Martin Vogt, better known to the world as the Vancouver-based producer and live performer Haywyre has built a small, but loyal fan base of those who are fascinated by the producer's well-composed, well-produced tracks. He brings that same effort to the live arena, triggering the main components of tracks, but then soloing over them with different notes each time as illustrated in a thrilling cover of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal," which went viral.
We had a chance to catch up with Haywyre recently about his covers and if he had any more in the works, which might be "I Can't Feel My Face," his early love for writing, the decision to leave school to become a musician full-time and much more.
Music Times: So why did you leave school, and were people apprehensive about that?
Haywyre: Well my expectation was for them to be apprehensive, but it wasn't a decision that was made lightheartedly. I spent the summer doing an internship with the label Monstercat in Vancouver and I got to know them very closely. We got together for about two months or so and during that time we had a really good productive relationship. I could come up with ideas and they would figure out how to really realize its full potential and market it properly. Because of that kind of symbiosis I felt really comfortable with the idea of working with them more closely, not only as a label but going beyond that.
So what happened was there was a tour offer that came in with Gramatik that would have been about one and a half or two weeks or so. At that point I couldn't just take two weeks off of school, that would put me pretty far behind. I started thinking over the summer does it really make sense for me to go back to school because there are a lot of pros and cons either way
MT: What did you study in college?
H: I was studying music business. So very relevant.
MT: How difficult has it been for you to accept that a track will never be perfect?
H: Very difficult. More so now than ever for some reason. But there was something about being in school and kind of separating my passion from anything else that allowed me to maximize my time really well, balancing things that I didn't want to do with things I did want to do. I had really productive years especially my junior year. I was able to commit to tracks and recognize that "okay this is where I'm at right now." Obviously your question implies that there is no such thing as a perfect track, you're always developing and that applies to all aspects of your life really. This year it hasn't been too easy just because I have more time to think about my tracks and more expectation about what I should do and it just hasn't been as straight forward.
MT: Why do you think other producers have started to take a liking to your music?
H: Well I think for producers it makes more sense to be honest than the average person listening to it, because in my opinion what I am shooting for is electronic music that's well produced, high caliber stuff from a sound design, production, mixing perspective. Also it introduces the concept of instrumental dexterity too. Balancing those two things at a time like this is pretty important. That being said there are tons of artist out there doing the same thing. Big Gigantic are doing incredibly well. Dominic is an incredible sax player. There are tons of groups out there that are definitely doing the same thing.
MT: Are you going to do anymore covers?
H: Inevitably, it's going to happen. Once every now and then I have the spontaneous idea like "Oh that would be cool." When I heard "I Can't Feel My Face" by The Weeknd in a taxi, I was like "man this is one of the only pop tunes I've heard in a long time just by chance that I really enjoy." I felt really compelled to do something with that, but it was a little discouraging to see how many people were already doing that by the time I discovered it. Maybe I'll wait like 5 years and when everyone's calmed down I'll do it. I didn't want it to seem like a gimmicky attempt to get attention and I don't know sometimes those kind of bootlegs end up looking like that.
MT: Is your approach to a festival different from a club set?
H: Not necessarily, because in the end the live aspect of my performances is the most important part for me. For me to be comfortable being up there I need to have my keyboard in front of me. Most of the time people at a club would rather just hear music that they can enjoy at that moment as opposed to being challenged. At a festival I feel more comfortable up there with my keyboard doing live stuff just because it's more of a venue environment and most of the time I'm playing during the day. So people are more susceptible to stuff that's a little different. So right now they are much of the same thing.
MT: How much of your show is improvisation?
H: So essentially the tracklist, I have a set of tracks about two to three different sections that coincide really well. Since I'm still pretty new to the performance scene I generally stick to that but you know every set is different time wise. Sometimes there is cuts and changes so it changes a bit, but more or less the tracks I play are the same but what I play on top of it is always different. So whether I play the lead melody or not on a drop, whether I choose to jam out during the break down section or not all depends on how I'm feeling at that moment. Obviously the transition between tracks are kind of a similar thing. Like right now I want to just get straight into the next track.
MT: What is something people might not know about you?
H: When I was growing up in Lafayette, Indiana I wanted to be a writer. I had been performing and studying piano performance since I was six or seven but it wasn't until I was a teenager I realized that I enjoyed music. It was just something I did for the sake of pleasing my parents. For the longest time I wanted to be a writer until I realized that I really wasn't good at writing at all. But since I had already been practicing piano for so long I was like "hey there's this music thing."
MT: What did you want to write?
H: It was kind of all over the place. I was writing these really cheesy like action stories inspired by Age of Empires.
I would go really in-depth into these massive strategic battles between these huge empires and I was loving it. I would write these massive essays like 30 pages long of just weird battles between leaders in this fictional world that were competing for land.
MT: Do you still have them?
H: I wish I did. I would be really curious to read them again but no I don't have them anymore.
MT: What do you have coming up?
H: I have 3 months off for the first time in a year at the end of 2015. So I'm really excited to get super comfortable with a predictable workflow. I moved in properly to a new apartment with a studio like a block away. Pretty much everything is there to do what I want to do over those three months.