[Honey’s Anime Interview] DJs Marie Vaunt, Katfyr, Voia, and YUC’e at Anime Weekend Atlanta 2018
In anticipation for the Saturday Night Rave at Anime Weekend Atlanta, we got to sit down with several of the guest DJs. Marie Vaunt is the techno persona of the female DJ also known as HEAVYGRINDER. She often collaborates with Katfyr, who recently released an official remix of Koda Kumi’s song “Party”. Voia uses influences from Japanese gaming and culture combined with his own melodic voice in a futuristic style. Unlike the other three, YUC’e was here at AWA for the first time to show off the music she writes, arranges, and produces herself.
DJs Marie Vaunt
Interview with DJs Marie Vaunt, Katfyr, Voia, and YUC’e at Anime Weekend Atlanta 2018
How long have you been a DJ?
I’ve been DJ-ing since 2001. I started a while ago and it’s been a great journey.
I started DJ-ing in 2008. I was making music well before that since like ’98.
I’ve been DJ-ing since 2012, and I’ve been making music since 2003.
At first as a singer-songwriter, I’ve been performing since 2015, and I started DJ-ing in 2016.
What specifically drew you to DJ-ing?
I went to one of my really good friend’s house and they had turntables set up. This is before they had CDJs, so it was vinyl, and I just started playing on it and I fell in love and I had to go purchase my own decks. And some of my all-time favorite artists like Timo Maas, Derrick Carter, these are like old names, but those were some of my influences.
DJ-ing was just a natural step, I’d been producing for so many years. I used to make trance music back in the day like Armin van Buuren playing my synth tracks. I still have a recording of that, he’s like saying my name and I’m like “YES!!” And then the next year I stopped making trance music and started making electro. There’s a market for it and I wanted to push it. Also, I’m originally from Europe and I wanted to start showcasing my music so DJ-ing was the natural next step and it’s been growing since then.
I sang in a bunch of different bands growing up and I was also writing game music so I was making electronic music for a while. But I think what got me into DJ-ing and the club music scene was French house, so stuff like Daft Punk.
At first, I was only making ambient music. The ***Audience wouldn’t really get fired up, but I wanted to make them more excited. I also wanted to enjoy the lives more so I started getting into club music.
Question for Voia, what is Future Song, and can you tell us about the concept?
So Future Song’s an album I put out in 2017. When I write music, it’s always concept music, there’s always a story and characters and its own world that’s interactive. So I’ve been writing a lot about a robot learning how to be human. That’s what the album is about and I’m thinking of continuing that story next year with a follow-up album.
What experience or moment made you feel like “Oh, I could do this for a long time. I could do this for a living”?
For me it was when I played at Tokyo Kokugikan I felt “This is how a party scene should be” and I felt very alive through playing to the crowd and I thought “Yeah I could do this for a living”.
The moment I thought “Ok this is something I actually can do for a living” was in 2011 when I played with Skrillex in Portugal. I’m originally from Portugal. I actually closed for Skrillex and he came on and did a small back-to-back with me. This was a few months before he got all the Grammys. Through that, a lot of things happened along the way. I went to Japan and played with the Krystal Castles in the Trump Room. Very interestingly named venue. I also played at Division the year it opened in Shibuya. I did a lot of shows. But it was that show with Skrillex where things kept escalating. So that was the moment I said: “I can actually live off of this.”
A lot of years I had a lot of performance anxiety so I’d go on stage but I didn’t really feel like I belonged up there. I really wanted to be there but I didn’t feel like I was supposed to be a part of that stage. One year I was at Anime Expo and, very last minute, I was asked to play with Teddyloid and I’m a really big fan of Teddyloid so I wanted to make sure I did a really good job, make sure his fans were having a good time, make sure Teddy liked the music. But in that moment all that fear and all that tension, I used it to be more expressive and be more outward and then I really started having fun. And that was the moment I felt like I could keep going.
I’m still self-producing as a singer-songwriter and making songs for commercials like Beat Mania from Konami and CHUNITHM from Sega. I got offered performances from those businesses I really wanted to this, so it gave me confidence I could do this for life.
