Turns out, Caius is no longer that secretive about his identity but the cube idea stayed (warning - an awesome story below!), alongside the drive for evoking good emotions with his music and finding the perfect samples to do so.
The Danish producer & multi-instrumentalist dropped for a chat to tell us about his journey from a bootleg producer to signing with Kitsune & Spinnin' Records and was so nice to also prepare an exclusive mix for us - swinging between house and UK garage, all with his signature soulful note. Hit that play button and enjoy the read!
1. Laurence Guy - Your Good Times Will Come
2. Chambray - LOVING U
3. salute - All About U
4. SHEE - Am I Just Living
5. Caius - All Mine (UK Garage Version)
6. Y U QT - U BELONG 2 ME
7. Huxley & Javi Bora - You’re Everything (Rogue D Remix)
8. DJ Streaks - Greatest Love
9. Caius - Before My Time
10. Caius - Sweet Days (Extended)
Hey man, where do we find you today?
Hey! Right now I’m sitting in my studio in my living room in Aarhus, Denmark. This is where I’ve been most of the year working on music.
Thanks a ton for the awesome mix - how did you pick the tracklist? Were you aiming for a specific vibe?
Happy you wanted me to make it. I wanted to show a bit of where I come from musically, it's a mix between soulful sampled house and UK Garage. I think the main theme is soulful vocal chops, which is key in my own music and music from those two genres I like. I’ve put an exclusive unreleased UK Garage version of my track “All Mine” in there, as well as the original edit of my new single "Sweet Days". Hope you enjoy!
How was Caius born and what does the name mean?
I think it’s an old Roman name and the given name of Julius Caesar. My real name is Sylvester, but I didn’t want to use that at the beginning of my career, because I was hiding from most of my friends that I was making music. Two days before my first release I was watching a movie where someone mentioned an old Roman concert hall, owned by a guy named Caius, and that inspired me to use the name.
What's the story behind the cube?
The cube came about back in 2014 when I released my first track on SoundCloud. I was 17 years old, had no job, and was sleeping in a music studio every night. I had finished the first track that I felt was good enough to release, but it had an uncleared sample on. So I was scared to death of getting sued if I released it. I had 200 euro in my bank account, so I had a feeling I would never financially recover from a lawsuit, lol.
But I decided to release it. For the artwork, I had a picture of myself taken, and I wanted to hide my face, so no one could see who I was. This was when I came up with the cube idea. I just kept using it from there. In the beginning, it was turquoise but later it changed to a mirror. Fun fact is also that when I released that first track to Soundcloud I actually even went to a local cafe to upload it, so police couldn’t track my IP-Address if someone wanted to sue me. Looking back I think I was a little bit nuts at 17, haha.
What was the journey from SoundCloud to Kitsune & Spinning Records like?
It’s not really something I think about a lot, since it’s all been happening one step at a time. But looking back to where I was 4 years ago, it’s something that I’m proud of. Back then I was just some dude uploading tunes to Soundcloud because I was feeling mellow, but now I have some really renowned labels believing in me, and I’m actually making a decent amount of money, which is cool. I don’t care too much for labels, since it’s also sometimes a struggle when they don’t want to push out the same music as you. But one difference that really matters to me is that with the help from Spinnin’ and my management I’ve been able to clear a lot of samples, and that’s something I thought would never happen. I thought I would be a SoundCloud bootleg type artist forever. So I’m very grateful for that.
And how did you end up playing on Rosklide Festival in 2017, alongside Justice, Bonobo, The XX, A Tribe Called Quest, etc.?
It’s kind of weird because back in 2016/17 I was actually one of the most successful up-and-coming Danish artists, streaming-wise if you looked at SoundCloud/Spotify, but Danish music media is pretty far behind regarding electronic music. So while I was getting a lot of attention from around the world with media outlets and labels, I was getting zero support in my home country. So it was a huge surprise when I saw the guys from Roskilde Festival wanted to book me. And I really respect that they actually did their research on upcoming Danish talent.
