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How to stay motivated and not burn out

Notes from Andrew Huberman’s lecture on dopamine

Discussions about health issues, and motivation, in particular, are often neglected in the music industry. And yet I know in person quite a few people who struggle with motivation after a big release or are burnt out despite having what seems like a success.

I came across a fascinating lecture by Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, about a molecule called dopamine and how it affects our motivation, drive, and even overall happiness. He discusses important questions, like why we perceive certain experiences differently; what dictates our so-called quality of life; how to keep focused and keep enjoying things that we do repetitively; what are underlying mechanisms of motivation and what behavioural patterns can reduce it; why sometimes being too ecstatic about big achievements can cause negative long-term effects; what’s an addiction; how our internal reward system works; and many, many more things around those topics. And it’s very useful for anyone, even outside the music career, of course.

I found this lecture so eye-opening, so I took some notes and shared them here my blog, even though it’s beyond the scope of typical posts in my blog.

Here is the full video that I encourage you to watch, and below are the notes that I took from it:

What it is

Dopamine is a very important molecule, a so-called neuromodulator. It’s not only responsible for pleasure, it’s responsible for motivation, drive, and craving. It also controls time perception and is related to body movements.

There is always a baseline level of dopamine in our bodies. When you feel excited and motivated, it’s called tonic and phasic release: tonic is always there circulating in the brain, and phasic are the peaks above the baseline. These two things interact, and it’s important. Dopamine can change the way our neural circuits work at a local scale (synaptic) and at a very broad scale (volumetric, affecting many neurones).


If you were to take a drug or supplement that increases your level of dopamine, you are influencing both the local and volumetric releases of dopamine. This is related back to the baseline and the big peak above the baseline. And that turns out to be important. Many drugs and supplements will actually make it harder for you to sustain dopamine over long periods of time and to achieve those peaks that most of us are craving when we are in pursuit of things.

Why? Because if you get both volumetric releases, the duping out of dopamine everywhere, and you’re getting a local release, it means that the difference between the peak and baseline is likely to be smaller. And how satisfying or exciting or pleasureful a given experience depends on the height of that peak relative to the baseline. So if you increase the baseline and you increase the peak, you’re not going to achieve more and more pleasure from things. Just increasing dopamine will make you excited for all things, it will make you feel very motivated, but it will also make that motivation very short-lived.


Dopamine is unique in our brain, it communicates with other neurones slower through G protein-coupled receptors. It slows, but can have multiple cascade effects. So its effects tend to take a while in order to occur.

Dopamine is a universal currency in all mammals, especially humans, for moving us towards goals. How much dopamine is in our system at any one time compared to how much dopamine was in our system a few minutes ago and how much we remember enjoying a particular experience of the past dictates your so-called quality of life and your desire to pursue things. It’s the way we track pleasure, it’s the way we track success. Even subtle fluctuations in dopamine really shape our perception of life and what we’re capable of, and how we feel.

This is why when you repeatedly engage in something that you enjoy, your threshold for enjoyment goes up and up.

All of us have different baseline levels of dopamine. Some of this is sure to be genetic.

Epinephrine, also called adrenaline is the main chemical driver of energy. We can’t do anything, anything at all, unless we have some level of epinephrin in our brain and body. Epinephrin and adrenalin are manufactured from dopamine.


The cortical part is important. The cortical part actually has a very specific part, which is your prefrontal cortex. The area of your forebrain that’s involved in thinking and planning, and involved in assigning a rational explanation to something, and involved in assigning a subjective experience to something. So, for instance, a pen that I’m holding right now, it’s one of the Pilot V5s, I just happen to love them, I like the way they write, and how they feel. If I spent enough time thinking about it or talking about it, I could probably get a dopamine release increase just talking about this pen. As we start to engage with something more and more, and we say about it, and what we encourage ourselves to think about it, has a profound impact on its rewarding or non-rewarding properties. Now, it’s not simply the case that you can lie to yourself. What’s been found over and over again is that if people journal about something, or they practice some form of appreciation for something, or they think of some aspect of something that they enjoy, the amount of dopamine that that behaviour will evoke tends to go up.


There used to be a cigarette and a cup of coffee, or when people drink alcohol, oftentimes they’ll smoke. And it’s well-known that different compounds like alcohol and nicotine, or caffeine and nicotine, or certain behaviours and certain drugs can synergise to give bigger dopamine increases. And turns out it’s not the best approach: layering together multiple things, substances and activities that lead to a big increase in dopamine, can actually create pretty severe issues with motivation and energy right after those experiences and even a couple of days later.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t take the occasional pre-workout if that’s your thing, or drink a cup of coffee before working out; some people enjoy that. But if you do it too often, what you’ll find is that your capacity to release dopamine and your level of motivation, drive and energy overall will take a serious hit.


Once we achieve certain things we wanted, our baseline of dopamine reduces for a while. And it doesn’t just go back down to the level it was before, it goes to a level below what it was before you went out seeking that thing.

“I’m going to run this marathon, I’m going to train for that marathon”, and when you run the marathon and cross the finish line, you feel great. And you think, “Okay, now I’m set off for the entire year, I’m going to feel so much better, I’m going to feel this accomplishment in my body, it’s going to be so great”. That’s not what happens. You might feel some of those things, but your level of dopamine has actually dropped below the baseline. Now, eventually, it will ratchet back up, but two things are really important.

First of all, the extent to which it drops below the baseline is proportional to how high the peak was. So if you cross the finish line pretty happy, it won’t drop that much below baseline afterwards; if you cross the finish line ecstatic, well, a day or two later, you’re going to feel quite a bit lower than you would otherwise. It’s so-called postpartum depression that people experience after giving birth or after some big win, graduation, or any kind of celebration. This is very important to underground because this happens on very rapid timescales and it can last quite a long time.

It also explains the behaviour that most of us are familiar with of engaging in something that we really enjoy. But if we continue to engage in that behaviour over and over again, it kind of loses its edge. It starts to feel less exciting to us.


Dopamine is released in the system only when it’s ready; when it’s synthesised. If you take something or do something that leads to huge increases in dopamine, afterwards your baseline should drop because there isn’t a lot of dopamine around to keep your baseline level going.

