Members: Matty Took, Harry Stewart-Weeks, Jimmy Weaver, Tommy Peppitt
Interviewee: Matty Took
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Current release: PLANET's new single "Ship Won't Change" is out now.
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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?
The impulse to create something comes sporadically to me, even though I try to dedicate certain time periods toward my writing and recording.
I think these sources of inspiration are more present in my subconscious. Most of the time it’s not as if I’m trying to write on a certain subject or topic. I tend to record the melodies and vowel movements in gibberish lyrics - though they are pretty much 90% there at that stage.
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?
Normally there isn’t any planning at all and I reckon lots of the best songs ever written are made like this. They seem to come out naturally from an acoustic guitar with a simple catchy melody. That’s pretty much how our latest single ‘Ship Won’t Change’ came to be.
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'?
Does ‘early versions’ mean demos? If so, I think all recordings are demos unless given a proper mixed and master.
It definitely does help when you are in the studio with all of the equipment at your disposal but all you need really these days is to do a voice memo on your phone to start a song. Humming a nice-sounding melody into the phone when you are walking to the shops, or if you are at home with the acoustic to get the chord progression down. I have hundreds of these recordings that I sift through when I’m looking to record a new song.
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?
Not really anything in particular at the moment. Though I have been getting up with a coffee, then walking for an hour or so to clear my head. It seems to do the trick as when I get back I pick up a guitar and start to piece some stuff together.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
Most times I start with picking up a guitar and I start banging out my ‘go-to chords’ - if I find something that really sticks I’ll start singing a rough melody over the top. The first line comes out really easily, to be honest. It’s the rest of the song that needs the attention.
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?
The lyrics are mainly pieced together at the start when I’m writing the songs. They are then tweaked a bit at the end of the recording process.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I reckon the best lyrics are the ones that are applicable for everyone and are not extremely particular. I reckon having a certain amount of vagueness in lyrics is important so that people can interpret them for themselves. It’s cool that everyone can have different experiences of the same song.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
Starting a PLANET tune normally goes like this …
acoustic chords + vocals in a voice memo
find a good tempo similar to the memo and whip up a beat
chuck the beat into ProTools
record acoustic guitar over the top
record guide vocals
build from there! Electric guitar, synth bass, keys...
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?
Yeah, I seem to agree with this for sure! Though normally the narrative is not exactly apparent at the start of the recording process anyways, so I’ll let it go wherever it wants to go regardless.
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 love it when this happens and this is part and parcel with production. Without a doubt, I would always try it out. Whether it’s taking the drums and/or bass out in a certain part of the song, half-time hi-hat, taking out electrics, or adding in a whole new part. If it’s a bit ‘too much’ then you probably don’t need it in there. If the new part sounds like a whole new song, then it probably could be a whole new song.
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?
My creative state is when you feel instantly inspired. When you are on the creative roll, hours seem to go past super quickly - you finally released that you haven’t stopped for about 3-4hrs or so but you have a new fully recorded demo.
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?
There have been so many times I’ve had to bite my tongue with this one. You can keep on adding and updating parts to a song until it’s ‘perfect’ but you could be doing this forever. Sometimes you just need to jump away from it and realise that this song is that way due to the time and period you are in right now and what’s going down in your life at that very moment.
You can keep on tweaking it all you want but it would be forever updating as you keep on changing as a person.
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?
When there’s a track I’m not exactly certain on but it is ‘finished’ (in terms of structure, it feels pretty comfy and all the sounds are there) I like to sit on it for a while to see if anything else can make it a bit better. Sometimes if it feels right, then it’s right so you just have to move on. You can’t tweak so much to the point of making you obsessed, as that will only send you wild.
When the song’s at the final stages I tend to listen to it heaps of times then have a week’s break and listen again with fresh ears. If nothing major comes up then, then it’s done.
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?
It’s massive! Production makes all the difference to a song. It makes it hit harder in certain parts and can make it catchier with some cheeky riffs added in. Mastering is so important to create a certain type of urgency in the song through compression.
Even though production can be so great and important, a song is a only good song if it sounds great with just an acoustic guitar and vocals.
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?
I had noticed this emptiness slightly with the release of our earlier EPs like ‘Waking Eight’ & ‘Maybe Someday’, but could especially feel it after finishing the album and waiting for the release of the first single. The whole writing, recording, mixing, and mastering process had been so full-on and intense (though I wouldn’t have had it any other way).
This, coupled with the lack of touring made me feel like I was in a weird uninspired limbo between finishing an album and releasing it. I didn’t feel that creative at all and wasn’t motivated to write new music. As soon as our first single ‘Resign’ came out this year I’ve felt reborn in a way, to continue to do what I love doing.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Most of the time, writing a piece of music is basically getting all your feelings and splattering them down into sound.
I would say it’s a little bit different from making a coffee. Unless you are deeply and madly into chucking all of your love, energy, and hate into every single cup of coffee. For me at least, music unlocks my emotional subconscious where ‘mundane’ tasks can not.