Name: SDXN aka Sam Dickson
Current event: SDXN's Plasticity EP is out via Music Appreciation Club.
Recommendations: I recently read The Awakened Brain by Lisa Miller and was blown away. If you’ve ever been curious as to how our spirituality manifests in our neurology, this book is an incredible resource.
I’d also like to mention Joyce McMiken, a yoga teacher I’ve been practicing with for the past 6 months. The way Joyce sequences her restorative classes is art in and of itself, and I’d recommend everyone look her up and join a class online if you’re reading this from outside London.
If you enjoyed this interview with SDXN and would like to know more about his work and music, visit him on Instagram, and Soundcloud.
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?
My introduction to playing music came when I started playing the guitar in secondary school. I fumbled around for a while before everything changed when my teacher put me onto Hendrix.
Listening to Jimi began to reveal the transcendent nature of music, and I started to see it as an energy that I could channel through any number of channels, whether they were instruments or production techniques. I began to appreciate all of the unique ways artists express the same fundamental energy and felt inspired to find my own voice from there.
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?
My listening experience varies wildly based on environment and style, but a common thread that I gravitate towards is introspection. The music I connect with most provides a space to go inward and explore feeling and emotion, whether it’s ambient music based on drones or club music set against rhythms.
While I don’t see colours or shapes too often while listening, I do find I’m quite capable of moving beyond a normal waking state and into something deeper and more meditative. It’s this energy I like to explore in my own output — providing a space for listeners to go within and experience a new perspective through sound.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
I feel like I started in music with a narrow focus that gradually broadened over time. I started a band in college, originally just playing, singing, and writing songs before a blossoming interest in production led me to record and produce our early demos. We eventually went our separate ways as a band and I naturally fell into writing and producing music on my own. I fell in love with being able to take responsibility for an entire composition, and exploring electronic music was a very natural progression from there.
I feel like the search for a personal voice is one that continues indefinitely. I feel I am always growing and evolving as a human being, and naturally the processes and methods I use to express myself grow and evolve with me.
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.
In my experience, identity is malleable. I try to allow my sense of identity to be fluid, constantly questioning myself and not clinging onto ideas or beliefs around who I am if they begin to feel outdated or stagnant.
I do my best to prioritise authenticity, and figuring out what is authentic is an endless process of self-reflection that occurs moment to moment. Being authentic to who I perceive myself to be in the here and now guides my process as a creator, and authenticity is something I naturally gravitate towards in others as a listener.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Authenticity, as outlined above, and freedom of expression. To be truly authentic in my output, I need to feel free to express whatever comes to mind. On the other hand, I need to feel that what I’m trying to express comes from an authentic place, or it just won’t have the same energy behind it.
The two go hand in hand and feed into each other in a really beautiful way. They are also applicable to any creative process I engage in, whether it’s producing music, playing instruments, or something else entirely.
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”?
On the subject of originality and innovation, I’ve heard it said before that if something appears truly original to you, you simply don’t understand the influences. I feel any artist is simply rearranging things they’ve already seen, heard, or felt through the filter of their own experience. To believe oneself to be truly original feels like an ego trip to me, and I feel that ego will always be an obstacle to truly authentic creativity.
I think it’s important for all creatives to try to add something new to the cultural conversation, but also to remain aware that they only create the way they do because of the art they’ve taken influence from in the past. I feel the greatest artists are those who effortlessly exist in both worlds, striving to create art of the future while remaining conscious of the traditions they adopt, dismantle, and adapt.
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?
The guitar was the first instrument I used for creative expression, and over time I gradually expanded my toolbox to include the computer, keyboards, turntables, and other machines.
It’s difficult to go into promising strategies for working with each, but I think when using any tool one should hold on lightly to any rules or instruction. I feel my work is best when I forget any semblance of strategy and let go into feeling, freely exploring the tool and trying to come up with new and interesting ways to use it.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
I’ve relied on routines to a fault in the past, so I try to live a lot more intuitively now. Every day looks a little different, but I do have a few cornerstones of my existence that I feel benefit my creativity in a massive way.
