Hanging around the leisure lands with Audeka
From watching YouTube tutorial videos by the Human Workshop to actually working with them, Audeka have come a long and fruitful way. Throughout their journey of releases, they’ve brought an exceptional and unique sound to the electronic soundscape. Their most recent work is surprisingly different, opposed to what they did last, as there seems to be a shift from darker and mechanical sounds to lazy, positive but weird realms. ‘Leisure Lands’ stands as a possibility to escape reality into a welcoming and colourful world full of joy. A glimpse of what could be. Adding up onto the stack of evidence that Audeka’s sound is truly exceptional and can’t be nailed down to a certain mood or genre, it’s more or less a genre itself.
With Max and Marty of the trio being in the US and Skyler currently residing in Germany, like myself, we decided to hop on a call together and he’d be speaking on behalf of all of Audeka. We ended up talking about escaping reality, the power of your own fantasy and obviously about the production side of things. We get some unique insight into the workflow of certain tracks created on the release on YUKU and a heartfelt swing of positivity in these cold and rainy days.
Hi, thanks for taking the time! Challenging times these days, how did you guys spend your post-COVID time?
Playing a lot of games. PS4 titles like Red Dead Redemption 2, a favourite game of mine especially. Dark Souls also a bunch. RDR is helpful in where I’m living right in now, in Hamburg. The weather is similar to Berlin. Very grey and rainy. It’s nice to escape into this natural but virtual world and take your mind off the pandemic and whatnot. It’s very easy to focus that kind of negativity if you choose to but I don’t want to do that! Choosing not to focus on negativity and creating our own world either virtually or with music is something that we’ve been doing in the COVID times.
So you have been in the leisure lands?
Yeah absolutely! I think it’s totally different to the darker more mechanical or evil type of music. It’s very far from that and especially now it’s actually very nice. It’s fighting against the vibe of how things are at the moment. Also, it’s mentally helpful to do that!
So one could say your sound has shifted away from let’s say your heavier stuff on MethLab, like ‘Engine Block’!
Can you give us a walkthrough the mind-boggling soundscapes you kept exploring in said leisure lands?
With a lot of tools that we’ve been using we tried to blend real instruments with, or at least make something sound like if it’s one with the ability to digitally modify some perimeters. A good example of that might be ‘Snail Gets Armor‘. That track was made with a synth in FL Studio called Sakura. That’s a string emulation instrument where you can play things that sound as if they’re strings either plucking or resonant. I’ve done this on some twitch streams just to show people that because I really love it.
You can always go very far to the digital spectrum or the real instrument spectrum depending on how you modulate those perimeters that are in there. Especially messing around with the resonances. Combining that with field recordings and a third-party plug-in that we use called Multipass from Kilohearts. With the latter one, it’s just so quick to out different modules such as compression or pitch shifting. If you listen to ‘I Found A Walking Stick‘ there’s a guitar that’s actually playing but on the tops, there’s a bit-crushing modulation at the same time sweeping through the frequency spectrum. Okay, maybe that has been done before but we thought to ourselves: “How can we shift, blend and mesh into a digital way but still have the feeling of that you’re in nature.” You’re always blending between the real and the digital world. It’s fun to play with! To not know exactly what something might be. Of course, the vibe is super important. I went and visited a mentor of ours named Gerrit Elbrik. He’s from the Human Workshop collective. We were watching their tutorial videos back in 2012 on YouTube like how to make basslines or how to re-sample and totally looked up to their stuff. That’s how everything kicked off in terms of ‘Leisure Lands‘. He lives in Germany and I’m here now and it is a very special opportunity to visit him with the Deutsche Bahn, by train *chuckles* to somewhere near Hanover. But it’s kind of out in the middle of nowhere. Actually, Gerrit’s music project with some friends is called ‘Leisure B‘. We started working on a track and it originally was supposed to be a wild west themed track. Didn’t really turn out that way. A friend of his was there as well and we were working on it together. There’s actually a workflow video online that he posted on the YouTube channel Human Workshop.
