In honour of St. Patricks Day this weekend, here is the second of a three part series of interviews with Irish Berliners. I sat down a couple of weeks ago for a quick chat with DJ/Producer Brendan Gregoriy, better known as Chymera.
#1 First things first, welcome fellow Brendan, and thank you again for this interview, people should know that you are being kind enough to do this for a second time as I lost the recording of our first attempt!
A quick look at your calendar tells me your schedule is as busy as ever, with trips next month to Dubai and Beirut standing out. Do you still enjoy the travel aspect of your line of work as much as when you were starting out, and is there anywhere you have yet to play that you would love to be booked for?
March is shaping up to be my busiest month ever which is a relief because the last few months I had relatively few gigs. It’s always like that though… feast or famine! I do enjoy traveling, some places more than others. I actually quite enjoy going long haul. I had an incredible time last year in places like Canada and Brazil. It was my first time to both and I really made the most of my time there. Traveling on the weekend is usually a pretty fun commute. I just think about the 45 minute one way cycle to work in gale force wind and pissing rain that I used to do back in Dublin and it immediately puts things in perspective. I guess I am in many ways quite a reclusive person so sometimes the social aspect of gigging makes me nervous in advance, but inevitably I end up meeting very interesting people and having a lot of fun so I’m always glad that I did it. I think playing on a beach as the sun goes down would be my ideal gig. I’ve come close once or twice but never quite managed that. I think my music is perfect to soundtrack the sunset. Apart from that, I’d love to play a boat party anywhere that’s hot and sweaty. Also, soundtracking an “Eyes Wide Shut” style orgy would be pretty, hmmm, interesting
#2 I just read an old interview with you from a little over 5 years ago where your plans for the coming year were to “Make music, find a girlfriend, eat more food, cut down on alcohol, get fit, and plan world domination.” How did those plans work out, and have your priorities changed much since then? How much closer are you to world domination?
Interesting! well 3 out of 6 ain’t bad. I’m still chugging pints and cultivating a serious studio tan and world domination will have to wait another day. But happily I’ve managed to make some music which I’ve been very satisfied with and I’ve shared many meals with my (fantastic) girlfriend so all’s well on that side of things. I realised long ago that my kind of music is never going to really take off. I think I will always be appreciated by a niche but dedicated section of people. I don’t make particularly populist music, neither do I make purist analogue-only, recorded directly to tape music. I don’t strictly make house, I don’t strictly make techno. Sometimes I don’t even make either of those things. I think people like to put you into boxes and the only box that I really fit in is generally melodic music but usually that’s not cool enough for the kids unless you’ve got super current production skills or some hype spinning back story, so I’m still plugging away at my thing and grateful for the small but incredibly supportive fan base that I have. I’ve gotten a bit wiser but I still make a lot of mistakes. I’m a bit more sure of myself and my capabilities these days. I know what I can and can’t do, so I try not to think about the stuff that I absolutely can’t do and just focus on what I can.
#3 You’ve spoken before about not really being into electronic music in your earlier teens, identifying with a ‘mosher’ rather than a ‘raver’, as the general dichotomy in Irish music culture, particularly for younger people, was at the time . Do you ever wonder where you might be today if you had never bought decks or been inspired to cross over to the other side by seeing Dave Clarke DJ at the peak of his powers, back in 2000?
That’s a tough question to answer because back then in all the visions I had of where I might be in 10 years, I never thought I would end up where I am today. At one point I had resigned myself to working in a rubbish office job for the rest of my life, gradually making my way up the corporate ladder, getting ever more sucked into the whole rat race. But I’m glad that never came to pass. Sure, I might not have the most security now, but I’m a whole lot happier and I feel like I am doing something worthwhile with my time. How long I will be doing music for, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure I’ll be making it for the rest of my life, in some form or another. Whether I’ll still be making my living from it or not, time will tell.
#4 You say you “realised long ago that my kind of music is never going to really take off”, but then success is sort of a relative concept right? Given how you’ve already described your music just now, what would constitute Chymera really taking off in today’s world? Are we talking movie soundtracks or crossover pop chart hits a la Storm Queen (Morgan Geist), and if for arguments sake you did kind of go super nova, do you think playing in a big arena to tens of thousands of fans is something you could ever see yourself doing?
Success is indeed very relative and compared to some, I am successful, but there’s always room for improvement :) Success to me means being able to support myself comfortably from my music and having the freedom to continue making exactly the kind of music that I want to make without any compromises. Success means continuing to put out music that people like, whether keeping old fans or winning new ones over. It means being able to play regularly and to reasonably vibrant crowds. It means being booked because the promoter likes my music or sets and not because his first 10 choices were booked already. I have no interest in the pop world at this time, not sure if I ever did, so that kind of success is not something that I’m looking for. I’m not really sure if I could play in a big arena like that. I have done once or twice as part of festival. Obviously 99% of the people were not there to see me so it doesn’t really count. I wonder what it would be like to play to that amount of people if everyone knew me and was there only for me. Pretty scary but also pretty exciting I think. I would indeed love to give movie soundtracks a go someday. Not sure if I have the chops for it though, it requires some serious talent and skill. I can do a few simple things reasonably well but I’m far from a multi talented composer or producer.
#5 As a Berliner who I’m assuming has hosted or entertained his fair share of visiting friends and friends of friends over the years, you’ve probably been asked for your own personal insider tips for Berlin a number of times. Are there any places or things in Berlin that you always recommend, but that still kind of remain a hidden secret?
