17 Aug Apashe: The Bass Music Maestro [Exclusive Interview]
I’ve been so excited for my Apashe Interview! Every now and then, you come across an artist who thinks outside the box and breaks down the barriers of mixing genres! Montreal-based producer Apashe beautifully blends orchestral and electronic music to bless our ears and should be at the top of your must-listen list!
While mixing classical music and EDM is not new, Apashe’s Renaissance album pushes the creative boundaries and was one of his most ambitious undertakings. The result is a sheer masterpiece!
Composing the music, working with an entire symphonic orchestra, and seamlessly blending the many different genres featured on the album he brought his vision to life.
He has been bringing that vision to us on his Renaissance II World Tour.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Apashe before his show in Chicago for an exclusive interview. We talked about his background, the creation of Renaissance, and the tour.
Continue on to my Apashe interview below now.
Tell us how it all began. Who is Apashe and how did you get into producing music?
That’s a tough question because there wasn’t a moment that started it all. Music has always been a part of me in some way. I was always making music or playing instruments. My sister installed some programs on one of my computers and spent some time showing me.
I thought it was really simple and fun. Honestly, I kind of saw it as a video game, but instead of playing video games, I was using the program. I was just clicking here and there and it would make beats, you know? I did that for many years and it became serious much later in life.
You have this ability to think outside of the box when it comes to music as you combine elements of trap, dubstep, and even classical music. Classical music isn’t something we hear in EDM very often and as an opera performer, this made me appreciate and connect with your music even more. What ultimately led you to create this sound out of seemingly opposing music genres?
Overall, my sound comes from just trying out many different things. For many years, I was just having fun making music without really thinking there was that ‘box.’ I never really thought about whether or not I was making a specific sound. I just did everything depending on my mood.
It was hard to understand because it was messy. I was adding a million things while also in the process of learning.
My previous sound was so different from the classical thing that I do today. I’ve had EPs that I removed from the internet that had funk mixed with bass music and it wasn’t that great. I had other periods where I was trying a completely different sound. I was all over the place and it was hard for people to follow.
Once some projects started working I felt pressure from agents and management to figure out my sound. They couldn’t figure out what I was doing. No one understood because there was no ‘box’.
Over the years I narrowed the sound down a lot to what I thought I was the best at and it turned out to be the classical path mixed with other sounds. Now people are hearing my music and hearing the classical element and this is the main sound that people are extracting from my music.
You’ve mentioned how classical music is a weird genre and mixing the genres of hip-hop vocals with classical music gives people something familiar to listen to and puts the classical music genre back in our faces. Aside from it sounding badass – why is this important to you outside of it being a brand differentiator?
It’s important to make sure that people can re-appreciate this type of music in a way they never thought they could appreciate it. There is gold in there and it’s just not appreciated enough.
I think in many ways I simplify a lot of classical codes so people can understand them and enjoy them. The biggest pieces in classical music were made in an era where people had no other textures. They only had certain instruments and a limited range. Back then, they were just trying out some cool stuff they could do with only these instruments. Lastly, they were going far with the compositions and making the music really complex.
Whereas today, we like repetition. We like heavy stuff. We have different codes that don’t apply to the complexity of the compositions. Classical music from many years ago was not composed for today’s era, but if you can combine those two, it can work.
It’s very hard to find people that enjoy classical music or opera. And then you bring it to a whole different level and like you said they can appreciate it in a way they never thought they could.
Yeah. I mean there are plenty of artists that do this. But it falls more into movie soundtracks. You know Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman all compose stuff that is very popular today. It is classical music that is composed to this pattern, just in a different form. So it’s still working. It still exists today.
You mentioned Danny Alman and Hans Zimmer. Are those people you’d like to work with eventually? Would you say they’re your top influences?
I would love to work with them! They are huge influences for sure. However, my influences have come from a lot of different people. Not just them, so it’s difficult to put them at the top. I think I can easily put Dr. Dre and Noisia as major influences as well. Really it’s whoever I listen to daily.
Where did you come up with the name Renaissance for your EP?
Renaissance means rebirth. I chose this name because I consider this EP to be my first full-length EP. Copter Boy was technically my first EP but, I was still in a phase where I was experimenting a lot. You can hear it’s all over the place.
Renaissance is an absolutely amazing album as we get a full spectrum of your style of music. Beyond the music production and songwriting aspects themselves, the blending of many genres is truly what sets this EP apart. What was the inspiration behind Renaissance?
