Interview: Gotye

Credit: Chad Schroter-Gillespie

International recording artist Goyte recently returned to NMC to continue recording with our unique collection. Wally De Backer is the man behind Goyte and granted NMC an exclusive interview that delves into his creative process and why NMC is important to him.

NMC: The last time you were here we saw some great footage of you recording and playing music, it looked very interesting, and like a whole lot of fun. How would you describe your creative process?

Gotye: Usually I’m working alone, and although that’s often a lot of fun (when ideas are flowing) it was great to work collaboratively while at the National Music Centre.  Nick Launay is an engineer-producer whose instinct for recording sound is remarkable, and it was exciting to hear the way he captured the rich textures of the instruments in the NMC’s collection. John Leimseider, Jason Tawkin and Anne Phillips’ deep knowledge of the instruments and recording technology we were using also directly inspired certain musical ideas that popped up during the week-long session.

Otherwise the process was similar to how I work in my own space- look for sound textures that are unique and unusual, and see whether their intersection creates an interesting soundworld to prompt a story.

NMC: It seems you are known for incorporating unique instruments into your songs. What instruments have you been recording with, and why these specific instruments?

Gotye: The list of things I chose to explore while at the NMC was prompted partly by my prior awareness of the instruments’ rarity (there are things in the collection I believed to be lost to history, or that I would never in my life have a chance to play. For instance, the Hammond Novachord) and otherwise by discovering them for the first time while in the space.
Some things I encountered for the first time while exploring the collection on display:
Frank Eventoff’s Sonica
Raymond Scott’s Clavivox
Ondes Martenot
Some things I’d wanted to play for a long time:
Hammond Novachord
Chamberlin Riviera
Yamaha CS-80

NMC: How did you first get into experimenting with music? Was there anything that you would consider that initial inspiration, or defining moment in your life where you just knew this is something you wanted to do and be passionate about?

Gotye: There are a bunch of records I could cite as direct inspiration for wanting to become a recording musician. But I think playing with the first synthesizers I owned was the thing that got me very excited about the potential for different sound textures to inspire songs, and to somehow open your mind to new ideas.
NMC: Do you find it difficult to travel or go on tour and still find time to be creative? Is it something for you that just flows all the time, or is it something that only comes to you in a certain moment and you have to really get into your zone?

Gotye: I don’t tend to be able to successfully work on songs or new recordings while touring. My energy is totally focussed on the shows, or on staying physically fit and healthy to enjoy months of touring.
NMC: Being a well-known international artist, you must have access to some really great facilities in many parts of the world. Why have you chosen to come all the way to Canada to work with the National Music Centre in Calgary, Alberta?

Gotye: Because the depth of recording technology and instrument design represented in the collection is truly amazing. I can’t think of any other institutions (other than perhaps Audities, also in Calgary!) that have such an extensive and rare collection of instruments, and importantly, that attempt to make them available to musicians to work with. It’s a really wonderful thing! 
NMC: Why is it important for artists to have places like NMC with Artist-In-Residence programs?

Gotye: While affordable software instruments are great for democratizing music production, and there are also new instrument inventors who strive to broaden the sonic palette available, there is vast unexplored potential in hardware instruments of the twentieth century. Some of these instruments have completely distinct textural properties and uniquely expressive modes of playing. I hope the NMC’s program continues to ensure that interested composers and recording musicians have a chance to explore these things.
NMC: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Gotye: Yes. I mean…no.
NMC: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us and hang out in the collection. I know it’s inspiring to a lot of people to see and hear the kind of work you do. It’s also a big inspiration to us to keep doing what we do, so thanks again.

Gotye: Thanks to all at the NMC, I hope to return in the near future to record further!

Credit: Chad Schroter-Gillespie

Credit: Chad Schroter-Gillespie

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