North Satellite

By: Dream Chimney

The following interview was conducted on March 11, 2024

North Satellite North Satellite is Eugene Tambourine. The seasoned session musician, DJ and producer is back up on El Triangulo with ‘The Stars Are Ours Remixes’. He has had previous releases on Quinn Lamont’s label and Darshan Jesrani’s Startree, with this new package this track is lifted from his 2023 album A Past Life Half-Lived. Idjut Boys Conrad McDonnell is invited to work his magic on the stunning source material that is mixed down by Metro Area’s Darshan Jesrani and fattened out by the mastering wizz Paul Gold. Here we welcome Eugene to the chimney for a fireside chat.

Thanks for talking to us today. Where are you this moment and how are you spending the day?

It's a cold and rainy Saturday in New York City. I'm staying in.

Where were you born? Where are you based?

I was born in Cambridge, England to American parents. We moved to Seattle, Washington in the '70s. I've lived in New York City for the past 20 years.

What do you love most about where you are living?

I love the enormity of this city and its histories. Even when you're sedentary there's always the potential to experience something new. Unfortunately, the costs of living, hyper-gentrification, transportation problems and other local politics are a constant reminder that the powers-that-be are indifferent and maybe even eager to displace and push you down. But that said, I'm grateful to still be living here.

If you could choose anywhere in the world to live, where would that be?

I've travelled enough to think NYC is a fine fit, as long as I can afford it.

How long have you been making music? What was your first step as a musician?

Probably towards the end of the '90s in Seattle. I was invited to co-write incidental music for a multimedia piece based on "Einstein's Dreams" by Alan Lightman. At the time I knew nothing about digital recording, so everything was done on a TASCAM 4-track Portastudio. I mixed the tapes onto a CD recorder and played the discs from the theatre's sound booth at every show.

Looking back, it was pretty raw, but the combination of acoustic and electronic elements became the foundation of the approach I have now. I didn't know about compressing or mastering the recordings so that the levels would make sense in the space. Still, I came to really love the process - just testing out compositions for these dance sequences and monologues, getting feedback from the directors and re-tooling stuff that needed adjustment. It was also great to work alongside a slightly older musician who was keyboard-based like me. She had a really rich array of musical experiences that made me actually look forward to maturing on this path.

What came first Djing or production or musician?

I was a DJ first and it's still my first love.

Tell us about your life as a live musician a little?

It really began when I accepted the opportunity to tour with Australian singer/songwriter Scott Matthew from 2008-2014. He had an intense, melodic, intimate sound with no rhythm section. I played bass and piano, and I was able to add my kalimba and melodica when they fit in. Scott's fantastic German management allowed us to tour most of Western Europe. It was one of the few times in my life where I felt I was really working, and my musical abilities had finally paid off.

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What kind of artists, DJs, genres were you into growing up?

My parents weren't the biggest connoisseurs, but they liked music, and they had records that I liked - ones that still resonate with me to this day. Cat Stevens was the first male voice I ever heard on a record and Cilla Black was the first female one. I can imagine British people sneering at that, but I didn't live in England long enough to develop the negative opinions people express about her. I still think she's a great singer!

So besides Cilla Black 45s, my parents' record collection consisted of soundtracks, musicals, symphonies, Church of England-style organ music, Ukrainian traditional music (from my father's heritage) and a few singer-songwriters as the '70s went on. They had a sealed copy of "Aqualung" by Jethro Tull that I think someone had given them and the cover used to freak me out.

Then I had a hip babysitter who had seen the early Broadway performance of The Wiz and she played me the soundtrack. I fell in love with it immediately. It was basically the first R&B record I'd ever heard and then owned. And what a fabulous one! Stephanie Mills sings all over it, also Dee Dee Bridgewater, Andre DeShields, Tasha Thomas and those Harold Wheeler arrangements.

I continued to listen to that style of music on the radio in the '80s along with soft rock, synth/pop, post punk and reggae. I also bought a lot of 12" singles because I loved the concept of the 'extended version'; taking a song apart and rebuilding it. I didn't know this was a product of DJ and club culture and yet my love of electronic pop music extended to House music when it emerged. I was definitely ready for the '90s!

Who are the artists that you follow right now?

I'm really fond of this local indie rock band called Purr, which I happened to hear over the sound system of a discount store in my neighborhood. Their song "Boy" played alongside pop nonsense which made me notice its charming song structure even more. I was moved to Shazam it and thrilled to find out that the rest of the album is equally strong. It's got these dynamic lead melodies, underscored by a wall of sound which, if I had to make comparisons, recalls early George Harrison and Todd Rundgren. The vocals make me think of American Spring, a bit of Fleetwood Mac, even a bit of Lush. However, those references aren't really that obvious and that's impressive to me.

What is the most recent record you purchased or downloaded?

Besides the Purr album "Like New", there are really just individual songs, including a couple of recent Salsa tunes by Eddie Montalvo and some tracks by this Japanese jazz trio that covers Weather Report.

If you could choose a few words to describe the vibe of North Satellite, what would they be?

Melodic, polyrhythmic, intentional. Darshan once said it was Elegant and I'll take that!

What's the story on your North Satellite moniker?

