We meet a techno producer whose first handful of highly eclectic releases have marked him out as one to watch
Hailing from New York but now based in Berlin, techno producer Eric Maltz has just three EPs under his belt so far, but he's already shown himself adept at covering a wide range of musical bases.
He made his debut on Levon Vincent's Novel Sound imprint last year with the Novel Sound 17 EP, a six-tracker that ranged from the deep, dubbyTime to the acid ambience of Symphony At Dawn, and from the stuttering, indie-tinged experimentalism of DroneYBassa to the more floor-friendly Detroitisms of Bring You. That impressive debut was followed, earlier this year, by the equally eclectic Pathway EP, the first release on Maltz's own Flower Myth imprint.
Next month will see the release of his sophomore Flower Myth EP Estuaries, whose title track sees Maltz showcasing his prowess on the piano, the instrument on which he was trained since a very young age. And with a slot at Berlin's well-regarded Atonal festival coming up this very weekend, where he'll share a bill with the likes of Actress, Helena Hauff, Optimo, British Murder Boys, Pår Grindvik and Lena Willikens, what better time to get acquainted with this rising star of the technosphere?
Let's start at the beginning... I know you played piano as a child, but it's a long way from there to making abstract techno! Can you fill in some of the gaps along the way?
"After years of just learning what was on the page, when I was 15 I was taught the blues scale and how to improvise - that really changed my life. From then on it was all about learning how to find freedom playing piano with improvisation, writing songs, listening. I began writing music with samplers and a four-track, from there I went on to study music composition and production, and afterwards I landed at Halcyon where I became totally immersed in the NYC dance music scene.
"Electronic music provides a perfect place to create and improvise - there's the same openness I find on the piano. The connection I feel with the music, the energy of the dancefloor and the soundsystems... the instant reaction of people to what you're creating, it’s incredible."
You're from NYC but based in Berlin - when did you move there, and why?
"Love is the answer! I fell in love with a beautiful Peruvian girl. We met here in Berlin back in 2012, and after her moving to NYC and then us moving to Lima, we decided to come back in 2016. Berlin is a city that has a vibrant energy in the worlds of music, art and creativity. We thought it was the best place for both of us to be and develop as artists.
"As an electronic musician, it's a great place to be. There are so many great festivals, great clubs to go to and listen to amazing artists. Every night I go out I always hear something new. It’s inspiring to be at the centre of things, in a place that’s at the forefront."
Your music ranges from clubby tracks like We Have Power and Bring You, to more abstract, dubby or arty pieces like Symphony At Dawn, Estuaries and DroneYBassa - is it important for you to mix it up like that?
"Writing different moods comes naturally to me. I'm always exploring and it doesn’t feel like a priority to define a genre. I want to be sure the music is solid, good and evolving. Every record I put out feels like it's the natural next step in a series."
In fact it's fair to say your music, in the words of the old cliché, "defies easy categorisation"! So how do YOU describe it?
"It’s inside out music - the patterns your eyes make when they are closed."
Live performance is also important to you, I'm told...
"Yeah, that whole tightrope walking without a net, I love that. That feeling of being on the edge, it gives the music an urgency, an energy it wouldn’t otherwise have.
"I spend a lot of time creating sounds, loops and samples, and I have just about every song I’ve written at my fingertips, which leads to amazing new combinations and unexpected directions. I want people to dance and get the room hot! And I want us all to hear something for the first time together. Improvisation is the cornerstone of my music, so I always make sure I give myself that freedom to take off."
What's in your studio - are you a hardware kind of person or more of an in-the-box guy?
"It’s a bit of both worlds. I like to make the computer sweat, but I love to use analogue gear and work with musicians as well. My piano and synths see a lot of action, and I’m always setting up microphones and using field recorders. With Ableton Live I don’t feel like I’m using the computer because it feels so intuitive and free - it’s like using another instrument. The whole production process is very fluid."
Do you tend to start on a track with an idea of what you want to make, or is it more just a case of jamming and seeing what comes out?
"I usually work towards an idea. Sometimes it’s already in my head, sometimes it’s just a hint of an atmosphere or mood I want to describe. Jamming is fun and a very important part of my process, I usually end up pulling out ideas and sounds I’ve created in the jam sessions and use them when I'm working on a track for a record. A lot of my tracks come from live performances, improvising and creating new combinations in the moment, seeing how people react, feeling it come to life."
Your new EP Estuaries is the second on your own Flower Myth imprint. What was behind the decision to set up your own label?
"It just seemed the right time to start. I'm wanting to write and put out a lot of these different ideas and I wanted to have the freedom to do it my way. I also have some new projects with other artists coming up with Flower Myth - more news on that soon!"
You're also part of multi-disciplinary art collective Elephants & Volcanoes - what can you tell us about that?
"We're a group of friends and artists from all around the world who collaborate together and create immersive art installations. We plan and discuss everything via Skype, have yearly Summits, and then descend on a location for a week and totally transform it. I like to think that we bring the dream world into waking life, or sort of cut a hole in the subconscious and let it leak through.
"Our first event was The Seed of Time in Altamura, Italy, and our second, Firnocene, was in London at The Old Truman Brewery. We're currently scouting locations and planning our third in Berlin."
You've released a handful of EPs so far... any plans for a full-length album any time soon?
"There's a lot of music coming up - a full-length being a possibility for 2019."
Finally, what else is going on in Eric Maltz's world right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"I’m really excited to be playing Atonal this year. It’s a dream come true to be part of that festival's line-up. I’ve also been collaborating with singer Cristina Valentina, who sang We Have Power on my NS17 release, and we have a single coming out on Possible Futures. We'll be performing live together as well.
"But more than anything else there's my daughter. She’s two and I pretty much want to spend all my time hanging out with her. We have some fun Moog jam sessions, and I’m waiting for her to start school so she can come home and teach me German!"
Words: Russell Deeks
Eric Maltz plays at Atonal festival in Berlin this Friday (24 August). The Estuaries EP is out next month on Flower Myth Records - order it here.