BEATMAKING: Intervista a Wermonster
-Let’s start talking about your latest work ‘Katalyst Sessions Vol.2’. How has the concept of the album changed from the first episode Katalyst Sessions Vol.1 (31 instrumental tracks)?
– The Katalyst session series is the most “hip hop” oriented of the different Wermonster projects. The first volume was exclusively focused on sample-based beat-making and was exclusively instrumental, while the second volume consists of tunes with guest rappers & singers performing on beats from the first volume. So vol.2 is an extension of vol.1…they are complementary but can be listened apart from each other.
-The first thing that struck me about this release was the international nature of this work. A French guy living in Berlin that creates an album for an Australian label, collaborating with many emcees from around the globe. How did this collaboration with Uncomfortable Beats come about?
– It is all made with people I have met over the past years and for most of them people I´ve been making music with already. Whether it is physically or electronically. I met and became friend with Dave (Able8) the head of Uncomfortable Beats when he visited Europe a few years ago and we played gigs here together. I am living in Berlin which is a very international city with lots of people coming from all over the world, so I guess that also had an influence on the international nature of that project.
-You’ve been producing as Wermonster since 2008, how would you describe your evolution over the years?
With the Wermonster project I have always been interested in mixing samples with original compisitions to create something new. It´s also about a certain sound : soulful, organic yet electronic at the same time. I´ve been evolving around that idea, sometimes with more sampling like on the Katalyst sessions, and on other releases more original recordings / composition, like my Solar Tales EP.
– How do you approach your production? Can you describe your creative process?
– It´s always slightly different. I usually start with some sounds, or a melody or a sample and start jamming with it, add more sounds, recording everything until eventually I decide I´ve got enough material – then I maybe change some sounds, get rid of some others and do arrangements. For the strictly hip hop beat stuff, I usually start with a sample, that I slice and replay differently, then I play a drum beat over it, a bass-line, maybe add some synths and samples. Alternatively I start with the drums.
– As I have already said, in the album you collaborate with many emcees from around the world, the quality of which by the way is really good. How did you get in touch with them and how did the production of the tracks work?
– The international cast mostly consist of people I have met through the years and already been working with on other projects or playing gigs with. It´s also all artists I am digging the music in the first place. The oldest connection here is with Tob One, from USA. Our first collaboration is from early 2000 Myspace days and he was actually the first MC to ever rap over my beats!The production took a while because of the number of artists involved and the fact that they are from all around the world.I did all the beats here in Berlin for volume one.
Up until vol.2 it´s been going through different ways… some vocals have been recorded in my studio here in Berlin: with Sultan Tunc, Melody Myla, Infinite Livez and Ethnique mPunch. For the other collabs we worked with dropbox. I didn´t wanted to impose a theme or anything when submitting the beats to the MCs, perhaps just the titles of beats- because I thought it was interesting to take a step back and let the lyricists translate into words the images that comes to their mind when listening to the instrumental. I reworked/ re-arranged the OG beats once I had the vocal recordings, and mixed everything in (Planet Earth Studios) here in Berlin.
-From your sounds you can hear the 90’s and the warmth of old records. What gives you inspiration? what do you like to sample?
– I like to sample records the most, mainly from the 70´s. I like the sounds of the productions from that era, that´s where my roots are I would say. Whether it´s rock, jazz, soul, funk, world, electronic whatever… Sometimes I have periods of time where I don´t sample much but I always come back to it somehow. So if I sample I would say I am inspired by the samples I choose.
I never think in advance I am gonna do that type or that type of tune. I put the record on, listen, maybe record a couple of loops and sounds and start from
there. Sometimes I sample my own recordings.
– Your productions are not only sample based but also have a good synth component, which you are able to blend well with each other. How do you start to conceive the sound to create this blend?
– There´s no rule. Sometimes I start with samples and play synth over it, or try to find a sample that fits a melody or a chord progression I´ve been composing
-Your Album is available, as well as digitally, even in limited cassette tapes (60 copies). Why this choice?
– The sound of tape is dope. It works really well with that type of music and it´s a nice little object!
-What gear you use?
– Sp303 and 404 samplers, MPD24 midi-controller, mics, guitars, bass, various percussions, a 4 tracks tape player, effects pedals, amps, records, korg synths, crumar synth, drums, mixing boards…and I use a computer with Logic or Ableton Live to record everything.
-Tell us about your video production of “So They Say” with Benny Diction. How did the idea come to life? Were there any stupid or funny moments you’d like to share with us?–
The fact that both Benny and I aren´t trained actors definitely led to really funny situations on the set, especially in the last scene. But for people who haven´t seen the video yet, I cannot tell more without spoiling. With the video itself I didn´t want to do the usual rap-video thing, with something
like the MC rapping in front of the camera with cool video moves and effects.
Nothing against it – but I was more trying to translate the context of a short movie to the theme of Benny´s lyrics, especially the the chorus “You´re only good as your last mistake”. So Benny and I talked about a few ideas and I finally wrote the script. I guess I got influenced by 70´s spy movies and french film-noir from Jean Pierre Melville, also the Pusher serie from Nicolas Winding Refn.We filmed in London in January this year, over the course of one and a half days time, with a small crew of 4 people including Benny, a camera-man, an assistant and myself. I directed the film and after that allof the editing and post-production work was done back in Berlin.
– The idea of pushing things forward. an always-evolving culture with really strong foundations.
– What Are you listening to right now?
– At the moment I am mainly listening to the music I am working on. Future projects, collaborations etc. Apart from that various French and US hip hop on a daily basis, both classics and new stuff. Also music from Moondog, Forest Swords have been in rotation lately.
– Lets’ talk about the live performance. How important to you is performing live, and how do you approach it?
– I come from a rock, blues and jazz background, playing guitar and bass
in bands. Performing live is what I´ve been missing in the first years where I´ve been producing –in a non-live way –”electronic” music … until I realized it was actually possible to do it in very creative and interesting ways.
I spent 3 months in California in 2008 and got to visit amongst others one of the « Low-end theory » nights in LA when it was pretty much starting to blow up. What impressed me the most was to see all these beatmakers and producers, who were usually more like studio-rat types – actually performing their beats live. That was new to me and I thought it was quite fascinating.
So when I came back to Europe I bought a few midi controllers and started to put together a live set. My music stopped being only something I was doing for myself, but also something I could share directly to an audience and get instant reactions from. It definitely also had an influence back on the studio work.
On stage I use Ableton live, a MPD24 controller, various midi controllers, a mixing desk, some FX-pedals and improvise a lot with the sounds, creating arrangements on the fly. I never play a tune the exact same way twice. It´s definitely different from the albums and there are some tunes that only exist in a live setting. It´s quite an immersive experience for me, and I hope for the audience too!