By: Bo Nuanual
In June of 1993, the now legendary Moontribe full moon gatherings began, and a prominent sound of these events was a new thing some called Goa Trance and others fittingly called Psychedelic Trance. As a genre, it's taken nearly a quarter century to have its moment in the sun in the United States, which is odd considering how many legendary names in American electronic music got their start on psy, and how unbelievably popular it is as a whole the world over; South America, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Asia—you name it.
One of the last men standing from that first era of American Psy Trance DJs and organizers is the co-founder of those wild desert parties Treavor Moontribe. If you recognize the name and you're not in the psy community, that's probably because you know him as one half of global bass and downtemple duo Desert Dwellers with Amani Friend. We at The Untz recently sat down with Treavor to discuss the history of the genre in the US as well as where it's at now and how the upcoming Global Eclipse Gathering in Oregon is such a huge milestone for the genre in North America.
Before we jump into the interview, you need some solid tunes to get you in the right frame of mind. What better than Treavor Moontribe's psy Symbiosis set from last summer, which we are thrilled to premiere for you right now.
How did you discover Goa or psy trance in the early 90s?
At the very first full moon gathering we threw in June of '93 a friend of ours had just returned from London and brought a double vinyl album by a new UK artist called Eat Static. We played the entire album that morning from beginning to end and we were totally in shock. It was just completely on another level unlike anything we'd heard. There was also a compilation on Moonshine Music called Concept In Dance which spoke of the parties in Goa as well as our desert parties. That album had an artist ManWithNoName who is a legendary OG Goa trance artist to this day. There were other releases around that time too like Ethno Techno and lots of stuff that was just considered Trance that fit into that realm, too. It seems that from that point on there was one new artist after another popping up like Hallucinogen (aka Simon Posford of Shpongle), Tristan, Doof, Infinity Project and labels like Flying Rhino, Tip Records, Matsuri Productions and so many more. It was a magnificent time of experiencing the birthing of a new genre of music.
How was it received by the US rave/dance community then?
Well, honestly, the genre was and still is very polarizing. There were people who just thought it was the most incredible thing they'd every heard, totally psychedelic to the max, full of energy and totally unique from other styles of dance music like techno and house. Then there were people who really really hated it, so much so that they actively worked against it trying to ban if from even our own parties from within. There were literally people involved in organizing Moontribe with me that quit because they hated Goa so much. I find it's still this way in America, but luckily there is a whole new generation loving it and in great numbers so regardless of the haters it's finding a way to shine through so strongly that it just cannot be held back any longer!
Photo by: Kris Simonsen (kristinasimonsenphotography)
Who were some of the other crews and DJs pushing this genre back then?
In San Francisco you had The CCC who had a super cool warehouse and put on awesome parties. You also had Hunab-Ku Distribution which was the main artery for getting psy trance records and CDs into America, the artist Ceiba who then was Peter Ziegelmeier (of Kode 4 fame) and Adam Ohana (now known as An-ten-nae and half of Dimond Saints) who was also a killer Goa DJ back then. There was a lady DJ Anon who was amazing and a guy Dave Vajra. Then there was another side to the Goa scene in San Fran with DJ Dutch and a guy Coz (now known as Cosmic Selector) who did Space Children parties. Then there was Thump Radio but I think they came in a little later, I could be wrong since time gets a little fuzzy. There was also a DJ KJ in San Fran who was definitely an OG in the scene.
Out on the East Coast you had Tsunami Productions doing proper events and a DJ named Matthew Magic (now known as Matt Xavier) and I believe the crew Touch Samadhi in North Carolina was already active, but they could also have come in a few years later.
In LA at that time well Moontribe was pretty much the only crew making the genre an integral part of their events. There were the occasional raves or clubs where DJs who dabbled into the genre would play and certainly Christopher Lawrence popped into the scene around that time, but I'd say he's more known now as a Psy Trance DJ than he was then and a guy Thomas Michael played it a bit, plus the legendary DJ Jon Marc who was playing the style before any of us having come from the industrial scene of the 80's. There were also a couple other small groups doing Goa parties around that time called Goa Trance Mind Trip and Sixth Sense. They had DJs like Alex Cornfeld, Andy Kumeda and India Drop. The organizers were a French guy William (RIP) and Raymond Ramirez. Producer Ido Liran of Quadra and Save The Robot fame was also already producing Goa around then, too!
I'm certain I'm missing some people and crews here, there were probably a bunch of others, but those were the main ones I can think of. My apologies to anyone I left out.
How has the genre evolved in the US over the years and where is it at now?
It's been a very interesting journey, for sure. There's been so many moments where it seemed the genre was finally really gonna click and major momentum was building, yet it always seemed to go back deep underground and be difficult to get decent attendance at parties. I've seen event promoters have some quite good success with the genre and yet most of them disappeared for one reason or another. Like Space Children and Thump Radio in San Fran both had a lot of great psy trance events and for one reason or another they stopped and it took years for anyone to really replace them. I think the biggest crowds I've ever seen for Psy in the US have been at San Fran's street parties like Love Fest (US version of Love Parade), How Weird Street Fair and PRIDE. Those events showed me clearly that if the genre was allowed a moment to be played for massive amounts of people that not only did it really fucking work but it worked better than anything else. Yet somehow the main promoters of the genre weren't able to capitalize on those events and get lots of those people to start attending their shows. That fact has always baffled me to be honest. In LA you've had two major crews called PsyTribe and Green Sector doing events since '97 and both have had moments of serious success and serious struggles. Over time they joined forces and are still in my opinion the most awesome consistent Psy Trance parties in the US!
