Having recently dropped two back-to-back releases following a four-year hiatus, we (try to) speak with the elusive and enigmatic Antwerp-based producer about everything from work-work balance, avoiding over-rationalisation and those studio tidbits that should never be heard by an actual audience.
N.LTo begin with, I’d like to talk more generally about your sound. I’ve always struggled to describe your music in simple yet understandable terms without falling into any of the post-this or post- that clichés of music journalism, and was hoping you might be able to add your two cents to it. At its simplest, what kind of music do you make?
HieleThanks for not getting into post-talks. Making melodic electronic music tends to be compared too often to a certain era. You’ll learn a lot from transcribing music. But creating a piece of music based on something already made is something I consider more as an exercise. Naming inspiration is difficult for me. It’s too abstract. I tend to not over rationalise too much while at work. Once a piece of music get’s going it’s like falling in love and going through a relationship with ups and downs.
N.LI found it interesting to hear you describe Melodie 2020 as being somewhat less demanding intellectually than Stadspark, that the former was maybe more pleasant to the ear than the former. Can you talk to me about how both Melodie 2020 and Stadspark were pieced together and why you decided to releases them at pretty much the same time?
HieleMelodie is a combination of tracks that weren’t planned to be put together. But then it happened. Stadspark took some more time to piece together. The recordings that form its base originate from just a couple of sessions. But over time I juggled and lingered with rhythmic elements that would have overloaded the music. So the rest was put aside and can be used in other bits of music now. “Oh, oh: another four years of lingering” :-D
Once a piece of music get’s going it’s like falling in love and going through a relationship with ups and downs.
N.LYou described Stadspark as an exploration that goes beyond obvious harmonies and scaling pleasantries. There’s definitely a feeling, listening to it, that you’re having fun pushing the limits of what the listener’s able to take. Is pushing boundaries and teasing audiences something you set out to do, or does it come naturally?
HieleI like to tease and confuse myself and share this with the other ears of this world.
N.LMelodie 2020 opens with an eerie, ocean-like track called Mercredi Des Patates Aussi then goes on with other tracks titles such as Music These Days, Fun and Annoying and Airport. Is there any significance in the names you choose for your track titles?
HieleThey are little situations that could help specify a tracks setting, but should not be taken too literally. I see the titles as little pointers that direct listeners through my controlled chaos.
N.LThere’s a four-year gap between the release of Melodie 2020 and Stadspark, and the last releases you dropped. This period also marked the opening of Table Dance, the restaurant you run with your partner in Antwerp. Have you found it more difficult to get in the studio and make music now that you also run a business?
HieleYes, it is pretty intense to combine two full time jobs. But it’s fun!
I am a bit of a loner on the road of the creative process
N.LCan you talk to me in general terms about your approach to making music? How and where do you begin? Do you set aside a set time, every day or every week, to make music, or does it happen more organically? Who are the people around you that you go to as sounding boards?
HieleRunning a restaurant/venue made me more disciplined in how I deal with time management. But it doesn’t mean this discipline is of presence every single day. You have one side of your life where you are intensively interacting with ± 80 different people a day. That part should not drain the other side that longs for concentrated solitude when you create what is dearest to your heart. Yin and yang mate. Regarding soundboards: I don’t really have them at a consistent pace, I am a bit of a loner on the road of the creative process, but the people that have listened to my doubts and struggles in the past know who they are.
N.LStaying on the subject of influences, can you talk to me about an artist or an album that left a profound impact on you in your early days? An artist or album that made you want to make music?
HielePixies — Bossanova
Is Antwerp being turned faster than ever into a segregated city ‘for the happy few’, one that carries a sensation of blooming close mindedness, a fictional-lion-infused, dukie mindset so many privileged Flamands seem to share? It appears to be so.
N.LI’d also like to touch upon your recording set-up. What are the instruments you work with the most? What are your go-to machines and devices?
HieleIt’s a blend of dust-gathering things that lie around and in some way manage to produce sound. A vst for this, a bongo for that. Spit in the microphone, mouldy residues of tea on my desk. Neighbourhood complaints regarding Blasting Leslie, misshaped drill holes in Diy Gillespie. Dreams of submerged pianos, kettle flutes, and plonking gutter strings. But almost every time, the Mono/Poly through the S612.
N.LYou belong to quite a tight-knit tribe of artists and collectives hailing from Antwerp – Dennis Tyfus, Milan W., Yves De Mey, Entr’acte’s Allon Kaye, Spencer Clark, Lieven Martens and the likes. How would you describe the city’s experimental scene, and what influence does it play on your own work?
HieleDo we share a similar sense of humour that binds us together? I think so. Is Antwerp being turned faster than ever into a segregated city ‘for the happy few’, one that carries a sensation of blooming close mindedness, a fictional-lion-infused, dukie mindset so many privileged Flamands seem to share? It appears to be so. But my peers and myself will not go with that. If desired and worked on, this place offers a lot of potential to aim forward and side track the barricades of negative connotations, together with your big family of creative, like minded mushrooms, from here and all the way from over there.
Inside the studio, things can be created that should never be made audible to an audience.
N.LYou’ve also taken part in a few collaborative projects, most notably with Mauro Pawlowski (The Mechanics) as well as Lieven Martens (Hiele Martens). Do collaborations come easily to you, and is this something you’d like to do more of in the future?
HieleYes, I do! Text me: 0483474070
N.LI’d like to discuss your relationship to the stage and playing live. Does performing in front of an audience come naturally to you or is it something you find difficult? If you had to choose, would you rather be in your studio or on the stage?
HieleAs a kid I’ve had my moments on stage with some out off tune violin ‘music’. Those early moments in life where you have to learn to overcome insecurity have strengthened my confidence to commit to whatever I do on a stage. Composing makes you deal with another form energy. A more calculated, elaborate one. A release of energy that is not shared instantly with others. Inside the studio, things can be created that should never be made audible to an audience. A tingly feeling to archive material that will never reach anyone’s ears but mine. Performing and composing will be concluded the day Mr. G. Reaper arrives on the scene.
N.LAs an artist and musician, what would you say are elements of the creative process that you struggle with the most?