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?
I don't know if I am different from other people, but I get creative from just being in the studio. Experimenting with synths will trigger an idea, and sometimes that idea triggers something else again. It's really just being in the studio and working on music for me. The most important thing is just being in a good mood. If I am not in a good mood, it's not going to work. When I find myself waking up grumpy for whatever reason, I'm not even going to try and make music, it won't work. Instead I try to change my mood. Maybe by working out, maybe by cleaning up the house so I feel useful. I've tried to write music in a mood like that, but often you end up even more pissed off because usually you end up with nothing at the end of the day. For me feeling good all the time is about working out, eating healthy, having fun in what I'm doing. If I feel like that the ideas come naturally. The biggest distractions, things like the Internet and listening to other people music, can also be used to your advantage. I often listen to other people's work when I write music, only to be super critical of my own work. Is this really good enough? Does this track I am working on add anything to what is already out there? You have to be critical of your own work to raise the bar.
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?
Ever since I got into guitar pedals, and also into Modular to some extent, I've changed my approach to recording live in the studio. I don't save that many presets any more, with Modular it's not possible, and with guitar pedals I feel I get inspired the most if I just run stuff through it and messing around. I'll usually be recording in the background just to capture any weird magic that happens. I run a lot of stuff through the pedals just to see what it does. In a sense I try to capture the best moments from a live performance. I used to draw automation in MIDI for everything. Nowadays I just write down the notes and I record all the changes by hand, turning knobs in real time. It really makes a difference and it feels like a lot of my music sounds more organic because of that, even though it's coming from Modular which is a funny contrast. At some point I would like to this live approach onto the stage, to evolve from the traditional DJ set into something more unique and organic.
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?
One of the things I've learnt throughout the years is that almost any combination of random notes can be catchy. It 100% depends on the instrument, sound and timbre. Some of the most iconic melodies are basically notes being repeated, and it is the sound that makes them unique. I used to use a lot of presets when I started out. I would change them a bit to my liking and use them in tracks. Nowadays I have to say I make at least half of my sounds from scratch. With Modular it is the only way to go, and also with soft synths and my other synthesizers I've taken this approach. It makes your sounds a little bit more unique with a personal touch. Sound design, especially in electronic music, is as important as composition.
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? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
I think the connection between sound and the nervous system is very interesting. It is a logical one, in the old days when we were all hunter / gatherers, a sudden sound should trigger a fight or flight response because your survival could depend on it. But the fact that that has evolved nowadays in a way that music that you really enjoy can give you goosebumps is very interesting to me. It shows that sound has evolved from something that was important to our survival, into something that we listen to for our enjoyment. The same can be said about many other aspects of art. When I was still in university studying psychology, this was a much debated subject and I always really enjoyed that.
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 think I'm not really on the political end of the spectrum when it comes to art. For me art is not something that needs to shock, or tell a message. Definitely not a political one. But this differs between artists immensely. For me art is something that is inside me and that wants to get out somehow. If I don't make music, I often feel like I'm wasting my time. I like to create something that other people like, but most of all, I make music because I want to. As an artist, if other people enjoy it - it is something that I definitely take pleasure in, but the first and most important aspect is that it is something that I like myself. Everything else comes second.
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 know if music can really evolve beyond what it is right now. If it were to evolve I would say the whole experience would become more important. So for instance, when viewing a recording of a live concert, I could see something like VR starting to play a more important role to give you the experience that you are actually at the concert. But at the same time, many things have been tried. Surround sound in 5.1 or 7.1, Blu-Ray's with visuals. And even though I won't deny there is a market for that, in the end most people are still listening to 99% of their music in stereo, only the devices have changed.