We chat squelchy bass, poppy drops and collabs with Brisbane’s dark techno queen, Rebel Yell, who’s just dropped her brilliant new record, HIRED MUSCLE.
Brisbane’s Rebel Yell – aka Grace Stevenson – makes dark techno that destroys your soul and heals it at the same time. Characterised by harsh industrial pulses, (often) demonic vocals and highly danceable beats, her new album HIRED MUSCLE has solidified her place as one of the most exciting underground electronic artists working today.
It’s been a while since we caught up with Grace to talk about gear, so we touched base to see how her new album came together.
ENMORE AUDIO: Hey Grace! Love the new record. How are you feeling about it now that it’s out?
GRACE STEVENSON: Ello ello! Thank you! I’m so happy with how it’s been received, feeling real nice about it being out.
ENMORE AUDIO: What synths/controllers are you currently playing on?
GRACE STEVENSON: Still using my baby, the Korg ESX-1 OFC, got my Volca Bass and added in a Volca Fm for a track but keen to use it more now that I’m writing again.
ENMORE AUDIO: Squelchy bass patches are huge on the album (High Authority, Toxic, Next Exit). What are we hearing here?
GRACE STEVENSON: Hell yeah, the ESX has some weird sounds but I’ve been using samples from it in the keyboard section and adding lots of effects over them to create those squelches.
ENMORE AUDIO: Distortion-smashed vocals are still a big part of your sound. How do you achieve this sound in the studio?
GRACE STEVENSON: I’m using a vocal processor for this, still into the pitch shift down and heavy distortion but I’m also doing clean vocal takes to layer in there.
ENMORE AUDIO: I feel like you’re hugely influenced by that classic TB-303, acid bassline sound. Have you ever been able to play one/which limb would you give away first to own one?
GRACE STEVENSON: I haven’t! Love that acid sound mmhmm. Look I’d like to keep my limbs but maybe V Energy or Red Bull can pay me $2k to play some weird promo event and I can buy one.
ENMORE AUDIO: Is there a ‘centrepiece’ or ‘brain’ of your setup at the moment?
GRACE STEVENSON: Defs the ESX-1.
ENMORE AUDIO: Last time we caught up you were ditching the ESX-1 for an MPC?
GRACE STEVENSON: Yes, I bought an MPC and then realised I was money and time-poor and sold it again cause I didn’t have the time to learn it. So still using the ESX-1. But I just got a Roland Boutique TR-909 last week and it’s funky as.
ENMORE AUDIO: If you’re using a sampler for drums, where do you find you source the most samples from?
GRACE STEVENSON: I don’t actually gather samples! I use the ones on the ESX and distort them from there with inbuilt fx or just use them straight out.
ENMORE AUDIO: If you could copy/paste one feature from one piece of gear onto another to make it perfect, what would you do?
GRACE STEVENSON: Oh geez, I’m so familiar and comfortable with the ESX-1 set up and how it I can control the timing and everything, I would probably just get all the best sounds and like an unlimited amount of space on it and then it would be a magic machine. I actually could do that if I got a smart media card and could then source my own samples hmm…
ENMORE AUDIO: I particularly love the collabs on the album – Gussy and Pillow Pro – how did these collaborations work? Were you in the studio together?
GRACE STEVENSON: They’re fun hey!? I actually recorded the synths and drums as demos and sent them over and then received them back with vocals, it like a really lovely surprise pass the parcel.
ENMORE AUDIO: What are you working on now!?
GRACE STEVENSON: Gonna get working on new music, use the new TR909 with the ESX-1 to create some more dynamic structures with the Volca FM too, wanna some poppy drops happening!
Rebel Yell’s new album HIRED MUSCLE is out now via Rice Is Nice. Check it out here.