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Interview: Julien Dyne Talks About His New Album 'Teal'

Interview: Julien Dyne Talks About His New Album 'Teal'

Chris Cudby / Thursday 15th November, 2018 2:44PM

Auckland-based multi-instrumentalist Julien Dyne wears many creative hats. As a solo artist he's just released his kaleidoscopic new album Teal to significant international acclaim, performs live as one half of of Two Farben with Jonathan Crayford (a sub-group of New Farben), mans the drums for Ladi6 as well as Tom Scott's new project Avantdale Bowling Club, is a much in-demand session percussionist, and even maintains an active visual art practice as a painter. Dyne's fourth solo collection Teal was five years in the making, the beat-driven electronic odyssey sees the former Open Souls member serving up a carefully crafted selection of mutant dance tracks, featuring guest vocals from Ladi6, Mara TK and Toby Laing.

Julien Dyne is celebrating Teal's release on double vinyl with Two Farben at a special launch party with DJ Frank Booker and guests this Saturday at Auckland's Anthology Lounge (starting after David Byrne's show finishes), is playing at 95bFM's free Drive Island event on Friday alongside MeloDownz, and performing with Avantdale Bowling Club for the final leg of their debut national tour this month. He's also channeling his multi-varied skills for this year's Wondergarden New Years Eve festival at Auckland's Silo Park - DJing solo and performing live with Ladi6 and Avantdale Bowling Club. Chris Cudby tracked down the hard-working artist earlier this week for a chat about his superb new record and more...

I read that with Teal, you were thinking about making music that you'd want to DJ with?

Totally yeah. In the past, like with previous albums, I was playing more hip hop and beat music that was slower tempo, and I kind of made music that slotted in there. In the last five to ten years it's been more about African music and disco and house and Brazilian music, and that's a lot more uptempo. I was trying to make stuff that would fit in, but not necessarily be derivative. I don't think I could do a pastiche of a vintage style very well, it's always this sort of bastardised, amalgam thing, which in some ways I think is better.

Teal sounds quite coherent but also vast in scope - was it recorded basically by yourself over five years?

It's just done at home, just [in the] spare bedroom in the house. Pretty minimal setup and quite a few limitations. Not too many microphones, a sort of failing computer, a basic SP404 sampler, a few synthesisers and quite a few people guested and came over and contributed, or sent me stuff via the internet. John Bell the vibraphone player, he was living in Korea for a good part of the record. He didn't have a computer or sound card he'd just record stuff on his phone and he'd sometimes prepare the vibraphone, like he'd put tinfoil and stuff on it to make it sound altered, like a prepared piano but a prepared vibraphone. I quite like that kind of stuff, sort of lo-fi home recordings and then proper session-y stuff. It's a multitude of things.

You've got some tracks on Teal with guest vocalists - 'What You Say' with Mara TK, 'Hours' with Ladi6 and 'Hot Shoe' with Toby Laing. Did you have any conversations with them about lyrical content, with those songs?

Not at all no. The one with Mara TK was the only one where I was in the room. We were actually working on another track that day and that was another song we started messing with late in the piece. He came up with that quite quickly, the theme or content of that wasn't discussed, it was more going for a feeling. With the song with Ladi6, she recorded it as a demo and sent it to me. I first heard what she was talking about when she sent it to me. The lyrics for that, it's pretty apparent it's about her cousin who was a friend of ours who passed away. It's quite heavy in a way but it's also celebratory. The song with Toby Laing, he told me his theory about the track. He based it on this dying breed of commercial photographer, that was always relying on going to these big extravagant lunches, on the client. Maybe the heyday, the nineties or something.

Recording over a reasonable amount of time, I was wondering how the album came together, and if there was a bunch of material that didn't make the cut, or didn't fit into the jigsaw of Teal?

In terms of what's left on the cutting room floor, it's mostly the slower tempo tunes. I had songs that were probably closer to hip hop tempo, but it wasn't really doing it for me so I definitely made a call. Part of the cohesion is the tempo is all relatively up - dance floor, house, disco tempo-y for the most part. In terms of other cohesive factors, I made a conscious effort to record drums on all the tracks pretty much, less programmed and produced drums and a lot more of the same drum set and the same room. There's similar ingredients that are featured throughout, the limitations are part of the sonic signature, if you will.

Like a similar sonic palette all the way through?

Totally yeah. Often it has samples or found source samples [as the] starting point, and that informs the flavour of where the music's going. That will dictate harmonically where I'm at. I tend to pick keys that resonate with me for whatever reasons there's a few things that keep cropping up, harmonic areas really. It's a little bit like collage, using some source material to start the work off and then you're filling in the blanks with instruments. It's not really like writing songs per say, it's more like constructing music somehow.

I know you could get a live band together and it would be - awesome, one take, straight away. Through doing this collage approach, is that more engaging with the digital recording process?

I'm sort of a slave to my limitations in that regard. I am active as a band member and live musician too, but for some reason the way I construct music it's like this bastardised thing, it's all caught up in the process, a hangover from the whole beat-making thing maybe? Often I'll be making rhythms, using the live aspect of my talent as a musician, my propensity towards playing the drums on things, and then I'll just build the music on top from there.

In a way it's like different hats, to record a live band in one take would be more aligned with my thinking in terms of jazz music or improvised music, and this album process is more like making dance tracks. Even though it utilised a lot of live drumming and live instrumentation, the end goal is to make tracks that have a purpose, for DJs or the dance floor.

How do you reckon your painting practice relates to your recorded work?

On a purely practical level, I get quite frustrated with computers and technology. The tactility and the immediacy of painting is really exciting to me. I chop and change between the two things to keen it fresh. I guess painting's more aligned to drumming in a way, something about the rhythms and the immediacy and the fluidity of it. The things are interrelated but they're also quite different, if that's not too much of an oxymoron. You utilise similar tools in terms of editing, addition and subtraction. Often I'll throw everything against a track and then I'll work backwards and be reductive. Painting works like that too sometimes for me, where the editing process is almost as important as the creation of the images, the marks or the notes. Being analytical based on other factors like aesthetics, I think being a visual artist teaches you to think in a different way to other musicians.

You're playing in Two Farben at this Saturday's Teal release party - what's Two Farben, and how are you approaching playing this material live?

Two Farben is a condensed version of a larger group we have called New Farben, that also comprises of another drummer Chris O'Connor, Parks and Jonathan Crayford. It just happens that those two guys seem to be busy all the time so we've been doing gigs as a duo, just me and Jonathan. Essentially it's just a vehicle for these live techno kind of jams, but they're all born of tunes from this record. It's kind of like playing along to the sampler, which is pretty pre-ordained, and then we'll switch out of that into a jam sort of based on it. Maybe a programmed kick and a clap, and Jonathan will make up a new keyboard line but in the same harmonic region and I'll play drums over the top and it gets to a super hype, live dance music thing... the drumming's quite high energy, wild and Jonathan's kind of a maniac genius on the keyboards.

What've you got planned for the Wondergarden festival on New Years Eve?

The plan is I'm going to DJ in the afternoon and then play with Ladi6 and Avantdale Bowling Club. A bit of a trifecta, it looks like a cool festival.

'Teal' is out now on 12" double vinyl LP via Soundway and Wonderful Noise.


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Avantdale Bowling Club
Thu 22nd Nov 8:00pm
Mercury Theatre, Auckland
Avantdale Bowling Club
Fri 23rd Nov 8:00pm
Totara St., Tauranga
Avantdale Bowling Club
Sat 24th Nov 8:00pm
The Cabana, Napier
Wondergarden 2018
Mon 31st Dec 3:00pm
Silo Park, Auckland