Name: Tutara Peak aka Harvey Carter
Occupation: Producer, songwriter
Current release: Tutara Peak's Tansuri EP is out now and available from a wide variety of sources. The EP features collaborations with Dutch producer Zes as well as Lou Rhodes of legendary duo Lamb. [Read our Lamb interview] [Read our Lou Rhodes interview]
Recommendations: Sigur Rós’ Liminal Sound Bath is incredible. They’re a fantastic band and the topics they explore have always fascinated me. Liminal Sound Bath is based on the idea of dreaming and how defiantly mysterious this experience is that we all encounter.
Second is Brian Eno’s Apollo. Such a fantastic mind that man has, he was commissioned to write an album for a film someone was making with the 6 million rolls of film NASA had produced for the moon landing. Each astronaut was allowed to bring one cassette into space and apparently nearly all of them brought a Country/Western tape, as it reminded them of their home. The way the Pedal Steel instrument is included in this album, pays homage to the aforementioned style of music and I find this approach to music fascinating.
If you enjoyed reading this interview with Tutara Peak, head over to his beautifully designed homepage. Or visit him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, 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 started writing and producing music around 9 years ago.
I used to play in bands before then, but I would rarely write for them as I struggled to find an original sound and felt that everything I made was often too similar to the music I was listening to. The people surrounding me didn’t really experiment with sounds and music outside of the bands they listened to which led me to try my hand at electronic music. Diving into a new genre was quite an individual experience, and it gave me so much more freedom to experiment.
When I was younger, I was largely influenced by musicians like Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan; they had such a mesmerising electricity to them which I thought was the coolest thing. One of my biggest influences came in the form of my cousin, who wrote and recorded music for his band, all the while overcoming a life-threatening illness. Both of these, coupled by the emotion I feel while listening to music, inevitably led me to this point; and the great thing is, the experience always grows stronger day by day.
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?
I think the most logical way for someone to pick something up is to look to the past and reference how it’s been done before. However, I believe a lot of people get stuck at this point and struggle to create something that honestly represents them.
It also depends on what you’re making music for and why; if you’re creating club bangers to play out for your friends on the weekend then absolutely emulate other’s styles, we’re all inspired by someone at the end of the day. However, I feel if you’re creating music to find your voice, and using it as an artistic extension of yourself, then that is a completely different journey. I feel the latter is what pushes art forward into the future.
Nevertheless, I’ve always believed in the importance of understanding foundations before experimenting and breaking the rules. I believe that’s what signifies creative ownership, flipping something on its head and saying, “no I want to do it like this”.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
That’s a great question. I’ve always been quite a curious person; I believe that’s what dictates the exploration of sound within my music. I always want to know what would happen if I tried something another way.
I also tend to embed a lot of myself into anything I’m really passionate about and while at times that contributes positively, it can definitely be a hurdle to overcome too.
It’s interesting when I show my girlfriend or a friend a song I’m working on and they say things like, “this is such a Harvey song”, because I can never hear precisely what makes it that. I think creativity is completely individual to everyone and how they see things is how they create. I think what makes people unique and creative is just by people expressing themselves in their own way.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
When I first started writing music, it felt like there weren’t really any challenges. I was creating without any pretence or structure and while there was always room for improvement and I wasn’t nailing the sound I wanted at the time, I was still enjoying myself.
One of the most important challenges I’ve faced in the past few years, was understanding how to accurately express myself through creating music. It’s something I’ve always felt some people could do so easily, yet I found it so challenging. This changed over time as I began creating with tools that I more organically connected with. I used to enjoy playing a lot of guitar in the past and reincorporating that into my music was a big part of crafting a more honest sound.
I think it’s very important to play on your strengths when you create, it’s what makes your art much more ‘you’.
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?
The first ‘instrument’ I used for creating sound was software-based and it served to show me how the sorcery of electronic music is actually made. As I got more familiar with workflows in this style, I became more interested in how I could use different things to put a song together.
I think the tools you use massively dictate the ‘sound’ or ‘surface’ of the music you make. However, I believe it’s all about the imagination and the feeling that makes it special.
As I mentioned earlier, starting out playing guitar in bands and then trying to incorporate that instrument into my music was tough because I had to not only make it work in the context of the song, but also had to conceive my own playing style, which I think is also an incredibly valuable aspect of making music. It’s the same deal if you own a synthesiser or any other piece of equipment, you have to create a really strong relationship with the instrument to make it work for you.
I’ve always tried to avoid selling any music gear I acquire. If I don’t initially figure out something interesting with a new piece of equipment, I tend to give it time and my curiosity leads me into more interesting ways of using that instrument than I had initially tried. Of course, at some point I’m going to need to pay for storage (laughs).
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Oh yes, even years on this still happens. I see people creating music in new ways that makes me think there is no limit and there doesn’t have to be a standard everyone follows, to make a great song or experience.
I think a lot of the Playtronica instruments out there are particularly unique. They aren’t trying to achieve anything that seems utterly impossible, just to create instruments and tools to make music in a new unheard of, but expressive way.