Fortunately, most people do not experience or pursue enormous increases in dopamine leading to severe drops in the baseline. Many people do, however, and that’s what we call addiction. When somebody pursues a drug or an activity that leads to huge increases in dopamine, and now you understand that afterwards the baseline of dopamine drops because of depletion of dopamine, that readily releasable pool. The dopamine is literally not around to be released, and so people feel pretty louse. And many people make the mistake of then going and pursuing the dopamine-evoking, dopamine-releasing activity or substance again, thinking mistakenly that it’s going to bring up their baseline, it’s going to give them that peak again. Not only does it not give them a peak, but their baseline also gets lower and lower because they’re depleting dopamine more and more.

Burning out

What about the more typical scenario? What about the scenario of somebody who is really good at working during the week, they exercise during the week, they drink on the weekends. Well, that person is only consuming alcohol maybe one or two nights a week, but oftentimes that same person will be spiking their dopamine with food during the middle of the week. Now, we all have to eat, and it’s nice to eat foods that we enjoy. But let’s say they’re eating foods that really evoke a lot of dopamine release in the middle of the week, they’re drinking one or two days on the weekend, they are one of these work hard, play hard type. So they’re swimming a couple of miles in the middle of the week, they’re going out dancing once on the weekend. Sounds like a pretty balanced life as I describe it, right?

Well, here’s the problem. The problem is that dopamine is not just evoked by one of these activities, dopamine is evoked by all of these activities. And dopamine is one universal currency of craving, motivation, desire, and pleasure. There’s only one currency. It makes sense why that person after several years of work hard, play hard, would say, “you know, I’m feeling kind of burnt out.” What is happening is they’re spiking dopamine through so many different activities throughout the week that their baseline is progressively dropping. And in this case, it can be very subtle, so it’s difficult to notice in the short term, but it kicks in the long term.

Now, of course, we all should engage in activities that we enjoy, everybody should. A huge part of life is pursuing activities and things that we enjoy. The key thing is to understand the relationship between the peaks and the baseline and to understand how they influence one another. Because once you do that, you can start to make really good choices in the short run and in the long run to maintain your level of dopamine baseline, maybe even raise that level of dopamine baseline and still get those peaks and still achieve those feelings of elevated motivation.

Healthy approach

There are optimal ways to engage in activities or to consume things that evoke dopamine. The key lies in the intermittent release of dopamine, and the key is to not expect or chase high levels of dopamine release every time we engage in these activities.

Intermittent reward schedules are the central schedule by which casinos keep you gambling. There’s something called dopamine reward prediction error. When we expect something to happen, we are highly motivated to pursue it. If it happens, great, we get the reward. The reward comes in various chemical forms including dopamine, and we are more likely to engage in that behaviour again. This is the basis of casino gambling. This is how they keep you going back again and again, even though on average the house does win.

That intermittent reinforcement schedule is actually the best schedule to export to other activities. How do you do that? Well, first of all, if you are engaged in activities, school, sport, relationship etc, where you experience a win, you should be very careful about allowing yourself to experience huge peaks in dopamine unless you’re willing to suffer the crash that follows and waiting a period of time for it to come back up.

What would this look like in the practical sense? Well, let’s say you’re somebody who kind of likes exercise but forces yourself to do it, but you make it pleasureful by giving yourself your favourite cup of coffee first, or maybe taking a pre-workout drink, or taking an energy drink, or listening to your favourite music. And then you’re in the gym and you’re listening to music, that all sounds great, right? Well, it is great except that by laying together all these things to try and achieve that dopamine release, and by getting a big peak in dopamine, you’re actually increasing the number of conditions required to achieve pleasure from that activity again.

And so there is a form of this where sometimes you do all the things that you love to get the optimal workout. You listen to your favourite music, you got your favourite time of day, you have a pre-workout drink if that’s your thing; you do all the things that give you that best experience of the workout for you. But there is also a version of this where sometimes you don’t do the dopamine-enhancing activities. You don’t ingest anything to increase your dopamine. You just do the exercise. You might think, “well, that sounds lame. I want to continue to enjoy exercising”. Ah, well, that’s exactly the point! If you want to maintain motivation for school, exercise, relationships or pursuits of any duration in kind, the key thing is to make sure that the peak in dopamine, if it’s very high, doesn’t occur too often. And if something that does occur very often that you vary how much dopamine you experience with each engagement in that activity.

The reason why I can’t give a very specific protocol, like delete dopamine or lower dopamine every third time, is that that wouldn’t be intermittent. The whole basis of intermittent reinforcement is that you don’t really have a specific schedule of when dopamine is going to be high, and when dopamine is going to be low. That’s a predictable schedule, not a random intermittent schedule. So do like the casinos do, it certainly works for them, and for activities that you would like to continue to engage in overtime, whatever those happen to be, start paying attention to the amount of dopamine and excitement and pleasure that you achieve with those, and start modulating that somewhat at random. There are a lot of different ways to do this.

For those of you that are begging for more specificity, we can give you a tool. One would be, you can flip a coin before engaging in any of these types of activities and decide whether or not you are going to allow other dopamine-supportive elements to go, for instance, into the gym with you. Are you going to listen to music or not? If you enjoy listening to music, well then flip a coin, and if it comes up heads, bring the music in, and if it comes up tails, don’t. It sounds like you’re undercutting your own progress, but actually, you are serving your own progress, both short-term and long-term, by doing that.


It’s extremely common nowadays to see people texting and taking selfies and communicating in various ways, listening to podcasts, listening to music, and doing all sorts of things while they engage in other activities. That’s all wonderful, it gives depth and richness and colour to life, but it isn’t just about our distracted nature when we’re engaging with the phone, it’s also a way of layering in dopamine. And it’s no surprise that levels of depression and lack of motivation are really on the increase.

I know this is a hard one for many people, but I do invite you to try removing multiple sources of dopamine release, or what used to be multiple sources of dopamine release, from activities that you want to continue to enjoy or that you want to enjoy more.


Hard work is hard. Generally, most people don’t like working hard. Some people do, but most people work hard in order to achieve some end goals. End goals are terrific, and rewards are terrific, whether or not they are monetary, social or any kind. However, because of the way that dopamine relates to our perception of time, working hard at something for the sake of a reward that comes afterwards can make the hard work much more challenging and make us much less likely to lean into hard work in the future.

