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16.10.2018 | Words by: Angelina Nikolayeva

Amsterdam producers Robbert van der Bildt (aka Kaap) and Boris Acket are better known together as Working Titles: a live act and label with the same name. Since the duo’s debut last year, they have been dishing out their analog sound in Amsterdam and beyond. After their first show in the garden, they return to De School for another weekender: this time, in Het Muzieklokaal. I sat down with Robbert and Boris in-between their rehearsals to grab  lunch on the sunlit terrace of Café DS and talk about their projects, upcoming album, favorite gear and the role of improvisation in their music.

Q: First of all, how long have you guys known each other?

Boris: We met about 5 years ago, when I was playing a live set in a club in Utrecht. Robbert was just at the start of YIELD records and he wanted to release some of my music. That never happened. Since then, we’ve been talking a lot about music, and later on started to mix our own records in his studio in Utrecht.

Robbert: And gradually we moved towards producing music together and talking about the whole process of it. At the time, we were both in a bit of a creative block: every time we made music we ended up in a loop that never became a song. The process was becoming very frustrating. So, we thought about the ways to force ourselves out of this loop, and we decided to take a bit of a different approach: playing music like musicians instead of programming it as producers. 

Q: That’s how you decided to shift your focus towards live music?

Robbert: We both had already been playing live, but we mostly relied on a software for making clips of certain beats and melodies, and triggering loops. 

Boris: The difference is that when you play live you are forced to react right away, as opposed to producing in the studio: you program it and then listen back to what you’ve made.

Robbert: You can’t go back anymore. Instead of having to stop each time to make adjustments, you do that along the way while the music progresses.

Q: So, all of your sets are fully improvised?

Robbert: Yeah, but we do prepare. We try to approach it more like a band; their way of working is similar to what we do with our tools in our own way. We have our own guitar or a bass with a certain sound, but the content is always made on the spot. 

Q: How do you make sure that you both follow the same direction during a performance?

Robbert: Listening. That’s the most important part of it all.

Boris: If one of us isn’t listening, we’ll go our separate ways. 

Robbert: Then it sounds like shit (laughs). We need to listen to what’s happening; if he makes a drum groove, I compliment it with a baseline, if it’s not there yet. Maybe he’s already making the bassline, but if I’m quicker I just put it in. 

Boris: And I might get an idea for something to fill in the highs, filter them.

Robbert: It’s like a game of ping pong, basically …

Boris: To us this is similar to how jazz musicians play: we search and explore, then something comes out of it and it seems like we are on track, and then we get lost again. 

Q: It’s like a never-ending journey.

Robert: Exactly. That’s why the name is Working Titles. The track never finishes. 

Q: How would you describe your sound yourself?

Robbert: It goes from house to techno, and a lot of ambient as well. But the most significant part is the way we work. 

Boris: Yes, the style is dictated by the process and the machines. The sets we like to generate are quite “Detroit-y”, such as our Poise release. The way we work is inspired by the way they produce in Detroit: let the machines talk and react on that.

Q: Tell us a bit more about your label. What are you currently working on and what can we expect from it in the future? 

Boris: First, we wanted to make a release out of the set we did in the garden, but our recording got lost. Then we started cutting the recordings from our rehearsals and we got this really warm lush ambient album (of which you can listen to the A side here) of two hours. It will be released on tape and digital, and we’re also creating a website which generates live visuals with each track. It’s an expensive hobby to press vinyl, so I think the next dance floor-oriented record of Working Titles will be released somewhere halfway 2019.

Q: Is that the reason why you release on tape?

Robbert: It’s quite a weird medium, not many people have cassette players nowadays. Still, I think it’s a nice way of having merchandise and it gives a physical feel to the music.

Boris: I like music to be a physical object. When you hold a tape, you know that the music is on this small thing in your hand. Tape is also long enough, vinyl isn’t; we would probably have to press 2 or 4 vinyls to fit our releases ... Then we would be broke forever (laughing). 

Q: Do you plan to invite other artists to your label?

Boris: We played at Into The Great Wide Open with Fröbelton, they also performed in De School during De Happening this summer. It consists of a guy with an accordion who does spoken word, a girl with a tribal drum, who sings and has a jaw harp too, and a trumpet player. We jammed with them for half an hour, and that was truly magical. We will try to do that again sometime soon. If we record our rehearsals, maybe we can capture some of these special moments.

Robbert: But it will be more of a collaboration rather than inviting someone to the group. 

Q: You are also some of the initiators of a new collective called De Lichting. Could you tell us how it came about?

Robbert: We studied together at the Rockacademie in Tilburg with the other guys from De Lichting: we were a friend group of DJs and producers. But after 4 years of college, everyone went their separate ways, exploring new things. Even though our music spectrum is quite broad, we all have a pretty similar taste. So, we though: why not to be that group again?

Robbert: We didn’t want to depend on other labels, so it was a good opportunity to release more music. 

Boris: Now we can release two or three compilations a year without anyone being broke!

Q: What is the last item you’ve added to your set up?

Robbert: We’ve made the most boring purchase ever. It was a multiclock. When you have so much gear laying around it all has to be in sync, which often wasn’t the case. Each time you have to stop/play manually, which means there’s a big chance that it’s not going to be in sync again. With this device, you can stop and adjust in time, so it shifts back in sync again when something goes off.

Boris: Basically, the only thing it does is counting, but it’s really good at it.
Robbert: And the other purchase is an AE modular synth. It’s very compact and it sounds really good.

Q: Is there that one piece of gear you can’t live without?
Both: JX3P Roland synthesizer.

Boris: Robbert bought it and one month later I bought one too. Now we have two.

Q: Do you need both?

Robbert: No, but it’s so good!

Boris: It has a nice intuitive sequencer on it and it’s extremely versatile. From whale sounds to lush pads to thick basslines; you can do everything with it.

Working Titles will be playing upcomming Saturday from 16:00 – 19:00 during Het Weekend.
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