Name: Christopher Coe
Occupation: Producer, Sound Artist
Current Release: MNTNS of SLNC on Awesome Soundwave
Recommendations: Henryk Gorecki - Symphony of Sorrowful Songs; Bladerunner 2049
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Christopher Coe, find out more about him on his facebook page. He also has a soundcloud profile offering plenty of music.
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 started writing music very young ... or rather ... I thought I was writing music ... songs ... on my guitar and my half broken early teen voice ... songs about vague angst and blue skies ... nothing special. I was into everything during the 80's, from David Bowie to New Order, Kraftwerk to The Smiths, The Cure to the Jesus and Mary Chain, Simple Minds (early stuff) Talking Heads and then Primal Scream, Underworld etc etc. I didn't like the Beatles though ... too cheesy for me! I was also fascinated by classical music, Chopin, Mozart, Bach, the usual suspects. I used to buy records at the one local record store in my home town of Westport on the west coast of Ireland. My dear friend Peter used to run the store and he introduced me to so much music that, as a teenager in the early eighties, I would never have heard of if it wasn't for him and that shop. remember seeing The Smiths on top of the pops once ... and it was electrifying, something so strange and new ... I went to see New Order about a million times when I was a teenager and later. I was obsessed with their electronic, pop, brooding and strangely bright melodies and rhythms ... and then of course, came "Blue Monday" ... Everything changed!
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?
For many years I was arrogant enough to believe that I didn't need or want to copy anyone's music. It HAD to be totally original otherwise it was no good. In recent years I have come to realise that that is a recipe for failure ... and now I gladly and openly copy and emulate anything that I am inspired by, confident in the knowledge that I am shite at replicating and what I end up with will be quite different and perhaps somewhat quirkily unique ... no problem ... :)
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I didn't have any in the beginning ... and now that I have learned so much more I realise I know nothing!
So my challenge every day is to start again and to keep learning.
I have a deaf ear, this is also a challenge because I cannot hear stereo, never have (I was born this way) and I also hear everything in a, perhaps, more dense way. It all comes in one ear. So, the challenge for me is to create space and hear separation ... and yet I also enjoy density. This I struggle with all the time. It can be claustrophic. I use an oscilliscope to see the space and ensure there is no phasing and that there is some kind of stereo image going on. It's fun and challenging and sometimes deeply frustrating. But perhaps it's also an opportunity to create a different sound at times.
I think this album is an attempt to articulate this experience, too, somewhat ... (I only thought of that now!)
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?
I never had a studio until really recently ... always just using what I could ... my first serious set up was an Atari 1040 ST and Akai S1100 sampler, some crap speakers in an echo filled room of bare walls and floor. It was awesome! I made techno and revelled in it!
In recent times I have been hired to build studios for others, I built one for Beatport/SFX in Amsterdam and more recently for Carl Cox in Australia. I see these studios as partially my studios in that I have been fortunate enough to install my ideal pieces in my ideal configurations there. What a dream!
For me there are perhaps no MOST important pieces of gear though ... except perhaps a computer running Ableton live. But I do absolutely love analogue eq and compression ... it really is all about that. My fave compressor is the SSL G Series buss compressor. It is just fast and solid! And it glues everything nicely ... recently got a Manley Massive Passive in Carl's studio ... and my is that a beautiful piece of kit!!
But, I have to say, at the moment, I am exploring in a deep way the modular synthesis world ... yes, like everyone ... But it so amazing and fun! I have a Pittsburgh Modular Lifeforms system ... and it's like a wild beast for me ... I am learning more each day. I know this piece of kit is becoming and will become the most important for me in coming months and years. I use it in my live show and intend to use it exclusively on my next album, whenever I begin that!
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?
Ooh ... now that is a question ... I don't even know how to answer that! Um ... Machines are good at staying on forever and Humans are really good at sleeping and having bursts of transcendent creative energy (?)
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?
I try to keep it simple as much as possible, because actually my tendency is to overcomplicate. So, when there are unlimited options I think it affects the work detrimentally. As such, one must decide upon a course of action at the start of a project, like using one drum machine, one eq bundle, one tone generator ... and work to the limitations imposed by this combination, work to break out of the limitations by actually creating something compelling musically. I find more and more that creativity is best expressed through limited options ... I still have to get the hang of it though ... argh! I want to use everything!
Simplicty is key.