Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Interesting question! Well, I get up early every week day and take my daughter to school, then I go directly to the gym. After that it's office work and that's followed by studio. (with lots of eating in between!) I try to make this process all blend into each other, like all of the things I mentioned above, family, fitness, work, music creation are all part of the same equation. Things get a little tricky when it comes time to DJ or play live, because this brings out a different part of my personality. I need to be in another place for those things, and it's hard to reconcile that part of myself with all the rest. It's like, once I arrive at the airport on the way to a gig, I'm in a totally different frame of mind and this continues until the show is over. Then the come down and readjustment has to happen. Next morning, back to normality!
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
They are all dear to me because in my mind they are all more or less the same thing, even though the “sound” might be different. But they all represent a snapshot of how I'm feeling at a particular moment in time. So to me they are emotions transcribed into sound, the listener probably won't pick up on that but I hope they will find their own meaning in the music. But in terms of an album, let’s take Deception on Sublime Records as an example, I wanted to use the feeling of being lied to as the base raw emotional material for all of the works in that album. Being lied to by the state, by the media, by a lover, by the music industry. And then each track is a different way of dealing with or processing that feeling. Sometimes embracing it and feeling like shit, sometimes being defiant and saying fuck all that, sometimes letting it go through me and finding joy as a way of countering the negativity. Once I am locked into this state, I put my hands on the keyboard or gear and just go, let it flow, and use the first thing that comes to mind (or soul). That first thing almost always ends up being the main theme of the track. After that it's all about arrangement, embellishment, and production. Once one track is completely finished I'm ready to repeat that process while staying in the same frame of mind and so on until the album is done. Then I'll take a little break of a couple of days, but not more because I'll need to get back in the lab and let out more emotion soon.
But I'm only telling you this rare example because you asked, 95% of the times I don't put myself in any kind of state, I just go in the studio, take a deep breath, and go! Nature will take it course and the music comes as it comes.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Ideally I should be happy, in a state of mind free from worry or stress. Like I mentioned above, I can use a negative emotion as raw material and I've done that on a few occasions but I'd prefer not to. It's not pleasant to force oneself to remain in a negative state. The best thing is to feel free, with no worrisome distractions. Then the mind and soul can travel and I can reach out or reach in and explore.
And no doubt about it, blazing up is a way to facilitate this free state of mind but as time goes on I find it less and less necessary. Still important though!
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
I wouldn't say they are connected, they are opposite experiences, writing in the studio is creativity in a controlled environment, in my perfect place where everything is just as I want it to be. Playing live is all about spontaneity and reacting to an unfamiliar environment, but more important than that is the interaction between myself and the crowd, that changes everything and the crowd is just as much a part of the live performance as the instruments, or myself. Composition is just the technical management of the improvisation and something that happens in the studio alone. I don't compose anything live – at least I haven't done that yet!
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
I like using chords and layering that might at time sound slightly off timbre, or I might purposefully force together things that shouldn't match, but I make them match. It's in these in between places, where things aren't quite as they are supposed to be, slightly off tune or out of key, that doors to other parts of consciousness can be accessed. Not enough out of key where it becomes a distraction, but just enough to make you turn your head, to take note, like that time you were alone and swore that you saw or felt something move past you in your peripheral vision. I try to bring what's in the peripheral of perception into focus with these techniques.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I never think about myself as an an artist and I never think of what I do as art. It's a concept that I understand intellectually but not something that I understand emotionally, I've never since day one been able to separate art and life. I don't even know what it means to do that. I feel that pure art is inseparable from life and I can't stand when people use being an “artist” to put themselves apart from or even above other people. All of the most influential and utterly groundbreaking artists that I know or know of are just regular people with an innate gift. They aren't walking around Berlin dressed all in black desperately saying, “notice me!”
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
I don't really find that remarkable. Music is a reflection of our souls and personalities and those things haven't changed nor will they any time soon. Literature hasn't changed, painting hasn't changed, dance hasn't changed. They are all using the senses to convey what is in the soul. As long as we have ears, we'll have a recognizable form of music. It's what we do with those senses and soul that interests me. Plenty of room for innovation and originality, no worries there.