We heard about Trance Retreat back in June 2017. Dennis Sheperd shared the news on his Facebook page and we were curious about the project. It was a week-long music workshop in Bali facilitated by Mark Sixma, Protoculture, Sied van Riel and Dennis himself. All students stayed in the same complex as the instructors, which provided opportunities to discuss business, stories, and life in general.
On 22 September 2017, we had a chance to talk with Dennis, Sied, and Protoculture about Trance Retreat before their performance at Colosseum Club.
Dennis had the basic idea of Trance Retreat, which back then was to have a creative week to meet fellow producers in a beautiful and inspiring location. He talked about this idea to one of his students in music production, Edwin Tsui, who eventually became his business partner in Trance Retreat. "At this point I feel it's time for all of us to give something back," said Dennis.
For Sied, this is not his first time being a mentor. "I've done a masterclass at Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) once and was surprised to see Dennis in the crowd!" Sied said, laughing. He stated that being a mentor is quite intimidating because he is usually alone in the studio making music. However, at Trance Retreat he was able to shared his habits and methods in music production. "It's a cool session! We can share the knowledge and pass the baton to the new generation."
As for Protoculture, he has also given some lecturers in the past so being a mentor at Trance Retreat was not new to him. "The special thing about Trance Retreat is, all of us are staying in one place and that is creating a lot of casual conversations," he said. Both mentors and participants hung out with each other and shared personal stories. For Protoculture, the atmosphere didn't feel like formal lectures at all.
Sied added that the first day felt very formal, but the next day everybody started to loosen up. "We documented the activities in a vlog and it's getting funnier!" added Dennis.
Being part of Trance Retreat, Protoculture felt that he didn’t only teach. "Having been in the industry for 16 years, I always believe there’s still things that you can learn from each other," he said. "We're like cool nerds!" said Sied.
Dennis added that the overall experience is not only about teaching or having a great time in Bali. Participants can also see how the mentors produce music up-close. Protoculture also added that during the week, they all make connections with mentors and each other, which is one of the most important things in the music business.
Dennis decided to get Mark, Protoculture & Sied on board because he is familiar with all of them and has a personal connection. The important thing was that the chemistry had to be there. "I also asked each one of you (Sied, Mark, and Protoculture) if you are okay with each other," Dennis pointed to Sied and Protoculture. Sied admitted that all four of them have different styles in music production and it's good to have different perspectives to share.
The reason Bali was chosen as a first location for Trance Retreat was because Bali is a very inspiring place. "Bali is also a great holiday destination and they have a good EDM scene," said Dennis. Bali also provided options for villas, where you can have a seminar area and a central pool that does not give off a hotel vibe. "A hotel wouldn't give the atmosphere that we are after for the retreat," said Dennis.
There were 11 participants from all around the world who joined Trance Retreat, who were pre-screened by both Dennis and Edwin. "The main criteria was that they were really keen on learning things," said Dennis. The big filter was that if they only wanted to meet their idols rather than having the desire to learn, it was an immediate no.
It was also interesting to get to know what everyone’s aims for the outcome of this project were.
For Dennis, he wants to push a talent and see great, new music on the market. He wants to see one of their participants having a breakthrough in the future. "That will give me a lot of satisfaction, to be honest," said Dennis.
Protoculture was sceptical at first, but over time he believes that this concept will work really well. "I would love to see this project in other parts of the world and see more people joining," he said. He also added that it will be good to have a spin-off where they can invite children from poor areas and teach about music.
As for Sied, as a label owner, he is already drawing outlines for some participants. "I would like to help with the music and connect them to our labels. If one of the participants have a breakthrough, that would be meaningful," he said. He admitted that the participants have diverse experience. There were participants who are ready to release their music, while the others have a lot to learn. "Hopefully, they can all process the information they learned and implement it," said Sied.
To wrap up our interview, Dennis was very thankful with Sied’s, Protoculture’s, and Mark's involvement in Trance Retreat. "I got goosebumps seeing these guys being so excited about the idea," said Dennis.
The next Trance Retreat will take place in March 2018 in Berlin, Germany. So prepare yourself to enter a creative week with fellow producers and learn all about music production from the experts.
Catch the glimpse of what was going on during Trance Retreat in Bali on their Facebook page.
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