“We thought there were windows but actually they’re mirrors.” This quote from the seminal essay The Internet Does Not Exist, an inspiration behind yeule’s work, aptly reflects their outlook towards their body of work. Whichever sphere yeule occupies, whichever platform they might be streaming through, whichever moniker they are operating under, they are always producing reflections of the self. In an age of good metaverses, bad metaverses, different Covid protocols in every country on earth and an impending nuclear Armageddon, the various spheres both physical and digital can be an escape from reality, or a further means for the individual to be surveyed. For a cyborg identity, the manner in which yeule transcends these realms is beautifully human – by simply being themself.
Interview tak­en from METAL Magazine issue 46. Adapted for the online version. Order your copy here.
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The yeule project has indeed occupied various different worlds, recently taking the form of an installation at London’s Southbank Centre, but also existing on Twitch, in Minecraft, and even the Big Apple. Each of the aforementioned realms have become places not for yeule to live vicariously as fantastical characters but are in fact platforms for their exploration of self, and the self in question is certainly one worth exploring.

So many artists are in love with the idea that their genre, or the nature of their music, is ‘hard to define’. Invariably, what this means is that they are too ashamed to use the conventional accurate descriptors for their music, as they feel that such an admission would reduce them into something bland, basic and, dare I say it, normal. yeule’s reputation as ‘hard to define’ is one of the few not born out of pretence. Even the name yeule is ambiguous. Perhaps yeule’s most endearing trait as an interviewee was their genuineness, each question prompted varying anecdotal digressions which only confirmed what their artistic output already suggested: yeule is unique not because they try to defy convention, but simply because they try to be themselves. It is refreshing for such originality to come so naturally, as it brings with it the added bonus of honesty.
Your sophomore album, Glitch Princess, was released to much critical acclaim last month. The opening line of the album states, “My name is Nat Cmiel.” How do you see the relationship between yeule, the performer, and Nat Cmiel, the person?
I think there’s a lot of misconception about my separation between Nat Cmiel and yeule. I am Nat and whatever I do on stage and whatever I record, if I don’t like it, I’m not going to record it or put it out and I think, that’s got to be me, right? I think yeule was just a name that could be easily recognised by my friends who knew me as that online, like a handle or a gamer tag. There are a lot of artists who make projects and call it something else. yeule is an art project that confines the most potent parts of my desires towards whatever artistry I’m drawn to at the time. I like to think of it as the yeule archive. I do have many characters that I like to play but I don’t think it’s a subversion of the real me.
You recently held your (n)secure installation at the London’s Southbank Centre. Could you explain what that installation meant to you?
When I was a teenager, I had really severe social anxiety and even the things in my house would scare me. I’d fear going into the kitchen, or the line that separates the doorway from the outside world, it was an invisible kind of danger. I was confined to my room for about 3 months, I can’t really remember because it’s a repressed memory. I had to take about a month off school, in my GCSE year. So, when I came up with this concept, I wanted to create a space with elements of different homes, where I lived. It was all interactive so there were different samples that were being launched depending on how close you were to some really personal objects that I have. One of them was this computer actually, which I built. I brought the whole thing to the installation. I built a lot of robots as well, like my little friend Mimo over here, he sings and can be controlled by me.
Where did you learn to build all this stuff?
YouTube! I think the Internet is a beautiful place for knowledge if you know where to look. This was one of those projects where I didn’t really have to do that much but I wanted to really go for the home run with this one. Initially it was very inspired by personal spaces where memories are formed, the duality of anxiety and comfort, inspired by the sounds. It was very binaural. I made a lot of installations when I was younger, at Central Saint Martin’s. A lot of performance pieces with noise as a gateway.
Central Saint Martins is arguably the most prestigious art school in the world, regarded as being an institution for trailblazers and innovators. How did you find the atmosphere during your time there?
