Name: Christopher Chaplin
Current release: Christopher Chaplin's Patriarchs LP is out via Fabrique.
If you enjoyed this interview with Christopher Chaplin, visit his official website. He is also on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
"Who am I?" is the question that fuels the impulse to create for me. The sources I use for inspiration, whether they be text, or paintings, or dreams, relate in some form or shape to that very question
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
There always is some form of "visualization" of the finished work. It has nothing to do with knowing in advance what the finished work would sound like, but more to do with imagining what the answer to the "Who am I?" question is.
Any planning I do is structured to give chance as much as possible full reign.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
I don't have rituals, except maybe figuring out what time of day or night is best for work. That changes and is never fixed.
So it's about having a quiet moment when one wakes up and sensing when, on that particular day, is a good time to go to the studio.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
I start with finding a sound and giving it texture. So far it's not been difficult, although it can take a while.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
The work emerges through adding to what I initially started with ... and then adding a bit more ... and then again a bit more ... and then knowing when to stop and step back ... and then coming back to it, and adding some more, or substracting a bit to add some more differently ... and so forth ...
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
I think that when creating, a story is being told to the creator and not by the creator.
For me, it's always a battle between letting go of control enough to allow things to follow their course.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
New ideas and alternative roads can be overwhelming, especially when they arrive at a late stage in the creative process. But when they have real worth, I've learned to be courageous enough to scrap everything I've done up until then if needs be, and start anew with what was given.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
I would describe the creative state as being in search of the "mysterious" in a theological sense of mystical truth. So yes, there is a big element of spirituality in it.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
It's hard to say when a work is finished. The last stages of finishing work with me usually involve eliminating the superfluous. So I guess a finished work is when it has reached that state where if you take anything more away from it it will be diminished instead of augmented.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
I'm not one to let things lie in order to evaluate. Maybe because I came to create music quite late in my life, I feel I don't have the patience to do that.
I also feel that once a work is released / published there is no going back to fix it, and, in some strange way, that allows me to appreciate it more for what it is.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
I do all the production and mix myself on my solo work. Because I'm practically deaf in my left ear which suffers from constant tinnitus, I find the mixing process an incredibly frustrating job and I take an awful lot of time to achieve it. Yet I feel this affliction in some way helped me to develop a very concentrated way of listening.
The validity of my mix is usually confirmed when the mastering engineer finds no real fault in it.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
There is a sense of emptiness after releasing an album, especially for the solo work and its many hours of working alone in the studio over months. I am eventually brought back to creativity by getting involved with live musicians either through free improvisations or collaborations.