Berlin im späten November. Ich nehme lieber ein Taxi zum Interview. Noch nie zuvor war ich in der Lobby des SAS Radisson. Als ich mit dem gläsernen Lift nach oben fahre, starren mich die Fische aus dem riesigen, blauen Aquarium von gegenüber an, als wären sie neidisch auf mein bevorstehendes Treffen mit Gotye. Blubb! Hotelzimmer, Couch, ein paar Häppchen und Pralinen und ein lächelnder Künstler, dessen Dauerohrwurm mit dazugehöriger Videoanimation inzwischen millionenfach Anklang fand. So lernte ich den Menschen hinter der Musik kennen. Seine Musik, hinter der er sich so wohl fühlt. Okay, 30 Minuten sind nicht genug, um jemanden wirklich kennenzulernen, aber Gotye hat ja auch eine Weile gebraucht.
You recently played a concert here in Berlin. How did it go?
Berlin was a bit tough because the people were pretty chatty. It was at the Frannz Club, which was nice, but it did have a bit of a Rock club vibe. It wasn’t the best show. We’d be playing a quiet song and someone in the front row would yell out, “I love you so much!” It’s nice, but just the wrong moment.
Usually it’s the artist yelling that at the crowd.
Yeah. “I love you guys!”
I think Berlin is just a tough crowd to win over.
Well, I went to Lana Del Rey’s show last night and I was intrigued there because it was very chatty during the support. Nobody was really listening. It just felt like the entire crowd of about 300 people talked through every minute of the set. But when she took to the stage, I thought the crowd was quite attentive. I really enjoyed her show.
The first I heard of you was in 2007 through a remix that Faux Pas did of one of your tracks called Get Acquainted. I had that as a track on my Myspace profile for a while.
Oh really? That’s a cute track. You know Faux Pas plays in my band now. He’s a bit embarrassed about that track now though.
Even though you’ve been around in the music business for a while working on different projects, this is basically your first glimpse at fame.
Yes. It’s definitely a good step forward in terms of corporate backing. It’s interesting for me because I’ve always been fairly independent. In Australia I put out my first two records myself. I didn’t have a publicist or a manager.
What makes your new album Making Mirrors more successful than your previous releases?
Inevitably some of it is just time and persistence. But I’ll be straight with you, before Somebody That I Used To Know came out as a video online, there weren’t any labels coming to me throwing great licensing deals my way.
What’s the story on finding Kimbra?
I tried it with friends at first, which was good, but not great for a part that is the emotional turning point of the song. So I was getting frustrated.
You have quite a high singing voice yourself? Did you ever consider singing the part yourself?
I did consider it, but I knew that it would be stronger if I had somebody else singing that part. It’s just a two person story. And then Kimbra was recommended to me, who as I’ve discovered while working with her, is a very versatile singer.
You seem to spend a lot of time perfecting and thinking about your songs. How happy are you with this album?
A lot of it was a struggle in certain ways. I had high aspirations for what I wanted to do production wise and what I wanted the mixes to sound like. Some things got there and some songs to me sounded like 70% of what I originally wanted them to sound like. I think I know what is lacking, but I don’t know how it could be any different. There are some things I am proud of, but just sonically I think I still have a long way to go to make amazing sounding records. Maybe it’s because of the sources that I use, being a combination of samples and a decent amount of low-fi recordings. I guess you could say my sound lacks a certain lushness.
Your music has a certain infantile playfulness to it.
There are actually references to Bah, Bah, Black Sheep in Somebody That I Used To Know. I like a lot of music that other people would simply dismiss as novelty music. Some of that is my favorite music. Guys like Jean Jacques Perrey or Gershon Kingsley, when they made this series of Moog records in the 60’s. I love the texture of those pieces. Silly music and sound effects that were technically very difficult records to make.
What is your relation to music?
Music seems to be the thing to me that sends me to the wildest extremes. It’s where I feel the most possibility. This kind of malleable, strangely amorphous wonder that’s out there. When I feel like ideas are coming together. When I feel like I am the captain of the ship. I’m not sure where I’m going, but there’s this great sense of energy, when I’m pulling samples in and trying grooves. Melodies and words are taking shape and you feel like this could be the greatest song in the world. I love that feeling. Then there are other times, where music makes me feel so incredibly depressed. Like when I can’t seem to achieve something or I get over a song because I’ve overworked it. That can make me feel so disappointed about my life or about the world. The fact that I put out something that I worked on harder than anything I ever worked on in my life and it leaves me feeling flat. That’s a shit feeling.
How do you feel about people remixing your tracks? Is that something that you take personally, when somebody changes your original intentions?
I don’t mind that so much. Some mixes are very interesting and don’t even attempt to recontextualize a certain emotion or feeling of a lyric, especially if it’s some type of boring club remix. There are so many remixes of Somebody That I Used To Know online aside from the ones done officially. One of them that I like especially is by a Melbourne based artist called M-Phazes. But apart from the few I like, there are hundreds that are shit. They don’t make me feel bad, but sometimes I ask myself, “Can’t somebody do a good remix of this track?”
I heard you are really into electronic gadgets. What was your latest find?
I actually found quite a rare gadget for vocal effects called the Boss Voice Transformer, which ends up going for about a minimum of 600 US Dollars on eBay these days. But I found it for 70 Euros from a lady in Berlin, who happened to be selling one. I use it extensively live to play my song State Of The Art. I still have one at home, but it’s on its last leg. So I googled it and discovered an ad that was four months old. She still had it!
Tell me about the artwork on your album covers.
The cover on Drawing Blood looked like it was hand painted. It was. That was a drawing of mine from when I was six years old. I loved drawing as a kid. Making Mirrors however is a piece of my Dad’s. He didn’t think much of it at the time, but I salvaged it and then took a photo of it. I photoshopped it a bit and now he really likes it. It only took a few minor changes.
How do you pronounce your name?
However you pronounce Jean Paul Gaultier’s surname. But I didn’t want it to be a fashion based name. So I spelled it differently.
Gotye spielt(e) am 21. Februar live im Heimathafen Neukölln
Interview: Lev Nordstrom