Oscar And The Wolf, The Belgian electro pop phenomenon, is back with ‘Infinity’, the highly-anticipated successor of the successful debut album ‘Entity’. After the praise on the first release, Max Colombie was ready to be catapulted to stardom and to break out beyond the Belgian national borders. There’s no surprise the follow up would be observed closely and Red Bull Elektropedia was also keen on getting in on the action, but from a different angle. We spoke to producer Jeroen De Pessemier, who is not unknown to the electronic music scene, to discuss his views on producing and his role in the making of this much-awaited album.
Most people will know you as producer and performer for The Subs. To what extent does that role differ from the one as producer for other artists?
"It’s completely different, because essentially, as a producer, you are working for someone. Of course, it’s possible to bring in your own touch, but only if it fits the artist. I believe a producer should help the artist translate and realize the projections in his mind and to assure the best outcome possible. Fortunately, I have a very broad taste in music, so that helps a lot. When you work very intensively on a project for a long time, it tends to be your baby, but in the end, it’s still the artist his music. The whole thing arises from his personality, from his world and so he will always have the final decision. It’s an interesting process, because to me, a good producer should emerge himself in the artist his world."
Do you feel that empathy is a mandatory quality for a producer?
"Yes, I feel so. I think it’s more interesting to be an artist producer who dives into the artist’s environment and helps him realize his ambitions. It requires an adequate sense of empathy. It’s nice because you take some things into your own projects and vice versa. The whole purpose of collaboration is to enrich yourself during the process of coming into contact with someone else’s world and way of thinking, If I want to demonstrate my own sound at all costs, then I'd better do my own thing. But it is a mentality that I had to teach myself. I feel it’s easier being a producer now that I’m older, because when you’re young, you mainly want to do your own thing. It requires some maturity, because it’s about dealing with people and their views. It’s definitely a learning process."
Infinity by Oscar And The Wolf is one of the most anticipated Belgian albums of the year. Although this wasn’t your first collaboration, was the work method for this album different?
"Most of the album started from scratch. Normally Max would write the songs while I’m in the room working on sounds and beats, but we’ve been co-writing as well. Never on vocals or lyrics, but on the instrumentals. It was a bit different from our previous collaboration (“The Game”, ed.). In the end, the boundaries between writing, producing, arranging and mixing got completely blurred and the final result was the only thing that mattered. Max is an insanely interesting artist to work with for a producer, because he is heavily influenced by sounds and atmospheres and he always knows what he wants. I would work on a sound, a beat or a chord scheme and suddenly, he would jump up and have this kind of eureka moment where he knew where the track needed to go. Or I would be jamming on a special instrument and he would get super emotional from what I was playing and soon there was a song. So we had a truely unique musical chemistry going on. Like Max was the rider and I was the horse and together we jumped far. There were weeks when we came home everyday with a new track, so there's heaps of unreleased material. The debut album, Entity, was a very personal one, driven by heartbreak. Nowadays he’s in a totally other phase, which made him feel much better and so co-writing seemed like a logical next step for Max. But also he wanted to go a level up production wise and I believe we have succeeded in doing so. Max himself is a very talented producer, because he’s very demanding, which also got me out of my comfort zone. Everything that is intertwined in a track should be perfect. A snare drum, hi-hat, or kick drum shouldn’t be just okay, it should be perfect to him."
It’s obvious there’s a certain chemistry between you guys. How would you explain that match?
"It’s simple: Max is an incredible cool, genuine guy and a very honest person. That’s why it works. If he would put up a certain façade and pretend, we would never have the same chemistry. We can relate to each other on an emotional level too. I’m more of an extravert and Max is a bit more introvert, but during an artistic collaboration it doesn’t matter. And in the studio it just works because music is the natural and universal language of feelings."
Infinity is a very diverse album, showcasing R&B, house, trap and other genres. Was the task of variety a planned choice? And was it a blessing or a curse for you as a producer?
"I loved it, because every time we could work on different styles, genres and beats. Despite all the stylistic exercises, I do think it’s a very consistent album, but also diverse at the same time. Trying to create that consistency while also searching for a variety of genres was something Max planned intentionally, it wasn’t out of lack of inspiration. It was a very big challenge, but I do believe we were successful in achieving the intention. It’s so satisfying when you feel the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. Although the genres might change, there were a lot of constants. We recorded all of it in the same studio and we’ve limited ourselves in the choice of instruments. We tried to use the same colour palette, but with a different beat or rhythm. Max has a very specific esthetic that he pursues. In that sense, the album was produced by the both of us. He always will be involved in every detail. He wants to push his vision on every single aspect. But weirdly enough I didnt feel like this limited my own creativity. On the contrary."