In this installment of our series of interviews with young, up-and-coming musicians, we talk to Yaseen El Azzouni AKA Cartoon Therapy about his dark, sonic Electronic productions.
Dark beats. Heavy bass lines. Haunting melodies. Crawl up your spine horns and subtle, stroking percussion loops. It's hard to believe Skeleton was made by a 17-year old but the debut EP of Yaseen El Azzouni AKA Cartoon Therapy, another graduate from Epic 101's now prominent production course, listens more like a veteran beatmaker with a sort of sonic exploration and has a very shadowy Massive Attack vibe. We caught up with the young electronic producer to find out more...
When and how did you get into music production?
A few years ago I started using Garageband and messing around with loops and stuff. I switched to Ableton a while after that but only really made anything of note after meeting Hussein Sherbini and Ismail Hosny of the Wetrobots and Epic 101 Studios. Using the word ‘masters’ to describe them would be an understatement.
What was the most important thing you learned from the Epic 101 production course?
They taught me what's probably the most important thing about being a musician; make the music that you want to make, not what's popular or what your favourite artist is making.
What do you use to produce and what's your live set up?
I use Ableton 9, an Akai MPK-Mini and a Maschine Mikro, all of which I'm planning on using live.
Would you put your music under any sort of genre or is it just a case of chasing sounds that appeal to you?
This might sound cliché or hipster as hell, but I honestly don't know how to categorise my music! If I had to choose a genre, I’d say it was Downbeat, but I honestly didn't make the EP with any particular style in mind.
Do you have some go-to techniques or effects you always use when producing?
My favourite thing to do when I'm working on a new record is to take parts of the finished track and slow down its tempo, cut it up and pitch it down beyond recognition and then try to fit parts of it in to the original record. All the “ambient” sound effects on the title track Skeletons are actually the drums and lead synth slowed down with A LOT of effects on them. Also reverb. Lots of reverb.
Who are your favorite artists at the moment?
Flume, Cashmere Cat and Purple. A friend of mine gave Flume’s latest album a while ago and my ears have been in love ever since.
Who are your favourite local artists?
The entirety of KIK, Cellar Door and PanSTARRS. I’m sure there are many, MANY more, but these are the ones I can name off the top of my head.
Have you gigged anywhere so far? If not, when do you plan on starting to play live?
Not yet, but I’ve sent an email to a venue or two and I’m working on a live performance. It's going to include some stuff from the EP, as well as some unreleased material.
The EP is dark, did you have the aim to make a sombre and haunting record, or was it the kind of music that naturally came out of you?
I’ve always liked the lower end of the sound spectrum, so I naturally found myself using more sombre, melancholic sounds in my music. I’m not really into making loud, aggressive music because I find it too enervating.
How long did the EP take to produce?
I started working on the EP near to the beginning of this summer, and I’ve spent time almost every day working on it since.
If you could collaborate with any other producer who would it be?
I would honestly like to collaborate with either the Wetrobots or CellarDoor; they both have such unique and refreshing styles. Theres also this artist called HeKa who followed me on SoundCloud, I cant find any information about him, but I’d love to work with him.
Do you have a musical background? Play any instruments?
I took piano and drums for a while as a kid but never got into them. I started bass guitar four years ago and instantly loved it, but I’m working on a way to incorporate it successfully into my music.
Why are you called Cartoon Therapy?
The name sort of came to me randomly, it sounded cool so I stuck with it.
What inspires you, outside of music?
Traveling. It's always refreshing to go somewhere new and experience a culture and environment so different from the one I live in. I always end up taking back those experiences and incorporating them somehow into my music.
How do your parents like the idea of you becoming a musician?
They're both cool with it and really supportive, but my father seems a bit skeptical of electronic music. He thinks its all noise.
What are the obstacles you encounter as an emerging artist in Egypt?
Probably finding an audience. Without feedback, most people would assume they suck and give up. The harshest music critic is often its own creator, and that can really discourage some people.
What do you think of the music scene in Egypt at the moment?
Its going through a very interesting transitional period now. There are so many fresh and unique musicians coming up, and they're changing the music from the same boring House/club scene we’ve been living in for years to something new and amazing. I’m just excited to see where this will lead in the next few years!
What advice would you give to electronic music producers just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Starting out can be incredibly difficult, and sometimes the best thing you can get is a helping hand. Nothing happens over night, and sometimes you've gotta put in those 10,000 hours.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully out with an album, working with someone other than myself and maybe a bigger studio…
Check out Cartoon Therapy's Facebook page for more about him and his music.