Dallas Observer Mixtape with Mala Strana

Jennica Mae
Shawn Kasal, aka DJ Mala Strana
Most DJs go through phases as their musical palette evolves, and Shawn Kasal's DJ journey has brought him to his current alias, Mala Strana, under which he recently signed to local label Audiophile. It reflects the new, deep techno sound Kasal is channeling behind the decks and in his production work.

What is up with your new alias, Mala Strana?
I have been producing under the Stone Castle alias for the last four to five years. During that time frame, I’ve explored electronic music across a broad spectrum, from producing big room, progressive house to trance to melodic techno. The more I began to tune into my real love for techno, the more I felt the need to break away from some of the musical preconceptions that my Stone Castle project had created. I finally became centered into a deeper sound and place that resonated within me. With that deeper sound, I felt I needed to create something new and fresh, maybe slightly mysterious. That’s Mala Strana.

How did you connect with Audiophile Records?
I have been a huge fan of local Dallas label Audiophile Records. The quality of the productions that they release is top-notch, and I could see what a rising label they were becoming within the dance music industry. What really drew me to Audiophile was the team behind the label. DJ Red Eye, Jimmy Freer and Robert Pennington are people who take a sincere interest in the artists they sign. I submitted demos here and there to them, and they rejected the first few but always took the time to give me valuable feedback and positive encouragement. Very few label guys will take the time to do that, and it made me want to be part of the Audiophile family even more. I was finally fortunate enough to sign an EP with Audiophile Records that will be released in the very near future under their Audiophile Deep label.

What do you prefer, producing music or deejaying?
Honestly, they each have their own special place as a duality for me. My first passion has been production because that is where I started on this journey years ago, just a computer and my piano/keyboard, and where I still spend the most hours crafting my sound. The production part is a direct reflection of my own introspection, and music becomes a product of that process. The DJ aspect has become an escape from those solitary hours creating music. Being able to mix and play sets allows my extroverted side to experience others becoming lost within the music alongside me. I feel that both making and playing music serve as some type of personal catharsis, and my hope is for others to experience the same escape and release from listening and dancing to what I might create.

"The DJ aspect has become an escape from those solitary hours creating music." – DJ Mala Strana

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How did you begin producing? Did you make other types of music before you got into dance?
I first got involved with production by simply wanting to create dance music. I wanted to replicate the same sounds as Eric Prydz, Carl Craig, Sasha and Digweed, to name a select few. I grew up in a very musical household and have played the piano since age 5. I wrote my own piano music and melodies growing up and was even in a band at one point in high school as a drummer.

Tell us about where you recorded this mix.
This mix was recorded in Dallas on Jan. 13 at the Secret Factory for Cross Border Warriors presents Border Nights featuring Raul Facio (Sci-Tec/Octopus). I played the opening set before handing off to Cache Money on direct support for Raul Facio. The set is a deep and dark melodic introduction to the night and features a few of my own original tracks as well.

What has been your most significant musical experience of the past year?
I had the great opportunity to be asked by DJ Red Eye to play a guest set for Red Eye and Friends at It’ll Do Club. I have dreamed of playing at this club for the past four years and have been there to see many world-class DJs like Prydz, Claptone, Derrick Carter, Adam Beyer, Moudaber, Mark Knight, etc. It was an incredible moment for me to play there and watch people feeling the groove and dancing to my set.

Which producers and DJs have caught your attention lately?
That might be a long list. I can only list those that keep a constant showing on my set lists: artists such as Amelie Lens, Ramiro Lopez, Dennis Cruz, Recondite and Modal, to name just a few.

What about local producers or DJs? 
Artists like Hands Free and Buala are crazy talented and a must-see in my book. I really like what I hear from Blixaboy; looking forward to catching him soon. Left/Right is also another local producer that has exceptional technical ability and such a unique sound. Of course, you can catch Red Eye as resident at It’ll Do and Beauty Bar almost weekly, or at least when he isn’t traveling the world playing with Maceo Plex.

Where do you like to dig for tracks? Online or in stores?
I dig through the standard Beatport, Juno and Traxsource selections for most of my sets, focusing on new releases and not the top charts. I occasionally will find something tagged in an Instagram video that catches my attention that I will hunt down.

What gigs or releases do you have coming up?
I have an upcoming EP release with Audiophile Deep in the next month or so, as well as various label gigs upcoming. I am also playing an extended set at Beauty Bar on Wednesday, Feb. 21, called ‘Therapy Session” from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

"Beasts (Original Mix)" — Drum Planet
"ID (Original Mix)" — Mala Strana
"Una (Original Mix)" — Neverdogs, Sebastian Ledher
"Midas Touch (Original Mix)" — Yotam Avni
"Soul Echo (Original Mix)" — Mala Strana
"Cookies (Original Mix)" — Dennis Cruz
"Back In Time (Original Mix)" — Mirko Flower, Davide Vario
"Sonar (Original Mix)" — Patrick Hero
"Venice (Original Mix)" — Julian Jeweil
"Sex & Synths (F.Gazza& Juan de la Higuera Remix)" — K-Style
"Secret Combination (Drumcomplex Remix)" — Rafaela Rizzi
"Traib (Original Mix)" — Dave Simon
"Luxury (Original Mix)" — ALF4D, Jesus Pastrano
"Fallen (Original Mix)" — Mala Strana
"Speaking Through Emotions (Coyu Raw Edit)" — Frank Kvitta
"Subsolar Point (Roel Salemink Remix)" — Spiros Kaloumenos
"Get Down (Len Faki Hardspace Mix)" — 2000 And One