Name: Sean La’Brooy
Occupation: Producer, sound artist
Current release: Sean La’Brooy's Out Moving Windows, a release somewhere between a long EP and a concise album, is out via Analogue Attic on October 2nd.
Recommendations: Mother of Dreams and Secrets - Barney McAll; The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula Le Guin
If you enjoyed this interview with Sean La’Brooy and would like to find out more about his work and his output with Albrecht La’Brooy, visit the homepage of Analogue Attic as well as their profiles on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing 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 first started playing the piano as a 10 year old. I think my biggest motivation at that time was seeing other people play and being really impressed.
I was interested in the way the piano worked and I wanted to be able to play it in the same way I saw others do.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Most artists develop originality by building a vocabulary based on their most important influences. Sometimes that’s an intentional exercise and other times it just happens naturally. I would say I actively work on my vocabulary and try to approach music as a language that I’m always developing and using in new ways.
These learned elements become the tools you use to create, and that’s where originality begins.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I think there are definitely discrepancies between my personal identity and my creative output. I’m usually quite extroverted and up for a laugh, but the music I make attempts to be more serious and refined.
Perhaps I create for the less common values I wish I had more of?
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Streamlining processes and making it easier to get to a finished product is an ongoing challenge that has been consistently present. It will always be a challenge because it’s important to innovate and do things differently over time.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I always have a piano on hand, and I always have synths for pads and leads, but I think my approach to percussion has changed the most over time. I used to favor really intuitive and quickly malleable drum machines (Roland 808s and 909s), but then I moved to type that allowed me to set up and compose detailed rhythms that didn’t need to change much (Electron RYTM).
With this recent record, Out Moving Windows, I used a lot of percussion that I recorded myself, and didn’t use drum machines much at all.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I think Ableton is the biggest one. It allowed music making to be streamlined, fast, and custom.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I like improvising with other musicians. I think it leads to exciting and organic creative outputs. It’s like a free flowing conversation as opposed to a rehearsed script.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
On a perfect day for music making, I would wake up, go for a run, cook a light breakfast, make a coffee, sit down and jam until lunch time, leave the studio to get something to eat, come back and jam for another 4 hours or so, then unplug the instruments to edit what I’ve just recorded before having dinner.
When I get the opportunity, I like to go out of town to make music. Put myself in a scenic location and try generate a peaceful mentality that can have an impact on the music.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
My first gig at a club with Albrecht La’Brooy was a pretty special one.
We had just released our first record and we were asked to play at the biggest club night in Melbourne at the time. We started at peak time and the club was at capacity, half of our friends that came to see us couldn’t get in.
We played well and people were responsive, and it was a turning point for us because it generated an appetite to play in those sorts of environments more often.
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?
I think as an artist you need to be able to create irrespective of your state of mind. You can’t wait to be in a particular state in order to create, because most of the time you won’t be there. I think it’s more about being really involved in what you’re doing, listening deeply and being fully engaged, that’s how to get to the best creative output.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
There are some artists that are just too emotionally provocative for me to listen to. Great artists that are some of the best to ever record, but their music is so heartbreaking that I try not to listen to it.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
I think any art-based themes, symbols or references that are relevant and exclusive to a particular racial or gender group need to not be appropriated, especially not by white male artists like myself.
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?
A great teacher of mine once said that great music has the ability to evoke a physical reaction in the listener. For example, a great line or groove could make you smile or laugh, or something emotional could make you cry or give you goosebumps.
I don’t know what that tells us about how our senses work, but it definitely tells us something about powerful music.
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 great art has the ability to reflect a point in time and a place in the world and culture. Sometimes this involves an artist’s personal values and identity, but I would say I’m more interested in portraying my musical values and principles as an artist.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I guess music is an expression of emotion that words alone can only describe. Music can make you feel something more directly.