Let me give a couple of examples by way of data and experiments. There’s a classic experiment done at Stanford many years ago in which children in nursery school and kindergarten drew pictures, and they drew pictures cause they like to draw. The researchers took kids that liked to draw, and started giving them a reward for drawing. The reward generally was a gold star or something that a young child would find rewarding. Then they stopped giving them the gold star. And what they found is the children had a much lower tendency to draw on their own. No reward. Now, remember this was an activity that prior to receiving a reward, the children intrinsically enjoyed to do, no one was telling them to draw. What this relates to is so-called intrinsic versus extrinsic reinforcement. When we receive rewards, even if we give ourselves rewards for something, we tend to associate less pleasure with the actual activity itself that evoked the reward.

This doesn’t mean all rewards of all kinds are bad, but it’s also important to understand that dopamine controls our perception of time. When and how much dopamine we experience is the way that we carve up what we call our experience of time. When we engage in an activity, let’s say school or hard work of any kind, or exercise because of the reward we are going to give ourselves a receive at the end, the trophy, the meal, whatever it happens to be. We actually are extending the time bin over which we are analysing or perceiving that experience. And because the reward comes at the end, we start to dissociate the neural circuits for dopamine reward that would have normally been active during the activity. And because it all arrives at the end over time, we have the experience of less and less pleasure from that particular activity while we’re doing it.

The striving to be better, this mindset of “I’m not there yet”, but striving itself is the end goal. And that delivers a tremendous performance. And all of us can cultivate a growth mindset. The neural mechanism of cultivating growth mindset involves learning to access the rewards from effort and doing.

If you say “Oh, I’m going to do this very hard thing, and I’m going to push and push and push for that end goal that comes later”, not only you enjoy the process of what you’re doing less, you actually make it more painful while you’re engaging in it, you make yourself less efficient at it, and also undermining your ability to lean back into that activity the next time. The next time you need twice as much coffee and four times as much energy drink just to get out the door in order to do the run or to study.

So what’s more beneficial, in fact, it can serve as a tremendous amplifier on all endeavours that you engage in, is to not start layering in other sources of dopamine in order to get to the starting line, but rather to subjectively start to attach the feeling of friction and effort to an internally generated reward system. The ability to access this pleasure from the effort aspect of our dopaminergic circuitry is without question the most powerful aspect of dopamine and our biology of dopamine.

Don’t spike dopamine prior to engaging in effort, and don’t spike dopamine after engaging in effort, learn to spike your dopamine from the effort itself.

Knowledge of knowledge can help our forebrain with getting a reward from the process itself. And that’s the beauty of these dopamine circuits. It’s not just attached to the more primitive behaviours of food, sex, heat etc., it’s also attached to the things that we decide are good for us and are important for us. So telling yourself that exercise or fasting or studying or listening better or any kind of behaviour is good for you will actually reinforce the extent to which it is good for you at a chemical level.

Social connections

Social connections, close social connections, in particular, evoke oxytocin release. Those are the romantic type, parent-child type, and friendship related. And oxytocin release is central to stimulating the dopamine pathways. So the take-home message here is quite simple: engage is pursuing quality, healthy social interactions.

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6-Hour Mix 2023

As I’m sure you know, I like to blend musical genres and play long sets. Very long sets. October’s Open To Close event was cancelled, but the desire hasn’t gone away.

So I decided to give you a little surprise: I recorded a 6-hour mix as if I were playing it in a club. Of course, the live experience would have been different, but nevertheless, I tried to embody this very sense of progression through styles, tempos, and moods. Expect some deep house, groovy house, tech house, trance, techno-trance, techno and whatnot.

Anyway, enjoy, listen, and share:

0:00:00 DP-6 — Cicada Moon (Original Mix) DP-6 Records
0:06:14 Anthony Pappa, Jamie Stevens — Here We Go (Original Mix) Selador
0:10:37 Matt Lange, Kerry Leva — Inverse (Original Mix) Anjunadeep
0:14:45 Dosem — Black Unicorn (Original Mix) Tronic
0:19:23 Dosem — Become One (Original Mix) Tronic
0:24:02 Eelke Kleijn — Welcome To Orion (Original Mix) Terminal M
0:27:55 Enzo Tucci, Michel de Hey, Richard Cleber — Point Of No Return (Original Mix) Hey Records
0:31:16 Elias Erium — Keep In Touch (Original Mix) Aletheia Recordings
0:37:11 Elias Erium — Spearhead (Original Mix) Phenomena
0:41:50 La Roux — In For The Kill (Simon Doty Remix) Not On Label
0:47:05 Amir Hussain — Scarlett (Original Mix) JOOF Aura
0:50:40 Simon Doty — Tellin Me (Extended Mix) Anjunadeep
0:54:00 Simon Doty — Trance Tool (Extended Mix) Anjunadeep
0:59:38 Hoten — Mana (Dilby Remix) 43 Degrees Records
1:04:12 Deetron — Starblazer (Original Mix) Rejected
1:08:47 Stacey Pullen — Feel It (Original Mix) Factory 93 Records
1:11:49 Misstress Barbara — Don’t Tease Me (Original Mix) Intec
1:15:30 DJ Jock — Raw Love (Original Mix) Intec
1:20:12 Spektre — Skuz (Original Club Mix) Toolroom Records
1:23:30 Tom Hades — Vocalismo (Kalden Bess Remix) Rhythm Converted
1:27:33 Alex Dolby, Santos — Raw Road (Carlo Lio Remix) Rawthentic Music
1:32:20 Nicole Moudaber — Move A Little Closer (Original Mix) Mood
1:36:07 Rick Pier O’Neil — Rool Into The World (Part 1) JOOF Recordings
1:41:01 Grum — Price Of Love (Extended Mix) Anjunabeats
1:45:18 Gallago — Astral Plain (Original Mix) 10 Steps North
1:50:45 Dulcet — Subside (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
1:54:49 Paride Saraceni — Dissolute (Original Mix) Snatch Records
1:59:04 Artwerk, ShiShi, Tone Troy — Yesterday (Extended Mix) Toolroom Records
2:03:34 Joe Mesmar — Felix Ano Nuevo (Original Mix) Toolroom Records
2:05:34 Maroto & Bosco — Dune (Gabriel D’Or & Bordoy Remix) Selected Records
2:10:02 Alex Raider, Leo Lippolis — Cryptic (Original Mix) Kaleydo Beats
2:15:15 Nicole Moudaber, Victor Calderone — The Journey Begins (Original Mix) Drumcode
2:19:43 Shaun Mauren — My Dream (Eric Sneo Remix) Naked Lunch
2:24:12 Sama — It’s Not Fair (Axel Karakasis Remix) He-Art
2:29:10 Clint Stewart — Breathe (Timmo Rework) Terminal M
2:34:27 Ivanshee — Orbital Throb (Alessandro Spaiani Remix) JOOF Aura
2:38:06 Hell Driver — Lost Signal (Dulcet Remix) JOOF Aura
2:42:19 Victor Ruiz — Surrender (Extended Mix) Factory 93 Records
2:47:17 Khainz, Marcus Meinhardt — Caribic Royal (Bart Skils Remix) Whatitplay
2:50:30 Eric Sneo — Go (Original Mix) Beatdisaster
2:54:50 Don Ruijgrok, Mike Scolari — Amendment (Original Mix) Drowne Records
2:58:49 Armystrial — Fire (Eric Sneo Remix) Trial Records
3:03:31 Loco & Jam — Back To The Warehouse (Original Mix) Arcane Music
3:07:30 Daniel Lesden — A Train Into Darkness (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
3:12:12 Sven Vath — Metal Master Spectrum (Bart Skils & Weska Reinterpretation) Cocoon Recordings
3:16:55 Alessandro Spaiani — Revenge (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
3:20:53 Daniel Lesden — Binary Star (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
3:25:49 Eric Sneo — Mine (2021 Remastered) Remain Records
3:29:38 MicroCheep, Mollo — Massive Dynamics (Original Mix) iDark Records
3:33:33 DJ Dextro — FoxP2 (Original Mix) Dolma Records
3:36:13 Pig&Dan — Trauma (Original Mix) Cocoon Recordings
3:40:49 Alex Stein — Rise (Original Mix) Terminal M
3:44:29 Drunken Kong — Dark Moon (Original Mix) Terminal M
3:49:31 Jam & Spoon — Odyssey To Anyoona (Wehbba Remix) Black Hole Recordings
3:54:44 Bobina — Slow (Cosmonaut Remix) Not On Label
3:58:59 Drunken Kong — Focus (Original Mix) Tronic
4:03:06 Christian Smith — Atmosphere (Original Mix) Tronic
4:06:23 Eric Sneo — Deep In The Clubs (Remastered) Beatdisaster
4:08:59 Alexander Kowalski — Hot Spot (The Advent’s Bitch For The Night Remix) Kanzleramt
4:12:52 Sharpside — Space Cruising (Wehbba Remake) Rotation Records
4:16:59 Alexey Kotlyar — Funky Emotions (Original Mix) Guilhotina
4:20:43 Gaetano Parisio — Outset (Deetron Remix) Conform Records
4:23:58 Gaetano Parisio — Nysa (Original Mix) Conform Records
4:27:40 M.I.T.A. — A Soul From Chicago (Original Mix)
4:30:27 Goncalo M — Unidirectional Interstellar Reflex (Original Mix) Resilient Recordings
4:34:07 Keith Carnal — Consumer Products (Original Mix) Second Degree
4:36:51 Noir — Erupt 2.0 (Original Mix) Noir Music
4:40:10 Dubiosity, Pjotr G — Cataclysm (Original Mix) Lateral Fragments
4:43:45 Arjun Vagale — Time Cop (Original Mix) Quartz Rec
4:46:32 Regent — Light Of Opia (Original Mix) Arts
4:49:27 Axel Karakasis — Flaccid Tantrums (Original Mix) Remain Records
4:53:07 Axel Karakasis — Dark South (Original Mix) Remain Records
4:56:46 Deas — Isolation (Original Mix) Arts
5:00:55 A Paul, DJ Dextro — Black Rainbow (Original Mix) Naked Lunch
5:03:53 MZDZ — Syncretism (Original Mix) Default Series
5:06:38 Spektre — Love Never Ends (Extended Mix) Factory 93 Records
5:10:58 Procombo — Gold Spark (Original Mix) Tronic
5:14:35 Keith Carnal — FreizeitAktivitat (Original Mix) Bpitch
5:17:26 Axel Karakasis — Day Zero (Original Mix) Remain Records
5:20:37 M.I.T.A. — Dusty (Original Mix) Tronic
5:24:14 Trudge — Voltage (Original Mix) Raw Label
5:24:43 Trudge — Unghosted (Original Mix) Lobster Theremin
5:32:15 Obscure Shape, Shdw — Die Verurteilten (Original Mix) The Third Room
5:34:15 Resonance — Note To Myself (Original Mix) Carceres Records
5:39:14 Aethernal — Vergil (Original Mix) Vitus’ Curse
5:41:26 Fractions — Daytona (Original Mix) Monnom Black
5:35:38 Anne Clark — Our Darkness (Charly Schaller Edit) The Techno’s Children
5:48:03 Chris Liberator, Dave The Drummer — Twinkle Toes (Original Mix) Hydraulix
5:51:35 D Dan — Post Kyiv (Original Mix) Standard Deviation
5:54:40 Talfelt — Troffea (Original Mix) Vitus’ Curse
5:59:05 E-Tronic — The Glass House (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
6:02:55 Funk D’Void — Diabla (Heavenly Mix) Soma Records

Gigs and drinking

In the music industry, drinking is considered the norm among professionals. “To get into the right mood” and “to be on the same page with the crowd”, as they say. Beer, whisky, vodka and champagne are often found in dressing rooms, and artists usually don’t mind a drink.

I have an explicit opinion about it. The DJ is like the captain of a ship. He sets the direction and is in charge of the crew. If the captain is drunk, can’t say two words and has no control over his actions, then such a ship won’t get very far. That’s why I think drinking at a gig is irresponsible and unprofessional. Alas, in my practice, I have witnessed many such cases. After the set – sure, but not before and especially not during the set.

I have no problems with alcoholic drinks as a thing, it’s not a taboo. I don’t mind having a pint when I’m in friendly company and not on duty. However, I never allow myself to drink at gigs, and my touring rider includes just plain water and energy drinks.

Hopefully, one day the phrase “drunk DJ” will become as wild as a “drunk driver” rather than the norm.

