On his last visit to Vienna, and before he drove us up the Nordwand and God knows where else with his colleague Phace, I took the liberty of taking some of his precious time and bother with some questions about his absolutely fabulous new EP, music and life in general. Unparalleled in sound and production, with a broad view beyond music and a refreshing sense of humour, the other half of Neosignal truly needs no further introduction: We humbly present the mighty Misanthrop.
With your new Greed of Gain EP (reviewed here) you bring a distinct message alongside the music – something that’s not been done in this particular form.
Well, I’m thinking a lot about it. On the one hand it’s cool, it’s fun to work with concepts, but the question is always: does it work on the floor? I mean you play for people that want to party, you don’t exactly want to tell them: ‘The world is shit – dance to it!’ But then I think maybe people will think about it later. My tunes are always negative in a way, they sound ‘negative’, and that’s what makes them timeless for me. Not all, but most of the positive sounds are just so worn out. There are other examples of course, Soul Music for instance, but in the electronic genre I don’t find a lot of positive sounds that I’d consider ‘timeless’.
Well, you know, a painter in front of a white canvas doesn’t just start, he thinks about what he’s going to paint. Flo [Phace] and I do just the same. First we think about what kind of tune we want to do. If we make a tune called Nordwand we really think about how to translate that ‘visual’ feeling. We’ve always done it that way, it just works best for me: get a goal and try to achieve it. And that’s exactly how it was with the EP. From the beginning I envisioned what I wanted to do, and a thing that’s really upsetting me at the moment is the whole financial story, with the banks, the money, the financial situation you’re in when you’ve got to do a job just to get the money, and even though you’re actually against this system you have to do it because you have no choice. It’s a Catch 22 situation. From there I started thinking, and a lot of it is just egoism, egocentrism.
This criticism of the system is a sujet that’s slowly finding it’s way into dnb. Rawtekk for example could be attributed to this ‘consciousness’ frontier of electronic music; Neosignal tunes like Angst or Das Diktat point in that direction – do you think an actual movement could come together?
Songs like Angst or Das Diktat and so were more made for people to listen to at home. With dnb it’s a bit harder. I mean I don’t listen to dnb at home. I like it in the club or in the studio, but it needs an appropriate sound system. So on the one hand I hope for it. I mean it’s pointless, ‘Let’s go!’, ‘Let’s dance!’ or something, that’s pointless, that’s not me. That was me with 14, with 16, when I didn’t care, but not anymore. But I also understand that someone who’s working all week and just wants to party in the weekend doesn’t want to be confronted with the same shit again. But I’d be glad if other people were to pick it up, it’s just more interesting with message, and worthier too. For if the music has no message, no meaning, it’s just a throw-away item and no one needs to wonder if a tune is gone and forgotten in two weeks. When it comes to political message, everybody seems to go quiet. But I find it good just to say what you think sometimes. Is it not what we’re thinking? And if I get the chance to tell it to a lot of people, why not?
Considering the momentary state of dnb, there have never been more producers out there and more music. Still, the number of real stand-out tracks is small. Do you see any development at the moment that you consider really special, can you say where dnb is going?
Austria is pretty amazing at the moment. I remember, 8 years ago or so, there were countries where you never played: France for example, or Austria. But then it really exploded, and it totally reminds me of what happened in Germany 15 years ago. But I can’t really pinpoint a specific country and say, look, that genre is evolving here and that there.
So what is it that most productions still lack?
Well, that special something that really just sticks in your brain. Then, what we just talked about, a message. Something that makes me understand why it sounds like it sounds. But sound design is not all, the atmosphere has to be right too, the vibe has got to be there. Mefjus for example: the first tune I heard from him it was like snap! That’s it! He had his own snare, his own style, he’s not trying to imitate someone, he’s doing what he wants to do. And there are still too few people that really do that. A lot of demos I receive just sound like someone else. The individuality is just not there. Lots of good tunes though; but for a real stand-out tune it needs to have individuality.
The development in sound of recent years has naturally also been a development of technology and not only understanding. If you compare a 2007 tune with one from 2010 or one from the present, the progress considering production is immense. Do you see much more room for improvement?
I think at the moment we’re at a point where everything is very loud. The difference however is who can make it loud, and who can make it loud without losing clarity. Everyone can make it loud, clip the master, no problem. But to stay clean and loud, that’s the art. But of course today’s sound is a fashion too. You can hear a lot of those typical sample packs, the typical synthesizer sounds and I don’t really want to hear it, I find it boring. But that’s only my taste. So the main thing nowadays is to be loud and clean. Don’t overdo it though, between minus 6 and minus 9 RMS is loud enough, otherwise the sound is just far too close and no one needs to wonder if dnb never makes it outside the club if one is constantly being shouted at. I mean who wants to be shouted at all the time?
And what way do you want to follow stylistically in the future?
Deadlock was the last tune I did, and I really like it. I actually like minimal techno and stuff, and it reminds me of it. I like to make the most of just very few instruments. It’s very simple, and nothing new, but I really like it, also because it so different from the classical reese/rinse stuff I’ve heard a thousand times. Also I can really listen to it and it never stresses me, it doesn’t shout at me.
And I want to work with Flo on our Neosignal band project as well as on our collab dnb stuff, and we always try to progress there.
What constitutes your new EP for you in terms of sound? What are its best moments?
Well Deadlock is its highlight because it was a lot of fun to do and I really had to control myself to keep the reese-synth locked up. That was hard… On System Crash I wanted to do something similar to Latitude.
