It's been exalted by XR professionals, journalists, and even Venice Immersive: BREAK, the innovative music label formerly known as King Deluxe, makes its return later today with an all-new live performance in virtual reality. The concert will celebrate the release of Eostre, a textural new EP by artist Muta.
BREAK will open its doors in VR tonight at 10pm EST. To learn how to attend, check out this announcement post or join the venue's VRChat group. Visitors can enjoy the concert either with a virtual headset, or with VRChat's free desktop client on Steam.
BREAK is a music label that has featured artists from around the globe since 2010. In 2021, they launched their first VR music venue, CORE. BREAK primarily creates what are known as "shader clubs", utilizing complex effects in real time as DJs perform alongside their visual jockey counterparts. The result is a mind-melting fireworks show: spatial illusions, particles, and alterations to the user's screen to simulate tripping out or staring into giant vortexes in the sky.
Here's a trailer of one of their venues where shows are still held:
The Metaculture spoke with PK and Muta about their process, virtual design, and the definition of immersivity.
Your music is complex and melodic. What stories inspire you to build your auditory worlds? Does your music have a lore?
Often times when I am working on a piece of music, it helps to imagine a sort of visual identity for the track. Sometimes it’s ambiguous, sometimes there’s a story there. More recently I have found myself wanting to explore that idea of having lore attached to the various projects I release. My latest EP, Eostre, is based on a sci-fi narrative that I am working on. Though I don’t consider myself a creative writer by any means, it’s still fun to take a crack at building a story around the music. The development of the story & lore reinforces the creative process of the music and vice versa.
BREAK is music group with presence in virtual reality for special shows. What's different about performing in VR, and what's challenging about it?
I actually find VR shows to be way more laid back than IRL gigs! When I throw on the headset and it’s my turn to play, I feel like I am no different than anyone else in the room. Just enjoying some tunes and watching these crazy visuals unfold before my eyes. Both are incredible in their own ways, but I can easily say VR shows are less anxiety inducing for me. I really look forward to exploring performative approaches to both VR and IRL shows moving forward, though the novelty of playing a show in VR has me pretty excited.
Your albums feature beautiful glitch cover art, to illustrations of fanciful sci-fi. Who are some visual artists you enjoy currently?
Though I struggle to name one artist in particular, I will say that I hope one day experience a Max Cooper 3D/AV show. They look so incredible on a visual level. On another note, there’s an artist named Roope Rainisto who I discovered from their fully AI generated short films. AI cinema is some of the most bizarre and intriguing visual work I have seen and it fascinates me.
If you could only take one piece of equipment with you to a desert island to make music, what would it be?
That’s a harder question to answer than one might think! My mind immediately goes to my laptop, since that’s kind of all I need at the end of the day, but this is a desert island and it would die rather quickly. A grand piano might be nice, but it too would succumb to the elements over time. The question also makes me ponder why I make music. On a desert island it would become purely about self-actualization, since you no longer have anyone to share the music with. Perhaps it’s best if I don’t end up on a desert island!
There's an eternal debate about music instruments versus DAW. Do you have a limit on what you use to create music, or are you a "the more the merrier" type of person?
I consider myself to be more of a music producer than a composer or song writer. I take sounds and sonic signatures and assemble them in a way that aligns with my taste in music. Im not formerly trained on any instrument, though I do have some rudimentary playing abilities on the piano--enough to get me by, I suppose. My main instrument is definitely Ableton Live, so you could say I am a DAW enthusiast.
The world within the DAW feels limitless. I will always be a student in this regard. I doubt I will ever fully master it, and the idea of that gives me comfort. I could go the rest of my life learning new things about how to make music on a computer. If I am fortunate enough, I might just do that.
How did BREAK get its start as a label? What are some ultimate goals as a venue and establishment?
It grew out of my older indie label King Deluxe. That one began quite a while back, and I did these festivals for three summers where I made everyone, including the performers, hike up a mountain to a different alpine lake each year. For two nights, they performed around a campfire and hung out. The original idea was to do one festival in nature, and the next summer go totally virtual, since I was getting more into electronic sounds. The artists I was releasing were spread out all over the planet.
