Hello Yves and welcome to Brutal Resonance! I couldn’t believe it myself, but this is the first time we’ve interviewed you on the site. So, let’s start off with a fun question I love asking everyone before we dive into your new album. What are three of your favorite albums of all time and why?
Yves: Well, this is the moment I can share that I am eclectic and that the PSY’AVIAH tagline open-minded electronic music with heart & soul doesn’t come out of nowhere. I’m drawn to jazz, classical music, ambient, experimental electronica, ebm, 90s Eurodance & EDM Trance scene as well as just popular music. So it varies a lot, nowadays, what touches me all is from Selah Sue and Moby, to Madil Hardis, Wim Mertens and Four Aces Guitar Quartet, to Emma Blackery, Emma Bale and Florrie, to ENTRZELLE, JUNKSISTA, IC 434, Angelspit, Praga Khan and Ah Cama-Sotz…
But to come back on the albums, let me say that "Mutant Funk" by PRAGA KHAN is one of them. This album showed me at age 15 how coherent you can be in your sound, and still be varied in the genres you deliver on it. It was also the first time I heard and saw a band performing with mystery, and storytelling, but all very electronic, the band and their approach had a profound impact on me when growing up. A favourite is “Dreamcatcher” on that album.
Next on the list is "Animal Rights" by MOBY - because of the electro-rock-punk experience and again the variety in there, but all with such passion and emotion, be it aggression or pure love in the songs.
And, last, I would certainly go for "Inescapable" by WIM MERTENS as this album encapsulates his career and the best songs from minimalistic classical piano music enhanced with other instruments. I'm sure this would also please certain ambient or ethereal music lovers, just listen to "European Grasses" and you dream away.
“Bittersweet” is but the end of a trilogy of album that began with “Lightflare” and “Soul Searching”. Before we dive into “Bittersweet”, what were the previous albums about? And how did they lead to this moment?
Yves: I will try to keep this short, but after "Seven Sorrows, Seven Stars" in 2016 I had a miserable period, being a bit lost in this world in my job and career as well as life. It happens to a lot of people - I am no exception of course. On top of that I suffered from a burnout, and so 2018 saw "Lightflare" which encapsulates that cry for help which is so apparent on the opening track "Lost at Sea". The album "Soul Searching" was an immediate response, I knew I had to do something about this all, and through a lot of inspiration in reading philosophy and psychology this album deals with the journey and exploration of oneself and the world around you - the theme maybe best comes out in the song "Searching" which can be applied on oneself, or us as a society. I used a lot of eastern influences on that album as I wanted to let it feel like a journey... "Bittersweet" then, closes off this arc with what I have learned on that journey and applying it. The lyrical themes are still sharp at times, but the overall melodies are sometimes less dark. It is more up-tempo and effort went in to make them very catchy and refined tunes. The theme is all about the balance in life, about acceptance you don't have control over everything, and if you do want that, it will consume you - so don't. Focus on the important things, and shine lights of hope, yet be critical of the past as well... For me this is closure and how I want to look at life, with all my bad habits, but also good sides, like any human being has. And if you accept that - I guess it is easier to live and get to know someone else across borders of language and culture.
“Bittersweet” marks the twentieth anniversary of Psy’Aviah. Obviously, the title of the album is a reflection of that. What are some of the emotions that came upon you realizing this? And how did those emotions translate into music?
Yves: I realized it when scrolling on discogs and saw our first release in 2002, we were active before, but 2002 marked our first real release through the Je M'En Fish collective founded and still alive by Bart Dujardin. It is difficult to describe the emotion, as I was already in a state of what "Bittersweet" would mean to me: closure. You could say that the idea of letting bands do cover versions on the bonus disc "Rediscovered: 20th Anniversary" is an extension of the theme of "Bittersweet", about not letting go of control in certain situations and let our past songs be covered with carte blanche by those artists I personally adore.
You’ve thirteen tracks on the first disc of this massive release, with each of those songs having a guest vocalist. How do you choose who to work with? Do you find them or do they find you? And what is it like working with so many talented artists? Is it ever too much?
