When Derwin Schlecker, AKA Gold Panda, first started making waves with a volley of single releases, it sent him on a worldwide journey. After the release of his 2010 album Lucky Shiner, Schlecker was on top of the world – but success brings its own pitfalls.
“I was terrified of doing a second album. I got over it by working out whether it would sound the same as Lucky Shiner. [Half Of Where You Live] sounds slightly different; I mean, it wasn’t a huge shift, but they are distinct from one another. I spent less time on arrangement – there was a lot more spontaneity, like I would do at a live gig. I listened to it [again] the first time a few days ago and there were, like, seven out of ten tracks I listened to without cringing or thinking, ‘I could have done that better.’ The next album I’m aiming for ten out of ten.”
By the time Half Of Where You Live was released in mid-2013, Schlecker had been travelling extensively, and his new worldview took a firm hold on both himself and the music of Gold Panda.
“I think the biggest thing I learnt was the difference between reality and how things are reported. Example: people say Sao Paulo is dangerous. But I walked around the city in between gigs and it was fine. People were laughing, having a good time and I never felt like I was in any danger. What I have seen is that the world is good and, against what the news will say, people are friendly and not the evil monsters they’re made out to be. I wanted to capture that in the album. Exploration is the only real way to find out about a place.”
To be in the privileged position of travelling the world and playing his music to thousands of people isn’t something lost on Schlecker, and his success is something he speaks of with modesty.
“I’ve managed to sustain a career by putting SoundClouds together, and for some reason people seem to like it. I don’t know how long that can last. People are encouraging, which is a nice thing, but I feel guilty about what I’m doing sometimes. I make music for myself and then I put it out there to see if people also like it. But then I’ll do a show, meet some people who’ll tell me that they get a lot of enjoyment from what I’m doing, and that makes me feel really good. I do want Gold Panda to evolve and grow, though. I want to release music in new ways and explore what Gold Panda can be. I’m happy to do something new, and for people not to get it, and then do the opposite right after. I want to be selfish, and I feel that I’ve found the perfect way to do it.”
But Schlecker doesn’t just put his success down to luck. He says it’s been a process of failing and making mistakes.
“I hate a lot of electronic music. Most of the time it’s because people are using the same technology in the exact same way as everyone else. The ease of creation has made people lazy and you lose the reality in your music, and then it doesn’t sound like anything worth hearing. I like to hear the imperfections and mistakes in music. It shows that it’s real and I can associate with that. I’ve made mistakes with my music, but it means that there is something to improve about it. I suppose the lesson is; find something organic in your music, something that makes it alive and imperfect, like we all are.”