Under the musical alias of Giraffage, producer Charlie Yin has been steadily reshaping electronic music since the late noughties. His sample-based original material has garnered critical acclaim, and re-workings of popular R&B tracks have landed high-profile DJ slots with the likes of Boiler Room. Giraffage’s popularity on the dance floor might come as a surprise, especially when we compare his material with the fast-paced and full-bodied ‘house’ genre. However, Yin is remarkably successful within the world of electronic music, and this success stems from a fierce rejection of formulaic song-writing and an equally fierce embrace of artistry and ambiguity.
Evading strict genre classification and embracing a panoply of influences, he has a sound that is hard to define. I was eager to pick Yin’s brain and discover more about his musical journey. And I did just that…
SO, WHAT WAS THE CATALYST FOR YOUR MUSICAL PASSION?
I remember being like two or three years old, and dancing to a shitty MIDI [Musical Instrument Digital Interface] demo on a Yamaha keyboard. I think that’s my first musical memory. I’m pretty sure I’ve been obsessed with music ever since.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR SOUND TO SOMEONE WHO’D NEVER LISTENED TO YOU BEFORE?
I really don’t know how to describe my music to be honest. I grew up listening to a lot of different genres and they all manage to creep into my music somehow.
YOUR SOUND HAS TESTED THE LIMITS OF HOW PEOPLE PERCEIVE ELECTRONIC MUSIC. WHO ELSE DO YOU THINK HAS CHANGED THE GAME IN ELECTRONIC MUSIC?
The Postal Service is what got me heavily into electronic music back in middle school. Just hearing pop vocals over electronic beats triggered something in my brain and I quickly began trying to emulate them in my early years.
WHY ELECTRONIC MUSIC?
I enjoy how limitless electronic music is. You can record a bunch of acoustic instruments and then suddenly you put it all through a filter and get a whole different type of sound. The possibilities are literally endless and I feel like that endlessness allows creativity to flourish.
YOU ARE BASED IN SAN FRANCISCO, A RENOWNED CULTURAL CENTRE. HAS THIS INFLUENCED YOUR MUSIC AT ALL?
Yes, definitely. I’m heavily influenced by my surroundings. I live really close to the ocean which affects my mood and the way I express myself creatively. If I lived somewhere else, the album would likely sound entirely different.
IS THERE A STORY BEHIND THE NAME GIRAFFAGE?
It’s an arbitrary name to be honest. I also like giraffes.
INITIALLY, YOU GATHERED RECOGNITION FOR YOUR MUSIC BY SELF-RELEASING MATERIAL ON THE INTERNET. HOW DO YOU THINK THE INTERNET IS OPENING UP OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUNG MUSICIANS?
Literally any kid can pirate a copy of Ableton Live and go on to release the best record of the year. The barriers to entry are so low these days that the number of quality releases is insanely high.
YOU SAY THAT ‘TOO REAL’ IS A RETURN TO YOUR MUSICAL INTERESTS AND ROOTS, HOW IS THIS REFLECTED IN THE SOUND?
There was definitely pressure to conform and make what a lot of festival producers adhere to… ‘build, drop, build, drop, build, drop’ [on] every song. I think that was bumming me out. So I’ve been listening to a lot of older stuff and getting reacquainted with my musical roots. I’ve conditioned myself to just say ‘fuck it’ and make whatever I want to make and not care about what other people think.
YOU ARE SOON EMBARKING ON A TOUR ACROSS CANADA, THE US AND EUROPE. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT TOURING?
I love eating food in different cities and countries.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE TOURING STORY?
One time, Tony Hawk [the American professional skateboarder] came to my show and I expressed my love for Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 to him for a really long time and probably weirded him out.