I think it was back in 2009 when I first saw Henry Saiz in Melbourne. The memory is a bit hazy, but according to RA’s listings guide, it would’ve been 2009 as that was his first/debut Melbourne show. I remember a lot of chatter around Henry leading up to that show, you can even call that chatter hype which, for me, is always a warning sign that disappointment is laying ahead: in my experience, the hype rarely lives up to the talent.
I am happy to report that on the night I was totally blown away. The Spaniard proceeded to play music which sounded like it was from the future: laser sharp, euphonic melodies blissfully riding steely, tough beats. It sounded like Henry struck a deal with the devil, offering his soul in exchange for a sixth sense which allows him to act as a conduit for music from the future. Who knows. Either way, I was converted. And if there was any doubt about how good he is, his first Balance CD definitely solidified him as one of this planet’s most treasured musical talents. That mix is an example of an artist in a complete flow state, not a beat or a melody was out of place – and good luck trying to figure out where one track ended and another started.
Saiz has just completed his second Balance mix which shines the light on his highly recommended label, Natura Sonoris. Hot tip: Get this comp now, clear the schedule, put it on and drift away for 2 and half hours. It’s that good. Ahead of his Australian tour (check dates below), we have been re-visiting some of Henry’s best moments. And those moments include a cache of bootlegs that can only be found in his live sets, his radio show Labyrinth, or just passion projects he made for his fans (in the past some has been made available for download, but currently they are not). Below is a selection of our favourite Henry Saiz bootlegs….
1. Henry Saiz vs T.A.T.U. – All the Evil Things She Said
In 2002 Russia weren’t particularly known in the western world for their infectious pop acts (to be fair they aren’t really now either). That all changed when t.A.T.u. hit the scene with their blend of ear worm melodies, controversial subject matter and high pitched choruses. A potent mix indeed. In particular, ‘All The Things She Said’ caused controversy in several nations because it touched upon themes of lesbianism (and back then that was just not on), but more importantly, it caused inspiration with Henry who, years later, would turn the track from its edgy original into a considerably more palatable listen, finally finding t.A.T.u. an audience amongst those older than 15. From the pitched down vocals to the musical breakdowns to an extravagant piano jam towards the end, this one has it all.
2. The Weekend – Can’t Feel My Face (Henry Saiz Remix)
The musical world weren’t prepared for Canadian singer The Weekend’s second album when it dropped, going on to make the Canuck one of, if not the biggest acts of 2015. The third single form his sophomore album was ‘Can’t Feel My Face’, an uptempo disco and funk effort which ended up being one of the year’s biggest singles. How big? How about 819 000 000-views-on-Youtube big (yes, that is just under a billion views). Just when you thought the track reached its popularity apex in steps Henry to shake it up from its cocaine-induced subject matter (why did you think The Weekend can’t feel his face?) into a blissful MDMA-workout. A subtle chemical change, but one that turns the discotheque vibes of the original into dancing-by-yourself-on-beaches-because-you-are-fine-being-by-yourself vibes. The chin strokers amongst us might recognise this bootleg from Henry’s excellent Boiler Room in 2015, and they would be correct: It was the closing track of that particular session.
3. Simon & Garfunkel – The Sound of Silence (Henry Saiz Remix)
We know that Henry Saiz loves the melancholic so it really comes as no surprise to hear that he has a soft spot for this early-60’s tear-jerker. ‘Hello darkness my old friend…’ is the sort of lyric you would expect from a candle-burning teenager coming to terms with adulthood, and you won’t be far off as Paul Simon was 21-years old when he wrote this song. (Fun fact: Paul Simon said he wrote this track in his bathroom ‘because the bathroom had tiles, so it was a slight echo chamber…’)
The lyrics are actually not rooted in painful adolescence, and Garfunkel recently stated the track was commentary on ‘the inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly internationally, but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other.’ Ok, that is still pretty damn sad. Don’t fret as Henry Saiz turned this one around, and he did so in style. Saiz’s space guitar accentuates the main looping vocal refrains of ‘Sounds of Silence’ and ‘Hello Darkness my old friend…’ for a post-club workout which should induce a fair bit of soul searching on first listen. And then a fair bit of dance-like-no-one-is-watching. More like the ‘The Sound of Bliss’… AMIRIGHT?!
4. Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight (Hal Incandenza 606 edit)
You can’t really call yourself a Generation X’er if you’ve not heard this track (not that people are clamouring to call themselves Generation X’ers but still…). It was ubiquitous during the 80’s and one of that period’s biggest musical call cards. With that very intense drum break which has been described as “the sleekest, most melodramatic drum break in history”, who knows how many sexy nights were consolidated to this Phil Collins classic. Although the track might come off as naff 80’s romance, Collins has stated that he actually never intended for the lyrics to be about anything in particular, be it romantic or otherwise. But that didn’t stop fans from giving this a more sinister meaning: they think it’s about his ex-wife. (Due to lines like ‘Well, if you told me you were drowning I would not lend a hand’. Mmmm, that seems like a long bow to draw but whatever… keep being you Internet)
First heard on Henry’s Labyrinth radio show, this bootleg is more an update on the Phil Collins original than a full work-over, and by beefing up those drums and synthesised bass, Saiz triumphantly brings it into the new millennium. In Henry’s hands the track immediately went from 80’s sentimentality to bona fide date night music to which you can seal the deal with your dance moves. And that immense drum break is still there so you can practice your air drumming if needed.
5. Radiohead – Codex (Henry Saiz Remix)
For me, Radiohead is music royalty, and anyone attempting to remix any of their tracks should immediately be removed of their studio keys. Why touch perfection? Taken from their King of Limbs album, ‘Codex’ was a standout track which displayed the best qualities of Radiohead: Thom Yorke’s soaring and bittersweet vocals, Johnny Greenwood’s restrained tinkering with electronics, strings and effects, and Yorke’s minimal and understated piano. It really is something else. Upon finding out that Saiz did this bootleg I almost deleted every Henry Saiz podcast, track and mix I had. ‘OUTRAGEOUS’ and ‘Why Henry!’ was the first two thoughts that came to mind. But by God did he nail this one – and it might just be my favourite bootleg of all time.
You can’t really say that he bettered the original, because that would just be sacrilege, but he definitely enhanced it. Yorke’s vocals sound crystalline-clear across those balearic beats, and the verse’s almost-leitmotif is enough to make an UFC fighter cry. And don’t get me started on the breakdown. Ok I will, once it kicks in again with Yorke’s pained, almost howling vocals floating across the beats… Well, I’m not crying ok you’re crying. You really would have to be a hard human to not be affected by those chord progressions. If there were ever a MOMA for musical bootlegs this would surely take pride of place as the main drawcard. Thank you Henry.
Friday Aug 18: Brown Alley, Melbourne
Saturday Aug 19: Return to Rio Launch @ Manning Bar, Sydney
Sunday Aug 20: Lemon & Lime @ Capulet, Brisbane
Balance presents Natura Sonoris compiled by Henry Saiz is out now through Balance Music. Buy from here: https://www.balancemusic.com.au/store/
Texy by Sterling Cooper