Toronto producer Tyr Kohout delivers his first full-length solo album via Stranjah’s label Deviant Audio, full of certified tech bangers and heavy neuro drum and bass. We heard the ‘Accelerate‘ album & decided we needed to speak to the man himself to get the full low down on his approach to this album project, his sound design techniques & most importantly how to pronounce his name!!
Firstly we have to ask about the origins of your artist name? It’s very unique
Upwards of 90% of people don’t get either name right on the first try, either. It is usually pronounced “try” or “tie.” It really is just my first and last name! Why bother coming up with some creative alias when the name I’m already used to works? Danny Byrd is another example of someone who has a perfect sounding name for an artist. For anyone having a hard time, it’s pronounced “tear” (like in your eye) “ko-hoot.”
What was it that inspired you to start working on an album project?
I definitely envy people that have an ongoing ability to write music all the time. I get the sense, though, that most “creatives” go through waves of creation and then not. The album is a sort of mosaic of sketches turned finished project. I was just coming off the heels of finishing the “Robust” album as part of my previous project with Incandescent under the alias “Two State.” I felt that I should follow up my first technical full-length album up with another one under my own name and under my exclusive creative control. Something I could call my actual first full album. I feel great about the work put into Robust, though, because it really set me up for Accelerate in so many ways. I needed the experience in sound design, arrangement, and taking in critical feedback.
Did you go about putting the album together in a different way than you would have if you were maybe making an EP? Was there a concept behind the tracks you made for it?
Actually, no! I find that my writing goes through shifts and it just so happened to be that I was making a lot of stylistically similar stuff. There were outliers in between, but it’s sort of unusual for me to have a large chunk of tracks all fairly compatible with each other all created in a similar span of time. Once I had about 5 or 6 tracks banked, I knew I had to keep going. So began the process of digital crate digging through my hard drive to check out which sketches were worth finishing. Once that well had run dry, I took to writing a few more supporting tunes which would properly fill in the directions I wanted to go. I wanted to make sure each selection covered a unique base that the surrounding ones didn’t, but still feel like they’re all related. It’s definitely easier said that done, which is why it took 3 years to make Accelerate.
I’m hearing a lot of sound design work in your tracks. Twisting up samples & layering. It sounds like you put a lot of time into each track
Creating unusual textures is what I love to do. It also takes forever, but it’s worth the time spent. Everyone uses sample packs and I’m certainly no exception, but I made a point of never using bass presets or using the same sample twice in any track. Only exceptions given were some classic breaks like “Tighten Up,” “Amen, Brother,” “Think About It,” and a few others. That is a big contributing factor in why it took so long to finish! Sample hunting can take just as long as creating sounds yourself. Capturing a texture that truly represents you takes time and consideration. It’s the same reason why building a DJ playlist that is truly in your style takes a really long time. Virtually all of the bass sounds heard on the album were made via Serum, Phase Plant, and FM8 with a healthy dose of hardware distortion. I also took a lot of pride in making the snare hits myself in Addictive Drums 2. The more sounds and tracks you make yourself as a producer, the closer you will get to truly expressing who you really are as a musician.
How long has the process taken?
It’s hard to give an exact quote, but it would be fair to say that each track has spent between 75 – 100 hours being worked on. The initial sketches have a habit of falling into place, but really nailing an idea down and getting it all to sound as huge as possible is where the massive time sink comes in. I put a big emphasis on smoothness in a track – both sonically and from a listening perspective. I never want there to be massive emphasis or contrast shifts, so sussing all of that out requires a ton of hours. That crackle at -40dB that only pops into the track for 200ms likely took me 40 minutes to figure out. I’m into obsessing over the details that you might find someone else would write off as “stuff nobody cares about.” A lot of little changes add up to a lot.
Where did the title for the album come from?
Accelerate, the titular track, represents the biggest turning point in my sound since the conclusion of “Two State.” After countless ideas that lead nowhere, I finally stumbled on a riff that absolutely stuck out as being “the one.” It is one of the only tracks to feature a bassline in Spire rather than the usual other plugin suspects. I sampled the progression from a “Steamed Hams” piano dub on YouTube by downloading the MIDI files that the author had made available and trying them out various synths. One particular riff really stood out to me as being a cool little diddly and I just ran with it! After that track had turned out so well, I felt like I had advanced some sort of invisible level and gained confidence to keep going in that funk-first neurofunk direction. I wonder if the author of that video will know that it would change someone’s life like that. Accelerate, as a track, was the tipping point of having a rough idea of what I wanted to do in drum & bass to being certain of the aesthetic I was going for.
