Author: Karsten Kohout
In mixing and music production there is a key concept known as contrast. Contrast can be achieved via balancing, panning, or really any of the tools available for sound manipulation. Regardless of how contrast is achieved, its main purpose is to direct the listener’s attention to a specific element of a track.
HelaSex kicks contrast in the gut, takes its lunch money, and shoves some third party AirPod look-a-likes in its ears that are blasting their breakout track “F*** S***”.
I would like to think my high school English teachers would be proud of me for that attention grabber.
HelaSex is a duo made up of Madee (formerly HELA) and Jonathan (formerly CyberSex). Jonathan journeyed from his hometown of Mobile, Alabama to land halfway across the globe in Brisbane, Australia – where Madee is from and where they currently reside. With the Couple Goals EP on Disciple Round Table, the pair formally joined their creative efforts into a singular artist profile. While it’s rare to see artists abandon their individual endeavors to join a group effort, it was more a question of when rather than if for this duo.
In early 2019, the atom bomb of a song known as “F*** S***” was released. I first heard the track get played out by Marauda at Thunderdome 2020 and later found the ID through this video:
This Soundcloud commenter summed up the song well.
The duo’s breakout single is explosive, in your face, and effortlessly sticks out in a live set (hence the support from some big names). These characteristics leave a question: if contrast is really so important in music production, why is it not obviously utilized in HelaSex’s tracks? Let me answer that by starting with a confession.
The opening pitch of this piece that visualized contrast getting bullied was hyperbole (sorry about that).
There certainly is contrast in every HelaSex track; the concept is just implemented in a different way. Contrast in a HelaSex production is more about the entire track rather than individual elements.
Take their track with Mylky titled “Shellak” for example.
The beginning of this track is nothing short of beautiful with its luscious chords, superb soundscape, and xylophone-esk plucks. Then the rest of the track is, well, insane.
HelaSex’s brand of contrast is subverting expectations.
Why opposite pan guitars and center a vocal when it’s possible to place a listener in a dreamscape before smacking them back into reality?
Some of my favorite tracks across all music genres use this style of creative structuring, so I should not be surprised that I tend to leave HelaSex tracks on repeat after a single play.
Yes, I do watch Fantano, leave me alone.
Despite the duo’s consistent and lengthy catalog (including previous collaborations), it’s clear this is only the beginning of their creative vision. Their new track “Binary” is proof of how many ideas they have in the tank and how far they are willing to push the envelope of destruction.
Recently, I had a chance to send the pair a few questions about their newest track “Binary”, their production style, and their opinion on Nickleback’s return.
Karsten Kohout: Hey! Thanks so much for coming on and helping me revive this series! How did your collab, “Shellak,” with Mylky come about?
KK: How would you say your production style & techniques have changed since the release of “F*** S***”?
HelaSex: We try to add everything with purpose now. In the past we were throwing random stuff together for the sake of being heavy. Giving the heavy sounds melody and having contrast in the tones instead of it just being a wall of sound.
KK: Deadmau5 has just had one of your master chains or primary mix busses placed in front of him. What is his initial reaction?
HelaSex: To run a hose from the Purrari exhaust pipe to his mau5head.
KK: Any chance we hear some verses from Cyber on a future HelaSex track?
HelaSex: You already have but you just don’t know it, haha.
KK: Are you still on the Animal Crossing grind? Could you show us some pictures of the best parts of your island?
HelaSex: Not so much anymore as of late, I [Madee] kind of finished the story and then started working towards a 5 star island but Isabelle just won’t budge on moving me up from a 4…. Since I’ve not played in a while, my island may or may not be covered in weeds, so instead I’ll show you some pics of my studio and arcade.
I’m all about that Fall Guys life at the moment.
been putting in all this effort on Animal Crossing with my fishing cus I want blathers to be super proud of me, and this egg day promo really do be making it hard. Here I am thinking I got a snappy turtle but nooooooo its 6 water eggs
— HelaSex 🐉 (@helasexdub) April 7, 2020
KK: A friend of mine who works with his significant other once told me “the best part of working with your significant other is that you work with your significant other. It’s also the worst part”. What are the best and not-as-great parts of creatively working with someone who you are also in a relationship with?
HelaSex: The best part is not being afraid to be completely honest with our criticisms of each other. For instance, we can just straight up tell each other “This is terrible, make something better,” without having to worry about tip-toeing around each other’s feelings like you would if you were collabing with someone you didn’t spend 24/7 with. And as for the not so great part about creatively working together, we both agree that we haven’t really experienced anything that a duo consisting of people that aren’t in a relationship would come across. There will always be a differing opinion/thought process but we also think that if anything that helps us widen our perspective and allows us to look at things on the opposite side of the spectrum, which in turn has a positive outcome.
