Originally from Bruges, Gaël Ribas’ Gaāl alias finds its way in the experimental and sophisticated spectrums. Gaël has always been passionate about sound. At an early age, he started to explore his boundaries in music. It became a varied and eclectic taste that shifted during the years. With talent for musical storytelling, this ultimately resulted in a hypnotic and sophisticated style which defines his characteristic sets and productions as we know them today. He released several tracks on Kusiya Records, Subsist Records and Lunar Convoy’s efja.
Gaël is also known as the mastermind behind the Kollektiv event series. The DNA of Kollektiv closely aligns with his hypnotic and deep aesthetic as a techno artist. Continuously pushing boundaries, it is without doubt that the future holds great plans for both Kollektiv and Gaāl.
Hello Gaël, thank you for your time. The Belgian techno scene knows you as a dj and co-founder of Kollektiv. When did you start your music projects? How did you get into electronic music and event organization?
Thanks a lot for the invitation. I have been following InDepth for quite some time now and the platform really brings a lot of value to the techno scene. Big ups!
So, my passion for electronic music was already there at quite a young age. While my peers were mostly listening to commercial music, I quickly got on the alternative train. I didn’t get the passion for electronic music from home so I started exploring on my own. Some of the artists that I listened to regularly at the time were Anne Clark, Aphex Twin, The Chemical Brothers, Moby and Depeche Mode. Especially the influence of Anne Clark has played a big role in finding my own direction, and she still is to this day. Not a week goes by without listening to her music.
My first personal encounter with techno was 10 years ago at Kozzmozz, upon invitation by some friends. I still recall returning home and being utterly astonished by the experience. Like, what was that?! The next day I bought my first professional mixer, marking the beginning of my journey. It was in early 2018 that things started to become more serious for me, the year I breathed life into my most recent alias, Gaāl.
In addition to the musical aspect, the visual aspect also spoke to me very strongly. That’s why I wanted to know all about how such events came to life. Creating an idea from scratch and watching it come to life a few weeks or months later, that’s what really intrigued me at the time. Coming from an entrepreneurial family, it was a logical next step for me to organize my own events. That’s how Kollektiv came into existence.
Your musical influences go from ambient to techno. There is a dark and hypnotic aspect in your music. What brought you into this musical universe?
First of all, my focus was to find my way within techno. It took me some time to figure out exactly what I wanted to bring. It wasn’t until I started with Gaāl that I felt like I really understood which direction I wanted to go with my music. It shouldn’t be a jumble of styles mixed together, but rather a linear story where everything is fitting together. That’s how I ended up with the deeper, hypnotic aspect. In addition, I’ve secretly always had a preference for experimental and unusual stuff, something you can also see in my style today.
The interest in ambient came shortly afterwards, especially for me personally due to influences like Anthony Linell (Abdulla Rashim), Acronym, Neel & Donato Dozzy. What I like about ambient is that there’s no gray area. There’s only black or white. You either like it or you don’t. In my environment, I often see people looking strangely when they come into contact with ambient for the first time. The thing is, those who know, know.
My love for ambient is also the reason why I really love warm-up slots. I love setting the tone for the rest of the night, going from ambient to whatever’s fitting the night afterwards. It’s obvious that it’s more fun to play when there are more people on the floor than at the beginning of the night, but in my opinion, artists can really distinguish themselves by playing a good warm-up set. It’s definitely not as simple as playing a peak-time slot. It requires a deeper understanding of music and energy. Nevertheless, I really love to play more powerful sets too, don’t get me wrong.
You recorded an exclusive mix for InDepth. Can you talk a little bit about the direction you took when piecing this mix together?
I rarely share sets or podcasts online so I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share my mix on this platform. When selecting records for events or podcasts, I always take into account the vibe of the concept and the overall feeling I have about it. For this mix, I chose to showcase a deep and dark yet powerful set, consistent with my deep & hypnotic aesthetic. The mix includes 28 tracks in just over an hour.
Although my records are well-organized in folders, I still have the tendency to go through almost all of the folders “just in case” I might miss that one perfect track for that one particular event. At the end of each year I re- organize my records so the folder never becomes too large. The tracks that I don’t play anymore get replaced to the appropriately named “lost in space” folder. And yes, even that folder I would go through again after some time, hehe.
Taking the step from Djing to producing seems to be a natural progression. You started with a few tracks including an ambient release on Lunar Convoy’s imprint “Efja”. Can you tell us a bit about your process of producing, do you use software, hardware or both?
For me personally, it was always a must to not only be a deejay but also to produce. I was aware that this would be necessary if I wanted to take things to the next level. In 2022, I had 3 single releases on Kusiya, Subsist and efja. You can hear ‘Fraction’, the record on Kusiya, in the mix around 27 min. Little shoutout to Lunar Convoy for the release on efja. It has become an exceptional compilation and I’m glad to be part of it.
Regarding my productions, I know that I am a slow producer. You should never expect a large quantity of tracks within a relatively short period of time from me. I prefer to take things slowly rather than to rush releases, which is why I allow myself the necessary time to ensure that everything is polished and ready to be released. I frequently let a record sit for a while before finishing it down to every last detail. Even with tracks where the basic structure comes in place quickly, I prefer to get my hands off it for a while to gain new insights later on. This way, I can also filter out the shitty projects when they don’t sound the way I want them to weeks or months later. I only want to release something if I stand behind it 100% as I think it’s a little piece of identity that you share with the outside world.
Currently, I’m in a mix between software and hardware. I regularly have jam sessions where the record button is always on. Afterwards, I filter out the pieces that I want to use in a track and then I continue working on it in the box until the track is finished. In the beginning, I found it quite difficult to make the switch from software to hardware but currently, I’m at a point where both are equally important to me.
