Name: Hayden Thorpe
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist
Current release: Hayden Thorpe's Moondust for My Diamond is out via Domino.
If you enjoyed this interview with Hayden Thorpe, visit his official website for more information. He is also on Facebook, Instagram, twitter, and Soundcloud.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
Impulse by definition is a changeable thing.
I guess I can’t really define a singular source of inspiration or reason for creating. It makes me feel better about life and living, that’s all I know.
Creating music is a regime to live by, a focus for the days. It’s not about catching lighting or necessarily being that often inspired. It’s a regular, methodical searching for wonder.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I would rarely use the word “concrete” or even “idea” at the beginning of the process. Most of the time if I’m onto something I don’t even know that I am, the best things aren’t products that the conscious brain conjures up.
That’s why in my last answer I talked about regime and routine, you just have to be present for when that little something bubbles up, the more often you are there, the greater the likelihood of it turning up and you being ready for it.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
No nothing like this, these methods are far too formal for myself. The great myth of the go-out-and-get-it writer scares me a lot, and it scares off that very precious subliminal quality I look for in songs.
The best songs arrive to you, if you go looking too hard you can disturb the delicate conditions that allow for them to come.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
Yes, fair enough I need to drink a lot of coffee to be a proper person.
I read a great book recently, “This Is Your Mind On Plants” by Michael Pollan. He basically points out the uncanny synchronicity of the enlightenment and rationalism with the arrival of coffee into renaissance era Europe. I have a lot of time for that theory, you can really judge a civilisation by its substances. Cocaine being the drug of choice for a capitalist society where the individual is king. This new era of psychedelic understanding we’re coming to perhaps tells us that there are new understandings were having to form with nature and the environment.
But to be honest I have to be stone cold sober and over-caffeinated to achieve even the smallest thing in my day and coffee is my only companion when writing.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
It should be the easiest thing in the world, without the grace of that initial invisible thrust you’re done for. Creating work can be bloody hard, and at times agony but by God not that first line or note. That is as pure and invigorating thing as I’ve ever felt.
The whole process afterwards is simply a re-enactment of that feeling.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
There are no formal rules for this, words and music must cohabit, they each need one another, but each wants to out shine the next. The more lyrics I write, the more faith I have in the words arriving when they’re needed. Writing is a very optimistic process as you must go forth in the belief that you will come across the ones that fit amongst the millions you could choose.
I don’t even really like the word lyrics to be honest. Strange that isn’t it? I must say music will resuscitate some pretty terrible words, but the most beautiful words can be crushed under a crap melody.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
Lyrics reveal the hidden world behind the world. Spells are literally just an alignment of letters and so it follows that casting spells is just an act of ordering words.
Some phrases have magical properties that create molecular effects within your body. That is what lyrics can do, they change your perception of things, they cause your reality to warp.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
In whatever way it must, the main work here is to remain nonjudgemental enough to keep open avenues that might make the work bloom, whilst being focused enough to make brutal decisions when it’s not working.
Sometimes the work emerges so gradually that it is imperceptible, like the healing of a wound. Other times you can recall it like a story, so quick and fully does it appear.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
I think the word “writing” isn’t a verb, it’s an adjective, it’s a description of a state of being. You’re in a state of writing. It isn’t a separate thing to you, it is you, you are it. It’s all so cryptic and superstitious in many ways. Keeping yourself primed enough and frankly, well enough to take it on is where control comes in.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
I’d say the vast majority of my work is the result of alternate roads, that’s why the work only comes from commitment. You have to follow these blind roads despite all the potentiality for wasted time and energy, you go anyway.
You hope beyond hope to yourself that the journey will bring you somewhere worthwhile. It doesn’t always. And you must go again anyway.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
There are invisible forms that stitch our reality together, call them spirit, call them love. Whatever. Music is simply a configuration of vibrations that our higher consciousness stitches together to create form. It is made of the very same invisible stuff as love and spirit, which is why creativity is, in essence, always about those things.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
Endings come from practical reasons. For instance I need to put this work out to get paid. I have no more time to dedicate to this. I don’t love the idea enough anymore to take it further than this. The endings are cruel and so they should be. Such is the onward motion of creation.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
It becomes an obsession, so it always costs more than you’re willing to give. It is never a fair exchange, you always go beyond what is reasonable. If the ending is as meticulous and as courageous as how you started then you have done all you can do.
But for me the whole process is defined by the cycles of love and hate. No piece of work ever survives long enough to be released without me first loving it so much as to devote myself to it. Which is followed by my resenting and hating it for consuming so much of me, before letting ago and allowing myself to love within limits again.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Oh there is a very real absence after a major work is finished. A yawning void that nothing can quite fill. How can anything compare to the great chase, the quest for the beauty and grace you were trying to achieve? You have to let yourself feel this loss, grieve it almost. It is never guaranteed that the want to make again will return.
So that space can be terrifying, but fear is a very clear and singular emotion from which you can re-find your gravity.