Deep talks with Hiyarant / Enough Weapons
Stuart Vermaak is a Cape Town music producer. He has two main production monikers; Hiyarant which is his psytrance project and Enough Weapons, a more experimental electronic project which he co-produces with long time friend and producer, Dave Love.
Hiyarant may be the project he is better known for as this has taken him to all corners of the globe to perform his music. Enough Weapons, though, continues to release on international labels and break new ground outside the confines of psytrance.
Hiyarant is a highly recognisable name in the Cape Town psy scene too and Stuart’s 15 odd years of producing makes him one of the most interesting and colourful personalities to chat to.
Having only ever interviewed him once before when he was fairly new on the scene, there’s been a lot of I’ve wanted to ask…
Great art is never finished, merely abandoned.”
This project is my ‘no compromise’ project. I write what I want to and hope people like it.”
First question: Where does the name Hiyarant come from?
Hiyarant: The name ‘Hiyarant’ is what I wanted to call ‘Smugg Juggler’ when I was playing bass for that band… None of the other guys liked it though, so we called the band ‘Smugg’ and later when I needed a name to submit psy tracks under I used ‘Hiyarant.’ It came from nowhere, it’s made up.
You have a brand new Hiyarant EP out on Japanese label – Terror Lab Industries called ONE MOMENT OF CLARITY. It’s an interesting name for the EP considering there is no track by that name. Was there a moment of clarity that made you name the EP that?
Hiyarant: In an abstract way, yes…There was a moment, but it had nothing to do with the EP…
Short answer: Yes, but it’s difficult to explain.
I’m also curious that on the Terror Lab Industries SoundCloud page they tagged the release as Dance & EDM – listening to the release I can certainly hear where your music crossed the divide into EDM. Is this where you want to be? What are your thoughts about Hiyarant performing to more EDM/Industrial dance music dancefloors?
Hiyarant: I honestly think that there is more musical freedom within less limited, less defined genres
of music.The main goal of an artist should always be to create something original so, even though I have projects that cross that focus on other electronic styles a lot more then Hiyarant does, I would love to perform this live act on different dancefloors. I think EDM is pretty much limitless and industrial elements in music is something I have always been drawn to. So, yes, this is where I would like to be.
To me Hiyarant epitomises what is often referred to as ‘lazer trance,’ due to the swishing lazer leads that dominate the style. Are you comfortable with this tag?
Hiyarant: That tag is used mostly by people who do not enjoy the ‘controlled chaos’ of the SA night style in my opinion.
I am not really comfortable with it, no…probably because it is used in a negative sense usually and was never used when psychedelic was more popular. However if I am viewed as the epitome of a style, it means my music has been accepted on a large enough scale to be seen that way, so…I don’t really take offense to the term because it is in essence a generalisation; fans of the style call it ‘psychedelic.’
I feel my music is unmistakeable if nothing else and there are equal tags for other styles. People need to define the music somehow.
Of course, each to their own, but a dancefloor punter would consider pop music heresy…
I love most styles of music, I find elements in most styles that I enjoy and appreciate, for example; pop music is really well produced, progressive house is about the production and dancefloor reaction when played at 120 BPM, metal is spontaneous and I’ve seen them all work, enjoyed them before and appreciate their results.
SA producers like Deliriant and Rubix Qube have both adjusted their sound a bit (in my opinion) to what (I assume) is what they consider more accessible right now – i.e. more bass & kick and less layers, yet still maintaining their signature sound. In this context, do you ever think about the Hiyarant sound in terms of gigs or do you just write what you feel?
Hiyarant: This project is my ‘no compromise’ project. I write what I want to and hope people like it. I have not taken anyone’s opinion into account and remained completely selfish on an artist’s level although I definitely have made changes.
I have only gone deeper into where that music comes from and refined it slightly.
I could go on about this topic for ages…
There are projects of mine where I go down a different rabbit hole though and take a less selfish approach which I am really enjoying.
… when we finally unleash the beast, we will be on all the popular line-ups, all the big ones here and abroad.”
Interestingly enough, although you’ve sustained a consistent style with Hiyarant, by contrast your collab project with Dave Love – Enough Weapons has proved quite experimental. Your latest release is Electro House, but previously you’ve done quite a bit of breaks, glitch hop, electronica etc. Is Enough Weapons a pleasant release from the confines of what you do with Hiyarant?
Hiyarant: Enough Weapons is without any limitation, indeed a release from the confines of that dark, serious place that Hiyarant originates from, yes. I want to take this type of thinking (experimentation) within my music to the next level. I think that the limits we place on …let’s say, trance in general, are not healthy and counter productive as far as art goes.
The psy community, and indeed Capetonians in general, are viewed as, and are supposed to be open-minded, and we are open about most things, but… all too often I hear closed mindedness when we are speaking about music.
I do accept that the listener has a different perspective and is entitled to their opinion, of course, but I think there is always room for improvement in everything.
