We are immensely proud to offer this mix from Bill Youngman. His mix was recorded as a live hardware set, no records were used in the making. The setup is made up of an Elektron Maschinedrum, Monomachine, NI Maschine and a few outboard effects. All of the tracks within it are unreleased, with the exception of “HH3” and “Trilogy”, which he released earlier this year on Killekill.
Bill Youngman has been a soldier of the live electronic music scene since 1994. In the mid 90’s after numerous years of musical training, Youngman found his passion for drum computers and analog machines. His first output on Serotonin records in 1996 displayed his rendition of electronica, “Electrostep” is what he called it.
In 2001 Youngman moved from New York to Berlin to further his outlook on the experimental techno scene and develop collaborations. His move to Berlin has further progressed his musical career, he’s worked and collaborated with an array of artists such as Jamie Lidell, Neil Landstrumm, Cristian Vogel, and Tobias Schmidt. He has also composed numerous releases for various labels including DC Recordings, Null, Tresor, Serotonin, Scandinavia and all of his compositions are a result of being inspired by the times.
In 2011 Bill Youngman released ‘HH3’ and has been described as a direct reflection of Berlin’s techno heritage, harnessing a sound signature akin to Marcel Dettmann, unashamedly industrial and hard hitting in character.
Please can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us where you’re from and what it is that inspires you to create electronic music?
My name is Bill Youngman and I come from a dominantly human popularised civilisation, New York being one of those places. I can’t possible narrow down the core of my inspiration. I’m constantly inspired by life and human activity to create my art.
Can you please explain the mix you have recorded, your selection of tracks and the overall atmosphere you have created?
Its a direct reflection of how I’ve been feeling this past year. Similar to the sets I’ve done at the Killekill night and recent Krake Festival here in Berlin. All of the tracks, with an exception to “HH3” and “Trilogy” are unreleased excerpts. Some more developed than others but none the less a true live set and a display of my current sound. Due to the enormous stress of life that I’m surrounded with at the moment I was only able to do one take. No edits or audible trickery. Enjoy the brush strokes on this canvas.
At home did you grow up with music or was it something that developed later on?
I’ve always been surrounding by music, whether it be my fathers reel to reel Jazz collection or the sound of my mothers Baroque records.
My dad played Jazz drums for years and both parents sculpted and painted. I grew up with an empty canvas that slowly evolved into a Jackson Pollock over the years, always with a full palette of colours at my disposal.
What three things have inspired you the most in life?
Abstract Expressionism, Kinetic energy, my parents. I find three things to be very limiting though. If I’m allowed to add more I would say that the simplest movement of the human hand as much as the contour of the side of an empty brick building has deeply inspired me. I see the beauty in objects, people, food, absorbing existence in general.
You come from a background of playing the guitar and drums. How far did you get with pursuing a formal musical career with these instruments? – Did you have a band?
I was obsessed with the guitar for many years, practicing 8 hours a day compulsively during my high school years. Antisocial to say the least. I went through jazz, classical, metal and lastly hardcore. I played in many bands but got fed up with the lack of discipline and focus us young people had back then. We used to play at a youth center on Sunday eves and after our shows they left the “club” open for the techno crowd. I stuck around and instantly fell in love with the overall sound of electronic music. I scraped the small amount of money I had together for my first sampler and watched my guitar collect dust.
When did you start to experiment and record electronic music, what equipment were you using back then to produce sound?
I bought and sold equipment constantly back then. Me and my friends would trade and I loved having a new toy to discover/explore even for short periods of time. I quickly found my way into the old Roland collection and shortly after became obsessed with analog synths/drum machines. I went a predominantly art/music university and we had an analog room that some would dream of these days. Arps, Electrocomps, Oberheim, you name it.
In 1996 and ‘97 you released two EP’s on Serotonin Records named ‘Electrostep’. – What factors helped coin the name and how did you get involved with Serotonin in the first place?
