Name: Stereoclip aka Maxime Merkpoel
Current Release: Stereoclip's Echoes, "a reflection of 10years of Stereoclip’s career as an artist", is out now via Armada.
Recommendations: The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck; On love and loneliness by J Krishnamurti
If you enjoyed this interview with Stereoclip and would like to stay up to date on his activities, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud. He is also has an artist page on the website of his current label, Armada.
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?
Music, for me, started 13 years ago. I was passionate about the hiphop genre and producing hiphop music, so it all started for me doing beats on FL studio.
After I went to Berlin with friends who were into techno and house, I completely fell in love with the night life experience. When I came back to Brussels I started to try to make house music with what I had learned in hiphop. So it gave all of my tracks a bit of an easy feel. My first influences in electronic music were Paul Kalkbrenner, Marcel Dettmann and Trentemøller.
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?
My influences were hybrid because like I said I was listening more to hiphop than house but I wanted to be part of the night scene so badly, so I started doing something a little bit strange.
For me it was more difficult to set myself to focus on one genre, I’m not a good technician so it was hard to emulate. With years of experience now I try to keep my instincts and to use them in house music.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
When I was younger, music defined me too much, so much it even blocked my creational process. Now I see my music as a small part of me. How my music is or sound isn’t who I am, it’s only a part of my taste. Of course I also wouldn’t be able to produce something that I don’t like, I wouldn’t have to inspiration do to it.
I will say that my personal grow pushed me to have a better angle of vision of what I’m doing on earth including my music, I’m so much more at ease now. I’m feeling more free and that influences my creation in a better way I guess.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Definitely technical skills; how to create good drops, a great sound. I think it’s easy to have good ideas but to actually transform them into a finished song is the most difficult part for me. I’m trying every day though 😊.
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?
I started with just Logic and a Mac computer. At one point my flatmates had some old classics synth that he didn’t use. I didn’t know what it was, but I was curious so I tried it and understood that it was, in physical form, what I also have in Logic.
At that moment I realized I could produce much better music with more gear like that. So I ended up buying a lot of it. At the end it helped me a bit for inspiration but not so much for techniques.
At the end, what helped me the most was meeting people with knowledge. Especially Kid Creme, I learned so much from him and he helped me realize my latest album. I’m calling him my “coach”.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
No, in that way, it was more specific moments that have changed me. I’m thinking about a couple of previous live sets where my music sounded terrible, I didn’t have the same punch as the others DJs and producers back then. It pushed me to keep going and keep practicing for so many hours to understand what a kick should sound like.
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?
Collaborations were key for me to make better music.
I chose to share my studio with Kid Creme, Dim Kelly, Oton and other producers. In the end we all ended up collaborating on tracks of each other. Like I said I created my last album together with Kid Creme and I have a feature with Dim Kelly.
We are all together in a studio inside a cool house in the country side of Brussels, it gives me so much inspiration as a person and for my creations.
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?
During the week I try to wake up at 9 am for breakfast and after that, I have a 20 min drive to the country side of Brussels to reach my studio. Once I’ve arrived, I have a coffee with my guy Dim Kelly where we can talk for hours and hours straight about pretty much everything in person. We try to limit these coffee breaks to 30min and after that I check my e-mails, think about new marketing strategies and other ‘office’ related stuff. Then we have our typical 1pm lunch and after that I usually open up my recent music projects and start producing for the next couple of hours. Once I’ve finished, I leave for a workout or go out for a drink with friends.
I always wanted to do something that will give me a lot of life experience as this gives me the input to grow as a person and develop in my work, I see that as a virtuous circle.
Everything is an echo of doing something again and again and has an effect on each other. I can’t separate these things.
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?
For me it’s an ongoing process, I can’t say that I have reached my big breakthrough work. Of course I have experienced some magical highlights but I don’t look at it as a ‘breakthrough’.
Maybe in the future I will reach that one specific highlight, but for now my goal is to produce that one track that really stands out, the track that will change my career and my life as an artist.
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?
For me there is no one way to do it as there are so many ways to trigger creativity.
For myself most of the time it’s about listening to sounds and samples ... it immediately paints a picture in my head, brings up certain emotions and feelings etc. If something I've created gives me a specific feeling, I know I’m on the right path.
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?
I know that when I’m feeling sad or depressed if I do something good in music it can heal me directly, makes me feel more confident and secure right away.
But it also works the other way around; when I’m not happy about the stuff I’m creating in the studio, it can affect my emotional state as well.
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?
I don’t know, I’m doing what I feel is right.
I think, influences are the bases of creation, you can’t create something new if nothing was created before. Of course it always depends on why it was done, what is the purpose of the art proposition.
We always need to think about respect, freedom, perceptions, and we need to take the responsibility to try and understand each other.
I don’t think there is a limit, every situation is different, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s never a black and white situation and that nuances are necessary to push us to evolve.
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?
We are all living by sensation, sensations are part of comparisons, part of everything … It’s the first door of our interpretation, the first step of how we will experience emotions.
It’s the way of how we are connected to the external world basically.
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?
Maybe by not trying to be anyone specifically. I don’t want to define my role or know if I’m an artist or not. Music is a natural way I found to express myself being a shy person. (laughs)
I’m just me doing music and decided to share it with the world, so my responsibility now is to try to share the best I can do.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
It’s an endless loop. :-)
It expresses a lot of emotions which cannot be put into words. I think it’s why we put music in funerals for an example. It can give an entire meaning to something that can take years to explain in words. Music is a nice way to create memories.