Ian Maleney talks sound, emotion and the Montreal scene with reformed electro producer Valentin Stip.
Some records grab you by the collar and force you to listen to them, demanding your attention for as long as they’re around. Others choose a less confrontational path, opening up to a listener at their own pace and creeping inside their mind one spin at a time. Anytime Will Do by Valentin Stip is resolutely of the latter sort. Stip is a 19-year old musician living in Montreal, Canada and, this July he will release his debut EP on Clown and Sunset. It is an idiosyncratic collection that channels the young musician’s myriad of influences, from his classical training as a concert pianist to the moody minimal techno shapes of his friend and label boss, Nicolas Jaar, into four beautiful, austere songs. In a quick email exchange from his home, Stip explains some of his influences and inspirations.
Can you tell me a little about how you got started making the kind of music you’re making now? When I started making electronic music, a year and a half ago, I was making “electro”. I worked in that way for a while until last summer. I was in my house in Brittany, during a rainy day. I had worked on something new for a few hours, and had gotten so immersed in it that my computer died and lost the file. I was so angry that I ran out of my house, to the shore, and sat on a rock, stormy waves breaking at my feet. I gazed into the sea for a while, and listened. It might sound absurd but the soothing sound of waves, boats, birds, gave me some kind of revelation: Music, in its core, is nothing more than sounds carefully pieced together to create some emotion. And it is the “sounds” aspect of it that struck me. In a way, that day I realized that everything around you is potentially music. And that’s when I turned my back on “electro” to try and come back to something more soulful and pure.
There are many acoustic elements woven into your music, where do you find them? Do their origins hold any importance to you or do you take things from anywhere you can find them? I usually take things from anywhere I can find them. I get lost in the sounds and let them express their possibilities as I’m messing around with effects, pitch, texture and everything. Sometimes I end up with a sound that is very organic-like, when I started on a midi track with a preset… I think that sound should be free in that way, liberated from the form and only considered in essence.
‘Gravels (1 et 2)’ is a very ambitious track, both in terms of length and content, and it really stands out on the EP. Can you tell us a little about how this track was born, where its influences come from and what it means to you? With Gravels, it was my ambition to try and reconnect all the music that inspired me, ranging from classical to electronic. That’s where the name Gravels comes from, it’s all those pebbles of memories that I threw on the ground and assembled in an 11 minute song. The strings represent the classical aspect of things, the ternary drums are more the Trip-Hop-Portishead side, while the micro-sampled voices and bass stand as more recent electronic music. The thing is I really felt as if I was making two different tracks that had to live together to make sense, and that’s where the I and II come from. But I want Gravels to be more of a project than a song; it’s a concept that I want to explore and exploit. Maybe I’ll make other gravels, when the time comes.
You’re releasing the your new EP on Clown and Sunset, your friend Nicolas Jaar’s label. How does it feel to be working on a professional level with someone who is a personal friend? It feels really good, as it doesn’t really feel professional. I trust Nico so I am confident that I can talk to him when something is on my mind. I think it also helps me to stay focused on who I am and what I want to do, to not get sidetracked.
Montreal is a very musical city and many great acts have come out of there in the last decade. Has living there affected the music you make? Is there anyone else in Montreal that you think people should know about and listen to? I totally agree that Montreal is a source of inspiration. The fact is, I feel really free in this city. Nothing is too oppressive, and you feel like the only thing you need to achieve something is the will.
There is also a lot of activity, in terms of concerts, so you have the possibility to discover many things. Even when you think you’ve seen a broad enough aspect of the scene, it expands right under your nose. I have a lot of friends there that make music too and we organize parties, where we try and stream away from the club scene and give the people a musical experience. I also have started making music with my friend Paul Sara, whose music is definitely worth a look.
How do you approach live performance with this music? What could people expect from your live set? I had a hard time at the beginning when I first started rehearsing my live set. I couldn’t get the structures of the tracks out of my head, as if they were printed there. But slowly everything is untangling inside my head and I open myself to my tracks, and they open to me. My objective through the live set is to make the music live and expand, but not necessarily in a kick-snare kind of way. I want to be able to make people move without a beat, but maybe that’s too ambitious… I’ll see!
Finally, what do you like to do outside of music? How do you like to relax? I spend a lot of time reading philosophy, physics and poetry. I spend time with the people I care about, and try to stay informed about what is going on in the world, but it’s hard since even the news medium already chooses what they want to show you. In the end, when I am by myself and I want to relax I’ll put on a good old record, lie down on my couch, and I’ll think for some time. I like to be alone and think, it relaxes me.
If you’re in London later this month you can catch Valentin Stip with Nicolas Jaar live at Fabric:
27th July, 8pm – 1am Nicolas Jaar Live Valentin Stip Live Gadi Mizrahi
28th July, 10pm – 4am Nicolas Jaar Live Valentin Stip LiveSoul Clap Gadi Mizrahi