Tuesday 30 September 2014

Interview: Yves Schelpe (Psy'Aviah)

The parts you can't see...

“It ['The Xenogamous Endeavour'] describes in words what I want to band to stand for, a marriage of styles, genres and people one wouldn’t expect at first, but does work out well.”

Psy'Aviah has been a name synonymous with progressive dance-orientated music for over a decade now. Formed by Belgian songwriter and producer Yves Schelpe, the band has released a number of critically acclaimed albums including 'Entertainment Industries' (2008), and 'Introspection / Extrospection' (2011), incorporating genres such as ebm, electroclash, house, techno, industrial, rock and synthpop along the way.
Existing for a long time as a duo alongside vocalist Emélie Nicolaï, the latest album, 'The Xenogamous Endeavour', sees Schelpe return to the original vision he had for Psy'Aviah and calls upon an impressive line-up of guest vocalists to complete the album. Intravenous Magazine caught up with Schelpe to discuss the new album, working with so many guests and what the future holds for Psy'Aviah as a live band.

Intravenous Magazine: The new Psy'Aviah album, 'The Xenogamous Endeavour', is due to be released soon. What has the reaction been like to it so far?

Yves Schelpe: With every release it’s always difficult to know what to expect, even though you might have a good gut feeling or be satisfied with the record, you never know how people will react. This time even more so, because I drastically changed the way I work. So when the first reactions from DJs, fans and magazines came in I was very happy to say the least!

IVM: This album sees a return to the original blueprint of Psy'Aviah of yourself and guest collaborators rather than working with a stable line-up. What led to the decision to approach the new album in this way?

YS: I never really stopped doing the collaborations of course, I always kept it alive as it’s a vital thing for me to find the right vocalist on the right place. I realized though, even before the EP “Future Past” that I wanted to return to the essence and have a lot more freedom in my song writing without making compromises.

IVM: How has the writing and recording of the new album compared to previous ones as a result of this change? 

The very essence of writing the tracks hasn’t changed a lot. I still wrote all the lyrics and music. Recorded vocal demos of them, and then went to a vocalist to work on the track together. In some cases the vocalists do write their own lyrics. The biggest change is that all collaboration work went over the internet, even with guitarist Ben. Everyone has his/her own studio setup, so it’s much easier working that way – they can record on their time and in their comfortable place. It’s just a lot of files that are going over the wire, and a lot of emails.

IVM: Psy'Aviah has always displayed a broad range of musical styles. What and who were your primary influences when going into the new album?

YS: I listen to so much different music. I look up to bands or projects that blend genres as well, such as Moby, Faithless, Delerium, Praga Khan etc.. Those bands taught me that it’s totally OK to mix it up, flip genres upside down and totally make it your own. Of course they inspire me as well, but most of my inspiration for genres come from what I listen during the period of recording. It has been a mix of tracks from the likes of Tove Lo, Röyksopp, Robyn (my god all Swedish pop…), Novastar, Prodigy and so much more... I’m always on Spotify or last.fm to discover new things to listen to.

IVM: You've worked with a number of guest vocalist on the new album. Which collaboration has been your favourite thus far?

YS: Picking a favourite is nearly impossible because of two very good reasons I think. One being that if I’d choose one or two favourites I’d have to choose a song I like most, which is something I can’t because I picked all thirteen tracks to end up on there in the end. Secondly, all people are different to work with and all have their fun sides, choosing is losing, and I don’t want to lose either experience. Maybe I can answer the question differently, the song I am most surprised by is 'In Uthenera' – it’s a bit of an outsider, an ode to the game “Dragon Age” and I’m glad I could finally get that cover version recorded.

IVM: Were there any potential collaborations that you wanted for the album but didn't come about for whatever reason?

YS: I never start out with someone in mind. I just write the track and then see which voice would suit it best actually, and if they’re available then yay, otherwise the song stays in the shelf until they have time and energy for it :). But to give some names, there’s some people on the 'Eclectric' album I worked with I’m working with again at the moment…

IVM: In an ideal world, who would be on your list of artists to work with on the next album?

