Name: Brian Williams aka Lustmord
Occupation: Composer, producer, sound designer
Current Release: Alter, a collaboration between Lustmord and Karin Park, is out now on Pelagic.
Recommendations: The movie “Kaili Blues” by Bi Gan. The piece of music “Hymn To Freedom” by The Oscar Peterson Trio.
If you enjoyed this interview with Lustmord, visit his official website for more information and updates.
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?
I started to work with sound in 1980, simply because the music I wanted to hear didn’t exist. I can’t say what drew me to it, It was something I needed to do.
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?
Since I wanted to create music that didn’t already exist I wasn’t interested in emulating others and I’ve never seen the point of doing so. However, my early experiments were close to what Throbbing Gristle and SPK (who I later joined) were doing at the time as we had become friends and they were encouraging me and offering suggestions on equipment etc and that direct influence did appear in what I was doing.
While I knew the sound I wanted to create I had no musical or technical ability so I wasn’t sure how to achieve what I wanted, but it was more about attitude than ability and as I became more proficient with the tools on hand I had more control and I was able to shape the sound I was looking for.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I don’t think it does.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the beginning the main obstacle was not having any equipment, so I’d improvise, borrow and work out workarounds to my limitations. That was usually very time consuming, but such challenges are things you can make work for you rather than against you. Finding ways to get results through different approaches.
If you don’t have the equipment you can still find a way to create something, but if you have all the equipment but don’t have ideas, you won’t create anything interesting or of value.
Over time I adapted my own way of doing things and those challenges were removed, These days the only real challenge is time. But like everything else, you make it work, one way or another.
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?
As mentioned I started with no equipment at all abut over fifteen years or so I did end up with a studio of sort, with the usual suspects of name rack mount processors, ProTools etc, and very early on my the studio became my instrument. But all I really wanted was one box that could do everything.
About twenty years ago I sold all my hardware and moved to software only as it works much better way to work for me. These days I have a powerful Mac Pro with a ridiculous amount of memory and storage, a MIDI controller / keyboard for input, digital/analog converter for audio, 5.1 speakers for surround and two 4K displays, and that’s it.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Nothing has caused me to question what I do or how I do it, but I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without a computer. While I wouldn’t call it profound, getting my first one did change everything in that I was able to do much more than I could before.
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?
For me, the most enjoyable part of creativity is coming up with ideas and concepts. Finding somebody to share that with, to “throw ideas” back and forth with and create ideas together is a real joy. I thrive with it. With a collaboration that’s the most important and rewarding part for me, and while one can share files remotely it’s a very different thing to be in the same room as the other person, especially with those rare people that you have real energy with.
But it’s difficult to find someone on the same wavelength.
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?
There is no separation, what I do IS my life and vice-versa.
A typical day is getting up 6:15 am before my wife heads to work, then after responding to some email I take my dog out on our daily hikes in the local hills and canyons. When I get home I spend more time on the routine administration part of making music for a living (answer more email etc) and after lunch I’ll work on music and/or sound design until my wife returns home from work around 5:30. I work late into the night if I’m working on a deadline for a project, but otherwise usually spend the evening relaxing with a movie or something. Weekends are very similar other than getting up later.
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?
The breakthrough for me was my album The Word As Power, which featured guest vocals. It was something I wanted to do for years but I just didn’t have the right voices available (in both sound and attitude). But around 2012 I finally found the voices I needed and I could record that album. With that album for the first time I could listen back to it and hear exactly what I had wanted it to be, and my production abilities had really improved.
I’ve recently experienced the same kind of experience but more so recording the latest album, which is a collaboration with Karin Park. Karin brings so much more to the project than my doing it by myself, and I consider ALTER, the album with Karin a breakthrough work.
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’ve never been aware of there being a need to get into a state of mind. In my experience being creative is something you just “are”. It’s a constant process of using your imagination, there is no on or off and button.
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?
I’m not sure what you mean by “heal”, I assume you don’t mean it literally.
Music is a very interesting phenomena, or rather our reaction to it, in that music effects us in ways that other things do not. Not only can it affect us emotionally on a deep level, trigger memories etc, but we can recognize a piece of music from just one or two notes, and a melody can lodge and loop in our memory for hours, and sometimes days. Nothing else can cause these effects in us.
While it can’t heal it does have the ability to bring people together both physically and in shared emotions. It can’t do more than that, the rest us up to us.
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?
Being inspired by something is a good thing and the highest form of compliment. But copying is at best lazy, and at worse, stealing.
What do you mean by “the cultural/social/gender specificity of art”? If you’re referring to racism, sexism etc, I have a very strong opinions and stance on equality, but I live in a word where equality still isn’t largely recognized, and that angers me.
But there are many people from all kinds of backgrounds creating art, there is no specific race or gender creating it. But it is true that in the past to a large degree those writing about it have focused on white males. That is changing - although far too slowly.
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?
I don’t know what you mean by “shares intriguing connections to other senses”? For some insight on how we hear and how we perceive sound, I recommend: "Auditory Neuroscience: Making Sense of Sound" by Jan Schnupp and "An Introduction to the Psychology of Hearing" by Brian C.J. Moore.
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 don’t think of myself as an artist, I just do what I do, and there is no separation from what I do creatively and my life as a whole. An approach to art shouldn’t be any different to an approach to anything else, you try and make something meaningful and if it has a positive effect on someone you’ve achieved something worthwhile.
Leading by example is always the best option in life and in everything you do.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?