I think it was an accumulation of trial and error. The first trigger was the song that I did back in 2013 called “Battle Royale”. Over the years I made so much music and I just kept coming back to that song. I kept thinking why is that song better than all the other shit I’ve done over the years?
Then I did “The Landing”, which is one of my favorite songs from the Copter Boy album. I wanted to do something less heavy, more melodic, and more hip hop. It worked really well. This led me to start the “Requiem” song and when making this song it is when I realized that I was onto something cool. That this is what I want to do!
That’s when I felt like classical music and the blending of different genres was the path and what I wanted to do more of. I was like, let’s do it and then let’s do it with a full orchestra and see what comes out of it. That’s how the concept of Renaissance started.
Putting together an entire album is no small undertaking, especially one of this caliber! You incorporated an orchestra. You collaborated with artists from different genres such as hip-hop, trap, rap, and indie and somehow seamlessly blended them. Was Renaissance an album you always knew you wanted to make?
In a way yes! I have always dreamed of working with an orchestra but didn’t know how it was going to happen or how I wanted it to sound.
It took two years to create the album. But 10 years of trial and error on other songs and through learning how to produce to finally actually think that this was something I could do. I’m glad I waited that long to create this though. I couldn’t have done it earlier due to a lack of finances and resources. I also wasn’t mature enough to work on it. It would’ve been a whole different album if I did it earlier.
Did you compose all of the music and melodies played by the orchestra or did you collaborate with someone else?
I composed all of the music the orchestra played. The only songs I didn’t compose were “Uebok (Gotta Run)” and “Good News”. “Uebok” wasn’t supposed to be on the album originally but I felt the song was working with the album.
For “Uebok (Gotta Run)”, the song uses the melody from a very famous Russian Folk song called “The Birch Tree’. The Tsar at the time asked Tchaikovsky to write a symphony using that traditional melody and was made famous in his 4th symphony. I wanted to create a Russian anthem and when I heard the melody, I knew that this could be used to create a banger.
For Good News, I released it on the EP right before called The Good, The Bad, and The Fake EP, and that song was working well. I felt like it fit with the album, so I put it in the album.
As an electronic producer, what was it like to create a composition for an orchestra? Have you worked with an orchestra before? Do you have a classical music background?
I do have a minimal background in orchestration. When I was in university I took two years of orchestration. Strangely enough, I was one of the worst students in that class. I was really struggling. There’s so much information you have to know and be able to write to that degree. I still did it and I still passed those classes, but I wouldn’t say I was particularly good at it. Now I’m learning by myself but I have really good people around to help me.
For example, last week we brought a brass section to the set at the Osheaga Festival and there were a few songs that didn’t have transcriptions yet. One of the trumpeters and trombonists wrote it on spot. We worked together on how it should sound. They came up with ideas on how they would play it, then wrote it, and showed me. I would come back and say can you make it more sustained on that note, etc.
I tried writing a quartet (four strings) thinking I did this at school so I could do this now. Truly, I thought I did so well. I printed out the sheets and once we were in the studio, I could see their faces. They could play the music, but they were like this is poorly written. It was very humbling.
I found that by focusing on transcriptions I am losing time when all I have to do is write the music and hire people to transcribe it for me. At my level, I would end up spending a year writing.
I am interested in learning more and went to school for transcriptions but it’s not something I think I need to know all the rules about. This is especially true when you’re writing for a symphonic orchestra that has 60+ instruments. Each instrument has its own rule on how you write it. It’s an entirely different job to do the transcriptions than to compose music.
What’s important for me is the vision behind it.
You mentioned having a brass section for your set at Osheaga Festival in Montreal recently, what are your thoughts on potentially doing a show or festival entirely with a live orchestra?
It has crossed my mind. This is why I did it. It was more or less the first step into possibly doing it. I wanted to see how the crowd reacted. I also wanted to see if it was difficult and if it was a pain to coordinate because I have to redo the sets to match with an orchestration. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the budget to have more than a brass section.
Having a full orchestra would be a lot tougher as they can’t just come in and out of the set. For instance, the string instruments have to sit and be mic’ed properly which could be problematic. However, the set works really well with brass. Brass instruments are easy because they’re loud. They’re the loudest instruments in a synthetic register so you can easily mic them. They have a heavy energetic sound so you don’t have to put the input too low and also they can really stand. Brass players could come in and out during my show so it works well in a live setup.