I’m not sure if anything that I know in Berlin is a hidden secret really. I generally eat out in the area close to my house so there’s a couple places that I really like. Taleh Thai on Käthe-Niederkirchner-Straße is a great Thai restaurant. Imbiss 204 on Prenzlauerallee is an imbiss serving roughly german food but in a very tasty, almost gourmet way, for a very cheap price. And not a hidden secret by any stretch but I love cycling along the canals and the spree. There are some amazing routes you can take through the whole city, almost entirely beside water. I like a few bars in Neukolln like Geist im Glas and Heinz Shuftan.
#6 As far as being a resident in this city for over 4 years, I remember you mentioned in the recording that I unfortunately lost that you kind of feel like you have to earn this city’s respect, could you elaborate a little on this? Also do you ever pay attention to or even give a shit about internet articles which claim that Berlin is “over” or has jumped the shark in terms of popularity and its perception of being “cool”?
Berlin, for me, was not such an easy city to get accustomed to, to feel at home in. It took me a good while, almost a year before I eased into it properly. Typically before when I’ve moved somewhere new it usually only takes about 3 months for me to settle in. At one point I was even considering leaving again. Some people take to Berlin really quickly. For me it was a case of adjusting myself to life here and opening my mind to what is available here. It’s a very different city to both Dublin and Barcelona. But the flipside of that is that almost 4 years later I am nowhere near sick of the city. I probably haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s on offer yet.
There are articles literally every month in newspapers and magazines around the world all saying that Berlin is over. It’s far from the truth. There have already been big changes in the few short years that I’ve been here. The steeply rising rents are one very visible one. But no city is ever “over”. It’s all what you make of it.. You get out what you put in to anywhere. I’ve never cared about what is “cool” or “trendy”. If I did then I wouldn’t making the kind of music that I do. Actually, it was everything that I’d read or heard about Berlin in the first place that actually put me off coming here for years. It was only when a friend told me what life was really like that I made up my mind.
#7 Would it be fair to say you’re a proud Corkman, or Irishman? I think you also mentioned in that lost recording that you feel most Irish when you’re amongst fellow Irish folk. Can you sum up that feeling or is it too intangible? With St. Patrick’s day just around the corner, do you have any particularly fond memories of our national holiday?
I am a proud Corkman and Irishman. As much as I love Ireland, as the years go on it’s becoming more and more likely that I may never again live there. I’ve become so used to living in other places and I think there’s still so much of the world to see. I think my accent has become a little bit diluted. It’s a combination of living outside of Ireland for 8 years and communicating mainly with foreigners. I’ve never had a particularly strong accent. When I lived in Dublin, I even started getting a Dublin twang. It almost made me a traitor in my Corkonian’s friend’s eyes! But when I’m around Irish people, it immediately snaps back into focus and I also feel that Irish people of a certain generation all have a shared experience in upbringing and lifely pursuits. Something that you don’t get as easily with people from other cultures. My fondest memory of St. Patrick’s day was actually my first one here in Berlin. In a nutshell, I went out on a Sunday and didn’t come home until Tuesday. Still have no idea what happened in the interim so it must have been really fun :)
#8 Whenever I’ve met you seem like a calm and collected individual, do you live your life according to any particular philosophies, either personal or derived from others?
I’m fond of my “bi-annual blowouts”. In between those, everything is relatively chill. I like a beer and a good chat and that’s that.
#9 Is there any one artist on your radar that you believe deserves a lot more credit than he or she is currently getting for their work?
One of my favourite artists is Steve Moore, a member of synth-prog rock act Zombi and an absolute genius when it comes to melodic, hypnotic looped synth epics. He’s well known within certain circles and I hope that he becomes even better known in the wider electronic music scene as we know it. It’s probably easier to list the people that are getting far too much credit than they deserve :)
#10 2012 saw the release of your latest album, Death By Misadventure, while just last month you released a record called Tidal/Moot Point on Josh Wink’s Ovum, which if I’m not mistaken is the record label that really kicked your career into high gear right? What’s next for your music, and how well do you know Mr Wink, for example have you guys ever reached a higher state of consciousness together?
Coming up in May I have something completely different – an ambient synth album coming out on cassette under a different alias. More details on that soon (ie. still haven’t thought up what that alias is going to be yet). It’s an album I worked on over the last 2 winters. It’s a chilly, glacial album with lots of epic synthwork and no beats or percussion at all. It was actually really liberating to make. Apart from that I am working as usual on dancefloor things. My work ethic is very good. I make music every day, just 99% of it is rubbish. Even though it sounds good on the day, when I listen to it the next day, or sometimes the next week or month, I realise that it’s crap and I trash it. I’ve probably got too high of a quality assurance scheme for my own good.
“Umbrella” was indeed my first major release back in 2007. I’ve met Josh Wink twice, including playing once together in Cork. Super chilled and very nice guy. Always a pleasure to work with Ovum.
#11 Has a piece of music, house, techno, whatever, ever moved you to shed a tear? Have you ever thought about what your desert island disc might be?
Without a doubt “Choice – Acid Eiffel”. I remember reading a magazine item about this track. Garnier , Shazz and Ludovic Navarre (aka St. Germain) sat down after making the track and all became incredibly depressed because they realised they would never again write a piece of music as good. Of course, that wasn’t quite true. They went on to make some more stunning stuff, but maybe this one was the very peak of the mountain for them.
Another track that almost moves me to tears is “Ce Ce Rogers – Someday”. Something about those pads and that vocal over the emotive piano chords.
For more info about Chymera’s music check out Chymera.org