Marc Satseg talks AI and new EP, Hello Earth

Marc Satseg is a Belgian producer, and the man behind the Spaceless Records label. Though he likes to keep things fairly anonymous, his work is most definitely worth checking out. Quality house music that’s tinged with a delectable, sci-fi tinged, forward-facing sound, his latest record - the magnificent Hello Earth - truly is one that’s very contemporary in nature. That’s because it’s been produced using a list of different AI technologies. Regardless of where you stand on this topic, the results speaks for themselves, and are nothing if not impressive. Besides that, they also showcase a producer who’s very much unafraid to take chances and embrace all that technology has to offer. A no-doubt hot topic right now, we took up with Marc ahead of the release to chat about influences, AI, Belgium and more…

How did the idea of using AI in the creation of your EP, Hello Earth, come about, and what inspired you to explore the limits of technology in your music production?

The idea of incorporating AI into the creation of my EP, "Hello Earth," stemmed from a desire to push the boundaries of creativity and explore new sonic landscapes. I've always been fascinated by technology and its potential impact on music. 

Chatgpt has shed light on a subject that was of interest only to specialists in the field. Now we're seeing lots of initiatives in terms of artificial intelligence, and as an artist it's going to be increasingly difficult to ignore them. I had an idea for an EP themed around technology, robots and aliens, something science-fiction. So it was the perfect opportunity to explore the possibilities with AI

Can you share some insights into the specific AIs you used during the creation of your EP? How did they influence the creative process?

I tested a lot of AIs, for instance, when it came to creating music, I used midi note generation AIs like Magenta studio and Pilot plugins. To get samples of music I like (kicks in particular), I used Lalal.AI. For synths, I used and Synplant (a real game changer as it allows you to recreate synths from a sample using AI). I also used Musicfy to create vocal tracks. I've also tested other AIs like Sistema 2, which work with prompts to create custom synths. For the clips, I used Kaiber to create them and Chatgpt to create the storyboard.

There are only 2 places where I didn't use AI: for the mixing/mastering because I think the human ear is better than machines (even though I've already tested LANDR's AI for mastering) and the EP cover, which was done by my graphic designer, because the laws are currently unclear on the intellectual property of AI-generated images. 

Hello Earth seems to be a unique project in terms of its collaboration with AI. What challenges did you encounter while working with artificial intelligence, and how did you overcome them?

Collaborating with AI on "Hello Earth" indeed presented its share of challenges. One significant challenge was finding the right balance between my artistic vision and the output generated by the AI. The algorithms, while powerful, sometimes produced results that needed refinement to align with my intentions. 

Another challenge was integrating the AI's suggestions seamlessly into the production process. This required adapting my workflow to accommodate the algorithmic input and ensuring a cohesive blend between human and machine-generated elements. 

Marc Setsag

Do you ever worry or think about the reaction to music being made this way? 

Absolutely, the reception to music created in collaboration with AI is always a consideration. There's a certain level of anticipation and, yes, a bit of concern about how audiences will perceive the fusion of human creativity and artificial intelligence. It's a shift from the traditional methods of music production, and I understand that it might raise questions or even scepticism.

However, I believe that innovation is an essential part of the artistic journey. My intention with "Hello Earth" was not only to create a unique listening experience but also to spark conversations about the intersection of technology and art. I'm curious to see how listeners will engage with the music, knowing that a significant portion of it was crafted in collaboration with AI. 

In your press release, you mentioned testing the limits of technology. What, in your opinion, are the most exciting possibilities that AI brings to the music production process?

Exploring the limits of technology in music production with AI opens exciting possibilities. AI accelerates creativity by analysing musical data, providing insights, and acting as a unique collaborator. The fusion of human intuition and machine intelligence creates groundbreaking compositions, pushing the boundaries of traditional genres. In the slightly more distant future, I think anything is possible! The artist Molecule has been working on a thought-controlled instrument. It would be great to be able to think about a sound, an instrument,... and to be able to reproduce it exactly as you want. 

How do you balance the creative input of AI with your own artistic vision? Were there moments where technology led the way, or did you always maintain a clear artistic direction?

Balancing the creative input of AI with my own artistic vision was a dynamic process. While I always maintained a clear artistic direction, there were moments where technology led the way. The collaboration involved a constant dialogue between my creative instincts and the AI's algorithmic suggestions. At times, the AI presented ideas that sparked new directions, contributing to the overall innovative nature of "Hello Earth." It was about finding a harmonious balance where the technology complemented and enriched my artistic vision rather than overshadowing it.

How do you think the use of AI in music production will impact the future of electronic music, and do you foresee it becoming a more widespread practice in the industry?

The use of AI in music production has already had a significant impact on electronic music, and I believe it will continue to shape the future of the industry. AI's ability to analyse vast amounts of musical data, generate innovative compositions, and offer unique insights into production processes has contributed to the evolution of electronic music styles.

As with all fads, I think we're going to hear a lot about AIs because it's a new concept and then it will become a norm. But as with everything, there will always be artists who prefer to produce music the old-fashioned way. You only have to look at the invention of the CD or MP3, everyone thought it was going to be the end of vinyl. Time has proved the opposite. 

Belgium has a rich history in electronic music. How has the Belgian electronic music scene influenced your work, and do you see any particular Belgian musical elements in Hello Earth?

The rich history of electronic music in Belgium has undeniably influenced my work. The country has been a breeding ground for innovative electronic sounds, and the eclectic nature of the Belgian electronic music scene has inspired me to explore diverse sonic landscapes. The emphasis on intricate and evolving rhythms, as well as the fusion of different sub-genres, reflects the spirit of experimentation that characterises the Belgian electronic music scene. It's a nod to the vibrant and pioneering legacy of electronic music in Belgium that continues to inspire artists like myself.