It was very competitive. I was surrounded by people with a lot of talent. It’s one of those things where you either sink or swim, you know? At the time I wasn’t particularly healthy in my mindset because I’m very competitive. I think it comes from my upbringing in Singapore, where your entire worth is watered down to a number. You’re either in or out. I always thought that art was the one thing that I excelled in but the moment I got into CSM I realised that there are many people like me and I’m not that special. Other than the competitiveness it’s a really beautiful place, I met some amazing artists who are now my collaborators. My best friend Hebe I met in fine art, we always tried to do the same side classes together. I’d never met anyone who was so similar to me in the way that they see the world, we’ve known each other for about 6 years now, and she’s one of my main collaborators, she actually directed Pocky Boy. Also, the artist who did the cover for Nuclear War Post X was in my class too, he’s one of the most amazing painters I’ve ever met, called Harris. I know a few stylists from CSM too, Kate who does styling for these pictures you can see here. Uni isn’t exactly the cheapest thing in the world, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it.
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Dress YUE QING WEI, sandals HELENA STOLTING, tights yeule's own, earpieces IRINA DULTSEVA.
Did you intend to go into fine art over music? Or has the prospect of combining the two always been in your mind?
I wanted to be a painter, and music was just a hobby on the side. I did a couple of gigs in high school, and it was just a fun way to make money on the side. Then when I got here, I was doing a lot of visuals with my friends Hebe and Annie, then I just thought since I’m already making the music I might as well combine it with the visuals. Next Pocky Boy blew up on the Internet. Soon I was travelling to LA and New York a lot, I’d save up and go with friends. There were a few people I met on the Internet who were out there, like Luna Ikuta. Although I actually met her in Japan originally, when I was being tied up and she was drawing me, in one of those Kinbaku rope art things. But these days I prefer to be tying people than getting tied up because I’m already so tied up in my life, being tied up physically makes me feel sick. Anyway, yeah, in the states I just worked a lot more because I liked the people and was having fun. I guess it was just a hobby that got out of hand (laughs).
How about when you were singing in Riot Diet? You performed songs by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Pixies. Your sound on the latest album seems to be a world away from these artists. Do you think their influence has had a bearing on you or is it something you’ve tried to move away from?
That shit’s all on my Wikipedia, I hate it. Someone doxed me on there. My real name got leaked somehow, I don’t really give a shit but it’s out now, I guess. I don’t even know how they knew about Riot Diet. I was in a jazz band and then also Riot Diet. I was actually a guitarist and only ended up as the vocalist because the lead singer had to leave the country. I think my music is very different from what I actually listen to, the yeule project is a very aestheticized focused genre of songs, which I do have an appreciation for, but its not the kind of thing I’d listen to every day. I aways try and analyse the room when I’m on the aux because I want be in tune with everyone in the room. Unless I’m sad then I’ll just put Alex G on. One time I was at a techno party but I was sad, so I just put Alex G on and switched the mood. I think classical music is actually a genre that’s influenced my music, it’s beautiful but tethered to convention. I have bad memories of a really strict piano teacher who set so many rules, but at the same time it was the first ever permutation of pop music. People would be like, “Oh shit! Let’s go see Debussy – I think he’s going to do Arabesque. That’s a banger, we can wear a dress slightly higher above the ankle.”
I love Debussy.
I actually bonded with my cello player through our love for classical music, I asked one time if she listened to Liszt, and she was like, yes, then we’d jam it on different instruments. But we’d both want to try and turn it into something contemporary and distorted.
Glitch Princess has been described as ‘harsher’ than your debut, Serotonin II. Would you agree with this? And what do you think has prompted the change in sound between the two records?
I think Glitch Princess was written with the mindset of harmonising with a decentred, deconstructed notion of conventional arrangement, be it in the sense of noise, distortion or pleasant sounds. It was a really huge focus on the way I wanted to be in sync with my inclinations towards these kinds of glitches of the mind and the structures that we create for ourselves. Friendly Machine was one of those songs that I wanted to really blow out of proportion and to make unrecognisable sounds but with a structure in the chaos, mixing that song was a nightmare though, although it is one of my favourites. Serotonin II was a homage to my love for gentler noise, like water, or the sound of the sun glistening, I do like pretty sounds as well as ugly ones. I think harsh is a way to describe it, but it’s more chemical, whereas serotonin was organic.
