10 questions with Kevin Verwijmeren
Kevin Verwijmeren is a 24 years old physics student and an ambient / drone artist currently based in Delft, The Netherlands. Inspired by the soundscapes of artists like Tim Hecker and Pan American, Verwijmeren creates music that makes you float away to desolate places. His new album Those Glorious Heights is so ridiculously good that I featured it in That Special Record's April packs.
I sat down with Kevin to ask him 10 questions about his craft and inspiration as an ambient / drone music artist.
When did you start writing/producing music - and was there an “Aha!” moment when you knew that being an ambient / drone artist was what you wanted to do?
Well, it was not really that I knew straight away that I wanted to make ambient/drone music, or even music at all. At the age of, around 14 years old, I really started to develop an interest in music and especially in lounge/house music. And what I really liked about house and lounge where the repetitive patterns in it. It caused a sort of mind state what I found very appealing. Not only that, but sometimes it had minor details in the music, a little click/chord/riff/or something that could really make the track. I really could enjoy a track only due to these details, I sometimes was playing that specific part over and over again. And most of the time I found those details more interesting than the track it self.
I guess, from there on I started to be interested in making my own music. I wanted to find out how those things (the details) were made. So, at the age of 17 years old, I have bought a DAW and started to create music/sounds. At first, I was making more beat related music, but soon I already found it very “easy”/boring. It felt as if I could not really express myself within the boundaries of house genre . Also, in the same period, my ex-father in law introduced me to Chris Herbert, Coil, Pan-American etc. Which was something completely new for me. Right from the beginning I found this so interesting, that slowly but gradually I started to make more ambient related music. It felt as if this was more of a genre where I really could express myself. It has less boundaries compared to house music, at least that is how I felt it.
So after a lot of practicing in order to understand and being able to work with the program and many “tracks” further, I really started to create full length tracks. Whereas my first “ambient” track was officially released on Futuresequence at the age of 21.
You’re also a Physics student, right? Tell us a bit more about your background and how it influences you to create music the way you do.
As a physics student I get confronted with a lot of abstract theories and mathematics. Working with this caused that I look differently at the world around us. For example, in a persons daily routine the majority won’t think about the quantum mechanical effects around us. But it is constantly happening. These processes are so disconnected from our daily routine, but are at the same time part of our existence that has changed the way I look at the things around us. Although those things are beautifully described with mathematics, it still are absurd processes if you think about it. For me this creates an extra “dimension” in my daily life which I found very convenient to be in.
The same thing I do have with my music. As soon as I make music, I try to evoke/create (for my self) a cocoon where I feel disconnected from everything around me. Not being part of the society, automations or expectations from and of other people. Making you to look at the world around you in a pure “filtered” form. (It might all sound a bit spiritual or vague, but that is absolutely not what I want to transfer.)
So, to answer the question: my study is not literally used in my work (e.g. using the same wavelengths as particle have or something like that), but more as a reference for the same feeling and observation of the daily life in pure form.
Your two albums 'Those Glorious Heights' and ' It's The Color Of A Cloud Covered Sky' were released by two Belgian labels, Icarus Records and Soft Corridor Records. Do have any sort of special relation with the Belgium ambient / drone scene or was it just a coincidence?
It is definitely more of a coincidence. For my releases so far, I have looked for a record label that suits my new work based on their previous releases. The thing is, there are many great labels that I wish I could release my work on and become part of their family, but to be honest, most labels won't take the risk of accepting new artist (like me) or are already busy with their current roster. So of course I send demos to those that have my preference, but you also have to aim for labels that are less familiar and have still some room in their roster etc. So that’s how it worked for me. (And I guess for many other artists.)
Therefore I am really happy that “Soft Corridor Records” (Many thanks to Julien, who is a great guy and a true music enthusiast!), was willing to take the risk of releasing my first album, which luckily for them and me was well received within the scene.
As for Icarus Records, at the moment of finding a suitable record label for my second project, I was also talking to a US based label. It also could have been that my second album was released on a US label. But since Icarus Records is based in Belgium, I have made the choice of working with them, so we could meet in person as well.
You live in Delft, The Netherlands, right? How (if at all) does where you live influence your creativity and your music?
Delft is a city where the majority of the inhabitants are students. It is a nice city to live as a student, but for a creative/art scene, you don’t want to be there. What does inspire though, are the trips I make from Delft to The Hague when I am going to my best friend Jan van der Kleijn (who also designed the cover art of “Those Glorious Heights”). These trips take around half an hour by tram, which goes through several different neighbourhoods which really radiates a certain atmosphere. These kind of trips really influence me to get in the right mood for making music etc.
Your music is quite dark and emotional. Who for you are your biggest inspirations, both in terms of what you do as ambient / drone artist and other mediums of creativity, such as cinema, photography and art?
There is not really one artist or art piece that inspires me the most. And if an artist inspires me, they inspire me by how they evoked a certain feeling. With these kind of questions, I really try to avoid the misinterpretation that I try to mimic the sound of a certain artist by saying he or she influence or inspires me. If an artist or art piece inspires me, it is purely due to the feeling it evoked.
