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  • I think one of the first things I noticed about your work...

  • I need to tell a brief...

  • I was in London soon after James Blake's...

  • his sort of, breakthrough hit came through...

  • And I was talking to my friend, I was like, what an interesting progression,

  • because he went from doing sort of like

  • cool, low-profile Dubstep 12 inches...

  • and then started putting in his voice as kind of a process thing...

  • and then suddenly it's like this pop territory, so moving from...

  • a sort of invisibility, an honest producer, into like, and I said it to a journalist friend

  • and he was like "oh, yeah. He's got a high powered manager"

  • and "he's very handsome" and he was like, it's a very commercial move

  • in terms of this progression.

  • But what I noticed about your work

  • had this similar, kind of starting off... at least in what reached me...

  • as being very abstracted, and then slowly ideas, a voice and invisibility...

  • went into it in a way that didn't feel like it was a commercial move

  • but rather, it was part of a very, kind of fascinating, artistic trajectory...

  • and sort of, statement that you were making.

  • And it wasn't just with one song,

  • but it was following your sounds for like two years or so.

  • And so I'm just kind curious about how you think about that; these longer arks...

  • when people are following your work, and like you said, y'know...

  • like what is... maybe singing is a very vulnerable thing for you, but...

  • Yeah, I think that's a really interesting point.

  • I think there's a lot of factors that went into that

  • I mean, you know, one of them is just like what I was interested in,

  • and investigating, kind of like pushed me.

  • Especially with Chorus a little bit but especially with Home...

  • having to find that vulnerable place and put myself forward a little bit.

  • So there's, just some of that, y'know, just like thematically

  • kind of pushed me in that way, but also...

  • Y'know, just my own comfort level... I still don't think of myself as a vocalist

  • or, like a pop singer or anything like that, you know...

  • that's never really how I've perceived myself.

  • So it was always just... it's been this kind of evolution of like...

  • how can I push myself to different places where I'm still...

  • where I'm uncomfortable but it's still me, where I'm, y'know, challenging myself.

  • So I think it's partly personal, and I think it's also partly cultural;

  • I think that the landscape has changed from when I started...

  • from when Movement came out to today, I feel like people are...

  • people have shifted their perspective, people are more open to things.

  • I feel like genres are more smashed together, I feel like...

  • pop isn't as dirty of a word as it was several years ago.

  • It's funny, I was at Unsound a couple of weeks ago, when it's like...

  • everyone was smiling and dancing.

  • Not that people weren't smiling at Unsound 3 years ago,

  • but it was definitely more like this kinda thing...

  • and this year is way more like this kinda thing, and I was like...

  • I don't know, I just think that attitudes and shifts change

  • and so that's definitely... y'know...

  • I'm also responding to my environment in that way.

  • And, I mean...

  • Seeing again the Chorus video and the Home video, I was reminded of how

  • I mean I like them both quite a bit because Chorus, it's....

  • you're really grappling with this idea of what is contemporary space...

  • you know, you're inside the home, you're inside the laptop,

  • there's products floating around, there's no sort of outside world.

  • And so, to me that links into this idea of

  • of the laptop being this very intimate instrument

  • You know, it's like, we are cyborg, like

  • the Donna Haraway you were referencing.

  • And there kind is no escape from the wires

  • and the signals that are permeating us now.

  • So then the question becomes: what do you... what now, what next?

  • Yeah, and what kind of ownership do we wanna take over it, or you know

  • do we as artists wanna be driving the conversation

  • or do we wanna be on the reactionary side,

  • where we're constantly like, off of our foot.

  • I'm like really mangling phrases today...

  • You know what I'm saying though, but like...

  • and that's one thing that I find really inspiring about artists

  • who are also working in areas of digital activism and...

  • and software development. I know I keep talking about Mat Dryhurst,

  • but I'm gonna bring it up again...

  • He just released a piece of software called Saga that's all around...

  • kind of this idea of self-hosting and artists having their own agency...

  • of the work that they release online.

  • So I find that kind of stuff really inspiring and I love it when artists are like...

  • really kind of awake and aware and interested in kind of...

  • having some sort of agency in where the conversation is going.