But there just wasn't anything that seemed cool enough! For the virtual shows, that is. I checked out Second Life and others, and while I found some impressive worldbuilding, it just wasn't what I was after. And the mountain gatherings were so fun, that we stuck with that.
Once the Oculus Kickstarter happened, I got excited! This seemed like it might lead to something more like what I had in mind. Once the DK2 came out, I got one and shortly after, discovered VRChat. I knew nothing about making 3D art, what was possible and what wasn't, plus the platform wasn't nearly as advanced as it is now, but it seemed the most promising of anything out there. After a couple of years of messing around, I attempted some shows at the start of 2015. We did two that year, not called BREAK and much more basic, but similar in style with how the environments were switched up constantly.
It was buggy, but people seemed to enjoy it. I stopped working on music events though for years, not much free time and I wanted to do some ARG's. Once I tried out GHOSTCLUB, though I was completely blown away and realized that musical tastes in the community were much closer to my own than before, so I asked some 3D artists if they'd like to design cyberpunk clubs. A few said yes, and so I started with The Core since Kamen (CORE's designer) was so keen to try things out.
Recently, I finished setting up two more clubs, FTR (FuTuRe) and the latest one which I still haven't come up with a name for. There's a fourth that still needs some work. All of these though can be completely transformed, as I like starting in a recognizable setting but then mutating it. The goal is to showcase art I like, while experimenting with what's possible when combining sight and sound and story and more.
BREAK's virtual venues are known to draw technical audiences who are looking to be wowed in new ways. Your work has also been praised by XR professionals and Kent Bye, who hosts the Voices of VR series. Did you ever expect such a positive reaction?
I always new it was possible that VRChat would allow for events like this, but wasn't sure the community and my Unity abilities would get here. What really helped is groups like VRCPrefabs, and others that create tools for others to use and customize. I still feel like an amateur in most ways, and free time is still limited as this is totally non-profit for me, so I'm quite pleased with where the scene is going and what's already possible.
I wouldn't say I'm too surprised that others enjoy this stuff as much as I do, but if you told me a few years ago that we'd have something called Audiolink that magically made shaders react to the music in realtime, I might not have believed it!
What is an "immersive performance" to you? What defines ultimate immersivity for effects and stage design?
For me, what I love most is if the music and visuals work together to enhance the other in unexpected ways. With King Deluxe, we made lots of music videos. Sometimes you couldn't tell if the song or the animation came first, because the animators do such a great job of using individual sounds to direct motion. Their visuals taught us how to listen to the music, and vice versa, if that makes sense.
Putting us inside the music video is so much better yet! You can then allow people to feel the music in new ways. I won't pretend that I understand this stuff well; it's a lot of messing around and trying to learn more skills (and finding good collaborators). I think there's so much more one could do with storytelling in these shows. What we have now seems like just the beginning.
In its most pared-down state, what's the minimum you think a virtual music venue should have in its design?
It depends I think on the music and the goal of the organizers, whether it's a weekend hangout with friends where people want to chat, or to dance, then it's mostly a matter of good tunes and a comfortable environment. Although if people aren't looking for a familiar space, then you don't need a club at all, you could switch it up each time. For me, I personally like things I've never seen before, and travelling through different environments, so I'm after the less minimal designs. Then again, minimalism is probably better for people to focus more on the music and move with it.
How does BREAK choose artists to work with? The label's got some pretty impressive releases under its belt now.
With King Deluxe it was mostly whatever I was into at the time, with BREAK there's more of a focus on the dancefloor, and learning what this community would also enjoy. Many of our events aren't label releases though, just DJ's I like that want to play one of our shows. Plus some VJ's as well that are into these sounds and want to play with our controls.
And we welcome more! If anyone wants to learn how to VJ in our clubs, I'm happy to let them learn.