Performing at Izvestia Hall in December 2018. I drink water while sitting down to avoid accidentally spilling it on the equipment
 No comments    48   2 mo   Gigs   I am   Industry

“A Decade Of Dance Music with Daniel Lesden” at HarderFaster

A few months ago I talked to Tara Hawes, a music journalist and staff writer at one of the most long-established UK underground music communities, and she wrote a fabulous article covering my decade of dance music. As always, for the sake of archiving purposes, I’d like to post it on my blog as well.

With November 2022 marking my 20 years of music journalism and event promotion on this website under a variety of aliases and, in some cases, long-dead record label and party names (may they Rave In Peace), it’s very easy to become jaded reading the usual ubiquitous DJ bios. But as a geriatric hobbyist DJ myself, I still can’t help but read the bloody things. It’s become increasingly rare, but just occasionally, someone catches your ears and eyes that really stands out from the crowd, and in the case of music producer, DJ and JOOF Recordings’ A&R Manager Daniel Lesden, has fitted more into his decade-long career than many artists will achieve in a lifetime.

In these narrowed-down days of strict sub-genres, Daniel stands out as a true artist, surfing between the boundaries of progressive, techno and trance. He originally embarked on his music production journey making psychedelic trance, but in his quest to constantly keep his sound fresh and exciting as it continues to evolve and progress, he now releases what he describes as “progressive and something rather techno-ish”. In the meantime, since 2012 he’s released over 50 tracks on Digital Om Productions, Forescape Digital, Iono Music, Borderline Music, Ovnimoon Records, Synergetic Records, Pharmacy Music, Research & Development, Tandana Records, and of course JOOF Recordings, the long-established champion of the underground where he appears to have found his spiritual home.

Despite this incredible release history, Daniel still considers himself foremost a DJ and has performed all over the world at some of the top clubs, raves and festivals. His love of sharing new music also comes through in his rave podcasts, while he passes on his passion through his prolific advice blog, which I kept getting lost reading while researching this feature.

As Daniel has recently touched down in London, where he’s planning to relocate, I was fortunate to get the opportunity to speak to this talented creator, producer, performer and promoter of all things underground dance music. With it being his very first HarderFaster interview, I was curious to discover what had put this already accomplished young artist onto the path he’s following today, and what sort of inspiration and support he’d had along the way. Was he classically trained like so many trance producers, or was it something he had gravitated to over time?

As he explains: “My journey for making music began when I was fortunate to get my hands on my first computer at the age of 10 in 1997. At this time I had already been introduced to the world of electronic dance music, so my interest in making music came naturally to me. As you can imagine, those first attempts sounded horrible, but it was a lot of fun nevertheless! Once I got serious about making music a career, in 2011 I went to and graduated from music production and DJing school, where I studied for about six months. Other than that, I’m completely self-taught and still a learner.”

But was there a defining track or artist that made him want to hole himself up in the studio and make his own tunes? Like a true artist, he says: “Since I was so young and new to underground music at the time, I just embraced all of it and was inspired by the whole genres and styles of music, rather than particular artists.”

Having released over 50 tracks over the last decade, I wondered how he feels his artistic practice has progressed and evolved? His response points to an uncertain future in the genre department, with the one constant, of course, being change itself. He describes this from a DJs’ perspective: “I consider myself a DJ first rather than a producer, and that affects my productions as well. As a DJ, I’m always hunting for new music, digging for hidden gems, and discovering things that I didn’t know I would like. And the music I make myself is a continuity of that ongoing process. From fast-paced and melodic, to slower and hypnotic, to driving and pounding sound, my music of tomorrow certainly won’t sound like my tracks of yesterday.”

Unfortunately I’m not going to let him get away with that one so easily. If he can’t describe his own sound, how am I supposed to?! He considers this for a minute: “Usually, I’m trying to avoid naming particular genres because everyone has their own interpretation of techno, trance, or any other genre. And it gets even harder to describe a sound when you break the boundaries and not sit within one particular genre. I like it when a track puts you into a heads-down journey; when it has some depth, some ‘storyline’ that unfolds throughout the playback. I’m sorry for such an abstract definition, but it’s probably the way to describe my music, really.”

Spoken like a true artist! I decide it’s best to let that one go and move on to getting under the bonnet of Daniel’s practice in the studio. I’m interested in how he approaches putting a new track together. Does he usually start with a final track in mind, or does it come together as the various pieces and layers unfold? “For me, tracks usually start in my head a long time before I get to the computer. First, I think about a general concept, a ‘storyline’. Then oftentimes I’m trying to find some graphic concept art as it helps me to visualise my ideas. Then I think of some more practical things like what tempo I want, what music key I want, what mood I want to convey. And only once I’ve answered all of those questions, I get to the computer to actually make it.”

Whatever formula this musical magician has composed, it’s certainly taken him to some interesting places. When asked about the key highlights of his career, he has a shed load to choose from. The young protégé’s modesty shines through: “I think every gig and international gigs, in particular, are certainly the highlights for me. It’s one thing to sit in the studio working on your music and DJ collection, but playing out in front of real crowds is a whole different level from the artist’s perspective. Having played in Russia, Hungary, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Greece, and Israel, I’m so touched that there are people who know and like my humble music creations. Playing Open To Close sets is also quite an achievement for me, showing myself what I’m worth as a DJ.”

“It was also nice to see when my second studio album 2000 Years Ahead skyrocketed to the #1 chart on Beatport and was the top-selling CD on Psyshop. I’m also very grateful to the Spotify team who included my single Breaking From The Shadows in their editorial playlist, resulting in over 550,000 overall streams on my Spotify artist page.”

Having already achieved so much, I wonder what goals he could possibly still have left to tick off his bucket list? “I would certainly love to play out in more countries and some iconic venues where I haven’t played yet, such as the Ministry Of Sound in London or Ageha in Tokyo.”

As an A&R manager who travels the world DJing, Daniel is at the cutting edge of new music. I wonder what up and coming DJs and producers have caught his eyes and ears recently? “Artists like Pig&Dan, Eric Sneo, Axel Karakasis, Drunken Kong, Don Ruijgrok, Pjotr G & Dubiosity, DJ Dextro, Dosem, Gabriel D’Or & Bordoy aren’t leaving my Rekordbox lately, although these are established acts of course. As for the probably less-known names, I keep my ears and eyes on Fractions, DJ Physical, Dawn Razor, OTHK, Antithet, Enlusion, Bagagee Viphex13, Omformer, Aethernal, just to name a few.”

