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Interview
Gotye

Gotye

date
Thursday 3rd November, 2011 9:49AM

Gotye has been quietly honing his eclectic craft over three studio albums, gaining critical acclaim along the way. A collaboration with Kimbra, complete with exceptional video clip, earlier this year saw his transition from indie artist to bonafide pop star, as his headline slot at Laneway Festival 2012 re-enforces. We caught up with Gotye, AKA Wouter de Backer to discuss the new album, the Kimbra connection, and whether all this attention has changed his approach to his craft.

Tell me about the new album, Making Mirrors.

I did it on my folk's block of land in Victoria and I sampled it from all over the shop. I sampled noises from the outback of Queensland, and electronic organ that my folks found for me in a second hand store and an autoharp and a piano and other stuff like that. Between that and some old records I’ve collected in op shops I’ve pieced it together over a couple of years.

And you set up the studio by yourself?

Yeah, it’s just my collection of recording gear, just somewhere to store everything I’ve collected over the years and not having to move stuff around every couple of hours trying to make room for something else.

It must be nice, to have a room that you understand the sound of?

Yeah it is, although unfortunately I know that the room sounds not very good which is something that I’ve had to work around on the album.

When you were collecting the samples did you know what what you wanted the end product to sound like?

I kind of had an idea for every song rather than as an overall album. I didn’t set out with an overall concept or sound but I did start out thinking that maybe I could make a record that went more in the direction of the track ‘Eyes Wide Open’ which is esoteric and more out of tempo and vaguely eighties in its production aesthetic. But I get bored really quickly and go in a lot of different directions in regards to production and everything, and want to explore all of them and work out which ones fit a certain story, so the line of the record comes together right at the very end.

Tell me what the songwriting process is like for you?

The starting point is often a sound, so whether it’s a bed for the record or a certain catch on that Cotillion Organ it’s some sort of sound that affects me for whatever reason, and prompts some sort of loop or groove and from there. That’s the kind of lily pad from which I jump into a song.

I was just reading an interview and in it you mentioned that your dad made the cover art? It seems to fit the theme really well.

Yeah the artwork for the album is a piece of my dads I found forgotten among some old pieces of papers and bills and things. i did find it inspiring but also that came along quite late in the piece. With a bit of tweaking in photoshop I made it fit with the album, and it prompted the album title too.

I wanted to look for a piece that aesthetically fitted with the music that we were making and making the look of that artwork prompt some words and hopefully those words have a secondary meaning that relate to pieces of the music on the album and that’s what kind of happened with this album. It's this kaleidoscopic piece of glass that kind of gives you lots of different angles and reflections and view on things and it works as the idea of mirrors and how it related to different songs are various reflections of my head space over the last few years, or how I was looking at the world. I think it’s kind of a poignant combination of art and music that works on the record.

You've had a very successful single from the album. Tell me a little bit about the Kimbra collaboration.

Yeah there’s a new single called “Somebody That I Used to Know” that features Kimbra in a very pivotal role on that track. I was looking for a while for vocalist to make that song work and Kimbra was the final piece in the puzzle. We met four or five years ago - not too long after she moved to Melbourne - and we were seeing each other around the studio. We tried some demos and it had a spark to it and brought the song together in the end.

How do you see the latest record as a progression from your earlier stuff?

I was definitely trying to do some different things song by song. I think if anything it’s a refinement of my process and it’s not a huge break from the things I’ve done before, but maybe it’s been quite a few years since my last record and six or seven since my first so I guess my tastes and perspectives have changed, as well as my attraction to different sounds. I've been in different places as a person over the last few years and as a songwriter than on previous records. It’s not some kind of massive left turn, the differences and variations are in the detail rather than in one sweeping arc.

You've been a solo artist for a long time, but before that you were in bands. Do you like being a solo artist?

Ah it just means I can explore whatever takes my fancy at whatever time and seek assistance as and where I require it. There isn’t as much personal relationship as a band and when things work as a band is when you can combine your areas of talent and become that much more than the sum of your parts. It’s very different when you’re working by yourself because you know you have some good aspects but you don't have that alchemy because there’s no-one else around. At the same time it's also beneficial because you don’t have the more difficult frustrating side where you don’t get along with or you have to negotiate each others lives and interests for the kind of music you want to make. With a solo project you can go out on a whim and make the music that you want to make.

Tell me a little bit about your exploration of found sounds.

It’s not a real conscious decision, it’s something I’ve been interested in forever. When I was a teenager listening to pop music I was just as interested in what was happening in the arrangements and the sounds as I was interested in the way they make me feel. Certain synthesizers and things excited my imagination just as much as the songwriting and melodic chord aspect. I respond to sound instinctively.

You're releasing the album in a really interesting way, tell me about the festival you're part of.

Yeah I’m playing as part as Graphic Festival. I’ve been rehearsing for three months with a ten pieces band - it’s the first time I’ve played my stuff live without that much technological assistance. 90% of it is acoustic and things that are directed live so we’ve been finding the pockets for these ten guys to fit into the songs that make them sound complex and layered live. That’s all happening at the opera house with various animators that I’ve commissioned to do parts of each song. I think when a visual and song go together and create a third meaning you have a really special feeling that can totally excite the imagination.



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