Posted April 6th, 2017
Gerald Van Wyk, AKA Anxt is probably the least angst-y of guys. His music can sometimes get a little moody, but not him. He's one of those guys you want to be friends with. You may know him as “that guy that plays synth for that loud band without a singer”, or “that dude with the flashing light box that makes sounds”, or you may not know him at all as he spends most of his free time at home on said flashing light box.
After shifting a minor obsession with video games to music production, he began his journey into the deep, dark, depths of Ableton Live. A few years later, he found himself moving to Beijing, a decision which later lead to his researching of, and immersion into the local music scene. Finally, after cutting his teeth with local neo-post-math-rock-core band Macondo, Anxt was born.
With an ever increasing number of gigs in local venues already under his belt, Anxt has set his sights on “taking things more seriously” this year, in the form of multiple releases, collaborations, and even more shows on even bigger sound systems. In the mean time, you can catch Anxt supporting local electro-indie duo Nocturnes for their “Dust Into Glory” EP release show on Saturday the 8th April, at School Bar.
Image courtesy of Paul, the nice guy from North Capital
I think the whole concept with starting Anxt, is to use ambient sounds or to go out and find some sounds that I think are interesting, so I would usually do that, and sort of get a feeling from that, and from there on I'll build around that sound. Sometimes I'll just leave it as long, ambient pieces, other times I might slice it up and try and use it almost as an instrument, or to create a pattern, or yeah, like a flow... I dunno.
I relate this music that I'm writing now... it is because I'm in Beijing, and I'm using that as my main influence and the sounds that I find around me.
Most of my tracks are built around the field recordings that I do. I would either record, like, five minutes or ten minutes of some sounds, i'd either play it right t hrough the track and use it as a background noise, or I might end up slicing it up and using it in some sort of pattern or as an instrument.
Basically, my background comes actually from Church! I grew up in a Pentecostal Church household, and so I was always surrounded by instruments. My dad plays guitar, piano, and there was always instruments lying around our house... although my dad never felt the need to teach me any of this, I mean it was always lying around. I've been playing drums for about twenty years, so that's my main instrument. I can play guitar... I actually started quite late I think, I only started playing guitar when I was about sixteen, although i've always had instruments around. In church I used to play tambourine, or some shakers you know, and that's basically my background. Most of my keys...I'm not really good with it. I'll start with some triads that I know, and most of those notes I find by listening to adding keys and layering things, so that's basically my background when it comes to music, and instruments.
A lot of my training comes from listening I guess.
So yes, Matthew Byrne who runs “Spittoon” had this idea of doing an evening of collaboration between poets, and musicians / bands, and I ended up collaborating with a poet called Matias, and I just sort of read the poem, well, I saw the poem, I chose it, and wrote the majority of the song, 90% of the song at home, sent it over to him and he basically did spoken word over it but we found a way that it worked nicely. We added some guitar to that, it sounded pretty good.
I think you're always learning when you work with other people, because people see things very differently to how you see it, so, Matias would come, and he had some ideas which I would use structurally, and I would adapt the set or the song to whatever changes he had in mind, so I think from that point of view... also because spoken word is a very, actually a weird thing, i've never actually, like, to hear spoken word poetry over music, that's a weird combination to be honest, but in the end I think it worked out alright.
My inspiration comes from listening, and feeling, so that's basically what I'll use. I mean if you go and listen to the electronic music that's out at the moment, it's like everybody's working from the same template, everything sounds the same, so in the beginning that's what I did. That's what you try to do; you mimic other people's music, but I think in this case, when you start growing, you try and create something unique because I think that's actually how people end up hearing your music.
Ableton is a deep, dark pit that you can fall down into, yes, a lot of times I get lost in it but I've been working on it since 2006 or so, training myself with it, and back then it was quite, it was very different from all the other DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation), and how it worked, yeah I just trained myself using that. In the beginning it is daunting because, as I said, you end up getting stuck in loops, endless synthesis, layering things, but I've got a method I use, otherwise I would probably get nothing done.