That’s how everything started. There was the inspiration for the rest of the title track ‘Leisure Lands‘. That and ‘Thought Dissolve‘ were both made that weekend. After we were done I sent the tunes to Marty and Max, the guys who I work with on Audeka who are in the states and the where like: “Woah, where did this come from?”. I was like: “Yeah, I don’t know. You remember these guys, the Human Workshop guys that we where watching from the very beginning and now we’ve met with them”. It’s totally crazy to that! Years ago I wouldn’t think that would’ve happened. So how it worked was Gerrit was on the main console. He had a mess around with the MIDI linking because we where basically linking my laptop to his computer to then the keyboard that was being played by his friend. I’m missing the name right now. Really cool guy! He was jamming on the keyboard and then I would bring everything into my DAW just modulate everything. I actually swing it from a straight groove to a triplet groove which made everything very offset. I did that with a plug-in called GrossBeat in FL Studio. It’s a very cheap trick I’d say because I just took all the grooves and threw them though this triplet setting. What’s nice about that is that depending on where you start like with the beat slightly off-grid the program has a problem because the beats are defined at the very beginning. One, two three, four. But if you start slightly off from that you get some really fucked up rhythms to happen. We then tried to capture those different snippets and record that would be totally off and lazy and weird and I really like that! It was that combined with these different types of melodies. Then I tried to work on basslines using Multipass again quite a bit. So, those two tracks and then ‘Robots Have Emotions’ which is a track that we recorded back in the US. You remember those cranky music boxes? Like every grandma has one of those. We wound that up and recorded it and it was a totally different melody when we did that. I also took that recording into GrossBeat again to mess with the rhythm. I got different instances of that melody to create the main sound the track and then I built the track around it. At the end, I sent the first chorus over to the Audeka guys. Max is getting very good at playing Cello. Something that we’ve invested in a few years ago. He created the second part with a Cello melody. At the beginning, we were debating on these very silly voices that he was putting in there which were actually really cool. Super cartoonish. We ended up taking them out but I remember his inspiration from what I had sent made it all super cartoonish and playful to him. He also recorded the Cello with this womp womp-like sounds in which come in in the transition and made a whole chorus and sent it back to me. I then built it further in its second part. Marty came up with this storyboard and ended up sending it over to the guy who made the music video, Oskar Alvarado that came with the track. Marty also did a lot of the background work of the artwork of Lost Souls. It’s often that he makes stuff and sends it to collaborators who are doing artwork. He also did the one for Leisure Lands himself. I could break down every track but I guess it would get too long!
Yeah! So how was working with the Monolog Rockstars on the two tracks made in Germany exactly?
Pretty laid back. We played more in a live setting which is something I’m not that used to. It reminded me of when I started making music. I was just on the keyboard pressing the play button on the beat and messing around with it. It was like I said out in the middle of nowhere, very peaceful and we had some beers. We would stay up very late. I still went to bed earlier like an old man. They kept working into the night then I woke up earlier than them but everything was still on. All the stuff was still there so then I came in like: “Oh this is what they’ve made. Oh shit! That is really cool, let me mess around with it.” And then I fucked with it a little, they came back in and we started working on it again together. Gerrit has a really nice recording setup. For ‘Thought Dissolve‘ we recorded some tribal drums and also my voice. That kind of Arabic scale voice that comes in later as well. It seemed to come together pretty easy because I always had that outside income of just raw signals of them playing music live like a loop is running and then they’re just jamming. I’m taking those recordings to make variations in the DAW. More of a technical approach I would say. Whilst, I even remember Gerrit just taking out his guitar and doing different things. I was more like the technical dude arranging everything that would get generated then combining it with sounds from our Audeka archive that we made it the past
Just merging everything together?
Yeah pretty much!
So, you guys obviously don’t share a studio anymore. It was more like passing around project files?
