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In Session: Rhyw

A mix of "mutant techno club vibes" from Fever AM co-founder Rhyw

  • Words: James Ball | Photography: Kasia Zacharko & Thomann
  • 19 January 2022

Rhyw has quickly asserted himself as one of the most intriguing producers in an ever-mutating techno landscape, his sound referencing everything from the precise, icey minimalism of ‘Internal Empire’-era Robert Hood, to Joy Orbison’s vocal-splicing bass explorations.

The Welsh-Greek producer split his childhood between northern Greece and southern England, studying Graphic Design & Illustration in London where he become well-immersed in minimal and dubstep and began producing what he terms as “weirder non-club” music, before eventually moving to Berlin where he threw himself into techno production.

He gained attention in techno circles for his work with fellow producer Hüseyin Evirgen under their collaborative Cassegrain moniker, releasing music on imprints ranging from Function and Inland's Infrastructure New York to their own Arcing Seas label.

Read this next: In Session: Mor Elian

He took a step away from Cassegrain to focus on his solo “slightly less serious” Rhyw project, and launched a new label, Fever AM, with Mor Elian, which was minted in 2017 with her kaleidoscopic 'Cymatic Ring' EP and followed up by his ‘Emulsion Steps’ EP. Here, Rhyw laid the base for his musical output on the label, which is punctuated by vibrant, non-linear drum patterns and meticulously crafted sound design.

His latest release on Fever AM, ‘The Devil's in the Dlzlzlz’, continues in this warped and wormy vein of form and marked his first foray into 160 BPM on the shadowy, spectral stepper ‘Anasa’. In 2022 the label is celebrating its fifth year in action, with a compilation teased to celebrate the occasion.

We caught up with Rhyw and discussed everything from fast music to the story behind his moniker. Check out his In Session mix and Q&A below.

What is the meaning behind your Rhyw moniker?

I’m Welsh-Greek, but don’t speak Welsh unfortunately. Some of my family do but it’s obviously not widely spoken. So I liked the idea of using a Welsh word as a name, something really basic and obvious to show this. It probably seems like it’s a few letters randomly thrown together but it literally just means ‘sex’. I like the idea of something hiding in plain sight. Granted, I’m left with quite a silly name.

It was also a move for me to do something different to Cassegrain, slightly less serious. Felt like the right word.

You have split time between Greece and the UK growing up, and have been living in Berlin for the past few years. Can you tell me more about this, and how it has influenced your productions and music taste more broadly?

I spent pretty much equal time in each place, back and forth for a few years at a time (between South England and Thessaloniki), before moving to Berlin. I had always been making weirder non-club stuff before but the focus really became techno once I was here. Of course, the fact that we were touring quite a lot as Cassegrain and were part of a scene (and lots of Berghain) helped keep that going. That wave of new techno after minimal (Sandwell District, Ostgut Ton, Prologue, etc) was a really big deal for me before moving and for the first few years after. It felt really fresh and definitely had a big influence on me.

I think eventually I naturally just gravitated back to more UK-related sounds. Looking back, my time in London during minimal and dubstep has probably had a longer lasting effect.

Read this next: How the fall of the Berlin Wall forged an anarchic techno scene

I have read that you design the cover art for both Fever AM and Arcing Seas. Can you tell me more about your experiences in graphic design, and if this influences your music in any way?

I studied Graphic Design & Illustration in London at LCC after a Foundation course in Bournemouth. After moving to Berlin, I was doing music full time (besides the label stuff) until COVID hit. I've since picked it up again, which I'm really enjoying actually. I’ve always tried to keep the two separate, but the common thread between the two is the process - loads of edits, versions - save as, save as - indecision!

What were your main inspirations behind your most recent EP? (‘The Devil's in the Dlzlzlz’)

I didn’t have any clear inspirations, a lot of stuff for sure, but nothing I can clearly point towards. There’s never a clear idea for an EP to begin with, it sort of forms along the way. For this record I really wanted to go further with this mutant sound, various styles twisted together. I saw quite a few mentions of Gqom about ‘Strange Now’ which I wasn’t really aware of but makes sense after checking it out.

I tend to work on batches of tracks - I have a sort of fear of commitment while working. It takes a while before I feel ready to go for it and start going in on the arrangement. I kinda play the field, working on several tracks for a few weeks then figure out which one I feel like committing to. If I’m lucky there’ll be a few. I need a bit of time to reflect which helps in the long run as all tracks end up related somehow without being too similar. Long story short - I’m quite slow.

As everyone knows, finding titles is harder than making music - in this case the title is as if someone had been recorded saying “the devil’s in the details” but there was a glitch or the tape got mangled so it ended up as ‘Dlzlzlz’. So I felt that summed up the EP nicely.

