Without a doubt, Yheti is one of the most unmistakable electronic music artists. His sound design and composition skills are derived from endless influences. His music is both alluring yet driving; otherworldly, yet so familiarly secular. While his music packs a densely metaphysical punch, Yheti has a down-to-earth heart full of light. In celebration of Noetic Sunrise, Yheti granted Electric Hawk the honor of his fifth interview ever, recorded live at The Untz Festival.
Toni Nittolo, Electric Hawk: There’s a really unique and distinct sound about your sets – the setlist and how you transition between songs. Would you mind further expanding on how you put together a set and how you know that the set fits the environment?
Yheti: It’s a combination of doing things that people are familiar with doing things that are new to people. I’ve been going to parties for 15 years or so; every time a DJ does something that I see creates a noticeable crowd reaction in people, I always take note of it and try to integrate it into my set. And every time I’m producing a track, I always imagine it as a piece of a puzzle or part of a bigger picture. So it’s a combination of years of learning different things that could be effective to people and then trying to utilize all of those within an hour.
Where I play that it really just depends on my history, the area, and what I’ve noticed people respond to the best. If I’m playing a show with a heavy dubstep artist, I’m obviously going to play heavier stuff. But if I’m playing a show with Charles[thefirst], I’m gonna play more melodic, vibey stuff.
Yheti: In the South, heavy dubstep is still fairly new to a lot of people; whereas, on the West Coast and East Coast, they’ve had heavy dubstep for 10 or so years. Skrillex caused a massive shift, and there was this change even before Skrillex. I lived in San Francisco around 2011, and there were three different dubstep weeklies every week. Oh my gosh, there were different national headliners every week, and they were playing super heavy dubstep.
So when Skrillex came out, it wasn’t anything new to me. But for a lot of people across the country, he was branding it, making it more mainstream and extremely accessible to people. All those styles existed long before he released “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.” Playing heavy dubstep on the West coast, people will have already heard it for so long. They’re not necessarily as excited by it. In the South, or Texas and Florida, people still get very excited about heavy stuff.
TN: The underground appears to be where all the innovation happens, and mainstream artists derive influence from that; an artist tuned into the underground is able to take that to a greater platform. Would you agree? What is your perspective on that?
Yheti: Absolutely. I think all cultural innovations come from these underground festivals. These places with authentic expression, people experimenting and trying to push the envelope forward of what people are comfortable with. Then, when something really works, people who are very business-minded will imitate it. In my view, a lot of the mainstream people – probably 80% of them – are imitations of the underground. Then they learn how to develop this brand around it. It’s a product, but all of it is derived from the underground and up-and-coming producers. There’s only a handful of really popular people who I feel are actually innovators.
TN: By that extension, who in the underground do you think is innovating this corner of electronic music? Who are popular artists doing the same thing?
Yheti: In the underground right now, LITTLE SNAKE, Charlesthefirst and the rest of LAB GROUP (Potions). DMVU is really forward-thinking, and he has a really wide skill range. I wish I could think of more people; there’s a lot of people who are pushing it forward. In terms of more popular people, I would say G Jones and EPROM.
Obviously, Aphex Twin is probably the most popular person who’s constantly innovating. There are certain people, like Tipper, who is a huge innovator; there’s a whole genre – something like 200 musicians – who do what he did. [Tipper] was a huge innovator. Only a handful of people not imitating things, doing what will sell tickets; they’re intentionally trying to challenge people’s expectations and stuff. There are innovators in every genre and style, all over the world. Alix Perez is another really big one. He’s a champion.
TN: So many underground producers are toying with drum and bass, even though it’s not their primary genre. [At The Untz], we’ve already heard so much like drum and bass, and it’s starting to really blossom in America. It’s cool to see Alix Perez flying the flag for many artists’ drum and bass inspiration, while also helping some American fans embrace the genre.
TN: Generally, people are becoming more open to multi-genre sets and challenging rhythms/patterns. Do you think underground artists populating several COVID live streams helped bring a greater variety of genres to the forefront coming into this latest festival season?
Yheti: The thing about a live stream – people are watching from the comfort of their homes. They already feel as if they’re in a comfortable environment, so you can challenge people’s comfort zones more. Whereas, at a show, you’re surrounded by hundreds of people. You can feel slightly overwhelmed or anxious because of all the stimuli. It’s better to play minimal music on a sound system at a party because it centers your vibe and makes you take any complexity and minimize it.
But when you’re at home, you’re already in your comfort zone. You want something that’s going to challenge your expectations and almost make you feel more stimulated. In a home listening environment, people are open to more complex rhythm; they watched those live streams at home and became more comfortable with it. Now when they hear a multi-genre set live, they’re gonna respond more positively to it. Yeah, I think the live streams definitely helped push people’s conditioning of complex music.
TN: What song from your discography is your personal favorite?
Yheti: I have a new track that’s called “New Perception” on my album, Noetic Sunrise, that’s coming out July 1. It’s in 6/8 timing. The time signature and the chord progression make it really interesting. It’s my favorite track because the 6/8 timing track my favorite creates a really unique rhythm. For my older stuff, “Crack the Window.” That track was super effective.