I ran into John Selway (founder of Serotonin) by accident at my university(SUNY Purchase in New York). He previously went to school there and happened to be visiting a friend who convinced me to play him some of my cassette demos. He didn’t believe that I made the music myself so I had to explain the process shortly to back myself up. I was producing a mix of drum n bass style beats but instead of sampled breaks, I created my own from analog devices and resampled/rechopped up the break in the same manner of the Amen. In the era of Jungle Techstep and Hardstep me and John came to the conclusion that Electrostep would be a suitable name for the “genre”.
What factors influenced you to move to Berlin? – What was your initial experience with integrating into the city; did you ever have the feeling that it was the wrong idea?
I didn’t move to Berlin on purpose. I got an email in the summer of 2001 from a girl named Cora S.(then resident at Ostgut, former Berghain) and she offered me a small German tour. I was ecstatic as I knew a bit about the central European scene. I landed in Berlin and fell in love with the city in the first 24 hours. There was no reason to go back to New York. I found a true home where I was respected for my music without compromise. On top of that I could finally afford to eat more than the half bowl of rice in the morning and the other cold at night for dinner. I came to Berlin with an MPC, Virus synth, a bag of clothes and the shirt on my back. I felt free to create and still do. The culture here (although slowly getting gentrified) continues to fascinate me. I learned the language from day one and have integrated myself. Communication is priceless, not only through sound. Its been ten years so far.
Berlin is renowned as a creative hub for electronic music, was this the case when you moved there? Who were you hanging out with, going to parties with and creating music with back then?
When I first arrived I knew very few foreign musicians. I felt like I was one of the few expats living here. I believe Dan Bell(DBX) was the first I ran into. I spent a lot of time on my own the first couple years in Berlin, but I went out constantly and spent the daytime creating music by myself. It was all so exciting and new to explore the city and become aquatinted with strangers no matter what profession or interest they had. It took me a while to realize that people here on a whole were not judgmental in what I was used to coming from America. I met Jamie Lidell late night randomly on the streets of Kreuzberg and we instantly connected.
I spent about 5 years with him philosophizing and creating sound out of foreign objects. He is a big inspiration to me and has helped me loads to accomplish getting what was in my my brain on to tape.
You recently took over management at Serotonin Records, what challenges have you faced with this new venture and what is your creative vision for the label?
Serotonin has so much personal meaning to me as my first two records were born on the imprint. I asked John Selway if I could take over responsibility as he was going to shut the operation down a few years back. I just want to simply keep it going. At the moment I don’t have so much time to invest into the label but first and foremost we (my friend Frank Ellendt, Dj Bean) are slowly releasing the back catalogue as digital remasters on Clone.
What’s the Serotonin release schedule looking like? What artists and releases should we be looking out for?
I have been receiving a few very good demos from unknown artists and as soon as the back catalogue(20 releases) are back out then we can think about the new talent. My attitude with Serotonin is to the give the newcomers a chance the same as I was given. There are so many closet talents out there and its so hard to even get someone to listen to your music these days. Everyone deserves a chance no matter how big or small.
Artwork is a key supplement to a record, how do you go about selecting an artist/artwork for your releases?
I rarely fuss about artwork. 90% of my releases have been for friends or labels that I personally enjoy and I’ve rarely been in the position where I didn’t have a say in the art direction. I’m always too excited about the music and trust that the labels/creative directors who are equally as passionate as I am will create visual art that fit the energy of the compositions in question.
How did your relationship with Tresor develop? What is it about Tresor that makes the label and venue stand out as a unique entity?
I got booked to play at the old Tresor club my first year in Berlin and hit it off with all who ran the label and club. There are so many records on Tresor that influenced me in the years before I even came to Berlin. The club itself breathed techno history in my eyes and playing there always felt like an honour. The walls were covered in the sweat of so many techno heroes. In 2004 I played a show in Poznan Poland with long time friend Cristian Vogel and afterwords he forced me to go to Barcelona and perform my live set in his studio. His magical production and arrangement skills helped shape my first Tresor EP entitled “Born”.