Daniel’s awesome advice series is an incredible resource for both new and experienced DJs. Having read some of the best advice around on his blog posts, I have to ask, what are his top tips for new DJs who are still trying to escape their bedrooms? “I think the best tip for new DJs to escape their bedrooms is to literally leave their bedrooms and go to the clubs. You must experience music on big sound systems as it helps to better understand what tracks work and why. Watch how good DJs build their sets and how the crowd reacts. Clubbing is also a great way for introducing yourself to the people behind the scenes, building relationships and gaining trust among other DJs and promoters.”

I especially like the direct honest advice he gives out, providing different and unique perspectives, such as considering the promoter’s point of view in a difficult situation and telling DJs not to give up their day jobs – no doubt from his plethora of experience over the last decade. I know what goes on the road is supposed to stay on the road, but I can’t help but ask him, what’s the craziest story he can tell us from his time playing at international events and festivals? “I remember when I played in Hungary, it was an outdoor open air in the middle of nowhere, as it seemed. Literally just green fields all around, wherever you look. But all of a sudden in the morning came a man who claimed he couldn’t sleep because of the event, despite the fact his house was miles away, and he tried to call the police to stop the party! I felt sorry for the man, but it was a pretty stressful moment for the organisers as well.”

Daniel is also a prolific podcaster, with the second Friday of the month dedicated to Rave Podcast day where he connects with like-minded musical fans from all over the world. What’s the concept behind the podcast and why does he think it’s resonated with DJs and producers all over the globe? “I started this podcast over 10 years ago, and since then its concept hasn’t changed: to showcase the finest underground electronic music, bringing unexpected musical twists in every episode. After all those years, I’m still very excited to mix every new episode to share my latest music discoveries, you know, like a happy child with the joy of sharing. And I’m sure the listeners can feel that passion too.”

It’s been a challenging couple of years for everyone, but DJs and producers have been hit harder than most. I have to ask, how did he survive the closure of the events industry and still manage to get creative in the studio despite the chaos around him? Ever the optimist, he replies: “The pandemic was certainly a terrible event that no one expected. I feel sorry for so many people who suffered from it. I was fortunate enough to be able to follow one of my own pieces of advice that I’ve written about distributed income, which basically says, ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’.

While there were no gigs due to lockdowns, I still had income coming from royalties and other sources, so I made it through. It was hard mentally at first, just as it was for everyone, but then so many people showed empathy and support for each other, so it actually inspired me.”

Having come out the other side of the pandemic and landed in London, I am most curious about what new tracks he has in the pipeline. The abstract artist is back in the room, saying that he’s “planning a series of EPs connected through a common theme” and “it’s going to be quite interesting and diverse musically.” In other words, watch this space!

Finally, Daniel continues to explore avenues to pass on his passion to other aspiring artists, and has somehow found time to start working on educational resources to pass on his knowledge. As he describes his new venture: “Over the years of working with music and people in the music industry, I have accumulated experience, which over time has formed into a structured framework of knowledge. And I want to carry that knowledge forward. I’m working on a full-fledged training course for DJs and producers. It’s still in progress and I’m not sure yet when I’ll be able to release it, but if it sounds interesting to you please find more details on my website at Courses”. I’ll certainly be at the start of the queue!

Link to the original post
Text — Tara Hawes

How and why to keep a budget

Since 2017, I have been keeping a family budget: I record and track all income and expenses. Let me tell you how I came to do it, what it does for me and how you can start doing it regularly too.

Screenshot from the budgeting application website. The data is not mine


This may sound strange, but the first time I thought about the need to keep a budget was not to check expenses but to answer the simple question: “How much money do we have now?

At the time, I was living in Israel, but I was still doing business with Moscow. In the Russian bank, I had a personal account, a savings account, a sole-trader account, and a credit card. In the Israeli bank, I had a personal account and a family account. I also had accounts at PayPal and Yandex-money, which were popular then. My wife had almost all of the same. And we also had some cash in rubles, shekels, and foreign currency left over from trips abroad.

At the same time, there was some small movement of money in all the accounts because of various automatic payments paid from those accounts. For example, I paid my utility bills with an Israeli card, I paid for my website hosting with Yandex-money, and I paid for Soundcloud via PayPal.

It was real chaos, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I didn’t know how much money I had at a given time. So at first, I just wrote down all the accounts I had, and then I decided to track all the income and expenses to keep those accounts’ balances up to date.


When you have all your income and expenses written down, you have an objective picture of your financial situation and can make better decisions.

For example, it may seem that you spend a lot on Uber, so you need a car. But if you write down your expenses, you may find that you spend just £70 per month on taxis, which is a few times less than the cost of owning your own car, let alone the initial cost of buying one.

Or it might seem like you only have Netflix and Spotify subscriptions, for example, for £15 per month. But if you write down all expenses, you may find that you have more subscriptions, including annual ones, so realistically all the subscription services cost you an average of £100 per month.

What to do with this information is up to you. The main thing is that you will be able to rely on real figures rather than guesswork.

Having such an objective picture has helped me plan my future better and make bolder decisions. I feel more in control of my own life, and that’s worth a lot.

It is also fascinating to record not only expenses but also different categories of income: for example, I now know precisely how much I earn from my music without any illusions.


Not everyone needs or wants to keep a budget. If the very thought of having to write down every expense terrifies you, there is nothing wrong with you. Many people prefer to go with the flow and not think about such things, which is perfectly normal.

However, if you want to take more financial control of your life and start budgeting, here is my advice:

  1. Keep a budget in a separate app. Many banks’ apps have learned to categorise expenses and make nice graphs, but I recommend a separate app. It is important that you can add different accounts to it (for example, an account from another bank or a PayPal account, if you have one) and set up your own categories of expenses and income to make it more personal.
  2. Find an app that works for you. I know how important this is: I’ve started and quit five times just because an app was uncomfortable or unappealing. This is very subjective, so I’m not specifically naming the app I use – just google it and try different options.
  3. Keep records without tension. This is a very important point because as soon as there is tension, some minimal friction, you immediately want to quit. If you get resistance, it may be worth trying a different app – see the previous point.
  4. Write everything down. This is crucial. If the data in your app no longer reflect reality, it will all become meaningless. That is why I recommend writing down all incomes and expenditures, even the smallest ones. It takes me about half an hour a week, and so as not to forget, I have created a recurring to-do in my to-do list.

