Interview with Gotye
Thirty-two year old Walter “Wally” De Backer takes his stage name, Gotye, from “Gauthier”, the French equivalent of “Walter”. He’s released three albums, won numerous awards, released a five-times platinum single (U.S.), been remixed by some of the biggest DJs on earth, has over one million fans on Facebook and legions more across the planet. In August, he will be kicking off a world tour with stops in Asia, North America, Europe, and Australia . So what hasn’t Gotye done? An interview with Independent Philly…until now.
Independent Philly: You released “Somebody That I Used to Know” just about a year ago. Since then it’s reached #1 in 18 different countries. How has that one song changed you life and career over the past 12 months?
Gotye: It’s made me even busier than I ever imaged I could be before, but in a good way. It has brought challenges that I relish, and it also seems to have resulted in my being confronted by myself, or responses to myself, my body…especially with face paint on it, seem to be inescapable on the web. So, that’s one peculiar change.
Independent Philly: You used some crazy instruments that perhaps a lot of people haven’t heard of before when creating your last album “Making Mirrors”. Can you tell us a little bit about some of them?
Gotye: One of my favorites is an electronic organ, a Lowrey Cotillion that was released in 1981. It’s not necessarily particularly different from other electronic organs released around the same time, but it does have a series of really idiosyncratic sounds on it that I have a really soft spot for, which is why I incorporated so many of them and even built a whole song around, which is “State of the Art”. I do things like sampling music boxes, hiking manual vibrato on them by shaking the box itself, to wobble the sound wave acoustically into a microphone, and then re-sampling that and turning it into a melody. I was sampling things like the bamboo chimes that people find in Indonesian shops, which just kind of shake it the wind and create a soft little bamboo flutter outside your door, but I actually sampled them as an instrument using a little Casio device. Yeah, so things like that are the more interesting things. Oh, and then of course there’s the musical fence which people are fairly fascinated by. It’s actually a big fence in the outback of Australia, which I actually stumbled across when I was touring with my other band “The Basics”, and it’s these five big strings on a wooden fence that you can sort of play like a massive bass guitar.
IP: You’re scheduled to kick off your world wide tour next month (coming through North America beginning in August) with a five piece band, what’s it been like rehearsing for the tour thus far?
Gotye: I’ve been adding all new arrangements to some of my previous records, adding some more variation in the steps to be able to play more like an hour and a half, hour and forty-five minutes. Been getting new visuals worked up, I worked with a bunch of really talented animators, and I’m just hoping that the set will be more dynamic even than the stuff I was doing the last time, which is fairly broad, covering stuff off of three different albums and going a different direction with different tempos and styles. So I’m probably trying to have things that even sort of push the bottom end sub-frequencies a bit more and have more straight ahead tempos, but I also think it’s stripped back a lot more and has become more intimate and personal.
IP: Out on the road you play live with a band without the aid of a lot of backing tracks. Does this ever make you nervous?
Gotye: There are a few backing tracks, not every background vocal is done by someone in my band. Some of them are different versions of my own voice even. But yeah, almost everything is played live by us on drums, guitars, keyboards, and even many of the samples and synthesizer sounds. And me and my band work very hard to play all of those sounds so there is the possibility of error I guess…which is one of the key things lacking in some electronic music, which actually might be really amazing audio/visually to experience but sort of lacks that potential, I don’t know, it lacks that possibility and potential for a different feel every night, which actually makes it more human and makes it more fallible which I think is one aspect of live music which is actually really good, and is a good thing to learn how to incorporate into a live show.
IP: What can your fans expect from a Gotye live show that have never seen you perform before?
Gotye: For the folks that haven’t trolled very far online on my Youtube and Vimeo pages, then they’ll see a whole bunch of really great animated visuals–I’ve had a bunch of really talented animators put together for different songs–they’re an essential part of the show. I think a lot of the arrangements have a better energy sometimes than on the record, because we’re playing them live and there’s a bit more variation and some of the things that actually work in a certain way on a record because of the loops and repetitive aspects and kind of sample aspects on the record actually, they have a different energy, maybe a better energy live, because we’re playing them, as humans.
IP: What are a few items that you absolutely wouldn’t want to go out on the road for your tour without?
Gotye: One would be, or a number of them would be these Novation Launchpads which are these sample trigger devices that me and Tim use in the band quite extensively to lay and trigger various sample sounds. Another would be a thing called a Mallet KAT, which is like a MIDI control made by an American company which is like a large, electronic berimbau. I play that quite a lot which actually really suits me because I’m a drummer/percussionist mainly, so it’s a good device for getting a feel for triggering sample sounds. And gee I don’t know what else, oh, a bowl of fruit, end table, and a bed.
IP: Tell us a little bit about some of the opening acts that are going to be accompanying you on the tour…
Gotye: I’m a huge fan of all of them, which is great. It’s really exciting to be getting ready for a tour with some of your favorite bands that you’re going to be playing with. Jonti is a young guy from Australia who I think is easily one of best, young producers in Australia. The few records that he’s put out are really kind of magic, psychedelic, hip-hop, pop kind of stuff. He’s fantastic but I haven’t really seen a bunch of what he does live, so it’ll be a real treat to see how he does his thing as a solo artist. Chairlift are one of my favorite bands in recent years. Their second record is total gold and we saw them play live on our last tour, and it was a fantastic show, so I can’t wait to play with them. Missy Higgins has become a friend and we’ve done some shows together before so it’s going to be good to travel to parts of the United States with her. Zammuto, formerly of The Books, will also be playing a few of the shows. All bands well worth checking out!
