Podcast: Play in new window
Today, I’m delighted
to present an interview with a very talented young musician named Isaias who goes by the moniker of wauterboi. I stumbled across wauterboi’s music completely by accident, while looking for some help with a program called Jeskola Buzz (don’t worry if you don’t recognise the name, it’s explained in the interview). After listening to a few of his songs, I downloaded, and eventually bought, his latest album, entitled if then. According to my ears, wauterboi’s compositions being together instrumental influences such as God Is An Astronaut and Explosions In The Sky, mixes them with industrial bands like Nine Inch Nails and Skinny Puppy, and then dunks them all in a variety of flavours that range from chiptune melodies to D’n'B filth. Think Tweaker, but (sadly) without the access to the high-profile vocal talent. Certainly impressive work for someone who’s half a decade away from being able to purchase alcohol.
I had the good fortune to be able to quiz Isaias over the digital divide, so read on as we discuss boredom, the music industry, creativity, and careers. To set the mood for the interview, why don’t you head over to his store and stream his album for free? I guarantee that by the time you’ve finished reading the interview, you’ll be ready to click the buy button and support an up-and-coming talent. Alternatively, I’ve embedded a couple of my picks throughout the interview, so feel free to click on those.
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toothsoup: So, who is wauterboi? Tell us a little about yourself.
wauterboi: I like to think I’m wauterboi. (I think.) I produce music here in Las Vegas and I have ever since I was ten. (For the record, I’m sixteen at the moment.) I write music as a means to escape. Escape what? Boredom. It’s also nice to have all these crazy projects I do bring feelings to you without words and in a very experimental way. Overall, it’s fun.
TS: How do you make your music? What are your tools of the trade?
WB: I make music using a run down and (kind of) abandoned modular tracker made for Windows 95. In lay-mens terms, I have to write out all of the notes and automate everything using hex. (You know, the crazy number system that goes from 01-0F then repeats with an increase of ten.) I also have to pray that it doesn’t break on me, but I have found ways to add stability.
People tell me all the time that the program sucks and that I should be using mainstream stuff out there – you know, stuff like Reason, or Ableton, or whatever else you can think of. I actually downloaded the trial for Reason a little while ago and I thought it sucked.
Why is this? Well, for one, the program I use is free. It’s also not CPU or Memory rape from trying to pretty and have a fancy GUI like all the others. Jeskola Buzz doesn’t even have a piano roll editor and I love it. It’s simple. It gets the job done without all the BS unless I do things like add additional instruments, hacks, or plugins. All the others have the priority of looking sexy and having a rather large price tag. Let me tell you – the only thing I ever spent money on was a twenty dollar copy of VoxengoElephant, a VST limiter that makes sure that your overall sound doesn’t go over a specific volume. (Great for preventing earaches!)
Also, Jeskola Buzz’ source code was recently found by the developer and has been updated constantly now. He’s building off of what he had and it’s been pretty cool messing with the newest versions of Buzz – Vista/Windows 7 style!
[haiku url="http://toothsoup.com/files/wauterboi/wauterboi--i'm%20feeling%20like%20a%20break.mp3" title="wauterboi--i'm feeling like a break"]
TS: Your latest album, if then, features a wide variety of electronic styles such as industrial, dance, chiptune, and D’n'B. Is there any particular reason why you tend not to repeat a general style?
WB: No. I don’t know what happens when I open my music program and I start making music. When I begin, there’s no chance you’ll know how it’ll end up sounding at all – which something I actually like because I don’t like writing music to formula or trying to write for a specific genre. I write music with the intention of sounding good – well, at least relative to me.
Also, sounding different for every track kind of makes the album more exciting to listen to because you don’t know what’s coming. You don’t get bored with it. On top of that, since there’s so many different genres, there’s probably going to be at least one that you’ll enjoy out of all the others, which kind of adds a little bit of accessibility for everyone. Someone can like Chiptune and hate Drum n’ Bass, and then there’s others who are the complete opposite. Some might like the elements of of Drum n’ Bass and Chiptune and never had a chance to see them collide. Maybe they didn’t like a genre, but when I play this way they can enjoy it. It’s kind of nice to have that ability.
TS: On your about page you say, in reference to the use of the Jeskola Buzz tracker:
“A lot of people actually dislike it because of the fact that, “it’s so hard!” and then fly to another program with a fancy GUI. The truth is, they need to be bored.”
I found that last fragment really interesting. Looking beyond Buzz (which is a powerful, if not completely user-friendly, tracking software), do you think that people ‘need to be bored’ in order to be creative? Is there a restlessness that drives you to create?
WB: Hell yeah. The entire reason why I began writing music is because I was bored out of my mind with a pile of video games I’ve already beaten and a TV that played mindless BS 24/7. I was tired of everything and I decided to pry open this random program and while all my creations sounded like crap it was awesome and it killed time. It was fun.
That isn’t lining up who I am now though. When I start writing a track, I start to play and improvise random melodies or drum patterns and what not and that’s how all my tracks start. Just a random melody I accidentally made. I do not force tracks, and that’s why I believe boredom is an important part of the music-creating process. Boredom will lead you to try new things and not be afraid. Boredom will cause you to challenge yourself – and that’s what I have done for six years. Boredom will give you the ability to keep trying. Boredom will make you do things you wouldn’t normally do, because I mean what else is there to do with your time? You’ve got nothing else to do! What are you going to do? Play that video game you’ve beaten three times? Start collecting stamps? Yeah right, you’re gonna be a musician, or at least be some kind of bored one.
TS: As a solo artist, do you find it hard to motivate yourself to make music?
WB: No, not really. I like writing music. The only problems I have are random bouts of writer’s block, which can be solved by giving yourself a minute and doing something else.
