Getting comfy with Giraffage
I love it when I find an artist I like that is young enough to still be eligible for the military draft. Giraffage (aka Charlie Yin) is a producer out of Cupertino (assuming you’re here by accident looking for an interview with a giraffe or something) who has a gift for making densely-layered ambient/chill-out electronica. He was able to take time out of his increasingly busy schedule to chat with us about the origin of his musical species.
Us: Having mentioned that Cupertino isn’t exactly the most inspiring place on earth, how do you find creative inspiration in a challenging space?
Because of the lack of sensory stimulation here in Cupertino, I find myself getting lost in my own thoughts often, and a lot of the times this leads to cool musical ideas. Dwelling on things like memories or dreams can often lead to me writing a song. So I guess a lack of inspiration is my inspiration, in that sense. But recently I have been pretty busy traveling and playing shows in places I’ve never been to before, and I definitely have drawn inspiration from those moments.
Us: Where do you take your samples from most frequently?
Anything is fair game for me to sample. I’ve sampled things from diverse as Britney Spears acapellas to weird 80s infomercials that I find on YouTube. I also record a lot of my own samples, be it claps, clicks, weird vocal sounds, etc.
Us: How do you decide when a track belongs to Robot Science vs. Giraffage?
The line between Robot Science and Giraffage has been blurry lately, especially with the newer material that I’ve been working on. I used to try to distinguish it as Giraffage being more sample-based/lush/experimental and Robot Science being more melodic/crisp. But lately I’ve just been writing songs without thinking too much about whether or not it’ll be a Robot Science song or a Giraffage song and as a result, the combination is something pretty fresh sounding. I think that’s really the way to go, since I don’t want to confine myself into some sort of weird genre-box that I’ve created for myself.
Us: We noticed on the Robot Science Facebook page, you’re pointing people towards Giraffage. Has the id overwhelmed the ego?
Yes, definitely focusing all of my efforts onto promoting Giraffage these days. I’m only one man, making the music that I want to make. So it makes sense just to point everyone to one moniker.
Us: You just completed a collaboration with XXYYXX, who I’ve read is 16 years old. How do you feel about younger and younger producers becoming active in the music industry?
I think it’s awesome and a testament to the power of the internet. It’s easier than ever these days to pick up a MIDI controller and a copy of Ableton and just go to town. When I was 16, I was writing songs with a MIDI guitar tablature program called Tabit that would only playback General MIDI sounds. I would have loved to have software like Ableton Live or Reason at my disposal. It’s really cool that anyone these days can watch a few youtube tutorials and be up to speed production-wise in a few weeks because although the volume of shitty music will increase, the volume of really good music will increase as well.
Us: What was the most challenging about producing Even Though?
Working with stems probably. Marcel (XXYYXX) and I use different software for producing music so I really only had the raw audio stems to mess with.
Us: How is Even Though different from Comfort?
It’s different because it’s a collaboration between XXYYXX and I. Basically he sent me a song idea that he had and then I went to town on it. You can hear the original version on XXYYXX’s full length, it’s called Set It Off.
Us: Can you tell us a little bit about your set-up? What are your favorite pieces of hardware or software? Feel free to be specific. We have a lot of producers in our readership.
In terms of software, I use Ableton Live 8 as my DAW. I really like the warping engine and the intuitive nature of the layout. In terms of hardware, I use various MIDI controllers, my favorite being the MPD32 and also 2 analog synthesizers: the Ensoniq ESQ-1 and the Microkorg. A lot of my sounds come from VSTs and effects but I do throw in some analog leads every now and then to spice things up.
Us: What was the motivation behind the car performance of “Moments”?
It’s funny, that performance was initially supposed to be radically different, in the sense that there were supposed to be way more cameras and a different layout for my MIDI controller. But at the last minute we accidentally blew a fuse in the car that I was initially going to perform in. So we shot a very last minute video while it was still light out with one camera. And it turned out to be really awesome! Happy accidents like that are the best.
Us: In the past you’ve said it’s hard to pick out your influences. Having seen two of your live performances both relying solely on an MPD, is it safe to say you’re looking toward Star Slinger as a source of inspiration at least?
I definitely do draw some inspiration from Star Slinger, Baths, Nosaj Thing, et al in terms of live performance with the MPD. But I’m slowly acquiring more and more gear and trying to figure out ways to incorporate more into my live set and stand out a little bit more. Lately, I’ve been using a novation Launchpad in conjunction with my MPD to trigger effects and whatnot and I’m hoping to eventually bring my Microkorg into the mix at some point as well.
Us: Have you seen this drum cover? As a drummer-turned-beatmaker, do you ever think you’ll start to include live instruments in your set? Does this video give you any insight as to how people are able to appreciate the technicality of your work?
Yes, and it’s so rad! I would love to include a live drummer or even drum myself, but I think at this point it’s just not feasible. It’s cool because I grew up listening to a math rock and definitely try to throw in some math-y elements in here and there. I think the mere fact that someone decided my song would be cool to do a drum cover of is more than awesome.
Us: What’s your current “Oh girl that’s my jam” jam?
Been listening to a lot of RL Grime recently, he just released a song called “Trap on Acid” that’s been on repeat for the last 24 hours. http://www.youtube.com/
Us: What’s next for Giraffage?
Finishing up school, doing more tours, and making more and more music. Working on my next EP and I’m real excited for it. I think it’s some of my best work yet.
Giraffage’s “Even Though” is available digitally now and will see a physical release on May 22 on the upcoming Kitsune America compilation. Check him out on bandcamp / facebook / tumblr / soundcloud / twitter