With his releases on the likes of Lobster Theremin and Delsin, Gergely Szilveszter Horvath has helped to put Hungary on the electronic music map. Itzel Ramirez caught up with him to find out more about the man behind the music. Szilveszter has also kindly shared a new track for download, available via the WeTransfer button at the bottom of the page.
Hungarian Gergely Szilveszter Horvath is a self-declared “multi-genre artist.” Better known by his Route 8 and Q3A monikers, Szilveszter’s work over recent years has placed Budapest on the electronic music map, shaping its musical landscape with his diverse compositions, many of which are now garnering attention on an increasingly international level. Having released a number of EPs in 2013, Szilveszter was subsequently discovered via his personal SoundCloud page by Lobster Theremin founder Jimmy Asquith. He has since gone on to release several EPs on the London-based imprint.
Reflecting on his work, Szilveszter’s productions can roughly be divided into three categories: his lo-fi, dazed analog sounds, mixed with Chicago house elements, are shared via his Route 8 moniker; on the other hand, displaying his tougher and darker side is Q3A, an alias that provides him an outlet for his brooding, tougher techno works. In addition to this is DJ Ciderman, a seldom-used project for his disco material.
Besides the aforementioned Lobster Theremin, most of these releases have been shared between Delsin, Nous and Black Venison. Szilveszter recently collaborated with Opal Tapes associate Stephan Olbricht, and also launched This Is Our Time, an imprint devised as an international platform for similarly-talented Hungarian artists.
As one of the scene’s rising talents, we thought it was about time to catch up with Szilveszter to learn more about his story to date, production techniques and plans for the future.
How did you get started in electronic music? When did you begin producing?
I’ve been making music for about 10 or 11 years now. It all started when I was in elementary school. I took piano lessons for about two years but I quit because I felt like playing on the piano was stupid—it just wasn’t something I genuinely wanted to do. When you take piano lessons you always play songs from other artists and I always felt an impulse to actually make my own stuff.
After that, I would say around 10 years ago, my father bought me a CD full of programs and games and stuff like that. One of these programs was Fruity Loops 3, which was basically a music making program. From then on, I started making silly tracks—some really hardcore trance and that kind of stuff. I think my first big moment came when I did a Scooter remix; I am not not sure which one, but I just remember playing it for my friends at my school and everyone saying how good it was. I continued working with Fruity Loops for a long time, until about three or four years ago when I saw a video about Steve Summers (L.I.E.S.) on Beats in Space only using machines, and I thought, “Oh that’s really interesting; you can make music with just machines, synthesizers, samplers, drum machines—without any laptops basically.” I thought maybe I could try that. I took a student loan and I bought my first synth, the Roland MC 307. I still have it today. It was was the very first thing I ever bought and it all started from that point on.
Besides Steve Summers/L.I.E.S., are there any other artists that have particularly influenced your work over the years?
Yeah, I always get inspired by many artists, like Dan Curtin who is this techno/electro artist from the ‘90s. But I get inspired by many artists in general, from all sorts of genres. I really like disco tracks too. I just gather a lot of information from a lot of different genres. That’s why I also make a lot of different music, not just this lo-fi house thing; I do techno with my Q3A moniker and I also do electro. I consider myself a multi-genre kind of artist.
When did you begin DJing? Was that before or after you began producing at school?
It was after I started making music. Basically it all started when we launched our DJ crew with my friends here in Budapest called Designer Drums and we started to do small parties. I learned a lot about DJing, mixing techniques, selecting the right tracks for the right moments, and that sort of stuff.
How did you choose the Route 8 and Q3A monikers?
Route 8 is quite simple. There is this road called Route 8 in Hungary where my Grandmother lived. It was a childhood thing for me, going down Route 8 to see my Grandma and my relatives. I also really like driving so that’s how I came up with this Route 8 thing. As for Q3A, it was the Quake III Arena game. I played that game all the time and was part of an online club where I won championships over the internet and stuff. I was a big nerd and still am a bit, so that’s where that came from [laughs].
"I was always a big fan of the Quake 3 FPS game; I played a lot with it, and I always liked the atmosphere it has, so I tried to recreate it in my productions."
You started Q3A in 2015. What was the original idea behind it—just to divide your productions based on sound?
I started Q3A because I wanted to explore the techno world; and Route 8 is more for dreamy house tracks. I was always a big fan of the Quake 3 FPS game; I played a lot with it, and I always liked the atmosphere it has, so I tried to recreate it in my productions.
When you go into the studio, do you go in with a specific alias in mind or can that only be determined following production?
It’s more like an in-the-moment type of thing. If I feel like I wanna record some electro tracks, because that day on my way home I happened to be listening to a lot of electro records, for instance, then I record electro tracks. Or, if I’m in a house mood, I record some house stuff. So the music I make just depends on my current mood. It’s only after my tracks are recorded that I try to fit the tracks with a particular moniker, which could either be Route 8, Q3A or this other DJ Ciderman thing, which is like a funny disco kind of alias I also have.
Your earliest releases came in 2013, before the release on Lobster Theremin. How did these releases come about?
