the deep element
by Hilary RAWK!
Surachai Sutthisasanakul is The Deep Element. He has 3 albums
of his own. He has made scores for MTV2 promos and for several
independent film projects. He also has a very short attention
We were sitting in my kitchen trying to get ready for the
interview, and the only way I could get him to focus was by
opening every single one of his songs, and playing them simultaneously.
It was mesmerizing:
This is just like an overload, man. Because I know all these
songs, and it’s just freaking me out. I have no idea
what’s going on.
As egotistical as I am, I’ve never done this before.
Are you serious?
Played every one of my songs at the same time?! No, I mean,
I don’t really even listen to my own music. I like metal.
I only make electronic music because I’m not in a band.
So if you were in a band, you’d make metal?
Probably . . .
You’re weird. So, how did you get started making
I made mixed tapes when I was real young—just chopping
beats on the radio. The radio would be playing and I would
record something, and then like four bars later I would record
something else. So it was like 7 minutes of four bars of just
random-ass songs. But that’s not really making music,
that’s like recycling things.
I got a computer when I was in fourth grade, and someone
had the courtesy of loading all of these audio programs, and
I started messing with them. I lived in a house—I still
do live in a house—with a minimum of like 10 people
who go to local colleges and universities. This was more of
a family computer back then, and people would just dump their
stuff on it, and I sorted through all of the games and found
these audio programs.
So I just sat in front of the computer and messed with these
programs—knowing that every program I opened I would
have to learn, there would be a process because every one
of the programs worked differently. I would have to figure
out the different traits and attributes of each program and
how they complement each other, which is a pretty weird thing
to be thinking when you’re young. It was more in abstract
terms—like, “This program does this.” And,
“This program does that.” But when you look back
you see you were actually finding that each program was like
a color, and you are mixing them to make an end result.
Your music has been classified as IDM . . . what
does that mean?
It stands for “Intelligent Dance Music,” which
is the dumbest, fucking thing I could ever imagine. I’m
pretty young, so that term was coined way before I started
even making music. Back in the day, you’d go into a
music store, and there’d be Rock and Roll, Hip Hop,
Now, people are trying to figure out the “Other”
section. I don’t know what it means, but it started
from people using their tools in an unorthodox way. But now
everybody’s doing that. Like earlier, we were listening
to Justin Timberlake, and they’re overdriving and distorting
everything, but now that’s considered normal. Then again,
Jimmy Hendrix was doing that.
IDM is just strange noises, not necessarily normal arrangements,
it’s definitely Experimental. That’s what I call
everything my friends and I do—it’s just Experimental
or Electronic. I guess IDM is more of an art form than a format.
It’s like Jazz compared to Rock and Roll.
You’ve done a lot of collaborations . . . tell
me about your best experiences.
I’m a control freak. So the best collaborations I’ve
done are when I don’t meet the person, I mean, you know
the person, and you know what they’re capable of, but
. . . Basically what happens is I have a file that is 100
percent mine, and I send it over to him, he adds a layer,
makes a suggestion, I take it back, listen to his suggestion,
and either do it or don’t, and just keep adding to it.
I usually do most of the programming, and the production,
while they are more like the front person. I guess I’m
Timberland, and they’re Justin Timberlake (laughter).
But that’s what makes it work, because I don’t
have that flair—I don’t like to show off, so collaborations
for me work best when I have complete, creative control. But
if the collaboration is right, and I’m working with
good people, their suggestions are more progressive—it’s
not like, “I think you should turn up my vocals.”
It’s more like I think this piece should go in this
You’ve done a few movie promos and commercial
scores . . . how did you get hooked up with that?
As you grow up, you realize that the people you’ve
grown up with become actual people in the industry. So it
was just like friends and people spreading the word and doing
a lot of free work at first when I was young.
You produced the music for a short documentary in
Yeah, the music was produced by me and a friend named Jonathon
Robles, who is in my side project called [co]sen_tasi. It’s
one of my five-million side projects. It’s actually
the one I’m the most proud of.
Jonathon is a traditional musician—a keyboardist, he
works in churches, and he’s heavily influenced by jazz.
You just throw any piece of music at him, and he can improvise
over it. He’s a natural born . . . well, there’s
something beyond talent where it goes into instinct almost,
and he’s got that shit. So, anyway, I provided all the
strange electronic stuff—it’s more like I provided
the beats, and he provided the melodies.
And the special thing with this project is—and I’m
sure a lot of people are doing it but we only worked on one
song together in person. And the other songs were sent over
the Internet. It took over a year to finish, and I was in
like five different countries, so it was like, “Hey
Surachai, I’m sending you a file. Where are you?”
“Oh, I’m in Sweden.” It was just weird.
The next song I was working on, I was in Hungary or Germany.
And our third member is a visual artist, Birgit Schmidt,
and she’s just as important as the music itself I think.
