Gabriel Szatan is man you might need an introduction to, even if you probably know the engines he helps fuel: one of the core team booking and hosting shows worldwide at none other than Boiler Room; an esteemed music journalist writing reviews and features for the likes of Red Bull Music Academy, Pitchfork, Boiler Room’s editorial wing and many others; and, with pal Hollick, one of the pair behind No Bad Days, a fresh label and party run out of London.
He holds down a number of radio shows in London, most prolifically it seems to us on Radar Radio, and is someone who has such a range and depth of musical knowledge and talent that he can mix seamlessly between any tunes he wants. In fact he is known for playing whatever he wants, which is why at Mantissa we think that his shows are ones to never miss. We at were lucky enough to catch up with him for a chat and go through some of his more favoured tracks.
Hi Gabriel, thanks again for sitting down and having a chat with us. First things first I guess, how did you get into this music scene?
Judging by the stacks of old Top Of The Pops and Kerrang magazines in my parents’ attic, it was probably bound to happen somehow, but ended up by total accident.
Basically I got hooked on ADHD meds and bombed out of uni earlier than expected, so ended up in the only place that kind of nonsense is tolerated: the music industry.
I know you weren’t involved in the early years of Boiler Room, so how did you come to be involved with Boiler Room?
I wasn’t, and I was a pretty ardent watcher in the early years. I may or may not have been giving Mosca shit on the chat room for taking the easy route and finishing his set with “Bax” one time (sorry Mosca).
Fast forward a few years and I pitched RBMA an interview on Principals, which is the semi-active clique of OG hosts Bradley, Charles and Nic, and got called back into the office by Boiler Room’s founder Blaise (who I knew from teen days) the morning after for another chat. They carved a social media intern role out and that was that.
A few months into 2014 I got sent out to do a show in Marrakech literally because no-one else could do it – I still to this day don’t know how anyone thought that was a sensible call – and from there I was fully in the fold. Since then I’ve just kind of shimmied up the ladder, trying to help steer it in the right direction and do nice bits for musicians and DJs who trust us to get it right on their behalf.
I’m still totally chancing it to be honest.
Your radio shows flow brilliantly and are always full of fresh and interesting tracks. How would you say you prepare tracks for a radio show differently to a set out?
Cheers! I’m flooded in music 24/7, so I definitely do make mental bookmarks day to day about things that catch my ear and could fit on radio; that in turn sets off little triggers about what the shows might have been missing or been overly reliant on lately, who I should go out and re-listen to, what new tunnels of discovery I can fall down –– so by the time the next one rolls round, I often have a jump-off.
I’ve actually started to notice a relatively consistent pattern with how the solo shows usually go: start gentle, open up a groove and build a head of steam, then I just fucking wang it at 200mph in the final half hour.
I get restless and very self-critical when trying to do two hours at a consistent speed or mood: miss the mark on one blend and I mentally throw in the towel sometimes. I used to say on air, “welp, I flubbed that” and get people responding that it wouldn’t have been noticed if I hadn’t called it out… so I stopped doing that, and also stopped trying to play to type. Ironically, that kind of established a formula that stuck.
Ultimately no-one’s going to pat you on the back for knowing who Jan Jenilek is, and no-one’s going to be convinced to check out Zimbawean jit music if you just lob the name into their laps without any point of reference. Snaking through a lot of genres and eras without context or even a bit of thought as to how it could slot together is just me making a shuffle playlist in my bedroom – there’s no finesse in that, right?
The point of these shows is to be a conduit for good music; to do the heavy lifting for anyone kind enough to give me their time, and hopefully turn them onto cool stuff they didn’t know they liked. You have to make it satisfying and not strenuous to have a dozen different doors opened at once.
Who would you say has influenced you as you developed your DJing style?
Benji B, Gilles Peterson, Mary Anne Hobbs on the BBC, and Hessle Audio across various stations are obvious picks, but it’s probably Tim Sweeney who lies closest to my heart. He joins the dots well, and each week on Beats In Space is totally different from the last, even after fucking ages in the game. If I can find a way to make chit-chat and offhand remarks on the mic charming like Tim, rather than eye-rollingly bad like I usually do, I’ll finally have cracked the code. One day.
What sort of nights/events pique your interest when you’re on your own time?
It’s a bit of a bummer, but over the years I’ve developed pretty pronounced damage through noise exposure, and had to get hearing aids built into my ear canals lately. So I have to be tactical about where and when to go out, and limit it to the essentials.
It’s curbed my ability to go and even see my friends play out and support all the cool people around me doing fresh stuff in our little world, let alone catch touring DJs I dig – even as my job involves trying to get their names and their talents out to more people worldwide. It’s an ironic paradox: a ‘tastemaker’ with crocked ears.
What clubs, bars and festivals around the world would you say really stand out to you and why?
The other side of this coin is that I’m extremely fortunate to get to travel and experience music for work (even wincing in pain), and usually get taken to the best spots in each city. So it makes up for the lack of regularity on dancefloors.
