Name: Plant43 AKA Emile Facey
Occupation: Producer, live act, DJ, label owner, graphic designer
Nationality: British
Current release: Plant43's Sublunar Tides is out via his own Plant43 Recordings.
Recommendations: Pretty much anything by Spanish painter and sculptor Pablo Palazuelo. I discovered him while on holiday in Barcelona. I’ve made lots of tracks while looking at his work. I recommend that if at all possible you see it in a gallery as his cancasses are generally very large.
Urban Tribe - Bio Electronics (TRUST)

If you enjoyed this interview with Plant43 and would like to stay up to date on his work, visit him on Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud, and twitter.

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 was about 12 or 13 when I composed my first short piece of music. It was the early 80s. I programmed it on a Sinclair Spectrum computer using a coding language called BASIC. After inputting the pitch and duration of the notes the sound chip would play it back through my TV’s speaker. I still have it on cassette somewhere.

I come from a musical family and music was always on when I was growing up. My great grandfather came from a long line of professional clarinet players who originated in France. I remember loving classical, pop, folk and electronic music. Mozart, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, ABBA and Fleetwood Mac were all very early inspirations. I remember being drawn to the melodies and harmonies and loved dancing to loud music. My parents and school really encouraged me to learn music and I studied clarinet, recorder and piano as well as singing in choirs. I enjoyed playing the clarinet but the recorder was always my favourite.

The first wave of early hip-hop and electro hit the UK around 83/84 and along with a lot of other kids in my area I got into breakdancing and body popping. The first album I bought was Street Sounds Electro 8 on cassette and the first 12” vinyl I bought was Chaka Khan’s ‘I Feel for You’. My passion for Kraftwerk was sparked when I saw Breakin’ the Movie around the same time. There's a sequence where a dancer called Turbo (Michael "Boogaloo Shrimp" Chambers) dances with a broom outside a store and "Tour de France" is playing.

I also loved music from films. My parents took me to see Star Wars when I was five and I loved John Williams’ themes. E.T. and Close Encounters were both huge for me too and when I think back it’s the music just as much as the story and images which blew my mind.

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?

I definitely emulated my favourite artists when I started making music seriously. It was essential because I wanted to understand how these people were making this amazing music I loved so much. It was fun discovering how it worked but once I’d learned the basics I really wanted to create my own sound.

Once I had my own studio it was really just a matter of time. The more I worked on my music the more it started to sound like me and so I just followed that path.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

For me they are one and the same and they certainly feed back into each other.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

I have always been driven to create but have always gone through phases of finding it challenging.

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?

It wasn’t until the mid 90’s that I built a proper studio. Before that I had decks and a mixer, collected vinyl and learned to mix. Around that time a friend of mine was selling his Roland MC505. We’d worked on a few tracks together and I really liked using it so bought it from him. It was a great bit of kit to learn on as it was basically a studio in a box.

Pretty soon I realised the MC505 was a great sequencer but only had a limited amount of sounds that I liked so I bought some synths (Korg MS2000, Roland VJ1080), a sampler (BOSS SP202) and drum machines (Korg Electribe ER1 and ES1) that I could trigger using the MC505 through MIDI. Then I got some external hardware effects and a Mackie mixing desk to put everything through.

I think it was a golden era for new equipment around that time. Lots of really unique sounding new instruments were being released.

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

I used the set up described above until around 2004/5 when I discovered Ableton Live. I’ve used it ever since and I never get tired of how versatile and flexible it is. People take it for granted now that it’s been around for a long time but before it came along there was no piece of software like it. It’s so effortless to use that you don’t really think about it and that’s what makes it so good, I think. When I’m making music it’s like an extension of my brain rather than something I have to think about using.

My Roland SH101 is something I’d never part with, I’ve used it on most of my productions for the last 9 years since my partner got it for me. It’s such a versatile synth and can sound brutal or beautiful, or both at the same time!

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?

In most of the collaborations I’ve worked in I have been in the same studio as the person I’m working with and I enjoy that a lot. I really like acting as an engineer to capture other people’s ideas too. I also really enjoy doing remixes and have done quite a few over the years. I like to talk about musical ideas with my partner and close friends that I’ve collaborated with, that really helps to keep things fresh.

