Cut To The Chase with Amortalist / Nibana
AMORTALIST / NIBANA(FR)
“...half nibana, half amortal.”
...this edition of Cut To The Chase sets out to interview a friend who I respect very much for his ability to provide great productions, in a variety of music styles. The artist in focus this time is the french “enfant terrible”, Nibana / Amortalist, in real life simply known as Kevin.
Kevin’s musical touch turns everything to gold…*haha*...Something along those lines. But to give you a clue, Kevin has released Downtempo, Chill and Glitch music, as well as night time Psytrance and a “zenonesque” style album on Zenon Records.
The most recent part of his discography :
Nibana - Ask The Universe 2014 (Downtempo)
Nibana - Tales Of The Uncanny 2016 (Psytrance)
Nibana - Shūmatsu No Tani 2017 (Downtempo, Glitch)
Nibana - Earth From Above 2018 (Downtempo, Ambient)
Amortalist - Within The Singularity (Zenon Records) 2019 (Zenonesque)
Throughout the years, besides trolling each other, Kevin and I had many serious conversations and I was always impressed with his very thoughtful mind for his younger age. I’m convinced this mirrors in his musical creations. I wish I had been that way in my younger years. I consider Kevin an electronic music wizard - he will be too modest a person to confirm that - but I assure you, if you like any of Chill, Psytrance or that zenonesque style alternative Progressive Trance, you will like his work for sure.
Let’s get stuck in...
1. Kevin, how are you so down to earth? What is the secret? :)
Hey Rob. I guess that’s just an education thing. After loving and working in science fields it makes you quite pragmatic and put me in a perpetual quest for objectivity. The things I read, the things I listen to, most is quite grounded even tho many of my friends call me a hopeless romantic ahah. I take great pleasure in astute analysis, digging for more knowledge and more details about everything.
2. Which are the first memories that you have of music?
I remember the track perfectly, the first time I really got hooked on music was when my dad was listening to Sweet Child In Time by Deep Purple, in the car. It was my first gateway to rock and metal. Then it was all the video games music thanks to my brother. Especially Starcraft’s soundtrack when I was like 4 or 5.
3. Outside of psychedelic electronic music, what music do you keep coming back to for leisure-time?
I don’t listen to much psy-related stuff at home or in leisure-time to be honest. I listen to a lot of post-black metal, post-rock, nostalgic groups from my teens, electronica ambient, chillout and videogames scoring. Depends on the mood. I don’t listen to that much music really, I’m so often actively doing something or producing that I don’t really put music on top of it or in the background except when I’m driving or going to bed.
4. How did you develop an interest in the music you’re making and playing professionally today?
For Psytrance : I went to my first psytrance party when I was in highschool and I got high and hooked up on it, not really something unique eheh. For all the rest, I think that was mostly games like Mirror’s Edge (Solar Fields’ scoring) and the virtual world in general that made me fall in love with electronica, downtempo and all that sci-fi ambient genre. I already had one foot in the scene without even knowing those worlds were connected.
5. And did you come across any personally transformative events on that journey? Did electronic music offer any sort of “revelation” or “mindblow” to you on the way towards appreciating it? I’m not sure. Music has been part of my life for so long that I’m sure it was personally transformative every day, without me noticing. As for marking events, sure there were such events but I don’t think any really gave me a revelation shifting from not appreciating electronic music to appreciating it. I could say it was my first concert, my first high, my first big festival, but not really, I’m still pretty much the same. I’ve always been myself and the journey was just about getting more educated about the things I enjoyed and digging deeper. I’m young so electronic music has always been around since the day I was born.
6. Ultimately, what led you to becoming a producer/performer? I’ve always been doing music and learning instruments, but my “final push” into becoming a producer, was because of frustration. I was frustrated I could not tweak the things I was listening to to my likings, frustrated to be so passive, frustration has always been a huge trigger in my life. Professionalizing myself is just a way to be able to have more dedicated time and ressources to do more music as I’ve always done music for myself.
