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?
Hmmm. By the time I’m “being creative” I’m already in the right state of mind, I think. And if I’m inspired, it’s easy to not get distracted. I’m much more likely to get distracted by the joys of making music than I am to get distracted away from making music!
How is playing the music live, recording it in the studio and editing/mastering it afterwards connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
For me, they’re completely different things, because I have completely different setups. A lot of my studio work is intricate cutups on a computer, or
as mentioned earlier, just pressing “go” on a system I’ve already spent hours setting up, or pressing “go” on some online processing tool – nothing that would be remotely interesting to see live. So, when I play live, I want it to be a bit more interesting, not just for an audience, but for me too. Even the stuff that I improvise live in the studio would be pretty boring to watch on a stage – some chick clicking a mouse staring at a screen. Uninteresting. So, my live setup is a completely different setup: CDs played through Kaoss Pads and a loop pedal. It’s all twiddling real knobs and making real loops with physically-pressed pedals and so on, it’s all real live CD changing and tweaking and more hardware-oriented. It’s not pulling on massive levers or cranking giant steering wheels or anything, but it’s a little more interesting than pressing buttons on a laptop. With this setup, I re-invent my own songs by using my own CDs, but also create weirdness out of other people’s CDs live, improvising strange soundscapes out of regular old shop-bought media.
I do love playing live, but it’s always really scary, as it’s obviously not conducive to maintaining privacy. But it’s always interesting to rework tracks live, or to totally invent new tracks on the fly, and that element of not knowing where it’s going to go or how it’s going to turn out is always peak excitement.
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?
Because I use already-recorded cultural artefacts as source material, a lot of my sounds have already got compositional qualities as in, they’ve usually been slaved over by teams of propaganda-psychologists and trend-experts and corporate pop-warlocks for maximal earworm psyche-pleasing brain-compatibility, and so I usually take those qualities and either just roll with them, or deliberately stomp all over them.
When it comes to enforcing my own changes in sound and timbre, I tend to use them as punctuation more than anything – I think about how things flow within a piece more than an overall piece’s sound, if you know what I mean. Like if I want to create an oomph, or a focus, or a change in state, or a breath, that’s when I utilise changes in timbre. But as far as complete pieces go, I’m usually happy to let the sounds be what they already are.
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?
You know what? I actually feel like music works best in complete darkness.
I almost never prefer seeing a musician play live – I find myself distracted by the whole “it’s just a persyn playing music” thing, and never enjoy/feel/appreciate it as much as listening to music at home. I’ve seen a bunch of bands who try to make their music more interesting by having cool light shows or projections or whatever, which sometimes makes the show more interesting, but it’s often at the expense of the music. Eyes are greedier than ears are, I think – if we give something to the eyes, they just gorge themselves and the ears are left with very little. I’m not super-excited by the overlapping of the senses – I’m much more interested in sense-segregation. I love sound, and I believe that to get the most of the sounds people make, the benefits of listening in stillness and darkness just cannot be overestimated.
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?
My music is always a blend of self-empowerment, social-empowerment, anti-authoritarianism, post-modernism, social critique, playfulness, anarchic joy, and a striving for futuristic sounds-yet-unheard. Progressive, piratical, political philosophical, plunderphonia for the people!
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?
Hmmmm. Is the concept of music still intact? I really don’t know that it is. There are definitely many things I listen to that most people wouldn’t consider music at all – musique concrete, dark ambient, harsh noise wall, abstract sound art stuff, etc. Stuff that is very clearly musical to some people is just as very clearly not musical to others. I’m not sure we have achieved any sort of consensus as to what music is, any more than we did when Cage wrote his 4’33”. Just stroll down the comments list of any sort of experimental music on YouTube, you very quickly see people saying “this isn’t even music” to things that are very much music to me. I’ve even heard people refer to the intricate plinkings and plonkings of Venetian Snares’ “Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding” as “not even music”, when, to me, it’s not only obviously music, it’s incredibly beautiful and evocative music. So, I think I disagree with the premise of the question.
But in some kind of answer to it, my vision for the future of music is that neural nets and A.I. and deep learning robots will one day enable us to generate music, at the touch of a button, “in the style of” whoever we want. Like, if we want to hear a new Beastie Boys song, we just load up our neural net thingie with Beastie songs, give it a moment to process, and then press “go”, and it spits out an assortment of songs that sound like new Beastie songs. Maybe we could even have sliders on it so we can fade up whatever aspects of the Beastie Boys we prefer – fade up the “real instruments”, fade down the “youthful misogyny”, set the “Buddhism” at neutral, and press “go”. We’re not superfar from this tech right now, to be honest. Check out what DadaBots are doing here and now.
Part of me wishes I knew more (or even anything) about coding so I could help make this shit happen. It feels inevitable to me. And imagine the egalitarian consequences when anybody at all can generate hundreds, thousands, millions of new Prince songs at the touch of a button. Imagine what that kind of tech would mean for copyright. How could corporations control culture when everyone has access to their own unique persynal (sic) Bowie? Artists become styles. Popstars become genres. Nouns become adjectives. It’s going to be incredible.