Current Release: Mafro's new single "Shaken" is out now.
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Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
For the most part, it’s other music. I have about 800 playlists full of music that has no relation to what I write myself. Every now and again I’ll come across something that gets me excited to get in the studio.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I need to have at least one concrete idea that I know can form the basis of a track. Usually, this will be a little melody or chord progression that has been stuck in my head for a while. The thought of starting a writing session on my own without a jumping-off point gives me anxiety.
Once I’ve got that initial idea I’ll throw everything at it until something interesting sticks.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions?
I like to spend a day or two every so often getting my sounds together and gathering tonal references. During these sessions, I’ll often record little fragments of music for later. Sometimes I’ll get lucky and those will become songs later on down the road.
All my gear needs to be within arms reach and ready to play at all times. I learned early on that searching for sounds or any sort of technical difficulty can really kill the vibe.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
Coffee and daylight is really important. I have had 5 different studios in the last few years and I do much better in a naturally lit space. I like to take my dog for a quick walk and listen to some music.
One thing I’ve never liked is working at night. As soon as the sun goes down I’m done.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
I always concentrate on melody or chords first. If I can get those right it takes the pressure off.
Unfortunately, this can take a while sometimes but once I get something solid the rest is just perspiration.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
I think it’s important to go wherever the song takes you. It’s the happy accidents and the unlikely sonic combinations that people remember. Those little moments of magic are what makes music unique.
The hard bit is when you have too many options and you like them all.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
The end for me is generally when I hit my own self imposed deadline.
Whatever feeling I’m trying to convey needs to be loud, clear and concise at first listen. Long enough to build a story without getting boring.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
It’s really important for me to listen back the day after with fresh ears. That first listen of the day is crucial. You only have so many “first impressions” so I try not to waste them.
I have found that if I listen to something long enough I end up with demo-itis and it becomes really hard to make changes.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
Production is a massive part of the songwriting process in my music. It is almost as important as the melodies and hooks themselves. Almost. A few small changes can totally change the direction of a track.
By the time I have sent my music out for mixing I’ve already tried every conceivable production idea. Really I’m just looking for someone to make sure it’ll translate on different systems.
Fortunately I now work with a couple of great mix engineers who totally get my reference points.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
It’s really tough. Really the only trick I’ve found is to keep working but that brings its own set of problems.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing 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?
There’s only so much emotion you can share with a great cup of coffee. A 3 minute song can mean so much to so many people. The kind of journey music can you on in such a short length of time is quite unique.