Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that is 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?
Well I am contractually obliged to promote my upcoming album so I suppose I don’t mind fluffing that up a bit for you. Boring & Weird Historical Music took a good 5 years to come together. I started with a handful of songs and interesting instrumental ideas that I thought fit well with the TELEMACHUS sound.
I decided that I wanted the album to have a kind of weird narrative running through it, so I looked up some East Asian parables and adapted a couple of them into a moral tale about the perils of greed. I envisioned the tale being read by an older Indian gentleman and so I contacted actor Subhash Chander and got him to record the narrative for me. To cut a long story short, the rest of the music was like a soundtrack to this central story, trying to take the listener on a tangled web of a journey - similar to the previous album ‘IN MOROCCO’.
I cannot stress enough this album is best listened to all the way through from the start, perhaps on a long drive or a train journey. I wish it wasn’t that way actually, I wish it was an album of 15 bangers that I could easily plug to people. But the truth is it is a convoluted, slightly pompous, intricate, possibly impenetrable labour of absolute love.
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 often get the best ideas just before I go to sleep. Sometimes I will record a drum pattern or a melody on my Dictaphone and then work on it the next day. In general though if you aren’t feeling inspired you can actually force yourself to be creative, turn off your wifi for a bit and just start doing it and it might take an hour or so to get in the groove but you will get there. Good ways to get out of this groove include emails from your accountant, social media, and football manager.
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?
I don’t play live. I probably should but I do not. I can’t visualise a way to perform my music in an engaging manner. I could get up there with a laptop and a couple instruments and play a semi-false ‘live’ set but i dont like to fake it. One day I may adapt my music for a full band and tour like that. I do enjoy playing records to people, but I also generally don’t really respect the majority of people who call themselves DJ’s. So, calling myself a DJ would not really ring true as I mainly just play music that I personally like rather than thinking what the crowd would like and would be right in that setting at that moment. I have played many DJ sets where I have cleared the floor with my offkey selections.
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?
I would say that my own music is 80% sound/tone and 20% composition. The texture of the sound for me is the most important. That’s probably why I love so much music from the 60s-70s, the tone of those records is like a warm embrace compared to the cold slaps of the 80’s-90s. Music today has gotten warmer since then I think in part because of the end of the loudness war and to me there is a whole lot of stuff today that really sounds fantastic.
I use a lot of field recordings / ambience in my music, which does add to the textural complexity and makes the music come alive in my opinion. I do love a crisp, clinically and precisely engineered mix on some tracks, but in general I like to feel the little imperfections in there.
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?
A personal example I went freediving a few months ago, I went about 15m below the surface and at this depth your lungs shrink to less than half of their normal volume. Add to this the pressure build-up in your ears and it really is an extreme physical demand. Underwater your hearing obviously changes to this muffled and serene wash of sound and being down there. I had an idea for a very sick bassline, ok sorry that’s not true actually but it was almost an out of body experience. When I got back to the surface, I decided that I did not want to subject my ears to these kinds of extreme conditions, and I sacked the whole thing off right there. I hope this is an inspiring tale for any youngsters out there. Try something out and if its slightly uncomfortable, then just give up.
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 may be a jaded old fool, but I am not arrogant enough to think that making music is anything other than a ‘quite cool’ way to pass time. I will concede that it does bring me a lot of joy when people say that a particular album or track of mine ‘helped them through a dark period’ or was influential in their lives in some way, but in general I think that as musicians we are just indulging ourselves. Well I certainly am anyway.
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?
To paraphrase KRS1, “HipHop will never die”. Well maybe it will. Or at least it will change into something pretty unrecognisable. I personally believe that big shifts in music occur according to technology. To paraphrase badly from David Byrne’s excellent book ‘How Music Works’, music is often designed specifically for where it is meant to be played. For example In Africa, music was always performed outdoors and therefore made use of large percussive groups whose sound would be loud enough to travel through the plains and be heard at a distance. Cathedrals became a common early venue for live music in Europe and therefore mainly modal Organ music was composed which works best in such a cavernous reverberating space.
Pop songs are 3 minute 30 because that is the optimum time for a 45rpm single. In the early 2000’s rap music started to make use of very terrible ‘Casio’ melody lines that would work well in the lucrative ‘ringtone’ market. All of these are different examples of technology affecting the composition of music.
I can probably see a new audio format coming out in the future... maybe a full surround-sound digital personal 12D noise helmet which smells of figs. The experience will be so seductive that eventually all music will be created in this format. The music itself will be mostly synthesized squirrel language and a tuned wheelbarrow. I am beginning this project now.