Hamburg, Germany-based producer Bruno Brocker, better known by his nome-de-DJ Qoiet, began releasing dark electronic dance music in 2016. The titles of his early releases — “Inquisition,” “Gehenna,” etc. — hint at Brocker’s musical career before he stepped into electronic music. Brocker played drums in extreme metal bands throughout his adolescence, and lovingly included influences from evil rock into his music. Those influences and more, including trap, hip hop and industrial, all show up on Brocker’s first full-length Lp as Qoiet, “Absurd” released digitally earlier this year. DOPE hopped onto a Skype call with Brocker to discuss his death metal roots, his emotional and genre-agnostic approach to production, and his live shows … oh, and of course, the state of cannabis in Hamburg.
DOPE Magazine: I want to start with the electronic dance music-metal overlap. Where did you come into that? Were you a metalhead first and then got into DJing or were you more into electronic music and then you hear Excision and think, “Oh, Excision used to be in a death metal band,” and then you start listening to deathcore? How’d it work for you?
Bruno Brocker: Yeah, I was a metalhead full-on. I’ve been listening to metal since I was 13 years old or something like that and I’ve been drumming ever since I was 11. I’ve been playing in various death metal and metalcore bands. I was in three bands at one point in time. I and a few friends had this weird little band project — we were really experimental. One day I was playing with one of these sample pads, and it had like one weird dubstep-ish sound. We said, “Yeah, let’s do that with a breakdown.” Later that day, I realized that I had Garageband on my Mac and figured out how to make a drop sound from a low note from a piano. From that point on, I was really into like electronic music. What I always wanted to do is vocals in bands. I was always the drummer because there’s a lack of drummers. One band didn’t like my voice — that kind of shit. So, I wanted to be l really serious with music, and I also wanted to do vocals, so I figured I’d just do it myself.
That makes a lot of sense. Every drummer is in like five bands.
You weren’t even able to do vocals if you wanted to, because [my bandmates] would say “Well, then we don’t have a drummer.” Also, a few bands were not serious enough for what I wanted to achieve. Then, I only did dubstep, not a lot of screaming in there for quite some time. I was developing my production skills and trying out different directions musically.
In the end, I got back to the metal influence. Dubstep songs are so drop-focused. If the song is 3 minutes and 40 seconds long, only one minute of the whole song really matters, because that’s the drop and the rest is the intro, outro, and stuff. It’s just a lot of waiting time for the next drop to happen. I want to make music that is interesting from the first second to the last. I want to be able to play a whole song in a club without people being like, “This is like going to be like 1 minute 30 of waiting time and then the next drop is going to come in.”
Well, the album’s got a lot of variation on it. The last track, “Stare EMPTY” is just a piano. I don’t think it’s acoustic, but I think the samples are acoustic.
That’s correct. I wrote that in like with MIDI notes, but really in detail. I was setting every single velocity the way I thought it could be played and I wanted to play it. I’ve been playing piano for six years. I’m bad at it, but I’ve been playing, and I’ve got an understanding of how somebody would maybe play it. So that’s the way I wrote it — I did my best to make it sound as acoustic as possible.
It’s got a melancholic, serious mood whereas earlier parts of the record are much more energetic and aggressive. You really cover a lot of ground in your music for a debut album.
Yes, it’s my first full album. I only did a few EPs before that.
Well, it’s a very accomplished debut. Congratulations.
Thank you so much.
I also thought the vocals were interesting, both the metal screams and that you incorporated rapping in an interesting sinister way. You recorded all the vocals yourself, right?
Yeah. Yeah, I did all the vocals on the album. I don’t think there’s a single word in there that I didn’t record. Maybe a few of the melodies are me singing really badly, but they’re pitchy in a way that I like it.
The low vocal rapping reminds me of artists like Ghostmane.
Oh yeah. That’s like the other way around, isn’t it? Some people are incorporating like rap into metal records, and then people are like incorporating metal vocals into rap records— Ghostmane, Sxrlord, these kinds of people.
I enjoy that style very much, and it seems that you’re sort of tapping into that while also keeping the dance music element intact.
I really like dubstep for what it is, and I enjoy like rap and I also enjoy metal. So I figured I’d do just whatever I felt was right. I didn’t have a certain plan where “This album is going to be exactly that. I’m trying to catch these kinds of beats with it.” I just was doing whatever I like.
When you’re working with all these disparate sonic elements, how do you make sure that you’re expressing yourself the whole time and it’s recognizable?
Oh, that’s a good question. I don’t know. When I work on any song, I’m just sitting down with it; I’m not trying to go for a certain feel. Obviously, we all are influenced by whatever we listen to, so you can’t really say, “This is all just me.” You’re not going to write any music if you’ve never heard any song before. But I think it’s just an emotional feel to the music I’m making, and I hope that’s what makes it sounds like me. There’s not a particular sound or anything that I really enjoy. It’s not like all my dubstep drops have this certain variation of one sound and, that’s how I try to make them sound like “me.” I’m just like working on sounds until I like them and then use them. That’s the same with the vocals, the flow, or the melody in rock writing. I don’t care about trying to make it sound in a certain way but just making a song satisfy me.
Do you perform mostly with other dance acts, or do you perform with metal acts or like a mix of the two?