  • And I feel like, sorry... just on top of that,

  • I feel like that takes a degree of optimism, I feel like...

  • like, I love a dystopian artwork and I love like, y'know, post-apocalyptic...

  • like, course, I love science fiction, we all do.

  • And I think that there...

  • I also draw on those aesthetics sometimes but I feel like...

  • when we're constantly in that kind of negative zone

  • or in that kind of like fatalistic zone...

  • I feel like in a way, that kind of is like "whup, well I can't do anything"...

  • it kinda like, you know, takes the burden of us.

  • So I feel like we have to pair that with a degree of optimism...

  • and a degree of, kind of like, forward propelling motion,

  • so that we can actually have some sort of say in the way that things are going.

  • Yeah, absolutely.

  • I was having a conversation about science fiction literature with a friend

  • and he was just like, it's 95% dystopian, and this wasn't always the case

  • if you look back to the 60s, people are writing these books are envisioning

  • a totally different and less grim history.

  • Our future, and like, what does that mean if our imagination is already

  • kind of shrunken...

  • and so, it's of course exciting to think about electronic music,

  • contemporary art works' role and expending the possibilities.

  • And I guess that brings me to the question of...

  • you began with talking about the way in which both the club and the academy

  • have there sort of unspoken rules, you know, you can't use a 4/4 kick

  • or you'll be looked down on in the classroom and then maybe in the club...

  • this idea of like, the concept rule in the club is gonna be like - pleasure principle,

  • you must dance, you must have fun...

  • And so, I guess it's... what sort of...

  • how do you think about navigating those different spaces

  • creating a work that draws on multiple histories, multiple performing contexts,

  • how do you negotiate that, in terms of where you're choosing to play,

  • or how you might take a sort of club or academic set-up

  • and flip the... sort of the default structures?

  • I mean, I think a lot of that's just through really good curation.

  • So, I've worked with a lot of amazing promoters who know that like...

  • you know I also have aspects of my set that are totally euphoric

  • and it's kind of even going in a more kind of euphoric direction

  • as I've expanded to include Mat and Colin in the band.

  • But, y'know, just...

  • if promoters know that it's like a time in the night

  • when people really just need to be slapped in the face with a 4/4,

  • then there probably not gonna wanna listen to me doing Breathe.

  • So, like maybe don't put me in that slot.

  • But I think audiences, also audiences have like, I dunno if this is just...

  • I don't know if my booking agent and the promoters

  • but I feel like it's becoming less and less awkward.

  • are getting better at slotting me or if audiences are evolving

  • I mean, I've certainly played super awkward concerts...

  • and I've put myself in all kinds of weird situations.

  • But I feel like you always kind of learn something from those

  • and you get something out of it.

  • I remember we did this one tour where it was like...

  • everything was perfect and it was really boring,

  • cos' it was like, we didn't really have to face anything that was like, weird...

  • and like, not upsetting, but challenging in a way. So I think it's good to constantly

  • be shifting environments and not get in the rut of like, OK this is my safe-zone

  • and know that people are gonna need to hear this filter-sweep at this moment,

  • and that's gonna hit. Y'know, it's like, it's good to challenge yourself

  • and the audience in that way I think.

  • Yeah, one thing I... we've been emailing some ideas in preparation for this...

  • and one of the phrases I loved, you ended it with:

  • "sometimes it's easier to sing an idea than it is to program it."

  • Yeah, I was listening to some of your music yesterday...

  • as I was kind of like preparing this, and...

  • Jase wrote this really awesome article on auto-tune for free several years ago,

  • and I was listening to some of the production and some of the tracks

  • there's this... in a lot of the Middle Eastern music

  • there's this kind of like, violin sweep that happens often and that was actually...

  • something I was thinking about when working on a track, an exit.

  • So Mat and I went to Egypt several years ago

  • and really got into Nancy Ajram who's like a pop star there.

  • I just loved this kind of like, super dramatic sweeping violin...

  • kind of thing, and so I was trying to figure out how to do that with a synth.

  • And then, I set up a few different patches and processes...

  • and I was able to just kind of like sing in the idea,

  • and it was like a thousand times than trying to get...

  • the glissando with that exact moment. And so...