The North Satellite is a terminal in the SeaTac (Seattle/Tacoma) airport. When my family and I went there, we took this little subway to get to that terminal which was bound for upstate New York and the Delaware Valley where our relatives live. When the North Satellite stop was announced, I thought it sounded so exotic and dreamy. Now I guess it's like a subliminal reference to where I've come from, coupled with my interest in astrology and other cosmic things.

You have been working a lot with Darshan Jesrani. Tell us a little about your collaborations.

Well, for the last 4 years our sessions begin with me traveling to his studio in Bed-Stuy with material I've recorded and arranged at home. From there we'll spend the next several hours styling the stems, and there are usually quite a few. We don't always work on the same composition every time; I generally like to have a few tracks which are mixed well enough to put aside and then revisit. Dar's developed a wonderful, intuitive sense for the sounds I use, so I trust him to do his thing and I just give input here and there. Overall, it's a very friendly, social experience and we joke and laugh a LOT throughout the process. Neither of us go out that much, so this is like our Nightlife for now.

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Talk to us about the album. I'd love to hear about the initial idea- when did you first approach this concept and what was your original intention with this LP?

The title is inspired by a wonderful Canadian film from 1987 called -I've Heard The Mermaids Singing”. A clumsy-but-talented photographer gets a job in a gallery and becomes infatuated with the curator and her comments on other people's work. At one point she says certain paintings convey “Half-lives half-lived” and that stuck in my head.

I've considered the concept of past lives and reincarnation and thought it's interesting and romantic but ultimately kind of frustrating. Just the thought of having to go through the maze of childhood, school, dating and employment again. As it is we've all been through so much and this is still just one life. Whether it's full or half-lived may be a combination of circumstances and our choices to block ourselves less.

What was most important for you to convey through this album? Do you feel that you were able to accomplish all of your intentions?

Musically, I would say yes. The idea was to present a variety of vocal and instrumental compositions with sensible contrast and flow.

What are you most proud of with Past Life Half Lived?

With any release I'm pleased with the simple fact that it's released; let go. This is my first full-length album, a lengthier example of what I'm capable of doing. A few of the songs have gone through several changes, so it's good to know that they're time-stamped and out there now. "For Pluto" is one of the oldest compositions; I'd written that sometime in 2003.

What was the most challenging part of bringing the album together?

Probably technical stuff like getting the levels right from track to track. Some have live bass and others have synth bass, so balancing them was a challenge for sure.

This album marks a lot of years in the music business, how has your creative / production process has changed and remained the same over the years. Do you approach anything differently now?

Production-wise I hope to not let so many compositions linger in the laptop. Each release contains a new learning process, especially when it involves handling by a new label. It's a little strange to be perceived as a person who's been 'in the business' for a while because I sometimes feel like I've just been dipping my toes in the water since I left Scott's band. Maybe it's that shift from playing live for a stretch and then holing up in studios which changes the outlook.

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How did you connect with El Triangulo?

Quinn got in touch after seeing me playing congas in one of my rare Instagram videos. He asked if I would be interested in joining a combo he was putting together for a one-off show in Bushwick one summer. I was familiar with his work with the Phenomenal Handclap Band and he'd known about some of my earlier recordings. We also had a link with the Tummy Touch label, so the connection came naturally from all of that.

Why did you select The Stars are Ours as the remix project?

It's a theme which I already introduced as an instrumental in 2020 ("A Rising Sign"). To do a vocal variation seemed like an interesting move while I'm being reintroduced to the public this year. I think it makes a statement musically and lyrically. Hopefully it can attract people to the album if they haven't heard it yet. I was also looking for a concept where I could introduce the Cosmic Freestyle version which had been recorded as a kind of reprise at the end of the album, but I'd decided to save it for another project.

Tell us about Conrad McDonnell. Are you thrilled with the remix and what he has done?

I like the contrast, the way he shifted the swing of my bassline to create a new swing. There's an open, morphing quality to it which I think will fill a room nicely. Conrad and I have never met, though we're both Cambridge folk from what I understand. He actually approached Quinn after hearing the album last year and we began sorting out the remix possibilities from there.

Who are the other artists/ musicians on this EP that you would like to shout out?

I'm grateful for Darshan's mixing of my alternate versions and to the sublime Paul Gold who brought the sounds to life again at his mastering lab, which happens to be just a few blocks down the street from where I live.

What drives you to continue creating music?

For starters there's an ongoing need I have for these compositions to be refined, completed, and not loitering around in demo form. Another part of me feels like I'm making up for lost time and energy that I spent playing other people's music. And where my first love is concerned, DJ culture has gotten more conservative and homogenous with the House and Disco thing. So, while I'm on the periphery, I figure I might as well make music which reflects the textures of other genres I like to program.

What has been one of your favorite moments from the past year?

Celebrating 14 years with my boyfriend.

Where do you find the most inspiration when it comes to discovering new music?

Sometimes it's watching archival YouTube footage, seeing the process and performances of the masters. It can also be very random, just hearing something unique while I'm out and about - being moved to Shazam what's playing in a store or something coming out of a car.

What can we hope to see next from you?

Most likely some eclectic remakes that don't sound like remakes.


Check out the latest release from North Satellite


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