For those of you that are unfamiliar: the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) is an expansive series of shows, lectures, workshops and club nights that take place in a different city worldwide each year (now each 2 years) – and this time it’s the German capital’s turn again after 20 years. Part of the 5-week during event is reserved for a limited group of 61 diverse, young and creative artists, carefully chosen out of thousands of applications that came from every corner of the globe. Each of these lucky bastards will be able to showcase their music to a global crowd and participate in private studio sessions that stimulate collaboration with each other (and occasionally with some living legends in the music scene).
Amongst these 61 participants from 37 different countries, one is Milan W., a modest electronic music producer from Antwerp that has been active under many radars. It’s not easy to put a label onto Milan’s music, which crudely can be described as an extremely varied collection of hazy slow-paced, melodic beats, all of which are rich in melancholy. With 2 albums and a bunch of EPs and tracks on the discography (under both his ‘Milan W.’ as his ‘C. Young’ aliases), Milan moves comfortably in the sonic circles of JJ Funhouse, Ekster Recordings and Hiele. The latter, his best friend since their high school years, was the last Belgian artist to participate at the RBMA - two years ago in Paris. Anyways, we figured it was best if the man himself did the talking…
Were you surprised to hear the news?
"Yes, I was! Because I applied without any expectations. The last few months have been quite busy, so I actually forgot about it a little. That only made the surprise sweeter. I feel very honoured to be selected!"
What do you think those two intense weeks will look like?
"It’s nice that I can spend this time meeting and working with new people, exploring the city, learning and creating. I think it’s a nice way to step out of my comfort zone, so I want to take this opportunity to push myself to look for new musical boundaries."
On your 2016 album on JJ Funhouse, ‘Intact’, the description says “anthems for misty trottoirs and empty clubs”. That couldn’t be more accurate; at first your music might sound quite minimal, but gradually you realize there’s actually a lot of texture and melody. Is this the kind of vibe you feel most comfortable in?
"I don’t ‘choose’ particular ‘vibes’ really – usually, I will just end up in one, but it will never be the same thing exactly. For me, it’s important that the music ‘moves’ me. Exploring new territory is really important for me, so I’m always on the lookout for new melodies, harmonies and textures. That’s why I will never stay in a zone I feel comfortable in for too long. There’s a constant hunger for progress. Of course, in the end I will stay the same person, so my music can’t run away from that."
What about your surroundings? Where do you make music? Do you have another job? Where do you go out?
"Currently, music is a full time activity for me. I live in the Jewish neighbourhood in Antwerp, where I make music in my home studio, right between a kosher butcher and a marzipan factory. I can work night and day - and sometimes I do, because I try to focus on my music as much as I can. As for the job that pays my bills, I’m working as a live musician for a children’s theatre at the moment. Imagine 300 children shouting around you at 9 in the morning. It’s fun. Even though I’m surrounded by music around the clock, I don’t go out very often anymore. I prefer to meet some friends at their homes and enjoy a good dinner; or maybe even some karaoke. Maybe I’m just getting older, or maybe it’s a result of the fact I’m playing out more often nowadays - but I’m losing the need to party and see a lot people at once.Additionally, me, Roman Hiele and Allon Kaye (from the entr’acte record label) ran a small music venue in Antwerp, called TRAP, in which we regularly booked interesting electronic acts. Unfortunately, we had our last night just the other week."
Back to the RBMA. Who would you like to attend lectures from?
"Well, there are so many. I haven’t really thought about it yet; I’m just excited to have an opportunity to attend all of them. If I had to pick one, I would go for a German name – we’re going to be in Berlin after all. What about Florian Schneider?"
Did you already check out the other participants? Are there any that stand out for you for a studio session together?
"Not yet to be honest. I did already listen to the ‘participants playlist’ on the RBMA Soundcloud page, though. I think it will be nice to just meet them in person and see how we go along from there – and I’m really looking forward to that!"
Last one: any projects you’re working on that will soon see the light of day?
"I recently finished a new album, which will be released in May! I also did a new live show together with Roman Hiele last week at Listen! Festival in Flagey and we made some tracks together (which is more remarkable than it sounds, because we’ve trying to make music together since we were 14 years old, but it never happened for some reason). It would be nice to have these come out somewhere in the future."