After nearly a decade of producing music as SQL, Pim van Horssen’s often turbulent but exciting journey both across the world and deep inside himself has led to a fully developed, mature sound.
The idea of starting over was something that crossed his mind many times; but after moments of despair he always managed to rediscover his love of music on some dancefloor somewhere, reuniting with his passion and leading to this year’s long-awaited release of his debut album on Gem Records, the eponymously entitled SEQUEL.
Now, ahead of his 9 June SEQUEL album release party at Amsterdam’s OT301 (alongside Stefan Vincent and Nathan Surreal), SQL discusses whats new, old, relevant, and weird in his world.
“I’m trying not to set too many goals, as this is an inspiration killer.”
How are you, whats good, what bad?
I’m good! Lots of bad things in the world lately, but let’s try not to let that bring us down.
You have a new album coming, right? What made you decide to work on an album?
The idea to do an album is something I’ve toyed with for many years but never really got around to doing, or I felt I wasn’t ready for it yet. An album is such a personal thing. But then last winter everything fell into place when I realised I had 35 or so ideas that I thought didn’t really fit in anywhere. When Nick, A&R of Gem Records heard it he went mental: “How can you be sitting on all this amazing music? We have to release it!”. He asked me if I had thought about doing an album. After that the tracks just fell into place and the album was born. I’m very pleased with the result.
You say it is a rebirth for you – why is that? How so?
I went through a period where I almost couldn’t make any music anymore because I was feeling uninspired, which was really frustrating and put me in a really bad state of mind. I felt I was doing the same thing over and over but It just didn’t work anymore. Some days I would get angry with myself and with making music. It was a destructive pattern. At times I felt like should even stop making music and start over.
But instead I decided to change my mindset and workflow. It taught me to give up on the struggle and put things in perspective. In the end making music is just one of the things I like to do, it does not define me. This process of letting go created the right mind-set to be creative again without too much pressure. All in all, it feels like a giant weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I can make music again care free like I used to. Hence the rebirth and the title of the album: Sequel.
How different are they than 12”s? Is it a totally different process?
It was definitely a different process and approach. An album is a very personal thing so I didn’t take compiling it lightly. I started with the 35 best unreleased tracks I made in the past two years. I brought it down to 10 tracks that told a real story together. By the time we were finished we had over 10 versions and chose the best one. I don’t feel that kind of pressure releasing EP’s. My Ep’s are usually aimed at the dancefloor.
You wrote lots of jams last year right – did you know they would eventually be turned into an album? Why work that way?
I never really had the idea for an album when I did these jams, but I was putting them aside for something special. The biggest reason for me to start working this way was to find that spark again in the studio. Just switch on the synths and see where they take me.
Do you just turn machines on and jam, or do you have a track in your head you try to make, or is it more experimental than that?
Yes, pretty much. Usually I start with a synth patch on the Prophet 5 or maybe jam some beats on the Teenage Engineering Op-1. I then record everything into Ableton and start building around that. When I have enough layers running I’ll just press record and jam until I feel I have an interesting arrangement. But sometimes I just spend hours fiddling and experimenting, without any clear direction or purpose. I save everything I do, so this leaves me with a giant sample bank with random stuff.
How do you know when a track is done? Do you play them to anyone? Do you test them in clubs?
I think they are never truly finished. There is always room for another layer, or one element of a track can be the basis for something new. I show them to some other producers at a certain stage to get some feedback on where it’s going. A second set of ears can help a lot when you are stuck.
How do you feel about the album now it is done? Was it a joy or torture to do it?
I guess a bit of both. There were moments where I was really happy with the whole thing, but also days where I felt like starting from scratch. This duality is something that Is always present in me, so in the music it’s no different. But the initial process of all these tracks were an absolute joy, it’s just the finishing that can be a daunting task…
Tell us about why the mind is a theme throughout? How does that translate to the music, why is that a concern for you?
I have always been interested in psychology and how the mind works. I always try to understand the patterns and schemes of my own mind to see if I can tweak them a little bit. This reflects in my music. For instance ‘Melancholia’, I made it when I felt quite down and in a period of my life where I lost two friends. Both had mental problems that lead to suicide.
Did you make the album with a certain place, time or audience in mind?
The opposite actually. Letting go of boundaries such as time, place, audience or music sales let me be much more creative. Most of the tracks are slower and more stripped back than any of the music I have released so far.
What is next for you after this album project?
Of course, there’s the album release party coming up on June 9th in OT301, Amsterdam. My good friends Stefan Vincent and Nathan Surreal will be playing DJ sets. I am developing a special album live set which I will be premiering there. Besides that I’ve got my head full of ideas for different projects. By learning more about music theory and by focusing on recording my own material I’m hoping to reinvent myself even further. But I’m trying not to set too many goals, as this is an inspiration killer.