Friday, 19 June 2009

Re: File Sent: Arecibo

I'm not trying to beg any journalistic skill.

But a while ago I was lucky enough to link with Ireland's Boxcutter to ask him a few questions about his then forthcoming Planet Mu LP 'Arecibo Message' . .

Easily one of my favourite, and one of the most unique electronic producers making music at the moment..

if your yet to hear his music I can't recommend any of the albums enough. . Check him at Myspace / Boomkat . . .


Explain Arecibo Message. .

It's just a joke based on the film samples I used in the track of the same name. There's a line about electronic signals coming from a planet, it reminded me of the Arecibo Message transmission. I thought the actual image looked cool too, nicely primitive digital graphics, like an Atari 2600 game. It tied in with the feel of the music and was easy to get imagery for the cover too, the DNA spiral rising up into space.

So... is your background in science, or is it just one of those things you end up wiki-ing that stays with you.

Yeah, I studied and then done research in astronomy at university, I've been into it from I was really young. Proper brain-bending subject.

When did you start working on this LP?

I started pretty much as soon as I got the last one (Glyphic) finished. I'm still getting a feel for how to properly create an album... in the past I've always just made tracks on a whim, just doing whatever I was in the mood for hearing. If you're not relentlessly making big dance floor stuff then people tend to chalk you down as an 'album artist', but I don't really feel like I had enough consistency to warrant that sort of title... I tried to get this one to hang together from the outset though; I initially gave it to Planet Mu in a form that was pretty close to what we eventually agreed on. I wanted to make something trippy and spaced out, but not “deep” in the usual sense of long tracks and serious moods.... so everything is really dense with strange sounds, but the tracks are shorter and a bit more immediate.

& how did you go about putting these ideas down into sound...?

I'm pretty fussy about equipment; I tend to go for old stuff... I'm not into really slick modern dance music; stuff that sounds like an advert for itself, so old gear helps me avoid that. It’s easier to mess about with too. A lot of the time tracks will just naturally evolve from playing around with stuff... I really like Pierre Schaeffer's ideas, that musical activity should be based on play. Usually I start messing about, recording everything I do, then select sounds and ideas that are a bit unexpected and build on those. didn’t decide on this sound specifically as a ‘marked progression’ from the last LP?

Well there were things I did on Glyphic that I really wanted to get away from on this LP. I felt like I made a meal out of a few ideas used on Glyphic; that all the tracks took a bass line, or set of samples or whatever, and really stretched it out. So I wanted to make sure that everything on this LP was shorter, and that the tracks had more little one off sections, key changes, things like that... I think the 'space' theme started to come from working with the old synths, usually at night, and from the films I was watching... loads of stuff contributed.

I nearly always know a Boxcutter track when I hear it. . How do you think you’ve managed to keep such a distinctive sound, yet not get stuck creatively?

I've just got a notion in my head of what I want to do with sound. You can't hide anything from people with music; everything is there in the track... It's amazing how transparent it is, you can really hear a person's mindset in their output.

It’s interesting; in previous chats (and here..) you’ve mentioned being influenced by the stars, films and gigs but never by pieces of music specifically. . Was there any music that you were listening to throughout the entire production process...?

Yeah I'm always getting inspired from music, that's the main thing really... I listened to so much stuff it's hard to start singling things out, it's easy just to name things that I've been into the longest and still like, like Jimi Hendrix or Bootsy Collins. But I'm always checking out new stuff and going back over all the stuff I've missed. It's good to get a balance of old and new, I don't think that music expires or gets out-dated if it's any good to start with.

One thing I'll mention is an electroacoustic commission I got asked to make last year by Lyric FM, a southern Irish radio station, I was working on it alongside the LP stuff. I'd been checking all sorts of early electronic music already, but this was a good incentive to really dig into it all, so I've been listening to lots of Creel Pone reissues, lots of Parmegiani and the Radiophonic Workshop, Todd Dockstader, things like that... it's so good, it's a fairly obvious thing to name check but there you go.

Another thing that stands out from previous conversations are the slightly negative feelings you seem to have towards your last album Glyphic. Some listeners would surely see it as your strongest release?