What’s your standard go-to equipment for your performances?
Right now I’m using the standard USB CDJ 2000. I used to use Serato Live but not anymore.
I was a Traktor boy until about 4-5 years ago and now it’s all about USB CDJs.
Pretty similar, started with Traktor, moved onto the Pioneers, and for live performances, I’m mostly singing so I trigger everything through Ableton Live.
For composing I use Cubase. And for live performance, I use Native Instruments Maschine MK 2. I also use Cubase on my laptop and connect to DJM
You’ve all accomplished a lot already, what are some goals for your future?
Now that I started a new project, I'm hoping to play in Europe cause that’s where techno is. So hopefully play there soon.
In my case, I’m doing what I want to do, so right now it’s about cementing my place. Like I’m producing a lot of tracks in Japan and did a few remixes for Koda Kumi. They’ll be out sometime this month or next month. I’m also working with Garnidelia. And we [indicates to Marie Vaunt] as HEAVYGRINDER produced two songs for Garnidelia and about a month ago myself as Katfyr I co-produced, mixed, and mastered the title track of their new album ‘Kyoki Ranbu’. And the two of us [gestures to Marie Vaunt] we work together on everything. Right now we’re doing everything we want and it’s like a business, you just got to get more influx of income. Just want that steady flow. I would like to go to Japan as Katfyr, that’s about the only thing we do separately, I’d like to do a tour, or maybe around the US.
I’ve done a couple of collaborations with Japanese artists while I was producing for vocalists so like Kanae Asaba, Yanakiku for the J-pop Summit appearance. I would like to do more vocalist work for Japanese producers and also produce for more Japanese vocalists. In addition to that, I just released a new song with Groove Coaster which is like an arcade music game. I’d like to work with more video games and make more music for people to play in arcades.
Well… I wanna come back here even though I still haven’t performed here yet, I’m already thinking about performing in America again.
How do you feel about the Spotify Beta program that allows artists to upload their own tracks?
I think that’s awesome, yeah. Think it makes it easier for artists to get their music out there.
Well, it’s not just about putting the music out there, she is right and I agree with her [Marie Vaunt] it’s great Spotify has become like the new SoundCloud. No one sends you Sound Cloud links anymore, unless you’re a SoundCloud rapper. But if you don’t even have face tattoos you shouldn’t even have a SoundCloud, I’ve given up on mine. So I think it’s a good thing in a way but just because you have your music on Spotify it doesn’t mean it’ll get to more people because there’s even a website and it just shows you songs on Spotify that have never been played ONCE so you can be the first person to listen to them. Really it just gives you a place to host music, you still have to do all the legwork or go through a label or promoter to get your music out. But it definitely helps in the sense that you no longer need to set up a contract with a distributor which is what we do, cause we have our own label. Beatport[.com] for instance, that’s still the route they have to take. But if you’re just starting you don’t have to waste time with that first step. I think people should just make sure that what they put on Spotify is what they want to showcase because you know, it stays there. On SoundCloud you can just delete, on Spotify, it’s more permanent. But I think it’s a great thing, I think it will open the doors to people.
[…] One good thing about Spotify is if you have the connection to get on a good playlist, that’s probably the best way to get heard by a lot of people rather than SoundCloud or any other platform out there.
I agree with most of that so I’m not gonna say too much. I’m thinking about if there are more people able to access Spotify as a platform, then the important thing to do is to focus on really building and connecting with your ***Audience because that’s what’s going to make you stand out. If everyone has access to this service, it’ll be harder to be seen unless you have a deep connection with your ***Audience. So when accessibility becomes very broad, you have to think more in depth so you can reach the right kind of people.
I think that’s really only for people in America. It’s not known so well in Japan. Most people use Youtube or Apple Music as a platform to reach their ***Audience. Apple Music is kinda difficult if you’re using Windows, difficult to upload and stuff. Still, it’s popular though. With Spotify, people are starting to know about it but very few people use it. Hopefully, Spotify will spread throughout Japan!
