California-bred Robert Yang, also known as Bézier, is an American DJ and producer recognised for being one of the earliest members of the queer San Francisco musical collective, Honey Soundsystem. Producing under multiple aliases and heading three successful record labels, Bodyzone, miv. (short for mémoire involontaire), and his most recent endeavour, Piece of Work, Bézier has been making serious moves in the San Francisco scene for just over a decade. Now toggling between Berlin and SF, the American artist continues to expand his sound and vision into a cohesive yet dynamic mosaic.
Bézier’s productions walk the line between soft and hard, emotive and gritty. From their early interest in braindance and IDM, to their dance-forward proclivities as a HNY DJ, Bézier’s influences are wide-ranging, resulting in music that is carefree as it is relentless. Having released a plethora of high-quality records over the past few years, Bézier returns to his miv. label with a genre-bending EP called “Continuum”. As a continued line of sonic thought, the EP follows the dance-forward collaboration with Vin Sol. Its dynamic range creates a small multiverse, and is very much an expression of Bézier’s progression and versatility as an artist. Pulling from leftfield techno to electro to dark disco, this release showcases grittier works that retain playful, potent energy. Vigorous and effectual, it is primed to ignite any dance floor.
How are you? And what have you been getting up to recently?
I’m doing well. In general, like most people, I am making the best out of an awful situation. There were feelings of impending doom and I figured out workflows to get out of a certain funk. Depending on how you look at it, how much funding and assistance you’re getting – it could be a lot or worse or it could be an extended summer break, back when we were teenagers except, well, cloistered af.
As an artist, how has the last year has impacted your creativity levels and how do you keep yourself motivated?
Obviously, survival instincts kicked, and I realized the only real opportunity to better my case is simply to organize my thoughts. Over 5 hours of music completed between 2016 and 2019 were sitting in my external drive. After edits and cutting floor casualties I charted a release plan. I’ve thought very carefully about how I would release them. I didn’t want to make orphans of tracks so I spent a good deal deciding how to catalog them. Of course, like many, motivation is also at the whims of a pandemic brain. Starting any new sessions terrified me probably because of dread or some low-key depression. Recently, I started writing new music with a partner and hopefully this sets the tone for something special soon.
Your new “Continuum” EP is a wonderfully unique and dynamic listen. How would you describe the overall sound and individual tracks?
The entire release, the way the tracks are organized are a reflection of the time I lived in Orange County in the late 90s, going to college, watching surf videos on loop with my flatmates, building a hydroponic system in our closets, driving out to Joshua Tree, listening to Front242 on a road trip to Big Sur and taking acid. I guess, in a word, psychedelic.
We understand the likes of Autechre have been a huge influence for you, what have been other key influences for producing music and “Continuum” in particular?
Autechre was a catalyst to making music in 1998 when I was going to UC Irvine. I don’t know why the CD case for LP5 (which I found at the Tower Records in Newport Beach) spoke to me. It had no images and was simply slate gray and their weird name but playing the first track ‘Acroyear2’ my brain was rewired. When I got a hold of soulseek (post Napster lawsuit) on my computer I was downloading entire catalogs (like Warp Records) on my dialup. Other influences I can say are: seeing the Pet Shop Boys live for the first time surrounded by a group of dancing shirtless Spanish bears at Sonar in 2002, Mixed up in Hague by I-F – my soundtrack for moving to San Francisco and soon thereafter becoming close friends with Jeffery Sfire. All these (and more) set a lot of things in motion, musically, for me.
What was the creative and production process behind the record?
When I sit down and begin work on new music, I try not to overthink. Hooks are made in short bursts with a limited window (like 10 min) and I move on to a new session. Once I have a cache of starters (20 to 30 projects) I start scaffolding individual projects to get an idea where a composition is headed. When the structures are in place I start to improvise based on whatever key signature can be discerned either by drum tunings or initial melodies.
If you had to pick a favourite track from the EP, which one would it be and why?
Surfing the Wedge is a title that refers to The Wedge on Balboa Island. It’s a very dangerous surfing spot that my friends from College took me to go bodysurfing. I would never dare to venture out beyond the tides. There were strong barrels that tumbled at you if you got close enough. In fact, I witnessed someone getting rescued out of a whirlpool once. But the track makes me think of a very gothy title theme of a police procedural series set on the shores of a populous tropical island.
Released on your very own miv. label – what is the philosophy behind the imprint and where do you hope to take it in the future?
With miv. (pronounced em-eye-vhee, short for mémoire involontaire) I worked with Benedikt Rugar who is well known for his collaborations with Cocktail d’Amore and for his sharp illustrations for the New York Times. The logo itself was designed by Rugar’s studio partner Diego Scaro. For this I wanted something very personal and reflective that constantly peeled back deeper meaning with the releases. The style is fluid á la Bézier curves so I tried to keep the direction for the creatives free form and flexible. Forecasting into the future there will be more releases and more collaborations as the label matures.
What’s the first thing you’d like to do post-pandemic and do you have any more releases lined up for 2021?
Mostly, I am thinking of a big road trip up and down California and getting the rest of my belongings out of storage. My main studio is in tatters all over the state, it would be nice to reorganize that a bit. For the rest of the year there will be a few more surprises in store as far as releases go.
“Continuum” is out on miv. and is available to buy from Bandcamp.
1. Coto de Caza
2. Surfing The Wedge
3. Snap Into Focus