Over the last 2 years the industry has come to know and love the signature, ethereal sounds of the producer CYRIL HAHN. During the In the early part of his career the Bern, Switzerland native was known for his remix work of Solange, Jessie Ware, Haim, Sigur Ros and the ever-popular Destiny’s Child remix of Say My Name.
After signing with the heavyweight label PMR Records, he demonstrated an added depth to his production with two popular EP’s Perfect Form (2013) and Voices (2014), collaborating both with up & coming vocalists like Shy Girls and Rochelle Jordan, and fellow label mates Ryan Ashley and Javeon. Cyril’s work continues to hit a significant nerve with fans & other artists causing a growing demand for touring. He has played around the globe headlining sold out shows and billed at some of the world’s most popular music festivals including Bestival (UK), Osheaga (Canada) Falls Festival (Australia), Roskilde (Denmark), Osheaga (Canada) Bestival (UK) and Fuji Rock Festival (Japan).
When did you first decide music was your thing?
I’ve always really been into music – both as a listener and musician – but the realisation that I could pursue music as a career came very late. Growing up, music has always been a hobby but I never dared dreaming that I could turn it into something more.
What did you grow up listening to?
My parents were really open minded and listened to a lot of different stuff… blues, jazz, classical music, rock… I ’d say that definitely shaped my childhood. I also have an older brother that I looked to when I was little, so I’d often copy him and listen to what he was listening to. That’s how I got into punk and hardcore music as a teenager.
From what I understand your musical palette has changed over the years from punk, to folk to sensual R&B and everything in between, where do you get your inspiration and what is it about creating music of any type that moves you?
Its hard to say, the transition was really gradual. I get my inspiration everywhere. I was into more stranger more ambient stuff that was closer to post rock. But artists like Caribou, had a steady kick drum similar to house, which got me listening to more typical house.
Would you say you’re more influenced by bands rather than DJs or producers?
Yeah, for sure. Growing up, I was into punk and hardcore and post rock and ambient. That was all stuff that belonged to these really small scenes in the underground. Back then, I sort of rejected anything that was remotely pop. So it’s only been in recent years that I allowed myself to branch out more and appreciate anything that’s good, no matter who wrote it or what kind of scene it’s coming from. I don’t really have a background in R&B or club music. I never really knew about DJs, I was always more interested in electronic producers. I would always go to concerts, as opposed to raves or club nights.
What brought about the change in attitude for you, then?
I think just growing out of that teenage phase where you have this very distinct, black and white view of the world. When I was that age, I had a very stubborn belief about what was cool and what wasn’t. But I think you just get more relaxed as you grow older and you stop caring about what’s cool and just start enjoying yourself.
You started producing in high school, before you took a break to study art history at university…
I guess I did, but was very rough! I don’t know if I’d call it producing, but that was when I first started playing around with sounds and recording my own stuff. It wasn’t electronic or anything like what I’m producing now. I can’t say music was ever my focus, at that time. Before the remixes got some exposure online, it was always just a hobby. Then when I started university it became even less of a hobby, just because I was so busy then. After a while, I just started playing music again and getting inspired by different sounds. It was still just a personal project for my own enjoyment, to learn the theories and techniques so that I could produce my own electronic music. The first few remixes that ironically put me on the map were just me learning still, so it’s pretty funny to me how well they ended up doing. When I was remixing Mariah Carey or “Say My Name”, they were pretty rough in terms of how they’re mixed. They’re very amateurish so it’s funny how they struck a chord with people.
Okay, so you started out with remixes putting yourself into DJ end of the spectrum, do you have any thoughts on the constant EDM debate over a “push button DJs” verses producers playing live sets?
I mean everyone starts out with making remixes, I feel. So, its kind of ironic to me. Yeah I mean I am doing something different, its not DJing in the classical sense, but its like I put together a live mixtape. Certain DJs don’t understand the concept, they think it boring or cheap. But to me, there isn’t any less work put into a set, it just takes more time in the beginning rather than during the show.
As an art history major in college, during your initial productions, did staring at abstract impressionist works etc., help you see isolation and exaggerated figures in a way you translated to sound?
No, I think it was more that art history is about deconstructing things, so now I listen to music in a more analytical way than I used to, picking apart every single layer.I hadn’t been doing any music while I was taking my studies of photography more seriously, but I missed being creative sonically and I started using Ableton.
All those first remixes, like the Mariah Carey [Touch My Body] one and the [Beyoncé’s] Say My Name one, I worked on each for two months as I was figuring out how to work the program and how to sequence an electronic song. I’d never really done drums before, so it was all about figuring out what works.
What drew you to Ableton Live as your preferred tool? Was it the versatility to use it as both a production and DJ tool?
No, because playing live was never an ambition I had. I started in high school on Cool Edit Pro, which I loved because it was so wave-based and you could zoom in and chop so precisely, but it was shitty for MIDI and doing drums.
Then I downloaded a lot of demos of programs and Live was the one I had the most fun with. Even when I started with Live I still used Cool Edit Pro, which is now Adobe Audition, and I would ‘master’ in it, but I pretty much do everything in Ableton now, which is nice.
Do you prefer to play or draw notes in?
I’m a click-draw drummer, definitely. My process is very controlled; it’s not like me jamming at home. It’s my laptop, my MIDI keyboard and a lot of work with my mouse, because I spend a lot of time on each layer or element. Automation is super important to me; some people don’t like it because it seems tedious, but I think it’s fun to draw curves.
All the dry/wetness of my effects and my volume/gain are crazy automated. But I try to hide my MIDI by adding noise and field recordings, and eventually I want to make it even more personal by adding my own recordings.
That’s something I definitely respect about people like Toro y Moi, how he has these great pop songs, but he mixes in unusual, personal samples.
You’re relatively early on in your career. What are your plans for the future? Do you have any milestones you want to reach?
I haven’t thought about it too much. I’m just taking it release by release. I think one thing that is always at the back of my mind is that I’d love to score a soundtrack. I’m really into ambient post-rock and a lot of instrumental music, so it’d be nice to tie back to that. I’m sure that could possibly happen. That would be really fun!