The story of Rinzen begins with a peculiar art installation.
Rinzen, whose real name is Michael Sundius, was visiting the Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona when he came across Antoni Tàpies ’Rinzen, a striking piece that combines modest objects with pictorial and sculptural elements.
“Rinzen means 'a moment of sudden awakening' in Japanese,” Sundius told worldmusic.blog. “I'm half Japanese, so the name and meaning really appealed to me.” Sundius manifested the artwork's intent to spark meditation and inner vision, and adopted Rinzen as the nickname for his musical alias, with the goal of “cinematic, cerebral to create "melodic house and techno".
Music production, however, wasn't Sundius' first foray into the world of electronic music. He spent over five years as senior editor at Dancing Astronaut and six years as a freelance writer at Billboard, creating features, coordinating premieres, interviewing artists, and reviewing events.
"I was a college student and fell in love with electronic music and music journalism was a way to be a part of the scene," he shared. “I liked it so much, I wanted to write about these artists, go to shows, and just talk to artists. For me, music journalism was the way to do all of that. "
Sundius commented on the development of his musical career: “For a while I was a full-time journalist who made music on the side. At some point, those two things turned around and I became a full-time record producer writing on the side. I still have so much love and respect for the whole craft of music journalism. "
The turnaround didn't happen overnight. To take his music to the next level, Sundius enrolled in a music production program at Icon Collective, the Los Angeles electronic music college known for industry-leading alumni such as Jauz, NGHTMRE and Slander.
“I enjoyed what I was doing, but I just felt like it wasn't my highest calling. I knew I wanted to be on the other side, the one being interviewed who has release campaigns, "explained Sundius, just decided to take the plunge, go to Icon, give it my all and see what happens."
The jump was worth it. It was Icon Collective alumni and mau5trap mainstay BlackGummy who helped Sundius sign his first single – and in particular the first demo he ever shared – “Renegade” for mau5trap, deadmau5's influential label, which is revered for it , now famous artists like Skrillex and REZZ. to give the go-ahead.
"I grew up a huge deadmau5 fan and mau5trap has a history of new artists," said Sundius of his desire to sign with mau5trap. “Fortunately, I was friends with Blackgummy and his team. They were able to pass on a song of mine, mau5trap signed it and in the following years I was able to release a lot of music with them and embed myself in the label. "
In the following years Sundius signed three EPs with mau5trap as well as a handful of singles and remixes, received BBC Radio 1 airplay and played inaugural sets for deadmau5 on numerous occasions. "I'm still very grateful that I had the opportunity to release music with them," he said.
Outside of mau5trap, Sundius has released tracks on several leading house and techno labels with strong communities and groundbreaking sounds, such as Lane 8’s This Never Happened, Sasha’s Last Night On Earth and John Digweed’s Bedrock.
The sound of Rinzen. dissect
Sundius & # 39; The very first single “Renegade” set the stage for the Rinzen sound: ominous, mysterious, driving techno. Think of orchestral sound design that merges with industrial analog flair, or, as deadmau5 put it, “Hans Zimmer meets Techno”.
But his first EP, Forbidden City, which was released on mau5trap at the end of 2017, established the central element of Rinzen: conceptual, world-forming music.
The Forbidden City was based on the idea of stumbling upon a holy city shrouded in awe, awe, and fear. The record reflects Sundius & # 39; Visited Kyoto, Japan, where he came across an eerie temple that felt sacred and forbidden, but enticing nonetheless. You can see the concept in the EP's artwork which features blurry floating temples with narrow drawbridges. And you can feel the concept through the carefully selected track titles: "Forbidden City", "Belly of the Beast" and "Triumph of the Human Spirit", which embody the journey to discover a mythical land. And of course you can hear it through the music when Sundius uses atmospheric melodies, menacing synthesizers and dramatic basslines to create the musical world of a forbidden city.
Exoplanet, Rinzen's second concept EP, was "a journey through the cosmos: a journey of discovery into worlds beyond our own". Inspired by NASA's discovery of seven Earth-like planets orbiting a nearby star, Sundius was obsessed with the idea of what it would be like to visit one of these planets for the first time, design your own solar system, and write down the physical properties of its planets, to fully immerse yourself in the concept of the EP. Driven mainly by experiments with Sundius & # 39; newly acquired Moog synthesizers, Exoplanet deviated from the overarching orchestral sound design that exists in Forbidden City.
Sundius ’ambition to build concepts and worlds around his music stems from“ a deep interest outside of music in two other media, film and literature ”.
"I love it when you see a movie with this vast, immersive universe like Blade Runner or Star Wars and you get lost in that concept," he enthused. “The director created this whole universe that you can live in for a while and I love that idea for the music too. You can live in a song, EP, or album for an extended period of time. This is my favorite art. "
Having majored in English at the University of California at Berkeley, it's no surprise that Sundius has a passion for literature.
"The Hero's Journey" is an overarching narrative structure that runs through heroic stories that span time and cultures. From modern western films like The Lion King to old, eastern myths like "The Epic of Gilgamesh", all heroic stories "The Hero's Journey" follow in three phases: departure (the hero embarks on a dangerous search), examination ( the hero) faces intense trials and difficulties) and return (the hero returns after victory in his search for home).
