Name: Alex Paxton
Occupation: Trombonist, composer, improviser
Nationality: British
Recent release: Alex Paxton's "ilolli-pop, 1lolli-pop" is out via Nonclassical on September 1st 2022. This is the first single off his upcoming full-length album ilolli-pop on October 6th.
Recommendations: Influences on my music that I think are worth checking out:

Author: N.K Jemisin
Painter: Jadé Fadojutimi

If you enjoyed this interview with Alex Paxton and would like to discover more about him and his work as a composer and improviser, visit his official website. He is also on Instagram, Soundcloud, and twitter

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I can’t remember when I started making music. I learned to play trombone in a brass band at 8 years old. Music became my way to cope with existence and then to celebrate it.

Early influences were early jazz (like Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives & Sevens), big bands, brass bands and musical theatre.

When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?

Music is usually quite an adrenaline-inducing experience for me even if the music is really reduced or minimal or explicitly relaxing.

It can make me feel very comfortable in myself or very uncomfortable - this depends on the context in which I’m listening to the music.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?


Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

My music is my identity. I feel my music is the “real me”, much more than the real me is.

When you say ‘identity” did you mean being gay and stuff like that?! Yeah my music is well gay; all over, from nave to chops … and probably a few inches either side of that too.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

Chasing a specific abstract feeling. And then capturing it in sound and/or score. To make magic sound stuff.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

Mmm … well I just want to make the music I want to make.

I don’t really ask myself about which traditions the sounds come from, although they do. I have no idea what music will be like in the future, though it will be. Future music is a fun fantasy - like in literature … I love sci-fi like Octavia Butler, N.K Jemisin. As with most sci-fi they tell us more about our own time than the future but I find them rich playgrounds of imagination and human feeling. My music is definitely inspired by this kind of fantasy.

I also like fantasizing about traditions. Sometimes I like to pretend I am inventing an entire oral tradition of music (even though I know I am not as I am just one person and not 100s of generations of people).

How would an oral music tradition develop on a new world? That’s fun.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

Well, the trombone is pretty much a part of me. It is desperate, like I am. It smells a lot like me too. I smell a little bit like trombone (when you get up close).

I no longer have the desperation needed to take up a new instrument. But if I were to live my life again with a certain but not entire amount of ignorance, I would play the recorder - the soprano recorder. This is totally what I’m about.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

Well, it’s much too boring to do that. But I try to spend as much of my life writing music and practicing as I can.

Often to achieve this I have to do other shit too. But I do like people sometimes for short periods of time, so that is kind of ok. I like making music with people so sometimes I do that.

Eating and cooking is really nice too. I also like making paintings with paint and things from the kitchen.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

With ilolli-pop, as with all of my music I start by thinking: What’s the most magic sound stuff thing that I can imagine being played by these people in this context? (who in this case were the fantastic Ensemble Modern). And the piece is what I came up with.

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?

Yeah I agree. Everything feels TOTAALLY CRAZILY different when I listen with other people. This is nice.

But at the moment I am a very hungry listener. Most of my listening is alone. I like that.

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

All kinds of ways. I couldn’t even begin to quantify the answers to this question.

My music is tentacularly connected to so much in society, consciously and unconsciously. I have written a lot of music for children to perform / sing / play (probably about 3 hours in total). I also used to perform / play / sing it with kids a lot.

So that is like an explicit example of making music that felt quite embedded within a community of people.

Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

I don’t think I’d know how to answer this question here. I’m pretty sure it has though.

How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?  

Yes, I know what you mean. There’s a lot of this kind of thinking and music / art writing about. It’s kind of ok. Sometimes it makes exciting music and sometimes it does not. I don’t really think about this kind of thing.

I do like science though. I like this book I have about mushrooms … and I’ll read anything about evolution. My music is very interested in AI made art in all art forms. Those artists come up with such interesting ideas … really rich and inspiring.

Although I don’t fancy using AI myself as I really like making lots of note-by-note decisions.

[Read our Pleasurekraft interview about AI]

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

Yes, I do feel it is different. I can’t really think of many similarities between the two activities other than the ineluctable sensory pleasure that both of them have upon the body.

Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

It is also captured by other bits of the body, as explored in an article by Evelyn Glennie about the ear just being a specialized sensory bit of the body / or maybe the body is a big ear or something.

No, I don’t have any explanation but I always enjoy listening to other people’s explanations.