Name: apaull
Occupation: Producer
Nationality: Dutch-Canadian  
Recent release: apaull's 4Sol EP, executive-produced by Abe Duque, is out via Furnace Room.
Recommendations: Lately I have been listening a lot to ‘Now I Become Death’ by Maedon and ‘Rüdersdorf Acid Tracks” by Adam X. Both are on Sonic Groove Records and produce tracks that are a lot heavier than what I am producing. I see possibility and ideas in their approach, that I can adapt to mine.
I have also gone to see Pjay Nyex perform live a couple of times. I love his versatility in being able to perform different genres of electronic music. I also admire the deceptive simplicity of his live set up (and that he uses a printed out set list that he crosses off track by track, with a red Sharpie).

If you enjoyed this interview with apaull and would like to find out more about his work, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud. There is also an official apaull website.

[Read our Abe Duque interview]

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

As a child and teenager, I played both piano and drums. After a 30-year musical hiatus I started writing and producing electronic music four years ago.

Music has always been part of my life. My father was a professional musician (saxophone) and my mother a self-taught pianist. So, while our tastes are very different music is in my DNA. As a child of the 1980s my early influences run from Skinny Puppy to Depeche Mode to Ministry and Front Line Assembly to the Pet Shop Boys.

The sounds that really drew me in was the kick drum, the brave new world of 80s synths and their mashup from melodic and poppy to hard driving and industrial.

When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?

Music can bring my body to the point of Maslow’s self-actualization. Is it dopamine or serotonin? Maybe it’s neither but music takes me to a place of contentment and one in which I think pretty much everything is possible.

I guess I try to use my own creativity to recreate that high. Quite frankly I lay out my own creative ideas and combine them with some of the finer aspects and approaches used by my musical influences.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

That’s an interesting question. The answer includes both psychological and technological aspects.

The psychological part was convincing myself that I could become a musician and write and produce my own music. I have had an interest in producing music since I was a teen but not the confidence and possibly the talent to actually do it. After a career as a scientist; developing, running and selling an environmental consulting business; and starting my PhD at 50 and completing it 4 years later, I thought hey I can do this.

The technological part is the ongoing learning curve of using a DAW and hardware to create, shape and finish my musical productions. It seems a bit like magic to me that I can pretty much do everything on a laptop. As I work my way up that curve, I use my limitations to help drive my creativity and produce the best music I possibly can.

All of this has shaped my personal voice. I know now that I can produce music. I have a pretty solid idea of what I want it to sound like but give myself the flexibility to let the sounds evolve. I use the above noted technological struggles to build competency of this craft and as creative tension to help shape my productions.  

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

I’m a 50 something male who has finally gotten to the point of doing something I have always really wanted to be able to do. My age provides me with a sense of urgency to get on it with it and do as much as I can in as short a period as possible. I have the freedom to work on music every day.

As a listener, producing music has exposed me to lots of artists and sub-genres that are new to me to the point that they are influencing my creativity in a way that I hope will someday influence theirs.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

With music I’ll start out with some basic ideas and then I start laying them out. These basic ideas vary considerably and could include an idea or concept I want to express or a voice sample or something as simple as the beat of a kick drum. I then bring in other elements pretty organically to create the feelings and sounds I want to express. I spend a lot of time introducing and chopping out various elements until I get what I want.

With my art, it is a little bit different. I have been painting watercolours for the last 25 years. Whereas in music you can easily erase things with that kind of painting you have one shot to get it right. It creates urgency and flexibility that informs my music production. Sometimes you have to work with what you get and that has to be ok.

I painted the cover artwork for my 4Sol EP and the other two EPs I’ll be releasing in 2022. While it’s not the same as paring wine with food, it is very satisfying for me to be able to combine both of these artistic endeavors.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

I don’t think perfection in music is necessary, achievable or desirable … or that music is timeless. Like the society it entertains it needs to evolve.

That is not to say that we don’t want to produce high quality and technically sound productions, but we can skip the angst, heartache and unnecessary stress of that which is impossible.

