CDR PREAMBLE: MINOR SCIENCE
When and where did you first attend or hear about CDR? What do you recall?
It was at the end of 2008. I’d just moved to London to study at a music college. CDR did a special session where they invited all of us in the composition department to bring our works in progress. I’m not sure what the regulars made of all the dissonant contemporary classical music we brought, but I was struck by the spirit of openness behind making an idea like that happen. I was a dubstep obsessive at the time and was very aware of the privilege of hearing my music on the Plastic People system.
How have London music scenes notably changed during your time contributing to the city’s nightlife?
I’ve not lived in London for a few years so I can only speak from an outsider’s perspective. The death of London’s clubs has obviously been discussed a lot recently, particularly since the whole Fabric thing. More generally, it’s seemed for a while like London is becoming less hospitable to cultural pursuits. This was partly why I left in 2013, and since then I’ve had plenty of conversations with London-dwelling friends about their plans or dreams to move elsewhere.
For all that, there are still ambitious promoters doing interesting parties (the Make Me crew, whom I’m playing for on Saturday 11th Feb, being one of them). Things seem particularly interesting on the lower rungs of the scene right now, maybe because it’s a bit easier for smaller parties to avoid the cutthroat dynamics of the city’s club circuit. I had a great time at one of the Whities parties at the Yard, for instance, and am hoping to catch a Wild Combination in the same venue sometime this year.
Please describe your work life/creative life tussle. Tips or tricks for managing to keep making music?
Sometimes weeks go by without me really making it into my studio which, given that I only work my salaried job three days a week, is pretty shameful. I suppose it’s because, for me at least, the main barriers to making music aren’t material so much as psychological. When you care about something a lot your sense of self-worth gets wrapped up in it. When it’s going well you feel great, but when you have a bad day in the studio you can feel pretty awful. I think a lot of my procrastination is a subconscious tactic to avoid the latter feeling.
I’ve tried a few things to get around this. One is working fixed hours in the studio, as if it were a ‘proper’ job. If you treat music-making as ‘leisure’ time, then the temptation is to drop it as soon as it stops being fun, and sadly it can’t always be fun. Another is to notice when I’m getting frustrated or anxious about how a track is going, and to consciously step back from it. Maybe that involves taking a break and going for a walk, or opening a fresh project file and jamming out something completely inconsequential for an hour.
Who/What has also been on heavy rotation on your audio player of late?
Freezing winter weather means it’s ambient season. I’ve been enjoying the extraordinary Burnt Friedman LP on Latency and music by a talented Swiss producer called Kilchhofer. On a dancier tip, the new Leif single is one for the ages.
Please talk us through the track you last saved.
It’s something I started at the beginning of the year, and which I’m hoping will be the B side of a new release. There’s lots I like about the track, but the middle section was built around an arp pattern that just wasn’t working. I’ve dumped it and am trying to find something which will slot into the same space. In the past I’ve not been very good at coming back to tracks. I’ve tended to make each track in one mad rush, after which it’s either good enough to be released or is discarded. Good ideas get wasted this way, so I’m trying to be better at amending and improving — but it’s tricky work, and requires a different set of skills which I possibly lack.
Finally, any advice or words of warning for producers/musicians developing musical works in progress to play at CDR?
I guess this is related to what I just said. Sometimes — not always of course — realising a good idea involves lots of work: fiddling with details, reworking, tweaking, refining, layering or editing down. I know that working on a piece of music endlessly can take the spark out of it, but those extra hours you put in, if they’re well-used, could be the thing that distinguishes your music from all the other stuff out there. This takes patience, which you can train over time, a bit like strengthening a muscle.