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?
No fixed schedule as such. I work when I feel like it. I don't force it. That's the process that works best. Sometimes a track takes a day, other times 3 months! My music life is very different and I don't have many friends in the music scene I hang out with regularly. I have a lot of normal friends, though. I tend to avoid DJs. Not that I don't like them, but I don't sit and talk about music all day. If I meet someone interesting, however, I will chat for hours. Usually I drink too much coffee, go mad and then go out, come back later and switch on the gear and start – sometimes at 8 am, sometimes not at all. I do like working at night, but the neighbours don't. I don't like the idea of 9 til 5 studio, it's a creative process that should not be forced - though the force is strong to earn some money.
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?
Swayzak, I suppose, is something that's special. I was working with Benjamin Zephaniah, a dub poet from Birmingham. We connected through our publisher Westbury music, as we were looking to work with Jamaican vocalists and they have the whole catalog of Jamaican music. They suggested him and it was perfect really. It fitted with our Britishness, this touch a rasta from Birmingham. I think Benjamin was the first guy to record his voice in our studio (aka bedroom) and we did it so he wasn’t isolated and recorded somewhat naively to minidisc then sampled it and chopped it up to place in the track. He was such a lovely guy and we chatted for hours on the phone. He’s got a deep Birmingham accent - think peaky blinders (yes he’s even in it ). I love the words he wrote for the track “The beautiful electric drum is wired for your pleasure“, he nailed it. The music Itself was a 4 bar looped sample that undulates through an Akai s950 filter. Very basic indeed. Not sure, but the Akai S950 had a special feel to it, it's all over our first two albums. It was mainly used in hip hip. We then added more parts and built it up around the voice. Lots of 909 + SH09, dubby sounds. The end result was fantastic, though I would like to revisit it now and rework many 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?
Less distractions of daily life and a good working space. Sunlight, no alcohol. Maybe a bike ride charges me up, feeds my brain. I always feel invigorated from seeing some friends or even just getting out in the sun (rare in Britain). Positivity helps immensely and confidence, too. I can’t say I was always confident I was much more unsure of myself when I was younger. Now I don't really care, I just want to make real good music.
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?
Live is daunting sometimes. You're afraid of mistakes, glitches, crashes and moody dancers. There are tiring set ups sound checks, but it's also more rewarding. I’m jealous of how the DJs keep the flow - that's much harder live. Unless you cheat, there are drops in energy in every set I find. But I want people to see it's live and feel that live electronics can be cool. The process is complicated, as it's not really a set, but more of a jam. All the sounds are taken from studio tracks and reworked into loops. It's very improvised. I use Electribes and Ableton + Volca bass right now. I’m always adding and taking away sounds. Often the live shows inspire new ideas for the studio, such as my S_W_Z_ K record. Playing live, you get to hear your work at high volume and it sounds so different. Once you've heard that, you can imagine a more powerful mix to be done of the same tracks. So I want to take live to the studio - live in the studio and the studio live.
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?
I'm less concerned about compositional aspects. Some producers think: “Will this work at 3am?“ I’m not concerned with that so much. It is what it is. If it works at 3am, all good. The quality is more important in the sounds you use rather than the breakdowns and the builds and the bassline. Though of course the drum patterns drive it along. But drums are never the first thing in my tracks. It's usually pads, synth lines, melody. I don't really make music for DJs, but if they play it, it's all good. The production should be tight, but not so tight that it doesn’t have a soul.
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 It's outermost borders?
Aural beauty is the goal … To send someone's spine tingling, to raise the senses leads to love and enlightenment. It can raise the spirit into a religious state, much dub music does this It's tribal yet ethereal, it releases endorphins naturally. The deeper, the better. Certain frequencies touch us more and it's possible to miss this feeling all your life. I’ve seen it with ballet or opera - the few times I’ve been. It's of another world sometimes, simple piano music even.
Art can be a purpose in It's 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 suppose I have a feeling I’m not really an artist but a music maker. I’m not skilled enough to be an artist, I wish I was more of an artist. I’ve seen the high art ballet / opera / film / theatre, Shakespeare. It puts things in significant order, but it's better perceived as music than art. Though that's not to say some people are not true artists - like Herbert - or true musicians - like Theo Parrish. The ballet I saw used electronic “dance”. It sounded superior in the environment of a theatre - perhaps I seek this to be justified as an artist finally. I would love to be more involved in the creative process using music within a space other than a club. It feeds more imagination and experimentation, but it rarely happens. You get pigeonholed. Though the few times I played in museums and old theatres were fantastic. I like the idea of atonal festivals and the like. Perhaps I have to delve in more take myself more seriously.
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 It's current form?
I think it's a bleak future. We are losing our minds to social media, it can spread the good and the bad but it removes the randomness of scenes in towns and cities. I mean, when you get Aphex Twin coming from a small town in Cornwall or Boards of Canada from the highlands, these were important events! Mavericks.
Even the scene in Manchester or Berlin or say Leipzig are less random now, though people can advertise their music much easier. It is in some way harder to find and to filter the good from the bad. That's why I still buy records It's a filter for the good. Now we have 3 DJs to every plumber - it doesn’t work. There is too much out there fighting for recognition and the pushiest are the least talented. Swayzak was an accident. Our success was accidental.