding Hands, you’re also releasing on some other interesting labels, you’ve been part of a V.A. white label on Berlin-based label, Wex Records. What other labels would you like to see yourself releasing on?
Casa Voyager, Kalahari Oyster Cult, Planet Euphorique. I’m definitely going to try and make some cool percussion-y, weird, beat-y thing for Timedance, but we’ll see what happens, they require the top! When you listen to a Timedance track it’s just pristine production and I’m not quite there yet. I aim to make some production tracks for the producers, who will just sit in their room and listen to it, rather than a floor banger.
You also have a release coming on newly prominent label, Seven Hills with your Space Cadets alias. How does it feel to be branching out with your music and doing this with one of your best friends?
It’s so good, honestly. Making music with Marlon has made me better and it’s made him better. When you have a eureka moment by yourself, you’re gassed and you’re having a sick time, but when you’re there with a close friend and you’ve done it together, we’re there almost shaking each other! It’s epic. It’s also a grind when we’re producing together, when we don’t agree on something, we’re like a married couple. We’ll argue for an hour but through that we’ll get the right outcome, we would never say that we need to stop arguing, we just carry on. We always get to a decision that’s right.
How does it work and how do you come together under ‘Space Cadets’?
We produce on Marlon’s computer because he has all the plug-ins and he’s quick on Ableton. I’m not so knowledgeable on Ableton, so I tend to stay away from the controls. When we have hardware going, I’ll play stuff in or I’ll sing stuff to him, I’m constantly in his ear like ‘right we’re going to do this’ or ‘let’s listen to these tracks for inspiration, what do we like from them?’ We’ll take those aspects and re-create them. I’m the conductor, in a way. Marlon brings the production knowledge and when we listen to reference tracks, he has some of the best music for inspiration. He’s a real digger at heart, he’ll sit there for six hours and he’ll find these goa producers who are making jungle. There’s no one else who can find those records but Marlon. He brings a lot to the table, he’s really intelligent so when we’re having a discussion or an argument, it’s very easy to come to a conclusion because we’re both logical.
You mentioned you use hardware sometimes. Can you tell me a little about the set-up you’re working with as Space Cadets?
Marlon has these legendary Yamaha speakers from his dad that are really good for producing, they’ve got a really flat sound, so it makes it easier to mix down and master tracks. He also has a sequencer and we bought a Korg Minilogue synth together in second year, so we share that. We’ve got a TB-303 which is an acid replica of the original Roland and Marlon did have a TR-8 but he sold it. A lot of it is in the box to be honest, occasionally we’ll play things in, but it really depends what mood we’re in.
In reference to your own music, where are you taking things in the near or distant future?
I have an EP coming on Coastal Haze and I can tell you that as Space Cadets we have some really exciting things coming up. For myself, there will certainly be another Holding Hands EP next year. I’m also trying to expand myself across labels that I really like. I’ve done a remix for No Moon, but I can’t tell you the label as I’m not sure if it’s been announced yet, it should be coming in the next couple of months; that’s really exciting. I get enquiries all the time and I’m learning to say no to things, it’s important not to bombard yourself with work. It’s something I’m working on but it’s really hard to say no to people.
Adam Pits’ ‘Stagga’ EP is out now on Holding Hands – Get it here.
Words: Sophie McNulty