Binkbeats: It’s not about looping

September 11, 2019

It’s not about looping. It’s my main thing, but I use it as
a tool to play my songs. To have an interesting song you need a song structure,
and it’s not just stacking layers upon each other. What I’ve seen from looper people, I saw that their
build-ups took very much time. So I thought I need to find a way to do this faster,
that helps me push the limits of what you can do with loops. I remember as a kid I had a carton box drum-set,
and I started having lessons at 10. And I had to pick a study, and I thought if I’m busy
with music all the time then probably I need to go to a conservatory. So I went and studied. And then in 2008, I finished
at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague with a masters. I’ve been making music ever since. I used to have this band and there was one gig
where I only had to play with the MC. So I thought maybe I’ll try something with this program
called Ableton. At that moment I was very into this track called “The Healer”
and thought, well maybe I can play that track and build up these loops. My friend started recording it, and from that
moment I started this Beats Unraveled series. Which was for me basically like an investigation process
on electronic-based music, how to play it live. It was the perfect promo plan,
if it would’ve been a promo plan. But it wasn’t. It just happened. The people picked it up because they knew the songs,
and the whole thing spread fast. We get emails from people saying:
“Can’t you come and perform this song here?” And I thought, that’s cool, but if I wanna play live I cannot do
these covers, otherwise it’s gonna haunt me forever. I always was making music of my own,
mostly hip-hop beats. I would sample a record, put some drums to it. But millions of people were doing that. And then when I was doing this series,
I finally found what was me, when I thought of making my own music
in this way. It took a long time to be able to write in that way.
Also the music that came out, I had to sort of get used to, Is this the music that I’m making?
Is this way I’m into? It felt very personal all of a sudden. I took a year off to release all the music
and then started touring again. I feel like if I wanna have a sustainable, long career
I should follow my own path. And that’s the more difficult path, ’cause y’know people
know you maybe from the Beats Unraveled but your own stuff, you know, they don’t know so much,
so it’s starting more from the bottom again but… I think it’s gonna be worthwhile in the end,
but it’s just perseverance I guess, and just keep on going. I live in Utrecht. It’s in the center of Holland
and I’ve been living here since 2000, so like, 18 years. It has a very friendly character and I love that it’s a big city
but it feels like a small town. I’m part of this sort of collective called Kytopia. We’re in this old building that used to be the music venue
of Utrecht. Far before that it used to be the monastery. We’re sort of monks ourselves, you know, everybody’s
in his studio, isolated from the rest of the world making his music, so I think it’s a good circle
that came round. We can always knock on each other’s doors and say,
hey can I borrow some microphones, or you wanna listen to this track I’m making
’cause I’m stuck with this idea. I haven’t really been into another place that’s like this. It’s all quite low profile here, but it has a charm to it.
And that’s maybe better than a clean, concrete studio. I’m not sure how many instruments I have in my studio,
but probably somewhere in the thousands. There are different reasons why I buy an instrument.
Sometimes it can be how it looks, like if it looks great that I think it’s gonna sound great. And sometimes it’s really
because I have a certain thing in mind. I got Vietnamese instruments, Indian instruments,
African instruments. And it doesn’t stop with instruments, it also has objects.
If it makes sound, it sort of belongs to the percussion world. I have a roll of baking paper in my studio.
I use it sometimes, you know. When I create a track I’m not specifically thinking
of how to perform it live. The good thing is if you don’t do that, you force yourself
to come up with solutions. If you have a start of a song it already says something like
OK, I think it’s gonna be about this. And trying to make a certain sound world for that track. It mostly starts very much within the laptop
using plugins or synths. And slowly I’ll add acoustic sounds on it. Sometimes it works if you just try a lot of stuff. So I layer lots of ideas on my track. And then I start working my way down, like, OK
this I don’t like, I’ll throw it away, and, Ah, this actually sounds great. I cannot just only play the dry signals
and then start all the processing of those signals later. Immediately it’s part of the track, so if I have maybe
an acoustic sound I’m immediately seeing what cooler sound I can get with that, or how to fit it in to this mood. But the downside is sometimes me losing the focus on
what should happen next in the track because I got lost in this sound designing world.
Then it’s like, OK, this is nice, but what do I need now? If I have the whole thing finished, then I’ll turn it
into the live version, so that’s the second step. I start building the whole skeleton of the song
within Ableton, and then rehearsing the routine of playing all the ingredients
that are in the track. All the recordings, all the small loops I make,
their lengths are determined. I stop playing when I know the looping is done
and it starts playing. And in the meanwhile
I can already start playing the next thing. So I never stop a recording, I don’t need to do an action
in between that goes automatically. The first few concerts that I did I felt that my head
was exploding ’cause of all of the things that I needed to think about. I felt very alone, because suddenly now my band mate
was a computer, and not a real person. But this routine became easier and easier. At one point you don’t really need to think about it anymore,
your hands just go to the next thing without thinking. Over time a lot of stuff already happened on stage
so a lot of things went wrong and then you find out, OK, it’s not the end of the world,
and I can fix this later, you know, and… so you get more comfortable and then you start
enjoying it more. Everybody appreciates craftsmanship.
There’s hours and hours in every music that’s out there. The fact that you put a lot of time in it
is not that special, but if you see how it’s made you have more appreciation
for it. I think the fact that I have all those instruments with me,
that you see, ah, that thing produces that sound. You can connect more to it, I guess. If I play one wrong note, it’s gonna be there all the time. So I can understand that it seems fragile.
It is in a way, but also not if you train it hard enough, I mean, it’s a lot of work, that’s what it is. But… yeah, why shouldn’t you work hard on something
you want to do, I mean… if you’re a lazy artist, what good is it?

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