Electronic music producer and classically trained violinist, Sebastian Mullaert broke through the house and techno scene in the mid-nineties winning international acclaim with his work as a producer and live performer. His career highlights include a Swedish Grammy – P3 Guild Awards, for his work under Minilogue in 2007, and a nomination for the same award in 2017 as a solo artist. The musician’s latest album, “Natthall”, marks a completely different direction for the artist – done in collaboration with musicians of Tonhalle Orchester Zürich it seamlessly weaves the threads of electronic and classical music.
Here is the trailer to a short doc about the project which will also be released, which gives a taste of the magnitude of the project.
The album’s latest single, “Moonwaker“, was released on the 20th of March. A fantastic example of how electronic and classical music can coexist not only harmoniously, but in a truly interesting way.
Connect with Sebastian Mullaert on Soundcloud | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Spotify
Hello Sebastian, how are you looking at the world today?
That is a very complex and big question I would say! Like many others, I’ve been following the news very carefully the last month. I have never experienced a more dramatic and world-changing time in my life. It feels like a lot of things are turned upside down. So many people are losing their lives and so much suffering and pain is taking place. Artists, entrepreneurs and small businesses are striving for survival. No one knows exactly how this virus is behaving, no one knows how long this will go on. It’s a moment of change, and I think there will be a lot of positive change as well as negative will come out of this.
And what is your key take away to stay positive at this moment when the world is turning a bit slower with this virus outbreak?
Essentially I think the meaning of life is to face whatever situation we are in. When we do this, life flows and things are actually as they should be. I don’t mean that these very difficult and painful times are good, but we have no choice than to face it. And if we try to avoid it or try to think about how it would be if this didn’t happen we suffer even more. I don’t think this is different from any other day in someone’s life, now in these tragic times, it just becomes more clear. I think these times can also be the thing that actually helps a lot of people to take the step they need to change unhealthy and negative patterns in their life; both when it comes to sustainable perspectives and spiritual. These are times for a change, there will be a lot of doors opening in front of us as individuals and societies … stay aware, stay clear and use this energy for important transformations.
Let’s deep dive into your latest project in which you want to combine classical music and electronic music. How dit the idea for “Natthall” come together?
My background is in classical music and my musical intention for a long period of my youth was to go a more traditional classical route. In my late teens, I encountered the early Swedish rave scene and got blessed by the free dance experience I had with that movement. The composing, producing and performing with electronic music took most of my time for the next 20 years but more and more something within me was calling for the acoustic and classical past in my life. The two main intentions with “Natthall” is improvisation and nature as I see both of them as something very important and healing for us humans. My wish is to invite others into a space of improvisation and heal in that space. I feel that nature has the same effect on us. During the last 10 years, these visions and intentions have been my focus within electronic music and through different projects, like Circle of Live, I’ve been exploring and inviting to improvisation. “Natthall” is another way of doing this and the new perspective here is to do it in the context of classical and electronic music together.
The two main intentions with “Natthall” is improvisation and nature as I see both of them as something very important and healing for us humans. My wish is to invite others into a space of improvisation and heal in that space.
“Natthall” will be released on September 18, 2020 (CD, Digital and 12″ vinyl)
Was there a spark that set the fire? Did you meet someone, hear something, … ?
Me and my dear friend and closest colleague, Niko, were spending a week in the late summer of 2016 together. We spent the days walking the woods and sharing our ideas, visions, dreams etc. One of the days I showed him the nature reserve called Natthall which is just a few kilometers from the house where I live. In the center of the nature reserve is a beautiful cliff. We spent the afternoon there and we both shared our dreams and visions of exploring and expressing the borderline between electronic and classical music, in the edge between analogue and digital and in the meeting point between art and science. “Natthall” is the start of this journey and I’m very grateful for being part of it.
You are a skilled classical musician. Has it always been a dream to do something like this?
I like to rephrase that slightly, I was relatively skilled as a youth and spent a lot of time with the violin for many many years. When electronic music captured my life I didn’t have much time for anything else than that and therefore the violin and piano were left in the shadows. This is 25 years ago and even if I play a few times every week I’m not anything like I was and absolutely nothing compared to other musicians with their prime focus on an instrument. My role in this project is not to be an instrumentalist but rather to bring back the experience and perspective that I’ve gained during all the years within the live electronic scene.
How did you meet up with the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich Philharmonic Orchestra? And how do you all start collaboration on this masterpiece?
This started as an invitation that came from the orchestra and their project called Tonhalle Late where they every year invite one electronic artist to perform a composition together with soloists from the orchestra. My intention for this concert was to involve the element of improvisation but unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time for that. Instead, I wrote the music and arranged it together with Luca Magni. During the concerts, the soloists played the composition and I improvised the electronic parts around that. The actual album is a live improvised post-production based on the recordings made together with the soloists.
A second single has been released. Why did you pick “Moonwaker’ as a single to release?
I think Moonwaker is a great example of how I merge acoustic and electronic sounds in my compositions, but honestly, this wasn’t really my idea but more the label’s suggestion. 🙂
Can we expect live shows with the entire setup?
“Natthall” is evolving all the time and in the upcoming live show with Natthall the improvisational part is the main focus of the concert. The upcoming tour with “Natthall” will be performed together with the Subchamber Ensemble which are classical musicians who are very used to improvisation.
In the teaser video, we could see things can go wrong. How do you handle mistakes during a performance? How easy is it for you to keep your cool?
As a touring artist, you have to face problems and also catastrophes, and like I said earlier in this interview this is part of life and the only thing you can do is to face it. But also the improvisational approach in music expression is about letting out what you feel right now, the focus is not related to right, beautiful or good but honest and raw. With this approach, you can’t play wrong, as right and wrong is not part of the equation. I think this is a very revealing experience, a very healing way of approaching music.
How did you move into the world of electronic music?
It’s a bit funny. My father loved electronic music and also had quite a few analogue synths and drum machines in our house. I think I took them for granted and didn’t really see them as “real” instruments. Instead for me, the violin and the piano were the real thing. One of my friends, Peter, who was arranging big techno parties and raves asked me to bring my violin and my effect pedals and play in the chill-out room, I think this was 1996. So somehow the violin worked as a bridge for me to discover electronic music. Later on, my father’s synths became the center point of my studio, and they still are. And they are very real indeed. 😉
For me, the violin worked as a bridge to discover electronic music. Later on, my father’s synths became the center point of my studio, and they still are.
And what about your childhood was unique and most contributed to the adult/artist you’ve become today?
I lived out in the middle of nature and both my parents were academics and culture workers. My mother was an author and drama teacher, my father was a professor in sociology and together they arranged one and two weeks intensive retreats called ”creative psychology”. Nature, my parents, and the very creative space I found myself in as a child is a big part of who I am and why I do what I do.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up, and does it have any influence on your current sound? If not, what or who are your inspirations?
My father listened a lot to early electronic music such as tangerine dreams and Pink Floyd. He was very strict with listening to music, music was not a background activity but something you did with full focus. I remember listening to full albums from beginning to end with closed eyes as a five-year-old boy. Of course, that has a strong impression on you:) The first tapes I bought myself were Edward Grieg, Mozart, and Jean Sibelius. The first vinyl records I bought were KLF, Beastie Boys, and The Cure.
Looking forward to the release. Stay safe.