We had a little convo with Torus from The Hague ahead of his upcoming gig in Beurschouwburg. Besides producing since 2012, former art school student Joeri Woudstra masters multiple art forms as a true millennial contemporary artist. He’s soundtracked a catwalk show during Amsterdam Fashion Week, designed the cover of Bokoesam’s latest album and had his first solo exhibition last summer. It’s hard to put a label on Torus, both sonically and visually, but we tried to figure it out.
Interview by Hannes Rooms
Pictures by Gilleam Trapenberg
From an instrumental hip hop debut to a trance-inspired EP to ethereal compositions on the latest Descend in Chains. With every release the Torus identity seems to evolve radically. Is this intentional?
Not necessarily; the music I make always has an intuitive nature. If you look at all the music I’ve put out over the past few years, there’s definitively an overlap, but not in terms of sonic aesthetics. More in the sense that I try to put emotion into my music. Only after I make the music I want to make at that moment do I create a context of what it could mean to me or to other people. How can these songs be presented as a package? For example for my latest record Descend in Chains I experimented with ambient compositions based on choir samples, which eventually turned into a religious project. Not something I was specifically aiming for in the beginning. It’s like I only see afterwards what I was doing.
Despite the ever-changing sound, I recognise a returning theme: emotion.
Emotion is the true nature of music. For me music seems the perfect vessel to communicate or create emotions, to feel certain things. Whereas art is normally a platform to translate real life encountered emotions into a communicative work, I try to evoke emotions I don’t necessarily find in real life by making these pieces of music. I figured out that those come in all shapes, sizes and genres. It all comes down to that principle, the labels are only added afterwards. I try not limit myself to one specific sound or visual.
I try to trigger certain emotions for myself and for the audience to construct a magnifying glance
What do you think about this labelling of your music?
Originally my work was actually based against this putting music in boxes, but for some conversations it’s important to give some context to communicate what you’re doing, so I guess I just have to adapt to these terms. I understand the purpose of labelling, but I don’t necessarily agree with it on a personal level.
What direction will the next release head to?
I’m working on new music, but I’m not sure what it is about yet. I try to work in a more nuanced way when it comes to using pop references; it’s still there but I experiment with different perspectives now. Descend in Chains was definitely the first step in this process.
Your first solo exhibition Millennial Gravestone Quotes last summer explored the influence of technological developments and contemporary advertising culture on feelings of nostalgia. Tell us about your fascination with nostalgia.
You can find emotion in all my work but if you add a layer of nostalgia it becomes an even stronger product. So I try to trigger certain emotions for myself and for the audience to construct this magnifying glance. I’m not talking about regular nostalgia based on recognition but about experiencing the feeling of nostalgia with sounds/objects to which you are exposed to only very recently. Traditional nostalgia only plays when you haven’t experienced something in a very long time, but I think you can replace the factor of time by something else. It’s more about the unexpectedness of encountering elements to evoke this nostalgia feeling. For the exhibition I worked with recent technologies and pop culture references but presented them in a way you wouldn’t really expect. Visitors told me their idea of nostalgia shifted after seeing the exhibition and that they could actually experience nostalgia without me explicitly referring to the past.
I force myself to consider my art as one, because it all originates from the same drive of creating things
All your work considered, I see an artificial environment built by music, graphic design, sculptures and installations. Do you pursue this crossover approach or are these different projects?
It’s actually both. I work intuitively but also try to use the conceptual approach that I was taught in art school. I automatically combine different mediums within a multidisciplinary context. I realised it is my way of working and I’m now aware that I’m obviously combining these projects. So I force myself to consider my art as one, because it all originates from the same drive of creating things.
Thanks for the chat, we look forward to the show with Lorenzo Senni! What can our audience expect?
Since it will be a concert setting, I’ll do a hybrid live performance using 4 CDJs and a laser that I control myself. I’ll try to create a juxtaposition by presenting elements from a club context in a different environment.
Torus plays Beursschouwburg, Brussels, 18 January alongside Lorenzo Senni. This event is free for members. Join here.