Shawn Kasal has been a DJ for only a few years, but it's clearly his calling. Under the alias Stone Castle, he spins and produces techno in support of local DJ crew Lolo and as a guest on other DJ nights throughout town.
Unlike many DJs, Kasal has a background in classical music. Eventually, his interest turned to electronic music. When friends heard his first creations, they encouraged him to keep going, and he's never looked back. Kasal's raw passion for techno music comes through loud and clear on this week's Observer mixtape.
Dallas Observer: How did you get started deejaying? What drew you into the culture?
Kasal: Deejaying live sets came by default, really, as the more I learned and started to produce my own music, the more people hinted that I should be a DJ. I'm relatively new to deejaying live sets compared to my colleagues here in Dallas. I have found it extremely rewarding and addictive when a crowd is feeling and radiating the energy that I try and create within a live set or within an original track I produced. At that moment, it makes all the late nights in studio in front of the monitors worth it.
Electronic music as a whole enveloped me early on as a way to escape from the stress of real life for a bit and travel on a journey musically. My full-time job can be extremely high stress at times, and I found that that techno helped me forget any stress I might have, even for just a few moments. The more people I met within the music scene, the more I found the culture to be so welcoming and positive and at times even cathartic. I knew that if this music could bring that type of positive energy into my life, then I wanted to make and share music that could maybe touch someone else in a similar way.
How was this mix made? Is there a particular theme for the track selection?
This mix was made in my home studio using a DJM-900NXS mixer and a dual CDJ-2000NXS2 setup. There is no particular theme for the tracks selected. I wanted to choose tracks that I find engaging and couple them into transitions with a few of my own original tracks as well.
What is your relationship with techno?
My relationship is a very personal one and hard to put into words. It's more to me than listening to one particular track or producing a certain sound. It's all about the moment and the feeling. It's a push and pull type of dynamic for me in both producing and deejaying. I prefer to compose tracks and mix sets that bring someone in and then take something away to create some tension or longing and then bringing in something unique to relieve that and create the need for more.
Who are some of your favorite producers and DJs, and why?
"I have been playing piano since I was age 5 and grew up in a very musical household. I remember hearing Kernkraft 400 around 2004 and thinking, 'How the heck did they do that?!'"
I have a wide range of favorites and within different genres as well. My most favorite are populist picks, I'm sure. Carl Craig, Derrick May, Sven Vath and Dubfire are at the top of my list. I tend to gravitate to deeper melodic sounds to my liking, most especially Enrico Sanguilano, Sam Paganini, Julian Jeweil and Matt Lange — he is a brilliant musician.
My most favorite all-around producer and DJ in any genre is Eric Prydz. From his Pryda releases to Cirez D productions, they are all genius and masterful. His live sets, mixing skills and transitions are just jaw dropping and flawless.
What was your most significant musical experience of the past year?
Over the last year, I have had the opportunity to sign a few tracks to some collectives and also a couple of digital labels out of Europe. My track "Ghost Flight" was released on Carypla Records, and I have an upcoming EP release featuring my tracks "Breathe" and "Nocturne" on Sound Klescke Recordings out of Germany slated for end of July release.
What got you into production?
I have been playing piano since I was age 5 and grew up in a very musical household. I remember hearing Kernkraft 400 around 2004 and thinking, "How the heck did they do that!?" I got an early version of what was simply called Fruity Loops back then and just started playing around with MIDI and different synths just casually. It developed more and more into a hobby, and I began tinkering with both Logic and Ableton for my main production work and compositions, which I use both now.
I got serious in '08/'09 as electronic music was really becoming popular and mainstream EDM was hitting the U.S. I embarrassingly tried my hand at some big room house and other genres but quickly realized that techno/tech house and progressive is where my true heart was, and I came back to where the real music was. I am also half of a progressive house duo called Fix & Castle.
What is your favorite piece of studio gear or software?
I really love my NI Maschine Studio — it cuts my workflow into a much more tangible and tactile experience than just using a keyboard for arrangements. I couple it with Massive, and it becomes a huge part of my producing arsenal. I am also starting to integrate Maschine into live sets when I can.
Is there a track that you always come back to as a DJ?
As I am a relative rookie to the DJ scene, less than three years, I'm still in a learning phase about what tracks work consistently well and with each other.
One groovy track that I throw in that consistently gets a dance floor moving is a tech house track called "Butcher" by David Vrong.
What gigs do you have coming up?
At the moment, my full-time job limits me from being able to take on too many gigs consistently per month, but I have a solid local Dallas gig coming up Aug. 18 at The Nines in Deep Ellum. I'll be direct support for Pig&Dan (Pig Solo), a really deep, proper techno gig. I'm also in the works for possible gigs in Houston and also at the new techno-friendly after-hours club in Las Vegas called After.
"Artha" – ANNA
"The Reason (Original Mix)" – Alessandro Spaiani
"Mute" – Under Black Helmet
"Breathe (Original Mix)" – Stone Castle
"Gravity (Reform (IT) Remix)" – Alignment
"Detention (Original Mix)" – Steve Shaden, Kristina Lalic
"Warehouse (Wehbba Remix)" – Ramon Tapia
"ID" – Stone Castle
"Where It Begins (Original Mix)" – Layton Giordani
"In Love (Stone Castle Remix)" – Adam Beyer vs. Pig&Dan
"Uncompromising (Original Mix)" – Adana Twins
"Blast Off (Victor Ruiz Remix)" – Christian Smith
"Ventura (Original Mix)" – Stone Castle