Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? 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?
If I have momentum within a given project any sort of a daily routine can quickly disappear and I’ll work through into the night. Generally, one way or another, I do try and work every day. It’s a balancing act best approached cautiously; perspective and definition can suffer if every facet of your life started merging seamlessly. You’re really just trying to negotiate the clutter and the distractions the best you can.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
'Drift' was an attempt at writing a short piece for an open space in Dundee called Seabraes (a south facing vantage point where the River Tay meets the North Sea) framed by rail and road bridges and light planes coming in to land. It has a curious transient magic about it. Initially, the idea arrived as a straightforward piano arpeggio pattern. I felt that strings of some kind were compulsory, and the shift in key on the choruses led me to the Euphonium and Flugelhorn arrangement. That was probably the impetus for introducing the percussive acoustic and cascading slide part in the second verse. The bowed cymbals were to try and reinforce a kind of shimmering ebb and flow to the track, as if undertaking some form of journey.
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?
It really depends on what you're trying to achieve. On the whole, I’ve experience more satisfaction with work which was conceived with a certain amount of spontaneity. Indecision can be a curse; it’s easy to revisit things over and over. I’ve laboured a point plenty, crowbarred in whims, and it’s often detracted from the heart of the thing. It sounds obvious but, if you’re feeling creative, I’d be inclined to say try and do it with conviction. Also, unplug the Wi-Fi.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
I’m interested in exploring where an idea (however faint) takes me, whether it’s a scrap of a lyric, an ambient drone, or some dopey melody. I’m okay with trying something and maybe making a mess of it first time around. I suppose we’re talking about developing your ear and palette; learning to rely on one’s intuition. You might not necessarily be aware of it happening, but that progression can help decode a two chord groove in the rehearsal room, to a pocket symphony in the studio, to a 15 minute freak-out at the Hoxton, Slug and Mustard.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
I was more accustomed to the luxury of ambiguity in the relation-ship between sound and composition. It was nice being able to think quite literally in places with TFBAS, however. Take “Lower Dens Work” for instance; I wanted to reference the exhausting machinery work of mill life with a relentless mechanical drum pattern. Granted, it has a modulating keyboard melody which brings with it a certain woozy cinematic context. Tricky not sounding a bit trite. Hopefully I got away with it.
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? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
Visually, Abstract Expressionism is something I enjoy. For me, disappearing into the abyss of an idea is quite meditative. I have a similar fondness for stuff like Classical or Jazz, in as much that I’m unable to dissect the mechanics of most it, so it becomes a much purer listening experience. Take that to the “outermost borders”, and I’ve always wanted to see Sunn O))) live. I don’t know if I have stamina; a friend saw them once and the effects of the sub-bass induced bouts of vomiting.
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?
Personally, I’d be much less well-off mentally if I wasn’t an artist. As I say, things changed unequivocally when I started listening to music and playing an instrument. In terms of “well-being”, I feel fortunate to have that outlet, as not everyone has that opportunity along the way (although, everyone should be able to feel that they can create and express themselves on whatever level that might be). I think it was Hockney that had “get up and work immediately” painted on a chest of drawers, or a wall, by his bedside. Keep working, however you define that. And don’t be a git.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
That fact we’re still dissecting 18th century music like Bach clearly validates substance and longevity. Despite all of the technological revelations, musical development has been slowing for a long time and that level of artistry probably won’t ever exist again. Obviously, culture’s changing appetite has shaped that too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there will be moments of joyous individuality ahead. They might be harder to find, but great work should be nonetheless celebrated.