Your recent release of Killekell ‘HH3’ was heralded for its Stark minimalism, and clanking machine like aesthetic. What’s your philosophy on sound design?
The Killekill HH3 release is at the moment and continues to be a high point in my creative efforts. Those two tracks define my struggle as an artist and in my eyes display all of the different aspects of production and emotion I have gathered in the last 15 years as a producer. I adore getting lost in soundscapes and pushing the boundaries of production. HH3 was an unconscious effort. The record simply arose from my machines in an effortless manner.
I’ve always been a purist when it comes to sound design and have never used prerecorded material from other artists or recordings in my compositions. I have to feel like I made and hand crafted the audio and texture. Hearing sounds in my head and executing them is the true satisfaction of creating electronic music.
How did you form your relationship with Nico, label boss of Killekell? What do you hope to achieve with Killekell and will we see more releases from you on the imprint?
Nico booked me in 2005 to play at the Raumklang Club here in Berlin and it wasn’t until a couple years ago that we got back in contact. We starting hanging out regularly and built up a friendship that revolved around music but I instantly realized that I met someone who not only has an incredible ear for music but has the same vision and outlook on life that I do. He has become a great friend in the past few years and is spending a lot of his time and energy into, to get me on the map and share my art with the public. He is just one of those guys who know what its all about. A brilliant mind and a great human being to say the least. He keeps me on my toes coming around every week to make sure I’m working. There is a second EP planned for March and an album in the works for the end of next year.
In production terms, what instruments are you using more and more in creating your tracks and what’s your opinion on analogue versus digital?
I used to be such an analogue only guy and have opened up in the past years to new technology. I feel its important to know your instruments and be able to get ideas out no matter what the medium is. There is nothing worse that being frustrated because the technology is holding you back from your ideas. I try to push the threshold of my music on a daily basis. The computer has become such a powerful tool but I almost always take a full track into the studio and replace digital drums with a real 808, soft synths with real ones.
When creating your music do you envisage a particular mood, atmosphere or environment in which the track should be played in?
It all depends. My thoughts tend to frequently wander into different sections of thought. I’m constantly inspired by existence and create as often as I can.
My current feelings play a huge role into the mood I will portray into a piece of work. I have never been able to sit down and say “today I will make a track that is like this”.
Where do you spend the majority of your time writing your music? Is your music reflective on the environment you are in?
I write as often as I can and with whatever mediums I have to hand. I cant always get to the studio. I leave gear lying around all over the house. If a em wave of inspiration strikes and have nothing to capture my idea with then I must deal with the insanity of losing an idea or humming it until I get my hands on an instrument or recorder to at least sing out the idea.
Are there any particular musicians, producers or labels that you think we should be looking out for?
There are simply too many good producers out there these days. It would be unfair to narrow it down to a few. On the other hand, I’ve always avoided wanting to know what the label is or who produced what when. I have the fear of being subconsciously influenced by what is popular.
Any words of wisdom you’d like to share?
Be honest to yourself and your life will be satisfying. I’ve been going through a heavy personal situation in the last few months and am finally getting back on my feet. Without true friends and family life is meaningless.
1. Bill Youngman – Corpus (Unreleased)
2. Bill Youngman – Newbie (Unreleased)
3. Bill Youngman – Tankwar (Edit)
4. Bill Youngman – Untitled (Unreleased)
5. Bill Youngman – C3 (Unreleased)
6. Bill Youngman – AW Electro (Unreleased)
7. Bill Youngman – Jagu (Extended Version/Unreleased)
8. Bill Youngman – HH3 (Edit) Killekill Records 2011
9. Bill Youngman – Untitled (Unreleased)
10. Bill Youngman – DWR (Unreleased)
11. Bill Youngman – Untitled (Unreleased)
12. Bill Youngman – Untitled (Unreleased)
13. Bill Youngman – Epik (Unreleased)
14. Bill Youngman – Trilogy (Edit) Killekill Records 2011