Henry Johnstone, Sydney - Australia - on 16/3/12
Aril Brikha is an Iranian-born Swede who makes techno but doesn't listen to techno, loves food but isn't keen on fine dining, tours the world playing live but spends much of his time alone. Contradictive? Nope, just interesting. The producer is currently on tour in Australia and Henry Johnstone caught up with him for a little chat ahead of his set at Sydney's One22 Club, covering the tour so far, his thoughts on playing live and his musical and culinary tastes.
Pulse: Whereabouts in Australia are you right now? Aril Brikha: I’m in Melbourne right now enjoying the lovely weather outside, just chillin’ and waiting for friends.
You’ve been to Australia before, right? Yes I have. This is the fourth visit.
You’ve got quite a bit of time off between gigs on this tour. What are you going to get up to? Any plans? Not too much to be honest, I don’t have many plans. I’ve got a bit of work to do – there was an unexpected remix I did of this indie-pop group from Sweden called Sailor & I, which I got some nice feedback on. We’re planning on releasing it on my label, so I’ll probably co-ordinate the artwork and everything else from here. But, y’know, the usual; some emailing and then heading out in the sun hopefully.
Does being on tour give you inspiration to write music at all? Yeah, travelling in general gives me inspiration. It’s always nice to see different places around the world and eat different kinds of food, hang out with friends and meet new people – it’s always inspiring. But I’m probably going to stay away from sitting inside and working when it’s so nice outside! You have to remember I’ve just spent 6 months in Europe with a proper winter. When I left Sweden it was like -5C, so coming out here I’m not going to sit in the studio all day long!
How did your gigs in Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra go? Good! I mean it’s difficult coming so seldom – the last time coming to Australia was four years ago. This time in Brisbane was my second time but Canberra was my first, so not knowing the city, or the crowd, or knowing what to play and those kinds of things, it makes it a bit difficult. I enjoyed it, the people that came out were very nice and supportive, and I’m really looking forward to Sydney as well.
You ditched the hardware set up for playing live and are using a digital set up now. You’ve said before, as the saying goes, that it’s ‘not what you have, but how you use it’. How do you use your setup now when playing live? Basically it’s all based around Abelton Live, but I’m using it the same way that I did with my hardware, which means that everything is separated; kick-drum, high-hats, percussion, snare, basslines, a couple of audio tracks for chords and melodies and also two midi-channels for VSTs and synths that I’m using live. I don't like to record those, because I’m used to using the filter live and manipulating it while I’m playing the track, rather than just playing back everything as it was recorded. Obviously it looks less on stage, but equally as much work goes into this setup. As I said, nothing is prepared; I have no arrangements, no intro or outro of the track – everything is launched instantly, muted, tweaked, equalised…everything is done live. If I don’t touch the controllers or the computer, nothing happens. It will basically just be a loop going round and round. It’s all improvised. I can play whichever track I want in whatever order I want for how long I want. I can play tracks without a kick-drum for fifteen minutes to piss people off if I want, or the other way round, just playing a kick-drum for fifteen minutes!
So is it kind of a myth then, that people with a whole lot of hardware to play live are actually doing more than someone with a laptop? Well between you and me and whoever’s listening to us, I do see a lot of live sets that are being done – and it doesn’t matter if it’s laptop or hardware based – where everything is prepared already. For me, I feel like I’m cheating if I have everything prepared. I’ve seen a lot of sets with hardware where they just basically just press play on the MPC or sequencer and maybe tweak a couple of knobs. For me a live set isn’t any more live because its hardware on stage, it’s how much of the live element you put into it.
Ableton Live is such a liberation for people who had hardware before or for people who can’t afford hardware to actually be able to play live. I think it’s a shame to see people – as Paul Kalkbrenner said – use ‘Ableton sausages’, which is basically audio files linked together like sausages. To even see a guy like him doing 25,000 people shows and he doesn’t do the Abelton sausages, it’s all live. I’ll leave it up to people to decide to play however they want to play, but it’s a shame dragging 50kg of equipment with you to just press play.
What was the idea behind the re-release of Departure in Time? Was it your idea, or the label’s or…? Well the label is mine and the idea of doing a re-release started around ‘07/’08, to do a 10 year anniversary for Groove La Chord itself, just the track and some remixes. But then I had this little incident with another Israeli colleague that turned into this online thing that got a little out of proportion, and that put me off wanting to do something surrounding that track at that time, because I didn’t want people to think that whatever my response was in what I wrote during that incident would be some kind of attempt at promotion. So I just left it and then two years later around 2010 it had been 10 years since Departure In Time was released, so I figured what would be better than doing a 10 year anniversary to kick off the label I’ve had in mind for 15 years.
You’ve been known to only write music when you’re inspired, which can sometimes mean lengthy gaps between releases. What are you doing in those periods in-between making music? Eating food, cooking food, searching for food, watching food programs, you get the idea! But you know I spend a lot of time alone unfortunately because friends have daytime jobs and I don’t have a daytime job, so basically Monday to Friday I’m waking up alone, going for walks, having a coffee and then by the time the weekend comes and people are having some time off I’m away playing. I can’t wake up at 9am in the morning, have some breakfast and start making techno; I have to do something else. I have a lot of friends who have the discipline to have it as a daytime job but I can’t do it – I think I hardly ever manage to produce anything before nine in the evening or even midnight!
You sound like a bit of a foodie. Where in Australia has been tickling your tastebuds? I haven’t had much of a chance to explore in Brisbane and Melbourne actually, but I do like the Australian style of fusion food. We have some Asian food in Sweden, but we definitely don’t have proper Chinese, Vietnamese or Malay food that you have here. Usually in Europe if you can’t make proper Thai food then you just call it fusion and it’s just crappy Thai or crappy Japanese, whereas here it’s experimental and well executed. I’m going to be staying in Sydney for three or four days though so any tips for food is welcome.
We might have to put you in touch with Dubfire who’s on tour here at the moment. He’s a massive foodie apparently. Haha yes that’s true! I got the impression he’s more into fancy food and high-end restaurants! I like where the locals go. Just take me to the dirtiest Chinese place where the actual Chinese eat, that’s probably where you’ll find me. It would be nice to try something fancy, but I’m over that whole thing. I tried many Michelin star restaurants and I don’t feel it’s the same kind of experience than when I’m trying something really simple. I like my food how I like my music, not over-produced or overly fancy. Less is more.
Well it sounds like you need to go to Chinatown when you’re in Sydney. Yeah that sounds like where I’m going to spend my time eating my dumplings.
What kind of music do you like to listen to whilst on tour that’s not electronic music? Well I don’t listen to much electronic music anyway. I fell in love with Radiohead slowly ten years ago – I managed to do one album after another, which has been really interesting for me because I hated Radiohead and all that kind of music in the 90s. Other than that I prefer listening to Brian Eno, Harold Bud, soundtracks of movies, a bit of classical and jazz – Chopin, Miles Davis, Chet Baker. But don’t ask me about techno! I was going through my iTunes the other day and the only techno related thing I had was Robag Wruhme’s podcast for Resident Advisor which was called ‘Goodnight’, which has no techno at all! It’s all strings and classical music, really lush.
Yeah I heard that one, it was great. Without exaggeration I’ve probably played it about a hundred times because it’s always on repeat when I’m flying or traveling. Beats In Space actually, the podcast from Tim Sweeney – not that it’s always non electronic – but they do span a broad spectrum of music and I do like anything between italo disco and rockfish stuff, as long as it’s not minimal techno…whatever that is. I’ve also got a good selection of 80s music too that would probably scare a lot of people! I like good music, period.
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