  • sometimes it is just like, more immediate to kind of set up a process

  • and then just sing it out.

  • It's kind of, to me... I actually misread it when I first saw the quote...

  • I'm like "sometimes it's easier to sing an idea than it is to say it"

  • And so... - OK.

  • which also makes sense in this idea of...

  • the ways in which a sound can carry so much information in and of itself.

  • the way a sound carries a politic... - Right

  • ...even at the sort of, the most abstract level or something like that.

  • Yeah, and this is something I think I've grappled with since the very beginning,

  • is like: how to make a sound which is inherently abstract from language,

  • how to make that communicate something

  • that kind of goes beyond language.

  • And, like you said, sometimes it can communicate more and then sometimes

  • it can be so obtuse that it's really...

  • I've had very specific ideas of things I've wanted to communicate

  • and then trying to do that with a synthesizer,

  • I'm like, how do I get this across with this tool?

  • So yeah, I think it kinda goes both ways.

  • Sounds are...

  • super-embedded with all kinds of like cultural and historical...

  • I guess you could call it baggage, but also you could call it richness.

  • And so I think the home is one of these examples of like...

  • it's this wonderful, sort of inversion of the love song, you know, the NSA agent.

  • But even if I didn't know any of that and I just came to it, you know,

  • it's like, these ideas of voice, of processing.

  • You mentioned cutting off the attack and the end-delay and this idea of kind of...

  • contemporary existence as being endlessly mediated in a way which is...

  • suddenly beautiful and then suddenly distancing and troubling.

  • and you're kind of just negotiating that within the song...

  • and then if you want to start looking at the logos and thinking about Snowden

  • you can do that as well, or you can just sort of, feel what that might be like

  • through that song.

  • Yeah, I mean, I think that's kind of going back to this idea

  • of pop as a carrier signal, so like, if pop is actually functioning...

  • and doing its "pop" job, then it is actually kind of immediately visceral and...

  • maybe likable is the wrong word, but immediately approachable in a way,

  • that you're getting something out if it...

  • but I like the idea of it being this carrier signal

  • and having all of these other messages embedded within it, so if you do wanna

  • peel back and you do wanna find the other layers, you can.

  • Yeah.

  • It was...

  • seeing the last, I think the last slide with the installation with the animals running

  • I love that idea.

  • And partly, it engages... like often sound art, installation art is very dower

  • it's very dystopic, or at least sort of... like, joy and surprise...

  • aren't necessarily highly valued within that.

  • And so, ideas of 'sound-animals' running around the gallery space

  • was really lovely.

  • But then you mentioned Turner and specifically this painting...

  • Rain, Steam and Speed.

  • And when people think of Turner, you know, he does these beautiful,

  • washed out landscapes and ships, but then there's this idea of...

  • late 19th century, likes he's kind of invoking this sort of...

  • the sublime of the modern with speed and with all these...

  • but it's still thinking about: what would that emotionally be like

  • if you're standing before a painting, like how can we evoke all the strangeness

  • of our contemporary moment. - Right.

  • Yeah, I think that's actually a very astute observation!

  • That's something that I'm thinking about all the time, is like how to capture...

  • these new emotions that we're feeling right now in this kind of like...

  • "brave new world" that we're living in.

  • But it's true, you know, getting a...

  • someone breaking up with you via text message, that's like a different emotion,

  • that's a different emotional state than someone doing it to your face.

  • So there's all of these different ways that our relationships are mediated

  • and they create new emotions and I feel like those new emotions

  • need new sounds to go with them: I don't like the idea of, kind of like...

  • #everything being drenched with like... a sun-kissed, 70s-california nostalgia.

  • Even though I love that stuff sometimes, but it's like...

  • we're in 2015, so what are these new feelings...

  • and what do these new emotions sound like and what do they mean to us today?

  • And of course, that draws from the entire musical history and past that we have

  • so things from the past will filter in and be there but, how can we...

  • discuss what's happening today with a sound palette that is from today.

  • And that's really challenging and I think I fail at that a lot of times

  • and I think I sometimes alienate people...

  • because I do, I really like a lot of abrasive sound design as well...

  • so sometimes I have to like... you know, dial it back a little bit

  • cos' not everybody wants to hear the