In wake of their highly anticipated album release ‘Liminal States’, Canadian producer Rhekluse discusses everything from their early influencers to future goals in our latest Insight interview.
Please tell us about yourself in a few words (who you are, where you’re from, what you do etc.).
My name is Ryan Harold and I live in Ontario, Canada. I am a Music Producer and I also help Admin the futuregarage.org platforms and help Moderate the Discord & live streams for the_accidental_poet YouTube channel.
What is the story behind the origin of your artist name?
I knew I wanted to start making deeper darker music, so I wanted a name that reflected that music and who I was becoming as a person. Over the years I’ve become a pretty private person and a bit of a recluse, so it sounded good to me at the time. The misspelling comes from my initials RH.
Please describe your music for us.
Someone once asked me to describe my music in 3 words: Bass. Beats. Atmosphere. Over the years it has evolved from different influences but predominantly remains bass-driven future electronic. It contains influences from Future Garage, Wave, Electronic, Ambient, UK Garage & Dubstep to name a few genres. My music feels like a melting pot of all of those sounds. I like the idea of being boundless and multi-genre.
Do you try to express something tangible through your music? A particular mood or feeling perhaps?
Absolutely! I think that is most important to me. I always try to express myself through my music, at least on a personal level I try to evoke emotions within myself in order to gauge whether I am hitting the mark creatively or not. I usually rely on keeping my music ‘mood’ driven and ‘raw’ and try not to stress too heavily over the technical side of things even though I try to improve those skill sets every day. I have heard that my music has a great ‘3:00 AM’ vibe to it.
Who are your major musical influences?
My musical influences go back as far as I can remember first listening to music. I was listening to The Cure, Depeche Mode & New Order at the age of 7. I was playing the guitar at the age of 14 influenced by a wide range of genres like Classic Rock, Rock, Blues & Metal. My early years of electronic influence came from listening to The Crystal Method, The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, Daft Punk, Orbital, Leftfield, Carl Cox, DJ Shadow, Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails.
Once Trip-Hop hit a global stage I really started to get into a chilled deeper vibe listening to Portishead, Massive Attack & Tricky. Bristol’s sound was quite engaging quite early on for me. From there I discovered Dubstep in 2005 via several different forums and fell in love with its depth. The bass weight and the space in the mix was super addictive.
My latter years of electronic music influence comes from the likes of Sorrow, Volor Flex, Ghostek, Burial & Bucky to name a few. I also draw inspiration from producers outside of the underground who push boundaries of music production and sound like Jon Hopkins, Lorn & Amon Tobin. I also really love soundtrack & original score music. All of that contributes to my overall inspiration.
How long have you been producing; can you describe the moment when you first realized you wanted to make music?
I first got bit by the bug in 1999 when I first had access to a home computer where I could chop up tracks, extend the mixes and burn them onto CD-RW’s. At that point, a digital lightbulb switched on in my head and I finally got my hands on my first DAW which was Sonic Foundry’s Acid Pro (now owned by Magix). I used that DAW for many years making rough tracks that were strictly arrangement oriented without any real focus on processing because I didn’t know anything about that stuff at the time. The music was crudely influenced by Industrial & Big Beat music.
I eventually made the migration over to Ableton Live in 2005. I think it was version 4. I had read that Daft Punk had been using it for their live performances and some studio works. It took a while to get used to it, so it wasn’t until 2007 that I started my ‘Rhekluse’ project and got into the intricacies of music production on a technical level learning about EQ, Compression & Mixing. I am always learning about those things even to this day. The second you stop learning, you might as well put the DAW down.
Tell us a little about your current studio setup (equipment, software etc..)
Currently, I am using Ableton Live Suite 10 with a pair of old KRK Rokit 8” reference monitors. I use a custom PC build with an RME Babyface Pro Audio Interface which I absolutely love. Coming out of the RME I have a Donner Del-4 desktop studio headphone amplifier which has a low noise floor. My headphones are a pair of DT 770’s & DT 990’s by Beyerdynamics.
My DJ setup consists of a pair of Technics SL-1200 MK5’s, an Allen & Health Xone:92 Rotary analogue mixer, 2 Novation Dicer midi controllers & Serato Scratch Live. I’ve had that setup since 2008.
“This album is essentially one of my life’s liminal states. If feels more like a collection of memories rather than a complete story. It will always remind me of this moment in my life” – Rhekluse on their latest album release ‘Liminal States’
What is your approach to starting a track, is there a routine you set for yourself?
I try not to limit myself to a routine and sort of go by mood. My Ableton Live default template is quite minimal consisting of 1 audio & midi track and 6 return channels set up for different tasks like a Room reverb, Solid Dynamics for parallel compression, Shimmer for some sheen, Delay, Vocal FX and some Multiband Compression if needed. I also have some devices on my Master chain like meters, glue/buss compressors & limiters which I disable during the production stage but enable when I want to gauge a basic mastering loudness.