I also see my relationships with record labels and promoters as collaborations. The creative spark goes both ways and I really enjoy it when I connect with people in that way too.

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?

As a self-employed person who has always worked from home I have to have a fairly strict routine which normally involves a ‘commute’ to work, currently an hour long walk in the local area. I listen to a lot of podcasts while I’m walking, mainly interviews with other artists talking about their creative process.

I am currently trying to have a ‘sacred hour’ each day when I make music, even if it’s just that hour. I am a designer as well as a musician and when I’m doing design work I normally listen through to all the tracks I’ve made and let them percolate a bit, that helps me decide which ones I really like and want to release.

I think everything I do feeds back into my music making in some way or another.

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?

My first solo release on vinyl was a milestone. It’s called ‘Grey Sky Cracks’ and came out on Ai Records 2007.

I’d had some tracks on compilations and split EPs before this but this was my first opportunity to present a full EP of Plant43 music. There’s still something magical about hearing my music pressed on a vinyl record each time it happens, I never take it for granted.

I started working on the tracks probably around 2005 and was finding music a great way to express myself and how I was feeling. "Bristle White Trees" is an ode to a woodland of silver birch trees I used to pass on my way back-and-forth to work. For some reason they captured my imagination and I used to think about them a lot while I was making music.

The track "Grey Sky Cracks" is all about recharging in nature. I had this idea of being in a hollow under a tree, going back there to recharge my energy. I was living in the countryside at the time and spent a lot of time outdoors, walking in the local woods and over the nearby commons.

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 always had a very strong imagination. I trained as an illustrator and graphic designer and that practice had a big influence on how I engaged with my creative side.

Being in the flow when I was rendering artwork was something I built up as part of my illustration studies and I always listened to a lot of music while I was painting and drawing. When I started making music I found that I would go into the same sort of trance, disappearing into the task as I worked. It’s something I always draw great comfort from, even if I’m making music that’s not very comforting.

Going to exhibitions, watching films and looking at inspiring art really helps me to be creative too. Lots of my tracks are about photos I’ve taken or pieces of art I’ve seen, or soundtracks to movies I’ve seen or even imagined.

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 agree and I’ve always felt that music heals me, even if it’s dealing with something really tragic. The expression of negative and positive emotions can be cathartic for both the composer / performer and the listener. I think the combination of music with meditation and yoga can be extremely powerful too.

For the six years prior to the pandemic I visited the Freerotation festival every year. They have a yurt where you can listen to all sorts of healing music by some incredible artists and DJs. It’s a very special place and in some years I have spent more time there than the main stages.

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?

As a middle class white man I have been and continue to be in a privileged position. As a community it’s really important that we never forget that the music that we love and are influenced by only sounds the way it does because of the contribution and struggle of people of colour, women and people from the LGBTQ+ community who are still under-represented.

When it comes to copying I think it’s really important to create your own sound and visual identity. I listen to a really wide range of music, everything from hip-hop to classical to minimal to heavy metal and I really enjoy incorporating all of those into my own music. To me there’s nothing less inspiring than just emulating your contemporaries. I’m much more likely to make an interesting track if I’ve been inspired by something completely different, like architecture or a film.

I am very proud that the small scene I am part of is quite diverse, recognises the importance of that and doesn’t really have time for people who are simply copying someone else without putting some of their own personality into their creations. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, give credit to your influences but make sure you put something of your own into the conversation.

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 suppose the obvious one for a musician is hearing and touch. Sometimes playing instruments is like engaging in a sort of dance that results in sounds.

I think sight and hearing is another really important combination for me as I often have a visual image in mind when I’m making music.

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?

When I’m making art I am normally trying to express how I feel about something, it can range from the very personal to something with a strong political message.

I recently made an EP called ‘Interlinked’ which was all about the UK leaving the EU and how sad I was about that.

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?

That’s a tough one. Personally I can be moved by most forms of art. There are some things I can’t hear or watch without crying. A poem or painting can move me just as much as a piece of music.