Q&A with experimental bass electronic musician SMYAH

Bulgarian music producer, filmmaker, and bass enthusiast SMYAH has been known to experiment in the genre vine, leading to poignant and delightful dark electronic textures. His track ‘Free Fall’ from his recently released album Subtleties via his imprint Sound in Picture draws the listener in with its melodic beat. Featured singer Dorothy Takev also adds fiery energy with her invitingly lustrous vocal range. Taken in by the charming electronic arrangements on this particular single, music producer and fellow musical peer ymprl remixed this alluring track, to reveal a future bass gem via Stereofox. This remix marks the first release for all three artists involved under the Stereofox name. We had the pleasure of chatting with musician SMYAH, who is just as captivating as his sound.

Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production? 

As a little child, I was mostly listening to hip-hop. Of course, during secondary school, I had my death metal phase for a couple of years. Towards the end, I discovered jungle and drum and bass. Shortly after that dubstep, grime and everything changed. My favourite band was The Prodigy – they’ve been my earliest entry in terms of paying attention to production, synths, and arrangement. I was also trying to learn and recreate some keyboard solos from bands like Children of Bodom and Cradle of Filth at the beginning. 

Still, hip-hop has always been a part of my life, even though I’m more inclined towards bass-heavy electronic music.

Give us a sense of the music scene where you are based.

I am based in Sofia, Bulgaria, which is pretty much the only city that has some sort of a music scene in this country of 6-7 million people. If we talk about the electronic music scene, the most prominent genres here are DnB and techno, which enjoy a constant crowd of passionate supporters. Artists from all over the world come to play at festivals here but still, the scene is not big enough for local artists to be able to earn a solid income unless you have gigs abroad. I think that’s mostly because of the small population and the modest economy of the country. If you are just starting out here, I’d recommend aiming toward the international scene right away without thinking too much about the local one – an approach that in most countries would be the other way around.

What key pieces of software/gear are you using to define your sound? 

I’ve been producing and mixing my music in FL Studio for over 13 years now. For most of my synths, I use mainly Arturia Pigments, other in-the-box instruments would include Kontakt, Serum, Massive X. I also got a hardware digital synth called Hydrasynth desktop, which is perfect for sound designing and it definitely adds to my sound. Then, I’d use mostly UAD plugins that come with my Apollo Twin interface, plus Soundtoys and Fabfilter… I love FL Studio but I rarely use the instruments and effects that come with it, apart from the Fruity Parametric EQ, reverb, and delay. I mostly use third-party plugins. I also use analog vintage preamps when recording vocals.

What are some of your key musical influences? 

My key influences are a few, they all come from different places and tend to rotate every couple of weeks. I have to start with my earliest influences that have stuck with me with the same force to this day – drum & bass and dubstep. These two styles I discovered as a teenager (which was also the time dubstep was being born) and even though I’ve never released a D&B track so far , it’s a big source of inspiration for me. Music from Deep Medi, Kahn & Neek, Commodo, Calibre, Sukh Knight, Shy FX, Alix Perez, Ivy Lab have been influential on my development.

Other weeks, I’d be obsessed with Russian indie electronic music from producers like Soft Blade, Ishome, and Kedr Livanskiy. Then, I’d go on to a hip-hop wave, admiring the work from figures like the Alchemist and DJ Muggs.

What would you like to achieve with your music? What does success look like to you? 

On a deeper level, success would mean total creative freedom and be able to earn my living from what I love doing. Being able to work on different projects; from albums, scoring films and doing sound design. On a more practical level, success would mean playing at a club like Fabric and doing a release on Deep Medi – only then I’d be able to sit back and say, “I fucking did it”. At least for a day or two, then I would probably start planning the next thing, haha.

If you could work with, or perform alongside any artist of your choice, who would it be? 

Amon Tobin. Or Liam Howlett from The Prodigy.

If you weren’t a musician what would you be?

Apart from being a musician, I am also a filmmaker – I direct and edit different types of videos, from music videos, commercials, and documentaries. That has actually been the primary source of my income ever since I graduated from university. I also teach music production at a local academy in Sofia. Still, if I wasn’t into any art form, I’d probably go into physics or biology.

What can we expect from you in the near future? Any upcoming projects or gigs in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about? 

My next release will probably be a dubstep EP, and I have 1-2 tracks ready. Another project I’m working on is an EP with a local rapper who really made a difference in our hip-hop scene. I’m not sure which EP will come out first but I’m working on them both right now.

The ‘Free Fall’ remix features on the Spotify playlist  BASS_GROUND 

Follow SMYAH:

Facebook / Instagram / Bandcamp / Soundcloud/ Spotify / Apple Music

Follow Dorothy Takev:

Instagram / Spotify / Apple Music

Follow ymprl:

Instagram / Soundcloud

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