Exactly. We’re quite used to that by now. So it was not so different than how we’ve been working on other stuff in the past like ‘Engine Block‘. We all have the same plug-ins so we don’t have to stem everything out which makes it way easier. It’s also good for audio fidelity to not have to bounce everything multiple times.
We set it up that way so we don’t have to do that all the time. We actually even now have the same laptops. We were just as you described getting to a point with certain projects and if we get stuck just passing it over. ‘Robots Have Emotions‘ is a good example of that. I made the first chorus and didn’t really know what to do with it afterwards as I liked it as it is. Max then was totally inspired by it.
It’s also your first full record on vinyl! How does that feel?
That was really a driver for creating ‘Leisure Lands‘. When you know it’s going to be a physical item. It has such a preciousness to it.
It makes it really special!
Oh man, it’s awesome! I’m really blown away by the quality of how everything turned out. YUKU worked really hard on setting everything up so it’s special in the way that they’re interacting with the fanbase.
Even those tiny stamps on the inside of the packaging.
Yeah, I wrote those. I asked the guys like: “What do we gonna say to the fans?”. It just feels so personal in this world. I mean there’s a lot of music out there and it’s good but a lot of labels are not focusing on this physical aspect. It seems like an island or an oasis of preciousness like when you receive a letter. It’s special when everything is so digital now. I never really thought about it much until we did it. We worked really hard on the mixdowns. We had to make a special type of it for the vinyl. It actually sounds different in a good way to me to the digital versions. I was really thinking about that while doing the mixdowns. It drove me to work on it a few more days, a few more weeks until I’m happy with it.
I actually have a copy here still sealed because I’m lacking a turntable.
I think it’s really cool that YUKU are focussing on this. I too have no turntable but it’s something I’d like to do now because there’s this world of vinyl. It’s definitely worth exploring. Actually my roommate has one so I’d play it over there. We had a listening session and I was like: ‚This is really cool. I want to keep on doing this.’.
You mentioned the music video earlier with those tiny robots. How did that idea come up?
Actually, YUKU asked us. They asked us which of tracks would be appropriate for a music video. I think out of all the tracks ‘Robots Have Emotions‘ has created the most distinct visualization. Max thought of this cartoonish theme right away and we took it. They were actually thinking the same! It lends itself to a music video because it’s very playful and more colourful in the way it sounds. That’s how it started. Them making it even possible to do this. Marty brainstormed the idea of what the track makes him think of and came up with this storyline. We still have the pictures somewhere of what he drew. It was about a robot waking up but since it’s in the context of ‚Leisure Lands‘ the robot ends up helping nature. In retrospect, I didn’t really think about it while making the track but now while I’m thinking about it as how the future could be like if, for example, AI is used or is able to create a green planet. What I think is totally possible. For example, tiny robots going through a permaculture garden selecting plants instead of continuing to machine-mass produce vegetables.
The counterplay between audio and video seems to become more and more important nowadays then? As well as the vinyl aspect.
I’m always scared to watch music videos because it’s like when you read a book but then someone makes a movie. It’s fascinating what your mind can generate in terms of story and the environment and it’s very individual. That’s what beautiful about it. You can’t know what’s happening in everyone’s mind and that’s what’s so nice about music that doesn’t have a music video. Like when I read the Harry Potter books.
I was going to say that!
I have mixed feelings about creating music videos. Now and then if there’s a really distinct message like ours did it’s appropriate but I also don’t think it should be overdone. I like music just being how it is where I can create my own fantasy when I listen to it. It’s definitely important! I think the vinyl aspect as well. It’s this physical object that contains ideas on it. It’s something quite different than a music video which is maybe just an artist interpretation of what their music is like. It’s nice to see that. I wouldn’t want to have every track a music video. I want to be able to create the world on my own.
Makes sense to me! Thanks for speaking with me!
Thanks for taking your time, I greatly appreciate it!
Get your hands on a copy of Audeka ‘Leisure Lands’ here
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