Name: Colin Newman and Malka Spigel
Selected Bands/ Projects: Wire, Minimal Compact
Current Release: Analogue Creatures Living on an Island, on Swim~
Musical Recommendations: Slows, Valet
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
As two individuals we have quite different histories but in terms of Immersion, it became an entity in 1994. Pre-Immersion we had been working on song based material together in a project called Oracle but we started to become bored with the restrictions of rock/pop (even dance/pop) and the personality culture surrounding it. Having discovered techno in the late 80’s/ early 90’s when we were still living in Brussels, we became increasingly drawn to its more abstract side.
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?
For artists of our generation this doesn’t really apply and by the time we came to Immersion we had already individually found our own voices. However we did have to find our way in a genre that already had a set of norms. The thing that has always marked out Immersion is the use and abuse of the Korg MS10. Immersion music can be quite varied but the MS10 is ever present.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the early days we worked with a combination of MIDI, sequencing, sampling and tape. This has the issues most loop based working methods do (too much obvious repetition). The tape enabled us to utilise things that were more performed but then you lose the ability to re-structure. There was a huge gap of 17 years between 1999’s “Low Impact” and the new album during which time our whole studio set up has changed for the better. We are now much freer in how we can record, restructure etc. In many ways we are much more able to be spontaneous.
Tell us about your studio, please. What were criteria when setting it up and how does this environment influence the creative process? How important, relatively speaking, are factors like mood, ergonomics, haptics and technology for you?
We have had a studio of some kind since we first lived together in 1986; we started with an 8 track and a little mixing board then added an Atari, then a sampler. Obviously things have moved on since then but the studio has always developed naturally and we’ve never spent a ton of money on it. The two most recent iterations of it have been in converted garages. Certainly the studio is small, and there isn’t room to set up a band, but it’s comfortable, if cosy, for two. The mood is more about the fact that it is separate from the living space; it could definitely be better set up ergonomically but we do try to have stuff which is hands on. The studio has been based around a pro-tools system since December 1999.
What are currently some of the most important tools and instruments you're using?
Being Pro-tools based makes for a certain kind of approach. For the most part you do the creative stuff outside “the box”. So physical instruments do play a big part, mono synths (MS10 & Micro brute) but also guitars (electric, acoustic, and 12 string), mandola, and, of course, lots of guitar pedals. We should also mention Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol; we use a lot of soft synths and being able to control them from the keyboard as if they were physical instruments makes a big difference as to what you can get out of them.
Many contemporary production tools already take over significant parts of what would formerly have constituted compositional work. In which way do certain production tools suggest certain approaches, in which way do they limit and/or expand your own creativity? Are there any promising solutions or set-ups capable of triggering new ideas inside of you as a composer?
Being Pro Tools based means that the approach is more about being creative and then recording it rather that creating “inside the box”. There’s nothing wrong with software like Ableton Live but we prefer to work this way. Perhaps it’s a way to be more original?
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where do ideas come from, what do you start with and how do you go about shaping these ideas?
It’s quite hard to describe how an Immersion piece starts because they all start with very small ideas: a sound, a loop, a chord sequence, a guitar riff. We then just build the pieces organically by playing along, usually one at a time. Then it’s all about listening: what does the piece need? what doesn’t work? what does there need to less of? what does there need to be more of? It’s not an intellectual process. It’s all about what works, in the room, at the time.