Axefield talks about developing yourself and staying creative
Wouter van Driel
+- 5 min
Hey Willem, how are things in Amsterdam?
Really good actually! Summer is on, things are slowly opening up, and for now, it looks like we’ll be going to attend some dank festivals this summer. I hope you’re good too!
Is music still playing a large role in your day-to-day activities?
Surely. I make music every day, even if it’s just a 10-minute session. If I’m not making music or playing music, I’ll be on the hunt for new stuff. I love to listen to the music sent to me, made by friends.
Listening to your music, I think I can say your style has developed a lot over the past years. Are there styles or artists that you have been influenced or inspired by?
I have always been influenced by dubstep and UK club music. It was the first type of club music I properly connected with and it has always been a great source of inspiration. Recently, I’ve really gotten into choir music. Listening to certain pieces gave me a better understanding of how specific harmonics can evoke such strong emotions. The huge chords they sing are like coordinates, they really send you places. Also, choir music can have such a spiritual and transcendental vibe, and sometimes I try to bring those feelings into my own music.
How would you say you’ve developed yourself as an artist over the past years?
Over the past years, I have really looked at my process of making music. I used to struggle with working on a lot of projects at the same time, not finishing them and I’d also work on them for hours with only little progression. I think I did that because of a combination of not knowing how to finish, and the insecurity to finalize your own ideas. I also found that this can really kill creativity. I realized that my best tracks have been created in a small amount of time, having most elements recorded and ready within an hour. So, I decided to only work in short sessions. Every new track can be set up under an hour and finished by taking on short sessions spread out over the week. Suddenly I got mega efficient, and creativity just came pouring out. This process has started to define how I look at music-making. It made things much simpler.
Your tracks tend to be pretty hard and dark, but often have some very clean and warm sounds thrown in there, which creates a lot of contrast and really excels the differences between them. How do you find the balance between these two?
I guess I’m a softie who loves an intense vibe, haha. I mean, I love when music sounds ‘beautiful’ or ‘pretty’, but what I love more about music is when you experience an overwhelming vibe or emotion and club music can really do that to people, especially at a venue. That’s something I aim to create and I often do that using contrasting elements. These bigger-than-life vibes I’m chasing get so intense when, for example, darkness gets illuminated by glistening synths, or when raw distortion gets extinguished by a soft pad. For something to sound beautiful and airy, you also need to hear the dark and the raw. I guess this applies to a lot of things in life.
Besides these elements, you also play with different rhythms, beats and tempos throughout the whole EP. How do you manage to keep experimenting, while staying true to your own sound?
To be honest, I simply can’t stick to one particular genre or tempo, and always catch myself trying something new, but I always aim for similar vibes across different styles and tempos. I do have to say though, I love it when artists stay true to a genre and over time pioneer the hell out of it.
You also run your own record label called “Who’s Susan”, with releases by Nathon Homan, Sun Genam, Jensen Interceptor, and more, for a couple of years now. What is the focus of your label?
The focus of the label is really to have fun and to build products with very strong aesthetics, may it be records, clothing, or a book. We love mixing up styles, and we love giving relatively unknown artists a platform to release their music on. It’s fascinating to combine powers and be a part of building their careers. We’re always honored when we get to work with great talent.
Do you think your sound has been influenced by the label, or is your sound the influence of the label?
It’s probably a two-way street. We initially started the label when my music was at a point where we thought we could release it alongside other artists. Therefore, our first release was a compilation with three different styles of club music, and from there onwards Who’s Susan kept embracing different styles. I also get influenced a lot by the artists sending us music and the artists we work with. It’s a beautiful thing.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve got an EP set to release this Friday, I’m working on an album, and I’ve also got a festival gig planned on the 4th of September at ZeeZout. Fingers crossed! Apart from that, I’m learning more and more about music scoring for films and working with vocalists. Those are two things I’d love to do a lot in the future.