By Franc Sayol,Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Although Nautiluss is part of the new wave of producers bringing about the renovation of the Turbo label, Graham Bertie (the man behind the name) isn’t exactly a rookie. In the mid-noughties he had some success with Thunderheist, a duo he formed with female MC Omalola Isis Salami, whose sound was a brew of speedy bass and electro-rap. However, after an album on Ninja Tune subsidiary Big Dada, their track “Jerk It” being included on the soundtrack of “The Wrestler”, and touring the world, Bertie got tired of the clubber fuss and decided to go back to his roots. Roots which, as he explains in the interview below, are firmly planted in the most irate brands of techno, as promoted by the likes of Jeff Mills, Dave Clarke, and Robert Armani in the 90s. Despite obviously being indebted with those sounds, Nautiluss’ music still features some ingredients from British bass music, and from the electro-techno sound associated with Turbo, making for some productions on which the classic (stern chords, dry rhythms) and the contemporary (those swollen bass lines) go hand in hand.
Furthermore, his two deliveries so far are proof that Nautiluss is an open-minded project, unafraid of venturing both into nocturnal and gliding beats, like on his split single with Lord Skywave on Hemlock, and going straight for the dance floor, like on the excellent “αlpha” on Turbo. This panoramic vision is also expressed in the mix he made for PlayGround, including several PG favourites on the tracklist, such as John Talabot, MCDE, Jacques Greene, and Untold, among others. We spoke to the man about his musical education, what drives his music, and the bustling electronic scene in Canada.
Hi, Graham. How would you introduce yourself to someone that’s never heard of Nautiluss?
Nautiluss is a labour of love. I promise it will be from the heart. Aside from that, I apologize in advance.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up? Do you recall when and why you got hooked on electronic music?
I grew up in Hudson, Quebec. I went to a French private boarding school run by monks just west of the island of Montreal. I lived nearby, so I actually went home at night. During the week I hung out with a lot of French kids who liked metal and 70s rock music and who believed that Pink Floyd “The Wall” was about their life at school. This was contrasted with hanging out with English kids in my hometown that listened to grunge and rap music on the weekend. I basically got introduced to electronic music in my last year of high school when I heard someone threw an all-night rave in my high school hockey arena illegally. This made no sense to me. It took me a long time to realize that what I was hearing was the sound of UK hardcore. Shortly thereafter, I went to a store downtown called Dutchie’s which used to sell electronic records and CDs. I remember that I bought “Orbital 2” (brown album) as well as one of the early “Trance Europe Express” compilations. That was my starting point for the music. I was also fucking around with some shareware programs for PC called Fast/Impulse Tracker which let me build primitive loops using samples in a grid.
We first knew of you as a member of Thunderheist. Is the project still alive or will you focus on your solo career from now?
Thunderheist is most certainly dead. I am concentrating on a number of different projects, some of which are solo things and some are collaborations with other artists. I’m trying out a more traditional role producing for younger artists and trying to get involved in scoring for film and video games as well.
Your recent EP for Turbo feels very connected to the spirit of classic techno, although it has a contemporary flip. Do you agree? What would be your main influences in terms of techno producers?
Yes, I would say that it definitely is rooted in classic techno. As far as primary influences, it’s hard to pinpoint, really. I’ve been listening/DJing for long enough that it’s all quite blurred together. I first discovered techno through people like Robert Armani, Juan Atkins, Jeff Mills and Dave Clarke in the 90s. I would say that in the last couple of years, I’ve had time to take a renewed interest in it. Mostly stuff coming out of Germany and sometimes the UK.
In contrast with “αlpha”, your release on Hemlock with Lord Skywave showcases a much more introspective, melancholic sound. Can you explain a bit about the story behind the release and how the tracks came up?
I wrote the instrumental to Ultraviolet in a particularly tumultuous time in my life and so that would explain its sombre nature. As to how it ended up being a collaboration: I was originally contacted by Simon Lord when he was planning a solo EP under the name Lord Skywave and was looking for instrumentals to sing over. I immediately thought to send him the instrumental to Ultraviolet as I had written it a month earlier with a falsetto-ranged male singer in mind (in my head it was Thom Yorke). His EP also was to feature several other producers; namely Untold, Lukid and Cosmin TRG. The EP never got picked up and so we resent it out as a single and, lo and behold, Untold really loved it and wanted to put it out. I chose “Bleu Monday” for the b-side. I wanted to show that I could both work with artists and do songs on my own. I was feeling quite anti-club at the time and so I made it very subtle and not very DJ-friendly.
"While I have
a lot love for a
like the natural
Both your productions and the mix you made for us seem to seek a balance between raw energy and a certain idea of airiness. Do you agree? How would you describe the kind of sound you aim for when you make music and you DJ?
I generally try to write music that tells a story. The mood depends on my mental state at the time of writing. Aside from that, I generally try to find the balance between synthetic and organic textures. While I have a lot love for analogue/digital machines, there’s nothing like the natural world for interesting sounds and patterns, especially in this age of digital perfection.
How, when and where was the mix recorded?
I haven’t had a proper DJ setup at home in about 10 years, so this was all done in Ableton in my studio last night. I am a pretty solid DJ and would totally love to.
Other than the ones you’ve included in the mix, what other current artists do you find inspirational?
Artists that take chances. Artists that believe in themselves regardless of what others think. Artists that find a way to incorporate traditional and new ideas in a refreshing way. Artists that try to find a way to incorporate their upbringing/culture into their work.
It seems like there’s a lot going on in Canada nowadays with producers like Jacques Greene or Lunice and more pop-oriented things like Grimes. How would you describe the Canadian music scene? Do you feel attached to it in any way?
While I find that the output is very diverse, there seems to be some common ground between a lot of great artists here. I find it’s often a combination of growing up on North American pop music and, often times, European electronic music culture. It’s also a melting-pot of culture. I guess I feel attached to it in the sense that I am Canadian and I make electronic music. I try to help build our community in any way that I can.
In the same vein, you’re now part of Turbo, a label which I guess has been quite important in the development of electronic dance music in Canada. Were you connected with Turbo in any way before you signed with them? For instance, did you ever go to the parties that Tiga was throwing?
No, I wasn’t, aside from being friends with a few guys signed to Turbo (Gingy & Bordello). But I did attend warehouse parties/raves that Tiga was involved with in the 90s and I used to shop at DNA records, where Turbo was founded.
Finally, what are your immediate future plans? Releases, gigs, etc…
Releases: I have a song coming out on a Turbo compilation called “New Jack Techno” which drops next week. My next original EP should be out in early fall and I’m aiming to release my debut LP sometime before March 2013. Also a bunch of remixes and collaborations are in the works. As for shows: There’re plans to return to Europe in the next few months and throughout the fall. I’m finally getting a new work visa for the US, so I hope to do some American dates soon as well.