• Cyrus

Succeeding to not suck across genres - With Kaoss, Afro, Hitchcock Guillotine, and Absence of Truth

I thought that it would be cool to get a bunch of my friends together who have different but overlapping experience in different genres and see what experiences they have in common and what experiences they don't.


I've been meaning to get this published for ages, but I've just gotten around to it. Sorry guys.



Cyrus: To start this off tell me a little bit about yourself and give me the names y'all want me to refer to you as by. What genres do you guys have experience making? How long have y'all been making music? Also if you want anything shilled, go ahead


Michael: My name's Michael, I make progressive metalcore and industrial music. I've been playing music for about 7 years and my main project is Absence of Truth


Afro: I'm Afro, i have the most experience doing electronic music, mainly bass focused genres like drum & bass, dubstep and electro, but i like experimenting with all kinds of music

been using FL studio for 10 years, never had any formal education so i'm fully self taught through trial and error and youtube tutorials


Kaoss: I'm known as KaossTheFox, or just Kaoss for short. I've been working on music for about 7 years as well, mainly dabbling in electronic based genres, though I'm now steering more and more towards electronic rock and metal direction. I'm not nearly as knowledgeable as a lot of the people here, but I'm always hoping to pick up something new. Still mostly old projects, but I got some things in the background I'm hoping to put out real soon.


Hitchcock Guillotine: I make music as Hitchcock Guillotine and have a band called Long After Midnight. I make industrial/rock/metal and weird electronic stuff, been at it off and on for 20 years. I got a live set of original electronic industrial coming up in a streaming fest called Clownfest 4 [AN: I'm godawful at getting shit out on time so I missed the date for this, but here is the bandcamp upload of this. Sorry HCG] on 12/28. And finally, Long After Midnight stuff -- we've got a full length album in the works, it's going to be really good.


Cyrus: What's the biggest struggle you guys have had when making music?



Michael: My biggest struggle would probably be staying on a consistent track, especially with how difficult the music industry can be


Afro: Finishing songs definitely, i have been working on the same set of 4-5 songs for the last year and a half, but hopefully they will get released next year as an EP. For a while music theory was a big struggle for me as well, because i was never taught and i never bothered to learn it properly, now i have a better understanding of how things work so it's not as bad


HCG: For me it's figuring out what to do with a song/idea so I can finish it off -- like, what does release ready look like and how do I plan a release? When it comes to ideas with my band it's really straightforward, once vocals and guitars are written/recorded, I mix it and we all agree when the track is done. But my solo stuff is more open ended so I have a harder time deciding what to do with it.


Kaoss: Perfectionism and inconsistency. I tend to work in shotgun bursts of productivity, and have a really idealistic idea of what sound I want. But it's hard to really fine tune a song when your workflow is so sporadic.


Cyrus: Do you think this perfectionism and ultimately finishing songs and projects is a universal thing across genres and scenes? What tends to help you all?



HCG: I think it's a very normal thing. The thing that helps me is to establish clear goals and deadlines. I think that's key for anyone really -- you have to define what you want to accomplish and when you want it done, otherwise you're just going to float aimlessly.


Michael: Perfectionism definitely isn't so much an issue in more freeform styles, but I think with the advent of cleaner modern production it becomes an issue to stand out among all the others. For me I don't spend too much time on details, just find a good sound I like and stick with it, tweaking only major issues. Sometimes a minor flaw in one ear can be a defining sound for another


Kaoss: At least in terms of perfectionism, I think it's somewhat inevitable when it comes to any artform. You're taking a little piece of yourself and presenting it to an audience, it's somewhat inevitable that you would want to present it in the most clean cut and polished way possible. But sometimes that's not really going to happen. And it's been somewhat helpful at least for me to accept that, much like the spoken word, not everything's gonna come out the way you intended, but with practice one can get better at it.


At least in terms of perfectionism, I think it's somewhat inevitable when it comes to any artform. You're taking a little piece of yourself and presenting it to an audience

Afro: I would guess it's easier if you have people that work with you, like in a band, so you could bounce ideas back and forth between all members. When you're a solo artist like myself, you have to think about everything you want done in the song, so in a way it's more pressure, but also more freedom? it gives you freedom to do whatever you want without having to respect someone else's take on it, so it's sorta like a double edged sword, on one hand creativity flows better between two or more people, but on the other, if you have a very specific idea of what you want a song to be, you don't have to appease or incorporate someone else's ideas into it, because it's all yours. For me personally I'm still figuring out what helps. I think relaxing and letting ideas come to me instead of actively seeking them helps me a lot. As far as perfectionism goes, i kind of struggle with that as well since like i said, i'm still working on those songs from a year and a half ago


Michael: I'm typically the kind of person to write and finish a song within a week so I can't really call myself a perfectionist. I've long since worked that kink out of my workflow.


Kaoss: Or an entire album in a week.


Michael: Evidently.


Afro: Yeah, I'm pretty quick to put an idea down on paper, but to actually finish it is hard


HCG: There's a lot to be said for committing to ideas and pushing them forward in a timely manner


Michael: For me I have roots in jazz fusion, which works off of "in the moment" flow and writing on occasion. So that's helped marginally


Afro: makes sense for genres of music that work better played live, but when you have all the options at your disposal in a DAW it becomes harder to just "live with it" because you can always go back and change something


Cyrus: Michael, Do you have any tips for anyone trying to get over their perfectionism and to just release something?



Michael: Focus on all the things you like about a track you're writing. If they outnumber the things you dislike by a considerable amount, then try not to criticize it too harshly. I work from a DAW and not analogue, but I think there is genius to be had from in the moment writing choices

Then again, I'm speaking from a metal standpoint where things are more allowed to be raw and dirty.


HCG: (Responding to Afro) That's really been the appeal of hardware synths and specifically modular stuff for me. It forces me to work more with recorded audio that I can't change whenever I want. Leads to a lot of results that feel more organic, forces me to make decisions more in the moment. Granted, that's definitely not for everyone, but I think the idea of saying I like how this sounds and bouncing it to audio and not going back is something that is worth considering in the realm of software.


Afro: Yeah, over the years I've worked with audio more and more, back then mostly because of the limitations of my old computers, but now i think it's part of me trying to just move on with the idea


Cyrus: Do you guys ever find yourself in an artistic rut and start feeling like you haven't made any significant process lately? If you do, how do you get out of it?



HCG: It may sound kind of pretentious, but no. I often avoid interacting with my synths because I know I'll write something and it'll go on the pile of unreleased songs. Unless I've released all the songs, then I'll play with my synths and write more. There's a balance somewhere.


Michael: On occasion I'll feel like my style isn't really up to my standards. When this happens, I keep the project on hand, wait a couple weeks, listen to some music that I've written along with bands I like then come back to it. After that break I generally have a better idea of what I want


Afro: I was in one up until last month actually, this year has messed with my head a bit and I kind of moved away from music making in general for a few months. I'm actively trying to get out of it now by interacting with people who work on similar music as mine, and developing ideas further that i usually would. I also recently got a considerable amount of money off of music (or music related things) for the first time in what feels like forever. So that motivates me to keep working on things


Kaoss: Honestly? I was in a pretty hard artistic rut for the last 4 years or so, and the last year has been my most productive in a long time. Most of what did it for me was just kind of getting to the source of the problem - I was writing music I didn't really want to write all that much, and it took deciding on a new artistic direction to really break out of it.


Cyrus: When it comes to actually making music, what's your processes?



Afro: When i start a song i need a solid idea to latch onto. That could be a simple synth line, a sound design bit or a nice drum break. It's always different for me but it has to be solid enough that it won't bore me by the 20th time I've listened to it. Once i have something, I can pretty easily build a whole song off of it, then the process of "finishing" it or perfecting it is what takes most of the time. I'll start something on day one and revisit it on day 3 or 4 so i can come at it with a fresh set of ears. Mixing and mastering come pretty naturally for me so it doesn't really take that long


I'll start something on day one and revisit it on day 3 or 4 so i can come at it with a fresh set of ears.

Kaoss: It usually starts with me messing around with some riffs on my guitar and finding something that excites me. From there I start laying down a framework of what I want the song to sound like - what story am I trying to tell with it, and what would fit where better. After getting a somewhat basic collection of ideas together, I'll try and organize it on paper (in the literal and metaphorical sense). From there that's where the fun stuff starts.


Michael: I generally just jam on guitar and then work off one idea I really like. Or just as often, I write in Guitar Pro based off scales and chords that I use very frequently


HCG: It always starts with a sound design/programming idea. For example, Akai added a huge drum synth thing to the MPC series, so I start poking at the new drum synth stuff on my MPC Live and wondering what happens when I run these individual parts through more distortion, what if I automate things, suddenly I'm into some ideas that sound like a song and I can easily flesh out parts. I kind of just explore some sound concepts and something either emerges or doesn't. Once it does, I settle on a key for melody/harmony to work in and construct layers, progressions, etc.


Cyrus: When you guys are stepping into genres you're unfamiliar with or have little experience with, what's your process like?



Afro: I try to saturate myself with it as much as i can. A while ago i actually asked you to recommend me some metal because i wanted to get more into it, so i go looking for it everywhere i can and i develop my own taste


Michael: I don't often write in styles that I don't already like somewhat, but if I'm not too experienced I'll mix it with my existing techniques and sort of make it my own. I suppose this makes things more unique actually


HCG: I guess I don't really delve into unfamiliar territory too often. Or if I do I listen to a broad enough spectrum of music that I know how to make it make sense in the context of what's familiar. I think it's where music theory kicks in for me, if I know what key and tempo something is in, I can just roll with whatever the vibe is. I guess recent examples are I did some remixes of a couple songs by a rapper I like and turned it into filthy electronic industrial stuff but it still worked.


Kaoss: Usually I'll find a playlist or something on Spotify and basically engulf myself in the genre for a few days - having it on while I run errands, playing games, showering, etc. - and from there I'll pick the bits I like and try to twist it in a way I feel like I could call mine in some way.


Cyrus: Do you think any of your experiences differ significantly from anyone else here as far as you can tell? Do you think it's more similar than different?



Afro: For me yeah, everyone else here seems to be into metal and rock genres, while i never really delve into those myself. I'm sure you guys know how to mix live instruments way better than me and i'm sure i could teach a whole lesson on dubstep wobs.


Michael: I'm actually quite relieved that others have similar issues as me when it comes to these things, however I can't really relate my quick workflow to others and that's the only thing I struggle with. I think my quick writing style is actually a detriment in the sense that I always feel like I'm rushing myself


HCG: (In response to Michael) I can relate to that. I never have a problem writing a song and creating a complete idea, but whenever anyone asks advice on how to finish songs I'm like "I don't know you just do it it's not hard". I think a lot of the struggles and challenges of creating art are similar between artists at every level in every format.


Kaoss: I don't really feel like I differ too far from everyone's experience here too much - one of the perks to electronic rock I guess - except for maybe Hitchcock as I'm basically a stranger to analog workflow. Like damn, I can't even play my guitar well, let alone actually write outside of software.


HCG: On the flip side, everyone has strengths and weaknesses. I think in this current age of having so much ease of creating music solo, it's good to find one or more people to collaborate with regularly. Example, with my band, I can have an idea that I think is really cool, but then my singer will rearrange the song structure and it just goes into a whole other universe, blows me away every single time.


I think in this current age of having so much ease of creating music solo, it's good to find one or more people to collaborate with regularly.

Cyrus: Do you think that there is anything significant that can be learned from seeing other perspectives like this? Has this little conversation been at least a little beneficial to you guys at all?



Kaoss: Well for one thing it's good to know I'm not the only one who's spent years rewriting the same song. And I feel like I could take a lesson out of Michael's experience with songwriting and learning to manage the likes and dislikes rather than trying to fix every single dislike I have while writing.


Afro: Yeah, it's interesting to see how other people go about starting and finishing music in genres i'm unfamiliar with. It's also nice to see that people struggle with the same things i struggle with, it seems like finishing music or staying consistent is a universal thing that a lot of artists struggle with


HCG: I think it's always helpful to hear what other people are doing and how they approach things. I don't think art is meant to be made in a vacuum, you should always seek outside perspectives and at the very least, it's a good sanity check to know that you're not the only person overthinking everything. Because everyone is over thinking everything all the time.


Because everyone is over thinking everything all the time.

Kaoss: Some of us more than usual.


Michael: Yeah as stated, it's always good to get perspectives from outside your own. To grow as an artist you should be taking in just as much as you give out so I think conversations like this are quite beneficial to understand where others are coming from


Kaoss: Agreed.


Cyrus: Any other thoughts, concerns, or mildly amusing statements?



Afro: y'all should get into baking frfr its easy and sooo rewarding, i made some awesome cheddar jalapeño bread the other day and now i want to make it again


HCG: You know what? Yes. Learn to cook. Make things from scratch. It feels super good.


Afro: cooking is a super useful skill and it's so much fun


Cyrus: I can't cook for shit. Wish i could.


Michael: Learn another language or two, it increases brain matter. 500iq tips. Also Megadeth is better than Metallica (don't put this in)


Kaoss: I guess I'll put this out to anyone who might stumble upon this - don't limit your creativity out of fear or self-consciousness. Make what music you want, write what story you want, draw what you want. The right people will find it eventually, but don't shove yourself into a corner just because a genre is a trend. And if you wanna go after a trend, make it your own instead of just copying others. Anyway, trans rights.


Michael: ACAB black lives matter trans rights stream Pizza by Attila alright that's me


HCG: Trans rights and get Cyrus a subscription to some sort of culinary training program


Cyrus: Alright, guess that's that. Thanks for participating guys, hopefully y'all had fun.


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