Raised in Australia, Gotye has morethan 140 million YouTube hits and a single, "Somebody That I Used to Know," so potent it's brought fame to groups who've only covered it. Here, the man otherwise known as Wally De Backer talks pop success, "Somebody That I Used to Know," and instant gratification..
New Times: How did you first become interested in music?
Gotye: I just gravitated toward it, and my parents were supportive enough to let me follow my own path. I started playing music when I was 16. I started playing drums, and I have been pretty actively pursuing it since then.
You say you are interested in sounds. What kind of sounds?
Whether it's musical things that I chance upon in the outback of Australia, which I sample quite heavily, or at a railroad crossing, there is often really interesting poly-rhythms or cross rhythms that happen with the signal bells and things like that, that spark my musical imagination [and] make me want to jump out of the car with a recorder.
Where did you first start producing your own albums?
My friends and I were lucky enough to have the house that I grew up in. In a bit of a role reversal, my parents moved out and a couple of my friends moved in after high school. My parents were our landlords and we lived there for a very fun three years, studying, playing sports, playing a lot of basketball, playing videogames, hanging out, drinking lots of coffee, watching lots of movies. I had a really nice space to myself, in the downstairs bedroom studio, where I started getting really involved in sampling and producing records, often experimenting and trying to produce stuff on my own. It was a fun time.
Is it true you recorded your album Making Mirrors in your parents' barn?
Yes, they live on a really nice block of land, east of Melbourne, and my dad built a boathouse and built a barn, and he was gracious enough to let me take over two of the upstairs rooms to build a studio for a couple of years. It's a nice place.
The past year has been huge for you. How did it happen?
Some of it is due to my persistence. Maybe it shows that what I am doing musically is getting more refined, and maybe it has come to something of a head, ya know? Just the song "Somebody That I Used to Know" has had a potent response... [But] I also feel like there has been consistently upward momentum that I have had for about ten years.
Why do you think "Somebody I Used to Know" has had such impact?
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I dunno. Maybe it is a combination of a number of different things. Maybe me and Kimbra [New Zealand musician and Gotye collaborator] just sing well? [Laughs] I get the feeling that there is an element of truth or a reflection of reality... [There's] this romantic reflection that's followed by bitterness and anger, this reflection of the range of emotions that can flare up after a relationship breaks up, and especially the memory of how you felt at different times changes the picture and potentially blurs your confidence on how you felt or how you feel at the time.
People respond to that as a universal aspect. But as a piece of music, I think it has a certain hypnotic quality to it and a withholding sort of aspect where it starts to flare and reveal itself more toward the end of the song, and it kinda hits you in the face.
Well, what's the word? Instant gratification?