Question for YUC’e, with your music, you do everything yourself from vocals to producing, what is your favorite part of that process?
Singing! During the process of making music, I’m just thinking “I have to make music, I have to get this done.” I feel this apprehension. I have less freedom when I’m producing music. When it comes to the singing part, everything’s done already! The track is there, the lyrics are there, so I can sing freely.
What are your objectives for AWA, what are you looking forward to specifically?
I’m looking forward to making people happy and dance! That’s my duty in life… and my job [laughs].
As I said at opening ceremonies, I just want to spread bass all over people’s faces.
I want to show people new ways to dance and be happy. I think what’s particularly nice about Saturday night [in reference to the Saturday Night Rave], is you have two people who are primarily focused on DJ-ing and two people who are primarily focused on singing, it’s gonna be nice for the ***Audience because both of those ways are really good to keep people engaged and happy.
[In Japanese] I have the same opinion. [In English] Same. [laughs]
What would you tell someone who wants to do what you’re doing now if they’re just starting out?
I would say… oooh, I have to think about it!! Um… I guess just keep doing what you love. There’s always going to be obstacles but if it’s what’s you love, stick with it, and spread your passion.
I’d say, don’t do it. There’s way too many DJs and producers out there already. [laughter] You know, it’s kinda true but I wouldn’t tell anyone not to do it. It all has to do with your motivation. When I started, and I don’t think I’m old, but in ’98 there weren’t any sample packs and VSTs [Virtual Sample Technology] weren’t even a thing. I believe the first VST was released in ’97 or ’98, a crappy little synthesizer for Cubase which I don’t even use anymore. Use Studio One PreSonus, yay!! … I have to do that, cause they’re my boys.
When I started there were no tutorials, no forums. Well, there were forums but you’re talking to 15-20 people. It wasn’t like you could have a viral track and get somewhere. In a way, it was harder but when you had 1000 plays on something, those 1000 people would come to your show. They would email you, they’d be really into it. Nowadays it’s like anything less than 10,000, 15,000 plays is like “Oh I guess we need to make another track.” A million is like “Oh ok, a million. Alright.”
So to people that want to starts, it’s hard. It’s much easier to make decent music because you don’t even have to know how to make music nowadays. There’s so many templates and drag and drops for an empirically quality track. But that won't get you that far. If you really have a passion for it, you have to hone in on it. I know it’s a cliché that that you have to hone in on your own sound but it’s true! You have to sound like yourself. If you try to sound like everybody else they’re gonna be like “Oh it’s that guy, I don’t remember his name.” You have to create your own identity both with sound and with marketing. It’s very tough. But it’s like 50% luck and 50% hard work. If you believe in yourself, if you think you have what it takes, go for it. Study a lot of music production and audio engineering and don’t let the world bring you down. But, it’s tough.
I don’t mean to add more clichés but to someone just starting out, don’t forget to have fun, always have an open mind, choose your friends wisely, and don’t get distracted.
In my case, it’s a bit different than being a DJ since I do a lot of singing and producing, so my view might be different. But I would say you can copy chord structures from different songs and just start making songs from that. That’s a good place to start.
Clearly, everyone has a lot of passion for their music and every track is a labor of love. From finding a sound that speaks to them to crafting identities to attach to their music to creating tracks for games or commercials, there’s an incredible amount of work and thought that goes into everything they do. At the Saturday Night Rave they showed off their unique styles and made for an amazing night of dancing and partying. Marie Vaunt, Katfyr, Voia, and YUC’e definitely achieved their goal of making their ***Audience happy.
Hey friends! I reside in Georgia and use my degree in Japanese primarily to (barely) read doujinshi that hasn’t been translated. Beyond deciding who is best girl in whatever I happen to be watching, I really enjoy ballroom dancing, reading, crying over dating sims, karaoke, and being surrounded by beautiful things~ (You know, scenery, décor, boys, stuff like that). I also love talking about passions with others!