“Who wouldn’t want to listen to music in nature and dance in big open spaces?”
Paul Suares is on the money with this one, and his passion for the outdoor atmosphere runs deep through his two projects Bass To Pain Converter and Victor Y.
His lush, atmospheric, and occasionally psychedelic take on techno and tech house has seen him take the stage at Psyfari, Earthcore, and Subsonic festivals in Australia, with recent appearances at Shankra festival in Switzerland and a few more European dates on the horizon.
We caught up with Paul to talk about falling in love with electronic music, writing for particular contexts, and how the skills he picked up at Liveschool found their way into his productions.
Can you fill us in on your musical background? How did you get interested in electronic music?
I’ve been a trained drummer since age 10 and have continued to study music since then. Along the way I’ve been in many bands spanning across most genres with the most recent being Warchief, Little Hart and a wedding band. It wasn’t until after high school that I started to get into music production. Then after I had the foundations down on Fruity Loops I made the switch to Ableton and boosted my skills with a couple of Liveschool courses (Mixing and Mastering and Sound Design).
Being a huge death metal fan in my teens led me to really appreciate the darker side of music that inspires my techno project Bass To Pain Converter. I’ll always need an outlet for dark, aggressive music. Only after high school did I become aware that underground electronic music could evoke similar emotions in me. Prior to that I was only exposed to what you would hear in more mainstream clubs and what was on the radio.
My first doof, at Subsonic Music Festival, 9 or so years ago was the turning point for me. The music and the culture was such a liberating experience. Musically my brain was bombarded with all these genres I didn’t really know existed and the open-minded, non-judgemental atmosphere of the festival was shockingly refreshing. Me and my 18-year-old buddies were probably the youngest at the festival back then; it was like stumbling across Zion from The Matrix. I must admit that during the first year I was getting down to more half time grooves like dubstep (not the Skrillex kind), but the following year I transitioned into the tech stuff like minimal, tech house and techno.
You’ve got two production monikers on the go at the moment, Bass to Pain Converter and Victor Y. Can you tell us a bit about each of them?
From what I can remember Victor Y started with no stylistic direction or intent. I was writing whatever I felt like, which happened to be down-tempo, chillwave, tech house and some horrible music you’d never dare show anyone. My releases have kept up that misdirection of style but my DJ sets are tech house based. Max Cooper, David August and Jon Hopkins changed the game for me; they’re more composers rather than Beatport producers and this is a status I’d like to achieve one day.
I like to collaborate with musicians for most of my Victor Y tracks and keep a strong blend of organic and digital tone colour. It always brings out the best in my arrangement and composition because I feel the pressure of not butchering or overpowering the beautiful tracks we’ve laid down. Field recordings help me produce a unique sound as well.
Bass To Pain Converter is heavily influenced by the Euro techno scene and psychedelic electronic music. Both sides of the coin have shaped the sound that I’m writing for this project. I’m really trying to hit home a fresh take on dark, psychedelic, industrial techno that’s more groove focused.
All the tracks are conceptual and I choose certain instruments to voice these concepts and tell a story. It makes the brainstorming process pretty cool and leads me towards obtuse production techniques.
I really enjoy having multiple projects on the go and don’t think I could focus on just one style. A by-product of this approach is it pushes my composition skills and opens me up to different production techniques. It also happens to be fun.
Since launching both projects in early 2014 I’ve released under 9 labels, signed to Open Records under Victor Y, played at some pretty major festivals in Australia and Europe and supported a lot of my idols. I’m very humbled with how it’s all been going so far.
What is it about music in the outdoors that resonates with you? Compared to other dance music environments, what makes it special?
For me, it has a real calming effect and connects you with your surroundings and where we came from. When you live in a big city it’s pretty easy to forget that and walk with your head down completely caught up in your own bubble.
Long after I found my love for outdoor festivals something clicked for me at the opening ceremony of Earth Frequency Festival one year when some of the Aboriginal custodians of that land performed a few songs and dance. Listening to their instrumentation of stamping kick drum feet, leaves and branches as high-end percussion, clap sticks and intoxicating vocals, I realised that this was an acoustic form of techno, with the same tempo and rhythms, and that we’ve been dancing outdoors for a lot longer than we’ve had Function Ones.
A lot of your sounds feel really evocative of those large open spaces. When you’re writing a tune, are you designing sounds with those outdoor sound systems in mind?
I think that sound developed quite naturally as it happened to be my taste in music. Over time I became attuned to what translated well on a festival rig and slowly started emulating that kind of tone colour, while analysing the music that already sounded good in that setting. For Bass To Pain Converter, things such as more psychedelic sound design, huge rumbling bass lines, demonic detuned vocals, big stabs and a good use of space (stereo field, frequency spectrum and duration) have the ability to really stand out. Then it’s just a matter of finding out how the pros do it.
A good example I can think of is the big ‘gong’ hit throughout my track Agoraphobia (Bass To Pain Converter Remix). It’s comprised of 3 instruments: a bell sounding synth and a super distorted clave-like sample sitting in the middle, then a sawtooth-like bass synth, which is automated to add variation then duplicated and panned hard L/R with track delay to widen the overall sound. There’s a nice amount of space around it to let it fill out and breathe. Overall, I think that entire track is a good example of what I was talking about in the previous paragraph: psychedelic sound design, detuned vocals, big stabs and space. In saying this, I never adhere to a formula for composition and style.
