Gotye: ‘What I’m Most Passionate About’

Gotye opens up about self-criticism and doubt and tells us what he is most passionate about.

[By Monica Harris]

Walter De Backer (aka Gotye) is a true DIY artist. Beginning in 2001, the Australian artist has produced and released his own music, even creating the album covers by hand. In 2011 he came to international fame with his hits “Eyes Wide Open” and “Somebody that I Used to Know,” the latter which reached #1 on the Billboard Charts.

Q. What was the first song that you fell in love with, that you said, “I want to do that”?

A. Probably a KLF song. Probably “What time is Love” by KLF. I was around 10 years old.

What was it about the song that appealed to you?

I don’t know what my 10-year-old brain was responding to. Probably the raving pulsing synthesizers.  There was something fascinating, other-worldly about it. Still what pop music will do for me.

Tell me about the filming of the video for “Somebody that I used to Know.” What was it like being covered in paint, and how long did it take to film?

It was fun. It took a long time. It was quite painful at moments, just standing still, feeling your muscles really going into a sort of deep ache. But it was a good experience working with Emma [Hack]. She makes things very lighthearted and she’s great. She’d get conversational while she’s dabbing paint on your body. And Natasha [Pincus], the director, is very lovely as well, and easy going. It was a good experience.

(Photo by Warwick Baker)

(Photo by Warwick Baker)

Kimbra is featured in that song. Are you planning any collaborations with any other artists?

Nothing planned at the moment. But yeah I love to collaborate with people. Usually it’s directed by the material.

Which do you feel more comfortable with – the recording studio or performing live? I know it’s different for everyone.

There are challenges for both. I’m probably still more interested in making records. For me, that’s what I’m passionate about. That’s what excites me. When I hear records that I think are inspiring and inventive, that show you a little glimpse of something you haven’t experienced before.  But playing live I’m enjoying more and more. These last two American tours have been really enjoyable.

What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve come across in the music business, and how did you overcome it?

Probably self-doubt. That’s the main one. Being very self-critical. Just working on what your own sense of success is – not success in the commercial sense – but what you’re aiming for. Whether you feel like you’re doing something worthwhile or whether you’re meeting your expectations. Just navigating that, I think is pretty difficult. It could make you consider giving up, a lot of the time. I’ve had certain moments over the years where I seem quite successful to everybody else, really questioning, you know, whether I’m making music that I’m really inspired by, or am I making the right music, or something. That just comes from being someone who is interested in a bunch of different things and wants to potentially have the opportunity to do a lot of different things. It can make it tough to make choices sometimes.

When you’re about to perform on stage, how do you prepare?

I warm up my voice. And just hang out with the band. We’ll put music on sometimes. It gets us pumped…And we make sure we spend some time together before the show, to judge how everyone’s feeling, and pick anyone up who may be feeling tired or nervous, before going on stage.

Has there been any embarrassing moments on tour?

No, not really. No wardrobe malfunctions. [Laughs.] You know, everyone makes mistakes. Sometime the technology goes a bit weird or fails during a song. That stuff happens here or there. It’s part of the business  It’s something where you take steps to make sure things run smoothly. Those things don’t turn me off. Sometimes those are the things that define certain shows, make them more interesting  They’re the things you remember.

When do you plan to release your next album? Are you working on a new album now?

In 2013. I’ve scribbled some notes, I’ve got bits and pieces I can play with, but there’s really no time on tour to really work on stuff properly. So I’m working on new material, the production side of things, and enjoying that.

That’s great. Any last thing you’d like to mention?

I’d like to mention my friend Tim Shiel who plays keyboards and samples for my band. He’s put up a really great remix compilation that’s available online. He plays music under the name Faux Pas. We’ve been friends for 14 years and he’s done a lot of amazing remixes for me and other artists in Australia and other parts of the world. ~

Update: Congratulations to Gotye for winning Record of the Year at the 2013 Grammy Awards!