Your music has something dirty, nonchalant, confident and silly, but that is my opinion.
That is actually a good description: dirty, nonchalant, confident, silly. I have always loved music and art that was dirty, nonchalant, confident and silly. It is also a good description for the way I choose to live.
How did you end up with electro?
Originally, my music was maybe a bit more calm and more determined by coincidences that resulted from drum loops and fooling around with synths, like a collage. It gradually moved towards a kind of electropunk from a desire to add more vocals to my music. In previous bands, I also usually took care of the vocal parts and regularly wrote lyrics. The change appeared after playing my music live and missing the energetic aspect of standing on a stage. I also couldn’t resist singing along with the tracks, emceeing, and moving around as well, which I probably inherited from my father. It literally happened on stage during a show in Serbia, where I got the urge to dive into the audience and move my music into a more raw and danceable direction. I couldn’t get that energy before because of the previous nature of the music and the way I was able to perform that music live.
Why do you combine electro with hip hop?
From childhood I’ve been engaged with punk and hiphop, so these influences creep into my work and are also expressed by the way I nowadays perform.
I saw you live at Laurent Cartuyvels’ home. What struck me was how your setup was pretty limited. A conscious choice?
The setup that I use is indeed rather limited and, yes, that is a conscious choice. Usually it consists of two CD players that contain my music and some tape recorders to play samples, but this varies from time to time. You could attribute this to the influence of hiphop. On stage, I feel like a rapper or crooner. As I said before, I love the performative aspect of a show and my limited setup allows me to move around the stage more freely. The minimal setup has practical causes. At home, I work with a lot of different instruments: drum computers, a 303, a sampler synth, a Korg MS-10 and numerous keyboards. Al these instruments were secondhand purchases that I got for a cheap price. As they’re relatively old, they’re all quite large.
What you do is somewhat unfinished, as if it didn’t find its definite form yet.
The most interesting part of creating music or visual art is that moment where it becomes something else, something that wasn’t consciously planned beforehand. That moment contains the tension and the soul of art. My music is created organically. I don’t start from a certain scheme, but from experimentation, and I strive to preserve that rawness. It can echo through the music. Those imperfections, that unfinished character, fascinates me. It’s also that aspect of the other music that I listen to that touches me. Hip hop for example, how that emerged by cutting and pasting existing music live, and by that creating something new. To me, that’s incredible. I get easily bored by always walking down the same road. Letting different musical influences come together and exploring different terrains is how I keep things interesting for myself.
At first, I thought that your pseudonym, New Root Canal, referred to a medical term, something about a dental bridge. Then I thought that it referred to the construction of the ring road: a tunnel or a bridge.
Actually, New Root Canal stupidly comes from Neuroot Kanaal. A tag that I used to write on walls in the past was ‘neuroot82’, a channel that I use to express neurotic thought. It seemed funny to reform that word to New Root Canal, which sounds better to me as a band name or artists’ name than Neurotic’s Channel. To each their own. The name did not originate from an interest in dentistry.
I interviewed your sister before for the Naast De Kwestie Festival and your father for Vice. When I asked your sister about what she learned from your parents, she answered “gewoon doen”. I still haven’t figured out if by that she meant ‘just do it’ or ‘just behave normally.’ Anyway, can you tell me what kind of household you grew up in?
I come from a warm home, where creativity was always stimulated and we always got unconditional support. Also, I’m glad that we were taught to think for ourselves. As a teenager I struggled a bit with all of that. At a certain point I didn’t want to do something related to art, I wasn’t really interested in it. I was rebelling against it, but I quickly learned that that wasn’t the right path for me either. Art was in my blood. As a child, I was already engaged with music and that gradually got me into visual arts. My parents where enthusiastic when I gained an interest for music, so as a small boy I immediately received a guitar and colored pencils from Saint Nicholas. That’s how it all started.
And outside of that?
Of course my friends influence me one way or another. I regularly go to shows, often from artists from my immediate vicinity, and I usually like what they do. I can give a shout out, but I’m afraid that I’ll forget somebody. The most clear and direct influence maybe comes from my collaboration with Johann Kauth. Together we started the project Destination Earth, that resulted from an interest in the same music. We organize evenings where we invite experimental musicians within a breakdance-electro-rap concept. We regularly bring synthesizers, microphones and scratch records with us while we play records. This we combine with shows by befriended musicians. For me personally, the inspiration for this project was a anekdote of a befriended artist Michael Laird. When he grew up in New York at the end of the 70s, he saw a B-Boy walking with a boombox close to his ear, loudly playing Glenn Branca. That music was played on the radio right next to the newest tracks of hip hop pioneers. To me, that’s immensely inspiring. We also made a Destination Earth compilation release on Mark Cremins’ No Label, for which we invited different musicians to create sounds that deejays could use to scratch with. We invited musicians like Hiele, Orphan Fairytale, Hantrax, W Raveneer etc. All people that influence me in numerous ways and who’s work I respect.