Well, my first official Route 8 release was a self-release around early 2012 on my old Bandcamp page. It had three tracks and only "Never Ending Stories" survived. It got a nice reception here in Hungary, so it didn't take long before a Hungarian label called Farbwechsel reached out to me. I had my first official EP in 2013, called Mental Murder—which will get a vinyl release soon. Then I did my first vinyl release with Bokhari Records; this was a split release. Then my Nous release, Eleda, came few months after.
And then came Lobster Theremin. Is it true that Jimmy Asquith found you on Soundcloud? When did this happen?
Yeah, that’s true! I have still got that email he sent me, so I know when it happened. I got his first message on July 2, 2013. He messaged me and told me that he wanted to start a new label called Lobster Theremin, and I replied saying, “What is this name? I am not sure I want to work with you.” Then he sent me the first Palms Trax EP and I realised that it was some good shit. After that, I agreed to release there too. It was very simple. Now we are like best friends. We did a tour in Australia, we play a lot of shows together around Europe, and now we are hoping to tour the USA around November, if everything goes right.
"I’ve always just used samplers and these kind of digital synthesizers. I prefer digital ones because you can easily create more complex sounds; for me, analog is a kind of unnecessary limitation."
How do you work in the studio? What kind of tools do you use to create your sounds?
For a really long time I was just using samples. I downloaded these really old AKAI sample discs which the PC can read, so I always just used samples and tried to manipulate them—but after a while I wanted to create my own sounds. Unfortunately, I never had the money to buy a proper synth to do so.
It’s funny because I’ve never actually really had analog synthesizers, although everyone has always told me that I must be using analog stuff to get the sounds that I do. But the only analog synthesizer that I have is this Analog Four—that’s it.
I’ve always just used samplers and these kind of digital synthesizers. I prefer digital ones because you can easily create more complex sounds; for me, analog is a kind of unnecessary limitation, so that’s why I have always stuck with digital. I actually just bought this Nord Rack 3, which is a virtual analog synthesizer. It’s really good, and so I use it to create my own sounds, so I can avoid using too many samples.
Let’s talk about your live set. Do you have a preference when it comes to DJing versus live performances?
I usually do live sets, because I think they’re more special and it’s kind of easy for me—but I prefer to DJ because I have my own style in my live sets and I’m never satisfied with them, so I find myself constantly re-writing them. I think if you do a live set, whether you’re good or not, it really depends on the crowd. If the crowd is not into your live set, what can you do? You’re kind of stuck in a way. Whereas when you DJ, you can change things up a bit more; there’s more flexibility because you can switch from playing techno to playing house, for example. I also like to play at least two hours but I never do more than an hour-long live set, simply because I think one hour is enough. I usually ask if I can start with a DJ set and then do a live set—like last night, when I played in Berlin. I actually prefer being able to do both a live set and a DJ set in the same night, so I can play two or three hours and show different sides.
Did you begin your live set long after you began DJing? What inspired it?
Well, because I record everything live, it was pretty easy to develop my own live set—so it actually started before I did my first few DJ sets. My biggest inspiration for this was that Steve Summers live on Beats in Space. I watched that live set so many times!
Do you have any go-to gear?
Yes, although my setup is always changing, I think right now it’s alright. Currently I use an Akai MPC1000, an Elektron Machinedrum and an Elektron Analog Four. I also use a reverb pedal because the MPC’s have a really shitty reverb effect and I’m a fan of big reverbs; and finally, a mixer. It’s really basic, but because of that it’s really small and compact, so I can carry it around and travel easily with it.
"Playing live is a lot of work, especially for someone like me who is never satisfied."
You mention liking both live and DJ sets. A lot of artists these days seem to be going hybrid by playing DJ tracks along with a live set. Would you ever explore this option?
I think it’s an interesting idea. Jeff Mills has been doing this for a long time because he always plays the 909 mixed with techno tracks. I think it’s a really interesting concept because it gives you so much flexibility. Sometimes with live, because it’s live, things are not mastered so they can sound really dry. Adding another track at the same time helps get rid of this dryness. I think doing things in that way is really cool and I’ve done it a few times, sort of. Hopefully I can explore this a bit more in the future, but I would also like to play more DJ sets. Playing live is a lot of work, especially for someone like me who is never satisfied.
Is it a struggle to keep the live sets fresh and up-to-date? They can easily become repetitive if you follow similar routes all the time?
Yeah, that’s why I always try to write new songs and play new ones. I have to avoid playing the same thing over and over again. It can get boring really quickly and the crowd can see that. They can tell when you’ve played your set millions of times already and when you’re not enjoying it anymore—and by consequence, they’re not either.
"If I have to work on a track for more than one hour, I just delete everything and start all over. I think the best tracks are the ones that come out in a more spontaneous way."
What’s the biggest challenge you encounter when writing music? Do you ever hit creative blocks?
