Name: Yves Tomas
Occupation: Producer, sound artist, vocalist, DJ
Current release: Yves Tomas's Temper OST is out via Pyramids of Mars.
If you enjoyed this interview with Yves Tomas and would like to find out more about him and his work, visit him on Instagram, and Soundcloud.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
I feel like the impulse for me usually stems from a feeling. This can come from anywhere and nowhere in particular. Sometimes it’s joyous and sometimes it’s the opposite, but it’s usually an emotion or sense that I can’t necessarily articulate with words. It’s like a bubbling.
When that bubbling starts, it’s really important that I express it somehow. However, I’ve been writing music as a method of expression for so long now that maybe it’s stunted my ability to express how I’m feeling outside of it. Who knows, it’s probably a chicken and egg situation.
All I know is I’m definitely more lost and discontent when I’ve not been in the studio for a week.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
There’s always a general direction in mind, but truthfully I like to think that once I start to create the idea, how it transpires isn't fully within my control anymore. It’s much more a case of facilitating the flow.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
It’ll sometimes start with creating just a single sound. A kick or a percussive instrument, or a bassline or pad. Then it can evolve from there.
Other times, it’s a memory of some moment in time that I want to recapture, like an early rave moment or a peaceful place. Something that sparks an emotional recall.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
Meditation is a big one for me, not that I’m always so regimented with it, but I do notice the difference if I don’t meditate.
Contrastingly, I always need my coffee fix! For me it’s all about getting the ying and yang balance just right.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
Normally it’s really just as simple as clearing my mind and zoning in. I’ve always zoned in as a default mechanism, so I find it fairly easy to tap in to.
But when it is difficult to clear my mind, I might go and have a walk around the area my studio is in. It’s in north Greenwich which is pretty industrial and new, but a few minutes walk into Greenwich village and you’re right back in the middle of history. I love that contrast.
Trinity Music College has to be my favourite place. You can sit outside on a bench and listen to the students practicing. It can be like a cacophony of sound sometimes, but then you tune into the different windows and instruments, it’s pretty special. Perfect place for inspiration.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
Once it starts to flow it normally takes shape pretty quickly. The process changes slightly depending on the style of music.
I’ll work my way outwards from the core elements with dancier records, and with more song structures I might start with the verse and then work on a chorus and stumble upon a bridge in the process or vice versa. Then an ambient or experimental record might start from the beginning and develop incrementally like a story.
It’s all relative and never totally linear.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
I think strict control in my experience can end up hindering the creative process.
If you get the idea you had in your head out in exactly the way you imagined it then that’s always great! However, it’s also not the end of the world if it isn’t exactly how you pictured it. It shouldn’t always mean the end of the project, it can actually sometimes become something much more beautiful.
I try to let the music lead the way.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
I often have to take tracks apart at the end of the day and strip them back. For instance, I sent an idea over to Dance System the other day and he said “there’s an entire EP of ideas here!” And it’s true.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with veering off down an unknown path sometimes though. If you’re creativity is bursting out and wants to say something that isn’t necessarily going to be a part of that track in the end then I think let it. You never know, it might end up becoming an album.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
Ahh I’m at risk of sounding very esoteric and hippy dippy here, but yes I definitely do. There are innumerable instances of lapsing time whilst in the creative process and almost snapping out of it however many hours later with a beautiful piece of music in front of you. It’s almost like what the fuck actually made that, because it doesn’t feel like it was totally all me.
There’s definitely something at play that is beyond our grasp. Even the concept of music itself and all the crazy psychoacoustics and unexplainable reasons certain rhythms and sounds make us react a certain way feels very spiritual to me.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
The age old question. To be completely honest, I guess nothing is ever really going to be finished until it’s published, and even then there’s often something we’d have done different. It’s just how people that make stuff feel about their work. It pushes us to make more and make it better, that’s the most important infinite process.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
Letting your mind and ears rest are super important. Being able to play music out at clubs and festivals again helps this process a lot! But also like I said before I think it’s never so black and white.
Generally the artists I respect the most are never always 100% satisfied. You can be proud and love a piece, but to be completely and utterly satisfied all the time is to reach a point where no more growth or learning is needed and in my opinion that’s not where any artist wants to be. My mum told me an anecdote which is really relevant for this “publish and be damned”.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
I think it’s the second and third most important process. I mix my own music, mostly because I’m precious, maybe overly so. I’ve tried with mix engineers in the passed, really good ones, but I couldn’t let go of my emotional attachment to the nuances of the sounds. Even if technically they were mixed better. I felt that the intricacies of the sounds became less personal.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
I’m actually answering this question on the day my TEMPER OST is released. There is a sense of emptiness, but also relief. I think it’s one of the few moments you’re allowed to take a step back and let go. It isn’t my precious secret thing anymore, it’s been handed over now. R&R is very important after the whole process.
Saying that, it isn't usually that long before I need to get something off my chest again.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I guess it’s all dependent on the creator's relationship to the process. I believe in the ritualistic value of what I do. It’s an important part of the process for me. So, in that sense there are parallels.
However, do I think I’d be able to get that burning desire to say something that can’t be put into words, whilst brewing a coffee? Well, it would have to be a particularly special coffee!