Gotye has a single, it's called 'Somebody That I Used To Know, you may have heard it. To say that the hit single is ubiquitous would be an understatement, just ask anyone in any of the 20 countries where it has topped the charts or any of the near 200 million YouTube viewers. We decided to give Gotye (real name Wally De Backer) a call to find out even more about the life and times of a global smash hit.
Can you fill us in on precisely what you have been up to before releasing the single?
I was living at home for a long time, just working in my own space in a barn that I made music in and looking for my own sound in different spaces. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years pretty much between Gotye and my other band, The Basics.
Does it ever irritate you when people assume 'Somebody...' is some kind of overnight success?
No, actually, it really doesn't. I'm just happy to be doing well after so long.
Have you analysed the success of Somebody’ to try and understand just why it has taken off in such a big way?
I think YouTube had a lot to do with it. Had I released this single even six years ago then it wouldn’t have been online and so easy for people to show their friends and share in that way. The time I spent making music as Gotye helped me build up a grass roots foundation that helped me once things started getting more successful as well. I was my own publicist for many years and have worked with the same soundman from the very start so I was ready for the next step up in my career.
When you wrote the song did you have a feeling that it would be a big hit?
No, I’ve never really written a song and thought ‘That’s going to be massive’. in fact, it was always The Basics that we thought would go on to more commercial things. Gotye was always a sideline thing for me.
Do you think that your success after toiling away on the underground for so long is a reward for your persistence?
It depends on how you measure success I suppose. I mean, in terms of money it means a lot more freedom and that’s something I value but at the same time I’m far from money orientated - that was never my motivation for getting into music.
The audience is so varied, you know? I've had people who have followed me for years get in contact and explain how now that I am able to tour properly that they can finally see me as I’m playing near enough to them. That’s so good to hear. I mean, obviously, some people are only there to hear the one song but there haven’t been any cases of people just leaving when I throw it out in the middle of a set.
You recently made some comments about the Glee cover version of ‘Somebody…’ that seemed to be taken out of context slightly. Do you want to clarify your thoughts on their version for us?
Yeah, totally. Those comments were made off hand and taken out of context so when I came out to say what I had meant it’s not like I was back pedalling and saying ‘This is the most amazing thing ever’. What I like about the Glee version though is the way they used two male vocals on the track. Before I met Kimbra and we used her on the song using a second male voice was actually an idea that we talked about in the studio.
And are there any versions of the song that you’ve heard that you would recommend to us?
Yeah, a few actually. I really like the instrumental versions and some of the remixes so I’d say anyone should check out the stuff that 4FRNT, M Phazes, Walk Off The Earth and Bibio’s remix too.
Finally, do you have any tips on how to get the song removed from our brains? It seems to be impossible.
Well, don’t walk around Coachella Festival that’s for sure. Every DJ seemed to be playing that song when I was there recently. I don’t know, maybe I’ll just go KLF on the song and delete every single copy of it on Youtube, every remix, cover and just disappear leaving no trace that the song ever existed. That might work.
It would certainly be a statement…
Haha, yes, it definitely would.
Gotye's album 'Making Mirrors' is out now.