photos by Thomas Reynolds
Zen Awakening is returning to Wildwood, Florida November 17th-19th. When I first got a peek at the lineup, there was one name on the list that I was pretty excited to see. I had a chance to chat with Austin Leake, aka SoundLeake, and ask him a just few questions about past festivals and his upcoming performance at Zen Awakening!
Festival Squad: I first found out about SoundLeake at Hulaween last year. Those late night playground vibes were insane. Probably my favorite Suwannee memory. How did that idea come about for the playground set?
SoundLeake: So, the Hulaween playground set spawned actually the year before (2015) when my close friends Oliver Giles and Lantz Kelso decided to put a sound system and a generator on the merry-go-round. The turnout was insane. Created some of the best memories of my life that night. A year later (2016), I’m with a good friend of mine Austin Allen with a campsite renegade and I somehow convinced them to let me drag all the equipment out to the playground for round 2. To be honest, I had absolutely no idea it would blow up like that. Definitely one of the best moments of my life. The cops literally were like, “We were supposed to stop you two hours ago.” I didn’t argue at all. Blessed they let us bang it that long.
FS: You just played the Incendia stage at this years Hulaween. That was a super last minute deal, right? What was that like getting there? Did you even have a second to prep for it?
S: Yeah! I didn’t know I was playing Hulaween on Incendia until I was on my way to the festival. *laughs* The music I had was brand new because I recently lost a hard drive with all my music on it. Mixing has always been a freestyle art to me though. I like to feel out where I’m going to go with it based off the energy of the crowd. I love what they did with Hulaween this year. Incredible. Hulaween has always been one of my top 3 fests I look forward to in Florida every year. Next to Zen Awakening and Fractal Beach.
FS: You also played the Silent Disco at Okeechobee this March, right? What was that like? Have you ever done a silent disco before?
S: Okeechobee’s silent disco was more or less a wake up call for me. When I started this journey, I never really thought about the possibility of doing it on a larger scale. I just wanted to bring the new, twist the norm, get people to dance. Never did I think that it would go that far, and I feel as if my experience that weekend really was a major turning point for me from a DJ into a producer. I realized it was time to start taking it much more seriously, and I’ll tell you why. Upon arriving to the festival, the flash drive I was going to play on broke off inside my laptop, so I resorted to my backup hard drive with some of my old music. Really turned me down some because I wasn’t able to portray the experience I had first planned to, but it allowed me to return to my roots one last time and react under the pressure of creating a new experience for my listeners. I was mostly pleased with the outcome, especially the learning curve as an artist. Like I said, I feel like Okeechobee was a huge stepping stone, mentally, for my artist concept. I feel like I learned so much about who I can be and who I want to be.
FS: Your name was probably the only one that jumped out at me when the Zen Awakening lineup came out. I was definitely excited to see SoundLeake on there. Have you been to Zen Awakening before? How excited are you to be playing there? Anything specific (other than your own set, of course) that you’re really looking forward to?
S: Zen Awakening is, like I said before, one of my most looked forward to festivals of the year. Last year I actually played a late night take over at the Heady Made Weird stage on Friday night with my good friend Felix aka “The Reaver.” From production, to workshops, and ceremonies, the team members behind Zen Awakening do their best to provide a surreal experience through art, music, dance, yoga, meditation, and spirituality. The whole concept is helping provide a place for people to come and connect with themselves . You know, growing as a person. They offer a lot of workshops, I’m sure you know. You went right?
FS: Yeah! Loved it.
S: It’s a really good festival. Good concept. Top tier sound systems from Danely to Function. The lineup is full of so much raw talent.
FS: Alright, getting a little bit more personal, can you explain to us how music has impacted your life, if so?
S: Music has impacted my life a lot. It’s pretty much in everything that I do. I don’t know what I would do without music. I wouldn’t have any idea what to do with my life.
FS: Can you talk a bit about The Harmonic Connection and Leaked Beats?
S: Yeah, for sure. The Harmonic Connection is the first production company that I ever started growing with. My friend Thomas came to me like two or three years ago and said that he wanted to start throwing shows. It was based out of North Carolina at the time, but he would always come down to Tampa to socialize and see family since he grew up in the bay area. He was the first person to approach me with investments and to start putting time into me as an artist. He worked hard to start growing this company to try to get underground music really, really popping out here in Tampa. We started throwing some amazing shows at Live Art Laboratories until they closed down last year due to a code enforcement problem with the county. Really was sad to see it go. Live Art Laboratories was a great project, a creative maker’s space for everyone to come and work on art or gain creative inspiration, whether it be through music, sculpture, slik dancing, fire performance, you name it. They had a class for it. Thomas really helped give me a route to gain a lot of experience in the industry. Through that, I’ve found myself teamed up with Massive Idea’s and Dubday out here in Florida helping get good music to the people. These guys are very reliable and easy to work with. They seek quality in their shows just as much as we do, so it was very simple to make the connection and get to work. Currently there are two Dubdays in Florida right now. One in Orlando and one in Miami. There is also one in New York City. Massive Idea’s is a company founded by Anders Scherberger, as well as Fractal Beach which is the other festival I get stupid excited for. After Fractal Beach 2016, Anders took a step back and waited a year to build and launch Fractal Beach 2018! I’ve had a sneak peak at their production and ideas for this festival and all I can say is BE THERE! Just do it… I hear the Lineup is dropping at Zen Awakening this weekend. And just from what I’ve seen… y’all are in for an experience… Seriously. So, anyways, I started marketing my brand as an artist. Basically, over the last two years, I’ve been thinking about starting an Artist Collective/Production Company called Leaked Beats. Finally this year, I launched it to create the foundation I need to push the image I want with it. You know, all of those weird, underground, and experimental bass producers. I’m trying to create a network to reach out and connect to help them gain exposure through the shows we throw, as well as the weekly podcast/live stream on Facebook. Just like Kevin Moore is doing with Wellness and Sharing… and hopefully we will do stuff on other social media platforms in the future. Leaked beats will work closely with The Harmonic Connection on throwing shows and providing exposure for artists signed to THC.