Artist Interview: Methyr of Question Records
Methyr is a vaporwave, electronic music, and modern classical composer (although he might deny that last one) who is the owner and operator of Question Records. Having released quite varied albums on an even more varied selection of labels (Smirk Sounds, Neetspeak, Bedlam Tapes, & Options), Methyr tries his hand at pretty much any form of electronic music in which he’s interested at the moment – an approach that’s plainly obvious in albums such as Digital Autopsy and 비행의 나는 꿈 / (1987 Cassette Rip). His work has earned spots on several high-profile compilations such as Antifur’s Hardvapour, and he’s curated a few of his own via Question Compendium for Question Records and & Options Compilation – Stock Market Crash Edition for & Options. We traded messages for a couple weeks with Methyr to find out more information behind the history of Question Records, the concepts behind personal projects such as Methyr and Te Amo!, and the place of EPs vs. LPs in music management.
S: First and foremost, how did Question Records come about? What is your “vision”, so to speak?
M: Question started as a joke between me and my partner (@krumpbattle). We’d just got into Vaporwave Twitter and saw the label meme, and we both started making really low quality vapour. I mean, incredibly low quality vapour. Some poor demented souls actually liked what we had created – literally just completely messed up versions of 80s songs; no art to it at all – and we questioned whether we should take it seriously or not. Lo and behold, we took it seriously and started off as a smalltime vaporwave net-label. We had lots of submissions and releases but it wasn’t until Lukepi came to us with Soar that we thought, “Hang about, we shouldn’t just limit ourselves to vapour. Let’s expand.” And this is where “modern” Question Records started. We rebranded several times until we finally arrived at our current theme and logo. We’ve had so many great releases and I believe that this is down to us branding ourselves as not just a record label. We see ourselves as completely for the artist. We don’t give two hoots about the money and profit – you wanna get your music heard? We’ll do it. Sure, we’ll take a cut of the sales but we invest it completely into Question. We don’t take salary or pocket any of it.
I’ll be frank and honest though. I am a klutz and my memory is pretty terrible. I often forget to do a lot of things relating to Question and as we’ve recently come back after a short hiatus, I’m trying to work on this to make Question not a questionable label but one that makes you question what music can be.
S: Do any of the early “terrible” works still exist? I’m curious now!
M: Sadly, no. Even if they did I would be wholly embarrassed to show them.
S: From where did the name “Question Records” come?
M: It’s simple, actually. No convoluted boring back story. We released those aforementioned “terrible” releases and they were “Question-able”. The name works for releasing good quality stuff too – making people question the boundaries of music etc etc. By the releases being questionable I of course mean that it could be disputed whether they were actually music.
S: How does your submission process work?
M: Send us an email and we’ll listen to what you send. No ifs or buts. If we like it, we’ll implore you to release with us!
S: What do you see for the future of Question Records so far? I see that recent releases have been more inclined to have physical media, like the cassettes for Soar by Lukepi.
M: I definitely want to release more physicals on Question. Perhaps a compilation or something. The future very much depends on how we at Question model ourselves in the coming months. The question (no pun intended) is whether or not we want to continue down the experimental electronical path we’re in, or branch out into even more genres. I feel that we want to be as multi-genre as possible and as much as I don’t like the term, a ‘safe-space’ for artists of all forms to be heard. I’d personally love to release a killer dreampop record.
S: How did you get into the culture of vaporwave/vapor? What capitulated the interest not only to listen, but also to produce music?
M: It was the satirisation of culture that vapour provided that lured me into the culture. I’ve always been around music. My mother would often play music about the house and as such, I’ve always taken a great interest in it. I’ve always dabbled in music. From synthesis to acoustic instruments; it’s safe to say that I’m a jack of all trades but a master of none. I’m actually in the process of recording my next album.
S: What techniques have you used in the past and/or are using now to create your music? I’m especially curious about Digital Autopsy, which we noted on Sunbleach for its eclecticism through classical music, vaporwave, and IDM tropes.
M: The way in which I go about music is very simple. I recently did an interview for & Options (another net-label) and I was asked the same question. Basically, I open up my DAW, making sure that my drum sequencer thing (Maschine Mikro) and my MIDI keyboard and analog synth (Arturia Microbrute) is wired up to my laptop and I just noodle and mess around with digital and physical knobs until I find the right sounds. The same applies to drums. Oddly though, I find it much easier to play drum patterns using a keyboard than a drum machine. I then queue everything up, arrange it and then hey presto I’m done. I’ll master it if I really can be bothered. Most of the things I’ve released have undergone light mastering but I’m still pretty novice in the field.
As for Digital Autopsy, every piece of instrumentation was performed only using my drum machine midi controller thing-a-jig using Native Instruments’ pseudo-DAW, “Maschine”. It enabled me to create the crazy drums on the track Greaseproof as all it is doing is arpeggiating through all the different drum sounds.
S: Can you talk to me about the classical music influence in your music? I’m especially curious about the Te Amo! project.
M: My classical influences stem from the only bit of musical training I’ve had (albeit to a very low standard compared to most established musicians) – piano. I also own a cello and can produce basic melodies. Although I’ve never used the cello in my production, it has inspired me to take recording slower. I used to whack out a track every hour or so but now, as Te Amo!, I take care; creating several takes of improvisation before scrutinising the reverbs and eq. It’s a really inspiring process.
Besides material things, I personally idolise Nils Frahm and Andrew Bird. Their innovative recordings – especially Bird’s “Echolocations” – have really inspired me to try and dabble in modern classical music.
Te Amo! originally started as a project for a school assignment as a potential synth-pop group. After I decided to stop the project due to workload, I took time to record Court of Stars and it sat unreleased for around four months until I decided to release it under the moniker Te Amo!
S: Earlier, you said that you were looking to expand from vapor music to other sorts of releases. What is currently in the pipeline for the label in that regard?
M: In our move away from vapour, we’ve attracted musicians from the more experimental side of Internet music. For instance Lukepi, _MAIDEN, and others we’ve got lined up. We’re actually in talks with a Japanese dream pop producer and REKTAGON will be dropping a series of 4 experimental electronic EPs with us. All in all, we’re taking a much more electronic approach but we’re looking at moving into more acoustic releases too.
S: What are your personal feelings on EPs versus full-lengths for releasing music? Just since you mention the upcoming REKTAGON series.
M: I think that EPs are a great way of getting music out to the public. I also feel that working on such a small and tight knit set of tracks the artist may be more inclined to harbor strong emotional connection with them hence the music is powerful. This is not to say that LPs cannot provide the same experience. I adore fifty minute albums but there are times where a good twenty minutes is all I need. Another great thing about EPs is that they leave you hungry for more of the artist’s work (provided you enjoy it) as there isn’t enough of it – creating fans and followers.
S: Any more words that you’d like to share before wrapping things up?
M: I’d just like to say a massive thanks to all the people who have supported and contributed to Question over the past couple of years. I’d also like to thank you, Sunbleach, for taking the time to interview me! It was a pleasure.
Check out Question Records here, and listen to Digital Autopsy by Methyr below: