** (Update 8 December 2021 : I wrote a piece about recent events that have circulated about The Outlaw Ocean Music Project. Read it here.) **
Jasper Wijnands (Shook) is an independent musician from The Netherlands – his music is generally focused on upbeat, funky beats and rhythms. His latest three song release, titled Hotline, coincidentally became available to stream as I typed this. The new work is vibrant, bouncy and fun – it’s sound is in stark contrast to his pensive track, The Void, which was created earlier in the year for the soundtrack of Ian Urbina’s book ‘The Outlaw Ocean’.
I was taken aback by the music he composed for The Outlaw Ocean Music Project. The opening single, The Void, was deservedly featured in my top twenty countdown. It’s a slow, soft and hellishly atmospheric soundscape. What a fantastic production range he has – I couldn’t resist getting in touch and speaking to him about it.
In this interview, Jasper lists the musicians who’ve inspired his work and the technology he works with.
Make sure to listen to the music whilst reading the interview for the best experience.
Why did you get involved in the ‘The Outlaw Ocean Music Project’ to begin? What made you want to be a part of it?
It all started when Ian Urbina contacted me to ask if I would be interested in this grand project he was working on. I felt really honored he came to me. To be able to contribute to this project was really awesome. I believe it’s good to be part of spreading awareness about the environment and worldwide crimes and in this case specifically about the lawlessness on the ocean.
Another thing that attracted me was a new way of approaching music compositions: to make music directly based on reports and stories. It forced me to step out of my comfort zone, which is always a good thing when creating art in my opinion. The stories covered by Urbina over 5 years, many featuring difficult subjects, were quite astounding and I felt so many things while reading. As a composer it’s important to channel these emotions to the music, so I often had to stop reading and went straight to my synthesizers and piano to record the music.
How did you pick which samples from Ian Urbina’s video footage to use in your music? Have you previously used samples like these in your music before?
Yeah I sampled loads before..! But this is different, because all the recordings were directly taken from Urbina’s audio library he collected during reporting. The book explores this lawless realm and the diversity of human rights, labor and environmental abuses occurring at sea. The audio library featured a variety of textured and often rhythmic sounds like machine-gun fire off the coast of Somalia and chanting captive deckhands on the South China Sea. I sampled the machine gun firing in the second track of the EP called ‘Guns’. It’s quite a heavy and dark track, fitting the subject.
I think music is a very powerful thing, to make the most difficult subject more reachable, understandable for everybody, because it directly translates through emotions. It’s a universal language which is relatable to everybody.
‘The Void’ was included in my top twenty tracks from the project so far – What sounds of Urbina’s sound archive did you use for this song specifically?
That is so great to hear..! For ‘The Void’ I used radio noise. And all the noise I could find from Ian’s audio recordings. I think noise is a beautiful thing, I use it a lot in my music. I like the texture of noise, it is very beautiful. For ‘The Void’ the noise sounds originated from a radio communication sample, I am not sure anymore which one specifically, but to me this sound is very fitting for the subjects of the stories. It’s very lonely, there is no answer. Only noise.
A lot of musicians make music based on personal emotions and feelings on the whole. Was this the first time you have made music based on a concept like this? Did you find it difficult to create music in this way?
All my music is very personal. It is the only thing that never changes for me as an artist. However this project was very different because I have to make music based on a book. The process is different when composing music on written stories, subjects or visuals. You are making music to empower the groundwork. As a composer I try to capture the emotions behind the stories. I need to channel these into meaningful music. I want to give it the best I can to make the music fit in perfect harmony. It doesn’t have to scream and say ‘look at me’ it just has to function and make the subject shine even more through the music in a meaningful way.
It’s challenging, but I think it is easier for me to make something like that, because when I am creating my own music for an album, I am sometimes too critical. It is a longer process, because I have to understand my inner self. Making music for myself is very personal, and I am the worst critique for my own music! So to make something based on, in this case, a book, is easier, because it’s not about me.
Could you briefly explain the instruments and music technology you used to create ‘The Void’. (The technical side)
I used a lot of synthesizers for that song. Especially the Sequential Prophet 12, which is one of my all time favorite synthesizers. I went for a very cinematic approach, and the Prophet 12 is very good in creating these huge evolving sounds. You can also hear this sound all over my song “You Were Bigger Than Life” from my album Continuum or in ‘Shape Of Water’ from the Music For City and Nature album. I also used the Prophet X for a lot of sounds throughout the EP.
For ‘The Void’ I wanted to capture a sense of ‘drowning’, where the listener goes deeper into ‘The Void’, into the unknown, into the darkness
I think it was the perfect track to start the EP, to really boldly set the tone. For the additional sounds I used the Moog Model D, to create stereo images of ‘noise’ and ‘waves’ coming in and out through the song. These are techniques widely used and pioneered by Isao Tomita, Mort Garson’s album “Plantasia” and Suzanne Ciani’s synthesizer work in “Seven Waves”.
The synthesizer sounds I used are all played by hand, just like the old days, and not a lot of automation is used. I never really program that much inside my DAW in terms of automation. I play everything straight into my Audient ASP880. When recording synths, I do as much as possible to ‘touch’ the sound where needed to alter colors and shapes, just like a painter brushes new colors on his canvas.
Listen to the full EP here:
About ‘The Sound Sniffer’
The Sound Sniffer is a one-man music blog which is still only a baby – Founded and run by Kevin Coakley in early 2019. He is a music writer and ghostwriter. ‘The Sound Sniffer’ also runs gigs and showcases in London since Oct 2019. The showcases are picked from artists I find in my submissions inbox.
Check out my Interviews HERE