Your EDM Q&A: Does Canadian Techno Artist The GOAT Live Up to His Name With His New Album? [Video]
Vancouver-based producer The GOAT has been tirelessly releasing increasingly heavier and weirder industrial techno since he began making EDM in 2016. One would have to if one wanted to be seen as the greatest of all time, wouldn’t one? Well, just like anything in the music world, Chris Marcinikiewicz’s chosen moniker isn’t exactly as it seems. With all his work, including The Details Are Vague, his debut album on Groundwerk Recordings, released earlier this month, The GOAT just wants to make us dance.
Coming from a thrash and punk drumming background, Marcinikiewicz’s earlier musical years were spent touring Europe, especially Germany, and influenced by the techno sounds there but also experimental punk bands like Fugazi, Bad Brains and Minor Threat. This explains the heavy and often analog drum treatments The GOAT’s electronic productions get, and likely why his techno comes off sounding more industrial than big room, a rarity nowadays in North America.
The GOAT has nonetheless managed to garner a lot of support both locally and abroad, hitting the top 100 on Beatport’s techno charts with his first EP, Flout, and the top ten on the ambient chart as well. After this early success, he hooked up with Groundwerk Recordings and its founder Joel West to produce even more groundbreaking work and put out a record number of tracks and EPs since then and now. With a style so unique and niche, it’s a good thing The GOAT has this sort of work ethic, because he’s pretty much created this ambient/industrial/techno sound/genre on his own.
With the details of how he came to find this sound, the tech of this sort of techno and what kind of cocky motherfucker actually names himself The GOAT being vague, we went to Marcinikiewicz in search of the answers and found more than the details. We discovered an artist who works from his heart and whose dedication can be felt in every track (and the reasons behind the name), so read on and listen as all is clarified and revealed.
You seem to have picked one hell of a specialty in terms of a niche style, especially in the North American scene. How did you get started making beats and when/why did you decide to go industrial techno?
I was very fortunate as a young kid to have the opportunity to see electronics and sequencers and things at an early age. I can credit that to two older family friends, one of which had a 90s midi home studio and was so patient in showing me how to get started on making loops and ultimately tracks. The other family friend showed me and his younger brother industrial music in the early and mid 90s. It was all that Wax Trax stuff. It instantly sounded like something I wanted to learn how to do. I kinda came full circle to it because I played in punk bands and experimented with synthesizers for many years. I just found the place where it can all meld together.
To that end, how do you feel your work has been received in North America? Obviously you’re charted on Beatport, but do you find it’s tougher to break the scene here versus Europe where Rammstein and other heavy techno acts are so popular?
The reception of the album has been good. I’m happy that The Details Are Vague is being supported and received as well as it is. To answer your second question, it’s a bit of a double edged sword. I feel like in North America, or maybe where I play, techno is a misused term. It’s a bit of a catch-all at the moment, and kind of the “cool word,” but most people are playing deep house or whatever. Things are marketed as “techno” but it’s not that. So yeah, I don’t know, I’m maybe considered niche here, but in Europe, there are so many people doing it that it may be more difficult to stand out. Ultimately, I’m just writing music I want to hear. And if it moves you, if it resonates, lets dance together.
Aside from the above-mentioned obvious, what acts were your main influences to create this kind of techno? What do you love about the sound that keeps you going?
For me, Its in the approach. Going back to punk, a band like Fugazi or At The Drive In, their fearlessness is what inspires me. Obviously industrial acts, and goth acts support the sonics and the imagery, but those two I mentioned actually stick out because I feel like they have a signature sound, but they always challenged it in their approach. There was always a “what’s next?” aspect when word got out that new music was coming from Fugazi. I like a lot of different styles of music so I’m leaving a lot out; that’s just one example of a good approach.
Time to get techy: there are a lot of experimental and dissonant elements built into the sound design on The Details are Vague, like the ambient pipe sounds under the main music on “Removed from Service” or the ambient, beatless structure on “You Missed the Forest for the Trees.” How much of this album was pure experimentation for you and what draws you to the science of sound?
I had goals with what I wanted to accomplish with the sound. I wanted it to feel human, but techno is inherently mechanical. This being my debut LP, I wanted to tip my hat to the sounds that inspired me when I first started with electronics in the mid-90s, so experimentation with a purpose was key. I had many sound designing sessions, some more guided than others, but I wanted to let the machines speak. I wanted to be a conduit for them.
