Interview by Morgan Richards on 24/5/12
German electronic maestro Rajko Mueller, AKA Isolee, is on his way to Australia to play at the Opera House for Future Classic's party as part of the annual Vivid LIVE festival. Ahead of his much anticipated live set, Pulse's Morgan Richards caught up with the acclaimed producer of revered tracks like Beau Mot Plage and albums such as Rest to chat about all things Isolee.
Pulse: The word "isolé" means or isolated or insulated in French. How does this relate to the sort of music you make? Isolee: Honestly, I did not really want to put the meaning of the word forward in the first place. You have to see that I chose this name in Germany where it was more about how the word sounds, and also the way it is written. Grammatically, it's in the female... um, how do you say...
The feminine form? I wondered about that. Yeah, feminine. I did not really want people to put it in relation to me or my private life. I was more thinking that it's a nice and interesting word and everyone has some association to the meaning. I don't want it to be seen as some kind of autobiographical description or whatever. It's just a name, I think. If I had lived in France, I wouldn't have chosen that name. It would have too much importance.
You lived in Algeria for five years when you were a kid. What was that like? How has it influenced you in what you do today? It was a very important part growing up for me. I learnt to speak French over there. I was at a French school, a private school. It was quite privileged. And in the beginning, I did not speak one word. I really had to learn from scratch to communicate with all the other children at this time. There is also the experience of being a foreigner in another country, and being in another culture. But I think in general, it's very difficult for me to say what would be different for me if I hadn't grown up there. It's part of my history.
Perhaps that experience influenced the name Isolée in some way, is that possible? Maybe, I don't know. It's a way of playing a little bit with this French influence. Especially on my first album, I was making a lot of references at this time. Beau Mot Plage is named after a beach in Algeria, it's just written in another way. But I'm aware that no-one around me knows about that, so it's also a source of names and ideas that I can use and makes sense to me.
Your latest album is called Well Spent Youth. I have to ask -- is that a reference to the Joan Jett album Misspent Youth? I think it's called something like that. No. I don't know that album.
Is there some other story behind the title? I mean, you started making music at an early age, is that something -- No, not really. I don't want to tell stories with titles. I don't want to give explanations, and titles are not going to explain the music. It's more about creating some tension or mystery. There are different meanings involved. You have this track, and you have a title for it; how does it appear to other people? It's a bit of a game. Also, I always like it not to be really obvious. Well Spent Youth; it sounds like a slogan, maybe. But in the end, I think the interpretation of all this is more the journalist's job than my job! [laughs]
Hey, I'm trying! Let's move on. Looking at the three albums you've put out, there's at least a five-year gap between each one. Does this mean we're going to have to wait until 2016 for your next album? I wish not! But sometimes, when I see the rate that I'm producing at, it looks like yes... I can't really say. Of course there's always a lot of other stuff happening, different stuff.
You mean projects outside of music? No, I'm mainly doing music. But for example, when I finished Rest, I moved from Frankfurt to Hamburg. This was kind of a new step in my life -- moving to another city and getting my studio ready. And sometimes you have a year when you are not very productive, because of changes in your private life or whatever. In 2007, for example, I had a sports accident where I broke my ankle and was out of making music for a while. Also, for me it takes a lot of time to see which direction the new album is going to take. I'm experimenting with different things. A lot of the time when I make music, I throw it away because I'm not satisfied with it.
You're a perfectionist, then. I don't know what it actually means, protectionist.
No, no -- I said "perfectionist"! Ah, OK! Yeah, yeah, maybe sometimes you can try too hard. I don't know if it's a good idea to try to make perfect music. I don't know if this is possible. If the music works very well in one situation then I think you've done a good job.
Your music is quite organic sounding. On tracks like My Hi-Matic or Schrapnell, for instance, you've captured this really rich, warm guitar tone yet somehow turned it into something unexpected and different. How do you bring these elements into dance music? Most of the sounds I record myself. Then I look at what I can use in a track and process them. I have a lot of gear in my studio, so that can take a while. Especially on We Are Monster, it was a little bit in my aim to make something that sounds more like recordings than generated sounds. In the end, it's trial and error. You try a lot of ways and take which works best. I'm not going after some sort of concept. I'm just making things and seeing what comes out. That's usually how I work.
What else do you have on the cards for this year? I'm not going to ask about a new album, so soon... but otherwise, what are your plans? I was touring for most of last year, and I felt that it was time to stop and focus on working on my studio. So earlier this year I spent quite a bit of time building my studio here at home. I'm still getting used to it. Either it doesn't sound how I want it, or I just have to learn it... Actually this year my plan is to spend more time in the studio and put out some new productions.
So we might not have to wait another five years for the next Isolée album? I hope not. [Laughs.] I'm trying my best to be quicker!
start selling tickets with ease
start sharing your music for free