Name: Troy Gunner
Occupation: Producer, Label Founder at Gunner Records
Current Release: "Get Loud" featuring a Mark Broom remix is out now on Dext Limited
Recommendations: Jackson Lee did a remix for me which is coming out on my label. He took percussion and turned it into chords, ran it through a ton of noisy outboard and I think about it on a daily basis. I’m putting it in my next mix which by the time this interview goes live, will probably be out there.
Barker just did an album on Ostgut Ton which truly took my breath away too. You’ll know why if you listen. I’ll be here all day describing it otherwise.
Also a super bait selection but I’m reading Haruki Murakami’s Wind Up Bird Chronicle (isn’t everyone?). It’s a deeply introverted read that transports you into another realm that just seems surreally real.
If you enjoyed this interview with Troy Gunner, check out his facebook page or soundcloud account to stay up to date with his latest releases and tour dates.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I’m lucky to come from a musical family and learnt how to play guitar when I was eight. I started DJing when I was fourteen and then producing music came shortly after.
For most artists, originality is first 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? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
A good friend of mine, who sadly passed away recently, put me on to dubstep and early records from Synkro. As soon as I heard this stuff I just thought “I’m probably never going to hear anything as good as this in my entire life” and became quite obsessed. I locked myself away in my teens, didn’t do very well in the later years of school and was constantly trying to put my own spin on a sound that I thought could be compatible with the Mindset Records camp. Synkro & Indigo caught wind of my tracks through some mutual friends and we did a 12”. I called it ‘Fools Gold’ as I thought it was never as good as the stuff that came before it.
But since then on, my surroundings, (mostly the countries I’ve lived in) and the people I’ve chosen to surround myself with have all had an impact on this whether they realise it or not. I think it’s integral to be inspired, accepting and tainted by (good) things to some degree - it makes you who you are.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I used to sequence on a few programs, but the main one I worked with was Reason 4 which was kind of limiting at the time as it was solely a midi program back then. I’d run a collection of cheap USB condenser mics through a dell laptop and record super low with no phantom power. I’d have to boost everything with free software in order for anything to be audible and with that came a lot of background artifacts, which ironically gave things kind of a cool graininess and (dare I say it), a bit of signature sound.
I’m fortunate that my set up, ability and obsession grew in the years to follow. Sometimes I work primarily ‘in the box’ as that’s the way I first learnt, but if I’ve had a rough day or don’t feel as patient as I typically am, I’ll go super hands-on. I’ve found creativity is massively dependent on mood. Rubbish mood = rubbish output (but that’s just me).
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My studio has always been in my bedroom and is pretty minimal. Up until now I’ve only just moved into a new place in Berlin so I’m still in the process of having a proper set up or something you could call a studio. But my pals are always quick to lend me theirs if I need to work, mix-down or feel inspired.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
I work on the side of my day job testing beta software and hardware for a reputable music production company so I’m incredibly lucky to be part of a community where I can experiment with unusual mechanisms, give feedback and be heard. I feel a community like that is the driving force in the synergy of humans and machines co-existing and excelling as one.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I track primarily in Ableton, which - having experimented with a fair few DAWs over the previous decade - gets me from point A to B in the fastest possible amount of time. Speed is a big thing for me and if I’m able to materialise ideas from my head quickly, this can often snowball into the basis of a track and then the momentum from that can often end up ‘writing the track itself’ so to speak.
That being said, in recent times, I’ve found myself working and perfecting certain tunes for months as ‘art is never finished, only abandoned’. Being in control of your parameters is a powerful and rewarding duty.
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?
With the Internet now it’s a lot less about location and more about who you have around you (even virtually). I send my music to a lot of people around the globe and can usually get feedback pretty quickly. I also work in music PR which means I get to discuss topics around copious amounts of good music (non-virtually) for a living and I get to examine and study waves, trends, moods and music as a culture which after a decade of working in the industry, somehow still fascinates me.
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?
Warning: this is going to be severely boring so skip to the next question if you want, as I live a super low-key life at the moment. I usually drink tons of water as soon as I wake up and try to eat super healthy (mostly vegan). I work a day shift at my job in music PR, then when I come home and work on my own productions around 3-4 times per week. At the moment I’m working on a large body of work with one of my favourite producers called Sieren.
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?
I’d say the latest release on my label was a happy moment. It was only 3 tracks on a 12” but took me about a year to tie them up and to be truly, deeply happy with them. They were recorded among a plethora of hardware between the UK and Germany and with a version of a software that I can’t talk about ...
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?
Life comes heavily equipped with many distractions. One of my mentors once told me that if you play as hard as you work, it takes you a lot longer and that you don’t have to be the victim of your environment if you become the architect of it. My life is often a battle to program healthy habits around lesser-healthy ones in order to constantly increase my productivity and output.
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?
I make music on machines for people to absorb and dance to. So the most important part for me is making sure things don’t become robotic. There are a lot of techniques commonly used for this and if you can find a happy medium between them all you’re really onto something special. I’m still perfecting them myself.
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?
The majority of my time I restrict myself to experiment and don’t necessarily ‘compose’. I think it’s important to create a huge soundbank of content that you can have at your disposal that you know you’ve put a lot of love into. And from there you become a ‘composer’. I’m obsessed with that balance.
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?
Right now we’re living in a refreshing era of electronic music where especially in the underground, we’re no longer restricted by tempo or even genre. And I feel the ‘trend’, for lack of a better word, right now is to be as far-fetched as possible. Which can come rather easy for someone as odd as me.
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 spent many years chasing approval and appreciation of others and have learnt (only in recent years) that it’s important to carve out your own path and stay the course. You’ll respect yourself a lot more and not be so confused as I used to be.
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?
I don’t really see music as the concept, I think making sound is a better way of putting it and even by saying something is music puts it into a box in someone’s head. To define is to limit and all that ...jazz.