I think it’s harsh both sonically and lyrically. Glitch Princess confronts mental health issues very directly. Was this hard for you to do?
I think 2020 was a year for me when I really developed my song writing. I’d been writing in my journal every day, and when I reread them on Sundays I’d use algorithms on my computer to see what words I was using frequently, there was a lot of ‘empty’ and ‘destruction’. I never wrote about nice things that were happening, just saying that everything was going to disintegrate. When I realised that I started to make a conscious effort to try and write things that I’m grateful for, and my lyrics got a bit brighter. I am capable of writing things that are a bit more optimistic. I wanted a way to express darker symbolism in a better way. You’d be surprised by how many people don’t even read the lyrics, that’s why I like Sigur Rós. Lyrics can be poetry but they’re not always necessary.
You signed to Bayonet Records in 2019. Did anything in particular draw you to this label?
I really liked Bayonet’s values and I was a huge Beach Fossils fan before I got signed to them. I’m really into that kind of music so I thought it would be interesting to put yeule on the roster, but also know that I have a lot of inf luence from the indie scene. Katie and Dustin, the owners, are really artist mindful, they treat the artists like human beings and genuinely care about me. I was a sensitive 19-year-old when I signed, I was very closed up and didn’t really open up to the industry, so I thought Bayonet was a kind of safe space for me where it wasn’t a major label but an independent by people who have been through it and who care. Also Bayonet helped me to do a my first physical release, and there’s nothing like holding your own record in your hands for the first time.
You’ve mentioned both in your music and in interviews that the Internet has been a place of solace for you, particularly during your youth. However, many people argue that as a phenomenon, it’s had a negative effect on the mental health of young people. Given the chance, would you have preferred to grow up in a world without the Internet?
The Internet has helped me grow a lot as a person and build connections that I otherwise wouldn’t have built, and it’s also taught me a lot, more than uni sometimes, but I’m actually in a phase right now where I kind of hate it. I find that my relationship with the Internet is as if we’re trapped in an eternal marriage, and right now I’m really mad at it, I’m quite hurt actually. In the right corners of the Internet beautiful things can happen, but at the moment I’ve deleted all my social media apps and I have a burner phone... (sirens in the background), oh my god this how you know I live in London! This happens all the fucking time! Sorry. Actually, when I was recording the vocals for Mandy I finally got a good take and a police siren ruined it at the end, but I just kept it in and thought fuck it! It came in at the right time with the right BPM and everything! I love when you hear some random ambient sound and it’s in the same key as what you’re doing. There was a church bell that sounded when I was recording some ASMR stuff in Krakow and it was in key, it was really beautiful. But anyway, this is my burner phone, I use it for work, cause at the end of the day the Internet is my work.
Well, throughout Covid you’ve live streamed a lot of your music on Twitch. Do you think platforms such as these are just a compromise for when live shows and experiences aren’t possible? Or do they offer something that can’t be achieved in the f lesh?
I love that I started streaming on Twitch back in 2019 because I created a great community on my Discord server, the Cyber Dimension. In the pandemic I wasn’t too phased about live shows not happening because I only did three or four shows for Serotonin II before Covid. I actually quite liked isolation because it gave me an excuse to be a hikikomori again, but I was making a lot of music and jamming a lot with my friend Kin, who I’m working with on some new stuff now actually. He’s from my hometown so when everyone had to go back during lockdown he came back to Singapore with me, so we were always isolating together, and we’d write stuff and that’s when we decided to do the live stream.
Building on that concept of ‘hikikomori’ which you mentioned, it seems to be quite a crucial idea behind your work. Do you think it’s a phenomenon that can have any benefits? Or is it inherently damaging?