KK: In any musical collaboration, there is always someone in the comments who says, “this track is 70% x artist and 30% y artist”. While breaking it down to percentages is a bit silly, why would you say you work so well together from a skillset perspective?
HelaSex: Well that’s easy! I’m somewhat basic and enjoy a simpler flow, whereas Johnathan has a more intricate mind and likes to give people little surprises here and there so I think our mindsets definitely contribute to what the end product sounds like. Before I started producing, I DJ’d a lot here in Brisbane so I also like to look at it from a crowd mindset. If you listen to Johnathan’s older CyberSex music you can also kind of see where I’ve come into the mix, his sound design was and still is absolutely amazing, but the writing in terms of flow and call and response was really lacking.
KK: How many LUFS is too many LUFS?
HelaSex: “The limit does not exist.”
We gots a Medal of Honour from the Loudness War 😎👌 https://t.co/dytANo1Wkk
— HelaSex 🐉 (@helasexdub) May 6, 2020
KK: If HelaSex made a Lo-Fi Hip Hop track, what would it be called and what would it sound like?
HelaSex: *loads up Song Names list*
We’d call it “Rapture”. It would be a love song written in Bmin….get it? There’d be a ukulele. RC-20 on the master with every knob maxed out. And we’d probably throw in ol’ reliable, also known as Knight Of Bass Moaning.wav
KK: Is it a coincidence that Nickleback returned in 2020 or is there something more to their [un]timely return?
FRIDAY 8/14 pic.twitter.com/uBieV7zoKj
— Nickelback (@Nickelback) August 10, 2020
HelaSex: No idea. But we will admit we feel a sinister undertone to the announcement…willing to bet they’re dropping the soundtrack of the apocalypse. But if it goes as hard as “How You Remind Me”, we’re all for it.
KK: A hallmark of your productions are the melancholic and musically intricate intros & bridges. How do you manage to keep a track aesthetically consistent despite the drastic tone changes between sections? Said differently, how do you keep the listener engaged through emotionally differing sections within the same track?
HelaSex: There’s no real thought process that goes into it if we’re being honest. It just happens naturally due to the influences we grew up with, 80’s/90’s R&B, DennizPop/Max Martin productions, the emo era, anime themes ect… We’re just glad to be able to bring something different to the table and show the world that “break your f****** neck, b****!” isn’t the only emotion the genre has to offer haha.
KK: When you sit down in front of an initial patch, do you have a particular sound in your mind that you want to create or is more of an experimental process?
HelaSex: We tend to yolo the f*** out of all the knobs and pray for happy accidents. Nine out of ten times they end up being terrible, but you get out of it what you put into it. There will be lots of failure on the path to innovation. But at the end of the day, you’re getting exp. for all of it. Wake up at the Pokémon center and give it another go.
KK: Speaking of production processes, you promised your newest track “Binary” would be your heaviest to date and it certainly delivered. Can you describe some of the techniques you used to ensure this track would be your most destructive yet?
HelaSex: Aside from a few hundred instances of OTT, we just made sure every sound in the song would be able to stand on its own. Most dubstep tracks have one really amazing sound in the drop and a lot of bland fillers carrying the majority of the tune. But THIS bees a Michelin Star dub.
KK: Where would you say “Binary” fits in the HelaSex discography both in terms of existing tracks and tracks to come?
HelaSex: It’s a special one. An ode to the past before we roll out the next phase. Threw in some cheeky machine guns, even though we swore we’d never use them in our music again haha. But this is the end of the road for that vibe. We’ve really veered off into a completely different realm recently.
KK: Lastly, your formal entry into the bass music scene under the moniker “HelaSex” added another name to the ever-expanding list of influential artists from Australia. Could you dissect why Australia’s dubstep scene is turning out so many incredible producers right now and give a shoutout to some smaller producers in your local scene?
HelaSex: Sausage rolls are pretty f****** inspiring. That’s the only explanation.
A few artists in the local scene that we want to shout out are:
Hydronic, Fitch, Garrood, Swillz, Aveon, VANM & Vekta.
All of these guys have big things comin.
KK: Thanks so much for your time!
HelaSex: Thanks so much for this interview, we had a tonne of fun answering your questions! We have a looooot more planned for the rest of the year, Binary is just the beginning 🙂
Also! Make sure to join our discord server!
HelaSex is a name all bassheads in 2020 need to know.
Check out their newest track “Binary” and keep an ear out for their future releases!
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KARSTEN KOHOUT | Keeping you up to date on bass | KXSU Blog Writer