I can believe the latter pretty easily, but Gregoriy’s claim about the variety of his music falls on deaf ears. Despite some variance, there's a constant thread running through his prodigious output: stunning hooks. Gregoriy’s work under the pseudonym Chymera is a European's take on Detroit techno: the beats are simple and the synths are indefatigable and infectious. Just ask Luciano, who has been ending his sets lately with Chymera's 'Arabesque'.
I caught up with Chymera at his new digs in Barcelona to chat about techno in Ireland, Alice in Chains (seriously!), and the problem with Beatport.
So you’re not homeless anymore?
Yeah, that’s right. This summer, I was staying with friends all over Europe: Belgium, Holland, London, Dublin. I was homeless, I was just making tunes on my laptop along the way and in people’s studio as well. It was good fun. But it’s nice to have a home again, I have to say. At last.
Are you from Dublin?
Well, I was born in Cork, but I moved to Dublin when I was eighteen or nineteen. Dublin, though, is the place where I probably feel most at home. I moved there after just getting into electronic music. I don’t have many electronic music memories of Cork. When I was living there I was much more into alternative rock and metal.
Was there a good scene in Dublin?
I arrived in Dublin at the tail end of a boom. There was a big boom in Europe — clubbing was huge in the early 2000’s and it kind of tailed off a little bit after that. Then, two or three years ago, a lot of quality underground stuff seemed to gather a bit more momentum. I think the thing about Dublin, though, is that there might not be so much variety every single night of the week, but there is still a lot of diverse guys around. You can probably get two decent producers coming to play every month or something like that.
What about the crowds?
The Dublin crowds can be a bit fickle. It doesn’t really matter who’s playing, whether it’s a local DJ or an international producer: two nights of the month, the clubs will be empty. The other two nights? Completely full. It’s kind of up and down, you know? It depends on the weather or what sport is on the telly that night. Give Irish people a drink and they’re very happy to stay home, but when they do make it out I really think that the Dublin and Irish crowds have an enthusiasm which is hard to beat. Playing there is fantastic.
When you were in Cork you were mostly into alternative music like Alice in Chains, early Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, and the like. Does that play into the music that you make now?
I’d say it’s a big influence. I mean I still do listen to all of that music. I definitely think that some of those emotional dark melodies that you have going on in alternative find their way into my tracks. I play guitar as well and I think that some of the melodies come from that as well — or are helped by it. Also, some of the rhythms. I’ve sampled some of that stuff. I’m a sucker for those tom drums.
You sample Alice in Chains?
[laughs] Yeah. Alice in Chains, Tool, Nine Inch Nails. All of them have worked their way into a track or two along the way.
Do you play guitar on your tracks?
Not really yet. I remember trying about a year ago. I hooked up my guitar and was playing over some tunes but it just didn’t suit the tracks. But I’ve been working on some new tracks where I’m hooking up the pitch of the synth to a knob on a MIDI controller and I’m playing live solos. It’s the same way as playing a guitar solo, just that I’m changing the pitch of the note. Modulating it, etc. A lot of the new stuff that I’m working on is me trying to work in a more spontaneous live musicality to it.
That’s interesting because it seems like so much of your stuff is very composed.
Sure, but at the same time, nearly all of the stuff that’s been released so far was done in a very short time. ‘Valarian’ was started, composed, and finished in two hours. [laughs] And then it was signed two hours after that. I kind of flirt between two ideas: one is that Chicago or Detroit ethic of doing everything live and recording out your sequence live and bang! That’s your track. And then there’s the other side where I work on tracks for a couple of days or a week. At the moment, I’m combining both: the live feel while still working in lots of layers and details.
You have a lot of tracks on different labels – NRK, Ovum, Delsin. Was there a label that, when you had your first release for them, you had that realization that “oh, crap, is this for real now?”
There’s been a few of those along the way. Delsin was definitely one of them. I’d been following them for a few years. NRK too. With them, it was kind of interesting because I certainly don’t play quite as much house – I was aware of them, but not so much with their output. And before that, the Ovum release. I actually signed that a full year before the track came out. It was in April or May of 2006. Signing to Ovum when I was pretty much completely unknown was one of those “wow" moments.
Along those same lines, I saw that Luciano came to Dublin and played one of your tunes. Does that happen a lot to you now?