7. Which was your first experience with a music label and what label was it? My first release ever was a remix contest of Radioactive Sandwich that I ended up winning and which got released on Ektoplazm in 2013. Ektoplazm was my first approach to releasing music and still my favorite website in the scene. (Shoutout to Alexander “Basilisk” of which I can’t say enough thanks for this) As for “records labels” it was with my ongoing association and label called ADN, and also the moment I decided to actively be part of the scene. After organising some free parties in France with friends, I met the founders of young ADN and joined them into party-making and releasing my first compilation (on Ektoplazm once more). Followed shortly after by Maia Brasil Records for the release of my first album Ask The Universe.
8. If you don’t mind me asking, where do you stand on the seemingly eternal battle of “analog vs digital” in music production/mixing or even mastering for that matter. I like both and I frankly don’t give a shit about this hipster war. I think digital is awesome in many ways, and I’ve always been using computers because I was born at a time where we all had access to computers. I still like analog gear and the different approach to them (more “live” with more uncertainty). Both are complementary for me, but I’m more of a digital guy.
9. Considering the things in life you enjoy other than making music, I would like to know if you are super dedicated to consecutive hours of production time or do you split it up into little bits and pieces? My workflow is completely erratic. I produce only when I feel like producing. Sometimes I go on hiatus for quite a while, then I will have a urge of production and work on an album 12 hours a day for months. If I have a goal in mind, I’ll usually try to be a bit more “serious” and work on music daily. I used to compose only by night, especially when I was still smoking Cannabis, but ever since I stopped few years ago I’m enjoying more producing and mixing with fresh ears during the day.
10. Shine a little light on your process of making a track. Do you start in a particular way and is there a structure or scheme to how you are making a track? Not really. Again my workflow is not really set in stone. Depending on my mood I can start by writing pads and melodies, or directly drums and kick bass. As for the structure it’s only driven by this same mood. I write songs like I’d write books, with some form of chapters and not really in a ABAB form, even though I respect the “format” of songs, intro / outro, time signature and so on.
11. Who are your favorite producer(s) and/or personalities of the industry? For electronic music in general I love stuff like Aphex Twin, Koan Sound, Culprate, Mr. Bill, Deadmau5, Biome, Bodzin … In our scene, as producers and human beings I often had to chance to be friends with it’d be artists like Solar Fields, Globular, Bwoy De Bhajan, Ajja, Grouch, Eurythmy, Mark Day, you and so much more … Really I’d love to name all the amazing producers and friends I’ve met or heard these past years but it would take ages ! I can’t decide on favorites.
12. I’m interested in your opinion on the topic of: artists getting professional help to organize or to further their career, with the intention to focus purely on being creative instead of dealing with bookings or book keeping or things like that. I think many artists dream of that in our scene, and it happens in many scenes that are less “amateur” than ours. I personally work with professionals when I have the chance (and the budget) and will do it again. I’m also actively trying to find such an agency that would help me get bookings generally (not only in the Psytrance scene) and not one that would rely on my “fame” to just handle paperwork. Having to handle all these professional questions often was a huge burden on me and sometimes almost made me want to quit being a professional musician as I started to think more about “how to monetize what I was doing even if it means going somewhere I don’t like” rather than purely enjoying producing music. That was the worse feeling ever, to start my DAW by obligation. Also having to deal with manipulative promoters making you feel like the bad guy if you didn’t accept to undersell yourself. I’m currently working with people who are helping with legal paperworks and gig bills and it’s been awesome, the next thing would be to find people to help share my music to the “proper ears”, would it be for gigs or even movie and games scoring.
13. Do you have a few words of advice for people who are about to gain momentum and are about to come up in this scene or the music industry in general? Stay true to yourself and honest. Don’t fall into the “fame trap”. Do not expect anything from the scene, the organizers or the crowd. Do not expect anything at all. Whether you want to drown in your passion or not is up to you and your decisions should be yours only.
14. Do you ever experience times in which inspiration and motivation are not there? How do you overcome those times? Frequently. Everyday sometimes. I don’t overcome it, I just go do something else I enjoy until I feel like I want to do music. If I’m not sure, I’ll just open a project and see how I feel. If I’m not motivated, I won’t force it.