Read this next: Gqom is the explosive South African sound bursting into Europe

On the EP, you dabbled in 160 BPM on ‘Anasa’. What drew you to working within this tempo, and do you see yourself releasing more tracks around this speed?

It’s the first time I’ve made something that fast and I’m not quite sure how it came about if I’m honest. I probably just sped up a beat I was working on and just stuck with it at that tempo after that “yesss” moment. It wasn’t a conscious decision of wanting to do a d'n'b type thing. I like throwing curveballs and find it quite hard sitting still sound wise so this kept me excited. There might be some more fast bits coming out.

You recently toured America. What is it like being back on the road after a prolonged period away?

Quite surreal to begin with. I was there with Mor Elian, It hit me on the second day when we were walking about - we’re in Providence? It was great being back in the States, I really love visiting and playing there. There are all these really tight bubbling scenes, whether established or still forming, and I’m really grateful to experience that. I’ve definitely missed travelling.

Collaboration has played a prominent part in your music (working with Hüseyin Evirgen in Cassegrain, and working with the likes of DJ Nobu and Lady Starlight). Do you prefer releasing solo material or collaborative work?

It’s two very different processes. I’m very proud of the music we have put out as Cassegrain but I’m enjoying having the freedom to go wherever I want with Rhyw and I’m more excited than ever about the music I’m making.

I get quite bored doing one sound and my favourite artists and labels have always been those that develop and try new things. I like being surprised so I try to keep that as a focus, it keeps me excited. There’s a slight danger of constantly alienating people but I guess my goal is to turn that around and use it as a strength. I’m enjoying making music based on however things are flowing for me at the time while keeping a similar aesthetic, maintaining a common thread throughout.

Read this next: Five surprising production collaborations we're delighted happened

Naturally COVID impacted touring for DJs, but how did it affect your productions?

I struggled with the whole “music for club” idea for a while which I know a lot of people felt as well. But coming out of it I think I found more of a clear focus on where I want to go - taking into account the potential curveballs. It always goes in phases for me, COVID or not, waves of feeling inspired and productive and times of feeling like I don’t know how to make music. It always works out eventually though, I did this last record during peak lockdown times so I’m happy with that.

What are your favourite artists, DJs and labels out at the moment?

Quite hard to narrow down to just a few - and no doubt I’m forgetting a bunch, but I’m just going to list some here that come to mind.

A mix of well known and up and coming producers I’m excited by: Peder Mannerfelt, Xen Chron, Vegyn, Blawan / Pariah / Karenn, Ayesha, Herron, Ploy, Jlin, Duckett, Joy Orbison, Nídia, Aroent, LCY, Shifted, Son of Philip, Fresko, Inland.

Some labels I’m always interested in off the top of my head: PLZ Make it Ruins, VOAM, YOUTH, Numbers, Club Night Club, Principé, BRUK, Molten Moods, Gost Zvuk.. and special mention - really happy to see the return of Hemlock this past year!

Read this next: The 21 best record labels of 2021

What are the plans for Fever AM in 2022 and going forward?

We generally take it quite slow with the label and don’t like to plan too far ahead. I’ve got a single coming up soon, a little accompaniment to my recent EP, and we’re figuring out the next 12” at the moment. Meanwhile we’re working on a compilation to mark five years of the label.

Can you talk us through your In Session mix?

There’s a lot of new stuff in here I’m really into, some unreleased and forthcoming music and a few old bits, making sure I include at least one minimal tune which I’ve kinda made a rule of lately. I’m not really interested in straight forward club mixes, I like this sort of push and pull feeling, with some surprises and generally try to go all over the place as much (and as coherently) as possible. Mutant techno club vibes.

'The Devil's in the Dlzlzlz' is out now via Fever AM, get it here

James Ball is a freelance writer, follow him on Twitter

Tracklist
??
EDM - T Drawl [EDM]
Shadowax - Ochen [Trip Recordings]
Ruse - unreleased
Thomas Brinkmann - Karin 1 [Ernst]
Son Of Philip - unreleased
Gage - This Won't Take A Minute [2 B Real]
Menzi feat. Ecko Bazz - GQOM Tera [Hakuna Kulala]
Re:ni - Reverse Rave [forthcoming]
Piezo - Unto [forthcoming]
Lucker - Nailbath [Molten Moods]
Luke Slater X Barker - 9/8 Gumbo [Ostgut Ton]
Pariah - Caterpillar [forthcoming]
DJs Pareja - Alto [Cómeme]
Aroent - unreleased
Jlin - Embryo [Planet Mu]
Neuroshima - Headspace (Ground Control Mix) [All Caps]
??
Max Duley - Enclosed in The [ARC]
Ayesha - unreleased
Á&H - Dolli Dropi [bbbbbb recors]
Stefan Goldmann - Badger [Macro Recordings]
A.Fruit - 2036 [YUKU]
Aryo Adhianto - 1975 [DIVISI62]
??

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