Osheyack and Nahash took no prisoners on the trampling onslaught that is Club Apathy. Traversing mutant iterations of dancehall, hardstyle and scything club deconstruction, the collaborative EP booted off with a volatile titular cut before descending into equally tempestuous waters.
Released on Shanghai label SVBKVLT, it was the product of a collaboration between two expats that crossed paths while living in the Chinese city, and one that we hope continues to bear fruit. Amsterdam-based agitator DJ Marcelle and melo-rhythmic trance originator Nkisi got on remix duties, but we pitted the original duo against one another for a little head-to-head.
Nahash: Since I left China 4 years ago, I feel that a lot has changed in clubland there. Can you tell me a bit more about how the scene has evolved in my absence and how it has influenced your work.
Osheyack: Things have definitely become more tribal. There are more dedicated spaces for specific genres of music, which in turn has sort of split the crowd. There are more clubs within Shanghai and the country itself which has made it easier to go on longer tours. Having ALL as a base of operations has been immensely helpful. As an artist, having the ability to try out new work on an audience is invaluable.
Has the experience of relocating to Montreal from Shanghai impacted the sound of Club Apathy, or your previous record, Flowers of the Revolution?
N: So much so, in Shanghai I was living this super intense lifestyle, working like crazy as a live sound engineer, going out and DJing all the time and then on top of all that producing, mixing and mastering. Looking back I’m not sure how I made it all work to be honest.
When I moved to Montréal, I was, and still am, absolutely no-one on the scene here. Which means that I don’t get booked, and frankly it’s kind of a relief. My sound really transformed from making either super aggro drone metal stuff as Nahash or club ready functional dance music as Laura Ingalls into something that I just make because I want to make it. It’s so liberating and satisfying.
I had sort of abandoned the idea of producing and releasing music and was getting into just mixing and mastering. I have to give credit to Gaz, when he asked me to remix Goooose I sort of sat down and really thought of what I like to make and what I like to listen to and came up with the sound that is now Nahash.
N: Can you tell me a bit more about Club Apathy’s cover? How did you think of it and who was involved at what level?
O: There were a lot of different ideas floating around that could’ve turned into the cover, I was looking at ‘70s glam records, a lot of Roxy Music-type stuff. It was actually my longtime collaborator Dre Romero’s idea for the huge light up peacock skirt. Dre shot it and we then handed off to Luke Griffiths for layout.
N: Do you think of visuals after making the music or is it a completely intertwined process for you where you really think of music and visuals as one entity?
O: The music takes precedence and usually comes first, but can often times be intertwined. It really comes down to the project and who I’m working with. If the work is more conceptual the visuals are naturally developed more in tandem with the rest of the record.
N: I know your first album, Sadomodernism, was deeply influenced by Michael Haneke while Memory Hierarchy looked at CCTV and surveillance. Is there a particular artist or idea that influenced you while making Club Apathy?
O: Club Apathy was really meant to be music to be played in Shanghai’s ALL club. The tracks were written for and tested out there in different forms. There was no real overarching concept for this EP other than to make functional dance music.
N: I remember back then I made a few tracks with Shelter’s sound system, crowd but also acoustics in mind, did you also think of the physical aspect of the club when you were writing these?
O: It is something I keep in mind but I was more aiming for the vibe of the audience. I do also think about what will fit for local DJ’s sets as well, if the tracks make sense in Kilo V or Hyp11e’s sets then they are a success.
O: As someone who doesn’t DJ, I’ve wondered what effect if any searching for and playing other people’s music on a more regular basis would have on me as an artist. Do you think DJing has changed the way you go about writing music?
N: I used to exclusively play live PAs when I first started, just like you, and then moved to DJing seriously around the time I moved to Shanghai. When I started DJing It really transformed the way I made music. Spending countless hours listening, selecting and playing dance tracks really gave me an insight into club music arrangement.
Before that I was coming from being classically trained but I didn’t have the sort of intuitive knowledge that DJing gave me. Also when it comes to mixing tracks I listened to so much music through my headphones that if I take any mixdowns through that exact pair and it doesn’t sound like what I’m used to hearing, I know the mixdown is wrong.
All in all it really made me a better, and much faster producer.
O: You regularly mix and master for a lot of different artists, particularly within Shanghai’s ‘underground scene’. How do you have a sort of template or strategy that you start from upon receiving material to work on?
N: I try to stay clear out of template as much as possible – a fresh track means a fresh approach for me. For example, I completely changed my way of thinking about mixing while working on 33EMYBW’s last album, so I just really followed the material. My strategy is to listen to the tracks until I have an intimate relationship with them, but also listen to what the artist has to say. I’m not someone with a very large ego and I’m just here to facilitate the artist’s vision.
O: I remember at the beginning of mixing and mastering we talked a lot about the use of sub bass in these tracks. What was the process like getting them to a place where the bass is a physical presence on a dance floor, but not an oppressive force?
N: Contrary to what YouTube mixing tutorials are teaching the kids these days, putting reverb on your sub bass is a really dumb idea. My process is not the most popular way to work, but I tend to use EQs to bump up frequencies I wanna hear instead of making cuts everywhere and introducing artefacts that I then spend hours fighting against. My not-so-secret weapon for EQing subs is the Maag EQ4.
I also tend to not over compress my subs – just a bit to tame them the way I want, but not so much that it kills the life off of it. Also sidechain compression everything because I’m French and I listened to way too much french disco house with compressors pumping those kicks out of the disco samples.
O: Initially we made a large sample pack together for the construction of these songs. Can you talk about what hardware was used to create the record, and generally, is that normal procedure for you, to gather a kind of palette of sounds and then begin arrangements?
N: A lot of the sounds came from my trusted old MPC 1000, which incidentally I bought from [SVBKVLT Label owner] Gaz in a previous life. This thing is the cornerstone of my studio now that I destroyed my Octatrack, which was also used extensively for our sound bank. It was also a lot of OP-1, which remains one of my fav synth for everything that isn’t creamy basslines to this day.
This process really resembles my usual work flow – I will spend months making tons of little loops and one-off sounds that I then gather into a finished track very quickly usually. I rarely spend more than an afternoon on an arrangement, and then I will come back to it a few times.
O: Going forward, is this what you’re using on upcoming releases? What can we expect next from you?
N: Yeah absolutely, I decided to stop buying gear and just focus on pushing as far as I could with what I have for now, it’s like how many reverb pedals do I really need in my life you know? I’m trying to insert more melodic elements in my music, it’s not really my forte, I’m happy just programming slamming drums but I’m taking notes from my jazz obsession and working with those chords.
Club Apathy is out now on SVBKVLT | Buy it here