Purchasing my first physical synth (Korg Minologue) really changed things up for me as prior to this, I was working predominantly in the box and only using software and recording occasionally. Since buying that synth (actually on a whim whilst trying it out in a studio session) it’s helped me express myself more within the realms of synthesis and made me connect more with what I’m doing. Now using a mouse and keyboard just doesn’t quite do that for me.
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 learnt a lot about collaboration last year whilst participating in writing camps with friends and people I didn’t know beforehand. The most common pattern I noticed in these sessions was that if myself and my collaborator had a strongly shared interest, that enhanced the music making process so much more than if we just sat down without much conversation.
Talking about abstract ideas (not even about music most of the time), always sparks something for me to use as a starting point to create music. For example, I was in a session with some music friends and my brother who designs furniture, and my brother discussed the idea of negative space within art and the impact it can have compared to the subject of an image. I thought this was such a crazy idea, proposed the notion of negative ‘sound’ space and the session started rolling from there.
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?
Usually, I wake up early to take my girlfriend to work, which gives us a chance to tell each other what we have to do during the day. When I get back home, I make a smoothie and a cup of tea (which is actually one of my favourite parts of the day). After that, I meditate for about 10-15 minutes to help ease my mind into working on music and helps avoid overthinking.
Then I’ll sit down, pick up the first bit of gear closest to me (usually my guitar or the Organelle) and just explore what my hands feel like doing. It’s still fairly early at this point so I’m still kind of half asleep with my body running on autopilot whilst not really thinking (laughs).
I try to schedule all the creative tasks I need to complete into the first half of the day, that way my brain isn’t making difficult decisions when I’ve grown tired. By then I may have a student to teach or a meeting which keeps my energy levels consistent through the afternoon. I’ll then go through and work on or finish anything I was working on the day before or complete what I started in the morning depending on the urgency of it.
After that I critically listen to the work I did in the day and make notes for what to improve or try for the next day. For as long as I can remember, a lot of things in my life have revolved around music. I’ve been lucky enough to have people that accept me for the big part music plays in my life and I’m incredibly blessed and thankful for that.
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?
I supported Lamb at Union Chapel in London a few years ago and it was by far the biggest set I’d played to date. It was a really special show; a lot of the friends I’d made at university attended, many of whom I hadn’t seen since finishing my degree. It felt like a reality check of how far I’d come since then and ever since that day, I work towards times like these where I can have a moment of reflection.
It’s not the easiest thing for me because I’m always looking ahead but experiencing these situations keeps me grounded and reminds me why I do this.
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’ve always thought the best songs are the easiest songs, and being an overthinker, this couldn’t be truer.
I find the ideal state of mind is to create without judgement. I never make music with a result in mind and find that if you work that way, you set yourself unnecessarily high standards. I find meditating before I make music really helps enter this state of mind as it feels like working from a blank canvas instead of lots of thoughts or ideas clouding my brain.
When it comes to strategies to enter a more flowing creative process, I believe that it comes from doing as opposed to thinking. Thinking about an idea technically doesn’t exist, it’s just a thought you have, but if you try to put that idea down on a piece of paper or lay it down as a chord progression, it becomes real and physical in a way. That’s why for me, it’s so important to get ideas out as quickly as I can.
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?
I think it’s down to each person’s individual emotional experiences with the music they love that affects them physically. However, music and sound have been used to create dramatic effects in soundtracks for a long time.
I remember this Gasper Noé film I watched called ‘Climax’, which is quite a gruelling tale that does make my stomach churn, not with gross visuals but a combination of filmmaking techniques. There’s a scene where the camera is constantly rotating for a few minutes which naturally makes most people feel motion sickness, to enhance this effect. I read somewhere that the sound designer also included a really deep frequency (I don’t know if it was around 15hz or something) that apparently makes people feel sick or anxious. This is of course a very extreme artistic case but it’s a great example to show the physical effects it can have on our bodies.
Music therapy is also something I’ve always been interested to dive further into and I believe it’s a practice that will keep on growing as more and more people become aware that it is a successful practice.
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?
It’s a very fine line here, I’ve always believed people create to express themselves and tell everyone what they have to say in a unique way. Sometimes this can be for the benefit of them or as part of a larger mission they have.
I think it’s very important in every creative industry for everyone involved to feel like they have a place there and to not feel outcast because of any cultural or social beliefs, but then again I think acceptance and compassion is what humanity still needs in some areas.
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?
I think everyone is guided by 1 of either 3 senses: Vision, Hearing and Touch. You can tell that from the way people communicate through speaking or body language. I believe this also plays a part in how each person perceives their surroundings.
For example, I’m a visual person and sight is quite an important sense for me. This overlaps with creativity as I can be really inspired by a scene in a film or a landscape I’m looking at which I’ll try to reinterpret and convert into a sonic format.
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 believe that while each individual artist’s purpose can differ, the concept of art itself serves the purpose to inspire. It can inspire social and political movements, creating waves of change that cascade into the future. I believe it exists to give people that power, and to give them a voice to speak their mind in a way that feels most natural for them.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I think music and art offer an experience that exists on a different level of reality; one we as humans, aren’t fully capable of explaining. Our human dialect can more often than not become limited in its ability to describe the sensations we experience when consuming art and music.
I believe music has the power to describe a person’s emotional range, even when they can’t quite describe how they’re feeling.