The 235th episode of our 12 Questions segment features producer Exoplanet.
1. How old are you, where are you living and how long have you been producing and Djing?
I’m 27, living in Groningen, the Netherlands, and I’ve been producing electronic music since I was about 14.
2. Where do your musical roots lie, what are your first memories of electronic music and when did you know you wanted to pursue it seriously? Are there any particular productions or artists from the past that really made you think to yourself ‘this is what I want to do.”
One of my earliest memories of electronic music is from going to the planetarium as a kid. They had a very cool electronic ambient soundtrack and it made a huge impression. Aside from that, I grew up during the nineties Dutch trance era, so I listened to icons like Tiësto, Armin and Ferry Corsten. I liked the melodies and the novelty of synthesizer sounds. As I figured out you could make music like that with software, I tried it. Soon after I discovered progressive house and psychedelic music like Shpongle and more abstract electronica like Monolake. That made me fall in love with the sounddesign aspect of music and the idea of creating atmospheres and landscapes through sound. From that point on the feeling of inspiration was there and I continued having fun trying to make music myself.
3. How difficult was learning to produce for you in the beginning? Did you take any Audio Engineering programs or production courses to help you out or are you pretty much self taught? And did anyone give any advice early on that really helped?
Getting to grips with the software and tools was relatively easy, I’m nerdy enough and Reason, the software I use, felt right for me, and still does after more than a decade. The musical part was hardest as I had no musical background. But once I got past the basics of notes, keys and chords, the long term difficulty was getting good sounding tracks. That took years and is still a process, the saying is that a mix is never finished, you’re never completely satisfied. I didn’t take any courses, there’s enough information on the internet to learn by yourself for free for eternity. Interaction with other artists or even just lurking on a forum can be a great help though. I used to be a member of a Dutch music forum which spawned artists like Eelke Kleijn and Leon Bolier – there was a lot of cross-pollination going on, people commenting on each other’s tracks, and I have those people and many others around the world who share knowledge to thank. Believe it or not, there are actually friendly people out there who are willing to explain how this or that works in great detail, whether you’re a noob who wants to know what a compressor does, or an audio wizard who wants to know how to synchronize his hardware modular synth to his iPad. But also just reading endless discussions on people’s techniques and mixing practices and absorbing it all, helps a lot.
4. What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what comes easiest for you? When you do hit a creative block what helps you through it?
Getting an idea down is easy, knowing when to stop adding stuff and start arranging is difficult. The classic problem if getting out of the loop. Besides that, the difficulty of knowing when to remove sounds. Making the decision to remove something that doesn’t quite work is more difficult than adding something that works. Sometimes something sounds great on its own, but it doesn’t fit the track – it can be very difficult to have to let go of things. Regarding creative blocks: when hitting a creative block, the only thing I can do is to go do something else for a while.
5. What’s a normal day like for you? Do you have a job outside of electronic music? And what do you like to do when you’re not working on music?
I’m able to survive without a job, so I simply pursue my interests. I enjoy reading, tv series, philosophy and science (cosmology and physics in particular), art in general, funny Youtube cat videos and games. I’ve always found great joy in intellectual and sensory exploration – of space both inner and outer (to paraphrase Bill Hicks). Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time on something music related, but which isn’t strictly making music: patch programming for synthesizers. I’ve been making my own patches for years, but only recently I discovered that long dedicated sessions of patch building are fun and provide banks of great material for later use. Some synths can be challenging but very rewarding, and it really gives that mysterious joy of exploration.
6. Apart from electronic music what other genres do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside of electronic? and do these genres or artists have a direct effort on your own productions?
I can enjoy good music of almost all genres, depending on mood of course. But it’s impossible to specialize in all genres, and find all the really good stuff, there’s just too much music. I tend to listen to classical a lot, but almost exclusively Bach. I can only hope that has an influence on my music. However I can just as easily be listening to black metal, or Pink Floyd, or with Youtube nowadays, a didgeridoo player or an Indonesian gamelan ensemble. I think anything I hear has some influence on my own thinking and therefore my music. Sometimes I hear specific things that I can try to do, usually it ends up completely different, but it can serve as inspiration and education.
7. What was the first and last physical (CD, Vinyl, Cassette etc) piece of music you bought?
The first I vividly remember was Global Underground 16, mixed by Dave Seaman. That got me into progressive house, I think it’s a masterpiece DJ mix album. The last must have been a Bluetech cd album, Sines and Singularities I think, I bought at a goa festival years ago. It’s probably still in the plastic wrapping. I’m not that romantic about physical media, with the exception of books, I’m fine with digital files.
8. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
I think Lady Gaga is alright.
9. Which producers in your opinion get consistently overlooked?
That’s hard to say, as I don’t really investigate whether or not an artist I like is overlooked, and I don’t know how to qualify “overlooked” in the first place. But a while ago I mentioned Theorem to a friend – an artist with fantastic deep techno releases on M_nus, used to be somewhat of a big name I guess, seems to be somewhat forgotten now, but he’s still alive. His sound is, to me, very introspective, melancholic and relaxing. I hope he releases a new album someday.
10. Which producers consistently inspire you? And where else does your inspiration come from?
Monolake (Robert Henke) inspires me because of his very thoughtful sounddesign and placement of sounds. Those very detailed landscapes and technical skill. Same goes for Simon Posford, with his extraordinary sense for musical crazyness, and Bluetech with his emotional storytelling through sound. That are some specific aspects of craftsmanship I really admire. In general, I tend to be inspired by anything I find fascinating, whether conceptual or perceptual; anything that I can imagine as a physical landscape, which I can then try to translate to sound, since physical objects and textures are much the same as sound in my experience.
11. There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound, what advice do you have for them?
In a creative space with an infinite number of directions, there is no right way to point. From a technical perspective though, try to learn as much as you can. The internet is a huge resource on mixing, synthesis, mastering, etc. There are no rules, but you’ll find methods that work for you. Discover what things you enjoy doing and want to learn about. Like recording vocals? Do that! Interested in modular synthesis? Do that! There’s a unique creative space for everyone, and it’s up you to find and define yours, through knowledge and exploration. But in your quest to be unique, don’t be afraid to learn by emulating artists you like – think of that as the highways you can take towards the roads less explored.
12. If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
Shpongle – Behind Closed Eyelids. Just a fantastic track, randomly selected out of hundreds of other good choices. It has an amazing buildup and arrangement, is deeply psychedelic and has proper outro. If it had to be one of my own tracks, it would most likely be the latest track I would have made, because that’d be the track I’d be the most content with at that moment. I would probably have made that track specifically for that scenario.
Exoplanet’s remix of Duke Maj ‘Casting Circle’ is out now on Suffused Music, you can purchase the release: here