Members: Hugo Martin Maasikas (H), Kris Evan Säde (K)
Occupation: Songwriters, producers
Current release: WATEVA's Disposable Society is out via Heroic.
Recommendations: H: It’s a tough one off the top of my head. But I recently read Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman and I really liked it. Can recommend. And piece of music, that first comes to my head is The XX - "Intro". Soundtrack to my life (laughs).
K: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Great book about finding your purpose and meaning in life! Everyday LP by Tourist. Magnificent journey that is meant to be experienced in a dark and cozy room with your eyes closed.
If you enjoyed this interview with WATEVA, their official website is the ideal place to start your journey into their music. For more recent updates and music, head over to their accounts on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
H: I started producing around 2010. And for me it wasn’t because I wanted to make music per se, but it was out of the curiosity of sound design.
My influences were a lot of DNB producers at the time, like Noisia, Camo Krooked, Netsky etc. And I just couldn’t figure it out how some of the sounds we’re made. I didn’t know what synthesis was back then. That's how I fell down the rabbit hole of production, trying to figure out how a person makes a gnarly Reese bass.
K: I actually got into music production when I was just 12-years-old. I had a phase where I was trying to find myself creatively and was jumping from one thing to another. Tried painting, screenwriting, directing, videogame design etc. until I finally stumbled upon music.
I had little to no musical background (thinking that Black Eyed Peas, Linkin Park and deadmau5 were all rock music) so I had to learn everything from zero.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
H: A lot like everyone else, I tried to copy others and watched a TON of tutorials (which there weren’t many of back in 2010). But I started from the other way around. When most people start with music theory or melodies, I couldn’t even play the “black” keys because they sounded weird whenever I pressed em after “white” keys. So I started with just turning every possible knob on a VST synthesizer. And then mixing and even a little bit of DIY mastering. The melodic part came about 5 years down the line.
K: What really drew me to electronic music was my older brother giving access to his iTunes library. It was 2011 so Electro House was at its prime. I remember hearing the electrifying sound of Mord Fustang and the next 4-5 years it was me trying to figure out how he did it and try to copy his sound.
Latest influences have been Flume, Tourist and Skrillex. I think the combination of these 3 has formed the sound of a lot of WATEVA’s work as well.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
H: So and so. Sometimes it helps with the direction where you want to take a certain project, but sometimes it can be pretty limiting as well. You have to have a healthy relationship with the compromises you want to make.
K: I’m the type of person that likes to plan everything ahead of time, make lists and organize stuff. I feel that this is something that is a huge advantage for me creatively as well because after weeks of prepping I can come up with full songs in a matter of hours (for months - the ideas never run out). The workflow gets insanely fast.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
H: In the beginning it was hard to find your “own sound” definitely. And for me the bigger problem was, how do I get the sound/melody from my head into the project. But all of that can be easily learned in time. Just don’t stress about it too much and keep trying. It will come naturally for most people, I’m sure.
K: I’ve been hearing that a lot of artists suffer from not being able to finish their songs. This hasn’t been an issue for me since the melodic side and arranging the idea are my strong suits. What I struggled with for a long time was getting the balances right and mixing/mastering the song. Fortunately, it turned around when I started making music together with Hugo in 2016. His strong suits are my weaknesses and vice versa. We compliment each other perfectly.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
H: Equipment does give freedom and inspiration in some sense. Just yesterday I ordered my first analog synth and can’t wait to start making music with it. But in the past I’ve been really keen to checking out new plugins when they are even in beta and to keep your sound “fresh”, you gotta get with the times (laughs).
Every now and then a new plug in comes out which does inspire some new techniques, new sound mangling capabilities etc. My first instrument was my computer with logic pro (and all the built in stuff). Never really owned an instrument besides a ukulele and a kazoo.
K: I started producing on FL Studio but quickly made the switch to Ableton Live. To be honest in the beginning I didn’t really use any equipment besides the monitors. I’ve gotten more into it in the last few years. Putting your hands on the knobs, pads and playing all the melodies in yourself gives the music a whole another dimension towards being more human.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
H: Come to think of it, when Serum first came out it was in a way pretty revolutionary for me. All the new filters and everything, it was the frontman synth for years for me. But now I’m going through the transition from digital to analog, which in theory should be extremely fun and engaging.
K: Lately, I’ve been trying to find ways to make the music sound more organic. In a world of VSTs it’s easy to program everything but you’ll lose the human touch that way. I bought the Touché pedal by Expressive E some time ago. It’s pretty much a four-way modulation wheel that is touch sensitive. Automating all the parameters manually by using this pedal has been my favorite thing lately.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
H: Collabs can be tricky sometimes. But the ones that we have made (and even the ones that haven’t seen the light of day) came together pretty naturally. Overseas collaborations, nowadays you work on Zoom, and send files (projects , audio stems ) back and forth.
But collaborations with singers and songwriters who we can actually be in the same room with, tend to be jam sessions mostly. We usually provide a rough instrumental sketch and we take it from there. Humming melodies, writing toplines etc.