I feel like when hardware is involved, there’s a relationship and a conversation that happens. Especially with modular synthesis. You put information in, It speaks, you interpret and make changes. All of that was captured. The final synth in “Reduced” was just that: a live take that was un-edited, and I like that there’s some drift there, and mistakes. It feels alive to me. With an album, I’ve learned, there’s a time to leave all your tendencies behind. It’s not written the same way an EP is. I felt like I could do anything.
Building on that, what sort of programming or mods did you use to get these more experimental elements? How did they fit with the main compositions, or did you come up with the singular sounds first and then build the tracks?
Every track is built different. One thing for sure, and you can talk to Joel West about this because we’ve worked on many tracks together, is I feel like the enjoyment is in finding a different way to make the music. So for example, maybe this certain track can only be done using one synthesizer for every aspect. Or maybe some sort of self-imposed limitation will be put into the session in order to steer you a certain way and push you out of the norm. It keeps things fresh for me. I combined that with telling the sonic story I wanted to tell in order to program these parts. Some tracks were started very simply with a groove, others were definitely with an experimental aspect first, and then forged into what I wanted it to live as.
Your time as a drummer touring in Germany and Eastern Europe has clearly influenced how you put your drum lines together. How important are those drums for you? Did you really want to make them shine on this album?
Because I played drums growing up and I enjoy a lot of different types of music, I wanted to explore that (different types of drum lines). I wanted to see if I could find a place for them on the album. Now, they’re mangled to shit, but that’s where they fit in the record. I also had some actual song ideas that I wanted to pursue on this too. Because of the pandemic, I felt like I had the time to go down that road with Nathan and Amanda (Melohalo, on “Alone”). They’re a great fucking band first and foremost, so it was cool to see how we could reach that feeling. You know, all of us reaching toward a common goal. I can’t wait to hear what they do next. On “Reduced,” it was like second nature, and it really was cool to work with Jamison (Prystay) again. We’d played together in bands growing up, so going full circle there felt very natural. Who wouldn’t want to play drums on Rhett’s (Williams) guitar playing? He plays with a ton of attitude. I wanted analog drums to have their spot on the album that would create the more obvious human aspect.
In what other ways do you think your thrash background influenced the album?
I think the main way thrash and punk have influenced this album Is my tolerance for noise. I’ve left headroom for future exploration of noisier and heavier aspects, but I’m also not gonna shy away from points on the album like “The Mud Of Humanity” or “Vulcanize.” Without my background, I wouldn’t have been able to allow the music to go to those places.
You’ve had a number of releases with the famous Vancouver imprint Groundwerk Recordings so obviously there’s a good relationship there, but why did you decide to release the album with them?
Groundwerk is home. It’s so important to me as a label, but to those that don’t know, Groundwerk is even more than that. It started out as a listening party where bedroom producers (and producers of all levels) could submit music, hear it on a club system, and talk shop with other likeminded individuals. It was amazing for learning from other people and networking. It’s just a great and inclusive place to be. The reason I say this is because when I was at my most disillusioned about music is when Groundwerk started. I went to their first event years back by myself, not knowing anyone, and it changed everything. Like, there are scenes, but rarely does a label build community. From Groundwerk’s community, so many people have flourished in their respective disciplines. For them to pick me up with I was artistically most vulnerable, It meant a lot to me.
Groundwerk the label, Groundwerk the event promoter, Groundwerk the (public & Twitch-during-pandemic) listening party, make up the roots of a lot of what is happening, and has happened in the Vancouver scene in the last, I’d say, five years. People have learned, grown, and even moved on, but it’s an institution.
Okay we gotta ask about the name: is it a bit of cheeky irony, making fun of pop culture, or did you choose it because you want to be the Yeezy of techno?
It’s 100% tongue-in-cheek. I loved the idea of The Prodigy’s name being a throw back to the DJ’s and MC’s in early hip-hop; these larger than life names. I also am a huge fan of combat sports, so there’s that. Anyone that knows me knows it’s a caricature and a joke. But also, growing up, my mom used to call me “Kozuka” (Koza) in Polish, which means goat. I was always active and always finding ways to stumble into things and hurt myself as a toddler (laughs) so honestly, its a nod to that as well. There ya go, the cat is officially out of the bag!
We’re sure at the moment you’re happy celebrating the album finally being out, but do have any insight on what’s coming up next for you? Shows/tours/releases?
I’m currently working with promoters lining things up. So if you want me in your city, head over to thegoatmusicofficial.com and find my socials there. Reach out and lets dance.
The Details Are Vague is out now on Groundwerk Recordings and can be purchased on Beatport or streamed on Spotify.