We get to interview The Watermark High in our Super Interview series. The Watermark High is a Johannesburg-based producer that is smashing genre lines.
DYD: Tell us about yourself and your project The Watermark High.
Paul (The Watermark High): I’m Paul van der Walt, a music geek, insomniac and electronic music producer from Johannesburg, South Africa. I produce and perform music as The Watermark High.
DYD: Tell us about your creative process. How do you go about creating such dense and emotional music?
Paul (The Watermark High): I usually try to have a reasonably good idea of what kind of track I want to create, before starting. This saves a lot of time. I always kind of figure it out as I go, but it helps to have at least some kind of vision for it. I usually start with creating a beat and then I’ll chop samples or write melodies around that and just build from there. It’s just a matter of adding and tweaking and experimenting until everything sounds like I want it to.
DYD: How do you go about performing your music live?
Paul (The Watermark High): I haven’t been playing live for that long, so I am still busy figuring it out as I go. I prefer to be doing more than just DJing, and there are numerous ways to go about that. I’ve tried various things and I am constantly working on my live execution. At the moment I use Ableton Live, a Kaoss Pad effects unit and a Livid Ohm RGB MIDI controller to play my music out live.
DYD: Your music is a beautiful cacophony of influences, tell us what influences you.
Paul (The Watermark High): I’ve always been into more evocative, dreamy kind of (electronic) music and I guess that’s what I try to create as that’s what inspires me. I listen to a wide variety of music, and I try to incorporate all of it into my own sound. I like to experiment with contrasts, to use samples that are perhaps completely disconnected or that “shouldn’t work” and try and make them work, or make really dirty sounds beautiful. That kind of thing. I also love using found sounds and field recordings or whatever, it just adds “life” to the sound and it enables me to incorporate actual sounds from my everyday life into my music, which is awesome.
DYD: Your music seems to have the “it” factor. It’s polished, professional and full. It is something that makes you stand out as you create on the same level as international artists. Can you reflect on this? What do you think it is that you have that separates you from your local contemporaries?
Paul (The Watermark High): Thanks for the kind words. I don’t know. I am so involved with my music through the creation of it that I sometimes feel I’ve lost all perspective on it. What I mean is that I’ve found how I perceive my music or my sound, and how the average listener sees it, can be completely different. I aim to not be easy to pigeon-hole and I like my music to have an organic, warm and evocative feel. I guess that maybe makes it different from other guys’ stuff. I’m probably the last person you should ask that.
DYD: Tell us about the name The Watermark High.
Paul (The Watermark High): It’s actually a song title of a band called Elliott. For some reason, I never thought of the phrase literally (as in, the water level/mark of a body of water), I don’t know why. I always saw it figuratively, “The Watermark High” as a “subtle elation”, if that makes sense? It’s got a mysterious, subjective quality to me, like a “private euphoria” or something like that. I just liked my abstract interpretation of it, and thought it sounded cool, at the time.
DYD: I feel that a personal motivating factor, albeit a superficial one, is that I want to create music to leave a legacy. To be able to materialize something in this life that lastingly affects people. Would you say legacy is a motivating factor for you individually?
Paul (The Watermark High): I make music for myself first and foremost and if people connect with it, it’s a massive bonus. I feel that there’s more than enough people-pleasing, genre specific stuff out there, I don’t need to or want to contribute to that really. Through trying to please myself, I also hope to present something different to the world and to hopefully inspire people to maybe do the same. It’s not like I don’t give a shit though, there’s obviously this almost natural hope that people will respond to it or connect with it, for people to “get it”. And in the bigger scheme of things, I don’t know if “legacy” is the right word, for a “legacy” in the usual interpretation of it, I’d have to have mass-appeal, which I don’t. I just see The Watermark High as a documentation of my life through sound and perhaps a legacy on more of a micro scale, in terms of the people close to me or people who have genuinely connected with what I do.
DYD: What do envision for yourself or perhaps hope to achieve within the rest of this year?
Paul (The Watermark High): Just general progression I guess. I am constantly writing new stuff and try to make each track better than the last. I am also planning on putting a lot of effort into getting my live execution sorted. Other than that, I am hoping to do another official release by the end of the year…whether that’s going to be another EP or perhaps a concept single maybe, I am not sure. But yeah, 2014 will just see me working basically.
DYD: Lastly is there anything that you want to say to the people reading this?
Paul (The Watermark High): There is so much noise to try and cut through out there, and if you enjoy or have checked out any of my music, I want to thank you for listening. I know there are a lot of stuff you could be listening to instead. Facebook pages are getting more and more useless so if you are interested and want to be kept up to date via the occasional e-mail, please join my mailing list from my website or follow me on SoundCloud.
Thanks for the interest and interview Drop Your Drink!