Yeah, definitely. Usually the best is when I have an idea in the moment and I sit down next to my synths and just start recording things. Sometimes when I’m really tired, or if I feel like I really want to make a track or try to make something in particular, it usually comes out totally wrong because you can tell it was forced. So, the best thing for me is to write my random ideas and record them instantly. If I have to work on a track for more than one hour, I just delete everything and start all over. I think the best tracks are the ones that come out in a more spontaneous way.
Is there a particular formula to a track—where do you start?
For me it always all starts with the drums—I really like them. When I hear a specific drum sound, I start the whole track based from that; I think immediately, “Oh, this track could use this type of bass,” or something along those lines. That’s also why I want to buy some acoustic percussions: I want to play more percussion sounds and incorporate more acoustic drums instead of just using drum machines. It’s funny because if you have a hobby like music, you can’t stop yourself—you always keep spending your money on new things. Eventually though, the money you invest into it always comes back. It’s very rewarding.
What do you do when you run out of ideas?
Usually I try to do nothing. I sit and watch stupid YouTube videos. My girlfriend always says that when I feel like I’m stuck, I should do absolutely nothing and watch something stupid, let my brain go blank and then it will restart again, automatically . So yeah, I do that and eat a lot of pizza at the same time.
You have a penchant for more vintage/Chicago house sounds in many of your productions. Is this intentional or is it simply something that naturally takes course?
Yeah, I always prefer vintage sounds. I think they are much warmer and I think a lot of tracks these days sound way too compressed and are mastered too well. For me, personally, sometimes it feels like the tracks almost don’t have a soul because they’re way too perfect, you know? These older tracks are just using a compressor and that’s all. They’re not using a lot of effects, or a limiter and all these other things. That’s why I generally prefer these vintage sounds or Chicago house, like you said.
"I found a Japanese crew called Ko-Ta and they have a record label called Stratosphere Records with a lot of tribal techno, and to me it sounded so good—so now I’m really really into it, which is also why I want to buy all these percussions."
But it also feels that you experiment with lots of genres.
I do. And I think perhaps the next Q3A EP is going to be more tribal-inspired techno. I found a Japanese crew called Ko-Ta and they have a record label called Stratosphere Records with a lot of tribal techno, and to me it sounded so good—so now I’m really really into it, which is also why I want to buy all these percussions. It's not this kind of cheesy, stereotypical tribal though—it’s still going to be more like dreamy tribal, without these big percussions; it will have more of the smaller, subtle ones. It’s just crazy because there are so many good tracks out there, and I always find good ones that inspire me. That’s basically the essence of why I love music: it’s a never ending journey. I always find new stuff to try out, new stuff to make. Sometimes I have downs when I run out of ideas, but right now I feel inspired, which is great.
Do you think your sound has evolved a lot since you first started?
Yeah, I think it now sounds more complex. I always try to build more complex sounds. What I mean by that, is that back then, when I was making lo-fi tracks, it was not because I wanted to sound lo-fi: it was simply because I had a really shitty laptop and a really shitty sound card, and every time I would try to record my tracks my laptop would crash. So I was like, “What should I do?” Then, I saw that my father had a cassette tape deck and I thought that I could record my tracks on tape—so for me it was more of a necessity, I guess.
Once I started recording my tracks on tape, I thought they actually sounded really good, so I continued doing it. At that point, I recorded so many tracks that the tape deck started to break and I had to change it every three months because the head always broke apart. These days, since I have the money to buy more professional equipment, I stopped using tape decks and I’m using a handheld recorder instead, still recording everything live. I don’t like to record the channels separately; I try to record everything in one go, only one mix.
So yeah, I think my sound has definitely evolved a lot. I think especially now it sounds more clear and more big, while still trying to incorporate these vintage sounds and avoid sounding too compressed or too clean. I still want to include some of that dirtiness. That’s also why now I run through my mixes on a valve tube amp so it gives them a little warmth and clears out that digital noise.
In many ways, your work has helped place Budapest on the music map. Is this something you’re proud of?
Yeah, I am really happy about it because I never really had any plans with my music. I just happened to record tracks, upload them to my Soundcloud, go to bed, wake up, go to work, go back home, record my music, and so on. I’ve never had a big masterplan or anything—and so it’s especially nice to that people are starting to pay attention to the Hungarian music scene after listening to my music. The scene is really small, but I think because of me, and most importantly the Farbwechsel label, Budapest is becoming an increasing influence on the music map. This is part of the reason why I started my label; I want to put a spotlight on these more unknown Hungarian artists and give them a better platform to reach the international scene.
What’s next in store for Route 8/Q3A? Any upcoming releases?
Hopefully we can do this US tour thing but it’s a bit stressful right now with the visa for the USA. So far it’s going well, so fingers crossed everything works. I’m also going to release another Q3A record, either on Lobster Theremin or Mörk, and that’s all really. There will be another Route 8 record at some point next year, and maybe some other secret stuff. I might release some tracks without linking my name to them, that way people will have to guess if it sounds like me or not.
Can you tell us a bit about the track that you are kindly giving away? When and where was it produced?
It was a rainy night in Budapest —I recorded some rain sounds that night and made that track out of it. Nothing special. It's just a rainy chilled out night jam.