Where do you find inspiration? Are there any personalities, activities or something else you’re looking up to?
For me personally, it’s not the case that I only find inspiration in techno music or events. I most often find inspiration in my everyday activities, such as listening to (non-techno) music while working, my interest in art and design or even watching a film or TV show. There’s no set pattern for me where I find my inspiration, it just comes when it comes. I have a good sense of when I’m in a period of high inspiration and when I’m not. When I get stuck for a while, it doesn’t help at all to force myself to sit in the studio. In fact, it often makes the problem worse. It does work, however, to do things of which I know they can give me inspiration later on.
In my professional life I often have to deal with stress, which doesn’t enhance my inspiration or efficiency at all. My most productive periods in the studio are therefore after a period of relaxation, such as a city trip or summer/winter vacation. Taking a break from the routine of daily life and relaxing, then returning to work hard in the studio, is what works for me.
What can we expect next from you ? Any exciting releases you’d love to mention?
I have some tracks that are ready to be released and I will start sending them to labels in the next few weeks. Instead of releasing singles on various artist EPs or albums like I have in the past, I would like to release a first solo EP in the near future. As I am a fairly diverse producer, ranging from ambient to dark breakbeat and rhythmic airy tracks, I seem to have difficulties to put together a group of tracks over a period of time that fit together in one EP. However I really enjoy this variety in my production process, this is something I would like to work on in the future.
Another thing on my bucket list is to compose music for a (short)film project. My whole life I’ve been fascinated about how music can enhance a film, how music gets appropriately matched with a specific setting or, more generally, how the connection between film and music comes into being. When the opportunity arises, I’d love to explore the realm of film music composition with the goal of putting my own musical vision to life for a certain piece.
You’re also the co-founder of Kollektiv, an event series with impressive line ups. As artistic director and founder, you are also supporting talented local artists. How would you define your event’s aesthetic and focus? What can we find there and who is invited to join your line ups?
With Kollektiv, we’re always seeking a deeper connection, including our designs, the venue, the setting and the line-up. To be honest, this latter aspect is quite a challenge in a city like Bruges, a city where the underground scene is relatively small. Therefore, we often had to adjust our vision in the past in order to remain financially viable. As we have now established a reputation and the overall concept has taken shape, we are able to select more alternative line-ups. Glitches, distortions, curvatures and sophisticated techno music, it’s all part of the DNA of Kollektiv as we know it today.
For our next chapter, on March 10, we’re inviting Bjarki with a 4-hour set. For me personally, this is likely the name I am most looking forward to in the history of Kollektiv. Next to our headliner, we’re constantly searching for established figures in the Belgian scene or Belgian talents who are on the verge of breaking through. Additionally, we also look for artists who produce their own music, a vision that aligns with our own values. For the upcoming edition in March, we’re inviting Rafael Munoz from Brussels. I met Rafael at his own Noxon concept and since then we have kept in touch. For me personally, he is definitely a name to keep an eye on, both as a deejay and in terms of music production.
Recently, you organized a new Kollektiv night showcasing only Belgian artists in Bruges. Would you like to tell us where and how this was organized and what are your projects for the next one?
The pandemic was a difficult period for many artists. To support our own Belgian artists, our approach for this first post-corona edition was to have a completely Belgian lineup. Now that things are getting back to normal, we will be featuring both international and Belgian artists again.
When we’re working towards a new event, we first ensure that -of course- the lineup is confirmed. After that, there are two things that are at the top of our to-do list: the visual aspect (stage design) and the sound system, which is the most important aspect for us at Kollektiv. The room has the difficulty that a large part of the room is located under a balcony, which has taken us some time to get the sound the way our audience knows it today. At our last editions, the audience was however wildly enthusiastic about our sound system, which is for us the biggest compliment to receive. In general, I think that not enough attention is paid to a good sound system. This is less of a problem in most music styles, but it’s really important when it comes to techno. There is nothing more annoying than playing events where you realize upon arrival that the sound will possibly not be sufficient to deliver a good performance.
Regarding the visual aspect, we leave nothing to chance. In the past, we have not only flown in international deejays to Belgium, but also visual artists from Rome and Barcelona. We meticulously search for a visual artist who can perfectly translate the DNA of Kollektiv on screen. Hypnotic, glitching and distorted visuals, that’s what Kollektiv is about.
You organized some previous Kollektiv nights at Kompass in Ghent. How did you start to collaborate with them ? Do you plan to organize other parties there?
After the coronavirus pandemic, our main focus was to solidify our position in our hometown of Bruges’ before expanding to other cities again. As we are a Bruges-based concept, it is important for us to make our contribution to the city. The scene here is already quite scarce compared to other major cities, so it would feel like we would be abandoning our local audience. Our next event is scheduled in March, and after that, we might consider collaborating with other concepts or venues.
I honestly still get heartache thinking about the event we had to cancel at Kompass when the government announced a lockdown the day before it was scheduled to take place. DVS1 & Freddy K were supposed to perform all night long on Friday, but it was unfortunately called off on Thursday. Initially, we were hoping to reschedule the event to a further date, but it soon became clear that things wouldn’t take place for an extended period of time. What. A. Shame.
How do you achieve balance in your life between DJing, producing and event series running? Are you currently putting a special focus on one of those?
I have a busy life when it comes to work, which makes it difficult to always focus evenly on all fronts. In terms of music, I work in phases where I focus more on one aspect than the others. For example, I might spend more time in the studio at one point or have more gigs or upcoming Kollektiv events to focus on at another. Generally, I would like to spend more time in the studio, but my time is often limited, as a day has only 24 hours. Double the amount of hours in one day and I think I’d be able to fill them in as well.