Yeah I don't think it sounds very good to be honest, looking back, I think the files I have here of the music sounds better than what got released. My production was full of bad habits around then, I'd been in and out of shitty jobs for a bit after Oneiric came out, they left me a bit out of practice making beats. And then I was also getting my head wrecked with the whole dubstep thing around the time I was working on that LP, always getting bracketed into it. That was funny cos a lot of it was becoming very centred on engineering, souping up your car to have the bassiest exhaust... that mentality. Playing at gigs where that's the focus was pretty damaging to my esteem cos there's no way I could 'compete', I just don't have it in me... I want my tracks to have some sort of effect on your mind, not show off how big my fucking snares are. So the LP reminds me of that time a bit, trying to figure out what I should be making, how it should sound, what I should play in my sets...

For me at least, your last line really strikes home. . It seemed at a certain point that a huge number of dubstep producers were spending too much time watching others and not enough time thinking about themselves. .
So you see this album as you coming out of that. You just doing you. . .

Yeah that’s the plan, I’m just trying to define my sound more and more with every new album, and show how it‘s changing and growing.

And I guess this kind of leads into the obligatory genre question, would you still class your music as dubstep. . Or do you feel it has progressed beyond the borders? Or do you refuse to enter the genre debate as it is?

I'm generally just full of angst about whether I can class it as any fucking good, never mind anything more complicated... I've learned a lot about genres and how they're defined in the last few years though, like for instance, the social side of musical scenes is a lot more obvious to me. That said, it's still something I consider less important than the actual sonics, probably just because I've always had a loner approach to production. I think it boils down to whether a track is of use to DJs. The thing about UK bass stuff is that you have to innovate but do it in a very particular way, certain key things can't be fucked around with too much... and I don't really have enough discipline to keep them in place every time, so I naturally make odd things that don't fit. Sometimes I wish I could consistently make really heavy club music though, I really like hearing my tracks in DJ sets.

I have the breaks album you did a while back under your real name. . What’s the story with that project?

Balancing Lakes isn't a breaks album! I just wanted to give a slightly more complete picture of all the sounds I'm into and have had a go at. I also wanted to release something that had nothing to do with fashionable sounds, just to see how it is for a record to appear with no hype, see who'd pick up on it... Back-story is, Mike at Planet Mu compiled 2 albums from the batch of stuff I sent him in 2005 after he asked for a release, one was Oneiric and the other was Balancing Lakes. It wasn't material that had been previously rejected; I read a harsh review that said as much. I compromised a lot with Mike on it though, I feel like I've much better stuff in my archives than some of what he picked...

Any fellow producers/artists who you will continually check for?

Yeah, too many to name! Name some people if you wanna go into this more... Curious as to who you think I was checking out, as I said music is transparent so I feel like some of it is really clear.

What do you want ideally from the rest of ’09? Personal plans for the future. Are you 100% on music these days?

I'm making a lot of new stuff lately, lots of different tempos, but I’m not sure yet what’s happening with them. I’ve done some remixes too, one for FaltyDL, and I’ve remixed / re-wrote a Robot Koch track as well. I'm just working as much as I can on tracks, hoping for the best...

Kinnego Flux label...? Where did this creation lead from..? Releases forthcoming?

Trying to get more stuff out soon, I'd like to get some stuff by other producers I like out there too. The label is just called Kinnego by the way, it's the name of the marina at the Lough near where I'm from. I used to get loads of mushrooms there until they built a fucking visitor centre on it. I wanted to have another way of releasing stuff aside from Planet Mu basically, nice to get full say on where things get mastered, what the art's like etc... I want to keep everything collectable and worth owning, seems like it's the best way to do physical releases now...

Do you think your location has had an effect on the music you make? Considering that a lot of ‘dubstep’ producers are coming out of...almost ‘hubs’ – Bristol, London. .. . Do you think you would be making a different sound if you were London or city based. . ?

This sort of location / city question comes up a lot in interviews, for a while I did mention that I wasn't in a big city / London, cos it was being focussed on so much whenever dubstep was written about, and I was getting mentioned in the same way. I think that location does have an effect, where you are and the people you’re round encourage certain things and that can have a positive effect… I think it can also spur on competitiveness more than it actually inspires though. And I usually find if I make a track because I’m jealous of something else, or just feel like I should be more prolific, it’ll end up more in a mould than stuff I’ll make if I’m left to just naturally fill up with ideas. The other side of the location question is the general effect on your whole psychology that a place can have, and being Northern Irish and having been exposed to everything that goes with that is really important too. But that's way too complicated to talk about briefly to be honest.

1 comment:

alex said...

Nice interview, have to agree, barry lynn is really pushing the boundaries within music/machine/man