Yves De Mey has become one of Belgium’s most prolific and productive electronic music producers. In a recording career spanning 17 years, De Mey has been hailed as a producer deeply involved in the development of sound and the abstraction of his original rhythmic influences. Recent releases on Mego subsidiary Spectrum Spools and Inner Surface Music (under his Grey Branches moniker) have shown his productional versatility and have also seen him strike a more personal tone in his music. We talked to him ahead of his concert in Bozar where he will be performing his new and acclaimed Bleak Comfort album on the French Latency label. A conversation about bass, track titles, playing live, techno music and alarm clocks.
Interview by Rafael Severi
Photos by Miles Fischler
Bleak Comfort seems to be even more personal than your previous outings.
Definitely. I do not make happy music and some of my personal life has definitely crept up in the production of this record. There is a strange kind of comfort in the making of music that is not overly happy. It might be a bit of a dark and twisted thing, but it does bring comfort.
There is a strange kind of comfort in the making of music that is not overly happy
You can also see it in the track titles.
One evolves. I am not good with track titles. They are perhaps less far-fetched now. I allow the man behind the music more and more. Calling a track ‘Mika’, it is obvious what is it about. There is also more space in my music which shows my unending effort to work in a more stripped-down manner. For the most part, I was able to do what I wanted to do with this record. Also technically I always want things to be better than what I did previously.
Was the death of Mika Vainio of Pan Sonic impactful?
Definitely. Also because I had also just gotten to know him a bit better. I have always had tons of respect for him, especially as a producer. The first time I heard Panasonic as they were called then, that was just visceral. That experience is still with me today.
You are very much into sound. What is a good sound circumstance for you?
A very good PA with a very good and profound sound. I make bass music so bass is important. Bass is a vital part of my music, but not in the sense of a kick drum. The bass that is in the music still has to make sure the music has pulse, so to play on a sound system that is the sonic equivalent of an alarm clock, that just does not work.
Where does this fascination for bass come from?
Bass simply makes me feel good, a beautiful round bass. That was perhaps also the thing that I liked most in drum & bass. A bassline by Bad Company is very different from a bassline by LTJ Bukem or Alex Reece so the idea of what good bass means is broad. It is for me an interesting tool to give music a rhythmic vibe without it being percussive.
Many people in techno music think it is a progressive genre, but I think it is not
I recently saw a Bernard Parmegiani concert in Luxembourg with 20 people in the audience. The blurring of distance between club-based electronic music and avant garde music seems to me an illusion.
YDM There is a lot of pretending. Few are ready to delve into history. Academics on the other hand are not necessarily interesting to me. Many people in techno music think it is a progressive genre, but I think it is not. It is very conservative. Anything that leaves the norm behind does not work. I feel it would not hurt people to be a bit more curious.
Karlheinz Stockhausen once said producers today listen to avant garde music to be inspired by the sounds, not by its rhythms and composition.
Rhythm is something very much bound by time and age, I think. Young people today have a different understanding of rhythm. NSI is an interesting exception. They sound much more like avant garde music sounded like in the 50s, 60s and 70s. The rhythm-generating modules they use also allow this, but they do it in such a way that often very interesting polyrhythms show up.
I will also hark back to some tracks of mine I did five or six years ago
How do you approach playing Bleak Comfort live?
It will be a bit dubbier without it being dub. My live set is programmed in such a way that I can make vital decisions on the spot. I intend to build in some more space into the music to make it perhaps even less rushed than the record and a bit warmer still as well. I will also hark back to some tracks of mine I did five or six years ago and try and make them fit.