Remi Gallego (aka The Algorithm) has been bringing a unique sound of harsh electronica and crunchy beats on a new album called Octopus4, being released on the back of his appearances at the Big Day Out. Here he talks about video games and Wil Smith. Both very much related to his own work.
You were a part of the Boiler Room lineup from this year’s Big Day Out. What was the experience like doing that tour here?
Firstly it was surprising to know that I was going to be a part of a festival in a far-off place. It is the biggest festival that I’ve ever done and an incredible experience. It was truly inspiring and even breathtaking to play alongside some big acts.
I think we managed to present some good shows to people and meet new people too. It was very good to visit Australia. I have good memories of the tour. If I could go again, I would love to.
You mentioned that it was the biggest festival you’ve done so far. What were the biggest festivals you’ve played previous to the Big Day Out?
I’ve done Download Festival in the UK and a few big festivals in Germany a bunch of times. Judging from the headliner and the crowds, the Big Day Out was probably the biggest for me to play. Considering that it was the first time I had played in Australia, it was a good chance to see other places outside of Europe and see how music festivals work in other places.
I can’t quite put a finger on who could have been influence when you put together Octopus4. Were there any artists that you were listening to when putting this album together?
Quite a few. While I was putting together the album I really interested by video game music in general. I’m a huge gamer myself, so I get a big inspiration from video games and their soundtracks. I love a lot of everything outside of that. I love my metal. I don’t really know any specific artists that influenced the album as such. It was more a bunch of bands that I listened randomly here and there.
What makes you want to listen to video game soundtracks? I only ask that because I wasn’t aware that video game soundtracks have their own ‘scene’ until very recently.
I think there is a big connection between the experience that you have in the game and it’s music. If it doesn’t have a story, you don’t get a feeling from it. I find the connection between the experiences you have as a gamer and the sound of the game is something that is really critical. Things like Final Fantasy – it sounds like it is telling a story with its noises as well as the visuals. It’s special. It’s something that you can’t find when making an album, and that just intrigues me.
I got surprised at parts of the album when you had vocals coming in on tracks, because I was so much in the zone of expecting instrumental tracks. There is a track called “Un Denier Combat” that just startled me considering there was a long phrase of instrument motifs and such. What made you feel that vocals needed to be in that song at the point where it drops?
I think surprising the listener is one of my objectives as a musician. Instrumentals can be interesting when vocals are just introduced randomly – especially rap vocals. It was also pretty funny and interesting at the same time. It also happened that my brother is a really good singer and had been doing some rap vocals on hip-hop records a few years ago. So I thought: “why not involve him as well?”
I just wanted to try something different from what I’ve done before. I could make it happen, and it was interesting. I actually did a track back in 2010 with vocals… actually I have done many tracks with vocals before that. I just remember that I did a bunch with a friend from France a while back. It’s not something that I always try to do through my career though.
I think there is a lot to learn when working with vocals in a music-producer environment. I’m trying to get a bit of experience and knowledge about that. I do know that there are a lot of things to be done on a creative side of vocals. I should experiment with more stuff like that and see how it comes out.
Some parts of Octopus4 seem quite spooky too. Did you like working or composing at night by any chance?
Actually, yes! I think you’re right. I do mostly work at night. I like the atmosphere of feeling alone in a room. It sounds weird like that, but I just like the dark. It makes me really focus on the album. It makes me focus on the output on the computer screen. I can’t see anything else. So I’m really initially involved in what I’m doing at night.
I don’t really do stuff in the day. It doesn’t sound nice during the day, as weird as that sounds. It was intended to be played at night too, but you can play it during the day too if you want. I won’t stop you.
Tell me about Mike Malyan [drummer from the band Monuments]. Why did you want to incorporate physical drumming by a human within processed beats?
I didn’t expect a drummer could actually play in my music in the first place. I met Mike at a festival in Germany a few years ago and a month or so after that he released a video cover on YouTube of one of my songs. I thought about how much power he put on the track and how good it was. I was impressed.
So I just thought to bring him in live on my act. I thought people needed to see how the drums were meant to played and see how good he really is. I wanted to show how to play beats on a drum set that aren’t supposed to be played, if you know what I mean.
We did one gig in London initially two years ago, and it sounded really good. We continued to do shows together and it added a lot of power to the live set. It seemed natural as well. I think that is important in a performance. There needs to be a natural relationship in electronic music as well and not some guy pressing play on a laptop. He also brought a rock-metal vibe to the project, which is important.
Mike would have to be experienced in tempo as well, I’m assuming? You’re tracks aren’t an easy pattern of snares and hi-hats at times.
In Monument, I think he got a lot of experience playing complex and fast parts. He is no stranger to that. He was born for that in a way, and I think he should stick to that for a long time. He has a lot of potential.
Do you try to challenge him with more complex rhythms with each song you write?
Oh, I think so! He doesn’t really show it. He is very modest but I think it is a good thing for him to play something different and something quite complex in the structure. It’s difficult for him I think to learn it, but I’m always impressed about the results of him practicing.
I have noticed on various parts of the Internet that Octopus4 is somehow connected with [actor] Will Smith in some way. Can you explain that a bit further?
It all started from a joke online. I think at one point in a conversation, or a Facebook post, I talked about Will Smith having absolutely no rhythm. Then people pronouncing something about Will Smith with everything else I posted there. It’s kind of a running joke with fans.
So it was just kind of funny to have a crap actor called Will Smith within the concept of the record and added to the randomness of the music and project as well.
So what lies in the future for The Algorithm? You mentioned video games before, are you intending to do video game soundtracks yourself?
Yes. It is exciting and it is something new for me. Writing a soundtrack is new for me too. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve got a few games that I’m working on right now in fact. It’s just a way for me to expand my horizons and see what I can do with different sorts of things. I will see what people want in terms of clients and collaboration of my music and expand my abilities in that way too.
The problem when you’re working alone, you don’t have a second opinion. You have someone telling you what they want. By writing soundtracks I can actually have feedback from someone else, but not just another musician, but from someone outside. I’m just a huge gamer, and music within games is exciting for me. I’m looking for it.
Octopus4 by The Algorithm is out now through Warner Music.