I would be glad if anyone finds my experience useful.

 No comments    41   2 mo   I am   Life   Money   Productivity

Rave Podcast 139

Hey guys, happy 2023! I hope you had a great Winter holiday.

The January podcast edition is already available on Soundcloud, YouTube, Spotify playlist, and Patreon.

In this first episode of the year, we kick things off with a quite fast-paced, groovy House and Techno with a pinch of old-school vibe. Enjoy!


00:00 DJoko, Kolter — Secret To Happiness (Remastered) DJokoCamp
03:52 Ronnie Spiteri — Red Zone (Original Mix) We Are The Brave
08:11 Aaron Rutherford — Retract (Original Mix) Hot Haus Recs
12:44 Pagano — Carpe Diem (Original Mix) Tronic
17:29 Pig&Dan — Aptitude (Original Mix) Break New Soil Recordings
19:23 Hertz Collision — End (Original Mix) SciTec
21:59 Stephane Signore — Another Life (Olivier Giacomotto Remix) Planet Rhythm Records
25:56 Alexey Kotlyar — Yes (Original Mix) Climax Label
29:38 Marco Bailey — Takina (Original Mix) Materia
33:32 Ellen Allien — Walking In The Dark (Keith Carnal Remix) Bpitch
36:57 Chlar — Night Genesis (Original Mix) Mutual Rytm
40:21 Chris Liebing — String Theory (Picotto & Ferri Remix) CLR
44:58 Obscure Shape, Shdw — Before Sunset (Original Mix) Mutual Rytm
48:27 Chlar — Love Blaster (Original Mix) Mutual Rytm
51:50 Albert Zhirnov — Switchback (Original Mix) Clergy
54:59 Ferdinger — Surge (Original Mix) DistroKid
 No comments    59   2 mo   House   Podcast   Techno

Winter in Israel

For the next month (at least), I’m in Israel.

If you some of are also here and would like to catch up, don’t hesitate to drop me a message.

 No comments    63   3 mo   Emigration   I am   Israel   Life

Rave Podcast 138

The December podcast edition is already available on Soundcloud, YouTube, Spotify playlist, and Patreon (on Patreon, it appears a week prior to the premier, with higher quality and no voiceovers).

In this last episode of 2022, we shift gear from fast and pounding beats that we had a couple of previous episodes to a deeper and slow-paced progression and sound. Enjoy!


00:00 Sasha – Out Of Time (Instrumental Mix) Kompakt
07:02 Filterheadz, Marco Bailey – Mansion (Original Mix) Bedrock Records
11:26 Fe Malefiz, Martin Merkel – Fahnenkind (Vocal Mix) Traumwelten
15:53 Kalden Bess, Mountain Radio – Stoned (Original Mix) Ground Factory Records
20:45 Andrew Meller – Woodman (Dave Wincent Remix) Tauten
24:04 Spektre – Skuz (Original Club Mix) Toolroom Records
27:22 DJ Jock – Raw Love (Original Mix) Intec
32:02 Hackler & Kuch – Chasing The Chord (Original Mix) Collision
36:04 Adam Antine – Malignant (Original Mix) JOOF V2
41:04 Skober – Give And Take (Medhat & Dekkstrum Remix) Electrovino Records
45:35 Don Ruijgrok – Awake (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
48:02 Industrialyzer, The Advent – Mind Remains (Original Mix) CodeWorks
50:27 Gregor Tresher, Pig&Dan – Granular (2022 Update Mix) Drumcode
54:20 Alua – Strom (Original Mix) Electronic Architecture

How I went to Printworks London

Last weekend, I went to the Anjunadeep label party at Printworks London. I find this place quite interesting, so I decided to tell you more about it and share my impressions.

Printworks is once the largest printing factory in Western Europe. Since 2017, it has operated as a club and event space with a capacity of 6,000 people. The club is scheduled to close in 2023 due to neighbourhood renovations, so the place will forever be legendary, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to visit it.

To my great surprise, my introduction to the place began even before I got there: at the exit of the Canada Water tube station, there was a man with a Printworks sign pointing to the right exit. About a hundred meters later, on the street, there was another person with a sign. And so on, all the way to the club!

A man with a sign at the underground exit A man with a sign on the way to the club The path to the entrance on the club grounds
Navigation on the way to the club

Next year it will be exactly twenty years since I started raving consciously and regularly, but in all that time, I’ve never seen anything like it!

Just so you understand, the club is 600 meters from this underground station, which means it’s a five- or ten-minute walk. Printworks could easily do without this navigation, as all the other clubs do. But no, apparently, someone from the management thought it was important enough to allocate at least twenty people for this task alone, according to my observations. I think that’s cool.

Entrance and cloakroom

At the entrance, security checked tickets and inspected personal belongings, as a usual practice for all clubs. But what’s interesting here is that Printworks has organized this process in ten parallel lanes. It makes sense to do so when you think about it, but not all venues of similar capacity are doing that. I got there about a half hour after the opening, at 8:30 pm, and there was no queue at all. An hour later, I specifically went back to see what had changed: there were many more people at the entrance, but because of the multiple lanes, the queue was moving quickly.

The doors at 20:30 The doors at 21:30
Efficiently organised entrance group

There is no cloakroom in the club. Instead, they use personal lockers. Given the number of people, it seemed like the right and safe approach. And it’s also convenient because you can pick up and put things back in your locker anytime, whenever you want.

The lockers are pretty expensive even by local standards: £7 for a small locker and £10 for a large one. And another £10 on top in the form of a deposit, which is then refunded when you hand the key back. By comparison, from my experience, the usual price in London clubs is from £2 to £5. However, even a small locker can fit several pieces of outerwear, so for a group of people, it is even cheaper than usual, although still more expensive for one person.

You can only pay for lockers (and everywhere else in Printworks) by cards and contactless methods of payment – cash is not accepted at all. This is a common trend in many London clubs, cafes and even some stores, such as IKEA.

Lockers instead of a cloakroom: quite expensive but convenient


The club has two dance floors, Inkwells and Press Halls. In addition to those, I count at least four bars, a merch store, an info centre, a medical point, and just all sorts of things that are fun to wander and explore. The brought aesthetics and the enormous size of the venue are a particular treat.