I think over the years I’m going to probably calm down and play less bass-focused shows. A lot more relaxed. And at some point, I think I will have a full orchestra. You know, I think when I will be 50. I will hopefully have concerts that are not going to have any bassline. Right now I still want to scream at people and see them jump everywhere.
How does it feel to headline your first show in Chicago?
Really good! Especially here at Concord Music Hall because I played here with BTSM in 2016.
That tour was one of my highlights. I really enjoyed it, had a good feeling about this venue, and I’ve always dreamed of coming back. I was kind of sad that I haven’t been able to play here again since 2016.
I’ve been doing headline shows for a few months now, everywhere in the US, but haven’t hit Chicago mainly because this is a big room and we’ve been sticking to slightly smaller rooms. We didn’t know if I could fill Concord or not. I am so glad that I’m here and it’s selling really well. I’m feeling amazing!
What have been some of your most memorable moments while on this tour?
I would say last week when I played with the brass section because on top of that, we also had most of the singers I’ve worked with on the Renaissance album on stage. They were all there singing the songs that we composed together so that was really touching.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Aside from enjoying a beer or coffee before, I feel that my ritual is the sound check, visuals, and lighting check to make sure everything works and do any last-minute fine-tuning. It used to stress me out that everything works right. Tonight I’m strangely not stressed because everything was working well. I still might mess up cause I’m not doing a DJ set on CDJs so the number of things that could go wrong is exponentially higher.
How do your shows differ when you play festivals compared to smaller venues?
The crowd! The crowd is very different. At shows, the people are there to see me and they know the songs. So when you play certain songs that aren’t your most popular crazy bangers you can see it on the faces of the people and know how they feel about it.
At festivals, you have your fans, but you also have plenty of people that don’t know you, so you have to kind of charm them. At the same time, you don’t want to charm them with music that is not yours. You have to find ways to present what you do and still charm them.
I’m always giving a hundred percent. In the end, I can only feel good because I did everything I could. Maybe I gained some new fans or maybe not, but I did everything that I could then. Usually, when a DJ is having fun and they are in that zone, people can feel it.
What was it like the first time you heard people singing and enjoying your songs or totally enthralled by your music and seeing that for the first time?
Before COVID-19 and before the Renaissance album dropped the shows were smaller. My headline shows were smaller. People didn’t know my music as much. I would say since we started touring right after COVID-19, that’s when everything changed for me.
People are coming in big numbers and they are knowing my music. It’s kind of emotional. I’m so grateful to see it. It’s a mix of different emotions, but I’m extremely grateful.
Did you imagine your career ever being here?
Not at all. In the beginning, the people that believed in me were trying to push me to do this. For me, this was more of a side career. I didn’t have a goal of making it big because I always made music for myself and had fun. I still do today. Otherwise, you lose the passion for it.
My main goal was to have a steady job and enough money to survive. I was studying and I was doing what I needed to have a steady 9-5 job in the music field. I was doing cross production, sound design, and music for advertisements. That was my main work because I knew if I can make music for advertisements and do cross-production work, I would always have work.
So I have one final question. I read that when you are really tired you enjoy crashing in a hot bath while blasting the entire Mozart’s “Requiem” or Beethoven’s “7th Symphony”. I can relate as I will sing all of my favorite arias while showering, but what made you start doing this?
Honestly, it’s not entirely false. It has happened! I think I kind of said that as a joke originally.
You know when you are in a sassy mood where you’re like, okay, I need a bath and you grab a glass of wine and just relax. Then you put some music on and you think what could be the sassiest shit I can put on? Some like psychotic, classical music, and the moment happens. Then it becomes like a nice moment that is cool to put in an interview. But it’s not a ritual you know. It’s not like I wake up in the morning and do that.
I think it’s also mixed with a moment between me and one of my exes. I am still on really good terms with her but years ago we were at a venue and we had an argument. She left because she was super pissed, but I stayed with my friends and continued having fun. When I got back later she was still awake, in the bath, and being super sassy.
I think that is also where the answer came from. It was the way I saw the situation. Here was my ex, in the bath with some wine, being super sassy, acting like she doesn’t give a shit about me. I remember I was laughing a lot at that situation. I felt that this was the ultimate sassiness and I liked it.
In a way, it created this character and a moment that is now ingrained in my brain. So my answer to this question is a mix of all that.
What did you think of the Apashe Interview? What question would you like me to ask him next time? Swipe up to comment below and let me know!