Exclusive Interview: 5 minutes with Wax Beach

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Tiaan du Toit and Jamie Christensen aka Wax Beach are an electronic duo currently based in Cape Town, South Africa. Initially formed as a production project in 2013 by Christensen, du Toit was soon enlisted as a full time member soon after. Tiaan joined Jamie to work on demo productions together. This formed what would eventually be the debut collaboration Immersion EP with artist and vocalist Irinami (Irina Buzdugan).

In 2018, Wax Beach aims to release even more music featuring various artists and genres ranging from EDM to hip hop, with the first being a collaboration with artist Josh Wantie which was released on the 16th of March.

We caught up with Wax Beach on abstract techniques and the exciting future ahead:

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

Tiaan:
I would say my passion for the arts comes from my appreciation of it. There is
nothing more inspiring to me than an interesting melody in a song or a striking
poem. When writing music, you get to constantly create something that you can
really attach a lot of creativity and meaning to, and I think that is why I am really
passionate about it.

Jamie:
I’ve been interested in music for most of my life.
My older brother introduced me to a lot of music and movies when I was younger,
which I think sparked the interest in arts early on. I got more involved with it as I got
older and started playing drums at the age of 16 and I consider production as an
evolution of my interest in music.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

Jamie:
When we start something from scratch, we usually start with a chord progression or
look through sample packs to find sounds that will inspire us.
It could be an interesting sound/melody or specific progression that starts the idea
for a song, so I will say the combination of the sound and the idea has to be right
and we will build off of that and form more ideas as we go along the process.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

Tiaan:
One of the main ideas behind Wax Beach is to collaborate with as many artists as
possible. We love the process of working with other artists and learning from each
other. This process ensures that we can move into different genres and each song
we release is unique since it contains some of the collab artist’s own sound and
flavour.

What’s on your current playlist?

Jamie:
Currently have a lot of hip hop on my playlist and like to keep up with what
producers are currently doing.

Tiaan:
Lately I have been listening to a lot of indie, emo, math and pop punk rock from
bands like Tiny Moving Parts, First Ghost and TTNG, as well as a lot of hip hop
especially diving into Kendrick Lamar’s older stuff.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

Jamie:
Since a lot of the Wax Beach sound is rooted in catchy melodies and chord
progressions, one technique that I often use is to take interesting or abstract tonal
one shot samples and put them into a sampler and play chords with those sounds.
This can create unique sounding chord progressions and interesting textures in the
sound that you would not think to create with a synth.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

Jamie:
Usually I will have made a couple of half-finished demos, whether it be a chord
progression or just a simple beat and we’ll pick one and start working on it. We will
try different ideas and bounce them off each other until we find something that
works. Sometimes this will involve recording some vocals or guitar and but most of
the time it would simply be going through sample libraries (usually with splice) and
trying to find interesting sounds to manipulate into something new.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I
want to do”?

Tiaan:
My high school talent show, after our performance (an acoustic cover of Iris by the
Goo Goo Dolls if I remember correctly). I just remember the rush of endorphins as I
stepped off stage. I think that was when I decided that I was going to start making
Music.

Jamie:
My first experience with electronic music involves listening Justice’s Cross album
and later discovering Skrillex.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Jamie:
Grey, Louis the Child, Whethan, San Holo and Medasin are some of my favourite
newer artists/producers at the moment.

Tiaan:
I’d say locally there are a few artists we’ve got our eye on, namely Nic Preen and the
World of Birds as well as Chiano Sky, but I’d say she is more established than
emerging.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Tiaan:
I think this is something we struggle with a lot. There have been times where we will
be sitting in a room, listening to the same part of the song over and over, and just
have no clue where to go with it. When this happens, we usually take a drive or go
for a drink. Other times we just start working on a different song entirely, sort of
following the path of least resistance, and then only come back to the initial track a
bit later.

Jamie:
Sometimes going through sounds/samples or listening to a little chord progressions
or melodies, changing their tempo or pitching them up or down. Processing sounds
without a context will inspire a new idea and I’ll try to figure out how to put them
together to start forming a coherent idea.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies
your creative expression.

Jamie:
I’ve always kept it pretty minimal as I believe that if you know the software well you
can still get great results without any fancy outboard gear. My DAW is Ableton Live
with some third party plugins, a go to synth being Serum by Xfer Records and the
splice sound libraries.

We also have a Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 audio interface which we use
to record vocals (using a Rode NT1-A microphone) or guitar (Tom Delonge Signature
Epiphone ES-333) or midi chords (Roland PCR-500).
For mixing we own pairs of Roland RH-200 headphones (Jamie) and Roland RH-300
studio headphones (Tiaan).

I’ve used my pair of headphones for over 5 years now, I know it so well so I’m able
to mix and master with them.

Any side projects you’re working on?

Besides our own stuff we are busy working on some ideas which might appear on
Irinami’s solo EP but we can’t say any more than that. We also want to get into producing and writing for other artists, as well as working on sound for films/ads and TV productions.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

Jamie:
I think we both understand the level of quality and polish expected by the industry
so we have spent a lot more time working on and perfecting that final 10% of the
song writing process, which involves minor tweaks to the mix and master or adding
a slight FX sample here and there in order to make a song really pop.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

Tiaan:
This year we hope to release songs spanning multiple genres to keep things
interesting for us. We also plan to collaborate with more artists and hopefully create
something interesting with each new release.

Stream/purchase Immersion EP ft Irinami by Wax Beach

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[Image credit: Tyler Walker]