Signs with navigation with lights, well readable font and in the same style. What a beauty.


Note the height of the ceilings:

Bars and hangout areas

Press Halls

Now let’s move on to the dance floors. Without further ado, here is the main one – Press Halls:

Press Halls, the main dance floor

I’ll be honest: the space is impressive in scale, even for a seasoned raver. The lighting design is quite simple, but in combination with the geometry and environment works perfectly. But the sound was a little disappointing: it was uneven, and I had to look for sweet spots where it sounded good.

the space is impressive in scale, even for a seasoned raver


An excellent movement of the light

I was surprised and happy when one of my favourite tracks came on – I didn’t expect to hear it at Anjuna’s party:

Moon Boots plays Granular, Pig&Dan — Granular (Original Mix)

More awesomeness:

Joseph Ray plays something groovy. ID needed!

As always, all of that was professionally filmed by the crew. Hopefully the video will appear on Anjunadeep’s YouTube channel soon:

Impressive video setup VJs and sound engineers


Let’s move to the second dance floor, Inkwells. And I’ll tell you the unexpected: I liked it even more than the main one. Press Halls create a wow effect, and I highly recommend everyone experience its scale at least once. Whereas Inkwells is darker, more intimate, and underground, and I generally love that sort of thing.

Judge for yourself:

Videos. The lighting design on this dance floor is a special treat to my eyes:

Nicky Elisabeth plays something techno-ish
Nils Hoffmann
Nicky Elisabeth plays something trancey. ID needed!
My Friend plays something groovy. ID needed!
Stage lighting engineer on Inkwells. Kudos to this man!

The food court

Let’s go to the main hall, where we went after entering the club. From there, to the left, is the entrance to the courtyard with the food stores. Yes, the food court at the club! The menu included grilled burgers, freshly made pizza in the oven, and some Asian and vegetarian options. Prices for the main dishes were about £8 to £12.

Backyard with food court

All in all, Printworks was great, except for one thing: it was too cold. I’m a little biased on this matter because I usually get cold everywhere, but it was really freezing there — some people stayed in their jackets, even on the dance floor, which seems bizarre to me.

As you may have already guessed, the music was top-notch, as good as I expected. I would also like to mention many friendly, beautiful, polite people. It’s probably more of a credit to the Anjunadeep audience than to the venue, but who knows?

I hope I can still get there before it closes (and preferably during the warm season).

Read also: how I went to the Ministry Of Sound.

 No comments    118   3 mo   Anjunadeep   Life   Printworks   United Kingdom

DJ set from Dance:Love:Hub @ Basing House, London, 03.12.2022

Thanks to everyone at Dance:Love:Hub in London last weekend! It was nice to see so many familiar faces and feel so much support.

Despite feeling unwell, I played a quite intense trancey set with the tempo ramping from 128 to 140 BPM. Writing down the tracklisting afterwards, I realised that almost a third of the tracks I played were from JOOF Recordings, so for everyone who asked me what genres that was, I think it’s safe to call “The JOOF Sound”.

Anyway, my set is now up on SoundCloud! Enjoy re-listening:

0:00:00 Airwave, DJ Fire – Kabalash (DL Edit) JOOF Recordings
0:03:28 The YellowHeads – Beneiden (Spektre Remix) The End Recordings
0:06:56 Shaun Mauren – My Dream (Eric Sneo Remix) DL Edit Naked Lunch
0:11:26 Sama – It’s Not Fair (Axel Karakasis Remix) He-Art
0:16:24 Clint Stewart – Breathe (Timmo Rework) Terminal M
0:21:51 Ivanshee – Orbital Throb (Alessandro Spaiani Remix) JOOF Aura
0:25:20 Hell Driver – Lost Signal (Dulcet Remix) JOOF Aura
0:29:31 Victor Ruiz – Surrender (DL Edit) Factory 93 Records
0:34:26 Bart Skils – Sunshine In The Dust (Original Mix) Drumcode
0:37:38 Cosmonaut – Plasma (Extended Mix) JOOF Recordings
0:44:01 The Archer – Lonely Dream (Drunken Kong Remix) There Is A Light
0:48:26 Don Ruijgrok, Mike Scolari – Amendment (DL Edit) Drowne Records
0:52:51 Armystrial – Fire (Eric Sneo Remix) Trial Records
0:57:30 Daniel Lesden – A Train Into Darkness (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
1:02:09 Sven Vath – Metal Master Spectrum (Bart Skils & Weska Reinterpretation) Cocoon Recordings
1:06:48 Alessandro Spaiani – Revenge (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
1:10:40 Timmo, Weska – Power Plant (DL Edit) Hypnostate
1:14:07 Metodi Hristov – Weightless (Original Mix) Set About
1:17:58 Drunken Kong – In The Air (DL Edit) Tronic
1:20:22 Gary Beck – Where Are You Going (Original Mix) Trick
1:23:30 John 00 Fleming – We Close Doors (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
1:30:12 Deas – Isolation (Original Mix) Arts
1:34:03 Alex Stein – Rise (Original Mix) Terminal M
1:38:10 Jay Lumen – Galactic Rainbow (Original Mix) Drumcode
1:42:54 Cosmithex – Cylinder (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
1:46:56 Cetera – Bacon & Chips (Roby M Rage Remix) JOOF Recordings
1:52:37 DJ Dextro – Optical Illusion (Original Mix) Consumed Music
1:55:27 Planetary Assault Systems – In From The Night (Adam Beyer & Wehbba Remix) Mote Evolver
2:00:13 John 00 Fleming – The 10th Life (Artifact303 Remix, DL Edit) JOOF Recordings
2:03:45 Uto Karem – Bang Bang (Original Mix) Agile Recordings
2:07:02 Anna, Miss Kittin – Forever Ravers (Original Mix) Kompakt Extra
2:10:25 Spektre – Love Never Ends (Extended Mix) Factory 93 Records
2:13:47 Fabio Florido – The Chanting Void (Original Mix) Runa
2:17:55 Dubiosity, Pjotr G – Cataclysm (Original Mix) Lateral Fragments
2:21:30 Goncalo M – Sirith River (Original Mix) Global Techno Movement Records
2:25:09 Infravision – Anthem (DL 140 Edit) Fleisch Records
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© Daniel Sokolovskiy, 2023
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