I only perform with dance acts. I’m not sure if that will stay like that entirely. I could imagine performing a metal show, too, as long as people attending are open minded. Because I know now and then I read a comment from like a narrow-minded metal head being like, “Ah, this is not trve.” [Editor’s note: “trve,” pronounced “true,” is online metal fan slang for something authentic, or of high quality.] There are also deathcore elements in there, which is not trve in the first place. And then there are rap elements, which is the worst thing you can do, to one of those kinds of people. I respect that they don’t enjoy it, but I’m perfectly fine with it. You can’t satisfy everyone. And if you try to, the music you’re producing ends up being uninspired and not new.
When you perform live, what’s your setup?
My live set up is just us two or four CDJs, or however many are there. I can do it with two. More than two is better, of course. I try to stay very minimalistic. I don’t want to have too many buttons to push and to carry with me. I just have a microphone plugged into the CDJ into the mixer or a cordless to perform the vocals live on the songs I’m playing. I want to do my vocals live because I think it adds a great element and puts more of me into the performance. Instead of me playing my songs, it’s more like me performing my songs. What rappers do is they have a DJ behind them playing their song while they rap on top of it and all the songs are play backed. I figure that’s perfectly fine for them to do because they do not perform every single bit of vocals, but I’m trying to perform the song while DJing the song. It’s really tough to do both the whole time. I could do just the vocals with like backing track with no vocals on it if I had another guy DJing, but I also want to DJ as well because that’s a lot of fun, too. I’m trying to fit doing live vocals, being the DJ, and jumping around on stage all in one. That’s why I think less is more in terms of the buttons I have to push — that’s not really what I want to do. It’s also that — as I said before — I drummed in metal bands for so long, and what I did was carrying my whole drum set around all day. I’m just really tired of taking stuff with me, setting up and having a lot of like baggage with me.
I think it would be very engaging to see you perform the drum parts live.
That would be fun, but how am I supposed to DJ with the drums and the vocals?
I don’t know — I was going to ask you that same question.
In the end, I’d look like a one-man band. You know, the ones you see on the street being like playing harmonica and guitar and singing, and with their feet playing drums as well?
There’s not any space to move, and in the end, it’s dance music, so I don’t want to just be standing around looking at people. You want to give the energy to the people or at least give back what they put out when they are moshing or whatever. You don’t want to be just standing there like a robot playing the songs.
You said that the metalheads are sometimes cagey, which I get. I was a little unsure at first. But it seems like other people in the electronic realm are really into it. It looks like “Absurd” has been pretty well received.
I think especially in the dubstep community people are really open-minded. Not everybody, but most people [in the dubstep community] either listened to rap before or to metal because dubstep is a really heavy sort of dance music. It speaks to the same sort of people. It’s been received really, really well and without a lot of, “This is different. I don’t like it,” but instead a lot of, “This is different. I really like that,” or “It’s incorporating what I like into dubstep.” Which is great because I’ve just been doing music for myself, what I want to do and really enjoy. I just want to put that out there — instead of just trying to be a good dubstep act and copying what works for other people, I just wanted to do whatever I like. So, it’s really great to see that people actually get into it and get an emotion from it. That’s like the best part of it, honestly. I don’t really care if somebody is like, “Oh, this is metal. I like it,” or “This is screaming, I don’t like it.” There are some people who were saying, “Oh, this is all the screamo things. I don’t really enjoy the screaming itself, but it really does give me a sort of emotion.” That’s a huge compliment for me because I’d rather put out an emotion than just satisfy people with a genre.
We should probably talk about what exactly the emotion is because it’s not a very happy album.
No, it’s not.
What was going through your head when you were writing it, what were you trying to express?
That’s tough from song to song. It’s a critical view on life, but it’s not necessarily just a sad album, though it has a sad and deep vibe to it. Some parts sound really depressed or whatever you might call it, but also have a lot of things you realize on there. For example, the song that’s called “dig GOLD.” It has a really aggressive intro, which is full of like anger right off the bat. But then the second verse is sort of deep, even though the vibes are really angry. It’s a realization. That particular song is about that you can’t really find happiness in money. Though there’s a lot of stuff that is going in a very dark direction, the core essence of it is that there’s a lot of things you can be pissed about, but in the end it’s more about being happy with yourself as you are, even though that’s not what shines through at first.
I think that’s pretty typical of a lot of metal music. People think it’s angrier than it actually is.
So, having never been to Hamburg where you live, is cannabis very difficult to obtain?
No, I don’t think it is. It’s not legal, but it’s on the verge of becoming legal, sort of. It’s not officially legal, but it’s not dangerous, and everybody knows that. If you are smoking cannabis over here, nobody except for maybe some very old people are judging you in any kind of way. I think that’s typical for every country. It’s like when people drink alcohol when they’re 17. They’re not supposed to, but everybody still knows they’re doing it.
What does the connection between cannabis music mean to you?
That’s kind of funny because listening to music and smoking is different than working on music and smoking. I can’t really do anything when I work on music as a producer [when I’m stoned]. I don’t want to end up in a state where I think I need a certain level of whatever when I’m working on anything. I want the music to be 100% me, not me on anything. But enjoying a different part of life with [cannabis] is completely different. Listening to music is completely different from working on it. When I’m working on music, even though some parts sound really like I didn’t care, it took me so long to make them sound like I didn’t care. When there’s emotion in a song, I want the like spectrum to sound just like that. When the song is angry, I want everything to be like it a little bit, not over distorted, not perfectly correct. I’m really trying to nail it 100% the way I want it to sound, and that’s tough when you’re stoned.