Name: Colyn aka Ewout Colijn
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current release: Colyn's Martian EP is out via DGTL.
If you enjoyed this interview with Colyn and would like to find out more, visit him on Instagram and Facebook.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
The impulse to create music comes from many different areas for me. But the music I do is mostly a reflection of an emotion or mood when I’m working on that particular track.
These emotions and moods by themselves get influenced by personal relationships, experiences in my life among other things. Even politics sometimes inspire music, especially during the past 2 years.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I often have a visualization of what I wanna do in the studio, that doesn’t mean I know all the details already, but I know which road to take from the start.
"The Future Is The Past" for instance started with that vocal line that was just swimming around in my head. I started building the track around that.
Sometimes when my brain is dormant and I can’t seem to find an idea that works, I start jamming and I just wait for something to happen. This could be anything from an interesting groove to a punchy bassline.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do ‘research’ or create ‘early versions’?
Not really, I have my go to tools to create with. Obviously I’m always open to experimentation, but when I have a visualization of what I want to do, I usually have a route towards that in my head. This route means, which synths, which processing, and in which order I start creating them.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
I am definitely a coffee guy, I like my doppio espresso before and during the studio sessions.
Other than that I pretty much always sober when I work on music, I found that anything other than being sober just distracts me from the process.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
I usually start with a small rhythm and build the main idea over that.
"Martian" was created differently than the Future Is The Past for instance. "TFITP" had the vocal as a starting point. "Martian" had the melody as a starting point and the vocal as a sort of last addition. The first line or note can be incredibly easy, but it can also be your worst enemy.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
Lyrics do not necessarily have to grow with the music, but in the end they should always fit the music. I write a lot of my lyrics myself or with my brother, so that makes it easier to mix and match the music and the vocals.
The moment when lyrics come in are usually when there is an extensive draft of the main instrumental.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
What I personally like about lyrics are clean and simple lyrics that can be interpreted in many different ways. I tend to stay away from full blown pop structures in my songs. Usually they are either a strong chorus or just a simple catch phrase. You don’t need many words as long as you choose the right words.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
Usually I try to build up the draft towards the point that all elements are there in the highlight of the track. From there I work my way back and try to arrange by simply taking things away in certain sections. After that comes automating various parameters for some extra detail.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
I agree with that statement. I have an idea of where I wanna go, but when I am working and I come across something that seems really cool, I just go with it. Sometimes it turns out to be nothing special, sometimes it turns out to be something awesome. It’s always worth following instinct.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
I am rather focussed. Usually I’m able to separate the ideas that pop into my mind that will add to the end result and the ideas that will just clog up the work that you’re doing. Sometimes I clog up a tune with too many ideas, usually I take one of the ideas out and use it for a different draft.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
I guess I described this the best in a Q&A I once did on Instagram. It’s a feeling of a rush of blood to the brain. A moment where all your surroundings blur around you and you can see is what you’re working on in that moment. Honestly, it’s one of the best feelings ever, it’s just you and the idea in your head that is looking for a way out. You are there to provide that way out, it’s like you’re being taken over.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
This is a thing that experience will help with. I used to be so bad at finishing songs because they never felt finished. Nowadays I am quite a lot better at it. I just know when an idea has reached its full potential.
You always have to remember as well that your audience doesn’t know about the 700 other potential versions. The version you put out is the only one for them.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
Usually it just takes a little tweaking after road testing the tracks for the first few times. Most of the times there aren’t any major overhauls after the first version is done.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
Production is the way to define yourself as an artist. Your music can travel the world a lot faster than one physically ever could.
The most important thing for me about productions is that you try and find a signature that you develop and develop and develop until you master it. I always mix all my tracks myself, it’s a skill I’ve developed over a long time and it helps me when roadtesting my tracks. If your tracks are mixed properly, mastering is just a little extra spice, but isn’t gonna majorly transform your track. I selfmaster my tracks for roadtesting purposes.
When it comes to releases, the mastering is done by professional mastering studios. Mastering is an art in itself, so I respect the engineers that master my tracks.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
I can definitely relate to this. After the release of "Amor" on Afterlife, which was essentially my breakthrough song, I felt this.
I was scared that I could never deliver on that level again. What I realized is that if you just keep enjoying making music, you will make amazing music again. Always. But I understand how that feeling can creep up on you as it did on me.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn’t or wouldn’t in more ‘mundane’ tasks?
I think there is art to be found in a lot of corners and areas in the world. For me music has a unique role to convey emotions, that a lot of other tasks do not have. The frequencies that tickle your auditory senses, that cause goosebumps when just the right sequence is composed.
Music also works well in combination with so many other things in life. When you are on a road trip for instance and during a beautiful leg of that trip you play a particular song, that moment gets interwoven with that piece of music.