Name: Charlie Coxedge
Occupation: Producer, Band member of Money
Current Release: Cloisters on Bella Union
Recommendations: Bing & Ruth - No Home of the Mind. Derek Mahon - New Selected Poems
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Charlie Coxedge, do check out more of his music on his bandcamp- or soundcloud page.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing music fairly early on, while I was at school. I taught myself the guitar and I think having that freedom, rather than someone telling me what to do or how to play, encouraged me to get more creative with it. I think I’ve always been naturally drawn to music; I’m happy in solitude, so any chance to put my headphones on and occupy myself in a piece of music is fine by me.
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 the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
This was definitely the case for me. I learnt guitar by just playing along to albums and figuring things out as I went along, so learning by emulating was only natural, and I think it’s ongoing and always will be. The transition then towards finding a ‘voice’ and your own creativity really just stems from your sphere of influence I think - what you’re listening to, where you are at the time etc etc, and so will also be forever growing and evolving.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Capturing the atmosphere of a piece or the live feeling of a song was and always is a challenge. It took a while to realise that merely playing something right doesn’t necessarily translate in to a good recording.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
As a band we’ve never really had our studio, just rehearsal rooms with barely enough space to set up our instruments. Our first ‘studio’ was garageband, back in the days when laptops still had minijack inputs on them, so we didn’t even have an interface when recording our very first demos, just plugging lines directly in to the laptop. Not much has changed since then, though I now use Logic and an interface, and play around with DAWs a lot more than I used to. Studio setups for me have always been a far off daydream, something I might have one day when I have the space and money. For now the laptop is fine. And the most important pieces of gear are whatever’s in my live set up - guitar, pedals, a decent valve amp etc, these are the bits and pieces that make playing and creating the most exciting for me.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
As you said, technology is great for that feedback mechanism - the process of writing and recording, and then listening back can be so quick, the technology has become almost essential in the way we assess our work. The human element must always be present though, in terms of technology and creativity.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Though I’ll happily play around with different music software for hours, it’s never as inspiring as having physical instruments in front of me. Working as I do at the moment, there is definitely co-authorship between me and my pedals. Even if I’m not trying to come up with loops as such, they’re great for quickly recording an idea and being able to listen back to it and play around with it straight away. I could do this with software of course, but there’s something about the live feeling of this process that really speaks to me, I suppose because playing live is almost always in the back of my mind, and I’ve never been one for using a laptop onstage.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I’ve always enjoyed jamming, a lot of Money songs were born from jams between the three of us. Playing with others like that can be great for the instant gratification of coming up with something on the spot and seeing/hearing ideas develop naturally over a short period of time. On the other hand, the time and distance that collaborating via, for example, file sharing can be equally creative and productive as you’re left to your own devices, where you can try things that you might not necessarily think of in a jam. And yes, talking about ideas is always engaging, especially when working on solo compositions; you might be having a conversation about something seemingly unrelated, but something might pop up that is totally applicable and you’ll work it in somewhere.
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?
I kind of go through phases, and phases within those phases! Sometimes I’m keen on having a routine, being productive and doing something creative everyday, even if nothing good comes everyday, at least you’re practicing and staying on top of things. However, sometimes I’m most productive after a break, intentionally or not, and good ideas will arrive in quick succession. These ideas might then feed the next period of routine, or they get stockpiled and (hopefully) revisited later. Music and other aspects of life definitely feed back into each other, sometimes music is an escape, sometimes a direct response to it or an opposition to it. Either way, I find they are pretty much inseparable, the absence of one or the other will always make itself apparent.
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?
"Corrour" started out with just a single melody, I wanted to come up with something that wasn’t obviously major or minor so the possibility for different chords underneath was open. After figuring out some sequences I just worked at keeping things moving, developing the ideas within the loops so nothing got stagnant. Once I recorded it in the studio the track grew really organically. It was great to spread things across a few different instruments, while at the same time keeping the flow and subtlety of the original ideas.
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?
I suppose one of the ideal states of mind is to already know what you’re working on and where you think it could go. Hemingway (I think) said that he always finished writing for the day when he knew what was going to happen next, and that’s something I try to keep in mind - it keeps you excited to return to the piece the next day and continue, rather than stressing yourself out trying to come up with something out of the blue. I’m not sure there is really an ideal state of mind. Sometimes it’s good to starve yourself of music so you’re not so easily influenced. On the other hand it’s good to listen to as much music as possible to discover new things. Either way, I think as long as you’re not distracted and your head isn’t somewhere else then it’s all good, you need different states to create different moods.
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?
For me, playing live and writing are strongly connected. You can spend days/weeks/months rehearsing for 1 show, and the feedback you get after that show (not necessarily from people in the audience, but your own reaction to the music in a ‘live’ sense) is so much more pronounced then what you might’ve been thinking in rehearsals. Road-testing new music is, if possible, absolutely invaluable. On the other hand, writing in the studio is much less pressured (no audience or time constraints etc) so the freedom to improvise is great, you can really push your boundaries and try new things you wouldn’t ordinarily try in a live situation, and that directly affects the composition.
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?
Sound almost always takes precedence when I’m writing by myself. The melody or chords I’m playing might be fine, but if I can’t get the sound / tone / timbre / voicing right, no matter which instrument I’m on, then I quickly lose interest. Once the initial sound is there, it will usually dictate a lot of the subsequent composition, as certain sounds and textures suggest certain routes to take.
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?
It might seem obvious, but music & film, sight and sound, is probably the most inspiring thing for me. You only need to watch Blade Runner or There Will Be Blood, for example, to understand how both things can inform, influence and ultimately elevate the other. I love the feeling of being totally transported by a film and its music. It’s a fine line though, sensory overload can be ruinous.
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’ve never really had the approach of ‘this is about that particular thing,’ regardless of what I had in my head when I was coming up with it, both in music and poetry. Sometimes it is a direct response, perhaps to something social, political or whatever else is going on. On the other hand, sometimes the approach is routine, something to be done because that’s what you do, to be productive, keep your mind fresh etc. Sometimes it takes on meaning, or you realise what it was about, much later. But I think the best art will ultimately always offer something new every time you revisit it.
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?
Genres come and go, but the best music is timeless. I love listening to records and wondering what will still be considered good 10 or 20 years from now.