Interview: 5 minutes with Uppermost
Paris-based electronic artist Behdad Nejatbakhshe, aka Uppermost crafts each of his compositions with the will to bring instinctive emotion into the spotlight. Raised on Persian musical influences, the emotional side of music inspired his interest in formulating melodies and chords. His recent release of a 23-track career-spanning collection titled Origins was a showcase of his french-wave touch, featuring liquid disco grooves, and penchant for molten guitar funk.
Gaining over 27 million combined streams, Uppermost has released music through major labels such as Sony and Ministry Of Sound, and has done official remixes for the likes of Dada Life and Lemaitre, as well as sharing the SOLIDAYS stage with Madeon, Yelle, Fakear and Die Antwoord.
Citing inspiration from artists such as Daft Punk, Burial, Apparat, Phoenix and Pogo, Uppermost is able to transform his affinity for these acts into a sound that pays homage to their influence, while at the same time resonating with his own distinctive style.
We caught up with Uppermost on stage energy and artistic expression:
(Be sure to stream Uppermost’s latest single ‘Make a Change’ below)
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
I’ve always felt the need to express the things I experience in a way I couldn’t explain with words. Music has the power to translate emotions in their truest form.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
Probably the idea of a certain sound. My projects are usually a mess in the beginning, with many different ideas fighting to find their place in a track. But as the work evolves, it becomes all about decisive choices: what to keep and what to clear. Having a specific idea from the beginning can be time saving, but I often find myself discovering sounds I didn’t expect to use thanks to random combinations. It’s really a process of added “productive mistakes”.
Does your material feature any collaborations?
Seven different vocalists worked on my upcoming album, from multiple backgrounds such as folk, pop and rap music. I love the idea of creating an instrumental with my personal inspiration and feeling, then give it to a singer who will blend it with his own vision. It’s a shared process and the result showcases a beautiful combination of singularities.
What’s on your current playlist?
These last few weeks, I’m listening to a lot of Hiatus, Parcels, Siriusmo and Tchami.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
Being on stage is a unique experience, it’s all about feeling the presence and energy of the fans and giving all you have back to them. The thing I value the most in these moments is how I’m able to become one with the public, fully feeling the music.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
I like the sounds that vintage synths produce so I end up spending a lot of time playing with them, and therefore using them in almost all my tracks. I’m also a big fan of slap bass and catchy guitar riffs that I can then resample, process and arrange into my tracks.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
The day usually starts late since I love working in the night atmosphere. I start by listening to my current favorite tracks and to anything else that inspires me, then get my hands on the synths and play around with different ideas until something catches my ear. Finally, the creative work lasts on the software until the early morning.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
Since I started hearing about the limitless possibilities of expression in electronic music back in 2007, I had this desire to work as much as I could in order to express the things I wanted to. I think it was after the first three years of work that I really started thinking about music not just like a hobby, but a real passion I wanted to dedicate my life to.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
I don’t have any specific material thing I rely on, I just like to put myself in a focused and passionate mood, forgetting about my ego and letting myself fully enjoy the moment.
Any emerging artists on your radar?
There’s a guy called “Poetically”, I really love his stuff and think his future is promising.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Anything related to infinity, nature and its inner beauty, empty places, night sky, space, strong and moving feelings.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
For making music I mainly use a computer with an old version of FL Studio, a midi keyboard and an audio interface. For live performances I use Ableton Live together with various controllers such as the Livid Cntrl:r and an Akai MPC2500.
Any side projects you’re working on?
Whenever I’m travelling I like to take a camera with me and shoot inspiring views. Since my music is directly inspired by visual atmospheres, photography somehow gives me even more ways to express myself.
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
Being an independent electronic music producer means a lot more technical work aside of the creative artistic expression itself. You have to cover every aspect of your career and surround yourself with the right partners to help you in the best way possible.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
New music written in a very personal and faithful way, together with a live tour. I wanted my upcoming work to translate the hardships and obstacles I’ve met along the way during the last few years. About the live show which is in the works, it features a powerful creative setup I’ve always dreamt about achieving on stage.
For more information follow Uppermost on Facebook
(Image credit: Paul RDB)