Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
In normal times my work as a technician in an art gallery dovetails pretty nicely with my life as an artist and performer. As a long time freelancer I’m used to a sort of erratic pace of work I guess, but there are a few constants. Every day I’ll get up and make me and my wife a cup of coffee and then put a record on while we emerge from sleep into the day. I’m very grateful we have the time to do this.
Recently I’ve been renovating a flat around the corner, so every day I’ve been wearing this sort of Berghain-meets-builders yard outfit and trudging off to drill things and bang stuff with hammers. My next album will about the Ikea Metod system.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I’m not sure I’ve had a breakthrough anything to be honest. This? This is it I think.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Generally, I like to work on music in the daytime, I find a 9-5 type thing works well when I have the time. I’m most inspired in the mornings, maybe about 11am. Other than that, I think you have to practice being creative. It’s a discipline. Do it often or at least think of it often.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Right now, I think people need to be continually reminded of our precarious relationship with the natural world. Music can glue ideas together in a way that’s unique. All music has ideas engraved in it. When you’re making music, you’re saying ‘this is what we are!’ or ‘this is what we could be’.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
I don’t have a problem with copying as such, but the power dynamic is important. Where or who are you taking things from, and why are you doing it? Are you adding something of yourself/your culture? Hybridity is how things change over time, but it’s still possible to rip someone off. I think it comes down to respect and it’s usually pretty obvious whether somebody is approaching a style or culture with respect. Any idea of ‘purity’ is sort of a moot point in a hyper-connected world though - sound travels, that’s a technological reality but it’s also a physical one, it can’t effectively be contained.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
If I hear another person say they have synesthesia I may lose my mind. That’s not to say that a blurring of the senses isn’t real! It’s absolutely real but 9 times out of 10 it’s a totally normal and very common way of perceiving things and shouldn’t be mistaken for some kind of creative superpower. If we’re talking about someone who can’t get the taste of bleach out of their mouth when they hear an A major chord then that’s different…
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I came to politics through music really. I’m certainly very much on the left and that sensibility has come through being a fan of weird music basically. Music can be an incredibly effective Trojan horse that way, because often it’s trying to get you to look at the world differently. I don’t believe that artists always have to deal directly with political issues, though that can obviously be great - but sometimes engaging people’s imagination in a more oblique way can also be powerful.
There are various ways in which I try to suggest different type of relations in my music, a different hierarchy or way of organising. Reflecting our strained relationship with the natural world is important to me because it is an umbrella issue under which issues of migration, race, class etc all fall, it also highlights a major flaw in Western thinking concerning the ability to control and dominate.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I think music’s real power comes from its ineffable quality. Of course, here we are trying to talk about it, but you can’t really. It can stir such complex emotions in an instant, and everyone in the world has some attachment to it. I don’t know about life or death but it can bypass certain barriers and communicate quite directly whilst being essentially abstract. That is sort of like magic.