Apashe: How To Turn Your Day Job Into A Music Career [Interview]
Hailing from Brussels, Apashe landed in Montreal three years ago and is a model example of hard work and dedication. From humble beginnings—he didn't know a single person in Canada when he moved there—he has released track after track of badass, orchestral tunes such as “Battle Royale” and “Black Gold.” I have had the honor to watch him grow over the years with Kannibalen Records. Since I’m a pretty curious person, I hunted him down because I wanted to know more about the man behind the music. I’m always interested to know what artists do when they’re not performing or creating new tunes. I think it’s an intriguing aspect that is commonly overlooked. I also find that a lot of producers think if they don’t “make it big” in the scene then they’re a complete failure, so what are some other options?
I got the chance to spend a few minutes with Apashe in Montreal before he jetted overseas to join up with Black Tiger Sex Machine on their European tour. We discussed his job as a sound designer for Apollo Studios, how he balances his busy schedule and his new E.P. Golden Empire, which is set to be released on June 3, 2014. So now I present you Apashe: The Man Behind The Music.
(G = Gabe Gilker of EDM.com; A = Apashe)
G: What do you do for your day job?
A: I’m a sound designer for Apollo Studios. It’s also called Sonart, and it’s a company that makes sounds for everything, we do films, shorts, and advertisements. We also do a bunch of creative things, like we work with Ubisoft to make trailers. We do the sound design for big trailers, like Assassins Creed and Watch Dogs, which is probably the best thing you can do in sound because trailers are like big blockbusters. What we get in briefing for the sound will be something like 'Make something that sounds like Terminator,' and it’s like 'Fuck yeah!' We’ll make it as big as we can sound-wise, so in the trailer it will be really hard-hitting bass and a bunch of cuts that are really extreme to fit with the way the montage is made, and just have the trailers look really energetic through the sound. We have to push the limits all the way to that breaking point of energy. Those trailers are so much fun to do. It’s not what we always do but that’s the fun part of it.
G: Do you have a preference between working for Apollo or on your own beats?
A: Well there are pros and cons to both of them, but I think they both work well each other, I’ve learned so much being a sound designer, because from 9:00am - 5:00pm everyday I’m doing sound design, which is really improving my audio skills. Also, I prefer to work on my music here in these studios instead of working at home in my shitty home studio. I think it’s really important for me to have this job and make music at the same time.
G: Do you think your job influences your art and vice versa?
A: Yes, not only because I’ve learned so much, but the way I work now is way more efficient and fast, because I do this everyday, so it effects my music greatly. Everything is way easier now. For example when you’re working and someone asks you to do a pop song that is going to be a major happy/dynamic/whatever kind of sound, you get a bunch of guidelines you have to follow to make that sound and you have to follow those guidelines really quickly and you can’t procrastinate. You have to do it. The principle of working fast and knowing what you have to do because [your boss] wants you to do it, it just has to “pop.” That way of working when I apply it to my music is really easy.
Now I take all the elements of what I like and put them together, like if want to copy that rock influence from that song I just heard and mix it into my track, I’m able to take all the elements that I like and make it happen. I make this collage, and then I have a track. The way I worked before was more on the trying and testing side of things, I spent a lot of time testing sounds to see if they sounded good before I used them, now I’m not really trying anymore, I just say “I want this” and boom! I made it.
G: How did you get into sound engineering?
A: I always wanted to do sound, but I never really believed I would work in sound until some people just made me realize that I should do it. I started studying it because it was the thing that I liked the most in life. I didn’t really care if I got a job with it afterward; I just wanted to study something that I really liked. After I started going to school for it everything went nuts and now I’m here. Opportunities are crazy when you start talking to people and you’re passionate about it, and I was really lucky to meet some people who really wanted to take me on.
G: Right place, right time?
A: Yeah, and it’s all about connections, but if you really want to make those connections, you can. I’m originally from Brussels, and a few years ago I came to Montreal without anything. I wasn’t a professional in audio; I could make an electronic beat, but that was about it. I didn’t know anyone here. I wasn’t studying here. I was starting from scratch 3 years ago, and I just really wanted to do it, so I fucking did it. With a lot of luck.