That being said, since I started to make music, it really killed the listener inside me. Before I was making music, I could listen to albums in a way that I really could lose myself in the music. But now, as a musician myself, it becomes really hard to listen to a album or track without analysing the music. This resulted in the fact that I have noticed that I get more and more inspiration from paintings/visual art than I get from music. Paintings and visual art are not directly connected to what I do. I can still enjoy it as a observer rather than a fellow “painter”. Not only is it the art piece it self what can inspire me, it is also the whole experience. Which in my opinion is sometimes way more important and influential than the art itself.
What’s the story behind your new album 'Those Glorious Heights’?
To be honest, my music so far does not tell any story or whatsoever. My music is more based on evoking and expressing a feeling/emotion which I find very interesting. The feeling of depression, melancholy and being alone. Since these are emotions which you won’t face in your daily routine and where the majority of the people try to suppress it anyway.
However they are a really strong and powerful emotions, which make you look at the things around you way differently than normal. Therefore, when I am making music I am aiming for sounds/patterns/melodies that can throw me into those states. So I guess the question should be rephrased to: Why is the album called “Those Glorious Heights”?: The album title is based on the feeling I get while travelling and listening to my music. I feel disconnected from my surrounding; for instance when I am travelling by train, I feel like I am observing the automation of the people around me, while not being a part of it. For me, this is the same as when I would sit on a hill or mountain, while I am looking at a village or city on the base of it. I can watch the automation of the people in the village/city without being affected or becoming part of it. Watching their lives and mine in a pure form. Since I felt the album was radiation that feeling, the album title is therefore referring to those “hills/mountains” of isolation and disconnection.
Tell us about your favourite piece of hardware. And software? And what does your setup look like right now?
Sorry for the really short and maybe boring answer: Hardware: My laptop (Macbook Pro 15”) since I can make music with it in my studio but as well as on the road (by using “musical-typing”). I only use software synths for producing and a real piano for melody-studying purposes. Software: Logic Pro X, not because I am such a Apple fanboy, but it is really high-end software. The quality of the plugins are really good. And I can do everything with it what I want to do. I don’t feel limited by the program which gives me enough space to experiment etc.
What can you tell us a about your process of composition? What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?
It really depends; if I start from scratch, I first start to generate and create certain sounds with various instruments. Once I found something that fits within the feeling I want to evoke, I start to create some layers or melodies (depending on the sound). Or, sometimes if I really want a certain melody, I start with using a piano to record the melody and then I start deforming the sound to create something new.
That being said, I am really critical on my work and what I want to achieve. After my release of “Those Glorious Heights” I really got tired of how I made my music. It felt as a trick that I have mastered, and it really became to easy and consequently not interesting for me anymore. With my new project where I am now working on, I really try to push myself to create something new, something outside of my comfort zone. Which is challenging but at the same time a really great process of defining and finding new territories I was unfamiliar with at first. This does not mean I am now making techno or something, but within the ambient/drone/electronic genre, I am trying to push those boundaries more and more.
What do you wish there were more and less of in terms of the current ambient / drone scene?
As a listener I have enough of the “prepared-piano” genre. I found it so easy/corny and a already saturated sub-genre. It is always the same recipe,“sad” themed compositions, which are most of the times slowly played. Or just random chords are played with sh*t loads of reverb which makes everything sound “deep and artistic”. This does not mean that I don’t like the use of piano, but be more creative. Therefore I rather listen to classical compositions.
Same as with field recordings, which for me is not interesting anymore. It is always the same thing which is always appealing to the ear. I mean, I personally can not distinguish a record from a field-recorded artist 1 and 2. The majority always follows the same recipe: rain, water, people talking on the background, crackling stuff.
Please, don’t get me wrong. This all might sound a bit harsh, but I am really critical on these kind of things. It does absolutely not mean I do not respect other artist of what they do, but I always find it really important to push the boundaries. Not only of the genre but especially of your own creativity. For instance, Loscil makes great music, but it is always the same sound (which still sounds good). Whereas for Tim Hecker, with each album release, his sound gradually changes. First it was mainly software generated sounds, but later on more and more samples where used. It is still has the Tim Hecker sound, but he really is exploring new possibilities and territories. That Is what I really miss in the current scene.
But again, I am not saying that these genres are bad or wrong etc. I am not the person to judge that. I do understand why people would make this kind of music or why they listen to it. But the ambient genre is a little bit (to) obese.
Any ambient / drone / electronic music you really like/would recommend?
There are many good artist, but I find Coil really interesting and good, as well as the majority of the Kranky releases (Tim Hecker, Loscil, Chris Herbert, Windy and Carl, Stars of the Lid etc.). Recently I have made a mixtape that includes some artists and tracks which I find really interesting and good. When you would listen to that, you know what I would recommend!
Posted by: Miguel Ferreira
Founder & Selector at That Special Record. Miguel writes interesting stories about outsider electronic music & vinyl culture.