By Juliana Russell
Wayves, an incredibly talented ambient electronic music artist, took the time to speak with Juliana Russell from Black on the Canvas, over Skype across the world from Moscow to California. The phenomenally intelligent artist shared his thought-provoking ideas about dream collaborations, audience pressure, and a world without borders.
Thank you so much for doing this interview! What is your music about? How would you describe yourself and your music?
Wayves: I think it’s kind of a mixture of my life experience, my vision of things I meet in my life. It’s about simple things, like relationships, but then more global, general things like human beings, existence… I try to express myself, my feelings, my thoughts with music. The easiest way, the most common way, is to create atmospheric textures. It’s kind of a soundtrack for my life. So melody is not the most important thing.
Do you have any formal musical training? Or are you mostly self-taught?
Wayves: I started about ten years ago, with playing guitar, playing blues. So I had classes with a personal teacher for maybe two months. Then I wanted to play other things, and started to discover music myself. After maybe five years, I started to play different genres. Flamenco, Rock ’n’ Roll… Everything you can play with the guitar. Then I discovered electronic music, and… Everything changed!
What’s the first piece of music you ever wrote?
Wayves: Are you talking about electronic music, or…?
Anything! What inspired you to compose music for the very first time?
Wayves: When I started playing guitar, I understood that it’s too boring to play alone. It was not so easy to find a band, because I had just started to play. So I decided to record chords with my guitar, then I could play solo, but have an orchestra in my laptop, which was easier than collecting a lot of people all in one place. So my conversation with my laptop is a lot easier. (laughs)
Oh, okay! (laughs) How do you usually write a new song?
Wayves: Most often it comes from… I’ll feel something, then I use my midi keyboard, and try to create a chord progression. Then I try to find the proper sounds for it. Everything is based on the atmosphere. When I play it and record it, new sounds come in to my head. I just hear everything. So the thing I have to do next is to find proper samples and sounds.
Okay, awesome. So what are some of your main influences and inspirations, whether other musicians or other aspects of your life?
Wayves: Let’s start from musicians… I think the main one is Eric Clapton, at least in terms of guitar. Talking about electronic music, it’s Burial—the most famous future garage musician that I know. Also Vacant… Culprate! How could I forget about him, he’s a dubstep producer. He has some main stream releases, but he also has some really cool experimental tracks. KOAN Sound, they also do dubstep, with a deep sound, far away from main stream… Well maybe not far, but it’s a great mixture. Also jazz music… Stanley Clarke, Erik Truffaz… I think we could make a really big list! (laughs)
(laughs) Okay, you could stop there. Or if you have any others that are really influential, any other really big names for you?
Wayves: Okay, one… Two more! Bvdub, an ambient musician. Sonmi 451, also a very famous ambient musician.
All right. So what kinds of programs and equipment do you use to make your music?
Wayves: So as a live musician, I use a lot of different string instruments: acoustic guitars, Flamenco guitars, electric guitars… Some Indian instruments like sitar. Of course, piano—a real piano. And midi keyboards. I don’t use hardware synthesizers—everything is made with my laptop. And then software… I use mostly Logic.
Okay, cool. Talk about your most recent EP “Chaosophy”. Where did the title come from?
Wayves: So it’s based on two words: “chaos” and “philosophy”. I don’t know, maybe “science of chaos”. But it’s not a bad emotion. Chaos is like… The basement of our life… When I try to speak about things like this… It’s hard to explain in English! (laughs)
(laughs) Oh okay, I understand!
Wayves: By the way, also the name of my project “Wayves”, is a mixture of two words: “way” and “waves”. “Waves”, like things in our lives, sometimes we are happy and sometimes we are sad. And “way”…
The “way” of the “waves”? (laughs)
Wayves: Yeah. (laughs)
Okay. You’ve written a lot of new songs—are there any that you’ve written that you’d like to talk about specifically?
Wayves: I have a new one, after Chaosophy, I just released it in my Russian social network. I’m trying to add more live instruments, mix live drums and guitar. I like to work with real vocalists, not samples. My new album… Maybe three weeks ago, I realized that I got a community, and I feel that every new track I compose, I am thinking about the people that listen to it. That makes me feel uncomfortable. I want to express myself, not thinking about anybody, to not think about my audience. I don’t think it’s good for an artist, to have these kinds of frames. So the last LP, I tried to break out of those frames, and try to make music sound like I feel, not thinking about anybody. I still feel the influences, I still make everything sound like things people are used to hearing from me. But this is my first step out of that, doing something really new.
Okay, awesome. So your songs have a lot of lingual diversity—what aspects about different languages intrigue you? Why do you have so many different languages in your music?
Wayves: It comes from my life philosophy of cosmopolitanism. I don’t like the ideas of… Countries… Documents you have to have when you want to travel… Lots of rules, about just being a human on our planet. I mean that everybody is born on Earth, and that is the only one rule. Borders were made, things I don’t really like… So mixing different cultures, different languages, is my way to express this idea.
Wayves: So also religion ideas—on Chaosophy, there’s an Indian mantra, on my new EP I recorded something that sounds Pagan. So I try to mix not only musical cultures, but also religious concepts.
Cool. So did you face any technical or creative challenges while producing Chaosophy?
Wayves: Yeah, every time I work with a new track, I want to improve my sound. I think every artist can say that they hate things they do, and they want to do them better. It’s the same for me, too.
Yeah, constantly trying to push yourself. So you mentioned you collaborate with other artists a lot. How do you usually find artists to collaborate with?
Wayves: Last summer, when I started publishing my music, one of the most interesting music labels in Russia that specializes in electronic, atmospheric music, talked to me, and offered me to release my music on their label. After that I was introduced to a big amount of different musicians, and now we have a chat group—about thirty people—where we discuss new music, new software, music-related things… So I found some people that I really wanted to work with, and just offered to them.
It’s funny, maybe a few years ago when I was just listening to that kind of music, I got a huge playlist on my iPod. It’s a really amazing feeling that after those few years, I have now collaborated with artists that I listened to before.
Oh wow! That is really cool! So do you perform live very often? What are some of your favorite and least favorite aspects of performing?
Wayves: I’ve never played Wayves music live. It’s not dance music. I just don’t see it in a concert. But I perform with funk and blues bands, in Russia and in India.
Oh, okay. So what are your favorite and least favorite parts of performing?
Wayves: My most favorite part is that feeling when you share your emotions and energy with your audience. You have immediate feedback. When I perform live, I see all the people listening to the music and dancing, and I feel like I can share my emotions, and control them—in a good way! I can change their mood, change how they feel in that moment. And the most interesting thing is that they also control me, in a good way, with their feedback.
Yeah, so a back and forth sort of things. Well that’s all I have. Do you have any final thoughts?
Wayves: I can speak endlessly in Russian, but in English, all my thoughts… Gone. (laughs)
(laughs) It’s okay, no problem at all! This was fantastic! Thank you so much!
Wayves: Thank you!
Wayves graciously created a special mix for Black on the Canvas, with tracks chosen by Juliana Russell. Check it out on Soundcloud here: