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„I’m a dove now“ // byyrd Interview

„I’m a dove now“ // byyrd Interview

As a half avian, half human being byyrd is familiar with many languages and voices. From human languages to birdsongs and dialects. In early summer we’ve met up with the artist who is mainly known as a music producer at the Donaukanal in V Town to speak about his art, influences, byyrd references, why he identifies as a dove at this moment and much more. In English, since it’s his main language apart from expression through music.

byyrd in his habitat. Photos: Daniel Shaked

The Message: You didn’t only win the second edition of the Beat Melange Beat battle in May, you’re also a returning participant at the Bastelstunden events in The Loft. Can you name what they trigger in you as a producer?
I reckon it’s a good test or challenge. Often when you’re stuck with some projects or beats, you just push it to the side and do something else. Since Beat Melange is a community thing and you have nothing to lose, you’ve all to gain. You’ve got 60 minutes and you’re in a room with people that appreciate every aspect of being a beatmaker, which is rare. There are not many places where people care about that aspect of music in general. You must hold yourself accountable to some point because you know it’s gonna be played amongst other people at the end. It pushes you in a healthy way.

Are you usually in danger of overproducing beats?
I may be used to that, but there’s nothing good that comes from that. If you hold yourself accountable, you gotta finish something. I got rid of that perfectionist kind of thinking, because it slows you down at the end of the day when you’ve got like 40 sketches and three beats around. I can gladly say I don’t do that anymore.

You’ve been a music producer for over ten years. When did you start to rap and how much do you identify yourself as a rapper?
Probably in 2015 when we founded K BLVCK Clan. The other two of us three main music members were rappers/songwriters, among other things, and still are. I was more of an engineer behind stuff. I need to dial back a bit…We founded K BLVCK Clan not because of any label, inquiries, gigs or wanting to become known. It’s just really a gang, a squad and a family with a long friendship and brotherhood. We never emphasized on quantity. Rather on quality and in between, life happens. We are true to ourselves. Having said that, we often gathered in a room where I made beats on a laptop and the others freestyled to it. They got me so enticed, that I started writing as well. In the beginning Inever really wanted to rap. I still don’t see myself as a rapper. But when my little brother started putting a verse together on one of my beats, it enticed me to write a section myself. I rather see myself as a guy who tries to make music and to capture emotions, utilizing sometimes beats and rap.

What are the main emotions of a half avian being?
The constant urge or craving for freedom I reckon. A cloudlike and very free state of mind of not overthinking and not having to have a concept, an appointment, or a place to be. I feel like a lot of the music that I’ve done and that I do is exploring that kind of territory and what freedom means to me or us. Simultaneously things like grief, betrayal, love, friendship, the whole drama.

Can you remember when you put yourself in the position of a bird’s head for the first time?
I think when we started performing. I used to have stage fright because I just wasn’t used to being on stage. I’m still not that type of person that enjoys that. But I started to associate the vibe and certain track titles with avian terminology. By the time the name just popped into my head. Then I wanted to put the pieces together. I needed a persona that looks like a bird, so I started crafting a mask with a beak on. It was not that all too much thought about. More like an act on impulse.

It shows the approach of interdisciplinary creativity.
Thank God we’ve got talent, but if you don’t do anything with it it’s a swing and a miss kind of thing. I think it’s just natural for all of us, how we feel. We express ourselves through everything the Clan does from clothing to music to painting to our semi movie-like weird diy music videos.

Regardless of the discipline: What does it take for you to be satisfied with something?
It needs to suit the other disciplines. For example, the music video ‘Ride’. I needed something that visually fits with the narrative. I don’t always have an avian theme or topic when I write music. But in the end it’s what I am because I’m a byyrd. That’s why I grab a bunch of stuff in the realm of avian possibilities. For example feathers, a name or just the outfit. ‘Ride’ is about stamina, endurance and doing what you want to do because you feel it. I’m a dove now since the latest season change and so I visually represent that. Then I have artwork where I paint another form of a beak or more feathers onto it, just to make it more immersive. That’s kind of how I go about almost any project.

When I was enjoying the sun on a bench in the woods some days ago, a bird pooped on my head and then flew away cheekily. How consciously can birds do that? I’m asking because one of your mottos is ‘Drop ish when I’m in the mood’.
(laughs) That’s rude. They should train that to be sure to not sh*t on people. From what I know my colleagues, falcons, eagles and so on are very disciplined, they don’t do that. But all the pigeons I came across in my life, they just let it loose, they don’t care. I don’t feel like they can control it.

Let’s switch to birdsongs. Which bird species sings the most beautifully?
That’s a good question, there are so many. Every time I think that I know my way around ornithology or types of birds, 15 other kinds with the most immaculate and incredible sound waves pop up. That’s why I started sampling them. I’m a fan of blackbirds, mockingbirds, and crazy stuff like swamp bitterns. They make the weirdest noises ever. Then there is stuff like birds of paradise. There is one that mimics everything it hears. Over the years because there are so many tourists it can replicate the sound of a phone camera which is crazy. I think less of ravens or ducks because we are more used to these sounds.

You’ve also identified as a raven and other species before. Can you give us a short summary of identities?
I was an oriole which is that orange and black bird on ‘Vitamin Bomb’. On ‘Nesting’ I was a toucan, there is also the song ‘2can’. As a raven I always antagonized pigeons, because they were dull. Now it’s dove season. There is a difference between a pigeon and a dove. It’s the same family, but a dove could be a black, brown, or white spotted creature which is wilder or less urban. Apart from that there was a weird transition between raven and hummingbird. I always leave a clue inside all of the music videos, there’s a separate story going through them. The videos helped me to emphasize and immerse that sort of universe and me as a character. Even if there’s only a handful of people who get the clues, word plays and riddles, it’s worth making them.

There is the saying ‘Einen Vogel haben’ in German. Does that also play a role?
Maybe. I think it is a very Viennese way to say which I appreciate but I think if you embrace the weirdness in general it can positively affect you. If it’s a positive aspect of your personality, then I feel like you can grow and learn about your true self instead of trying to fit in a mold because that gets tiring. You need a bit of weird energy if you do the stuff we do.

The saying is mainly used in a negative way. Does one have to conclude that birds are not the most popular creatures?
Yeah. They could be very majestic like a swan or an eagle, fierce like a hawk, as fast an agile as a swallow, as mighty and powerful as an ostrich, as loyal as a penguin but also be dull as a pigeon. There are so many different avians. I always got fascinated with them. Since I’m one myself, I want to continue the legacy of making weird bird noises.

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Apart from the bird world: Can you name who influenced you the most as a producer? Is there a certain era or an aspect that you can highlight?
The main part was how to build a groove and a bar, that makes your head bump and furthermore makes you dance or fits dance moves. Because most of our Clan used to dance a lot when we were younger. Not like in a class, but in the streets. And we were listening to so much music. Music was the main thing in every form. I was producing, the others were freestyle rapping and all of us were dancing. I think that took over my whole urge and need to create something that just felt sick.

Did that also determine the music you actively listened to?
Yeah, I think I’ve got a natural affinity to that. When I was a young bird, I listened to stuff like Timbaland or Madlib a lot. For the rapping part, the best there is to listen to is MF DOOM, no question. King with words, painting stories. R.I.P. MF DOOM. Partially you can see a parallel on how I write pocket rhymes and why I have that certain look of the mask because he’s such a huge influence, the best rap artist of all time in my opinion. I think if one can see that, a lot of what I do makes sense from a rap perspective. From the beat perspective, Timbaland used to work with all the people we know on radio and stuff. I never was interested in the singer or the vocalist. I always fluctuated more towards the beat structure, why it made people move, why I found something sick and why I didn’t like some other beats. I could name a bunch of other people like Knxwledge, ShashU and Ta-Ku for example.

Do you have plans to be more active as a producer for other people, outside the K BLVCK Clan?
Yeah, I want to produce people because I feel like I haven’t changed in terms of me always having the crave and inner urge to make beats. I feel like if anyone in V Town wants to just listen to beats or pick beats and stuff, I’ve got ones for days and they’re just laying around. That’s an open call kind of thing to anyone who wants instrumentals. For the future I haven’t all too much where I’m planning to be a rapper but way more of me just doing what I do. Produce music, make beats for everyone who appreciates it. Just vibes.

Do you think you might fly out of V Town some day?
Yeah, why not. I don’t feel like I have got a nest in general, just in life ‚round here as well. Lots of us feel that way. Wherever life takes me, it doesn’t matter when I’m surrounded by the best people. Right now, it’s okay. Now with inflation and all the bs has seen us we are complaining about things that are closer to one’s existence more than before. But still, we complain about people that stick their hands on the road and yell something at people who drive their cars. It’s a weird place to be in honestly.

In your bio you mention psalm 27:1. What does it mean to you?
It says, if God is with me who can be against me, I’m paraphrasing… ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?’ But also: ‘The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid of?‘ If you have a perspective in life and got faith or the right belief, when you’re on the right team of things, you don’t have to worry. I think it comes from my parents and my upbringing. If you ride with yourself, that’s cool and all, but when you ride with God, then you have the real opportunity to better yourself in a way that betters your environment and rests your soul. Me and the boys have been through a lot of sh*t, pain, and difficulties in early stages of life. It’s something that gives you another perspective and outlook on life. I think everybody can benefit from that. I know for certain, that everyone on this earth, no matter where they are, what they say, who they say they are or who they try to be, have that same question, or urge to something higher than oneself. I think it’s just a natural result of that. And God is the only one who can answer these questions.

You grew up in the Transdanubian outskirts of V Town but moved towards the center later. Did it help considering some bad experiences?
I used to live in the center, but I moved back out. It tears vibes down and has a nervous energy. It was quite harsh. But in the city, you just encounter more people. I think the whole country had and has problems with racism. And there are so many wrong approaches about that. We, and by we, I mean we Austrians, are very sh*t at admitting if something is wrong. We are very good at taking what’s wrong, pushing it to the side and act like we can ‚move on‘. I feel like everyone senses that we know that because we grew up with that. I need people to understand that some of us Austrians just got all that hatred, pain, accusations, and abuse from the receiving end of it. Not the giving one. It does make a difference because you can’t touch on the value of a human based on creed, sexuality, skin color or whatever. I think the sooner you realize you did zero to where you are born, the closer you realize that all of this is bollocks. I’ve had conversations with nazis telling me that they hate everything I represent as a person of colour. I’ve had a talk with a nazi who used to beat people like me. He had come to a point where he realized what he had done. He was terribly sorrowful and sorry. I wanted to show him that it’s the right direction. You could see it in his face that it’s a sickness to think like that, and how he was full of regret. Either way there is a lot of pain involved with everything. I think if you have some vent or a way to transform it into something creative it can be a great tool for expression.