Although Sundius & # 39; EPs embody "The Hero & # 39; s Journey" – by discovering forbidden cities and exploring strange planets – his career is also a natural reflection of it.
“'The Hero's Journey' begins with the 'Call to Adventure'. You are living your life and receiving this calling to have a bigger calling and take that leap, ”explained Sundius. "The whole beginning of my career was the leap: to decide to become an artist and to pursue it."
The exams of an aspiring artist
Now Sundius has developed from a call to adventure and is “in the belly of the animal, the testing phase in which you have to prove yourself and work hard for many years just to get out of the belly of the animal. " he said. “Sometimes this is associated with excessive demands and stress. But also a new sense of self-worth that proves to yourself and those around you that you can do this and be more than you previously thought. So I have the feeling that I am very much in this phase and love it. "
Like any other creative activity, writing music is characterized by impostor syndrome, perfectionism and demotivation. Sundius experienced the downside when he almost failed to deliver an official remix for Lane 8. Fortunately, some random melodic inspiration saved the day.
When you are in the belly of the animal as a musician, it is only one side of the coin to publish unique music. Playing live shows and wowing the crowd is the downside. Performing live as an aspiring artist present a number of specific challenges that Sundius wholeheartedly accepts.
While playing Electric Forest is a milestone for Rinzen, having to put on your first festival right at the start of the day can be daunting – in the heat so intense that the few people on the dance floor seek shade. But Sundius persevered.
At Creamfields, Sundius played simultaneously with three of the festival's biggest headliners: Calvin Harris, The Chemical Brothers and Bicep. Of course, getting involved in his set was somber and daunting, but Sundius was actively trying to focus on the good.
A common theme you'll see on Rinzen's social media posts is open, unfiltered gratitude. It may be finding the light in disappointing viewership, or it may cherish the first weekend he's played three consecutive shows over three nights, what many popular DJs refer to as the average weekend.
But captions aside, you'll see Sundius consistently respond to most of the comments he receives from his 10,000+ followers on Instagram.
"I'm damned grateful for everyone who's following or aware of my project," he affirmed. “If you put some energy into sending me a nice message or leaving me a nice comment, I feel obliged to give energy back out of gratitude and show you that I am grateful to you. I think it's important to always act out of gratitude and thank people because they ultimately give you their time and energy, and that's an incredible thing. "
Makings of a Rinzen live show
Four and a half years after the start of the Rinzen project, Sundius has already performed at famous venues such as London's Printworks, Madrid's Factory and New York's Avant Gardner, as well as at prestigious festivals such as the Ultra Music Festival and the Electric Daisy Carnival.
Each Rinzen set is unique and tailored to the venue, audience and show as a whole. Listen to his set at Printworks and you will be pampered with a careful selection of moody, atmospheric techno from bands like Tale Of Us and Recondite, suitable for the press's impressive live performance location. On the other hand, his set at Cityfox Regenerate is firing at the Avant Gardner earlier this summer with dark, pulsating cuts by Matt Lange, Maksim Dark and Cirez D from all cylinders, perfect for a nightly techno party in a warehouse in Brooklyn.
Recently, Sundius performed at his first festival in over a year at New York's Electric Zoo. His approach to performance at Electric Zoo embodies how his live shows range from orchestral and atmospheric to fast-paced and relentless.
"To be honest, it was my first time playing at Electric Zoo and I wasn't exactly sure how to prepare," said Sundius, describing his take on the set. “I didn't know what the audience would be like or what people were expecting. So I came in without a plan, basically just wanted to play spontaneously and find out spontaneously. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. "
Before Sundius took the decks, however, he did some preliminary work. “I spent the hour before my set on the dance floor to feel it and see what the mood was. When I got up there, I knew I had to play a little harder than I initially thought, "he continued." The person I was playing after, Sita Abellán, was playing really hard. I always take into account what people have just heard and what they will hear after me. Sita played 137 BPM! So I knew that I couldn't start too slowly or too brightly because the contrast would be too great. "
However, when playing outside on a bright Saturday afternoon, Sundius knew there was more to consider. "Since it's still day, I still want my set to be melodic," he explained. “I still want to have moments when you just dance in the sun with your friends and enjoy being outside. So it has found this balance. "
With melodic hymns like Patrice Bäumel's unreleased remix of Lana Del Rey's "Doin 'Time" with club-cut monsters like Maceo Plex's "Conjure Sex", Sundius made a name for himself in the Electric Zoo.
Along the road
With live music making a far-reaching return after the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sundius finds himself in a certain musical direction.
"I'm back to playing in front of live audiences at nightclubs and festivals and experiencing the energy of the world opening again," he said. “All of this makes me want to write heavier music. During the quarantine it felt very natural to write deeper, more melodic, slower music just because I was sitting alone in a room and everyone else was too. But now I'm feeding on the energy of performance again. "
His latest release, Photon – a collaborative two-track EP with melodic house expert Enamour on Sasha's record label Last Night On Earth – is a perfect example of this shift. The title track features expansive staccato melodies that revolve around a distinctive bass line, while “Miracle of the Sun” focuses on tribal grooves.
Even though Sundius has seen a slew of US shows in 2021, as well as an arsenal of unreleased music, he's still stuck in the beast's belly. "That's what I'm supposed to do, it's exactly where I'm supposed to be," he explained. The story of Rinzen has innumerable chapters and we will watch how it unfolds.