EDM

Black Wands Illuminates the Dance Floor With New Single "Myth"

Denver producer and DJ Alex Maya, aka Black Wands.
Denver producer and DJ Alex Maya, aka Black Wands. Nicola Ross
The electronic music curated by Black Wands — real name Alex Maya — is a club-oriented, cinematic swirl that’s both ephemeral and grounded. Glistening synths and oscillating arpeggios reach for the stars as centered, precise percussion keeps listeners glued to the dance floor. But despite its broad international appeal, this sound has only recently been introduced to the Colorado mainstream, with artists such as Lane 8 and Above & Beyond playing large venues like Red Rocks.

As a Denver DJ, Maya has supported many of the top players in his genre, including Jeremy Olander, Matt Lange and the late i_o. His track “Revenant” has also been played by the trance-music icons in Cosmic Gate on their Wake Your Mind radio program, and his “Candlelight” has been spun on the Anjunabeats Worldwide podcast.

Now Maya has just released his new single, “Myth,” on the globally renowned Future Sound of Egypt label. It’s an ethereal progressive techno dance-floor filler, with undulating, distorted synths and dark, industrial undertones.

We spoke with Maya about the release, and how the sound is slowly but surely being integrated into the conversation of Colorado music.

Westword: Describe your genre of music for people who might not be familiar with it. It’s pretty new for American ears.

Black Wands: I like to call my style "melodic and progressive" dance music. It’s a blend of progressive house and trance, with influences from techno, as well. I use the typical four-to-the-floor rhythm, but I put a lot of emphasis on melody and chord progressions to guide the listener through the story in my songs. Within these genre guidelines, I like to paint a cinematic picture, whether it’s dark, epic, energetic or light, beautiful, chill — just depends on how I’m feeling at the moment.

I use a lot of analog sounds in my tracks — TR-909 drum samples, vintage synth emulators, mono Moog-like bass lines — which throw back to the early days of electronic music in the ’80s and ’90s and give it that retro character.

What outside of your genre influences your sound?

I take a lot of inspiration for my music from film and cinema. Whenever I watch a new movie or show, I often rush right over to my DAW [digital audio workspace] and start writing music, trying to translate how it made me feel. I envision some type of scene in my head, as if I’m writing a soundtrack or score.

Musically, I feel that everything I’ve actively listened to throughout my life has somehow influenced the artist I’ve evolved into today. As a kid, I was exposed to a lot of world music, like Latin and Afro-Cuban dance, and also Motown by my parents. I picked up the guitar in high school and went from post-hardcore rock band to folk singer-songwriter in college. However, I always had an ear turned toward electronic music, as I would experiment with writing beats on my computer along the way.

What originally got you into this sound?

I discovered dance music in the early 2000s, when my sister gave me this trance and progressive compilation album called Dreamland 2000. It featured the iconic DJs of the scene — ATB, Chicane, Ferry Corsten, Paul Van Dyk, Tiesto and others. I had never heard anything like it before, and I fell in love with the energy and composition of those songs. It wasn’t until years later that I was competent enough as a producer to start writing this type of music myself.

I fell deeper into dance music during the EDM boom, and ultimately discovered Above & Beyond and their radio show Group Therapy, which really opened my eyes to the diversity of progressive house and trance. It wasn’t all, “Everybody throw your hands up, 1-2-3 jump!” They were playing emotionally and intellectually complex songs — dance music that isn’t always happy and fun, but heavier, darker, driving...even ominous, menacing and brooding at times. That darker side of dance music is really what started to resonate with me and shape my current sound.

FSOE is a well-known label internationally; however, it’s not like it has pull in the United States, where the sound is in its adolescence. Yet often, Colorado producers aim to get on these labels rather than just self-releasing or finding a U.S. label. Why have you decided to get on these labels and give up royalties to your music, despite them not being able to hook you up with shows in the U.S.?

This is a very interesting question. For me, it’s a priority to release music with a label that already has a massive audience for my style of music — a place where I know my music will fit in and reach potential new fans. Labels like Future Sound of Egypt are reputable internationally and considered by some to be legendary in the trance and progressive dance-music world — so I consider it a huge honor to have them support and feature my music. They also have a promotional network that reaches the world’s top DJs and radio shows for this genre, so there is greater potential to have my music supported by those outlets and reach even more people.

Personally, it’s about reaching as many listeners as possible, more than I could garner on my own. I think most artists would agree — but we don’t create for the money; we create for the expression and for connecting with others in a way that words never could. So when it comes to royalties, at this stage in my career I’m more concerned with building a fan base and connecting with the most people possible. Ideally, the bigger my audience grows, the more live-show opportunities would arise. I’d argue that there are still promoters Stateside that book progressive acts, although those shows may not be directly supported by the record label.

Black Wands' "Myth" is out now on Future Sound of Egypt; stream it here.
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