That was one of the first times that I went out to a club to see a fairly well-known DJ and heard one of my tracks unexpectedly. He even played it as the finale to the night, which was amazing. I was completely drunk off my head, but it was a great moment. That’s a thing that any artist probably would love. I’m sure…I hope I’ll hear a few more of them the next few times that I’m out.
Do you look for new music on the Internet?
Yeah, I use Beatport, and I also occasionally look at some blogs that I like. And then there’s MySpace too. It’s not a simple thing. I do get quite frustrated when I go onto Beatport and try to get through all of the week’s new releases in techno, tech house, deep house, and you’re just wading through literally thousands of tracks of shit and you find, like, five good ones. It’s great that such a wide range of labels is there in one outlet, but that does mean the quality control is not there quite as much. I do like Word and Sound, though. They’ve got a smaller selection, but there’s a higher level of quality there.
The problem used to be your local record shop didn’t have the tracks that you wanted, but digital music has its own set of problems.
That’s true. If you know what you’re looking for, digital is great. If it’s a new release, chances are it’ll be there when you want it. The great thing used to be, though (when I used to buy vinyl), is when you had a record shop where you had a really good buyer who had a nice small collection across a nice band of genres. Not a lot of music, but all of it was quality. I had that in Dublin, where I would go in to the store and come out with twenty tracks that were cool and not have to swim through so much bullshit. That’s where that quality control thing comes in.
You used to work under another alias, I Am An Exit. Is that done now that Chymera is seeing more success?
Yeah. That came about because I had sent out all these demos to labels as Chymera. And I was doing the demo process all wrong: I was sending demos to my favorite labels, but I was sending them tracks that really didn’t suit them very well. So I got a little dejected when I didn’t hear back from them so I started off this little I Am An Exit thing around that time, made a few tracks, and stuck them up on the web anonymously and it got something like 6,000 downloads and loads of positive feedback. That led to the deal with Urbantorque. After that, though, I decided to just stick with Chymera. But, then again, who knows?
What’s coming up?
A lot of gigs. I don’t have an agent quite yet, but MySpace has been really useful in helping me to connect with people. I just got back from Russia and next month I’ll be going out to Israel and Italy. I’ve been putting a lot of effort into my live show and also my DJ sets, so I’m open to doing whatever, depending on the venue.
2007 was kinda crazy for you release-wise - each month it seemed there was a new Chymera release. Will that continue?
[laughs] You know a lot of that was down to the label industry, to be honest. Delays like the Ovum thing. Often you’ll sign a track and six months later it’ll finally be released. So, yeah, it’s kinda worked that way that there was a burst of releases like diarrhea, but I hope it’ll kind of even itself out a bit. And I’m slowing down with my tracks a bit, so working that musicality into the tracks may take a bit longer to get them there.
You’ve done a couple of remixes, but not lately it seems.
I’ve done three now. Remixes are something that I’m still trying to find my feet with. I’ve been sent a couple of remixes in the past where I didn’t really like the original track, but that I thought that “oh no, I have to remix this” so I just took the tiniest little part of it and remade it. But now I’m trying to go the other way: only picking tracks that I like or half-like that I can actually feel there is a significant part of it that I can then put my own stamp on.
What do you mean “finding your feet” exactly?
I was inexperienced with remixes really. When I was sent tracks I would say, “Sure, I’ll give it a go” a little bit ago. And then after two or three weeks and still nothing came out I just had to give up and say to them “I shouldn’t have actually taken this on in the first place. It just wasn’t the right track for me.” Now, I think, I’m making a better choice of tracks for remix. And now I’m finally able to make remixes that I’m happy with.
Who are some artists that you’d like to remix?
My favorite artists, of course: Steve Rachmad. Any of the UR camp, although I’m pretty sure there’s not much of a chance that would happen since they farm them out to the UR guys. But you never know. Delsin too. Some of the artists on there are very similar to what I’m doing.
Any non-techno people?
I would love to remix Nine Inch Nails. [laughs]
Isn’t he doing a project right now where he’s allowing people to take tracks from his last album or something like that?
Yeah, he did that. He puts up all the remix packs up on his website. Although, to be honest with you, I don’t really like a lot of his new stuff. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea after all, but I’m sure there’s one or two tracks that I could do something with.