Souterraine.org – Interview by Marco Ferretti
17 August 2017

South Africa – Wild animals, the horrors of apartheid, triumphs in rugby. These are some fragments of a country with a diverse past, that also happens to have room for electronic music.

The scene there is constantly evolving, with a handful of artists making their global mark.
One such is musician Jason van Wyk, who pursued a different type of journey. Starting from trance and club music, now venturing into contemporary electronica, ambient and post-classical. Already with more than ten years of a career behind him, the transition to this new path was smooth, but gradual. Delivering three fabulous albums: “Days You Remember” in 2013, “Attachment” in 2016 and now his latest, “Opacity” in 2017. A magical continuum, influenced by magnificent and benign surroundings.

We chat to Jason from his home in Cape Town.
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Do you think living in South Africa has influenced your sound?

I definitely think it plays a part. I find a lot of inspiration in nature, so I count myself lucky living in Cape Town as we’re surrounded by plenty of it.

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So, thinking about your relationship between nature and the sound you’ve developed in your last two albums. Could this be described as a sort of soundtrack to your surroundings?

You could say that yes. If people ask me to describe my music I like to use the phrase, “film music without the film”. So a soundtrack to my surroundings I think would be quite true.

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Every time I think about South Africa, images of lions, apartheid fights and rugby players come to mind. I know they’re real European stereotypes, but I believe there’s much more than those. How difficult is it being a electronic producer over there?

I think it’s difficult wherever you are. It’s a competitive field. The internet has helped in certain aspects, but it’s still a lot of hard work.

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Home Normal have done a great job with the packaging of these releases. I really love these CD covers. Do they reflect your music?

Yes they certainly do. The covers and over all design came out really well I thought. For Opacity, my friend Gregory Euclide contributed that beautiful abstract photo which I think really sums up the record. For Attachment, that atmospheric mountain shot by Vadim Petrakov really fits the mood of that album. The design and layout of the CDs I felt needed to be as simplistic and clear as possible, just as I tried to be with the music. A lot of work went into getting it down to the bare essentials.

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How did you get in touch with Ian Hawgood at the label? Did you send him a demo?

Ian actually mastered Attachment for it’s initial release on Eilean Records last year. I sent him an email saying thanks for the great job and we started talking from there. I had already begun work on Opacity by then, so I sent over some samples and he really responded to them. He offered an album deal as well as doing a re-issue of Attachment. Home Normal reached out to Eilean, and between them they made it happen.

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Why repress your previous record “Attachment” from Eilean Records? People need more copies?

It’s a completely new release with new masters (mastered once again by Ian), new cover art and a new design. Eilean did an amazing job releasing it last year, but the physical copies were sold out incredibly quickly, as is the case with all of their releases. This new one coming out is more of a general release with a lot more copies being printed and wider distribution. I hope it’s able to reach people who haven’t heard it yet as well as accommodate those that weren’t able to get a physical copy last year.

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Your first album “Days You Remember” was out in 2013. In what way have you improved your sound since those days?

Days You Remember is a very different album compared to these most recent two. It was made while I was still doing a lot of club music so it’s very influenced by that sound, just with a more experimental approach to the production.

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Why the simplistic titles “Attachment” and “Opacity”? Is there something more behind them?

There’s definitely meaning behind them to me, but like the music they’re open to interpretation.

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Let’s talk about you and your collaborators. You played piano and all the electronic instruments I see. Did you study piano?

No I didn’t study piano. I took drum lessons when I was in school and did a bit of music theory, but I’m self taught otherwise. Thankfully I like and play very simple music, so I can get away with not being a great pianist.

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Does you music have an objective or a subjective value?

A bit of both actually. It all depends on the particular piece.

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Is it more important what the audience feels when listening, or what the composer wants to communicate?

I’d say the audience. Music can be an extremely personal thing for a lot of people. So I think it’s best to attach your own ideas and meaning to it without having someone else influence what you feel, the composer included.

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Brittany Dilkes (violin), Gavin Clayton (violin), Lynne Donson (cello): Why did you ask these particular musicians to collaborate with you on these two albums?

I asked them as they’re all fantastic musicians who are always a joy to work with. Each one brought something unique and special to the recordings.

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Did they record their parts individually or not? Why did you choose this way?

Each part was recorded individually. I had more control that way to work with each part electronically. Some of the pieces changed drastically from their initial state when recording, so this process worked out for the better.

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In the end, thinking about record covers, have you ever thought about the possibility of images having a more emotional impact than music?

Definitely. I think it’s whatever resonates with the individual. I personally get a lot of inspiration out of imagery and I often write to picture.

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What are your future plans?

I have a new EP coming out in November and I’m currently finishing off another which I’m hoping will be out early next year if things go to plan. I’d like to focus on doing a few smaller releases like these before the next album.