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Tweaken, a heavy and melodic Belgian experience

In conversation with Tweaken, a heavy & melodic Belgian experience

Tweaken is a Belgian duo of producers/songwriters who create techno/progressive melodic tracks. A concept born out of experience on the 2014 Ozara psytrance festival. A duo that exists out of the complementary composers Nico & Fabien, influenced by the strong Belgian techno roots present in their unique music compositions.

Their goal is to bring a fresh, heavy and melodious view on our Belgian techno origins and this through modern compositions, live performances and visual shows. In short … Tweaken, a heavy and melodic Belgian experience.

We sat down with these guys and asked them some questions.

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Hey Nico, Fabien,

Good ta have you here with us. It was a pleasure to meet you recently in Antwerp. Let start this interview.

For fans who don’t know much about you, could you tell us a bit about your music background? How did you fall down the music rabbit hole?
FABIEN: We have had both a very long-lasting relationship with music, starting from heterogeneous styles and early in our childhood. I fell as early as 5 years olds into the heavy metal and grunge holes thanks to my older brother, with a craze for, respectively, the music videos “One” by Metallica and “Come as you are” by Nirvana which ran in a loop on MTV at that time. This was the start of a strong passion for catchy melodic riffs and powerful choruses. At that time, I took on the bass guitar to absorb and mimic the bassline grooves of my favourite musicians.

NICO: I really fell in the hole when I bought my first guitar. I was 15 years old at that time. I have therefore explored several facets of instrumental music via punk and rock music that could be found on MTV or in video games. I then became interested in mixing and I quickly became the “DJ” for my friends. First, at private parties, and then little by little during more official events. It was an opportunity for me to familiarize myself with a mixer and its effects, an amp, etc. I liked to make people dance, even if my playlists were fairly mainstream.

Tweaken, a dynamic duo from Belgium

What type of music did you enjoy in your younger days? And compared to now, how has your taste in music changed?
NICO: During adolescence, I was like many, a rebel, against the mainstream. I particularly liked everything that was underground. Punk-rock, but also electro styles like drum & bass, hardtek and later dubstep. Today, after exploring several musical spheres, I find in techno a little bit of each of these styles. Energy, melody and big productions that make you irresistibly move.

FABIEN: As a teenager, my tastes, although mainly driven by rock, opened up for hip-hop, reggae and disco before falling into a strong passion for jazz and its virtuosity mainly observed at the North Sea Jazz in Den Haag. It is only around my 23rd birthday, during an Erasmus in Berlin, that I explored the techno clubbing scene and the endless possibilities and new vibrations brought by the electronic music.

FABIEN/NICO: At that time and at the same moment, we unified our passion for electronic music by exploring together the psytrance scene and it cosmic musical and colourful vibrations until we decided, on the main stage of the 2014 Ozora psytrance festival, to start a new techno project which later gave birth to “Tweaken”.

On the main stage of the 2014 Ozora psytrance festival, we decided to start a new techno project, which later gave birth to “Tweaken”.

What about your childhood was unique and most contributed to the adult/artist you’ve become today?
FABIEN: My very early exposure to grunge and heavy metal through my old brother (10 years difference), his audio cassettes and later on CD collection, his friends (whom I was hardly trying to poorly sing “One” by Metallica), MTV, and the limited access to music at that time forced, me to start appreciating music through limited genre and artists. At that time, I could listen to one single album such as “Come as you are” over and over, looking at myself in the mirror of the wardrobe, a tennis racket in my hands, pretending to be Kurt Cobain while sputtering lyrics in a devastating imitation of English. However, this period of time shaped my current ears, dedication and passion for music.

NICO: I grew up in a family where music is everywhere. My parents were very modern and very well equipped. At home, there was Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson and also “Dance” compilations from the 90s to “I Love techno” CDs. All this mixture, very festive, allowed me to keep an open mind, and to know how to appreciate good arrangements and be able to find inspiration in absolutely all styles of music.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? And your influence music-wise?
NICO: No one, in particular. I would say my circle of friends with whom we always talked about music and festivals. In this regard, I know that for me there was” a before” and “after” my Ozora festival (psytrance / downtempo). These experiences (from 2010 to 2014) completely changed my vision of electronic music and it still influences me today.