I never really start a track the same way. Sometimes I will start with drums other times I will create lush landscapes with big reverbs & delays and other times I start with some melodies or chords. I will even start by sampling something and seeing what I can do to it. Sampling is a big part of my sound. If I get inspired immediately by a sound or an idea I know I am going down the correct path. I love it when I get an 8 or 16 bar loop going that sounds nice and full. If I start giggling by an idea and play it over and over again I know it’s going to be a good one. The best ideas usually come together rather quickly, and tracks seem to get finished within a few days.
How has your music evolved since you first began producing?
I feel it has evolved and improved since last year even. Back in the day, it took me a long time to finish music which was one of the reasons why I don’t have very much ‘early’ music released. I just kept trying to improve and learn new techniques and processes every day to fill those gaps in my productions. Right now, I feel I am closer to where I want to be creatively, but I also demand more of myself on a technical level and I will no doubt work hard to get to that point. We all improve at different paces.
What can you tell us about your latest album release ‘Liminal States‘? What can fans expect to hear from you in your latest work?
It’s definitely a collection of all of my influences ranging from Future Garage to little Ambient bits thrown in there. I didn’t want to hold myself back. I really wanted to release a collection of music since I have yet to release an album. This is all new territory for me, so it’s been quite a vulnerable experience. I decided to focus on my feelings & emotions ranging from depression, loneliness, isolation and shyness while keeping my vibes raw & transparent. This album is essentially one of my life’s liminal states. It feels more like a collection of memories rather than a complete story. It will always remind me of this moment in my life.
One moment I am floating above aggressive drumbeats and a deep bassline and the next I am crying in the rain. I purposely wanted to keep many of the vocals ghostly and distant, like past feelings fading with time but instilled in a memory. There are some rather dark undertones at times but in an almost cathartic & empowering way. I hope when people listen to this they can maybe see or feel where I was coming from, if not at least I tried to make most of the tracks upbeat & encouraging. There is love & despair written all over this record.
I always felt I sounded different from other artists & producers. A sort of ‘Street Sound’. I tried to match the vibes of others before, but it always came out a heartbreakingly beautiful failure. So, I try not to chase a sound rather I try to trust in the sound and believe that it is truly ‘me’.
Any particular artists you’d like to work with?
That’s quite a list. To name a few I would love to work with Volor Flex, Bucky, Vacant, Sorrow, Phelian, Pensees, Owsey, Margari’s Kid, Sibewest, Synkro, Brimstone, Lazarus Moment, Spaceouters, Sloati & Vesky. If I go further down the impossible I would love to make some 2-step/Garage with MJ Cole, Todd Edwards, EL-B or Burial. A man can dream though.
What’s on the horizon for you musically?
I have much planned. I don’t intend on slowing down after this release. I have a few collaborations & compilation tracks in the works and I also want to release a few EP’s this year, maybe even through a few labels. I would love to release with Insight Music, Nucifera Records or Dark Heart Recordings. There are also the unlikely candidates like Fent Plates Records, White Peach Records & Inspected as I love the vinyl format.
I am also in the middle of recording a few 1-hour DJ Mixes since I decided not to record a 2-hour guest year mix last year for ‘The Games We Play‘, which I did in 2017 & 2018. I love mixing tracks together and creating a story or journey from start to finish, seamlessly blending and transitioning tracks into and out of each other. It can be an art in itself. It usually takes me a lot of prep time to record a mix though as using turntables can be rather frustrating to use at times.
“There are no shortcuts to success & growth and the most gratifying rewards typically come from those painstaking hours spent honing your craft and developing useful additions to the workflow” – Rhekluse
Best advice you were given in regard to having a music career?
Bucky gave me some amazing advice a while ago that really helped me. “The key to it is, you can neither care too much nor care too little”. I never really had much of an audience for an exceptionally long time, so I need to enjoy the process and the final results first & foremost without taking things too seriously, but just serious enough. It takes away from the excitement of creating when you over-obsess with every little detail or constantly compare yourself with other artists; those artists each of us hold in high regard.
Any advice you can share with those just starting out?
Finish tracks. Even if they miss the intended mark or you do not plan to share them. I found the best path to growth was getting into the latter stages of a track’s progress and getting involved in those unfamiliar techniques & skill sets that rarely get practiced. It’s in those moments you really develop an ear for mixing, mastering or frequency familiarity. Those latter stages can really help improve skills necessary in the earlier stages as well.
Above all else, remember to have fun with the process and be patient. There are no shortcuts to success & growth and the most gratifying rewards typically come from those painstaking hours spent honing your craft and developing useful additions to the workflow.
And finally, are there any artists that are relatively unknown that you’d like people to know about?
I know so many good people & great musicians so I’ll stick with musicians here:
Greencyde, Bass Ronin, Olduvai, AdamZero, Bucky, Haeworth, John UK, Lazarus Moment, AUEL, Thèmemoir, BlauDisS, Skandition, Khromi, Shanti, Patros15, Ambient Light, Phelian, Vacant, Mahoney Outcast, Charles & The Fury, Tomokari, Linear Curb, in : exhale & Riversilvers.
I simply cannot name everyone at this very moment but I am very grateful to those who have supported me over the years. I will try to take the time to thank them personally at some point soon.
Thank you very much, Stefan & Tir.