It’s an honour to have Trance royalty sit down with us for a chat. Everybody who knows anything about trance, knows who Signum the artist is. But can you tell us a bit about yourself, who is Ron Hagen?
Nice to meet you and thanks for having me!
Who is Ron Hagen?? Well in a nutshell I’m a dude who’s been addicted to music and making music since I was 3 years old, my dad used to be a drummer in a band, so got the virus from him. I love to cook, I’m a massive movie and series addict (which dj isn’t?….lol) I love being in other countries and meeting new people through music and I absolutely hate traveling and waiting.
And I love fixing up the house I live in with my girlfriend. Ronnie home improvement!!! 😛
Where does the name Signum come from?
Do you really want to know? Hahahaha
Well back then we needed a cool name, and there was this magazine of Opel, with new concept cars in there. And one of those cars in that magazine was called Opel Signum. So we saw the name, and thought to ourselves, hey that sounds kind of cool. Wonder what it means. So we looked it up, and Signum is Latin for “sign” in good or in bad times, and that had sort of an appropriate meaning to it. Once we saw that name for the first time on vinyl, it really started to mean something more.
For many DJs/Producers there is a journey that leads them to where they are, how did you get into music, producing and DJing?
I got into music from a very young age, my dad was a drummer in a band, and he would play all kinds of music, so I grew up listening to all these different genres, and after hearing a song once I could already hum/whistle it fully in key the 2nd time I would hear it again. So I grew up with a very wide musical taste and a wide range of influences.
At the age of 12 I got my first keyboard, learnt myself how to play, won a talent show with composing my own music, at the age of 16 I bought my first computer (an Atari ST with the first Cubase) and a sampler and from that age I crossed over from composing modern jazz to edm (house/hardcore/trance/techno/hardhouse) and by the age of 20 I got my first record deal with BPM Dance and the rest is history as they say.
Who influenced you musically growing up?
When I was really young mostly Jazz artists like Larry Carlton, Jeff Lorber, Lee Ritenouer, Art Porter, David Foster and later on, Future Sound of London, Chicane, Armin, Ferry
Do you remember your first live DJ set, and how did it go?
Yea it was at a party of friends, it was the first time I played for a crowd after a year of daily practicing, it was awesome and gave such a rush!
That rush is still there whenever I play!
You’ve been in the industry long enough to see the move from vinyl to CD, and then to digital. What is your personal preference and why?
Digital! Way less weight to carry and you can bring so much more music with ya!…hahahaha
How did Pascal’s move to Norway in 2007 effect things for Signum and your sound?
Obviously we both have the Signum sound running through our veins, cuz we invented it, so that’s still there. But the biggest change for me was going without the fun 2 people can have creating music, the creativity is different because you miss an extra set of ears, which makes making decisions a lot harder when you’re arranging and in doubt if something works or not.
How would you describe your sound now, compared to classic Signum and how has it evolved over the years?
The sound definitely matured a lot In terms of production quality and knowledge and there’s way more fusion of different bits and bobs of other styles but that’s also what makes making music now a days way more complicated, there are just too many possibilities. Making music back in the day was a lot easier and arranging a track went a lot faster too.
Talk us through your studio setup, is it a full studio or have you opted for a more portable studio like a lot of producers these days?
My main setup it mostly my pc with Cubase 10 and Ableton 10 depending on my mood I work with either one of them. And of course tons of samples and vst’s. I still have my Roland JP 8000 as a master keyboard, a Virus B, a Korg MicroKontrol 2, my UAD Apollo soundcard and a Roland TB3 and some old compressors and other hardware collecting dust 😛
Whilst we are on the theme of production, what is your thought process when approaching a new track?
It’s usually ow nooooooo what the heck am I going to come up with now, again???
I usually start with an inspiring sound that triggers me playing melodies for 10 to 15 minutes, I record whatever comes up, and there’s always 1 melody that stands out, that’s going to be the one I’ll start working on/expanding on. Creating different layers, atmospheric stuff, and then I come up with a good drive (a solid thumping kick/bassline/percussion). Sometimes halfway through a track, I get stuck or bored and start something new, just to keep creativity going, this process can take up months, before I finish something. And usually when I do finish a track, it’s a combination of different arrangements that I already wrote in the past.
Do you have any advice for up and coming producers?
Yea, finish school, have an end game, and sort out your financial shit. The music game is a hard game and comes with loads of uncertainty. But once you’re hooked it’s very hard to get out of, even despite some of the negatives.
Now this is a big ask, but what release/remix are you the proudest of that you have done to date and why?
Yea definitely WYG4M, Coming on Strong for the impact they had and still have, The Timelord, Blockbuster, Knock Knock, because those tunes I’m actually really proud of, because there the only ones that sound like the way I heard them in my head.
And the remix for the gamemaster, that one still makes me happy whenever I hear it or play it. ❤️
You are probably a big influence for many of todays DJ/Producers, do you have any DJ/Producers that influence yourself?
Yea and that’s really flattering to hear when colleagues say this to you. It really puts a smile on my face!
Unfortunately I’m not that easily influenced by other people anymore, but if there’s 2 guys that do influence me atm., they have to be Egbert and Boris Brejcha, I know it’s a completely different genre, but these guys production skills are SICK!!!!
You have collaborated with lots of artists, whom did you enjoy working with most and why?