When I wrote that track, I was trying to write a dubstep song that, instead of having a heavy wobble bass, was the thinnest bass sound that you can make. It’s supposed to be a funny dubstep song. That’s my biggest tune, and I personally like it a lot. It seems like everyone else likes it a lot, too. I have around 160 released tracks, and I like all of them.
TN: Do you have a musical background before electronic music? Are you classically trained in any way?
Yheti: When I was a teenager, I played classical guitar. I also played guitar in a couple of metal bands. During recess, I would hang out in the music room and play the piano. Then I took a handful of music theory classes, and I also played drums and keyboard every day. I do understand music theory and use that knowledge a lot for my productions.
TN: What books have you been reading recently?
Yheti: I’ve been doing these five-mile walks every day, and I listen to audiobooks. I recently listened to this book that was called The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by a Vietnamese Buddhist named Thich Nhat Hanh. That helped alter my perception to create these really nice positive feedback loops in my consciousness that have been really useful for my productivity. On top of that, I’ve been listening to this book called This Is Your Brain on Music [by Daniel Levitin], which details the neuroscience of how music is affecting the brain on a biological level.
As well as, there’s this book called The Organized Mind [by Daniel Levitin], which is the neuroscience of attention, attention span, and productivity. It’s really altered my perception and helped me refine my understanding of how music and attention are working on a fundamental, physical level. Understanding that stuff helped me become more efficient with my daily energy.
TN: Would you mind further explaining a little bit of the biology behind how music affects a person?
Yheti: One of the most interesting things is hearing music and that repetition; when you can predict the repetition, it releases dopamine in the brain. Also, when you really feel comforted by the music, it releases oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin is the love chemical. That’s why often, fans fall in love with DJs. A DJ doesn’t even have to be playing their own music; as long as they’re whoever you’re making eye contact with while you’re listening to music, you will fall in love with them while the music is playing.
Something else I learned in The Organized Mind is that every decision that you make requires a neurotransmitter load, even if your brain can’t really distinguish between important decisions and nonimportant decisions. What I found is scrolling through social media, every time you’re on there deciding to respond or not respond really drains your mind. Looking at your phone, checking things often, depletes all your neurotransmitters. You only have a certain amount of it every day before you have to go to sleep and recharge. So, I’ve been thinking about how to efficiently use all the energy that I have every day. I work five or six hours before I get on the internet. Every day.
TN: I learned that when you’re looking at somebody that you love while enjoying different sensory stimuli, it can enhance that experience. If you were looking at your partner while drinking coffee, it would make that coffee taste different or better.
Yheti: Absolutely, absolutely. People use that in branding and commercials all the time where most people have a visual appreciation for attractive people. They’ll show you what they’re trying to sell you, but then attach something really beautiful to it to simulate [the viewer]. Pretty much to make you release the happy chemicals that go along with it. Music is the same way when you have good dancers or visuals that are moving along; it helps you understand it on a deeper level when you can see things move with the music.
TN: Do you think that understanding on a deeper level is entirely personal? Maybe that the person taking in that stimuli is maybe tapping into specifically what the artist wanted out of that experience, or perhaps a collective unconsciousness?
Yheti: The experience is very symbiotic. I feel as if all the beauty that happens in the art is happening in the brain of the observer; without the observer, the art is subjectively meaningless. I think some people credit the art too much for the beauty that’s happening in the experience. The observer deserves a lot more credit for being the vessel having the experience. Without the observer, the beauty wouldn’t exist, because the art is subjectively just a random collection of vibrations. Well, it’s not random, it’s intentional. But without the observer, it doesn’t have really any value.
The experiences that they have are what really motivates me to continue doing what I do and to be so passionate about it. I can see that they’re having these unique, beautiful experiences. When they tell me about them, it inspires me to want to write music that will trigger those experiences. Without the feedback from the observers, it would feel way more like work. Or, it wouldn’t be as special.
TN: Would you call yourself an introvert or an extrovert?
Yheti: I’m definitely an introvert. In most situations in society, I feel really alienated and strange. I’m usually really quiet and shy. What I love about the festival culture is it makes me feel comfortable and safe being extroverted. It’s really healthy for introverts to be in an environment where they can feel extroverted, connected with people, and comfortable expressing themselves purely. Its ability to make introverts and shy people feel confident, to express themselves, and to talk freely among people.
TN: You briefly mentioned your album earlier. Would you mind talking about that more?
Yheti: I’ve been working on music pretty frequently since the pandemic began last March. I picked out eight tracks that are very intentionally for a sunrise setting and some vibey tracks. Those, I probably spend 40 hours on each one. It’s all really chill type stuff. The album is called Noetic Sunrise, and it comes out on July 1. It’s hard to explain explain it without the showing people the audio, because I feel words won’t properly do it justice, but I’m excited for everyone to hear it.
TN: If you could say one nice thing to your brother [Toadface] right now, what would it be?
Yheti: His track, “Elders,” is so good. I played one of his tracks on the sound system last night and it just sounded so crisp and clean – super beautiful. He’s such a champion at what he does.
Yheti has a mind that craves new growth and knowledge, and this is immediately apparent throughout his discography. Yheti’s sound is as unique as his mind and as big as his heart. Noetic Sunrise reflects his endless curiosity and love, while also showcasing sound design that is so uniquely him.
Listen to all of Noetic Sunrise, the latest EP by Yheti, below!
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