Name: Julian Brink
Nationality: South African
Current Release: Julian Brink's Utility Music is out via Sono Luminus.
Recommendations: Oceans by María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, recorded by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. And Wassily Kandinsky’s book Concerning the Spiritual in Art - the way he describes music is incredible.
Also, violinist Aisha Orazbayeva.
[Read our Aisha Orazbayeva interview]
If you enjoyed this interview with Julian Brink and would like to know more about his work, visit his official website.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started playing the guitar when I was about ten. I was always more interested in making up my own things rather than learning other music.
My older siblings listened to cool music. I would steal their cassette tapes and CDs – Radiohead, Pixies, Smashing Pumpkins, stuff like that.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
For me the experience is more physical than visual. I can almost feel the vibration in my skull and I get goosebumps a lot.
When I write music, I think I am trying recreate that kind of experience for the listener.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
When I started recording at home, I had to accept that the end result would never be perfect. Being forced to embrace the imperfections was very freeing.
I think I prefer music to be a little messy anyway. So much of classical music is about exactness; I always struggled with that. I grew up listening to music that puts emotion before precision, the inconsistencies become an important part of the music and add to it.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I only got into classical music when I was 19 or 20. Some of the first ‘classical music’ I loved was written by rock musicians –– Jonny Greenwood, Nick Cave, and Warren Ellis.
I feel like I’m making garage rock on a computer like I used to when I was a teenager. It just has different instrumentation now.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Ultimately it’s about trying to express a particular emotion in detail, tring to crystalize it.
Something that comes to mind is John Cage’s ‘In a Landscape’. The title says so much about what I think a piece of music should be.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I am much more interested in music of the future. The composers I love are all the ones who disregarded the rules and did their own thing. I wish orchestras would focus more on new music.
A composer I discovered recently is David Fennessy. His music is endlessly original, I’m obsessed with it.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
When I stopped putting so much effort into making software instruments sound realistic and started recording real instruments, everything changed for me.
I love playing around with recording gear. I set microphones up and record myself improvising and making noise on a loop until I find something I like.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
I wake up early and go for a long walk. I get home and edit what I had done the night before and drink too much coffee. I listen to unfinished things on repeat. I record in the evening because it’s quieter.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
I always start with something small and repetitive and add layers to it. I try not to think about it too much and let myself get lost in whatever it is I’m playing. I write quite quickly and then spend months obsessing over whether I like what I’ve written or not before it can really be finished.
My favourite parts tend to be the parts that were accidents.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I prefer listening alone and I prefer to work alone. I can’t be creative if someone else is there.
I guess now that I think about it, I picture my music as something to be listened to alone as well.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
I struggle to imagine that my music might affect someone as deeply as music has affected me but I suppose that would be the hope, that it might bring meaning to someone’s life in some small way.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
I have always been drawn to art and music that is an expression of pain.
Someone else’s reality momentarily becomes your own and it can be a way to feel less alone. A different understanding of a shared experience. I find it comforting.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
So much of music can be explained using math and science without any reference to emotion, it’s just a perspective from which you are describing it.
Music can’t be separated from science, but it can’t be separated from art either. The art is the leftover part that can’t be explained with science.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing 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?
Writing and performing are very different for me but the attention to detail, improving with repetition. giving complete concentration to something, are all the same. I suppose it depends on who’s making the cup of coffee.
Coffee needs to be the same every time, a new piece of music needs to be different every time.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
I spend so much time looking at waveforms and a screen. I’m always aware, on some level, that I am just arranging vibrations into patterns that I find satisfying, that evoke something for me. Looking for a combination of waveforms that moves us into the unknown.
I don’t know if I’m trying to send messages so much as I am trying to set a scene. All the complexities of life can be contained within a waveform.