Hi and welcome apaull!
Let’s jump straight into the interview.
The 4Sol EP is your first release and the start of your musical career. What was the initial kick-off?
Music has been a part of my life from a very young age. My father was a professional musician and my mother a self-taught pianist. As a youngster, I learned to play piano and then drums, but put all of that away when I went to university. I have always wanted to have some sort of musical career, and after a long career as a scientist, decided to pick it up again and see if I could do something with it.
Which goals do you like to achieve as an artist?
My twin goals are critical acclaim and commercial success. Foremost, I would like to produce music that people think is good. By that, I mean interesting, unique and, of course, danceable. I work with that in mind as I hone my craft. I figure if I put in the time to develop my technical proficiency and use that to produce high-quality music, that commercial success, whatever that might be, will follow.
Tell us more about your personal background before becoming apaull, please.
I am an environmental scientist and academic. I have had a long career in the waste management industry, from operating large scale composting facilities to owning, operating and selling an environmental consulting company, that was dedicated to minimizing the amount of waste ending up in landfills. At 50, I went back to school and completed a PhD, that focussed on helping consumers reduce the amount of food they waste. I now serve as an adjunct professor. I have written extensively about my professional and academic work, publishing 150 trade magazine articles and ten academic papers. On the creative side, I have been a watercolor artist for the last 30 years. The cover of my 4Sol EP is one of my paintings.
How did the music you listened and listen to influence your productions?
It has had a profound effect. It was as if I have been in suspended musical animation these last 30 years and have reawakened. Not that I stopped listening to new music, but my real influences are back from my university days and include Skinny Puppy, Depeche Mode, KMFDM, the Orb, Alphaville and Propaganda. I want to be able to write music like that, or at least my version of it. They all write message-rich music that you can mostly dance to. Getting into music production has exposed me to a plethora of current music on play today. This inspires me to add some critical contemporary flare to my old school influences.
It would be great to know more about your work in the studio and your recording process? Which equipment are you using? How do you develop your tracks? And how did you develop the 3 pieces of your debut: March Song, No Dimension and La Cesura, especially and what are they about?
To date, my music has all been produced ‘in the box’; just Ableton and a MacBook. There is a beauty to that simplicity. Lately, I have added MIDI keyboards and controllers for a more tactile experience. More fun than that has been the recent addition of a Cyclone TT-303 bass bot to start creating on-the-spot bass lines for new tracks and live sets.
Producing tracks is a hyper-iterative process for me. I start with the seed of an idea, which can be a track that I like, an interesting pre-set or a drum loop that I have created from scratch. From there, I start adding other ideas and sounds to the track. I’m pretty ruthless at discarding sounds that sounded good at one point, but now don’t.
Not always, but often I like to infuse political ideas into my tracks. Artists like Ministry, Ice Cube and Front Line Assembly do that very well and have inspired me. I do try to be a bit (ok, a lot) more subtle about it than they are. You can listen to my track as a dance track, but if you like, you can have a deeper listen and interpret the messages as you see fit.
How the track ultimately comes together varies considerably, and I organically figure out whether to start with the intro, verse or chorus as my starting point. Once I have those three pieces developed and am happy with the overall direction, I expand and complete a draft track. Then over a couple of weeks I play it repeatedly, making tweaks along the way. Finally, I complete the mixing process. I try to do much of that as I create the track, but then really work on polishing it, so I can hand over a good mix to Abe Duque, who has been mastering my tracks. The mastering process for me is the final polish, not cleaning up mixing and other production issues. If there are problems with the mix, Abe, in his benevolently ruthless way, will tell me, and I’ll work on it and then give it back to him.
One of my key production challenges has been to find where the music I produce is best situated. Notionally I am trying to produce techno, but it is obvious as I listen to my tracks that at times, it has strong house and ambient vibes (and bpms). As noted earlier, my influences range from disco through to industrial, and all these influences deserve to shine through at some point. My goal, though, is to create a sound that is recognizable and have listeners say, ‘hey that sounds like apaull’.
March Song is meant as a straight-up party disco song that I would like to become a club hit.
We have lived and live in tumultuous times. It reminds us that we can, for a few moments, ignore today’s calamities and that there is a brighter future over the still unseen horizon.
No Dimension is about political tyranny and the wars it leads to. It was written before the war in Ukraine, but I see it as very applicable. It provides some clues about why we are where we are today. Furthermore, it’s as if we repeatedly time travel to the point of forgotten history busily repeating itself.
