Gotye on Writing "Somebody That I Used to Know," Playing With Rubber Chickens

Categories: Q&A
Gotye on tour.jpg
Wally De Backer, better known as Gotye, is seeing huge success with his most recent album Making Mirrors, especially hit single "Somebody That I Used To Know."

But that's not quite the reaction he was expecting. In fact, De Backer wasn't sure if he was creative enough when he wrote the song, though he admits it's become one of the most defining tracks of his career.

Now he's on a nationwide tour playing to huge crowds and just generally trying to have as much fun with the music as possible.

See also:
-Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" Video Mashup Samples 130 Covers
-Gotye on Finding Fame, the Pressures of Success, and His Own VH1 Behind the Music
-Concert Review: Gotye in the Rain at Bayfront Park's Klipsch Amphitheater
-The 40-photo slideshow of Gotye at the Klipsch Amphitheater


Crossfade: How is the tour going?
De Backer: It's going seven and a half.

Seven and a half?
Yeah. I don't know out of what. But something quite close to seven and a half. It's going great. We're having a really great time. Everyone in the crew is really lovely. We're all good friends. We hit a groove. The shows still feel different and dynamic. We're having a bunch of fun on stage. So yeah, it's going great.

What sort of fun things are you doing on stage?
Well, I've brought a rubber chicken on stage. I quite enjoyed that. We swap instruments and there is a bunch of material in the show that is quite playful with sounds and with what we can do just physically among ourselves. It's kind of a very composed show, but we're finding more and more ways to kind of free it up and have fun and do things that are off the cuff.

What was going through your mind when you put this album together, specifically while writing "Somebody I Used To Know?" Did you feel it might resonate with people so much? Or was it just like any other day in the studio?
I kind of thought the stuff I was doing would appeal to some people. But there's always so much self-doubt in putting new material together. Like how it relates to stuff you've done before, just whether it's any good at all.

Making a track like "Somebody I Used To Know," to tell you the truth, I would probably be more self-conscious thinking that maybe some of my fans think that it was a little bit lacking. That I wasn't maybe creative enough. Then it becomes this huge, kind of defining song. So, your perspective can be really skewed when you're in the middle of writing something, not really relate to how it will possibly be received. That's kind of one of the beautiful things is that you make stuff and if you have any chance for people to hear it, you get such myriad responses.

What are some songs that you really love that you've written?
Often, it's the instrumentals, like a track called "Seven Hours with a Backseat Driver" from the last record that I did. We're really enjoying playing that in the encore of our shows. That's where the rubber chicken comes out. I really love playing "State of the Art" live, as a concept song and as a combination of lyrics, recordings, and sound play. And I think the simplicity, the indirectness of "Bronte," which is the closing song on my most recent record. That one I'm really proud of. I really can sort of stand by that song.



Has the "Somebody That I Used to Know" person tried calling you up now that you're famous?
The song isn't about one particular relationship. There are memories of certain moments in relationships over the last ten, 15 years that I think prompted certain lines and kind of gave me a frame of reference for either the kind of sweet melancholy at moments in the verses, and sometimes the angsty-ness or the feeling of confusion that my character expresses in the chorus. But there's not one person who I had a really broken relationship with that I don't speak to anymore. I don't think I can allow myself a lot of times to write something so personal into one song.

What else inspires you?
Sometimes, it's purely sound, sampling records, finding weird instruments. I find it's a peculiar thing, you know, the mixture of certain sounds or the lilt of a certain vocal chord progression. It doesn't really prompt musical responses in me. It sort of conjures up stories and ideas for lyrics. Once I find that little canvas, I get bleeps of a whole experience or something I can express with words that go with those sounds.

It just kind of comes to life on its own?
I can only say that it's like a glimpse of something. Whether it's a broken relationship or something my friends have gone through or the relationship a person can have with a piece of technology, I get a glimpse of how combinations of words and couplets come together in that world. They're the trigger points that make songs happen for me.

I don't know quite what it is that makes those moments happen. But they're really good moments. Because that's when I feel the most inspired and it just kind of flows like something cool is going to happen.

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