Sound Gallery is a Fuss feature where we interview a DJ or producer and invite them to curate a mix which exhibits their style, skill, and talents. In this edition of the Sound Gallery, we feature Vox Portent. We discuss his relationship with music, his YOUTH LP, how Nonku Phiri inspired him and all the projects he’s got on the side.
Vox Portent loosely translates to vocal omen. Is there any kind of prophetic significance you want your music to portray?
The name is unique and that’s why I was drawn to it. Sometimes I do play with the idea of it holding some sort of prophecy with every gig I play feeling like a big deal to me and that I’m waiting for something to happen.
The name was initially going to be used for a metal band which never materialised. Talk us through your early relationship with music as a listener. What was the first genre of music you really enjoyed and can you recall the first piece of music you paid for?
I’m glad it never happened. My life would be completely different. When I was young I was into all kinds of music. I made mix CDs for my trips to school in the morning with a hoard of bad pop and rock music. The kind you’d find on those Now That’s What I Call Music compilations. The first album I bought was awful, it was my first crush Shakira. I was like 10 and watching a lot of MTV in those days. A year later I bought Avril Lavigne’s debut. I also had a crush on her. As for the first genre I really enjoyed, it was rock music from the likes of Incubus and Linkin Park.
Eventually, your relationship with music evolved from listening to creating. What triggered the desire to and interest in creating music?
I feel that I’ve always been interested in music. I only got the idea of making my own stuff when I started playing guitar because of a girl. That ended miserably. Then the holy grail; someone from my school mentioned a program called Fruity Loops. From then on it felt like a new video game trying to figure out how the software worked and I slowly started getting inspired by electronic music. I listened to artists like Deadmau5 and Stimming.
Ambience and spiritually are attributes you’ve mentioned that you explore in your music. What influenced you to explore the more experimental and ethereal aspects of electronica?
I think it was because of the way it made me feel. It calmed me down and it was a form of therapy. Felix Laband, Jon Hopkins, Bonobo and Nicolas Jaar were my go-to artists when I was trying to find my sound. It was the only music I was listening to. When I played subtle keys and pumped up the delay and reverb it made me feel calm and happy.
In your latest album, YOUTH, club music, and mainstream sounds influenced the project more than any of your previous work. Tell us about the production style and methods of this album and how you deconstructed club music and how these mainstream sounds to fit into the Vox Portent universe.
I remember having a very random conversation with Nonku Phiri where she told me to use mainstream sounds and make it my own. Meeting her was inspirational enough but after that, I started listening to more music outside of what I was used to. I got onto Ryan Hemsworth, Slow Magic, Cashmere Cat and Tennyson. I was gigging a lot as well so when I produced the music I imagined what it would sound like if I played it out to people at festivals. The way I fit this into my own sound was by using these trap like builds and drops and letting my emotions drive the production. I wasn’t driven to make the craziest drop and I wanted to convey a hopeful and youthful meaning in it.
As a producer, which track are you most proud of on YOUTH and why?
I’m most proud of ‘Risa And Friends’. I spent the longest time on it and it kept changing. Eventually, it became something with so many layers. I’m drawn to it because of how playful it is and how happy it makes me feel. It’s like a story to me of why I got into music. It’s comforting.
Briefly, tell us about both your production and live setups. What hardware and software do you use in each circumstance?
I use Ableton Live with an Akai APC40 and my Mikrokorg XL for production and live performance. I produce on headphones most of the time cause I can’t make to much noise where I stay.
You’ve released a project every single year since your debut, Lucid, in 2014. Can we expect another project this year and can you share a bit about what you’re currently working on?
I’ve been unsure about releasing this year but I have been writing a lot. Maybe I’ll release an EP later this year. I’m trying to develop a canvas at the moment which is more flexible when it comes to playing live. I also wanna put together a collaborative LP.
Apart from Vox Portent, you’ve got Je Suis Onhe and Rooinek with Thami2Shoes. Where within your creative spectrum do each of this projects fall?
Je Suis Ohne is my vocal alias. I’ve made a ton of music under this alias purely for fun and creative freedom. It also shows through the photography and visual identity of the character. Thami 2 shoes is a project with my best friend Thami. We make a lot of music together and we really try to get conceptual when writing the music. Rooinek is about having fun in music. It’s almost a mockery of dance music. When Thami and I do Rooinek we go hard. We’re there to party.
Fill us in on isupposeja. What is it and how did it come about?
isupposeja is my idea of a record label. I also want it to be a collective that showcases experimental beat makers in South Africa. Artists like FRNGE and Buli of course. I’ve got some good ideas for the label but it’s still in its infancy.
Production or live performance. Which do you prefer more?
I like both. I definitely can’t pick one over the other.
Locally and internationally, what have been your most enjoyed releases this year?
My favorite release this year is from an international act Dirty Projectors. Their self-titled album is a breakup record. It’s such a vulnerable and personal project. I’ve been obsessed with it. The production is so unique as well. As for local music, there’s a producer from Cape Town that I’ve been listening to called Tzara. Her production and songwriting is insane. She’s been putting out a lot of stuff on SoundCloud lately.
What is your definition of success as an artist and what level of success do you hope to achieve?
I can’t say. I’m still trying to figure that out but maybe it has to do with inspiring others. As for what I’d like to achieve, I hope that someday my music will be able to support my family.