[haiku url="http://toothsoup.com/files/wauterboi/wauterboi--arpeggiated%20stress%20test.mp3" title="wauterboi--arpeggiated stress test"]
TS: You released if then with an interesting payment model: listeners can stream the entire album for free, download a portion of the album, and then decide if they want to buy it. What drew you to this kind of distribution method?
WB: Well, I’ve been around many, many pirates in my life. (Pirates being pirates who pirate music.) One of the main reasons they pirate isn’t the reason you would normally think – they often pirate the album to see how it sounds and see how they enjoy it and then, depending on how that turns out, they buy it. On top of that, audiophiles like to download the music in the highest of qualities ever known to man, and so I kind of thought to myself for four years about a method that would let you “test-drive” the album, and that method is what I use today. You can download the EP containing a portion of the tracks, and depending if you like it, you can purchase the album in whichever quality or format you like.
Is this in anyway my battle against pirates? No, I could care less if you didn’t buy my album. (I’d care if you did though!) I’m not going to chase you down with a knife to get my five dollars. Why? I believe that if my music is any good, I’ll be getting it anyway, or at least a thank you or friend request. I get all three and there are alternative ways to show your appreciation. Money isn’t everything.
In fact, I love the spread of music so much, I uploaded my music for free on a private tracker, got featured on the front page, and got over 1,000+ downloads. Super exposure, much?
I do not like the way music industries provide their music currently. It’s a little bit harder to figure out if you like a track or album now if that makes sense. If you want to do the 100% legal method of checking out an album, you can go onto iTunes and check out their thirty seconds put right in the middle of an unintelligible piece of the song leading you to believe, “Well, I think I could like this… I guess.” If you want a sketchier method, you can check out the tracks on YouTube in high quality… sometimes… Having all the tracks streamable and some tracks downloadable for free completely takes the middleman out. Having me distribute it the way I’m doing now (and for cheap) allows everyone to get a chance to do something as simple as listen to me. Industries now are all about money, and I don’t feel like you should have to pay a listening tax to enjoy music.
TS: You’ve mentioned the fact that you’re a very young artist, is creating music something that you think will stay with you for the rest of your life?
WB: Hey, if it works and I can get somewhere with it, yes. Seems like a slim chance though, but that’s just the pessimistic side of me being a baby. :P
TS: Related to that last question, the luxury of boredom is something that can disappear once school finishes and jobs start. How do you think you’ll handle that change?
WB: I always thought about being a computer programmer and doing music off to the side for the fun of it and for free. This is something I’ve thought of for a while actually.
Generally, the way I look at it I have a bunch on my plate right now and somehow I get music done. My parents are divorced and so I live at like three or four houses every week, I have a lot of AP and Honors classes, I am actually involved in the administration of a lot of gaming servers away from music, and then just the little things of life cause my plate to overflow just a little bit. I can (for some reason) do all this now and produce music, so I would imagine that having a job in the mix would cause less time but not make it impossible for music to be made. Music is my home away from home – there’s no leaving!
You’ve also got to remember I work on music everywhere. When I’m in class, I think of drum patterns and what not using my desk (which has been known to irritate people, haha), when I’m on the bus I’ll dig into my program on my laptop, on my way to places I’ll do the same, when I’m at my cousin’s and my two homes, I always work some stuff in. I’m constantly moving around and I still get work done.
TS: Do you think that producing music is something that you will pursue as a career? Can you see yourself getting a degree or pursuing a job in sound engineering or something similar?
WB: My dream is to become a relatively famous musician. I idolize Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and other artists like crazy – I want to be like them. (except I wanna be me of course)
Also, yes. I love working with audio in general. Haha.
Career-wise, from what I’d really enjoy being to what I’d enjoy being, would go something like this: Musician, computer programmer, graphic designer, website designer, some kind of designer, writer, etc. I just don’t want to be in an office or in a warehouse.
[haiku url="http://toothsoup.com/files/wauterboi/wauterboi--take%20me%20away.mp3" title="wauterboi--take me away"]
TS: Lastly, do you have any hints — technical or otherwise — for people looking to get into using Jeskola Buzz or trackers in general?
WB: Work with what you’ve got and don’t quit just because the things you possess aren’t the things you’d want to use to get the job done. 3/4 of my music was done on low-end computers – all kinds of them. At some point, 1/4 of my music was accomplished completely with free software and on a computer that shut off every thirty minutes randomly without warning. Advance technology-wise as you go. Currently, I’m on a cheap Compaq laptop I stole from my mom, haha, and I’m getting stuff done. The only other piece of equipment is something I just got this year – a lovely $100 MIDI keyboard from Sam Ash with some aid from the profits I got from if then. While I’ve got a little more on this laptop, I have worked under the pressures of lag, memory rape, CPU destruction, random restarts, presets and full-songs disappearing, massive external hard-drive failures, and just straight up technical tom-foolery. Persistence is your friend. Boredom is your friend. An open mind is your friend. Patience is your friend.
Also remember that generally everything gets better. Slowly, but surely, things get better. Everything. Techy stuff, your music, your mind, you – everything. Six years, and I’ve made it this far. It’s not that far, but it’s far enough to show that you can very much do the same and probably better. :P
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So there you have it, some very telling words of wisdom at the end there. Just keep at it and things get better. Anyway, if you enjoyed the interview and want to have a peek at more of wauterboi’s world, you can find his website over at wauterboi.com, and he tweets @wauterboi. As previously mentioned, you can buy or stream (or buy, seriously) his two albums at his page on Protagonist Records. Do some good, support a young artist. As a final note, I should also mention that I’ve found his music to be incredibly good to write to. Strong beats and compelling melodies do a good writing tune make.