Was this always destined for release on Deviant Audio?
In my mind it was. As the tracklist grew, I received many bits of advice to pitch it to all sorts of established neurofunk labels, but every time I considered it I re-discovered that Deviant has the perfect niche for my sensibilities. I hear countless stories about artists having to write “for the label” rather than doing the sound they want. I feel no such constraint with Deviant. STRANJAH (label owner) has built such an incredibly well curated catalogue of deep, expertly produced, and bubbling pounders that I feel a huge sense of responsibility to carry that trend on. Especially when considering how thin STRANJAH and Anastasia are stretched with other content responsibilities, if I ask to release something on Deviant it has to be my finest work. It costs a lot of time and resources to properly market and release a full album! It’s something most casual listeners overlook. Deviant is run by two people and most other labels have a similar number of staff. That’s why it’s so important to support local burgeoning scenes. We appreciate every single copy bought, stream enjoyed, and piece of clothing worn.
The Toronto Scene
The levels of D&B production coming out of Toronto seems to be very strong, yourself, Stranjah & John Rolodex are fully representing!
I am on a revolving door of surprise when it comes to discovering Toronto talent. There are an unfathomable number of insanely talented artists here. That includes virtually every creative domain like programming (yes that is creative), architecture, film, engineering and so much more. It’s expensive to live here for the same reason San Francisco is: everyone wants to be here! I feel fortunate to have snuck my way in because it has afforded me the opportunity to meet untold numbers of great people. Taking drum & bass seriously is a niche I’d be ill-equipped to do elsewhere in Canada.
Is there a strong drum & bass scene in Toronto?
Depends on where you look. Legally grey-area raves are definitely hot and easy to find if you know who to talk to and where to go. There’s plenty of action in the main-line clubs but you’ll generally find that the biggest places cater more to house and the occasional dubstep headbang. Drum & Bass is something you have to be on the hunt for. Same can be said of Vancouver and Edmonton. It’s out there, but usually in small doses of 20 – 30 people at a time. This is through a pre-COVID lens, of course. If there are still illegal D&B raves out there, I wouldn’t be surprised, but I wouldn’t encourage it either.
How’s Covid effected the scene out there? Are parties indefinitely on hold like they are in the UK?
100%. A major artist recently had their “stream tour” pulled because they referenced it as a party. I’m not joking. I don’t support those kinds of draconian nanny-state antics, but I can also understand the need to greatly limit social activities at this time. The more responsible we are in the here-and-now, the more quickly we can resume our previously scheduled sweaty dancing. People are making tons of music, though so if anything, it’s a buffer for building the sickest playlists ever. I’m very curious to hear what the local DJs have got cooking for us when we can party together again. I bet there are some awfully spicy dubs already hitting circuits I have no idea about.
Did you manage to hear any of the tracks from Accelerate played in a club before things got locked down?
Mostly played by myself! I hadn’t worked though enough of my album at that point to really get it out into DJ rotations. The mixdowns for the finished tunes were pretty bad too, so I wasn’t happy with how they compared to other tunes. I’m thankful for those limited experiences on big systems, though. Feeling your music hit on a huge line array puts so much stuff into perspective that your monitors and headphones just can’t. Getting a feel for how sub wobbles interact is a legitimate skill like any other. Look no further than anything Skeptical has written in the past 10 years. Most of Accelerate is still just an educated guess on that front. We’ll just have to see how the sound-system folks like it!
Have you thought about your next project yet? Has this process made you want to jump straight into album number 2?
That would be a big yes to both. I have begun creating material that I hope to see released sometime in ’23. I also have some one-off projects coming out this year that I think sound design/production nerds will appreciate. Shaking things up is the spice of life. Don’t ever do creative stuff “because you have to” if you can at all help it. I almost always have several tracks on the go at once. It’s hard to say if the next album will be another full-length one or if I’ll go more in the 5-track EP direction. I won’t let the lack of certainty stop me from writing. I encourage anyone to keep exploring creative niches. Browsing around for silly Simpsons remixes birthed a 3-year creative process for me. Who’s to say what your catalyst might be?
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