Yves: Actually not - since 2013 I shifted focus on this kind of songwriting and using guest vocalists to voice my stories, so I'm quite used to it. I won't hide the fact that for sure it can be draining at times, certainly when you have a vision in mind and finding the right voice for the track is much more than having someone being able to sing it. They need to be able to tell the story, so as a listener you believe it and are being drawn into the world of the lyrics combined with the music by the performance of the vocalist. What I have learned is to explain and prepare vocalists as much as possible, explain the concepts and why certain lengths of notes, or punctuations on words should be longer and so forth. The vision is always clear, and in collaboration I'm open for input and ideas from others - but nonetheless I have a good and clear picture of what I want out of it.
As for finding the voices, it's a hunt, by listening to bands in all kind of genres - but fans have been part of the journey as well, which is so satisfying. Examples are Fallon Nieves who voiced "Not What I Expected" after she made a cover version of "Sweet Hard Revenge"; but also Tina Forlorn of SORROW STORIES who apparently had the whole collection of Psy'Aviah albums, but in her own rights is such an amazing musician herself. She now appears on "Healing" on the brand-new album.
And honestly, it's so satisfying of working with such a variety of voices, it might seem eclectic, but it makes it possible to challenge yourself to tell a cohesive story both in lyrics and sound on an album - yet being varied, which ties back to your first question and the musical influences that shaped me.
photos taken by Gwenny Cooman of GNY Photography
One of your oldest songs, ‘Tired’, got a complete makeover on “Bittersweet”. I’ll be honest when I say that I think the original version is trash. This new version, however, is glorious. How did you go about remaking the song? And how did you explain it to Addie Nicole?
Yves: I can understand, it sounds dated, but in 2010 when we released it the Leaether Strip remix was picked up by Microsoft for their Windows 7 promotions as part of the Media Player, and the original version was picked up by a bank called DEXIA where we were pictured performing it live on their website and on the bank terminals, "inside a banner," literally - it is still online at our channel and is quite funny to look back on.
But looking back, I felt the song didn't do justice to what I wanted it to portray - it lacked the anger, it lacked the pop. So I turned to Addie Nicole of rock/metal outfit "HALOCENE". I had previously worked with her, but always went for a more cleaner approach. This time I said, do vocals as you do them in your own band, and put in the punk-rock agression from the kind of 90s punk rock bands to make this song sound angrier. I already produced the instrumental so she knew what I was aiming for and what she had to do to tell the story with a more more powerful vocal in this "rediscovered" version of "Tired". This now feels more accurate, it represents what I wanted to tell with this song - a personal thing about my youth you can read up on our blog.
Now, the second disc of the album contains a compilation of both collaborations and covers. However, you’re not doing the covers. Rather, you invited a bunch of artists to reinterpret your songs in their own way. Did this make you nervous, handing out your children to be edited? Or did you know the songs were in good hands?
Yves: As I touched upon, I kind of felt this was the right decision tying it in with the closure of "Bittersweet" - letting our songs go. I also picked bands that I really love, and 95% of them were like we're going to do this. So it was massive that response, and I had all faith in their sounds, as I liked the bands myself, I knew what they were capable of. It's a matter of letting go, not having control over it, and potentially letting other people get in touch with our songs in a different light, letting our fans discover the bands we like. And I'm very pleased with the results, I think this is a far better approach to remixing, as now for example you can hear the bands in full potential, rather than them being restricted with a set of vocals and melody lines they can't avoid. A good example is Madil Hardis performing a version of "Lost At Sea" in her own unique dark ethereal way - this would never have happened with a remix, same goes for the goth-rock version of "Our Common End" by YOUR LIFE ON HOLD. To me this is again a reflection if growing up with listening to a variety of eclectic sounds, and on the other hand, I do love making cover versions of songs myself...
Finally, that last part of the album is a digital download only. Once again, you have more covers of your songs and collaborations. Putting all of this together must have been quite a daunting task. What was your order of operations for “Bittersweet”? Did you tackle one thing at a time or go all in?