K: We have a studio facility in Estonia that hosts a lot of different artists, singers and songwriters.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. 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?
H: Well my current day looks like this - I wake up, I feed my 4 foster kittens, make a coffee. Then I try to make either music or attend to other obligations. And If I don’t feel like working that day, or nothing is breathing down my neck, I go wakeboarding. Skip breakfast and lunch, and eat after the wake session.
Then I eat, and even if I haven’t worked during the day, I try to get something done. Lately I’ve been researching a lot about analog gear during that time. But soon the studio marathon begins again.
K: I wake up around 11am - 12pm, wash my face, brush my teeth and proceed with 20 minutes of meditating. This really helps me to find the clarity for the rest of the day. After that depending of the day I either go to gym or play tennis and about 4-5pm proceed to the studio to work on some stuff. Will be there until late night usually.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
H: Well as WATEVA is not my only musical alias, I’ve had a bunch of memorable super cool performances over the span of my musical career.
But the one so called breakthrough performance for me, what actually made me want to chase a musical career, was back when I just started fiddling around with production. I had been producing for just a few short months, when I got the opportunity to remix a local Estonian pop song. Made a drum and bass remix of the song and it went viral. That's when I got booked as a resident to the biggest nightlife event Grind. And that’s when I understood that this can actually be an income source as well. And of course the energy I got from crowd during every gig was just intoxicating.
K: I’d say that our debut album which we released in Aug 6 this year is definitely noteworthy. We started working on it early 2019 but it took at least a year since the concept really started to form.
I’ve had this idea of making a continues piece of music for quite some time now but never had been able to realize it. I think that this album embodies our vision of where we wanna go musically perfectly.
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?
H: For me the ideal state of mind is new toys. New inspiring sounds and new instruments, new plugins. Traveling helps a lot too. And actually taking a pause from being in the studio helps a ton as well. I get this creative drive, whenever I skip a week or two. Plus I don’t actually know if I would still be making music, if there wasn’t someone to make it with. The teamwork and inspiring each other is what has kept me on this road. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
K: The ideal state of mind would be fully aware, focused yet laidback and open-minded. There are definitely ways to get into this state more easily. One is through breathwork or daily meditation (or Yoga). These help to boost your awareness and emphathy and be more connected to the world around you.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
H: I actually like it in a weird masochistic way, when I feeling down I like to listen to really melancholic music. It makes me really sad in the beginning, but after listening for a while, it gives me this hopeful feeling that everything is gonna be alright.
But I know that a lot of people listen to happy music and start to feel energized and feel better pretty quickly. I personally can’t stand positive music when I’m feeling down. But to each their own.
K: Music has always been a way to enhance the experiences in my life. I like to search for new music every week so all the songs connect with certain events and phases in my life. When listening to a song I found years ago all the memories of that period of time come back to me. I have a flashback of feelings and the mindset I had during that time and this experience can be healing in itself. You’ll have a reality check of how you’ve grown as a human and that everything is always changing, nothing is permanent.
Music can also be a great way to cope with strong emotions, even depression. It can also cure apathy. It’s hard not to feel something when listening to a great piece of music.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
H: Well … As we both are born and we have lived most of our lives in Estonia, where there hasn’t been a lot of cultural migration, it’s a weird topic to comment on for me. But I personally feel that different cultures and their backgrounds have to be respected. And art itself should come out love, respect for others, from your heart, and with good intentions.
It does bewilder me though, from time to time, to see someone get lynched for being culturally inappropriate, while not having any malicious intent. There really is a fine line. But don’t we all wanna have equality? And I personally think art is at least the one thing where we shouldn’t fight each other, where we should just be respectful of each other. And to create from a good place and not be overly judgemental.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
H: For me there is a funny connection with the Genelec speakers and really low baselines in the studio. A lot of the times, when Kris works on some bass heavy material, I get really hungy. I don’t know if it is my mind playing tricks on me, or the bass line rumbles though me making me hungrier.
K: When listening to a song you found while traveling abroad years ago it’s possible you’ll have a flashback that brings with it all the smells, the feeling of the sea breeze and other senses as well. This has always been intriguing to me how music has such an enormous power to sink into our memories.
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?
H: We actually do have a semi-political message in our art. As I am truly concerned with what the hell is going on with our society and our planet, I do try to portray that message into the song lyrics themselves. Because it doesn’t take a nuclear scientist to see that we are on a road to self destruction.
K: For me, being an artist is something I was born into I guess. As long as I remember I’ve been trying to express myself creatively. If for some reason I’m not able to for a period of time then I tend to get quite miserable — like a piece of me has gone missing.
I think that the artist uses artistic touch in everything they do. Whether it is cooking food, gardening or writing a note, nothing is done ordinary. He takes into appreciation that something can be done beautifully.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
H: Well words are only as good as the person speaking them. But music is more or less universally understood language. The melodies, the feeling it gives you, it can impact you on a much deeper level, more easily.
Not saying words are useless, but music can be like a good speech on steroids.