li-z (Hit N Run Soundsystem) Interview

li-z (Lisette Calis) makes the kind of music that brings to life hidden and previously unimagined worlds of fantasy and alien landscape. The cinematic nature of her compositions would fit nicely in science fiction films or video game sagas, as they take the listener on a journey of epic proportions. Unique song structure and exotic sounddesign lead the way for this self taught virtuoso with a flair for brilliant reinterpretation of electronic music genres. li-z is worth checking out. Not to mention, she’s a killer DJ! She also was kind enough to do the Femmecult March podcast and you can listen here.

Femmecult: Where are you from and where do you live now?

li-z: I grew up in a small village in the east of The Netherlands. I had a great time there. I always had a lot of friends around me, we would often hang on the street or listen to hardcore music at my place. After about 22 years, I moved to a town near Amsterdam and after that I lived in Amsterdam for a while.
Amsterdam is great, I really like it there. It’s very different from the rest of Holland. But my family lives too far away and I’d rather be a bit closer to them.
Now I live in Rotterdam, still not very close to my family, but I’m not planning to stay here forever, so maybe in the future I will go back east.

Femmecult: Tell us how you got started in electronic music. What came first, djing or producing?

li-z: I started djing in 2007, after years of collecting music. I went to all sorts of parties almost every weekend, but the kind of music I wanted to hear was never played there, so I decided to learn djing and play that music at parties myself. Djing was something I really wanted to do, so it only took me a few months to get the hang of it. Basically.. I think my first gig was at a warehouse party in Amsterdam. I was very nervous, and playing on a big soundsystem was completely different from playing through my speakers at home..So djing came first. Producing, I think a year or so later.

2 for the melody mix part 1

Femmecult: You are part of the Hit N Run Soundsystem. Tell us about it.

li-z: Hit ‘n Run is a non-profit organisation started in 2007, which I’ve been involved in since the beginning. Music-wise we play everything we like, from breakbeats, idm, techno to all kinds of hardcore, tekno, drumnbass, breakcore and everything in between πŸ˜‰
Our crew consists of dj’s, vj’s, producers, graphic artists, event designers and technicians, so we’re quite self-sufficient. We prefer doing everything ourselves. In the past we organised free parties in squats or outdoor areas. Now we’re more into legal parties where there’s no fixed entrance fee, just donations, to cover our costs. It took a while before people understood what we were doing, most organisations focus on only one music style. After a few years our parties became a safe haven for people who like diversity.
In 2013 we started our own music label “Hit’n Run Music” using the same principle as how we structure our parties – different styles of music, but then on one 12 inch record. The release also features 4 exclusive digital and all tracks are available on the larger download platforms such as Juno, Spotify and Beatport.

Femmecult: How would you describe the music that you compose?

li-z: I think my music doesn’t fit into any typical genre. It’s not that straightforward, because I experiment a lot, combining different elements which I like and putting them together in one track. My latest tracks were quite slow, around 120 bpm, but I have made tracks up to 200 bpm. I’ve never used singing vocals, but I have used spoken samples. The atmosphere in my tracks ranges between calm and soothing or a bit dark and melancholic. I produce steady tracks, but I often add breakbeats on top. I guess you could say that most of my tracks now are techno/idm based with melodies and industrial influences..

Femmecult:What kind of instruments, software do you use to create your music?

li-z: I started with Fruityloops, but now Ableton works better for me. I don’t have that much equipment actually, but I do have a Korg synth and a sampler and some small stuff, but mostly it’s me, my laptop, my midi controllers and lots of vst’s. I don’t use a vst for only one type of sound. I use a synth vst like Native Instruments FM8 for pads, melodies, or even a kickdrum. I also use samples to sculpt my sound. For effects I often use some distortions and delays, but most hours are spent in fine tuning endless automations.
For djing I mainly use Traktor Scratch timecode vinyl. I can work with cd’s and vinyl, but I prefer Traktor as it has many advantages . One of them is that I always have my whole collection with me in one device. And I can play (my own) tracks which haven’t been released on vinyl. The main reason I prefer using Traktor is the fact that it still feels like vinyl. It also has disadvantages, for example it takes more time to set up at a party and technically, things can go wrong quicker. I sometimes think of switching to cd’s, because its the most common thing to do these days, but then again.. I’ve never liked cd’s as they are so fragile and with me being so careless, it’s not a good idea us working together.

Femmecult: Tell us about your songwriting process.

li-z: I don’t really have a process, but when I’m in the mood, and things work out the way I want, I really enjoy locking myself in my studio for hours until the next day has already begun without me πŸ˜‰
Usually I start collecting sounds, without a clear vision of the track I want to make. When I think a sound or a collection of sounds is interesting, I decide what kind of track it will become. I never start at the beginning of a song, this is always the last thing I do.

 

Underwater Island

The Distance

 

Femmecult: How have your songwriting methods evolved since you began?

li-z: Well, I was hoping to be a lot better by now, but with producing it always feels like I am still at the very beginning. But of course I know a lot more tricks and things are getting easier.

Femmecult: Have you had any musical training or are you self taught?

li-z: I did an Ableton-training once. Mainly because I thought it would be good for me to study with someone around, so I wouldn’t be distracted and therefore be tempted to give up that easy, which is always a bit of a problem for me. I learned a thing or two, but I found out it’s better to learn things yourself by just doing and trying things.. Youtube has lots of info and tutorials which are often very helpful..

Femmecult: What styles of music do you enjoy playing out at your events?

li-z: When I started djing, my intention was to play more underground, industrial, slow and dark hardcore. But now I prefer playing harder and faster. It gives me so much energy and I enjoy seeing people experience the same thing as I do when I play this kind of music. But as well as fast or slow hardcore, I also enjoy playing oldschool, some techno, breakbeats and idm. I like to combine all these things.

what I play at parties (hardcore/techno)

what I play at parties most (fast hardcore/tekno)

Femmecult: What’s on the horizon for your musical projects? Any upcoming releases or events?

li-z: I’m doing some radio shows. One of them is a famous underground radioshow called DOTF. It will be broadcasted from the beatsession.com website on April 4th and I will be playing an oldschool dj set. I’m playing at a free party in London in April and in May there’s a liberation festival in Wageningen (The Netherlands) called, Kabaal Digitaal, where I will be djing as part of the Hit’n Run Soundsystem. I am also negotiating a booking in Berlin for May.
I’m also working on a 172 bpm hardcore/tekno track together with Obnoxious. He is a Rotterdam based dj/producer and I really like his style of music. I’d never worked together with somebody before, but it went surprisingly well and I think the result will be great. It is also a good way of learning new tricks and it’s funny to see how other people do things differently in the same software program.
In February/March we launch the second release from our label and at the next Hit ‘n Run party ‘Contrast’ in Rotterdam, March 15th, I’ll be playing a breakbeat/oldschool/techno/tekno set.. I’m really looking forward to it. My progressive house track ‘The Distance‘ is also coming out on the digital release. It’s different from any other track I have made, and I’m very happy with the result and I hope you like it too.

Additional Links

li-z’s first e.p. The Contrast

preview her second e.p.

li-z online:
https://soundcloud.com/li-z
https://www.mixcloud.com/Li-z/
https://www.facebook.com/lizhnr