It’s easy to fall in love with the works of Sebastian Mullaert. There’s something about his organic and easy going approach to collaborative works, plus the emphatic and evolving landscapes that emanate from his studio, that lend themselves to an enthralling and captivating experience.
Having recently guested on R&S offshoot Apollo, a home for more esoteric electronic wares than its raw and upfront parent, the label and the artist decided to pull back the curtain on the creative process behind the final release. What this transpires to is a hidden archive of alternative takes and warm ups, about as far from a laborious mouse click exercise in front of a DAW as you can get.
While we also took this as a chance to quickly catch up with Sebastian, you’ll find a few examples of the tracks woven through the piece below. Take the chance to dip in and have a look, and make sure you swing by the terrific ‘All The Keys Are Here‘ official release afterwards.
Interview by Simon Whight
"My greatest tool is to walk in the forest and meditate, something I try to do every day. After doing this I feel that things happen much more natural and organic in the studio."
When we spoke back in 2014, we talked a lot about your approach to collaboration and the inspiration that travelling and meeting people brings to your work. What we didn’t touch upon was your actual creative process. How do approach making a piece of music – do you wake up and think “I am going to do X today” or does something happen more organically that gets you in the studio?
My creative process isn’t linear and isn’t the same all the time; creativity and life is alive in an endless amount of ways. Maybe one could call it the essence of the change of life. When this change of life is allowed, then creativity begins, and when this happens we are truly alive.
Every day is different. Different phases come and go in life, and sometimes even during short time-spans such as a day. I try to stay aware and open to these moments, and let them form my creative process.
Sometimes I long for strict borders and a clear to-do list, other days I want to wonder without a quest or mission. To make this possible, my greatest tool is to walk in the forest and meditate, something I try to do every day. After doing this I feel that things happen much more natural and organic in the studio.
Do you find yourself going through set routines, gravitating to certain pieces of equipment, or familiar track structures to warm up?
Walk in the forest, meditate, then I start hanging out with the sounds and grooves in the studio. I often feel like the soundscape I’m working on is like a piece of clay, taking different forms in my awareness.
"I base my improvisations on different sketches, all consisting of 12 different sounds or short sounds loops. These sketches can then be arranged and performed in different ways."
Can you talk us through the variations on the pieces, the Wa We Wu takes and ‘Wings Of Remembrance’ from your latest EP on Apollo? What sort of things were going on in the studio as you were working on the tracks. Were they excerpts of a grand piece, or you pausing to have multiple takes on a theme?
In my live set I base my improvisations on different sketches, all consisting of 12 different sounds or short sounds loops. These sketches can then be arranged and performed in different ways, as each of the 12 sounds creating the sketch are routed to individual channels on an analogue mixing desk. On top of the sound from the sketches I add sounds from synths and drum machines, all improvised and played live on the fly.
You’ve just started touring with a live show – and I see you recently played Freerotation – is what you do live pretty similar as to what you’d be doing at home in your studio?
Oh yes, what a wonderful festival! Coming to places like Freerotation is so inspiring and I’m very thankful that I was invited to play there.
My live rig and my studio have similarities as I have a very improvisational approach both in the studio and on stage, but there are also a great amount of differences. In the studio I start from nothing and build up something during several of days. I play with the sounds, melodies, rhythms until I’m really familiar with them and then I start to record different takes. Often I do quite a few as one palette of sounds can be jammed in so many different ways and expressions.
What sort of equipment do you use to jam out a session like on these outtakes?
The takes of ‘Visitor’s Path’ where made in my studio: Ableton Live, TOFT audio 32 channel desk, 808, 303, 101, Juno 60, mfb522, plus some samples triggered from a sampler, all run through a lot of outboard gear.
With your multiple takes going unreleased, how much archive and hidden material would you say you have hidden away?
Hehe … there are quite a lot.
Finally, you recently had FACT in your studio for their 10 minute challenge. Considering some of your tracks alone happily eclipse that as a duration, how did you find this uniquely pressured environment?
I really took that challenge literally, jam a song from nothing in 10 minutes. I had nothing in Ableton and recorded all sounds and patterns on the fly. Normally I spend a few days to find the right balance and flow in the sounds so this was of course a huge change for me. I was a bit nervous as I basically had one chance to do it. But it was fun and I think something interesting came out from the session even though it was very raw and chaotic.
1. Every Moment, I Am
2. Earth Blossom
3. Visitor’s Path
4. Wings Of Remembrance