YS: It depends on the songs I have at the moment… But I’m always looking for people to work with, so if you’re reading this – feel free to drop a message to me atinfo@psyaviah.com! Most of all I do like discovering new people and getting in people that normally wouldn’t get in touch with the genres I’m tackling.

IVM: The title, 'The Xenogamous Endevour', is quite an evocative one coming from the Greek xenos (strange) and gamos (marriage). How does that link in to the themes expressed on the album? 

YS: It’s a bit like the album title 'Eclectric' from a few years ago. It describes in words what I want to band to stand for, a marriage of styles, genres and people one wouldn’t expect at first, but does work out well.

IVM: The album's cover is also particularly striking. Where did that concept come from?
YS: It came from the album title. It visualises 'The Xenogamous Endeavour', blending worlds into one. The tree has a “natural” side to it, and a “technical” side. The theme comes back a lot in the other artwork as well, the backgrounds are curvy on one side and more edged on the other, but they blend in without you noticing at first. And that’s the concept of the music as well.

IVM: The album was once again released through Alfa Matrix. What is the working relationship like with the label and have you been approached by any others?

YS: They’ve given me the chance to release my first album, and I’ve always been treated well – so I saw no reason to continue working with them.

IVM: You released a music video for the track 'Our Common Future' which features Kyoko Baertsoen. Where did the concept for that come from and are you happy with the results?

YS: I wanted to show the beauty of 'Our Common World' – and what better way than to show it through the eyes of an astronaut. I did include Kyoko as well in the video, portrayed on the monitors of NASA & other TV screens to make her part of it as well.

IVM: Your music videos have always been memorable and often try to connect with a message. How important is this medium to you?

YS: Very much. I like images and photography, it has always interested me. It’s not something I claim to be very good at, but it does interest me a lot. I see it as an extension to the message of a song, so for me it’s important that the music video always has a link with the song. Be it a small one or a big story – it will always make sense when you read the lyrics.

IVM: Can we expect any more videos in support of the new album?
YS: Working with a lot of guests comes with a challenge, and one of them is that they live quite far away and recording them isn’t as easy as when you live in the same city or country. So whilst I’m working on music videos, it will take some time, but they will come for sure. Currently working on clips for Long Way (ft. Lis van den Akker), Before I Die (ft. Diana S), On My Mind (ft. Lisa Nascimento) and Our Common End (ft. Mari Kattman).

IVM: Are there any tour plans, and how would you approach playing live given the number of guest vocalists featured on the new album?

YS: No concrete plans to play live, but I do accept live requests. We, being me on keys and Ben on guitars are be the main live members. As vocalists it will depend on the availability on the moment, but I’ve done concerts before with Lis van den Akker on live vocals, so we have experience with that and can make sure the Psy’Aviah songs will be as strong live as they used to be!

IVM: A few years ago you started the Urban Sharing Experiment, where you would leave packages containing CDs in public places. How successful do you feel that was and is it something you're likely to repeat in the future?

YS: It was an extension to the idea behind the music actually. Main idea was to surprise people and get them excited about something that was not in their normal “daily routine”. It was successful in the sense people reacted to it and we ended up having interesting pictures, videos and photos of people finding and unpacking the packages. Exciting to see it, and to read reactions in emails or letters from over the world. Media and “urban / city” blogs picked it up as well, so it did create a discussion – but it was essentially a one off “experiment”. If someone would like to repeat it, I’d highly encourage them to do so, it’s fun to give something to people and to colour the city.

IVM: Finally, what are your plans for the rest of 2014 and going into 2015?

YS: The main focus now is working on the music videos, which will take some time and effort. Meanwhile though I’m actively working on new music and looking for new vocalists, both male or female (feel free to drop me a message). And when a live request comes in, we’ll see whether that will be possible – but that’s not the main priority at the moment.

'The Xenogamous Endeavour' is available to purchase now via Alfa Matrix. For more information on Psy'Aviah, including future releases and tour dates, please visit their official website.  

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