We have been blown away by the emotive, beautifully put together new single from Belgium’s Maverick, and it is one of those tunes you simply can’t switch off. To coincide with the track’s release, we were privileged to speak to him about the making of it, and much more. Read on and enjoy…
Your new single ‘Pull The Strings’ has had countless plays in the office over the last few days. What do you feel you learned throughout the journey whilst making this track?
Great to hear! Well… I mostly learned about analogue synthesisers, vocal compressors, garbage recycling and American politics. The fact is that I actually wrote the first idea for the track in 2015, so I hopefully learned quite a bit in the meantime… I really miss Obama.
What was it like working with vocalist Selah Sue on the single?
Selah Sue and me go way back, she was in my first band and we always stayed in touch. We’ve recorded so much music over the years and not a lot of it actually got released… until now! We actually recorded three tracks together for Maverick, so more to come. For ‘Pull The Strings,’ I just sent her a basic beat with some synth-chords and and an arpeggiator sound. I sent it out to Selah because I thought it could really fit her timbre. She’s one of most talented songwriters I ever worked with, and almost instantly nails every track I send her. Her feel for timing and harmony is out of this world.
After doing a few vocal takes we kind of ping-ponged the track back and forth until we both felt comfortable with it. That’s how I usually work with vocalists or collaborating musicians. For me the most challenging part is usually finding that right “sound” for a track, that moment where all the elements fall into place. But that turned out pretty well in the end!
Would you be keen to work together again?
As you might have guessed… YES!
Did you know straight away the sound you wanted to capture in the single? How would you sum up your style of music?
Pretty much, the first idea I sent to Selah already had all the elements that are in the finished version. It had this dark but warm atmosphere, mostly because of the long stretched Juno-synth chords. They worked great with her vocal top-line. We spend quit a bit of time on the vocal production, I recorded a lot of extra vocal layers to make it fit the instrumental. The sound I’m aiming for with Maverick is basically a blend of elements from hip-hop, soul and electronics.
Where did you find influences when you’re creating new music?
On an aesthetic level I mostly draw my inspiration from other music that gets my attention, in various ways: it could be a clever arrangement, a great vocal, cool drums, sloppy bass lines, the general vibe and sound of a particular song… in whatever genre: from soul over rock to footwork and back.
Other inspirations include movies, long and pseudo-intellectual bar-conversations, books, stupid Facebook posts and all the other crap I come across while being alive.… Whatever makes me smile, hate, love or puke.
What is your studio set-up like right now? Do you ever write music on the road?
I used to have an electronic live band called AKS. We toured quite a lot and with the money we had earned from playing out we build a studio in a remote warehouse near Leuven, Belgium. It’s mostly synths and a computer. I hava a Roland Juno 106, Acces Virus Ti, Moog Little Phatty, Dave Smith Prophet, Nord Electro, Mircokorg lined up.
I usually start creating beats on my laptop, in the box. I lay down a drum track and a basic chord progression, and the rest usually comes naturally. When I’m in the studio I start playing with that basic idea, adding some extra chords, stacking synth layers, adding effects and VST synths. When the recording is done, I start fiddling around with all the elements. I actually tweak quite a lot of my tracks when I’m on the road or at home. Get good headphones, kids!
Say you could pass on a couple of tips to your younger self just starting out as an artist… what would they be?
Be open to a lot of other music, in whatever genre… Analyse the structures and learn to create good arrangements. Have more patience, don’t smoke so much weed and visit the hair dresser more often.
If you could name three artists/groups who have influenced you the most throughout your career so far, who would they be?
The Fugees, Congo Natty and Flume.
Lastly, what are your plans for the rest of 2017?
Releasing a lot of new music! I have a lot of new material lined up for the next couple of months. Next to that I want to be able to do a lot of DJ sets and gradually evolve into a live project again. I really miss the buzz of being on stage… and I need to catch some sunlight, I’ve been in the studio for too long.
I’m also organising a few gigs: I have a regular night called “Mav Invites” in my hometown Leuven, where I invite fellow artists to come and play (obviously). Next to that I’m gearing up for the festival I’m organising with a bunch of very talented people called Horst Arts & Music. Check it out! It’s in a moated castle…