Galtier, the rhythm explorer in search of otherworldly sonic artifacts
Despite what we all have been through in the past few months, with an unprecedented silencing of our living and collective cultures, 2020 has been an even busier year for Australia-born and now Bristol-based DJ / producer Jiah Wells, more likely known as Galtier. Over the course of the year, he released the excellent and ravey Dancing On Ruins on the CDMX based label Infinite Machine, besides curating a consistent number of superb releases from innovative artists on his own Nostro Hood System (like the recent Ripper EP by the Manchester hard drum/techno mainstay Avernian). After being involved in the music industry for over ten years, crafting his own vision of a largely-scale and stylized club sound, it was about time that we ask him some questions regarding his artistic development. As well as his reflections on a world marked by various political and musical reversals. Let’s take a seat in the Galtier’s spaceship, a mutant vehicle surrounded by sonic artifacts from a galaxy that calls us to be widely discovered.
Tim Karbon for Couvre x Chefs | Hi Jiah, I’m really glad to make this interview finally happen! First of all, how are you and what are you these days?
Galtier | Thanks for having me, Tim! I’m doing okay thank you, keeping busy with my job as a teacher and using my spare time for music production, reading, and taking care of my body and mind however I can.
If your readers haven’t already heard of me before, I am a DJ / producer under the alias Galtier, and I also run the independent thematic label called Nostro Hood System. I’ve been working in the music industry for more than 10 years making, playing, and curating electronic music from myriad different genres, primarily that of the left-field, oblique nature.
You’re living in Bristol for some time now, a city well-known for its Dubstep, Trip-Hop and UK Bass musical legacy and also home of a widely revered wolf pack of electronic artists and labels (from the likes of Timedance, Livity Sound or Hotline Recordings, only to name a few…). How do you see yourself as part of this distinct sonic environment? Does the Bristol sound is in any way infusing your producer’s palette?
I would say that the esoteric approach to electronic music you find in Bristol has had an impact on my own productions in many ways over the years. I think perhaps such labels mentioned and the incredible talent that you can find in their catalog have allowed me to feel more comfortable doing daring things with my tracks and likewise has helped me feel more confident to release very left-field music. I can see these labels pushing the boundaries and succeeding and get the sense that I can do the same because of this.
However, I don’t think that I have embedded the label and myself as an artist in the Bristol scene too heavily; Nostro Hood System is quite a global label and thematically it strives to be off-world (which we will get into later…) that keeps it hovering outside of any localized sphere, which is something I really like about what we do. I feel like my productions suit the city and the sound that comes from it but still has enough edge to keep one foot in the cosmos. I kind of like being this way so I am happy being in this position!
You have recently released Dancing On Ruins on the CDMX-based imprint Infinite Machine. An output which with you demonstrate once again a fierce desire to push things forward rhythmically. Solidifying the stomping yet sci-fi infused musical approach you’ve started to build on your first pieces as well as with the recent Terran (2018 – also on Infinite Machine).
But here, all the tracks seem to be forged by a supersonic blacksmith, using a tempo fastness that reminds me both of footwork, gabber, and ghetto tech energies, while expanding your intense and easy-recognizable drum signature. Is it right for me to think that your work on this three-tracker traduces your increasing interest to make things speedier as well as to document an age where all music is crafted with some sense of urgency, as its title suggests?
The truth is that as I have made tracks more and more, I have felt less and less of a sense of restriction to what I can or can’t do. So I don’t think that I will linger in this world of harder, faster stuff for too long. Only recently it seems that I have enjoyed making stuff in this vein. A lot of my newer productions have sped up as I really like the urgency that you can get out of your sound when things are moving fast. I have been doing this with tracks that are much slower too with lots of double-time sounds clanging away under a chugging, 90-100 BPM rhythm.
Often I start a project with a particular theme or motif in mind. The Myth Codes EP was all about the discovery of ancient/advanced technology. Terran was about a lone human drifting through the vastness of space, which was meant to kind of be allegorical to the discovery of one’s self. Luuo’sOutput was a much more lore-based release for NHS around a specific planet in the Nostro Hood System. For Dancing On Ruins, I just imagined a desert full of beings that would fit in well in a Mad Max film, who are dancing on the ruins of a lost city. You could say that it parallels the strangeness of our information-centric era and the perception of the crumbling world around us in the present, but it certainly wasn’t intentional.