La Censura is about the censorship age in which we live. It seems we can no longer have a discourse about opposing views, only about acceptable views. Those acceptable views become narrower every day, and the unacceptable ones get censored pretty blatantly. In my estimation, the coalescing of disparate views helps shape the way that we can all live together. We all have to give up something, but that is ok. Censorship by either side of the political spectrum (and by Big Tech’s enabling algorithms) does not lead to good things.
Ironically, Instagram recently pulled a promotional video for La Censura that I had legally produced for the track that I had legally produced. Kind of makes my point for me.
Abe Duque is the producer of the EP. How did you meet him? How can we imagine the workflow, you both working together?
I wish I had a good rock n roll meets techno story about our meeting. You know, a big party with lots of music and too many drinks, but, alas, our meeting was more librarial (and way more productive) at 343 Labs in New York, where I was taking classes. I took a mixing and mastering course with him, and we hit it off and started working together.
Our workflow has been that I present him with a draft of a completed track, which we review. He is pretty hands-off creatively, but provides incisive technical expertise in areas where I can improve the flow and sound of the production. He is the critical set of ears I need to ensure that I am producing the best quality tracks.
Further to that, our work together has extended to the music business itself, and he has helped to open some important doors that were critical to the release of the 4Sol EP. These opened doors helped me develop a great team, including Hamburg’s Superstition Entertainment Network on the distribution side and Berlin’s Pull Proxy on the promotion side.
Finally, Abe and I are now working towards developing live sets of my music.
You also founded your own label, Furnace Room Records. That’s an interesting title. What’s behind?
Well, I live in Canada for big chunks of the year. Everybody assumes it is a cold country, which it is, so cold that our houses have an entire room, the furnace room, dedicated to keeping it warm.
It is the forgotten and overlooked room until it stops working. Then it’s out of the fire and into the cold. Allegorically, the world’s not working, and it’s definitely cold. Furnace room records paints the cold but is searching for warmth.
What else can we expect the next weeks and month from apaull?
Lots. I was just listening to the final mastered tracks for my next EP, set to drop in September, which includes two very different remixes (Abe Duque does one of them). I have another EP set to drop in November and have been working with Berlin based Maedon on a remix of one of the more industrial tracks. She is totally killer live and creates a unique hybrid of industrial, techno, and rave, that sounds unlike anything you’ve heard before. Her favorite emoji on IG is a hammer, so it is pretty clear what I am going to get (and I can’t wait).
I have enough material to release another 3 EPs in 2023. I am looking for remixers for those EPs. Finally, I am getting my live sets ready and nosing around for bookings. I’m anxious to get on with it.
I have lots on the go and as a guy starting late into the game, I couldn’t be any happier.
Our Friday selection:
apaull – 4Sol [Furnace Room Records, 1horn]
apaull is a dutch-canadian producer, awakened from a long musical slumber and who is now busy exploring in-the-box musical potential, that was at one point futuristic and unimaginable. With Abe Duque as executive producer, apaull’s efforts are scoped and focused into a coherent package.
While the strange times we live in punch us in face most days we can still explore the shiny shards of hope, littered throughout the detritus of lives upended and dreams suspended.
apaull’s debut 4Sol EP tries to address both, presenting the good news first and the danceable bad news second.
“At fourteen and in a record shop, under some duress, I bought a gospel album rather than the Bee Gees Saturday Night Fever album I really wanted. March Song pays homage to what were then strange new disco sounds. Disco’s tentacles weave their way through the music I listen to and have spilled into the creative process I use to produce music”
March Song reminds that we can, for a few moments, ignore today’s calamities and that there is a brighter future over the still unseen horizon.
La Censura is about real time. We seem to be yielding ourselves to the throes of autho- ritarianism, with very little fight. Does it make us feel safer? Its cudgel, censorship, seems to be an unsophisticated afterthought that is being embraced as an acceptable tool to stifle dissent. Say (think) the wrong thing and you become an “anti” or worse yet an “ist”.
Yesterday boys and girls fought for freedom from tyranny. In today’s re-litigation carou- sel, they and what they have protected have become the tyranny. No Dimension provi- des some clues about why we are where we are today. History forgotten repeats itself. Today it’s with fast modems and the cowardly anonymity they afford.
“4Sol commemorates the four muslim souls that lost their lives in London, Ontario Ca- nada in 2021, because they were muslim. While the tracks on this EP do not directly address this unspeakable tragedy it does reflect on our still pervasive collective ignorance.”
Tracklist: apaull – 4Sol [Furnace Room Records, 1horn]
01. March Song
02. La Censura
03. No Dimension