Yves: It was a lot of work for sure, tying in the artwork, the tracklist, the ever-growing list of bands that wanted to be involved and came up with awesome versions of our tracks. But I never felt quite overwhelmed when doing it, on the other hand I did need a big rest when it was all done as so much effort of coordination, keeping track, and producing an album myself at the same time and keeping up with life in general is a lot. But it's my passion, music is life, and without it, I would be lost at sea again.
Since this album is all about reflecting on the past, out of everything that you’ve ever done or recorded, what is your favorite album under Psy’Aviah’s belt to date? And why? What makes it so special?
Yves: "Bittersweet" itself is not so much on reflecting on the past - it is a brand-new album that tells a story from beginning to the end, the bonus disc & download "Rediscovered: 20th Anniversary" certainly is a hint to the past obviously. Looking back as an artist is always difficult, the time you live in has changed, you might have changed your views and refined your tastes. Honestly choosing would be sacrilege, but I'm happy I could do the three-arc storyline starting off with "Lightflare", then "Soul Searching" and now ending with "Bittersweet". I guess working with people like prof. dr. psychiatry Dirk De Wachter (who voiced the intro ambient poetry) was for me certainly a highlight as his books & lectures (among others) did help me on my soul searching. And on "Soul Searching" and "Bittersweet" I also decided to include more live instruments which mixes up the dynamic a lot and makes for a special sound, on Bittersweet it was extra special as I worked with the talented Ukrainian violinist Irina Markevich (on songs "Ok" & "My Secrets") as well as Ukrainian cellist Polina Faustova (on songs "Rainy Repertoire", "Ok" & "Sunbird") - where we replaced the synthesizer lines with the actual instruments. I did that for storytelling, for emotion and the human element rather than cold synthesizers, and that is what makes it special to me - but also in the light of the current state of the world of course. Both had to flee their country, and are safe, but have basically now lost everything. I'm still on touch with them - but it goes to show how fragile and bittersweet things can be.
This album was a huge task. But, still, there’s plenty of time in 2022 for more. Have you anything else planned for the year? Any tours, shows, remixes, singles, EPs, etc.?
Yves: For sure, we have a whole release schedule planned out, on May 5th you can expect a special first release with Mari Kattman where we'll explore "Can We Make It Rhyme" in various aspects with trance remixes by Omniks and Karl Roque, a synthpop take by Assemblage 23 - and we have a b-side as well on there. All of that with a new music video featuring Mari in a special way...! Later in June we'll have a single/ep for "The Wildness In Me" that explores the topic of that song in more depth, along with remixes as well as ambient poetry voiced by Jen Draven of 13th Angel. And after the summer we'll be sharing more. Touring in these areas is still problematic, a show here and there is possible, but COVID messed up a lot of schedules and killed of a lot of shows or contracts that now first have to go through - but we find our ways.
Lastly, I wish you the best of luck. I leave the space below for any final words and for you to mention anything I may have missed. Cheers!
Yves: Thanks for having me, Steven. I would say that I want to thank fans that were there from the very beginning, fans that are new to us and ones that enjoyed certains tracks and albums in between - it is always a joy to connect with people in that way, and enjoyable to see their reactions come in via DM, mails or comments. Lastly, I want to end with a special note though going out to violinist Irina Markevich and cellist Polina Faustova - they have lost so much but are incredibly talented in what they do and have so much more to give. I think we should value the peace we lived in, look back and learn more from our lessons of the past - a topic I hold dear to my heart. We have been spoiled by peace and have forgotten how brutal war can be when it comes close to our home, sadly. As professor Brian Cox said in his latest iteration of "Universe" we should perhaps reflect on how the planet we live on is the only one we've discovered so far that's habitable, that has had the unique elements in place and the stability in the universe to breed life: from bacteria, plants, animals and me, you, all of us. We owe to respect that deeply, as NASA's Hubble telescope and ESA's GAIA told us one thing is that there are a lot of planets, yet GAIA also told us that a planet can have all the ingredients for life, but just not close enough, or its neighbouring star or planetary systems are to unstable to make life possible. Earth is unique, and with the current events, and with the song "The Book Of Life" on our new album, we must maybe more often take a broader perspective on the human responsibility we have in science and reason to not make mistakes we have made in the past.
Apr 02 2022
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
Share this interview