Ultimately though, I have really enjoyed making stuff that is off-kilter and has an air of uncertainty around it. Earlier it was more about the uncertainty of life through the nuanced melodic elements of my tracks that embodied something much more existential and meaningful, almost mystical, as it is evident on the Terran EP you mentioned. Now it’s more like a Kafka-esque uncertainty that stirs the listener in an anxious sense. Who knows where it will go next? All I know is that this idea of ‘”something else” or “something more’” that is out there to be found seems to leave its mark on everything I make.
A mention on the Nostro Hood System website’s homepage says “THINK BACKWARDS”. Is it thought of as a mantra with which you manage things aesthetically-wise while focused on the label work? And thus, can you develop a bit about what musical aspects you have in mind when inviting new artists to your spaceship?
“Think Backwards” can be looked at in more than one way. In one stroke it simply means think about things laterally, which lends well to the desire for Nostro Hood System to be a label that releases work that leans into the left-field/experimental territories. This is a simple maxim that I wanted to honor always when working with the label. As time has gone on however and I have expanded on the idea of an alternate galaxy and the physics of space, it makes a lot of sense to be that thinking backward is our motto as it suggests a warped sense of time between both the Solar System we live in and the Nostro Hood System. Who knows when the music from the Nostro Hood would have been conceived. It might sounds new-age and contemporary to us but perhaps it is ancient for the citizens of the planets in their system? I think that is a really interesting and compelling though that only adds to the mystery behind the label.
Part of the NHS narrative is that it is “a thematic label focused on the xenological discovery of an alternate galaxy to our own that sets out to showcase the musical artefacts that originate from it”. This made me think quite fast of musical projects such as the legendary Detroit-techno duo Drexciya (originated by Gerald Donald and the late James Stinson), calling a musical heritage from deep water & afro futuristic civilization yet to be discovered. What is your intimate relation with stories of an extra-terrestrial presence or outer space civilizations ? Is this some cultural subtext you’ll be willing to include in any other creative forms than music at some point?
I grew up with an ever-present fascination for science-fiction, which all started when my parents showed me films like Alien, Predator, Akira, Total Recall, and Blade Runner, just to name a handful of standouts from memory. I was a massive fan of comics, video games, and things like Warhammer when I was younger too, and would hone in on all of the interpretations of man in futuristic settings that people had come up with. I loved copying drawings from the science-fiction / fantasy compendium Tomorrow and Beyond from 1978 and the Citadel magazine which covered Warhammer. I really had an acute fascination with the endless possibilities that could be explored through sci-fi & fantasy.
As I got older, it evolved into a much more refined science-fiction interest, more about the ecology and anthropology of other worlds than the technology and conflicts that ensued. I also noticed that I loved the idea of viewing history through artifacts and discoveries. I thought about the fact that an artifact doesn’t necessarily need to have a physicality to it, it could be a piece of information or data or music. So it ended up that these ideas merged into one and slowly the focus of the label ended up being what it is now – an outlet for music that has been picked up in transit across the cosmos to have finally reached earth by the Xenologist team.
Beyond that initial idea, I haven’t yet expanded too much into the lore of the galaxy in question. I’d like to explore some more particular aspects of it, especially with other artists. I made gentle nudges towards this on the collaboration with Recluse Jade Pillar and likewise my Luuo’s Output EP and I really want to do some more with this as I explore the label more and more.
As a DJ and producer deeply involved in the actual bubbling and futuristic club music landscape, what are your thoughts on this never-ending era of social and sanitary crisis? Are these uncertain political contexts pushes you toward to re-think your production approach in some way or another?
