Name: Jonny Wildey fka Alphabets Heaven
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, producer
Current release: Jonny Wildey's Nitely is our via WotNot Music. The album features collaborators including Danalogue (The Comet Is Coming, Soccer96), Emma Gatrill (This Is The Kit, Laura Marling), Marcus Hamblett (James Holden, Timber Timbre) and Deft (Yip Wong).
[Read our Danalogue interview]
If these thoughts by Jonny Wildey piqued your interest, visit him on Instagram, Soundcloud, and twitter. We also have a more expansive Jonny Wildey interview if you would like to keep on reading.
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?
I don’t believe in creativity as a concept. I feel it’s used more as a way to distinguish some activities from this vague notion of real work. There is also implicit hierarchy within it.
For example, for some reason sound design, which in my perspective has been by far the most forward-thinking aspect of music in the last 2 decades, seems to be considered less creative than making a beat or songwriting.
Are the developers of Ableton creative? They should be, they’ve probably helped make half of this year’s dance music. And conversely, why is producing something that probably has a small market, or won’t make money, not considered real work? I don’t understand it.
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 normally have a big idea for the next project, but it’s normally at the level of “EP with lots of salsa in it” rather than anything particularly prescriptive.
I’m pro chance. If I have concrete ideas, it’s normally more around the process of making the music rather than a specific tempo or something. I have this belief that whatever frame of mind you’re in whilst producing can be felt in the output. So I want to make the act itself fun, interesting and enjoyable.
However, this definitely has downsides. I think you’re asking a lot from listeners if you’re basically committing to nothing when writing. I have a lot of music that’s essentially unreleasable because of this. I’m still not sure if it was a good idea releasing some of the more acoustic cuts from Nitely.
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'?
For me preparation is about being engaged in culture and the world.
I used to have this weird romantic notion of renting a shack in the countryside so I’d have no distractions to work on my masterpiece. I now think that is ridiculous. I’ll learn some music, read a book, watch some weird YouTube documentaries. Sleep.
Research for me often comes out of practicing and sound design.
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?
I wish I read more poetry. Can someone recommend me some good introductory poetry? But no, no real rituals, other than turning the lights down.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
John Swartzwelder had some good thoughts on that.
I think it’s a lot easier to write the first note if you know there’s a good chance you’ll be getting rid of it later, and that it’s fine to do so.
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?
Lyric writing is pretty new to me. I’ve only recently started writing things that I don’t think are terrible, so yes I think they come from a different place. For me at least.
I can normally write the music for something in a night, the lyrics can take months. I’m enjoying being very naive about it though. I learnt a lot of music theory at an early age, and it’s nice to not have any real frame of reference for lyrics in the same way.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I think lyric writing is a lot less critically constrained than music. There are lots of models and analytic frameworks for music, which makes it very easy to objectively criticise it. Lyrics much less so.
One of my favourite albums for lyrics is Love - Forever Changes. On first impression it sounds like gibberish, but I think the gibberish kind of builds up to this perfect representation of a someone realising a dream of theirs has become a nightmare.
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 duplicate the session and roll with it. Otherwise I find I’m just listening to the same two bars on loop for an hour. You can always mute things later.
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?
I try to respect the intentions of the me who originally wrote the music. I don’t generally change structure or dynamic flow too much after the first night. I try to see all work after the first night as trying to sharpen rather than alter.
But mixing takes a long time. It’s not my strongest skill set, but it’s also something I have a lot of trouble collaborating with others on, because I think it’s so important to the final product. Yip Wong, who helped a lot with the mixing side of Nitely, is probably the only person who could have put up with me and my weird requests for so long. He is incredibly talented. Check out.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
I see myself as a producer. I think the output of what I do is a product, of some kind, and I take mixing and mastering very seriously. It is also incredibly under-appreciated. However, it’s not what I’m best at, so I try and learn as much as I can from people I respect. I would strongly recommend any interviews / videos with Chris Lord-Alge, he is informative and hilarious.
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?
Yeah I’m terrible at enjoying releases. It’s never really affected my writing or anything, but I think it pisses off my friends and family a lot. I just don’t like bigging myself up, and I think it is related to that.
I try to make up for it by enjoying other people’s releases as much as I can.