All of a sudden in the past couple years there's been a huge surge of momentum for Psy Trance in the US. The massive festival organizer Insomniac is the main reason for this. They started booking artists like Ace Ventura and Astrix who have a style of Psy Trance that appeals to both mainstream trance lovers and underground Psy people. These artists and others like them have played at EDC (America's mega massive in Las Vegas) and made it clear that this genre has an enormously amazing impact on a massive dance floor. This is something the rest of the world has known all along, but the eyes have been opened wide here in the US now and now the once super underground Psy Trance events are seeing a big uptick in attendance. The kids discovering the music at mainstream festivals are searching it out more and finding the underground scene for it at events like Pulse SF and Pulsar LA for instance, which are two other really sweet Psy Trance crews in Cali. This reality has actually seen mixed reactions from long time Psy followers and DJs. Some see it as super positive and others feel the scene is being invaded by people who don't get it. I personally think its the best thing that's happened for the genre in the US ever and really hope it has a domino effect that's unstoppable!
Does Dreamstate's lineup make you think that psy is finally getting some mainstream attention?
Absolutely, these events bringing artists like Avalon, Perfect Stranger, Sonic Species and so many more is just incredible, because these artists only ever got booked at underground events here. They never had a big stage to really show massive amounts of people how powerful this music is. To be honest, Psy Trance is great and all with small crowds, but when its played for thousands and thousands of people, it's got an energy unlike anything I've ever seen. Its finally getting that big stage to shine on and the instant success is the proof in the pudding all of us long time trancers always knew it'd have if given the chance.
How is Moontribe able to keep going year after year?
The answer is simplicity. It's the most simple event you can possibly imagine. There is no promotion and never has been. There's no flyer, there's no Facebook event page, matter of fact if someone is talking about it too much on social media they are ridiculed strongly. There is no big production, literally outside of the anniversary events each June where a bit more production is put in like a nice DJ booth and some lights, the events are just music, nature and the full moon in the sky! If you're not on a special email list you won't know where it is or when it is or anything. There's rarely a big name DJ playing unless one happens to be down to play for free because nobody is paid to play either. It's the most underground event you can possibly imagine and it's that simplicity that makes it able to have just celebrated its 24 year anniversary and actually going as strong as it's ever gone.
Can you point to any direct descendants of the psy scene who we maybe know now in a different context?
I'd say the main ones would be An-ten-nae who is a major bass music producer now who was an integral part of Psy's early scene. DJ Dutch was a major player in recent years with Opulent Temple at Burning Man. Even Bassnectar started as a Psy DJ! It's hard to think of others, but I'm sure there are quite a few.
How has Symbiosis Festival helped bring this genre into the US "transformational festival scene"?
There is simply no other US festival that has allowed Psy Trance to shine like Symbiosis. I can't even count the number of times I've heard people say "I discovered that I love psy trance" after a Symbiosis. Every year it's the same, it's the main bridge for people who either simply haven't heard the genre properly done or perhaps even thought they didn't like it and then got a proper dose of it there. It blows my mind away that all of the other "transformational festivals" (a name I really don't like..sorry, not sorry) completely shun the genre, and purposely so most of the time. It's crazy because here and there other festivals have had Psy sets, and every time it's insanely successful yet they either never book it again or give it the most minimal amount of time possible. Seriously though, thank all the gods and goddesses for Symbiosis and the love they've always shown for Psy Trance. Not only that, but they've been incredibly supportive of the local Psy Trance DJs too, always giving me and others prime slots in between the international headliners they bring. They don't just throw us a bone with an opening set, I've literally played a peak time Saturday night slot at every Symbiosis since the first one! The same for other locals too and that shows a lot about who the organizers are as people. Obviously, I fucking love Symbiosis so much!
Why is Global Eclipse Gathering such a huge milestone for the genre in the US?
It's simply never happened before like this ever. All these organizations from around the world coming together like this and that Psy Trance stage line up is absolutely insane! It's on par with all the other psy festivals around the world, its a who's-who of psy producers and DJs. There has simply never been a lineup like this in the US and a dedicated stage for the genre and it all once again points back to Symbiosis and their endless support for it. It's so exciting to have a week long festival where all the international artists I usually only get to see and party with abroad will be in the US and well there's a full solar eclipse so that is just kinda special, too, I suppose!
Treavor Moontribe — Live at Symbiosis 2016 Tracklist
1 - Slam - Tokyo Subway
2 - Pixel & Freedom Fighters - Sem Is Different
3 - Zyce - The Ritual
4 - Ticon & Animato - Last Resort
5 - Perfect Stranger - Dystopia
6 - Empirikal - G Spot
7 - Haldolium - Two Roads: Revisited
8 - Chabunk - Laboratory
9 - Hyriderz - Call Of The Ancients
10 - Ghost Rider - Shamnic
11 - Astrix - Deep Jungle Walk
12 - Major7 & Future Frequency - Prisoners Of The Mind
13 - Vertical Mode & Sonic Species - Enigma
14 - Everblast - On Fuego (Waio Remix)
15 - Empirikal - Lost Contact
16 - Hujaboy - The 7th Sense
17 - Imaginarium & Djantrix - Reconnect
18 - Braincell & Martian Arts - Braidspiral
19 - Laughing Buddha & Avalon - Wake & Bake
20 - ChromAUnit - Prophetic Bolt
21 - Silo - Pslocybe Objective
22 - Empirikal - Analyzer
23 - Arcon - Si Fi Suckers
24 - Slam - Tokyo Subway