Baltimore-based performer, remixer and producer Soohan is an exuberant force in the underground electronic-music scene. He has performed at music festivals across the Northern Hemisphere, remixing classics, worldbeats and regional folk songs with complex rhythms, instrumentation and melody.
Prior to his appearance at the Sonic Bloom Music Festival, which runs June 14 to 17, Westword spoke with Soohan about what inspires him, the creative process and the outdoors.
Westword: What inspired you to make music? How did you start out?
Soohan: In 2008, I started my first year at the University of Maryland. While everyone else was becoming acclimated with their first months at college, I was in my dorm room experimenting with Garageband. I spent most of that year in my room making music. At the time, I was really inspired by Girl Talk, MIA and Diplo. I must have made about 150 songs during the span of two years. I eventually met this guy named Phil, who was also really interested in music. We would go on a few months later to become DJs and purchase the original Serato box. We started deejaying literally at any party that would have us, and eventually graduated to playing the local college bars. For me, those were the early years.
Your remixes bring some pretty amazing moments together. How do you bring sounds together? For example, your last song, "I Wanna Go Home" on the Collective Effervescence album, combines Judy Garland, Passion Pit and Weezer, and almost moved me to tears the first time I heard it. What’s your formula? Do you randomly put the music together, or do you follow a recipe?
Aww. Hearing that makes me happy. I honestly felt the same way a few times listening to that song. Well, there is a formula. I have a database of all the samples I have used for all of my past releases, and a program called Mixed in Key that roughly determines the musical key of each file. This, for example, enables me to see all songs in the key of E major that are listed next to each other. In that instance, I saw that Weezer, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and Passion Pit were all listed in the same key, so from there I experimented with them. So, yes, for mixes like this, there is a recipe.
I love how you explore our entire planet when you create songs. Anything you’ve noticed about places of inspiration? For example, do you find that music made near water has a different sound than music made in the city, or in the jungle, etc.?
Most of the recordings I have sampled thus far were made professionally, but some of them are field recordings, for sure. My remixes of "La Cima ao Castelo" and "Tiren Gelir" are prime examples of that, older and a bit more obscure. So in a way, sometimes I get a vibe from an old recording that makes me feel the setting a bit more, at least aesthetically — kind of like scratches on a vinyl record.
I first got to see you perform at Black Box in Denver. How would you describe performing at an intimate venue like that as compared to larger outdoor festivals? As an artist, what changes for you? What do you prefer?
I like to play outside over playing inside any day. It’s just fun! There are things I like about both. Sometimes club shows have a perfect vibe and are extremely memorable.
I have been fortunate enough to deejay by some rad rivers and some really dope settings this year. There’s just something about being outside that enhances the vibe all around.
One time last summer I had to go to a festival near Nova Scotia and was only there for like two and a half hours. I had to leave immediately after my set, and on the way to the car just looked up and saw the most stars I had ever seen in my life and was just geeking out. A similar thing happened a few months ago when I was in Canada, four hours north of Calgary. Looked up and the Northern Lights were just doing their thing across most of the sky...at a festival. So, yeah, I don't know — festivals hold a really special place in my heart and are an essential life experience for me. I feel very lucky that I have been able to attend so many.
How’d you come up with your name?
My last name is Suchan, which is pronounced “Soohan.” I just changed the spelling so people would know how to say it. And it kinda looks cool spelled that way, too.
What can we expect to hear from you in 2018? Any festivals we should check out?
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Oh, wow. I'm working on a ton of music right now. I am, for the first time, producing and writing original music via collaborations with some extremely talented musicians around the world who play various traditional styles of music. Other than that, I'm hibernating in my studio and making as much music as humanly possible.
You keep making the trek back to Colorado. Any special reason?
I am always super-excited to come back to Colorado, as Colorado is one of my top [states] for listeners on SoundCloud. I feel like I have a special relationship to Denver in that way. They've supported me over the years, and I appreciate that. It seems like the music scene in Colorado is booming. I always love to stop there and play.
Soohan will be closing out his 2018 spring tour at the Sonic Bloom Music Festival, which runs June 14 to 17, at Hummingbird Ranch, near Walsenberg. For ticket prices and more information, go to the Sonic Bloom website.