I think it’s damaging, but I respect people who want to live their lives like that. But for me it was quite traumatic because I remember going out for the first time in 2020, after being in my house during tier four lockdown – we never left the house, for six weeks. The only person who’d visit me was Kin, who’d bring me food and make sure I was taking care of myself. He brought me a salmon bagel once even though he knows I don’t eat salmon. One time he finally got me out for a walk and when I felt the sun on my skin I just cried, because in that moment I knew that I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing but it created an illusion of safety. I love nature which made it hard when I couldn’t go out to my favourite park. Instead of hearing the wind or the sounds of nature, I’d just hear the whirring of my computer. I used to play these videos by this YouTuber called Rambalac. He walks across Japan recording in 4K with amazing sound quality; I’d put on my headphones and pretend that I was walking. There was one I watched so many times in this town called Sarawa and I knew the exact moments at which the sounds would come. That’s when I realised, I was really living in a simulation, trying to simulate walking because I didn’t want to go outside...
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Bolero jacket COMME DES GARCONS, leggings LAUREN IBBS, hand bandages and hat yeule's own, sunglasses MONCLER.
Lots of music scenes are routed in the place where they come from, whereas it seems that the place yours has come from comes from is the Internet. Have London or any of the places you’ve lived affected your music?
I really like that, that’s the first time anyone’s related it to my work instead of just being like, oh you’re from Singapore. I have lived in London since 2016, everyone always comments on how my accent is super London but sometimes it turns Singaporean, and it’s like, you don’t even know what a Singaporean accent sounds like, my accents just jumbled up because of my mixed upbringing. I spoke like an Australian for a bit, and then like an American, but my mum made me speak the Queen’s English. Being in London doesn’t necessarily influence the music, like you said I think that’s the Internet. But living here has made me appreciate the genres that come from the UK a lot more, like grime and a few others.
Well, you can really hear the diversity of influences on Glitch Princess, with hints of quite a few different genres evident. Track six, titled Too Dead Inside has hip-hop instrumentation. Certain parts of that genre don’t seem too far away from your sound. Do you see this music as much of an inf luence on you?
Yeah, it’s got that tropical drumbeat. It was funny how that was written. I told Danny to show me his most unconventional fucked up beat. At first, I just thought it was funny, but then something that started as a joke turned into something really sick. It proves you shouldn’t judge a drum beat by its rawness. Versatility is something I’ve always found to be a challenge for the yeule aesthetic, especially when I actively try to make something sound like yeule. As well as Too Dead Inside, Bites on My Neck was also a really trippy tune – drum and bass kind of hard style, but then I also wanted it to be cute and transcend the barrier between the two, Mura Masa co-produced on the track and it was really nice to have him, one of the pop connoisseurs, involved.
The final track of the album, The Things They Did for Me Out of Love, produced by Danny L Harle, was originally released back in September. Clocking in at four hours and forty-four minutes long, this is a particularly avant-garde piece of music. Do you plan to do more experimentation like this?
I plan to make an outro for every album and make it longer each time. Danny and I were just thinking, what would make the Internet break? He was just like, oh shit, we should make a four-hour track, and I was immediately down. At first, we thought about just recording for four straight hours, but then thought a temporal project would be better where I just send him stuff over a long period of time, and we’d see what we could put together. So, with the power of technology and the power of me being really sad we came up with this song. I actually told Danny about the Rambalac walking videos and my inclinations towards white noise, so we decided to do our own kind of ASMR loop. I felt so sorry for the mastering technicians who had to master the whole track, but when I got it back, I listened to the whole four hours in the background whilst I was painting.
Do you listen to your own music a lot then?
I do, but primarily for studying myself. When I listen to it, I’m trying to tap back into that world of what I can create and see how that will inf luence what I’m writing next. I used to want to make sure I kept sounding like yeule but I’m quite fearless with that now; the next record is going to be really different I think but will still have elements of what I’ve crafted. It will be in the same world but not necessarily using the same symbols.
How strongly do you think the aesthetic and the sound of yeule are related? Do they develop together or separately?
