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Jochem Paap Interview
Regarded by many as one of the most innovative and talented artists in Europe today Jochem Paap is rapidly becoming a favourite with electronic music fans in the US and worldwide. Since the release of Ginger in 1994, which was Jochem's attempt to move away from the rave scene, he has produced music that challenges the listener to expect more from a genre that is capable of limitless expression, culminating in the brilliant G Spot album, released in 1995, and Public Energy No.1, released in the US in 1997.
We spoke with Jochem while he was on a brief promotional visit to New York.
electronicmusic.com: Are you enjoying your stay in New York?
Jochem Paap: Yes, but I'm here mainly to do promotions so everyone's keeping me busy. I hope to see some of the city tonight, and I've got a couple of free hours tomorrow. I'm actually in right in the middle of a European tour so I've been busy with that since the beginning of April, I played a couple of gigs this past weekend, came here and then back tomorrow ready to continue the tour next weekend.
Have you been to the U.S. before?
Oh yes, a couple of times.
Are things going well for you here, in the way of record sales for example?
I think most records are sold in the U.K. and Holland, where I come from, so I'm not sure how things are doing here now, also this is almost the first press I've done in the U.S..
What other countries are you gaining recognition in, are there any surprises?
Over the years I've had a couple of letters from some exotic places, like India and the Middle East for example and in Russia things seem to be taking off.
I wonder if you may be doing the same for Holland as Bjork did for Iceland as far as putting it on the map, musically speaking. Are there any other artists in Holland doing the same type of music as you are?
In the electronic music field I think I may well be one of the most well known outside of the country but I certainly don't like to think of myself as the most popular or anything.
Well you're certainly the only one we've heard of and this definitely makes us interested in what's coming out of Holland these days.
Well there are a few labels you might want to know about, there's Eevo Lute in Eindhoven and a label called Djax which is mainly straightforward, like, club music so there's a few things coming from Holland.
What specific equipment do you use to make your music?
I don't think it matters what you use, it's the way you use it, I mean I could make music with anything that produces sound so I don't think that electronic music should be about what is dictated by the instrument but rather by what comes from the person who is using the instrument.
But isn't your ability to be creative severely limited if you're using equipment that's difficult to use, for example I was using an Emax II for a couple of years and I found myself spending more time setting up the supermode map than I did actually making music, do you have any suggestions of equipment that is easy to use and capable of producing the sounds you need?
Well the way I work is I use anything that produces sound and then I start treating it using tons of different methods you know, and especially things like modular synths and effects gear really help me to get the sound the way I want it. My studio is set up as a big network, everything runs to a big patchbay so my whole studio is set up as a modular synth so anything I want to do I can do in an instant. I don't have to worry about cabling or setting things up, it's all very very intuitive. I've worked with these pieces of gear for so long that they don't really have any secrets for me anymore so when I get an idea I know what to do, in an instant I know how to get it.
Do sequence the music, use a computer or do you put it all straight onto tape?
I don't have a fixed way of working, it can be anything. I've got a computer, yes, but I don't use it for everything. I've got analog sequencers and step sequencers and sometimes I loop things within the sampler and put it straight to tape and treat it and sample it again you know, it's just like chemistry or working in a laboratory having all these things around you and experimenting with sonic properties
The main thing for me is treating the sound and getting the sound the way I want it, the music is just a way to structure my sounds really, the sounds for me come in the first place, I'd like to think of myself as a sound shaper or sound sculptor or something
Something that really impressed me on G Spot was your use of subsonics, the real low end bass stuff, and also the way you included as much of the whole sound spectrum as possible.
Yeah, I like to have things going on in the whole spectrum so that on every occasion you listen to it, or on every different system it will sound different because different systems have different qualities and if you leave out certain layers or regions then it will sound different.
Do you know how an album or indeed a particular track will sound before you begin recording or do you just build it as you go?
Both, I know where I want to go but I don't have the complete picture in my head. I do have very strong feeling and clear idea but not in a sense that I know the track from start to finish. It's more of an abstract mood, a feeling, a picture and I just go after that thing, after that feeling and it just progresses as I'm working on it you know.
I must say that your music does evoke very strong imagery and that's what I love about the way some electronic music seems to be going, being able to create using sounds that have never been heard before and I noticed on your most recent release Public Energy No.1 that there is a lot less dependance on percussion and rythms and more on spatial stuff, was that intentional because you felt a need to get away from the more techno and dance orientated music?
Well not really, it's just that I've been doing that for quite a while and when I get the feeling that I'm repeating myself I like to get away from it and do something else. It's all like a learning process and as soon as you think you know it or you think you've done it then it's not interesting to do again.
It's interesting that you mentioned the imagery thing because I actually work from graphic ideas, it's the way my brain works. If I hear something, my brain remembers it as something visual rather than something in sound, I remember sounds by the way they look more than the way they sound, and that works in both ways. If I hear something I remember it by the way it looks, but also when I have an idea it's a graphic idea, it's like a structure or a texture, a shape or a colour or something like that, and I translate that into audio. I actually come much closer when I translate it into audio than I do when I present it as a visual thing.
So what's next, do you have album plans for the near future?
Well I hope to get back into the studio soon because even though Public Enemy No.1 was finished over a year ago it is still being promoted which means a lot of touring and stuff so I don't have very structured plans but I do want to go into the studio again.
Do mind having to do all the promotional stuff?
Not at all, if I've been in the studio for five months then I really need a change to reload my battery and touring is really good for that. It's very physical and you get into all these strange situations and strange places, and you get to travel and stuff like that. I couldn't be in the studio forever.
So after six months of controlling your environment 100% you suddenly find yourself in an out of control environment on stage.
Definitely yes. It's the total opposite but it's good.
Do you have any hopes to work with any mainstream electronic artists like Brian Eno or anyone like that?
Yes, I think everyone does. Everyone wants to work with Brian Eno. He's a very big name and I think everyone has heard of him but I like him more for his ideas and theories more than for his music. He has done some really good things like really beautiful things but as a theorist, his ideas, he has such an innovative mind and great visions on music and on media and stuff like that, he's really inspiring.
What do you like to do when you're not involved in making music, do you have any hobbies?
Yes, I like cooking.
Anything in particular?
No not really, I just like to experiment. Cooking is the same thing as making music in that respect you know, just try out things you haven't tried before, just be surprised with things.
Interview conducted via telephone between Paul Clark and Jochem Paap, June 17th 1997.