G: Do you find it’s easier to make connections in the EDM scene or in work, or are they equally as difficult?
A: It’s more difficult to make connections in the sound business—especially when you’re young and you don’t have a lot of experience. Simply because in the music scene you can go to a party and talk to people and they are way more accessible. You can have a beer with anyone you want. While in the sound field people don’t really go out, because they’re all older, and it’s such a closed world because there are a lot of people who want to do sound. Every musician wants to do sound with their life because it’s more fun than just working wherever. So if everyone wants to do it that means that there’s not a lot of spots available. Lots of studios already have their core team and if there is a spot available it’s going to be filled immediately because everyone knows someone who wants to do it. It’s really difficult to get in touch with people because it’s a really closed community, but when you succeed in meeting one of those people it gets easier because you can then prove that you’re good, and they do want to help you.
G: You didn’t finish your degree for sound engineering at Concordia University, so how did you get this job?
A: It was actually at a party [laughing] but not a scene party. I was just having a beer on this balcony, smoking a cigarette, and the guy next to me was one of the bosses of this studio, and we just started talking. He told me about his three different studios in Montreal, and I started freaking out like “Oh my god, what the fuck.” I just couldn’t leave him, I was just asking so many questions so in the end he just invited me over to the studio, and told me about how they are always searching for interns. Which is actually a great way to enter a studio, you’re not paid but you can help them and if you’re good they will teach you a lot. So that’s how I got it. I showed him my music and my sound, and I guess he saw some potential so he let me on as an intern. Initially they said that I would be working for 6 months to a year for free, and maybe if there is a spot you will get hired. Which kind of nerve wracking because what if I worked here for all that time and didn’t get a job? It would suck. I was lucky though. After 3 months they needed someone and now I’ve been here for a year.
If you have an opportunity…just take it. I was studying, doing my internship and my own music at the same time, and I had to work at another job to get a little bit of cash. That’s almost three full-time jobs I was balancing without really getting paid. It was really tough, but I couldn’t let it go. I just had to do it. It was hard, but at the end I won.
G: Speaking of winning, can you tell me more about your upcoming EP?
A: It’s a 2 track EP called Golden Empire to follow the epicness of my previous tracks like “Battle Royale” or “Black Gold” because they’re all really orchestral, so I mixed orchestral samples with really big sounds and hip hop and everything, so this EP I wanted to have in the same genre, with the same kind of orchestration and everything but more sunny because summer is coming. Golden Empire is based on the ancient Egyptians, which is something warm, while mixing some Arabic melodies, because they have a really particular way of writing music. I wanted to take all those elements and to make an EP which is a mix of everything.
G: You’re meeting up with Black Tiger Sex Machine for their European tour. How does that feel?
A: I’m really excited. I’m really excited to fly over new places and meet people. I’m playing with them at the Paris show and one of their shows in Italy. I’ll be leaving next week to meet up with them. I can’t wait to get on the road and start playing more shows.
G: It’s all part of the balancing act I suppose. What do you see for the future?
A: It’s tricky to tell, but I definitely want to get a video done for the end of the summer because I have a lot of resources, and I can pool together a small team. It’s tough to say because everything moves so quickly. If everything keeps going to way it’s going though I’ll be happy. It’s like a path which is getting smaller and smaller, but also higher and faster. With Kannibalen, the more we work, the more work we have, but it things get done really quickly. In the beginning, when we had a certain goal to achieve, it was a lot of work and it would take so long to achieve it. But now, we have a lot of goals and things just happen way quicker than 2 years ago.
I need to keep busy though, you know when you were in high school and you just sat around smoking weed and doing nothing, because you thought that you needed to do nothing for your happiness? Like sitting around and doing nothing was so cool, and now, the less busy I am, the more stressed out I get. Constantly questioning myself like, 'I have nothing to do?! Why do I have nothing to do?! I need to do something!' Then I have to calm down and think about what normal people do when they have nothing to do, like watching T.V. and it just doesn’t work. I just always need a goal to work towards and see it evolve. That makes me happy.
Written by Gabe Gilker