One element which makes music so powerful is its capacity to take listeners on a ride. Carsten Martens has spent the greater half of his life mastering this art form, as he bridges the gap between deep melodic, tech, afro house and techno. He commands elevated atmospheres and is a maestro of movement on the dance floor, which are often attributed to his uplifting percussive sounds. For Carsten, music has been a part of him for as long as he can remember. From the age of 15, he had been playing guitar and singing in various bands. It wasn’t long before he became a fully fledged multi-instrumentalist, and the diversity of his musical diet and upbringing has led to the cultivation of a sound, and an attitude towards music that is uniquely his own. With the punk ethos coursing through his veins, Carsten refuses to depend on libraries or samples, and it shows in his raw, DIY productions. Above all, it’s about creative freedom, and expression in its purest form.
First of all, let’s hear about Souta. What does the name mean? Where exactly was the first event and how did you decide on the lineup?
Firstly, thanks for letting me share our story with you! Souta. is a Japanese word that means “sudden, smoothly and big” with an alternative yet similar meaning “sudden, sound of the wind” This phrase perfectly captures the Souta. sound. Our first was earlier this year at Alternative Beach in Bali, with a line-up of our residents. Knowing that I wanted to do a day-time event, the opening set was a massive priority, and we have two fantastic openers in our crew, LOUD // OFF and Arun R. LOUD // OFF joined us for that first event and delivered the perfect sexy mood with minimal and groovy vibes.
What is the vibe of the event both with the music genres and the design of the online presence?
For the first event, we really wanted to go for a pool party vibe, which would transform into a serious al fresco scenario after sunset, and of course using the Souta. sound for the journey. And the result was fantastic, the feedback we got was really overwhelming, from the venue to the punters. When it comes to design, it was really important for me to work with painters or artists with a natural and unique approach, but I also wanted to bring in my influence of my old days when I was into Punk Rock, skateboard culture, 90’s music and retro-ness. I also implemented strong influences from the world-famous German photographer Juergen Teller, who is known for iconic artist shoots.
What’s been your favourite release on the label so far and why exactly does it pop out when put on the spot to name one track for our viewers to check out?
We are currently road-testing our first few releases, which start rolling out in February 2020. We have a strong release strategy, with each artist pushing out 8 to 12 releases a year, so right now everyone is busting it out in the studio, and we’re super excited to start sharing our sound very soon!
Now a bit more about yourself – where exactly are you from? How did you find yourself to be based in Asia playing very underground music to a regular fan base on similar-minded music enthusiasts?
Im from Germany a rather small city called “Leverkusen” which is close to Cologne. I worked in the fashion industry after finishing my bachelor degree and due to my extensive traveling to Asian countries I got a job offer from a company with factories and offices in Asia. They hired me for a position in their Hong Kong office. That’s how I ended up being in Hong Kong. After living in HK for a couple of years I found my love for electronic music again and that’s when I quit fashion and went 100% back into music. Being a passionate musician I thought of an audio engineering career and eventually start a recording studio called Aya Recording studio which in the last few years I been running together with my wife Annabat. I went back to DJing in 2017 but no intentions of running a label or anything close to what Souta. is. And how things can unexpectedly change, we are here now with something very special brought together by a great crew of artists.
Since your first performances in Asia, how have you seen the regions music industry change?
To be honest its mind-blowing. I recently went and played at “Wonderfruit” and I haven’t seen anything like it. Simply amazing! Looking to Europe in terms of Clubs or festivals I would say that Asia is developing a massive scene over here and I doubt that anything particular in Europe can keep up with what’s been created. Also, one reason for me to start Souta. was to find regional talent and offer a platform for releases on our label. The music industry in Asia is growing massively and uniquely and I’m so excited about what we can do here, especially being just at the beginning of our journey.
Some of the places since your first landed here that you never would of thought you would be travelling to for a DJ set with your brand and label?