Working with Geert Huinink was very inspiring, that guy is like the Dutch Hans Zimmer, he’s a phenomenal composer! And also working with Roger Shah was a lot of fun, cuz that guy is also really talented! When I came up with the chords for Healesville Sanctuary, they were in a different order, and he immediately said, what if we start with this chord and end with that one. And booooom within a couple of seconds that melody was complete, I would have never thought to do this, but because of his musical background he listens in a different way. And then he came up with the idea for the female choir/chant and the magic was born!
If you could collab with any artist from any genre, who would it be and why?
Like I mentioned above, either Egbert or Boris Brejcha because they are so clever and playful in their sound design and arranging.
A lot can be learnt from them.
Speaking of collabs, you have been working with your little brother on a side project. I think it would have been chaos if I ever worked with my sisters! How has that worked out, being in the studio with a sibling?
Yea me a my brother always have great fun, he’s also really talented, and has a completely different rules set when it comes to making music, which is refreshing!
How do you think the scene has developed over the years, and what are your thoughts on all the sub-genres of trance we have nowerdays?
Well obviously we had the EDM boom, put your fucking hands up crap on every track, dj’s that make you count from 4 to 3 to 2 to 1 in every breakdown, and it looks like that slowly coming to an end. I really feel that genres are diversifying once more, and trance is like a tree now with all these branches forming sub genres. Anything is possible, atmosphere wise, tempo wise. Fusion and fun is key! And it looks like that is coming back again!
Can you tell us what you are working on in the studio at the moment?
I just finished a remix and 3 new originals (one of them sounds like an old-school Signum late 90s track, but produced with the freshness of today) and I really hope people are going to love them! And besides that I’ve got a couple of very interesting collabs on the menu for this year! I’ll keep you guys posted on that!
Do you have an event, venue or country in the world that is top of your wish list to play?
Yea, Tomorrowland and Dreamstate!
Luminosity 2019, OnTheSesh is pleased to see you will be treating us to one of your legendary classics sets. Many see Luminosity as ‘the’ trance festival of the year, how do you prepare for it and are you planning anything special for your set?
Lumi is definitely the trance festival of the year! I love playing there, it’s just pure magic! There isn’t anything like it. Haven’t decided yet if I’ll do another Signum producer set or mix it up with some classics from others as well, but I can assure you, you need to be there, because the atmosphere will be off the charts!
As just mentioned you are known for your amazing classics sets; do you prefer playing classics or upfront trance?
Also you did your first open to close set in April last year, how did that compare to playing regular sets?
I love playing both, and luckily I have a healthy balance between upfront trance gigs and classic gigs. Cuz you don’t want to be the dude, who only plays classics.
My open to close set last year, was quite an amazing experience, I loved building the night into pure euphoria! I’ll do one again next year! But this time I’ll organise it myself!
What do you consider to be the pivotal moments in your career?
Definitely the making of What ya got 4 me and Coming on Strong and my debut set at Gatecrasher a couple of years later, that started my career.
What is the current track of the moment in your record box?
Shameless self promotion thread 😛
Signum – Flashback
Signum – Miharo
Signum – Get up
Are there any artists you think we should look out for?
The Stupid Experts! Brilliant and proper progressive!
You have played with alongside most of the big names on the scene over your career, if you could hand pick a line-up to play on, who would be on it?
Carl Cox, Egbert, Boris Brejcha, Adam Beyer and Signum playing a techno set! hahahaha
Following on from that, is there anyone that you would love to do love to play back2back with?
I’ve been lucky to have played b2b’s with a lot of different dj’s, so I’ve already crossed a lot of my bucket-list, but anyone who shares the same vibe and has their tracks sorted in the right key, I’m down!
Do you have any future plans/releases in the pipeline that we should keep an ear out for in 2019?
Got 3 new Signum tracks coming up as mentioned above and I recently did a remix for Bodo Kaiser & Anyken – Who Cares (Signum Remix) to be released on AVA recordings later this month. Plus a couple of very interesting collabs and possibly more Signum originals as my production mojo is back on track once more! Hahahaha
Also I would love to do more Signum Xposed shows (open to close sets)
Ok time for a few fun questions…
You’ve won the lottery, what is the first thing you spend it on?
A new house, another house to rent out, a massive wedding party and a new car, very small wishlist! lol
Any bad habits?
Yea smoking and I love cheeseburgers!
If you weren’t a DJ, what would your dream job be?
I’d probably be working as a graphic designer or a cook, never a normal 9-5 job, I need to let the creativity go!
You have been on the scene long enough to have seen some weird and crazy stuff along the way, can you share any funny stories with us?
Yea, 3 years in a row I stopped my own track at Lumi, due to not paying attention, luckily I’ve broken the curse!
How does Signum recover after a heavy night out?
Chill out, move as little as possible, drink loads of water and Netflix!
If a film was made of your life story, which actor would you like to play yourself?
If you could have three people over for a dinner party alive or dead, who would they be and why?
Robin Williams, Facebook-less Ed, and Ghandi! Because we’ll be laughing all night even Ghandi! hahahahaha
Rob McGeechan in the OnTheSesh office has asked: Signum, what have you actually got for me?
Reader Zoe Wood has asked: What is your favourite flavour ice-cream, and also would you rather a nose for a hand or a hand for a nose?
That’s lemon ice cream, absolutely love that! I would rather Monday for an extra Sunday 😛
We’d like to say a massive thank you for taking the time out to chat with us and let Carl pick your brains Ron.
Also I can safely say everyone here at OnTheSesh and the Trance community, would like to thank you for everything you have done and contributed to the Trance scene over the years!
Thank you guys, was loads of fun! Take care and hopefully see some of you on the Trance Floor!