Meditation, yoga, journaling, and ensuring my nutrition and my sleep are optimised are all daily practices for me. I rely on balancing movement, stillness, self-reflection, and being in sound overall health to keep me in a state where I’m able to feel and be creative while showing up for others as the most patient and loving version of myself.
Of course, there are days when this feels easier than others, and it’s all an endless process of refinement. I’ve learned to go easy on myself when I inevitably drop the ball, and I always strive for progress over perfection.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that’s particularly dear to you, please?
A creative north star for me is the self-titled Rhythm & Sound album. It feels like an archetypal study in merging seemingly disparate influences into something that feels at once completely novel yet absolutely familiar, and it seems to exist beyond time, in a space entirely its own.
I don’t feel as though my own output is anywhere near as innovative, but I always find new inspiration when revisiting tracks as deep as ‘Carrier’.
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 feel both solitary work and collaboration are important avenues to explore for any creative. I have had some incredible experiences in collaboration, and the EP I have coming out on Music Appreciation Club wouldn’t have existed without the other artists on the record.
Marikiscrycrycry effortlessly provided the vocal that completed Plasticity after I had been fumbling around with top lines for months, Nowun and I came together in a really beautiful way to produce Vibes, and Rubie was so inspired by its namesake that she very much feels like a collaborator.
Reflecting on this question, I wonder if we ever really are working alone. It doesn’t feel wrong to suggest that maybe we are always in collaboration with our influences and inspiration, whether we’re conscious of it or not.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
I’ve outlined above how I try to create a space for introspection in my output, and I suppose that’s how my creativity relates to the world. I feel compelled to gently encourage listeners towards a more lucid state in the hope they might move forward with greater clarity and peace of mind.
In terms of the wider role of music in society, for me, it’s a unifier. Music feels like a medium through which we can all connect with a part of ourselves that runs far deeper than any differentiation on the level of identity. Our shared love of music in society reminds us that we have far more in common than that which divides us, and I feel that shared experiences that occur through connection to music allow us to transcend illusory separation for long enough to realise that at our core, we are one and the same.
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?
Creating has always been a means of therapy for me, and channeling my feelings around subjects like life and love into sound is the process by which I make sense of them.
It’s difficult to put words to how the creative process helps me make sense of any of these subjects as it exists much more in the realm of feeling. I can’t say I come to a greater understanding of anything on an intellectual level through making music, more that there is an inner knowing that deepens every time I’m able to channel a feeling into a production.
Making music feels like a means to which I’m able to connect with something far bigger than myself, and the endless process of deepening that connection helps me put life’s biggest questions into perspective.
There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Victor Wooten wrote a wonderful book called The Music Lesson, and in it, he breaks the word ‘Music’ down to its component parts — ‘Mu’ meaning mother, and ‘Sic’ meaning science. From his perspective, music is literally the mother of all sciences, so it seems fallible to try and extricate one from the other.
I don’t take much interest in getting ultra-scientific about my process, tools, or techniques, but I am endlessly fascinated by the way science has revealed our nature as energetic, vibratory beings, and how sound and music resonates with us at the deepest and most fundamental level.
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?
No, I don’t think making music is inherently different from making coffee or any other seemingly mundane task. I feel there are an infinite number of channels through which the same creative energy can be expressed, of which making music and making coffee are only two.
I also feel that the channeling of creative energy is an inherently subjective experience. For me, making music allows for a far greater depth of expression than making coffee, but to the experienced barista, making coffee may allow for a world of expression that simply isn’t available to others.
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’d actually go one further and say that music isn’t only captured by our eardrums, but felt in every cell in our body.
We know through quantum physics that all matter is made up of smaller and smaller particles, all the way down to the point that it just becomes energy vibrating at the frequency of matter. We also know that we can influence said energy with intention alone, as proven by the observer effect.
With this in mind, I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe the intention behind a piece of music can be transmitted through its resulting vibrations and decoded by our bodies at a level deeper than conscious interpretation.