Catch 22 started with a fly on my window – if you listen very closely you can hear a fly buzzing in the tune. And that was my catch 22 situation: it was cold, the fly on my window. If I keep it in, it’ll die. Do I let it out, it’ll die too. Catch 22. Nobody knows it, but if you listen closely you can hear it. Poor fly, I really felt sorry for it. In the end, I let it out, to its likely death. At least it’s on the EP now. Anyway, that was more of an experimental tune that I just wanted to carry to extremes with its annoying loop – upstairs, downstairs, [imitates reese sounds] and so on.
And Greed of Gain was simply rock’n’roll. But the highlight was definitely Deadlock.
So do you currently have two studios, or do you share one with Flo?
We have one together, it’s at Flo’s, and all my synths are there too. But I produced the whole EP in my flat. The crazy thing is I can’t turn up the volume there at all. Like we’re talking right now – no louder; it’s an old building, everybody hears everything. It was hard, but in the end you just have to know your system and know what you’re doing. I also listened to my drafts a lot on my way to Flo in the car whose sound system I know quite well, tried to remember its flaws and get back to them back at home. I never thought I could do something where I can’t have it loud and the acoustic sucks, but it works, and it also proved me that it doesn’t really matter.
So what would you say are the main production differences between you and Flo?
Flo is a genius at work, very meticulous when it comes to sounds, but he’s more of a ‘vibesman’, which allows him to produce way faster. He’s amazing cleaning up a tune, just going ‘Ok, that’s the sound!’, he’s really got balls. I throw out more than he, I’m more for ‘quality’ and not vibe.
He’s definitely the more psychotic of you two.
Well… Yes and no… Just take Electronic Frontier with the drop, I mean what the fuck! Or later on, when the bass comes up, what’s that? That’s Flo, he always wants to take it to another level and he’s not afraid of any risks.
Though I have to say it was good for us to work separately again after one year of Neosignal project, day in day out being together and producing. We’re both rather strong personalities, and it can get a little complicated at times. So each of us just felt the urge to make music without compromise, and now it’s done, everybody had his ego-moments and now it’s good again. Though it’s way harder to make music all alone, as a pair it’s easier because the one not in front of the screen usually hears mistakes way quicker. We have two workspaces in the studio, one for music and one for label stuff, e-mails, interviews, whatever, and we constantly switch places. So everyone is always busy.
What’s your musical workflow actually? Do you bounce everything you do, or do you sometimes just let it roll?
Both actually. There are days I just want to try out a synth, but I usually record everything and then just put it into a monthly folder, ‘January 2013’, ‘February 2013’ and so on. That’s how I build my sample library. But it might as well happen within a tune that I just start tweaking a synth, drums, everything. But I have dedicated sample days, for when you want to make a tune, you want the vibe, you don’t want to turn knobs at some synth, so then you can just go into these folders and drag your samples into the project. That’s quite important to me, that everything you hear in my tunes comes from me. There’s nothing from the outside, and if there is something, it’s so fucked up you won’t recognize it anymore. Another important thing is I always note what I’m doing to a sound. It’s annoying, but I always write into the file which EQ I used, which effects, etc., and save it, so I can always go back and know what I’ve done.
You still use Ableton mainly?
I struggle. Ableton is very intuitive, but editing in Cubase is way nicer. So I constantly switch from Ableton for the vibe and Cubase and Protools, because they’re fast and clean.
Coming to the classical questions I always ask: what inspires you most to make your music?
Well other music definitely; hardly dnb but mostly rock stuff. Then, of course, life, greed of gain like I mentioned. But mostly music, I get really uncomfortable if I can’t make music, I need output. Doesn’t have to be musical though, can also be a collage for example, or cutting video, or just doing something creative. Generally I’m sure that everything that surrounds me has its impact on me, so I couldn’t really say it’s this or that in particular. What I also like is watching sick movies, Polish subtitle movies nobody knows, I love it.
Concerning the music, what’s the last thing you listened to?
Let me take a look… [looks at his player] I got The Who here, Sebastian Tellier, Black Angels. I like this psychedelic rock from the 60ies and 70ies, prog rock, that’s what I like. Flo too, that’s probably why our Neosignal band project sounds like it sounds, for we actually try to imitate a band. Iron Butterfly is also a massive inspiration, always have it with me. What I liked most this year was Gesaffelstein, basically everything. I also always carry Chic, disco stuff. If you produce and know how mixdowns need to sound, listen to their snare drums! Perfect, absolutely genius! Then, Trentemøller, yea, always an option. And a lot of classical music: Schubert, Winterreise. It’s weird, but I like it, especially on tour for it’s so… strange, it just doesn’t fit at all, that’s why I like it. And I think his arrangements are pretty ingenious. Yeah, and Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye… I could go on for ages….
And dnb? Do you actually follow it?
Yes of course. Not like before when I used to be a real dubslut, asking everyone, but I’m more into discovering new artists now, new stuff I haven’t heard before. I don’t want to repeat things. We’re massively looking for new artist for Neodigital and we’ve discovered a few, and I really enjoy doing that.
And what would be your tune of the year in dnb?
Well that’s a hard one. I like Phace, Electronic Frontier, but apart from all the Neosignal stuff I’d need to think about it. Aside from dnb I’d say Gesaffelstein – Pursuit.
Alright! I have one last question – the last question is always a little tricky: Do you think the world can still be saved?
Erm… I mean, what’s the track D on my EP? System Crash. I believe everything needs to collapse in order for the world to be saved. Maybe it happens, maybe not, maybe we’ll see it. But I’m rather positive that it can be saved, for the people you meet on your travels are never assholes, they’re always people with brain and I don’t think a collective intelligence can be so stupid as to let everything fall into pieces.
Thank you very much!
Translation by Subsphere – so don’t blame the artist.
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