To coincide with the release of Circle² (which is now in the last stage of beta testing), we’re reigniting our Artist Focus series to chat with producers who work with Circle. This month, we spoke with Irish-bred, Berlin-based artist Chymera.
For our readers who are not familiar with you yet, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m a music maker, live performer and DJ originally from Cork, Ireland. I’ve spent time in various different places and now I’ve been living in Berlin for the last five years. Melodies are a huge part of my music and I generally make music across the house and techno spectrum on such labels as Ovum, Cocoon, Dirt Crew, Connnaiseur, Delsin and many more. I like long walks on the beach and my favourite colour is green.
What inspired you to get into making electronic music? How did you arrive at where you are?
I started DJing around the year 2000 and music making was just a natural extension of that. I had always written guitar based music since my early teens, electronic music was the way that I could make a finished piece of music from start to finish without having to rely on other musicians. I kind of stumbled into it as a career though, I never envisaged myself as being able to make a living from it, but here I am eight years after quitting full time work and I’ve enjoyed almost every moment.
Originally from Cork, you’ve also lived in Dublin and Barcelona before landing in Berlin. Do you see one of these homes as the most significant influence on your music? How does the scene in Ireland and Spain compare to your current one?
I would say the scene that influenced me the most was the Irish one, in particular Dublin. Dublin was where I bought all my physical record collection, it was where I attended my first gigs and started playing myself. It is the place that has shaped my outlook the most. My music has evolved slowly over the years but this would have happened regardless of where I lived. Most of the music I buy and hear, and the vast majority of the connections I’ve made, have been over the internet. So in that sense, living abroad has not had any profound influence on my music, but in a personal sense it has.
Also playing music in different countries and continents has definitely had an influence on how I play. In Ireland everything shuts down at 3 AM. So we’re used to playing short sets of usually maximum two hours. And if you’re playing last then it’s a short, intense workout. This still holds for my live sets, but for DJ sets I adapted and got used to playing for much longer. The clubbing scene is quite different in all those places. I just noticed this especially as I’ve played two gigs in Ireland this weekend. Dance music is a young person’s game in Ireland. There literally were about five people over 30 at the gigs including myself. It’s kind of sad but it seems to be culturally engrained in Irish people that dancing/clubbing is something you do in your youth, and once you have kids or settle down then you don’t go out any more. At the same time, it’s great to see young people getting into underground music and supporting it so voraciously. Berlin is another story, people of all ages and walks of life go out clubbing every weekend. Even in Barcelona it’s not strictly youth dominated, there are plenty of mature music connoisseurs at the gigs.
When writing a track, what is your process?
I make music every day, unless I am too busy with administrational stuff or if I’m just really not feeling up to it. I’ve even started making tracks when I travel now as well, at least just getting ideas down as I often have great ideas when I’m sat on a plane or a train. My process is always to start with the melody. I use one of my synths and just start throwing in chords or notes, sometimes with the mouse, sometimes played in or other times with a Step sequencer. Often the experiment will go nowhere, but sometimes it just locks in and I can quickly get something I like. Once I have a melody down then I start to add the other elements around that. The style of track is shaped as I make it. I can start out making what I think will be a stomping techno track and it gradually mutates into a deep house track or ambient track and vice versa.
Can you tell us about your studio setup? Is it quite static or is it prone to change?
My studio setup is very static but slowly evolving. I have a few pieces of hardware which are all at arm’s length, and I have a few trusted VST’s. The hardware is as follows: Vermona Mono Lancet, Moog Minitaur, Nord Lead 2, DSI Tetra, Oberheim Matrix 1000 and Juno 106. Every piece of hardware that I own gets used on a weekly basis, with the exception of my Access Virus which was responsible for all my music between 2005 and 2009 but now is sitting in a drawer. I would never sell it but I don’t have a need for its sound these days. As I only acquire new hardware very slowly, I have plenty of time to get to know each piece. As for VST’s I have a small amount that I use a lot. I love the TAL line of VST’s, in particular the Juno clone and the sh101 clone. I also use the Korg Legacy Suite a lot and of course, Circle. As far as effects go, I mainly use Ableton’s own effects in addition to the Waves H-delay and Valhalla reverbs. I also just bought a hardware delay - the Strymon Timeline and I’ve been slowly incorporating this into my music. I’ve got a wishlist as long as my arm when it comes to hardware, but I’ll just have to make do with acquiring a piece of equipment once every year or so. Right now I’m cautiously putting pieces in place to eventually experiment with a non-computer sequenced setup, but that’s going to take a lot more work to come to fruition.
What are your thoughts on Circle? Are there any certain features you like in particular?
I especially love the envelopes and modulation capabilities of Circle. I like the visual displays of the envelopes and the wide range of options available to really sculpt a sound and take it in different directions. Also the way the GUI is laid out is a little different to normal synths or VSTs but very easy to adapt to - I especially like how you drag the coloured dots to modulate parameters. I like that I can use the standard analog modelled waveforms and also blend in many different digital waveforms. In short, it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.
We’d love to know how Circle has been used in your productions. Are you able to describe an example?
I used Circle on several tracks on a new album I have coming out under a new alias, Merrin Karras. It’s an ambient album and I found Circle particularly useful due to its very long attacks and releases in creating the kinds of lush slowly evolving pads I was looking for on some of the tracks. I finished the album already a year ago. I made it over the course of the previous two winters. The cold was just what I needed to get me in the mindset to make the music. The album is called Apex and will be coming out on John Beltran’s Dado Records in a couple of months.
To keep up to date with Chymera’s latest news follow him on Facebook, SoundCloud and Twitter.