I’m really interested in creating music for the future. Music is a continuum though and everything new has drawn on something older.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

I’ve been keeping it pretty simple and writing most of my productions using Ableton. As I get more comfortable with this DAW I have started to add some hardware including MIDI controllers and keyboards and most recently a Cyclonic Analogic Bassbot TT-303.

My strategy has been to work hard to develop some competency in understanding how a given piece of software or equipment works but not shying away from creating while that learning process is ongoing.

I’ll confess it can be pretty frustrating at times, but I am getting there.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

I typically get up around 5am and work on a few ongoing environmental consulting projects. At this point in my career this involves developing province or country level estimates of waste disposal and waste diversion and using that as a planning tool to keep more garbage out of landfill).

In the afternoons and evenings I work on music. I meet with my Executive Producer Abe Duque once a week so am always working towards delivering outputs so we can have a productive meeting. I usually am working on a new track although lately I have been focussed on learning how to perform live (from the comfort of my studio for now).

On weekends life is a bit less fettered and I can devote most of this time to music and really move things along.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

My creative process is to come up with a kernel of an idea and then build on it musically. That kernel can be as simple as a kick drum loop that I have created, to political ideas that I capture through sampling.

Covid gave me lots of time to work on productions. The machinations of various governments provided me with lots of fodder that ultimately became part of a musical production.

I give myself as much time as I need and the flexibility to add or subtract as my musical production is in process. This has crystalized into about 20 tracks that are fully mixed, mastered and ready to go. Some of them will be released this year via three EPs. The first one, 4Sol, is set for release on 24 June 2022. I have really enjoyed curating my various tracks so that they work well together on these EPs. The other creative part of developing these three EPs has been creating the artwork for each EP and laying out the covers. It feels complete.

I will be releasing another set of 3 EPs in 2023.

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?

I have worked on my tracks privately but have been working with established musicians to help me on my journey.

Noted techno producer Abe Duque has been my mentor and is the Executive Producer on my three upcoming EPs. His advice and help on everything from music production to the music business has been invaluable to me and I am beyond grateful for the privilege of being able to work with him.

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

It is pretty heavily influenced by the world around me.

It seems, from my perspective, that things have gone a bit off the rails and no one seems to be staying in their lane. There appears to be re-visioning and questioning of what I consider to be basic truths. Politics has gone a bit mad and many things just don’t make sense to me anymore. I incorporate some of my observations and perspectives in some of my tracks for sure.

Music’s role in society ranges from simple entertainment to providing commentary on the state of society. While sometimes I try to include serious ideas, other times I’m just trying to creating a danceable track.

Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

Life can be complicated and messy. Writing music is a way for me to process the travails of my own life. It forces me to think about my big topics and come to some state of resolution. In that way it is very therapeutic and liberating.

How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?  

As a scientist with a 30-year career I’m in a unique position to answer that question. Music is inherently mathematical, and I think that is its closet connection to science. I think it ends there though.

Science is empirical. You make hypotheses and collect data to prove them one way or another and knowledge progresses. Science is not static and never settled. Practiced properly it should be emotionless. Science today has become a bit co-opted and is focussed on what are thought to be the correct outcomes rather than actual outcomes.

Music is about ideas and emotions so in that way is very different than science. In some of my tracks, I will question some of what passes for science these days and provide my commentary and opinion. You might not hear it if you are dancing.

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing 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?

One of the most important things that I have learned is the approach to creativity is transferable. For me that includes music production, painting and cooking. It starts with high quality ingredients, whether that be musical equipment, good quality paint brushes or fresh ingredients. It is followed up with the time and dedication required to produce a high-quality song, painting or dish of food.

Mundane tasks, like making a cup of coffee (even a really good one) are done more or less automatically. Creativity is a lot more deliberate. There is a lot of planning and then execution that goes into this process that sets it apart from mundane tasks.

Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

I’m sure listening to music has an assortment of physiological impacts. I’m not an expert in the exact nature of those impacts but assume that while we are listening, music has some impact on our brain chemistry and can make us happy or angry (and everything in between).

The other interesting thing is that music becomes associated with a time and place in our lives and has a distinct nostalgic component. I still listen to a lot of music from my early university days. It brings me back to that time.

As a music producer I try conveying a mood in each of my productions and strive to make sure that it is not always the same mood.