FABIEN: As said, in terms of the progression of personal tastes and music styles through my youth, my old brother. Later on, my passion for electro music came in Berlin and got confirmed at the Ozora festival.

As a duo, what are your biggest weaknesses?
NICO: The fact that in the creative process we constantly relaunch. Sometimes it’s hard to stop and validate choices once and for all.

FABIEN: Coming from and being both open to a variety of music styles, we sometimes tend to let our productions migrate to adjacent electro genres. We then have to re-direct them to our dedicated style to keep our Tweaken common thread.

The music industry is often seen as a swamp, always struggling to get through and keeping your head above water. What do you find most challenging about the music business?
NICO: The sharing. Give good vibes, play and dance. We like the “show” side of music. Without these aspects it is sometimes difficult to find something to gain. Let’s never forget that it’s just music and that despite an industry that can be sometimes discouraging, you have to do it for yourself, its pleasure.

Let’s never forget that it’s just music and that despite an industry that can be sometimes discouraging, you have to do it for yourself, its pleasure.

FABIEN: I agree, you have to keep your passion as the main factor to continue moving forward. It is a rapidly changing industry in its essence and the way it is consumed. And you have to constantly deal with it as over a single year, many aspects of it might have changed already.

How do you guys push the energy, in the studio, on a stage, … ?
NICO/FABIEN: On a stage! It’s our favourite sport!

Tweaken playing live on stage

The process of learning to make electronic music reveals to you how little you know. That makes you increasingly aware of how much more you need to learn to get anywhere close to where you want to go. Don’t you find this intimidating and demoralizing? Or how do you wake up every day and look at this ever-evolving world of technology?
NICO: It’s true. In the past, we sometimes felt like we were on the wrong path because we could not master the whole technical side of it from the start. During our journey, we met professionals who guided us towards these techniques and who were very honest with us, which allowed us to progress in the quality of our productions. Like everyone, we had doubts & disappointments. But what kept us from being demoralized is to believe in our originality. Even though we weren’t great sound engineers, we knew deep down that we could bring something unique. You have to keep the faith and go on.

FABIEN: Also, electronic music production is today perceived as a very accessible composition process for many, which has been made possible, especially thanks to the music assisted by the computer. However, in electronic music, many aspects of music production are included in a single workflow which goes from idea creation to multiple instruments composition (a bit like a conductor), arrangement, sound design, mixing and mastering. And it’s often taken care of by a single person. Therefore, it makes it a multitask music job which required skills in both its horizontal and vertical dimensions.

What is the importance of the connections you make? How do you utilize them?
NICO: A long-standing connection that makes us know each other very well. You don’t need to talk a lot to understand each other. It is also a complementary connection because we are two very different individuals, each bringing their skills to the project.

FABIEN: It is true. At first, you need to be on the same page, to have the same level of understanding and appreciation of music. But also a complementary methodology in the creative process. Else you might quickly get overwhelmed and tired by the slow pace of work. Today, we have reached a point at which we speak about music with images and feelings allowing us to reach our final results quicker and more efficiently.

Give us an insight into what we can expect from Tweaken over the next few months.
NICO: First, new releases! First in a minimal high tech style. And by the time spring starts, progressive house tracks will see the light of day. Several dates are also coming, as well as projects outside dancefloors such as collaborations with other artists.

FABIEN: On top of this, we are now consolidating all our news tracks into a more accomplished live performance which we are relentlessly improving to get ready for upcoming tours here and abroad.

You come from Brussels, the capital of Europe. For people who want to visit the city, what would be 3 things that you would suggest to do or see?

– The Marolles district around the courthouse, the last corner still typically Brussels. Take a walk during the day and in the evening go out to the Fuse!
– The Grand Place of course ;
– The old “Tour & Taxis” warehouses along the canal, a rapidly expanding area of Brussels.

– I would always bring my guests for a tour in the centre of Brussels, discovering old-fashioned Belgian bars which make it the roots of our beer tradition such as the “Au Bon Vieux Temps”.
The Horta Museum in the Horta private house, which makes it a symbol of the very unique Belgian Horta architecture ;
The Sablon, an opportunity for every foreigner to have a compressed experience of the Belgian culture, starting with chocolate testing at Marcolin or Neuhaus, beer and tradition dishes in one of its Belgian restaurant, before ending up in our very famous Fuse club later on in the night.

Thank you!

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