Sebastian Mullaert is an electronic artist with a difference. His enchanting and unique sound leaves listeners mesmerised as he integrates both electronic and classical instrumentation. Aligning his mind with his music, Sebastian’s live performances (and productions) are inspired by Zen spiritual practices and meditative techniques – which are also drawn from the forest close to his home in Röstånga, where his studio space is situated.
We sat down with Sebastian ahead of his Australian tour which begins this weekend (full tour dates to your right) to discuss all things from his studio altar to performing with the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in Switzerland.
This won’t be your first visit to Australia. In fact, you are a regular visit to our shores (solo or under the Minilogue moniker). What for you has been your standout Australian visit to date?
I truly love Australia, especially the bush parties such as Strawberry Fields. The festivals I feel have a unique character compared to festivals in other places. I got the impression that the Australian audience is more open to different styles of music, also within the spectrum of electronic music. I feel this is very liberating.
Alongside Marcus Henrikson you produced under the now-defunct moniker Minilogue which includes a full LP release on Cocoon Recordings. Do you find the solo creative process more satisfying than being in a duo?
I love both, but I’m very happy to have more time for my solo adventures and have collaborations and nice adventures with different people, different constellations and ensembles.
Your studio is in the majestic Röstånga woods which is next to Söderåsen National park in Sweden. Do you agree that the environment you find yourself in influence your creative output? For example, do you ever play around on your laptop while travelling on planes, or is the creative process for you purely the domain of your studio?
The view of inside and outside of yourself as two separate things is, in my opinion, a great misunderstanding. They are reflections of the one. Creativity is to express what is now, letting your experience take form as creation. Where you are is part of this situation and can’t be separated from the creative expression. This means that any place is a place for creations and creativity but different places invite me to express in different ways. On planes and travels, I like to open up to listening to music and jams and also writing … everything from poems to interviews (like this one). My new live set is actually based on the vision to have a “jam station” with me on the road. I bring everything and can put it up anywhere I want to start a jam/creation.
It’s mentioned in your bio that your studio sessions and live performances take influence from your Zen spiritual practices and meditative techniques. How do you incorporate that into your studio practices? Do you use those techniques to get into the zone before a studio session, or to enhance your sessions as the creative process itself puts you in the zone?
I have a daily practice of meditation and walking in the woods, a practice I try not to leave out (but sometimes do). I would say that meditation can be viewed as a reminder/reconnection with your being/this very moment and therefore a great start of the day that helps you to stay present and true.
Do you still have a studio ‘altar’? What is the idea behind that?
It’s a place where I save things created by people close to me. To go there and get reminded of their creativity, lit a candle … a small little ceremony and yet another reminder of being present.
What has been your major techno influences leading up to Sebastian Mullaert in 2017?
Wow, there are so many good artists; Dorisburg, Mathew Jonson, Donato Dozzy, Neel, Juju & Jordash, Ame …. and many more.
Last year you did a live collaboration with the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in Switzerland. A number of your tracks were orchestrated and reinterpreted for a six-piece chamber group, (harp, piano, violin, cello, clarinet and French horn). Obviously, there is more repetition involved practising with a chamber group as opposed to being in the moment creating like you do in your studio. How did you find that process compare to your solo studio sessions?
This concert was a rather big thing and involved several months of composing and arranging. Half the concert was re-interpretations of existing compositions, and the second half was new composed music with the actual concert in mind. As I’m coming from a classical music background this project is very special for me, and it will be one of my main priorities next year to take it on the road. The concert was also recorded, and if all goes well, it will be released next year.
Your gorgeous EP, All The Keys Are Here, on R&S sub-label Apollo was released in June this year. As opposed to just using random words, you do seem to place a lot of emphasis on naming your tracks properly (as evidenced by this piece), a practice which I highly agree with. Putting more thought into naming a track makes it more ‘real’ in a way, it gives it more character if done thoughtfully. Do you feel that the name of a track is an essential piece of the production puzzle?
Sometimes I use the names as another opportunity to remind about something I feel is important, sometimes the name is a reflection of something that came out in the creative expression while the track came to life.
And finally, you will be coming to Australia to perform your live show. What does your current set up consist of and how much of it do you actually have to travel with?
I bring everything with me, 80 kg of gear, ready to connect and jam, solo or together with others. It’s a mix of digital and analogue, Ableton and hardware. I use three Model-One mixers, together with an Antelope Orion 32+ soundcard, a Push, Roland-101, Volca bass, Boss RC-505 and effects etc.
Interview by Walter Juan