Playing at Wonderfruit was a ‘wonderful’ surprise, and then of course running a Souta. label night at Haus by Neverland. There’s a tonne more of course, but these two are special to me, and I’m so grateful to all the people who have given me the love and support to make things happen.
How about Bali’s blooming industry, what have been some of the positive changes you have seen and witnessed in your time coming here to play?
I’ve been coming to Bali for years, mainly because I love the magic of this island, and every trip has allowed me to see so much gradual change. The international and local DJ scene here is impressive, it’s no wonder this place is being vouched as the Ibiza of Asia. Clubs and venues are top notch, and they keep on improving, and being a sound engineer, it really impresses me to hear the quality of sound systems across the island, at least compared to a few years ago. Not going to lie, but I would love to set up a studio and our label HQ in Bali one day, who knows!
Some of the artists that you have had the chance to catch a set that you would like to send some recommendations across the www to check out more on their next Bali holiday or late-night bucket list to do’s?
My picks would be Devlar, resident at Souta and Music Director at Haus by Neverland. Vault is definitely on my list, where Serio is doing some great stuff. On the international scale, never miss a KEINEMUSIK set, and another thing that has been on the top of my list is ZEHN Records, a new and unique label by my good friends Tube&Berger (it’s their second label after Kittball). There are so many more to mention, but Damian Lazarus is one of my absolute favourites, so make sure to not miss him!
Haus – the islands newest vibrant venue is gaining some great traction into the Canggu scene, what have you heard so far and seen online that’s really getting your excited about your upcoming NYE show with the Souta family in tow?
Well, the crew arrived at least a week before the gig, to spend some time on the island, enjoy our villa, but more importantly to get a proper feel of the venue space and sound. And to be honest, maybe we should have come late because every day the excitement levels amongst the crew have been so high! The venue is stunning, its exactly what we would dream of for throwing a party on NYE, or any other night! I’ve been spending a lot of time with the Neverland team, and its such a pleasure to not just work but also become close friends with them. After a few days of going in and out of the venue, I kept going back everyday, I really soaked in the genuine vibes of the space — the venue gives you a feeling of letting go of yourself without being watched. Its calm and cosy to sit outside and have some food and/or drinks, listening to music and make new friends. Its a feeling I haven’t got from any venue for a really long time. Its got a family vibe and it’s full of charm! So the whole crew is very excited and can’t wait to play and share our love for music with everybody.
What is it that really makes Haus stand out for you to choose the venue as your new home for Souta.?
Everything I just said, plus the raw and grungy, yet organic environment of the build-out. We’ve been having serious and inspirational talks with them about bringing some unheard of concepts to the venue, so 2020 is shaping up to be one hell of a ride for everyone involved!
While you’re in Bali what else will you be planning to do? Some go to food spots of beaches? Checking out some of our other awesome venues? Heading up to Ubud to take some much needed chill time?
Our Souta. villa is in Seseh, and we love this area, and of course having Canggu around the corner means we can have a lot of fun while retreating to some tranquillity. Vault is a fantastic club for me, but during the day, I love to hit the waves at Padang Padang Beach. I wish I could get more surf time, but Ive also been super busy eating delicious and fresh food at places like Dandelion and Moana Fish Eatery, and of course Lola’s for a taco binge!
If Carsten Martens wasn’t touring Asia do what he loves the most in life, looking back on his childhood days and going thru his junior school years before thinking of a music career where did you think you would end up in the workplace?
I’m a musician at heart, and for most of my life, starting out by playing in a punk band in my early teen years. The biggest mistake I made in my life though was going into the fashion industry and not pursuing a DJ career in my early 20s. After taking music out of my life for a decade, I’d had enough, and my very supportive wife pushed me to go back to my true love, and I couldn’t feel more blessed. So in short: IT WOULD BE MUSIC!
Where is the next destination for Souta. after Bali and NYE?
Souta. is going to be on a roll in 2020, expect to see us in Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing, Vietnam, Bangkok and of course Germany, and we really can’t wait to dance with you around the world!