Minimal techno and deep house are the biggest genres in dance music right now (outside commercial EDM). Have you ever thought about producing any of these styles? Outside of rigid genres like psy, it seems one can comfortably use an artist moniker for multiple styles of music…
I have considered it and indeed we, as Enough Weapons, have had some success with, not deep house or techno, but various styles. We’ve released on PLAY ME REC(USA) and on ADAPTED REC(AUS)as well as others…I stand to be corrected but I think we have had at least 6 international releases this year that have all done fairly well, most charting top 50.
About commercial EDM, or EDM in general, I don’t think SA has a clear idea of what the ‘genre’ actually is. I have an underground taste in music and some of my favourite acts are classified as EDM, for example KNIFE PARTY who are coming to SA for Rocking the Daisies.
To sum it up, I want to make what’s next and reach a huge audience with my art and that requires commercial elements at least and I like that. I like catchy stuff, but most of all I want to make unique music.
What type of event do you visualize Enough Weapons performing at these days? Something like Grietfest? Ultra Fest? Or something more underground?
Hiyarant: THE BIGGEST SHOWS IN THE WORLD.
Yes, Grietfest (played Griet stages before), Ultra fest (played the 3rd stage in 2014).
I wish we were playing Rocking the Daisies (played it before) and indeed I think when we finally unleash the beast, we will be on all the popular line-ups, all the big ones here and abroad. That is what my goal as an artist is.
Underground sounds go mainstream all the time. Skrillex became popular with a fusion of very heavy, underground music and mainstream elements.
The Oversight Video Blog
Too many of my experiences have gone undocumented, and I regret this.”
You have no less than 78 episodes of your Video blog on YouTube now. Tell me about when and why you decided to launch this daily video blog series.
Hiyarant: I started in May this year and there are so many reasons why.
The main ones being promotion of Enough Weapons and other projects I’m involved in and to share some knowledge… I wish I’d started earlier; I would have had all the content in the world by now…but I also want to document the road from here to where I’m going as an artist, as an art piece, a collection of short films, because I have never seen anything like that before… If I really make it huge,it would be awesome on top of that.
Too many of my experiences have gone undocumented, and I regret this.
You wouldn’t believe me if I told you what happened in Costa Rica… or what the federal district in Mexico City is like…or Japan…I really do wish I started vlogging the day I got the first call to play.
It seems like quite a bit of work every day to edit and get ready before uploading. Is it?
Hiyarant: Yes sir, it is a lot of work, but I like work…most people are striving for free time and I understand this, but I am striving for insane art pieces, mad music and videos to complete it.
The Vlog is all about being creative.
So it’s both a creative outlet for you and a marketing tool?
Hiyarant: It is both.I enjoy everything I do, otherwise I don’t do it (I’m lucky) but in order to really enjoy and really achieve,I need to really promote/market my music as well. I need more people to hear my music…always more…I’m sure it’s a common challenge for artists.
It’s well put together. You clearly know your way around editing software. Are you self taught?
Hiyarant: Completely self taught and nowhere near where I want to be on the editing software. (I can do even better than in the vlogs, videos coming soon but… always more)
I haven’t even scratched the surface of film making; I have many ideas on how I will make the vlogs better and indeed how I will make the beats better (not as easy).
You call it The Oversight. What’s the meaning of the name?
Hiyarant: It is kind of literal. It has to do with the way I unintentionally make small mistakes.
As an artist within the art and how nothing is ever finished.
“Great art is never finished, merely abandoned.”
One of the motivating aspects is to complete an art piece every day, to be constantly creative…
So the raw definition of an oversight is something I often experience in my art and is related to my life in a small way. For example “the mass amount of distortion on that filtered lazer was an oversight…I was already busy with the next track, get on with it…”
I decided on the 10th of May that I would start vlogging on the 11th so… the name was chosen quickly and I very well might change it.
My channel on YouTube carries the name “Stuartvermaak” (one word, not that other guy)
So I’m free to do what I like as far as naming the short films go…it will probably change at some point.
Everybody loves Cape Town and our artists are starting to break through, even mediocre ones…”
Is the global psy scene all it’s cracked up to be and do you think it still holds as much relevance today than maybe in the early 2000’s when you discovered it?
Hiyarant: Parties are really big internationally…’psy’ as we like to know it… is not really what they are in my opinion.[But] when you say ‘relevance;’ they may be perceived in different ways but their relevance is always there because they are treated as an escape by most people who attend them and more and more people are looking to escape of late because … [well] many reasons so they mean different things to different people.
Dance music simply does not sell enough to be financially viable without the gigs and South Africa is too small to sustain niche genres. What’s the solution as the music producer?
Hiyarant: A difficult Question.
To create undeniable music and tour it.
The world is a small place. Everybody loves Cape Town and our artists are starting to break through, even mediocre ones… So the solution is to create something that is undeniable and original.
I see it like this…
Cape Town may be a really small pond, but it’s easy to see a big fish in a small pond, especially when the world really is looking at Cape Town.
You’ll see SA producers making waves internationally…
Drake’s new single is at #1 and it was produced by a South African.
Artists with Dubstep number ones, and deep house number ones, artists people hardly know of, again I could go on.
I don’t really have the answer at this point, I do hope to share that with you in the future, but what I am trying to do is what I feel the way forward is; making better and better music and making videos… working together to create awesome art, and focussing on international platforms because [as you say] SA is too small in many ways.