Yves Malone chats with us following the release of their outstanding Beyond the Before. We talk creating music and putting it out there in the world.
Your work has pronounced elements of horror. What do you think draws us to the macabre?
I’m not sure all of us are interested in the macabre, but for those who are, I’m guessing it’s a fear of powerlessness, perhaps. The horror fans that I know are big sweeties, belying any sort of moral shortcomings one would assume of someone with such interests. Most of them have been bullied, marginalised, and/or put down socially in their lives. Head to a horror convention, and you’re unlikely to find a room full of classically beautiful people to whom life has served up fortune on a platter.
I’ll be straight, though: I’m not the biggest fan of horror per-se, but I do like some factions of it. Whatever the genre of slow-building, creeping terror that Ti West seems to channel, that’s my wavelength. Slasher, torture porn, all the real graphic stuff: I do like the scoring, I just can’t watch it. I am most likely too empathic to convince myself that, even though it’s patently fake, shit like that doesn’t happen to people in real life. I wish I could watch all the giallo classics I love the soundtracks for, but I just can’t do it.
Can you think of a place you’ve been that feels like your music? Could you describe it?
I started recording in the Arizona desert so perhaps the sprawl, decay and forced anonymity had something to do with the mood of those early albums. The heat of summer is pretty brutal and, like a hot winter, one has to stay inside as not to die. The central Phoenix valley is pretty oppressive and that creates lots of free time to make music to score existence in a tense, ugly town.
I always tend to treat my music with some visual component in mind, usually soundtracking my inner dialogue, working at the seams and trying to stitch my problems back together. But that is every musician’s process and burden. I am no different.
How do you go about titling tracks? Where do those enigmatic names come from?
Ever since I was young, the oddest sentences would pop into my head; unnanounced but correctly punctuated. That’s where most of the titling comes from — staring at a wall, and waiting for something interesting to arrive. Or looking at my phone, where hopefully I’ve cached a couple of winners.
Sometimes there is a theme floating around for a track or album and I’ll feed that constraint into the mix to see what pops out. But I’d say they rarely have anything to do with what’s going on. That’s the fun of it. Being an art kid warps most things you should be trying to get straight in life.
You have a knack for knowing how long to let a groove run. Do you plan a track’s structure from the start, or does it emerge as you go?
Not at all: I treat track structure like a game of telephone played over time with myself. I’ll sequence parts and then implement constraints later to help freshen up the process, perhaps not listening to the beginning of a song before completion. Or maybe during the middle, change the track to an odd meter and play the sequence backwards, tricks like that.
I like to start tracks and forget about them for a year, so that when I come back to it, I have no idea what the original song was, or what the idea was. If it doesn’t work, I’ll just toss it and start over again, resetting the clock for next time. I guess the process is like fermentation. Bad analogy maybe. But when the end finally emerges, it’s 93% of the time not what I planned.
For a long time I submerged myself in bands like Can, Neu!, Harmonia and their ilk, and loved the German stoney playfulness but their full-on, head-down art-psyche sensibilities. It is possible to be serious and playful, and I try not to forget that lesson.
Who are your biggest musical influences? And what stuck with you about them?
Man, that’s tough. I’m not really sure, I can only tell you what I’ve listened to a lot of. Stereolab, Beak>, Sinoia Caves, Harold Budd, Richard Pinhas, Labradford, ASMZ, Nils Frahm, The Knife, Swans, Umberto, Bohren & der Club of Gore and Popol Vuh are some.
There are a handful of soundtracks that are always on my computer and phone like Akira, The Fountain, Zidane, Moon, The Sounds of the Sounds of Science, Beyond the Black Rainbow, and Passion. Maybe those are more helpful as markers. I also listen to a fuckload of jazz from the era of the early 60s to the late 70s. It all turns into some sort of creative cocktail I’m guessing.
It’s notable the only physical version of Beyond the Before available is casette. Why do you think we’ve fallen back in love with the format?
Probably because records are too expensive to produce for the non-rich kids. And maybe that they’re cute little machines? And because they’re also the very definiton of D.I.Y. Since the world has Bandcamp, the means of production and and distribution are there for anyone with excitement, a little bit of cash and patience to stand in line at the post. And maybe nostalgia — or an imagined nostalgia. But who really knows. I’m glad they’re still around, though. Listening to music coming out of a computer is pretty lame most of the time.
This is your first release on a new label. Can you describe how a transition between two labels feels / works?
Well, it definitely feels good to find someone else who gets what you’re trying to do. Most of the world, of course, doesn’t give a damn. And it’s good to know it’s not about the money. Good old-fashioned human connection is always great to unearth. And shouting into the black hole of the internet gets a little easier with new friends to help yell.
Really, though, I exist in the small-time, so label allegiance or career decisions are really not that important of a concern.
What software / hardware do you use to create your music?
I have a handful of classic but affordable 80s synths, some modern synths, and a sequencer that I use to build tracks. Once they seem ‘done’ I drop them into Reaper for polishing, more sequencing, some lead melody work and possible rearranging. Pretty basic stuff. I do this all in the basements of whatever house I happen to be living in at the time. I live in an apartment now, so I guess I’m moving up! Music doesn’t pay the bills, and I don’t tour or play out so there are no studios in my future. Keeps me grounded.
Interview by Andrew O’Keefe