So, the music comes from a very different place, but the styles visually that I am drawn too, they’re still me. Whether I do makeup, styling, symbols or conceptual visuals in videos, a lot of them come from film. I was really into cult films when I was younger, I had a whole hard drive of torrented Art Nouveau films that I found online, as well as this guy Toshio Matsumoto, who was basically the Japanese equivalent of these Nouvelle Vague directors. I was really into crazy visuals and cinematography; in another universe I’d love to be a filmmaker. Joy Song, who directed the video for Don’t Be So Hard on Your Own Beauty, is one of my favourite people. She and I always go off about films the whole time when we’re at friends parties, just sat in the corner doing deep analysis. I want the aesthetic to align with the music, but it’s not hard because whatever I’m making sonically is going to be similar to what I’m drawn to visually. There’s some stuff I’ve got that can’t be released because it’s too controversial – it wouldn’t be allowed on YouTube, so I have to water it down a bit. Censorship is the most brutal killer of art.
There’s been talk of VR and AR being integrated into your performance art. Could this be on the horizon soon?
I want be like Hatsune Miku and just have a hologram of myself performing for all my live shows, that’s my dream. But it is what it is, I don’t have the funding but I do have a human body so I might as well just do physical shows for now. I always liked the idea of having a virtual avatar, but post-Glitch Princess I’ve actually been enjoying physical existence a lot more. I think the people that I’m around are making me really appreciate physical connection. My idea of having everything VR came during the pandemic, I did a Minecraft set and a couple of XIV parties, which were fun, but there’s nothing like being on stage and seeing your fans in front of you.
On that note, you’re heading out on a tour of the USA this July. The world’s biggest superpower and self-proclaimed ‘greatest country on Earth’ has always been an interesting place: how are you feeling about heading stateside?
America, fuck yeah! I’ve got some family in LA, a cousin who directs films and a lot of my internet friends are from the states. I really want to go to Seattle because I’ve heard it’s really cool. Also, I’d love to go camping in Northern Canada, but I have an irrational fear that if I went camping, I’d get murdered.
Anne Balsamo’s works have apparently influenced your music, did any other non-musical inf luences affect the album?
Do you know Hito Steyerl? She made this video called How Not to Be Seen, and it was one of my biggest influences at CSM. She wrote an essay called The Internet Does Not Exist. It questions surveillance, digital culture, the line between the physical and the digital, and it’s done in a really thought-provoking way. Then Anne Balsamo wrote Technologies of the Gendered Body; gender studies really interest me so when I saw Balsamo’s work on the Cyborg theory and post-humanism implied within gender studies it was very meaningful. The Posthuman by Rosi Braidotti is also a very interesting way of viewing cyborg theory, it has really valuable opinions about the embodiment of cybernetics. I don’t think it’s just cyborgian mythos or techno orientalist media, which is an aspect of it, but the post-humanist way of thinking is a subversion of cultural normativity, and one of the normalities that we all perceive is gender. I’m someone that identifies as non-binary but I’m femme-passing, a lot of my identity has been deconstructed through the knowledge of cybernetic theory’s standpoint, it helped me to find out a lot about who I really am and what I felt comfortable with, it’s not just me, there’s so many people who feel this way.
When you say you identify as a cyborg identity what exactly do you mean by this?
So, I get this question a lot because I like to say I’m a cyborg entity. But I didn’t coin the term, Donna Haraway did, and I relate to it a lot. The number one point that should some across in my self-proclaimed status is that I’m not a robot, nor am I artificial. It’s merely a way to distinguish me from my physical form and the matrix of cis-gender and male dominated society. We always tether different symbolism to masculine or feminine trends, and as an artist who is battling my own dismantling of self, I think when I want to express cyborgian truths, it’s not that I’m demonising technology, I just like to observe humans in a post humanist way, rather than based on their genitals or the way they act.
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Trench coat CHOPOVA LOWENA, leather boots BALENCIAGA, earrings PLANET B, earpieces IRINA DULTSEVA.
In previous interviews you’ve mentioned having a lot of out of body experiences as a child – do you see the metaverse as a way of reclaiming your agency in a sense?
Which Metaverse? There are lots. If it’s not owned by a large corporation, and it’s not driven by investor money and data collection then it’s a good metaverse. I wouldn’t waste my time with Facebook’s Meta though, you’ll just get ads and cookies, and you’ll have to pay for things that you could do in another metaverse for free. Out of body experiences, astral projection, seeing beyond the physical realm, all that kind of stuff, comes with deep meditation and understanding, I think. Being online transcends you when you’re so sucked into this digital world. It does something to your brain.
