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?
I love talking with other producers, hearing the details of how they use certain software or machines or the music they’re into that I may not know or things they do outside of music to compliment creativity, or just to relax too! I also really enjoy the process of asking other producers for feedback and providing feedback, this has played a huge part in my development especially when someone comes back to me quite bluntly and provides constructive criticism. I value having a network of people to check my work with very highly.
As far as actual collaboration in the studio, I really enjoy spending time in other peoples studios or reading articles having a look at what they use and watching how they work, I find it fascinating. However, sometimes I do struggle to work alongside someone physically. I’m a bit of a control freak, and I sometimes I struggle with the balance. But I always learn a lot collaborating with people, and I will continue to do so as and when the opportunity arises!
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?
I get up, drink tea and on some days, exercise or do some focused listening exercises. Then I sit down and begin to listen to some music, flick around new releases, go down some youtube musical wormholes or listen to a record to warm my ears up. Then I will start making a patch and noodling on the modular synth and begin recording new things or editing older ideas, I try and keep it quite open depending on if I have a record to finish or if I’m just experimenting. I take breaks every 45 minutes or so to play games or watch a film or read or something like that to rest my ears. I will stop my working day or take a longer break when I begin to feel frustrated or drained, sometimes this happens quickly and other times I work long hours!
I tend to have a fairly flexible schedule with when I start, my sleeping schedule fluctuates a lot depending on if I am gigging or have a few months at home. But I think it is really important to work on or listen to music every day, even if it is just for a short time to keep the ears warm. I think I have quite a strong ethic built into me of daily practice from when I was at music college, so I do tend to make sure even on ‘off’ days, that I do some kind of musical or listening practice to stay warmed up. Only over the past 2 years I have started to exercise every other day. I use that time some days as a space away from music, but other days I will exercise whilst listening and reflecting on sketches I’ve written, and also digesting new music or listening to longer form stuff whilst working out, it depends on my mood.
I am quite an anxious person - I used to self medicate but now I try to use exercise and eating well to combat the anxiety; its an ongoing battle. I tend to integrate music into almost every aspect of my life to be honest! It’s a habit now, so in response to the question I think it all blends quite seamlessly … As far as new activities go, the focused listening I mentioned at the start of the question is a meditation that I’m trying every other day via a practice called “Deep Listening” developed by Pauline Oliveros. I realised through these exercises that I was hearing a lot but wasn’t listening very much. I’m new to it but it’s fascinating and revealing.
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?
For my track “Worm Field” from PLMN003 - it was a one take recording of a huge patch I made on the modular synths, split into 2 mono recordings and recorded live. I built the patch over a week, and every machine was talking to the other one in some way or another via control voltages and gates etc. This track felt like the first collaboration between me and the machines in a more literal sense and hopefully that is reflected in the final piece.
I recorded the jam, and I was controlling the machines and arrangement for the whole recording. Then I applied some post recording tidy ups like EQ and compression and that was it. This is one example where I really let go and allowed myself not to worry about details and the endless tweaking that can happen with releasing a record, but interestingly its not the way I usually work with making a record - it was an experiment that worked out well. Usually, say with my Nonplus EP or the Zehnin Records release or PLMN001 + 002 + 004, I took quite rough sketches I built in a few days or hours and and then developed them slowly over a few months into the final tracks. This is generally how I work, a flash of inspiration to record the skeleton of the track, and then a month or so refining the mix and tweaking and adding ideas, I write a lot of ideas and finish only a small amount of tracks!
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 have a lot of racing thoughts and then I have a side of me that questions and worries about those thoughts. For me, the ideal state for creating is my thoughts racing, but my mind not questioning the thoughts, instead I’m putting them into action via recording and making music or creating in some way.
I find that listening or looking or analysing other people’s work sometimes can plant doubts in my head, and this becomes a distraction, but other times it becomes an inspiration. I think once I am feeling comfortable, appropriately confident, relaxed, and rested then I am ready to create …. feeling this way consistently is something I’m still working on achieving and I guess most people are!
Exercise, reflection, not putting too much pressure on myself whilst remaining disciplined mentally allows me to enter this state. It can be a battle sometimes and other times the creative flow comes easily!
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?
The parallels I have found between playing live and writing in the studio primarily operate in the field of tension and release. In the studio I work with tension and release in my music and also when I play live or do a DJ set. So much music (maybe all of it?) is tension and release on varying scales of intensity. Improvisation is composition on the fly, so in that sense I see improvisation as a form of composition or a partner to it. When improvising you are creating it in the present, referencing the past and looking to the future.
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?
Quite a tough question … I guess the sound is the composition really. In terms of sound taking on compositional qualities - recently I have worked with longer recordings with subtle slow modulations. The sound begins in one place and arrives in another by the end of the recording, in that sense, the sound changing has become the composition.
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?
For me, and from conversations with others it does seem that sight and sound and touch are senses that overlap hugely. Speaking for myself, this is mostly in a textural sense, with sounds I can feel a texture in my hands, and see a kind of blur of textural colours or a surface that pairs with a sound, I think a lot of people experience this overlap. Describing certain drums as rubbery, or buttery, or hard or soft even … This fascinates me.
I guess even on a physical level within the body our senses and perception are deeply connected and by no means seperated. On an even further level, I believe we are constantly experiencing everything all at once, but this is mediated and separated by our perception. Our senses seem to work well at making sense of this onslaught, categorising and separating the input in order to keep us alive.
I wish I knew what happened to sound at its outermost borders - the overlap between seeing and hearing and feeling definitely has something to do with it. I do believe that the power of sound goes beyond what we are currently aware of!
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 try to express feelings that capture my imagination, and hope that it might connect with people, inspire them, excite them or make them think. I don’t have an overarching goal, I love making music and I want to share it with people. Once your music is out in the world, it becomes something else, people can make it into what they want in their own heads … I like that you can just let it go once its out there.
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?
For sure I have a vision of what music could be beyond its current form. However, a large portion of this involves the audience and listeners and the listening environment. The perfect melting pot for me involves experimental music, that is met with an audience willing to digest it, give weird things a chance. Of course, there are plenty of people now who are doing that! But I would still like more experimental music to be celebrated.
There is still a lot to be had with music that is more patient, and perhaps helping people become more patient in how they listen to music (including myself) … The trend of music becoming easier and quicker to consume has already impacted how it is created. I would like so see what would happen if slower, more subtle music was consumed by more people even in concert settings or beyond.
But that sounds a little negative, for sure there is already plenty of people who are willing to give weirder music a chance. I guess I would just like it to be on an even bigger scale!