I gave her the entire album, and I said, “You have to
interpret this however you want. I will give you no creative
path.” So she made all the album art work. She sent
me this link and said, “This artwork was influenced
by this guy.” And I looked at the link and it didn’t
look anything like it. But people are probably saying the
same thing when I say I’m influenced by The Locust,
and they listen to my music, and it has nothing to do with
Tell me about your metal project.
It’s basically my chance to do complete a natural progression
because it’s something I’ve always loved on the
side. But I never had a chance to do it, so I just bought
a guitar this year and started practicing. And I bought some
pedals that my friend made. One of my friends makes pedals—it’s
called a Blue Beard, and there’s a band called Mastodon
that supposedly only uses that pedal. He’s just one
of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met.
I’m a big fan of do it yourself, home-made stuff. I’ve
built a few things from scratch, and I’ve broken down
many toys and sampled the shit out of them—circuit bending.
But, yeah, the metal project . . . it’s just like the
total opposite. I kind of live in extremes—either really
melodic, beautiful, or just really harsh patterns. It’s
almost like walls of noise, but in rhythms. If you listen
to the two things I make, they’re just like polar opposites.
I guess when I look back on it—on this time in my life—I’m
just gonna be like, “I was just trying to find my middle
ground.” (laughter) So now I’m just living in
a land of extremes, and until I find a middle ground this
is what I’m doing.
What’s your process for making music?
My process is not usually like, “Oh, man, I have this
great, catchy thing in my head.” It’s more like,
“If I don’t write something down, I’m going
to fucking go crazy.” For instance, I never believed
I was susceptible to any kind of depression, but when I left
Sweden and I listened to the songs I wrote there I was like,
“Holy shit! I was depressed.” I can feel it. I
was just on a different plane of energy.
But my process is usually there’s something I wanna
say but there aren’t words, and the only way I can really
figure it out is by playing on the guitar, keyboard, whatever.
I am influenced by scenes in life, beauty, just like walking
down the street and seeing a child play, and certain ways
that leaves cast shadows . . .
Who are some of your musical influences?
Just your standard shit, like Bjork and The Prodigy, and
the Chemical Brothers, what else? Oh, Crystal Method was the
shit. That was like the most perfect album—Vegas.
Most of my influences come from metal, actually, because
even though it’s monotone and it’s noise, if you
have a good ear you can hear in between everything. Like if
you play a chord there are so many overlying melodies and
harmonies that are not being played. Like you’ll hear
this bear, minimum chord but your mind is going crazy because
it’s singing along to it.
A good example is Philip Glass. He did film scores for a
bunch of movies. A lot of people think he’s ‘pretentious’
and boring, minimal, and they throw all these names at him,
but I appreciate his music because there is so much that’s
What was your best show so far?
My best gig was probably at New Years, honestly. I got flown
in from DC to Chicago, and I was playing a show with people
I really respect, that happen to be my friends.
That’s how you know you’re on a good path in
life—when you’re a fan of your friends’
music, and you’re surrounded by the people you admire.
And the crowd—I don’t really pay attention to
the crowd cause it’s all about getting my rocks off,
but supposedly they were dancing. I guess you can tell it’s
good when people come up to you afterwards, and you don’t
know who they are and they don’t really know who you
are and you just end up talking about other music, not necessarily
Where do you find new music?
I tend to follow mostly labels. One amazing label is Ipecac.
It’s Mike Patton’s (Faith No More, Fantomas) label.
Almost every single thing on that album is amazing. Also,
bleep.com is a good one.
Tell me about the tattoo on your finger (three large,
green circles on the outside of his left ring finger).
To me, it’s like the concept of 3. Basically, everybody’s
used to two extremes—yes, no, black, white, whatever.
But, to me there’s a third option, and that option represents
Infinity, a gray area. It’s about balance. Like on a
scale, there are not just two points, not just two weights,
there’s a center point that everything balances on.
When I get a tattoo I want it to change meaning over time
because I want it to change meaning over time.
Like since I came up with this the deep element name, it
has changed meaning to me. At first, it represented underground
music. And as I got along, I went to meditation in Thailand,
I saw some horrible things in the Tsunami, I’ve read
a lot of books, and the deep element has become a mindset.
It’s like everything you do has a deeper meaning, an
underlying intention. Like if someone asks the meaning of
life, there’s really no purpose, but there’s reason.
People think there’s one goal in life, whereas, in
reality, it’s just a culmination of millions of little
things. So there’s not necessarily a purpose, but the
reason is that there’s value in life. But the deep element
is more of a mind state now than a title.
So what’s in your future?
My album Imperfection is available now on ITunes. The [co]sen
tasi album will be on ITunes in the next few weeks, and my
new the deep element album called Currents will be out this
Original article can be found here.
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