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?
Generally speaking, I feel more attached to latest productions or albums I did, instead of the previous ones, as this gives me that kind of excitement that works as an “engine” for me to push my boundaries further and further. Amongst the 21 solo albums I’ve released so far, I surely have some more favourite than others. But as I said they belong to the past, they’re already done, I like to live in the present and think about the future.
That said, my latest album ‘100 YEARS OF THEREMIN (THE DUB CHAPTER)’, differently from my previous ones, has been created with a specific intention: this year marks the 100th anniversary since the invention of this unique electronic music instrument which I have played for over 25 years. So I wanted to dedicate a full album to it, combining my love for reggae/dub music with the unique sound of the Theremin.
For this project I was not interested in appearing as the producer, as I usually do, but simply as the composer of original melodies played with the Theremin on instrumental reggae/dub riddims created for me by the world’s best producers on the scene.
This album in-fact features Mad Professor, Adrian Sherwood, The Scientist, Dennis Bovell, Prince Fatty, and it’s out on vinyl LP and CD from Dubmission Records.
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?
In my opinion the creative process in general is very subjective and varies from individual to individual. In my own case it is something that can’t be planned or programmed, inspirations sometimes can be taken from the most subliminal factors in the weirdest moments of the day or night. A state of mind, a momentarily emotion, something that you see for a split of a second and not necessarily related to music, all these elements can be the triggers of your creativity and intuitions.
Also distractions sometimes can help your creative process, yes, sometimes when you are too focused on the same thing for a long time you lose perception of what’s around you. I like being distracted. When I then return to doing my thing, I see everything slightly differently, with a new perspective, sometimes worse, sometimes better.
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?
Writing a new piece of music and playing a live gig are two distinct types of jobs. Yes, they’re both related to music of course, but both things require a very different approach. I personally need both. Emotionally the stage and crowd gives me a completely different type of adrenaline from the composition process in the studio.
A live performance is undoubtedly more physical, I can feel my endorphins blasting every time I play a concert, while the excitement I receive from a new piece of music I’m composing is more a cerebral thing.
Improvisation and composition, yes, they definitely go together for me, especially improvising with other musicians, as the energy-exchange in certain moments is unique, like “micro-creations” which can happen only in that specific moment, with that specific musician, in that specific environment. Every moment is unique and unrepeatable, when the synergy between musicians is activated we’ve achieved already a good result, but we are still half a way through the process of potential creation, the other half, the most difficult one, is to capture those moments.
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?
Generally when I start a composition I start with a specific sound, which unavoidably influences a certain texture, pattern etc.
If I’m writing a simple melody, I usually use the piano, as it is my main instrument, I have a decent knowledge of it so I don’t need to think about anything else, just the melody I’m composing. If I’d use a guitar for example, which is not my main instrument, I have to think of how to position my fingers in order to obtain a certain sound or chord, consequently it would distract my concentration and move the focus somewhere else instead of on the melody I’m composing. Does that make sense?
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?
In my personal case, when I listen to music, the sense of hearing doesn’t overlap with any of the other 4 senses. Strange? Maybe, but when I’m in my “tunnel” let’s say, the other senses, yes, they do work of course, but they don’t interfere with that specific moment of listening. I can watch something, I can grab something, I can smell something, I can taste something if I’m eating etc, but I wouldn’t call it “overlapping”, as they all have 5 very distinctive functions.
If, for example, I’m grabbing and eating a sandwich while looking at the sea, smelling it (the sea, not the sandwich), birds are singing around me, all five senses are very well activated, but each one is well focused on its own mission, it is like working with 5 monophonic synthesizers instead of a polyphonic one only, yes they all going to a mixer in the end, but each channel is separate.
I do receive strong emotions from listening to music of course, but this has nothing to do with my smell, taste, touch, or sight. If I close my eyes during a listening experience, I can possibly “see” some sort of colour-ish, abstract images, patterns etc, but this has nothing to do with my physical sight.
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 think working with art or being an artist is extremely beautiful and fulfilling, but I also think that it represents primarily a form of “positive selfishness” I’d say. Nothing bad at all don’t worry, but art is something that you do because it makes YOU feel good, at the beginning the focus of everything you do it’s subconsciously YOU, because YOU need to express yourself and find YOUR artistic dimension etc. Then it expands to the others, you naturally want to share your creations, for naturally receiving feedback and possible appreciation, but also for the beauty of sharing. Then all of this comes back at you with a boomerang effect, you are stimulated even more than before, you wanna create more and more, and this time it’s not for you only.
There are not specific rules with art in my opinion. You can study art for years but never be an artist, as you can be an amazing artist even if you’ve never studied art. Many are the examples in the past, from Van Gogh to Frida Kahlo and from Jimi Hendrix to David Bowie.
My approach to art is very direct: I just do it without thinking too much, it comes 100% naturally.
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?
Music is in constant evolution, or better, transformation. More or less every 10-15 years, music receives a strong impact from new forms of innovation, the latest one in electronic music was Dubstep (with all its sub-genres, such as: Trap, Glitch-Hop, Grime etc), before that, there was Jungle (with Drum n Bass, Breakbeat etc) all very fast and banging, before that there was Trip-Hop, slow, dark and steady, with the inclusion of hip-hop subtle elements, then going back and expanding styles you find Grunge, House, New Wave, Punk and so on, all extremely important and era-defining.
Some of those music-changes had a substantial impact on my sound, compositions and productions, bringing a breath of fresh air to my music. It is important for an artist and producer to be aware of what’s happening musically in the world. This doesn’t mean following the trends but simply to not restrict yourself by keeping safe in your comfort zone.
Music is an amazingly beautiful territory that you never finish exploring, so it’s silly limiting yourself, I don’t know what will come next but I surely know that I’ll be there with my antenna tuned in.