Name: Lake Night
Current release: Lake Night's first single "Atlas" ft Maria Uzor is out now, with his debut album to follow shortly. A sonic travelogue and meditation on ife and death, it features a wide range of vocalists, from Miles Cooper Seaton via Leo Duncan from Ten Fé to Roxanne de Bastion.
Recommendations: Music: Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe & Ariel Kalma - Notes Above Land; Art: Toko Shinoda - Blessing
If you enjoyed this interview with Lake Night, listen to his music on Soundcloud and Bandcamp.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
As a teenager I was massively into bands like New Order and Slowdive. The emotional aspect of those bands was probably the biggest influence that made me want to make music. But it wasn’t until I got more into electronic music and bought a computer with some production software, that I started properly making music.
Artists like Aphex Twin, Underworld and Boards of Canada were some my earliest obsessions in that world.
For most artists, originality is 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?
Typical bedroom producer route. Making very sketchy versions of Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada type tracks, were some of my earliest forays into production. I was buying books on production and hung out in friends of friends studios, just trying to gather any information I could, of how you actually produce electronic music.
The transition came after a few years and things just started to click. I would just start writing and something came out that felt like it was me. Once you’re comfortable with the tools, it’s easier to create freely.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I feel my creativity is more influenced by life events, rather than my sense of self. When creating, it’s really not something I consciously think about.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Finding my own voice was the biggest challenge. I love so many genres of music, but just because you love something, doesn’t mean it’s the right vehicle for your own creativity. To think less and feel more is the road to finding my own way of expression.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
My first equipment was very basic, consisting of a computer, software, audio interface and a midi keyboard. This was great to learn the production process, but after a while, working in the box does become stale.
Having grown up playing guitar, I wanted a more tactile way of creating electronic music rather than using VST synths with my midi controller. So I started buying second hand synths from eBay. My first ‘proper’ hardware was a Roland SH-1 synth and an Alesis drum machine.
My choices were always informed by my very slender budget.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
My main setup now revolves around a modest eurorack modular setup, with predominantly Make Noise modules at the core. They’re so well made and incredibly interesting in their functionality. It’s really opened up the way I create.
Before I would maybe play around on a synth and hope for some inspiration to come, which would often lead to nothing. Or I’d have a fixed idea before starting.
Now, even if I don’t have anything in my head, I can just start patching and after a little while there’s a spark which I can build upon. Because the sound can change drastically with the patch of a couple of cables, it can lead to something new and interesting. A noise you maybe wouldn’t have created on conventional instruments. The sound design possibilities are endless.
That whole way of working puts me in the same zone as when I paint. With each move, you then have to contemplate before making the next step.
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?
Usually when I’m collaborating it’s a mix of email and Skype to talk about the ideas and then exchanging files.
As most musicians have some kind of studio set up at home, it makes things very easy. I mean, I do love going in the studio and vibe off other musicians, but it’s not always easy to make happen. Especially when people are the other side of the world.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. 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 usually wake up at 8am, drink tea and watch modular videos on YouTube until I’m hungry, then have breakfast. After that I’ll just start patching on the modular until I get an idea. Then continue writing until I’m hungry again. After lunch, more writing or maybe paint until evening. I’ll then have dinner with my wife and then usually watch a film or documentary.
Music and life pretty much blend together nicely. Though I do now take more time to myself instead of working all the time.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
One of the biggest breakthroughs came when writing the album.
I got introduced to Miles Cooper Seaton, who I really admired. I gave him an embryonic piece of music in the hope of collaborating, to which he agreed. Working with Miles was just so inspiring, and his approach to the creative process and belief in what I was doing, gave me more confidence and the focus to go even deeper in my writing.
He would question the elements in the music I sent him, “what’s the significance of this”. Which was a little intimidating (and a little annoying ha!) at first, but it really helped me hone an album that feels really special to me. The song we made together, informed the direction the rest of the album should go. How it should be tied together.
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’m not sure there is an ideal state of mind for me. I’ve written music in every emotional state and try not to contrive it to be honest. I prefer to let the process evolve naturally.
As for distractions. Turn off the internet and your phone!
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
One of my favourite things in Vietnam is the ‘street karaoke’. Locals would get together in these open front restaurants and eat and drink into the early hours and belt out these very emotional ballads. It always felt like they needed to sing, rather than your usual karaoke where it’s just a ‘bit of a laugh’. Voices breaking with emotion, it seemed very cathartic.
Music has the power to express what is too uncomfortable to say directly. It has the ability to console the worst times in our lives and to provide the soundtrack to the good times.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
I think artists taking influence from other cultures and scenes and then interpreting that in their own way can lead to something quite inspired and unique. As a musician, going to a new country for example, and hearing local music is so exciting for me. Different instruments, scale and approach, is always going to evoke a new musical thought.
I wrote my forthcoming album in Vietnam and Japan and the sounds and approach to playing music really bled into what I was doing. The use of bells, metallic percussion, the discordant strings. I just fell in love with these ‘new’ sounds.
The task then was, how to channel this into something that is honest to what I do, rather than just copy. Which for me, would have felt too much like appropriation.
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?
There’s many field recordings in my album that evoke so many memories for me. From the smell of street food, the closeness of the humid air, the streetlights casting shadows of the looming trees onto the road. They paint such a vivid picture that transport me back to writing the track in which they now exist. I love how music can do that. I’ve never experienced that with any other art form.
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?
My approach is to express what I need to without compromise. Whilst I obviously want to sell some records and have my music heard, to me that shouldn’t be the driving factor.
As for politics or social commentary in music, I look to others for that. I’m not good at expressing myself in that way, without sounding naff. If I can’t do it as well as IDLES or Public Enemy, I just don’t see the point.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
As I said before, music has the power to express what is often too uncomfortable to say or confront directly.
When my dad died, I listened to Nick Cave’s album Skeleton Tree a lot. Nick’s understanding and expression of sadness and tragedy just felt so comforting. Listening to music which gives you that level of understanding, feels almost like you’re offloading some of the pain you’re feeling to a surrogate self.