IP: Would you like to give a shout out to your fans who are eagerly awaiting your upcoming tour?
Gotye: Sure! I’d really like to see them at the shows, and maybe after shows. So if people are free I think you should come check it out; it’s going to be a good show!
IP: You were born in Bruges, Belgium before moving to Australia. We’re going to be heading over to Belgium next week for the Tomorrowland Festival and we were wondering if you could give us any pointers on Belgian culture?
Gotye: Tomorrowland? Cool, I’ll have to look it up. Belgian culture, well I’m going to go through the obvious things of the lifestyle. You’ll find plenty of great beers, served slightly warmer than you’re probably used to but also far stronger, often with 9 or 10% alcohol content and higher. But a really immense variety, well worth testing out. Belgium’s always been renowned for its incredible chocolate. Let me see, what else? Something not a lot of people sometimes discover in Belgium, it can be hard because obviously there’s a language barrier, but there’s a really fantastic history of comic books, in a very different style than say the American pulp comic book history. It’s interesting just going to a comic book store and seeing the plethora of different characters that have been popular over the years in Belgium and then across into Holland and France. Yeah, it’s worth checking out. One of my personal interests, there are a couple of characters I’ve been following since I was a kid. I’ve been reading in Flemish and following their stories. You probably know some like Tin-Tin who have become world famous since they were translated into English. But yeah, checking out what they call a “strip book store”–it sounds kind of seedy, but it’s not what you think it is–that’s worth doing.
IP: Finally, could you tell us something about yourself that would surprise or even shock our readers?
Gotye: (laughs) Well I don’t know how surprising it is but for the last ten years while I’ve sort of been doing my Gotye project and self producing and releasing records, I’ve also been playing in another band called “The Basics”. It’s a three piece rock n’ roll band and there’s lots of soul and early rhythm & blues inspired types of stuff, and we do stuff like driving thousands of kilometers in a van around the outback in Australia, playing in aboriginal communities, and playing like four-set shows night after night for many weeks in a row. Which is not a musical journey I think a lot of people expect having heard bits of my Gotye music, so yeah, something worth checking out, my other band called “The Basics”.
We can’t wait to catch Gotye when he makes his way up the East Coast in late September. Now he’s just somebody that will put on an amazing show.
North American Tour Dates In Full:
Aug 22 Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks (w/Missy Higgins & Jonti)
Aug 24 Chicago, IL @ Charter One Pavilion (w/Missy Higgins & Jonti)
Aug 25 Milwaukee, WI @ The Riverside Theater (w/Missy Higgins & Jonti)
Aug 26 Minneapolis, MN @ US Bank Theater at Target Center (w/Missy Higgins & Jonti)
Aug 28 Edmonton, AB @ Shaw Conference Center (w/Chairlift & Jonti)
Aug 29 Calgary, AB @ Stampede, Corral (w/Chairlift & Jonti)
Aug 31 Burnaby, BC @ Deer Lake Park (w/Chairlift & Jonti)
Sept 1 Seattle, WA @ Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival (w/Missy Higgins)
Sept 2 Troutdale, OR @ Edgefield Amphitheatre (w/Chairlift & Jonti)
Sept 4 Los Angeles, CA @ Greek Theatre (w/Chairlift & Jonti)
Sept 6 Berkeley, CA @ Greek Theatre Berkeley (w/Chairlift & Jonti)
Sept 14 Kansas City, MO @ Berkley Riverfront Park (w/Chairlift & Zammuto)
Sept 16 Cleveland, OH @ Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica (w/Chairlift & Zammuto)
Sept 17 Columbus, OH @ The LC Pavilion (w/Chairlift & Zammuto)
Sept 18 Detroit, MI @ Fox Theatre (w/Chairlift & Zammuto)
Sept 20 Toronto, ON @ Molson Amphitheater (w/Chairlift & Zammuto)
Sept 21 Montreal, QC @ Jacques Cartier Pier (Old Port) (w/Chairlift & Zammuto)
Sept 22 Boston, MA @ Bank of America Pavilion (w/Missy Higgins & Jonti)
Sept 25 New York, NY @ Radio City Music Hall (w/Missy Higgins & Jonti)
Sept 27 Brooklyn, NY @ Williamsburg Park (w/ Zammuto)
Sept 29 Camden, NJ@ Susquehanna Bank Center (w/Missy Higgins & Jonti)
Sept 30 Columbia, MD @ Merriweather Post Pavilion (w/Missy Higgins & Jonti)
Oct 1 Raleigh, NC @ Raleigh Amphitheatre (w/Missy Higgins & Jonti)
Oct 3 Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium (w/Missy Higgins & Jonti)
Oct 4 Tuscaloosa, AL @ Tuscaloosa Amphitheater (w/Missy Higgins & Jonti)
Oct 5 Atlanta, GA @ Chastain Park Amphitheatre (w/Missy Higgins & Jonti)
Oct 7 Miami, FL @ Klipsch Amphitheatre at Bayfront Park (w/Givers & Jonti)
Oct 8 Lake Buena Vista, FL @ House of Blues Orlando (w/Givers & Jonti)
Oct 10 New Orleans, LA @ Lakefront Arena (w/Givers & Jonti)
Oct 11 Spring, TX @ Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion (w/Givers & Jonti)
Oct 12 Grand Prairie, TX @ Verizon Theatre (w/Kimbra & Jonti)
Oct 13 Austin, TX @ Austin City Limits