Fresh Kicks 197: Sam Goku
Munich’s Sam Goku records a mix of mind-altering rave material and fast-paced techno for the Fresh Kicks series, and chats to Ria Hylton about his new album on Permanent Vacation, his evolution as a producer, and the harmonising potential of nature
Sam Goku’s productions are full of contrasts: light and airy, with lots of space, and somehow rooted, occasionally anchored by a weighty bassline that wouldn’t sound out of place in a drum & bass set. His high-ends and mids often unfold like lush foliage, pentatonic scales twinkling above the scene, and when he does opt for a kick-drum, it never intrudes on the overall ambience. Goku’s music is, in essence, made for both club and home listening.
“I like to think of it as music that could sit everywhere and nowhere,” Goku — real name, Robin Wang — says about his productions. It’s late February and the Munich-based producer has just released his second LP, ‘Things We See When We Look Closer’, a record inspired by time spent roaming the woodland and mountain areas surrounding his hometown during lockdown. The 11-tracker, coming in at just under an hour, is an evolving conversation between humans and nature, unfolding across genres and tempos in unsuspecting ways. “It was a time where we saw and found and felt things we couldn’t see and feel before,” Goku explains, emphasising the harmonising potential of nature. “That’s where the name comes from.”
Goku started out as a “typical bedroom producer”. Drawn to the melodic progressions of deep house and the hypnotic rhythms of techno, he began laying out tracks after hours spent listening to his flatmate, also an old friend, DJing in the apartment. “It’s funny because I’ve always thought that it’s something that I’ve just started,” he tells DJ Mag when we note his decade-deep journey in production.
“In the beginning everything feels slow, but once you get into it time really flies.” In that time, he’s released on a number of highly rated imprints, such as Munich’s Permanent Vacation and Amsterdam’s Atomnation, including his 2021 debut album ‘East Dimensional Riddims’. His first official release, however, came courtesy of Bath’s Oleeva Records, where time spent with label head Will You brought Goku into closer contact with the UK bass scene. “At that time I wasn’t doing anything bassy or breaky at all,” he remembers. “But [Will and I] spent a lot of time together, listened to a lot of music and that definitely influenced me.”
Goku plays in Berlin often enough, including sets at the hallowed Panorama Bar, but early on in his journey he opted not to move to the German capital. A settled life in the Bavarian capital, as well as the city’s own rich musical history, have kept him rooted. “I’m not an expert, but I’ve heard that Munich in the ’70s and ’80s was a famous spot for music, before it became this very industrial city,” he notes. “It does have a very vibrant history of music and you can feel it in certain places. Many of those places are starting to close, old bars with DJs playing with vinyl, but I’ve seen it and I’ve felt it.”
Raised in Germany by Chinese parents, and having lived in China for a year, Goku’s music mirrors many perspectives, and in ways is attempting to harmonise cultural viewpoints that may at times seem at odds with one another. “I do think there is a chance for things that maybe are in conflict with each other to be in harmony,” he says, careful with his words. He sends an email hours later, outlining his thoughts more clearly: “In the fall of 2021, when I wrote [‘Things We See...’], I strongly felt that if we could slow down at times and be able to take a deep breath and take a closer look (or for others to zoom out and see the big picture), we could see and feel that in the end only compassion and love can bring us all together. And it was while spending time in nature, when I felt these thoughts most strongly.”
Listen to Sam Goku's Fresh Kicks mix below.