I have to admit I don’t dive into the design of specific sound systems and how to tune and EQ my tracks to optimise their sound on them, however I have been lectured by some friends about this kind of stuff. Maybe one day I’ll become more technical with this sort of thing.
You’ve recently relocated from Sydney to Berlin. What’s the best thing and the worst thing about the move?
The best thing would be the proximity of cities/neighbouring countries and how cheap it is for promoters to have you. That alone is worth its weight in gold, allows for many more opportunities and boosts the résumé heavily. Australia doesn’t really give amateur artists that option.
The worst thing was finding my own apartment so I could ship my studio equipment over. 11 moves and 10 months later I got there. Google translate needs some improvements too.
I saw the photos of your set at Shankra festival, it looked absolutely amazing!
I’ve played in some pretty breathtaking locations in Australia but I think this one took the cake. The back drop of the Swiss Alps looked CGI, not to mention some snow-capped mountains, turquoise rivers, waterfalls and postcard-worthy towns in all the surrounding valleys. I had to pinch myself a few times while up on stage with that as my view.
The event itself was fantastic: only good vibes, the rigs sounded huge, discovered some boundary-pushing artists and was really well-looked after for my four day stay. There was a bit of an exciting moment before my Bass To Pain Converter set where my girlfriend and I were ejected from the festival by police because of where my car was parked on the street, while attempting to grab my laptop and controllers. I was pretty close to missing my set but luckily it ended with a police escort almost to the dance floor moments before I had to press play. Both of my sets went well and I was spoiled with perfect weather for my Victor Y set, just before the sun disappeared behind the mountains. I highly recommend this festival for anyone into doofing and transformational festivals. There happened to be a few Aussies there too, part of the Bassic Records crew, and shout out to Käse Kochen for showing them how it’s done.
OPEN records seems like a great fit for your sound. Can you tell us about how you guys first got in touch, and how you got signed?
Ever since I got right into dance music and going to outdoor festivals, the name Open Records popped up often and it became clear that they were a bench mark for house and techno in Australia. Sets from Paul Abad, Eegor/Blacker, Uzi and Thankyou City blew my mind not having known who they were prior to stumbling onto their dance floors by accident. I think this was just before my first release and being a part of a label with that status seemed pretty far out of reach.
For VY my 2nd release was a tech house track, Blueprint, which I managed to release on a Discombobulation Records’ (NZ) VA. Funnily enough this track came about from my Sound Design course with Liveschool. In class, we were learning the ins and outs of Operator and that night for homework I created this quirky, dissonant bass tone while messing around with the “fixed” setting on one of the oscillators. This sparked the foundations for the track. I also dropped some other Liveschool Sound Design homework on one of the other tracks by chucking a ‘Corpus’ over an organ sounding native Ableton instrument called ‘Abstract-MkII.’ Then I got my extremely talented friend Louise Millar (Twin Caverns), from our ex-7-piece folk band Little Hart, to lay down some flute and recite one of her poems. We recorded all this in my bedroom/studio.
I’m not sure how much later after the release came out, but I got a comment from Open Records on Blueprint on my SoundCloud so I pounced on the opportunity to work with them.
What’s the biggest thing you learned at Liveschool? Did you have any light bulb moments under our roof?
The Mixing and Mastering course was like switching on the fuse box in a mansion. It really upped my game dramatically. I think a stand-out lesson was taught by Frank Xavier (Motorik), mainly because it overlapped with techno, like how to build and mix drums e.g. quad-layering, kicks, snares and hats, so they cut through any sound system, and sending percussion to a short-tailed reverb with the lows and highs cut off the verb to add body without clutter.
Things like workflow, learning the theory behind tweaking a parameter and the importance of referencing made a huge difference for me as well. I go over my notes from that course all the time.
What’s next for B2PC and Victor Y?
Right now I’m preparing to play at my first German festival, Twin Lakes Festival. Then I plan to write a couple of releases for both projects before I embark on my 2nd tour down under later this year, finishing off with some NYE festivals in New Zealand. My tour dates will be up on my facebook pages. Touring back home is something I want to reinforce every year.
After that it’s straight back into Euro winter and I plan to write as much as possible. I involuntarily had 10 months off writing music after moving to Berlin so I have a lot of catching up to do. Aside from that I’ll be going to heaps of events, networking, gigging, having some fun and trying to push both projects as hard and fast as possible.
Keep up with Bass To Pain Converter & Victor Y
Paul will be back in the southern hemisphere for a number of summer festival appearances:
Dragon Dreaming Festival (Bass to Pain Converter, Victor Y)
3 – 6 November 2017. Wee Jasper, NSW
Subsonic Music Festival (Victor Y)
1 – 3 December 2017, Monkerai, NSW
The Day Before Next Year (Bass to Pain Converter, Victor Y)
31 December 2017, Wellington, NZ
Twisted Frequency Festival (Bass to Pain Converter, Victor Y)
30 Dec 2017 – 3 Jan 2018, Golden Bay, NZ
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