The music industry, especially the club music industry has definitely taken a massive hit because of what is going on in the world. A huge portion of the artists who work in this field rely on DJ sets and live shows as the predominant source of their income. I really feel for these people right now and hope so much for their sake that a brighter, more free future emerges from all of this. I have been really impressed with the creativity and innovation people have had to find ways around this though, through live streams, releasing music on Bandcamp Day (s/o to Bandcamp), and all sorts of other projects they have concocted to keep things alive and hopefully to keep them fed and alive too.
And I surely think that it has had an influence on my productions. I have been working on much more experimental ideas which have taken a step away from being strictly club-friendly. I really like the idea of writing music for films and visual projects and have been thinking ever-more about conceiving work that has a much more focused and particular sense of a journey or narrative. I have this vision of myself drinking coffee and writing scores for films at home, so perhaps it’s the time to try and do it!
Can you now briefly share some of your thoughts on our planet’s ongoing issues, even from your status as a niche artist? Since the COVID-19 pandemic has spread, we all saw an upsurge of right-wing politics in every part of the globe. This was traduced by increasing police brutality, the denial of western governments to assume their systemic discriminations against women, afro, queer, Latinx or oriental communities as well as their deep-diving into the maintenance of a neoliberal paradigm that puts economic growth beyond human needs.
Not to mention the supposedly logical silencing of our sonic and artistic communities, while clubs and cultural venues have started to close permanently, and festivals and concerts seem to be events from another reality… How do you manage to get your head above water? Do you embrace any social struggle there in the UK?
I have started to meditate most days of the week which has been a fantastic and remarkably simple tool that has helped me have a much more integrated and intimate understanding of myself. I have strived towards reading as many books as I can as well and have learned so much from doing this. It has really helped me traverse some of those quiet moments when I’m at home in my own mind and I find myself wading through thoughts of existential despair. Working on music and other creative projects have been a really useful outlet too for keeping myself distracted and inspired as well. Keeping in contact with my family and people who I love and help me to be myself is also an integral part of emotional survival.
The current situation we are in is certainly an unfortunate one that has really bored a hole into the side of humanity. I don’t think we will return to the way things were before. I think that might be wishful thinking. I would say that the world is more likely to return to something that was similar but with clear differences. What those differences are I guess we are yet to find out. I’d like to think that it will be a predominantly positive one and feel that I contribute to steering things in this direction from a less political perspective but more of a psychological, humanistic one.
I have spent the last few years making great efforts to understand what it means to be a person in our world and really getting to know myself in a purposeful way.
It’s been an interesting, sometimes painful journey but I feel much more connected to the world now that I have done this, even during these times.
I have contemplated how I myself can be a useful agent to my fellow humans and have found that sharing what I have learned about life and how I have helped myself has been an immensely meaningful way to use my energy to help others on an individual level, both my friends and people that I don’t know well but have reached out. Being there for people and offering resources and thoughts on how to feel more whole and to have a sense of connectedness to this complex, vastly nuanced world that we live in is something that I feel passionate about. Thus I feel I have enough of a grasp of it to be able to listen to people properly and offer something that might help them take at least one step forwards to being able to do the same thing I have done and will ideally continue to do for the rest of my life.
There is so much to learn yet and I certainly don’t see myself as having acquired everything there is to know. In a way, that realization that I know very little is what keeps me going and yearning for more. It has helped me to feel like I am a part of this world and perhaps I can help others to feel it too.
Thanks a lot to give us some of your time, man. We will continue to document your musical journey as much as we can! To give our readers some grand finale, what can you share about your forthcoming releases and projects?
Thank you so much for having me, Tim! I have been very busy working on lots of new music during 2020 and am excited to share them! I have an album that is set for release next year which links really strongly to the sentiments emphasized in my contribution to the state of the world as mentioned above. More details to follow regarding that. I have a slew of tracks that are slowly merging into a semblance of a handful of releases as well, with some really interesting themes and focuses that have driven them forward.
We also have about six records lined up for Nostro Hood System as well which are all wonderfully eclectic and varied from all over the globe which will be coming out over the course of the rest of 2020-2021, so keep your ears peeled for updates and news over at our website!
Visit the website of Galtier’s labelNostro Hood Systemand listen to the first track of the forthcoming release, a join EP from Amor Satyr & Siu Mata, just below.