Name: Appleblim / Laurie Osborne
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: Appleblim is one of the artists featured on "eleVAte Volume 1", a four-track compilation EP celebrating the fifth anniversary of Dext recordings.
The Third Policeman by Flann O’ Brien
Autechre - NTS Sessions & their Dekmantel electro mix, and their epic recent Mixlr radio shows … anyone with an interest in electronic music of any description really needs to check those ...
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When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I used to muck around on my Dad’s guitar, I can remember watching the strings vibrate and then settle to stillness & being fascinated by that as a small child … still am … the vibrations are so physical, and when you look at the mathematics of vibrating strings it's really cosmic I think.
There were always records around when I was growing up, which had a big impact on me. One of my earliest memories is of looking at and touching Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ LP. The original had a textured cover which I enjoyed touching. It was before I knew what music or singers were. I can trace my understanding of those things through my relationship to that album & her voice … realising that I was listening to a woman, then that she was singing words … The cover, those shades of blue, seeing them just as colours before I knew what colours were, and then gradually making out that the shape is a woman’s face, and finally that it is a picture of who is singing what I was hearing …
Also much less cool stuff like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Variations’ album of ‘rock’ cover versions of classical music! I used to put on these massive comfy headphones of my Dad’s and live inside that world. When I started to buy CDs & vinyl it was pop stuff … this was the early days of CDs, Brothers In Arms, Like A Prayer, that super sharp, clean, digital sound.
I watched the Tomorrow’s World (I think!) program on TV where they said a CD was indestructible and then it failed! That program, its futurism, followed by Top Of The Pops formed me. You’d see Marc Almond in Soft Cell dressed in leather with Dave Ball on the synths behind him, or see ‘Male Stripper’ by Man Parrish, a hardcore slammin’ synth disco dance track performed ‘live’ by muscular gay men on peaktime pre-watershed TV - the way it should be! And then Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley ‘Jack Your Body’ at Number One or Depeche Mode - alien sounds, synth sounds, drum machine sounds, sampled sounds, pop sounds, futuristic sounds … Dead or Alive ‘You Spin Me Round’ was the first record I bought … still love it - big powerful emotive synth slammers!
Another big one for me was Art of Noise ‘A Time For Listening’ - it really freaked me out … I was kind of scared of it … It still gives me goosebumps … that woman's voice … ’jow jow da jow’ …! It’s that collage thing … these weird sonic worlds colliding … of course at a young age you are totally taken in by it … it’s just … a whole … strange world … utterly beguiling … and you start to think later, how is it done? Who are these people?! It's magic, alchemy really.
I started making music with my brother. We were in Plymouth’s second biggest indie band! We were totally enamoured with My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Slowdive, all that epic ‘cathedrals of sound’ stuff … and the Madchester stuff. Which brings you to indie-dance and Paul Oakenfold and from that to Shoom and rave. My bro was a big John Peel listener, he was friends with what used to get called ‘freaks’ and ‘goths’ at school. I can remember him bringing back these tapes that had bands with names like Fugazi, Cardiacs, Headcleaner, Dog-Faced Hermans … fascinating. I started listening to his Fall and Smiths records in his room when he wasn't home! All that time I was reading NME religiously and, along with John Peel, the Dance pages (shout to Sherman at The Controls and Dele Fadele!) in there introduced me to all kinds of things that would become obsessions: Autechre, Warp Records, DIY, Spiral Tribe, Andy Weatherall, Aphex Twin, Shut Up & Dance, 4 Hero, Ragga Twins, XL Records etc ...
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Copying and being inspired by what you love in others’ work is important I think. I don’t think many people come out with a fully developed voice.
My first forays with electronic stuff was in the 92/93 era with mates. We were all into Future Sound Of London, Orbital, AFX, Autechre, the rave stuff, R&S, early trancey techno, ambient house, The Orb, Sub Base, Moving Shadow etc. But I never got to know how to use the equipment properly. It was harder then, you needed mixing desks, sound modules, these huge hulking keyboards! We were certainly trying to make music that sounded like those things we liked. Some of it survives on tapes - and sounds pretty good!
I then took a break from electronic stuff and played bass in a heavy psychedelic/math rock/pop band for years, and again, yes we were heavily influenced by the things we loved - Henry Cow, Cardiacs, XTC, Slayer, Don Cabellero, but had our own unique take on it. When it came to solo production, I just tried to make things that sounded even vaguely like the stuff I was into, early Skream, Benga, Artwork, the Big Apple stuff, Vex’d, Digital Mystikz, Plastikman, all that killer early post-UK Garage, early Grime and Dubstep stuff that surfaced around FWD>> and so on … I didn’t really have allusions beyond that. I’d heard a lot of these records had been made on Fruity Loops and the bass was from the TS404 on there. So I got a copy and had a go.
I think my sound comes from the fact that I have some keyboard skills and ability to work harmonically from having piano lessons as a kid. This, tied into my love of dub aesthetics and minimalism, hopefully adds together to make something that people could perhaps spot as ‘my sound’ … Though I think you can quite quickly fall into the trap of ‘these are my techniques’ and really you have to try and sidestep some of these sometimes.
Becoming an educator forced me to look more deeply into the workings of synths and software and try out different techniques. I am not a natural explorer with technology. Sometimes, I set myself up boundaries. I think there are things I ‘can’t’ do - which is nonsense, it is just your inner critic holding you back. I say to my students that it is a mixture of learning the things you love to do, and also the things you find hard, and that way you will keep progressing, and your voice perhaps sits somewhere between those two places.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I was never a songwriter with the band, and had never really completed compositions of my own, so having the confidence to finish a track from writing to finalising was hard. Indeed if I hadn't been told to finish my first release by my mate who was sending it to be mastered the next day, and drew on the help of my producer mates who I lived with, then I would never have let that one go!
As it is, it got played on radio and stuff and gave me some confidence even though I really didn't know what I was doing. I found making music on my own hard, I still do, I am much more of a jammer with other people, so I used to struggle with that a lot … especially as pressure came on to release things as my DJ career grew. I felt like an impostor in many ways, felt I didn’t have the production chops to match the people I was coming through with and was now performing alongside (and I didn’t honestly). I got very inspired by working with others and learned a lot technically from a crew of producers around me, Komon, Wedge, Gatekeeper, Arkist who all taught me valuable things about processes, equipment. We were a crew of sorts, doing radio and gigs together, so you all feed into each others work.
I now have more confidence in my own work, though I still find it hard. I work much quicker with others around, and tend to enjoy it more, I think coming from the band background, knocking ideas around between different brains, perspectives, having fun, talking, joking, disagreeing, meeting in the middle etc… I find it hard to have those conversations in my own head on my own, which some people are very suited to I think, that internal dialogue.
I am around a good crew of music makers again now in Berlin. In fact I now can engineer for other people too, in the driving seat as it were, which I could never have done in the early days. It used to be the other way round when I first started collaborating. I would get involved more on arrangements, effects, performing parts and composition rather than sitting at the computer and engineering or designing sounds. I’m finding it very inspiring to be pushed creatively and asked ‘can we do this’, I find people with less preconceptions about the possibilities and rules of production can really help you step out of your stuffy ‘this is how you do something’ or ‘this is meant to be in tune with that’ or ‘you don't EQ in that way’ or whatever.