Name: Groove Armada
Members: Andy Cocup, Tom Findlay
Current Release: Edge Of The Horizon, available from their personal webstore.
Recommendations: Dirt to Soil: One Family's Journey into Regenerative Agriculture by Gabe Brown
Adam Curtis - Hyper Normalization
If you enjoyed this interview with Groove Armada, find out more about them on their website or facebook account.
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?
From as soon as I could sit up, my father had me playing piano whilst he played trombone. So it’s very much been the family for a long time, although we don't make what my father would call ‘proper music’ aka Jazz and Blues. I was playing trombone and piano from a young age, but hearing house music at fire parties changed everything for me and lead me down this path of electronic music.
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?
The learning never really stops. I took my grades at a young age, but I’m still learning and improving on instruments. Sometimes having limited options is a better steer for creating, as with modern computer workstations and unlimited options through DAWs. You can end up in a place I call ‘paralysis through analysis’. Too many choices can be a bad thing in the creative process.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Improved sample times were a game changer. Being able to record more than 5 seconds makes you look at reworking sound in a totally different way. And mix downs are always a constantly evolving challenge, that changes in each space you’re working in. It’s an aspect of the audio process that is worth devoting your time to.
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?
Simple to say the least. At different stages we’ve used different pieces of equipment and recording techniques, and with varying levels of success. In terms of important pieces on the latest record, it was made from a surprisingly simple set up. But we don't like giving away too much production secrets … ; )
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?
It’s all about ideas, and the technology is just another tool to realise those ideas. It’s not about expensive equipment. Some of the most beautiful music was made with just a guitar, voice and a microphone. Technology still can’t create the ideas for you, it’s a blank canvas.
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?
It varies, sometimes we like live instrumentation as it helps add feel to a track, sometimes it’s mostly ‘in the box’. It’s always been about what the track needs, rather than what we want to put in it.
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?
Our process has changed over the years due to geography. We’ll both get ideas together, but the magic always happens when it’s Tom and I in a room together, with a couple or beers, and our phones off.
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?
In my other life as a farmer, my day starts very early tending to my other duties. In terms of music, it’s often at night I do my best work. That’s maybe informed by the farm. Coffee is the one constant, and more specifically espresso.
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?
Goodbye Country was a mad time for us. No internet, phone calls with Nile Rodgers from an old phone box, US rappers in the English countryside messing up their trainers, bouncing sounds off church walls and deconstructed mixing desks being dumped on the studios lawn. We nearly went mad writing that album. But it's one we are very proud of.
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?
Tom and I in a room, having a good time like we always have.
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?
That fact that Tom and I are still friends, despite the amount of windowless studio spaces is testament to our friendship. Live is another world that we love, but it’s exhausting and intense, but one of the greatest feelings out there.
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?
There’s a balance that we’re always chasing. Nowadays because of DAWs, it’s easy (and sometimes a mistake) to work on sound and composition at the same time, sometimes it works, but sometimes you get lost in the sound and not the ideas.
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?
Sound is so powerful and is able to take you back to a moment in time, the same our other senses. These invisible stimulators can fire up the brain and deep memories and it’s fascinating, one of the universes great mysteries.
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?
Art has always been a voice of dissent, and dark times seem to create beautiful music. It feels like the times we’re living through now will ultimately inspire people. Mixing music and politics can be incredibly powerful, but not all music has to have that message. That’s the most beautiful thing about it, sometimes it’s supposed to make you lose yourself and separate from reality.
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?
We’re living through some crazy times, with the lack of touring and how heavily that affects artists’ revenue, it’s a time to relook at how things used to be done, and create fairer deals so that artists can survive.