I think from a rhythmical point of view, yeah definitely it influences. I think like a drummer when I program, although with electronic music obviously, you know there's a sort of preset way that you program drums, so you know the four to the floors, those kind of things, but I would play around probably with my hi-hats and my snares to make things a bit more interesting, or add swing and also try and think like a drummer in that way. So... I'm not...If you go listen to the tracks there is some elements that's like traditional dance, but then there's also a lot of elements that just...comes from my background in drumming, so I will try and program the drums almost to sound as close to or authentically sounding like drums as opposed to a machine.
Through Anxt, I've been starting to meet some people, 4 Channel Club I played with, like 8-bit music, I've seen at Yue Space there was a guy called Noise Arcade, I've seen some of his stuff, and yeah all those things, those are the kind of electronic artists that I find interesting, and I find their music interesting because, like I said it's not just DJ-ing, there's a process. They're doing things live.
I know there's some electronic artists out there, Thruoutin I think, I've listened to a couple of his tracks but haven't seen him live, he seems to be doing some interesting things... who else.
I was thinking of doing some remixes of Macondo songs, but that would be terrible! I haven't really thought about it, I know Eric from Peppercorns, I spoke with him about possibly collaborating because he also loves his synths and yeah. I think as I go along and meet people, I'll probably like choose a couple of people and lay some ideas on them and probably bounce ideas off each other, and write some tracks.
When I came to China, I did some research about the scene here before we came here, and I was quite excited to come over here and become a part of the music scene.
I play synth in Macondo, and i'm the vocalist. Scott would love that. That's a joke of course because i'm not the vocalist, we don't have a vocalist, yeah it's a post rock band. Any case, I went to their first show ever, and they were basically a three piece then, they still had their old bassist playing for them, Sebastian, and it was basically just the three piece. I think when they took their break I went up to them and introduced myself and said “Hi Matt, I'm Gerald, I'm staying in your old room, I found some old love letters of yours in the drawer, I still have them, when must I bring it, and you need a synth player!”, I think almost something like that, and I sort of wriggled my way in there I think and they gave me an opportunity to come and prove my skills, and having to add synth to it was sort of a different element.
Any case, yes, that's Macondo, and I went for the audition and yeah sort of got given the job and that is now all in the past!
At the moment I've got some short term plans, I've got four tracks at the moment that basically is in the mix you'll be listening to, and I've just sent out one of my tracks to be mastered, and I think the aim is to put our an EP and take things a little bit more seriously.
I'm going to try and see about maybe there's a label that will go out to do the distribution of the tracks, and I definitely want to play more shows. At the moment I've been playing in live houses which is not ideally what I want to do. I probably want to play more club systems because a lot of my music is very low end bass on the frequency spectrum, so some of the live houses doesn't have the sound systems with the right fidelity to be able to reproduce those sounds that I want people to hear. The idea is that you shake the club.
Buy some software, or buy Ableton, start playing around, do beat-making, just, if you've got a passion for music I think it's especially when it comes to using software, there are so many things available out there now that you can play around with and, basically, it's limitless what you can do in those things. You don't really have to be musical to be able to do that I guess, yeah I mean it's all about self motivation. If you want to do something, you set your mind to it, you'll do it, and it's enjoyable. I get lost in it. It's my therapy I guess. When I come back from work, or I have time, I basically sit every single day round about four to six hours on Ableton, playing around and learning things, sort of exploring. Like I said, Ableton is a bottomless black pit.
Like I said, I'm going to probably quite soon drop my EP, I'll put it out there for free for people to listen to, and I thinkevery EP is going to have a different theme / concept behind it so the next concept is definitely to be able to collaborate with other people, some of the musicians I've been playing with and yeah, basically that would probably be the next concept for the next EP. And instead of doing four tracks, maybe do eight tracks... it'll take me two years to finish.