I’ve had memorable fun recently at Jæger in Oslo, The Block in Tel Aviv, Smartbar in Chicago (always!), Tief at Corsica Studios + Chapter 10 @ Bloc in London, the NYC Downlow zone of Glastonbury, any Mister Saturday Night party (evening loft or daytime outdoors), Primavera Sound in Barcelona and at pretty much anything Dekmantel do – love those dudes.
Overall, the absolute standout weekend I had in 2016 was at Movement in Detroit, plus all the rad queer after-parties, with loads of friends who bullied me into finding unknown pockets of stamina deep down inside. I booked my return ticket for this year as soon as I got home and highly recommend it to any and everyone.
Also, I drove up to Preston with my best mate last year to go see Altern8, Slipmatt, Bizarre Inc. and more at a novelty rave event for the over 40s. We got lost around the city centre and so missed out on N-Trance but it was still dope.
Are there any events in London that you would consider a 'must go'?
HMT5, July 22nd at The Souls in Dalston. Warpers galore.
It was a pleasure to chat to Gabriel, who followed this chat up by sending over some of his favourite tunes at the moment that he feels are deserving of more exposure, have a listen below and enjoy!
Morph - Solid Snake [A.R.M.Y. - 2004]
Played on: Radar Radio, 24th September 2016
Belying my middle class white ’n polite origins, I spent a lot of teen years downloading .zips of rowdy instrumentals from grime forums and trading bassline specials on MSN Messenger, most of which have evaporated from the internet by now. This one still absolutely goes.
Wooden Shjips - Losin’ Time [Holy Mountain - 2007]
Played on: Radar Radio, 21th September 2015
Straight ripper. Can’t beat a bit of overdriven fuzz if you want a quick route to my heart.
Le Syndicat Electronique - The Men Who Killed The Beat [Invasion Planète - 2001]
Played on: Radar Radio w/ Donald Dust, 5th February 2017
All-time favourite electro tune right here. Somehow stumbled across it when I was about 16; I remember riding the Metrorail in Washington D.C. to work on the Obama campaign in 2008 and this was one of like 4 or 5 songs I repeated over and over every morning (alongside Mogwai and The Mae Shi and, being honest, probably Rusko). I have to fight the urge to end every show with it.
Atimbila – I Have Something To Say! [Sahel Sounds - 2016]
Played on: Radar Radio Takeover, 26th March 2017
Really dig on the music this label/blog collects from The Sahel, I feel anyone out there who (like me) adores Awesome Tapes From Africa should have one eye on them. The kologo lead gifts this a winsome, optimistic jangle.
Black Blood & The Chocolate Pickles - Mississippi Mud [Black Blood - 1970]
Played on: NTS (No Bad Days), 6th January 2016
The soft harmonised cooing on the chorus set against the deep rumble of the dude’s voice makes this a really powerful listen and a total earworm.
Dark0 - Sweet Boy Pose (Mr. Mitch Peace Edit)
Played on: Beats 1 x Boiler Room, 14th July 2016
Low key a masterstroke in my eyes, it’s the epitome of that intersection of melodic grime and ambient tones which felt so striking and fresh when it landed a few years back. Something about the way it teeters on collapse throughout really gets me. Simple but extremely effective.
Massimiliano Pagliara - LM2-808-SH101-M/P-JP4-P5-SPX90 [Live At Robert Johnson - 2013]
Played on: Radar Radio, 23rd October 2016
Sprightly, charming and catchy. Perhaps a bit basic to some, but this is very much the sound I’m delighted to push via No Bad Days when we do our more colourful club bits. Bonus: sounds quite like Super Monkey Ball.
The Nonce - Mixtapes [Wild West - 1994]
Played on: Radar Radio, 24th April 2016
Alarming name, dope jam.
SUNI - Einde [Warm Laundry - 2016]
Played on: Red Light Radio, 16th August 2016
Gentle, cute, breezy – sounds kinda like something off Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs. I often start my shows with stuff like this, try and lay a friendly welcome mat. Out to my brother who wrote it. Out to nepotism.
Bob Crosby - What’s New (I’m Free) [Time Life Music - 1939]
Played on: Radar Radio, 2nd March 2015
In a similar vein to SUNI, easy listening and soft jazz is a pretty inviting way to begin the shows and not freak out prospective listeners with the slammers and erratic mixing that might lay further down the road. Maybe my favourite thing in existence is rain falling slanted across street lamps in the dark of the night, and this is super evocative of that.
Shima33 - Time Warner Cable, 1999 [Dream Cassette - 2014]
Played on: Radar Radio (No Bad Days) w/ Project Pablo, Seb Wildblood, Hollick + me, 28th February 2016
I still ride for my boy vaporwave.
Solitary Dancer - Emails 2 Myself (ft Marie Davidson) [Dark Entries - 2017]
Played on: Radar Radio, 5th March 2017
Noir-ish Italo burner with a great hook – hoping this doesn’t get lost in the brutally quick turnover of the scene today, it only landed a couple weeks back! I really rate everyone involved in this: Adam Hodgins, Marie Davidson, Josh Cheon, Veronica Vasicka et al.
永田権太 - Koopa Troopa Beach [Nintendo - 1997]
Played on: Radar Radio, 4th January 2016 –
I know I already said Morph still absolutely goes, but this one really still absolutely fucking goes.