Are there any specific artists or electronic music movements that have played a significant role in shaping your musical style and approach?

The artist who has had a significant impact on me is Francesco Del Garda, particularly after experiencing one of his all night long sets in Paris. This sparked my curiosity, leading me to delve into his musical movement and the artists associated with it. However, in recent times, I have intentionally distanced myself from that influence to explore more deeply my own musical universe.

How have your musical influences outside of electronic music contributed to the creation of Hello Earth?

My musical influences extend beyond electronic music, drawing from my background as a drummer and years spent playing the piano. The rhythmic intricacies and dynamics inherent in drumming have undoubtedly influenced the percussive elements and overall groove in "Hello Earth." Additionally, my experience with the piano has shaped the melodic and harmonic aspects of the EP, adding a layer of complexity and musicality. These diverse musical influences outside of the electronic genre have played a crucial role in creating a rich and multifaceted sonic tapestry in "Hello Earth."

Can you share a specific moment during the production of Hello Earth where the collaboration with AI led to an unexpected and exciting result?

Certainly.  During the creation of one of the tracks “Volta”, the AI algorithm introduced a unique midi melodie pattern that I hadn't initially considered. It added a dynamic layer to the composition, transforming the overall energy of the track in a surprising and compelling way.

What message or emotion do you hope listeners take away from Hello Earth, considering the unique fusion of technology and creativity in its making?

With "Hello Earth," I hope listeners experience a sense of exploration and wonder. The fusion of technology and creativity in its making aims to convey the idea that innovation and art can coexist harmoniously. I want listeners to feel the excitement of pushing boundaries, both musically and technologically, and to appreciate the potential of collaboration between human creativity and artificial intelligence. 

How do you see the relationship between technology and music evolving in the coming years, and do you anticipate incorporating more AI elements into your future projects?

I envision the relationship between technology and music evolving in the coming years to be increasingly integrated and symbiotic. While I don't foresee using AI extensively in the direct creation of music itself in my future projects, as I find personal hands-on creation integral to my process, I do see potential in using  AI for more practical tasks. Specifically, I plan to leverage AI for aspects of production that may be time-consuming or less creatively fulfilling, allowing me to streamline certain processes and focus more on the artistic aspects of my work. This approach allows for a balanced integration of technology, enhancing efficiency without compromising the core creative essence of the music.

The press release mentions a creative process that involves experimentation. Can you highlight any specific experiments or techniques you employed in the making of the record?

Certainly. In the visual realm, the experimentation involved using AI to generate visual patterns and elements for the accompanying music videos. This interactive and iterative process of experimentation allowed for the discovery of novel sonic and visual landscapes, contributing to the distinctive and innovative nature of "Hello Earth."

How do you think the use of AI aligns with the broader trends in electronic music, and do you see it as a tool for innovation in the genre?

The use of AIs aligns seamlessly with broader trends in electronic music and stands as a powerful tool for innovation in the genre. Electronic music has always been at the forefront of embracing new technologies, and AI provides a unique avenue for pushing boundaries. It aligns with the evolving nature of the genre, where artists continually seek novel ways to express creativity.

Your press photos reveal a visual aesthetic that complements the futuristic theme of Hello Earth. How does the visual aspect contribute to the overall storytelling of the EP?

The visual aspect plays a crucial role in enhancing the storytelling of "Hello Earth." The futuristic theme of the EP is visually articulated through carefully curated press photos that aim to transport the audience into a distinct visual universe. The aesthetic choices, from lighting to composition, are intended to mirror the sonic landscape of the music, creating a cohesive and immersive experience.

Can you also tell us a bit about Spaceless Records and where you’re at with that right now?

Spaceless Records is a label I founded with the purpose of fostering experimentation within the realm of electronic music. The idea behind creating my own label was to have a platform where I could explore various sonic landscapes without being confined by a specific genre. It allows me the freedom to release tracks that may not fit a traditional mold, and it serves as a creative outlet for pushing boundaries and trying out innovative ideas. Currently, Spaceless Records serves as a hub for my artistic exploration, providing a space to share and showcase diverse electronic music experiences.

Thus far you’ve kept it to your own music. What’s the thinking there?

I prioritise keeping my releases on Spaceless Records as it's a platform where I feel the freedom to fully express myself. The label serves as a creative playground where I can experiment without constraints. Currently, I haven't expanded to featuring other artists because of time constraints, but I'm open to the idea in the future. 

Are there any upcoming live performances or events where audiences can experience Hello Earth in a live setting, and how do you plan to incorporate the AI elements into your live shows?

Exciting developments are on the horizon, but it's not the right moment to make announcements just yet. Regarding the incorporation of AI elements into my live shows, I view AI as a tool, and while it has played a significant role in the studio, I don't want it to overshadow the live performance experience. The focus remains on delivering an immersive and dynamic live set, and any AI elements introduced will serve to enhance the overall experience rather than take center stage.

Looking ahead, what can we expect from you in terms of future projects, and are there any specific themes or technologies you're eager to explore in your next musical endeavours?

Looking ahead, having delved into the realm of AI experimentation, my aim is to strike a balance in future projects. I have a new mixtape scheduled for release in December as part of my Space Session podcast series. Additionally, there's an upcoming EP titled "Hard Desire" slated for February 2024, with a focus on exploring the theme of emotions. The corresponding music video is currently in the works, promising a visually and emotionally engaging experience for the audience.

PS: All questions were answered by Marc Satseg's digital double, created and trained by AI :) 

Check out more from Marc’s Spaceless Records label here

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