Obviously, this doesn't apply to the past year - but playing music live vs. studio?
I like both. It means a lot to me to come out and talk to people after the shows and show them how grateful I am that they like my music. But I’m also very introverted so I feel the best being in the studio. And the ultimate joy as a musician is when you make something magical out of nothing in the studio. So if I had to pick one I would say the studio.
The combination between disco, soul, house & future beats you create is stunning - how did your style shape?
I started producing when I was 13 years old. Back then I made sample-based hip hop with jazz and soul samples. Later I got into more electronic music with the wave around the early Majestic Casual days. So first I made some minimalistic electronic music, but it was just lacking that feeling I get in my stomach when I hear a really soulful sample. So I got this vision to make house around the same feeling of the 00s and 90s hip hop beats. And that was basically how my style started. For pretty much all my tracks I’ve been re-sampling myself playing, and sampling vocalist from older sessions into new songs, because I like that “sampled” sound. For some of my new tracks, I’ve even been able to just sample old CDs and vinyls. I see my vision a bit like aiming for a reinterpretation of 90s French house mixed with 00s Kanye West beats. But I’m still trying to perfect my style.
I can imagine digging for samples is a big part of your creative process. How do you know you've found the perfect one(s)?
Yes, I’ve been digging since I was 13 years old, so I know so many 70s and 80s tracks now. I have 1000+ tracks in my iTunes saved for “possibly” being samples. The process of finding the right sample is hard. Especially when you’re making house music. In hip hop you can make all tempos work, but for house it has to be around a certain tempo and to be pretty clean to work properly as well. I’m looking for that one loop that has the perfect balance between being soulful and having a good drive. When I think I’ve found it I load it into my sampler and try to build a beat around it, but 90% of the time there are some layers clashing with my drums or something, and I have to trash the idea. But then those last 10% when everything plays together is pure joy. As much as it can be frustrating to work with samples, it’s also a huge musical education to listen to tracks from the last 70 years of music history.
If you could give one piece of advice for beginner producers, what would it be?
There’s really no right or wrong, but one thing I always try to tell people is to believe in their vision. Too many young producers trick themselves into thinking they need to sound like what’s popular now to become successful themselves. So they fall into following these short-term genre trends such as future bass or tropical house have been in the past. But in reality, if you follow what others are doing you will always be late. So instead, think about what your vision is and try to make it come true. For me, I liked 00s hip hop, house, jazz, and soul and tried to invent a style from that. So ask yourself what you like, visionize what your music could sound like, and work towards perfecting that. And if you’re just starting out, try to replicate your favorite tracks. Some of the first tracks I ever made were replicas of J Dilla beats, and it helped me understand how the tracks were built, which I could use for original tracks afterwards.
"Your Love" (feat. Neigh) is one of our favourite tunes. Tell us a bit more about working with Francois Nemeta, the director of Modjo's "Lady (Hear Me Tonight)" music video.
That makes me happy! Can’t wait for you to show you my debut EP later this year then. There are a lot of laid-back tracks on there like "Your Love" and Neigh is featured on 2-3 of them.
The “Your Love” video was the first time I actually got a proper budget for a video. So Spinnin’ Records had a bunch of production companies sending me treatments. But I wasn’t really feeling any of them. I looked for some reference videos to send to the production companies to help them in the right direction. The "Lady (Hear Me Tonight)" music video is one of my all-time favorite videos, so, of course, I wanted to reference that one. But I couldn’t figure out which camera they used. So, I wrote Francois Nemeta an email asking which camera he used for the video. And a few days later he replied that he used his old 16mm camera, and offered to film my music video on it as well. And that was how we got in touch.
For the video, I wanted to give him free rein. But since the track was inspired a bit from french house we agreed that a teen love story, taking place in a Parisian suburb, would make sense.
A real pleasure talking to you! Anything else you'd like to share?
My pleasure guys! Thanks for having me. Nothing really, only to remember to keep a look out for my channels, as I got a lot of news coming in 2021.