„I invested all I have into synthesizers“ – Null + Void im Interview
The New York City based artist Null + Void steps up to release his first full-length LP Cyrosleep in early November!
Kurt Uenala is one of that kind of artists who might have flown under your radar. Swiss-born and based in New York City for over a decade now, he eventually got in touch with Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode due to his work as a producer at Dreamland Studios. After recording demos for Depeche Mode’s Playing The Angel, he then worked closer with Gahan for one of his solo albums. At the same time, the musician and synth-lover also started to produce his own music and to play concerts on a more regular basis. With much patience and after taking many detours on his way, Uenala has finally found a home for his first album Cyrosleep at the Hamburg label hfn music.
In your earlier musical career, you produced ‘Die Sleeping‘ under your Kap10Kurt moniker which was released by Memory Boy Records as a 12″ in 2002. The prestigious Berlin based record store Hard Wax described the EP as “new-wavish techno tracks”, a phrase that does not directly fit your latest work as Null + Void anymore. Did you change your sound on purpose or was it a natural evolution?
It was a very natural evolution if you realize how much time has passed and how much has changed in my life. When I made that track, I had just arrived in NYC and Electroclash was on fire. I lived 100m from the heart of that scene, right by Club Luxx and it was a great time. But since then, I have of course developed my vocabulary further, got deeper into synthesizers and production techniques changed a lot since then as well.
Your album Cyrosleep will be released on the Hamburg label hfn music which stands for a diverse spectrum in the electronic music scene with artists like Trentemøller or Kasper Bjørke on their roster. Is there a story behind your label decision?
I knew the label guys for a while already as I met them 4 years ago when I got booked by them to DJ with my good friend Kasper Bjørke. We all went for dinner and had a great night at the legandary Golden Pudel club in Hamburg. So when they expressed interest in the record, it was an easy decision as I heard many good things from Kasper.
Cyrosleep also contains club-oriented songs such as ‘Asphalt Kiss’ for which Matrixxman made a remix as well. Is your connection to clubs as close as it has been in the past?
My connection to clubs is not too intense lately as I have been working loads. It often just comes down to going to visit and support a DJ friend who is in town. I rarely go see a DJ just for fun. I do go see electronic music performances, of course. NYC is a pretty good spot to be in as everyone comes through to perform. There are a few “tougher” tracks on the album, but more in the old school electro genre and have broken beats rather than four on the floor. But I made sure that even those tracks are songs with proper structure and some melodic elements. It’s just what I like to make and what speaks to me. I appreciate more monotonous producers but it’s just not what I do.
How did your setup look like during the album process and is there a particular instrument which was a key element?
The studio is pretty crazy these days. I invested all I have into synthesizers so my collection is quite good. It’s my savings account! So unless I spill coffee all over the place, it’s a good investment and with every synth you get familiar with, you learn tremendously and it influences your production workflow. That knowledge is helpful when working with Depeche Mode for example as Martin’s collection of synths dwarves anything I have ever seen at anyone’s studio. So it’s good if you worked with a few of them before. It would be embarrassing to be hired and then just ask him technical questions all day. My favorite synth was the Oberheim Ob8 as it has such a sad sound to it. That one is on almost every song in some form.
The first snippets as well as the video premiere of ‘Where I Wait’ with Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan on the vocals caused a lot of attention. Speaking of the video production and the artistic composition, why did you choose Timothy Saccenti as the main director and on what kind of thoughts is the video based?
I first met Tim when he came to film the Depeche Mode studio sessions for the Delta Machine album and we really got along and stayed in touch. When I had the song and a label with a budget ready, it was obvious to approach Tim as he has a good bond with Dave and we both like his style and aesthetic. Tim came up with the story and everything about the video. It highlights the darker side of the song. Dave and I liked his angle and how Tim’s approach dragged it into a darker corner. Tim shot Dave and myself in a photo studio in Soho NYC but what was most remarkable that day is that Dave came into the studio dressed in a shiny black suit, a satin black shirt and blindingly sparkled, silver cuban heeled boots. When the shoot was complete, we asked if we can call him a car to take him back home but he declined. He had decided to walk through a tourist packed Soho on a sunny Sunday in the sharpest outfit I have ever seen. Truly fearless. The rest of the scenes were filmed at a later date and the incredible digital treatments were also added over the following months.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Big Pink and Shannon Funchess from Light Asylum also feature on the album. Why did you choose these artists and is there a special anecdote from the recording process?
I wanted to ask the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club gang for a collaboration since forever! It’s the last rock band that you will find in my library. I used to love metal and rockbands but somehow i fell out of love in the late 90’s. But BRMC’s dirty way of performing and the way they sing is just so Rock n’ Roll to me. I love the vulnerability in Peter’s voice and what he came up with lyrically. He also added a lot of effects to his vocal that made a huge difference. Another singer I always liked was Robbie from The Big Pink. Ever since I worked on some songs for an upcoming album with him, I wanted to collaborate with him for my album. The song came out great. The main melodic motif is his voice, sampled and played like an instrument. Shannon Funchess is such a force, you hear her tone and there is just nobody like her. Her band Light Asylum blew my mind and I had her on my radar ever since. I was so happy when she agreed to collaborate and that the music I made for her voice inspired her to come up with such cool lines.
In a recent Billboard interview, Dave spoke about the lyrics of ‘Where I Wait’ which revolve around unconditional love, not paying attention and the change into negativity. Do you notice similar incidents in our society or yourself?
Well, the words don’t just apply to being in love with a person. I think that it can be viewed as that but if you dig a little deeper, it should be recognized on a broader spectrum. Love to tangible things, an activity or a substance, of course. Love turning conditional would be the typical addiction scenario where it’s all consuming and there is punishment if you don’t engage. I think that’s the angle that Tim also took and not just a relationship drama.
How do you want the year 2017 to come to an end and are there any exciting or unusual things planned for 2018?
I mainly plan on playing live as much as I can. I just did a first little show in Brooklyn to test out some concepts for the live act and am finalizing my live equipment and setup. I love traveling very much and hope this record will take me to faraway places!
Null + Void – Where I Wait feat. Dave Gahan (Hfn)
VÖ: 13. Oktober 2017; digital
Null + Void – Cyrosleep (Hfn)
VÖ: 03. November 2017; 12″, CD und digital
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Interview: Tim Schulze
Text: Tim Schulze
Fotos: Timothy Saccenti, Rainer Hosch
Diese Episode wurde veröffentlicht unter der Creative Commons Lizenz Namensnennung 3.0 Deutschland (CC BY 3.0 DE).