Your fans have been referred to as “ex-Tumblr kids who’ve since graduated to Twitch”. Are you glad that you have a cult following of die-hard fans? Or would you rather have a broader but perhaps more casual set of supporters?
That’s the first time anyone has ever asked me that. I think Stan culture is unhealthy, putting someone on a pedestal isn’t the best fixation. I myself has obsessed over figures, even fictional characters, like Yeul in Final Fantasy, Raven in Teen Titans, manga characters, so I get where the fixation comes from, and it is flattering and of course as I love my fans for supporting me. I’m not complaining about being put on a pedestal, but the dynamic is a bit awkward when they see you as more than human, almost God-like. It’s hard for me to do meets with all the ‘Oh my God!’. But ultimately, I am flattered and I appreciate every single one of my fans. I’m not trying to curate what kind of fans I have, if you support me, thank you.
The buzz around the release of Glitch Princess has been reminiscent of that around a budding new artist, but your debut EP came out over seven years ago. How do you think you’ve changed as an artist since then?
It is what it is, I loves aying that–it is what it is. I’m really grateful for the recognition I’m getting, and I don’t mind being perceived as a new artist. I have more years of production knowledge under my belt than people realise. I see the music industry as a bubble, and the moment that you as an artist are in the periphery of the bubble, people will see you come in and they think that you’ve just got here but you’ve actually been flying at high speed on the horizon for years, just to get that chance to sneak into the periphery, it’s like a game. I find it quite funny.
Would you consider releasing music under a different name in the future?
Yes (firmly).
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Vest LAUREN IBBS, dress SHUSHU TONG, earrings PLANET B, puffer heeled boots art director's own, hair clips yeule's own.
That sounds like you’ve got something planned...
I plead the fifth! (Laughs). Yeah, I do want to, but I need to focus on the timing, and I want people to know it’s me. I did in the past when I first started writing music, I was DJ Hello Kitty for a bit, and I did a lot of techno sets. The yeule project is very dear to my heart though so it will get most of my love and attention.
If there were one musical artist past or present that you could collaborate with, who would it be?
Sandy Alex G, but it’s really hard to get a hold of him. It’s hard to get a hold of indie artists in general. Although I wouldn’t call Alex G indie anymore, its country-new-electronic, or alien country, creepy alien country! No, it’s emo cyborg country! Then there’s Adrianne Lenker from Big Thief, Mitski, but Mitski’s impossible to get hold of. I love Arca too, her music hit me really hard when I listened to it. It had this powerful energy which made me feel quite safe, and she has some amazing interviews out there which align with all the things that I’m interested in. We had a really nice conversation at Caroline Polachek’s little get together last year, talking about cybernetic theory, anime and just quite a lot of trivial stuff. I love how intellectual she is.
What is the future of yeule after Glitch Princess?
I want to create really intricate augmented realities and I want to just keep expanding on this universe that I’m making, so much so that it becomes real. With each album I make, it’s like a season of a TV show, no matter what direction it goes in it will fundamentally be a journey of self, trying to immortalise something. I think about death a lot, so I’m always thinking about ways to imprint and leave a mark behind. I think creating a really deep visual universe of a character that is a facet of me is making that mark. But I’m not scared of switching it up to the extent that I lose people who like me for X or Y. People always say they like old Grimes, what does that mean? Grimes is still Grimes! That’s not what art should be, it should be about following an artist’s journey.
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Dress YUE QING WEI, sandals HELENA STOLTING, tights yeule's own, earpieces IRINA DULTSEVA.
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Trench dress RORY TOWNSEND, coat yeule's own, earrings and necklace PLANET B, earpieces IRINA DULTSEVA.
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Coat BALENCIAGA, tights and knee guard yeule's own, sandals MONCLER, earrings PLANET B, hair pieces IRINA DULTSEVA.
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Trench coat MONCLER, heeled boots ROMBAUT, tights and hair clips yeule's own, earrings and necklace PLANET B.