15. It’s no secret that you like gaming. Does gaming offer a source of musical inspiration for you? More than anything else in the world.
16. After making Chill and Psytrance as Nibana, why and how did you come up with the urge to create your latest project Amortalist? I just felt like trying a new genre and mixing everything I was doing before that. I could have released it under Nibana but the new name was a carefully thought decision upon releasing my album with Zenon, and trying to not confuse the fans of Nibana with yet another style on my music pages ahah.
17. In your own words, what is the Amortalist project about in terms of music and intent? Did you set out to make exactly the album which you created (Within The Singularity) or was is more an experiment that turned out that way? It was an experiment at first, I wasn’t even planning to do an album until my friends from Zenon Records told me to send the demos I showed them to Sensient (founder and head of Zenon Records), who loved it and accepted to release them in the form of an album. Then it became something I wanted to “perfect”. Amortalist is basically embodying all the genres I’ve been producing so far, in a more accessible way. It has bass music leads and drums, downtempo melodies, psytrance kick and bass, techno fxs … all of that evolving in a dystopian and digital universe of my liking, inspired by science, books and games. It’s a much more mature and curated project than everything I’ve been doing I think.
18. Where in the world have you been so far with your music projects up until 2019? Which place did you enjoy the most? I had the chance to perform on every continent and in many countries, but my favorite place has been Canada. I completely fell in love with the country and its people, so much that I’d love to move there in the future.
19. In your opinion, what makes a great gig or a worst gig? For me great gigs are gigs that are technically tight. Where I know I’ll be grabbed on time at the airport, I’ll have a good place to rest, I’ll have no problems with technical stuff, won’t fear for the security of my stuff. No matter if the crowd is small or big, no matter where it is, would it be in a bar or a fancy club. I like when everything is right on schedule and I only have to concentrate on delivering the best music I can, not panicking over missing stuff, sleeping in the middle of an after-party or being left alone in the wild. Even for the crowd, when everything is well organized it’s a lot easier to just enjoy the party and let go, not fearing for your stuff, your health and so on. Worst gig are the opposite of that. Gigs where us artists are but popular meat bags to bring people in, every organizer is high out of its mind, all is going to shit before and after you play, and the crowd is packed into places with violent security and a fucked up organization that treat them like cattle.
20. Looking back at how you got here, do you have one piece of advice for young Kevin from 10-15 years ago, aspiring to become an international music artist? It’s interesting because I’ve never aspired to become an international music artist. It just happened ahah. Otherwise I’d say something like : “Hey Kevin, I hope you like being frustrated and overwhelmed by doubt. Living off of music is as harsh as its an epic journey.” Be careful about your health, your friends, and be careful about people who’ll want to use you and falsely offers you the world on a plate. Many people end up accepting being manipulated and falling into the “pop” game and it makes life much more easier for them until everything fucks up, is that really what you’ll like ? The rest is up to you. Ask yourself what you want and for how long. But do not shy away from the journey, it’s unique.
21. What do you think was your main struggle when you were starting out making music? Finishing tracks because I was smoking too much weed. Productivity has never been a problem, but finishing stuff was quite tough until I learned to let go of things (and also stopped smoking). Also believing great technique = great music. And blindly following pseudo-mandatory advices from people. (cut everything below 50hz, always use compression here, always EQ there).
22. Do you have any advice for producers/live acts who are starting to get notoriety and starting to make waves in their scene? Do not accept everything that is asked of you. You should not be ashamed to refuse gigs from people who do emotional blackmail. Stay true to yourself (again). Take care of your health. When people start to play more and more in amateur conditions it’s easy to get fucked up in the long run.
23. What are you most proud of ? I’m still here somehow.
24. Do you have anything lined up for us to keep an eye out? TONS
Zenon Records Bandcamp (every release available at 16bit and 24bit)
Until next time.
Author: Robert Hundt // Date: December 4th, 2019