Not pinned to a single genre or style, Jonny Widley (aka Alphabets Heaven) has moved effortless between different sounds the past few years. London born-and-bred and with a number of solid releases under his belt, we wanted to catch up briefly with Widley ahead of the CDR London relaunch to get an update on his current projects, and his perspective on what it’s like to attend CDR…
When and where did you first attend CDR?
I kind of connect CDR with Plastic People. I know CDR took place in lots of venues, but for me it was always connected to that time around 07-08, when I was going to FWD fairly regularly and there was that amazing intersection between the West Coast Beat stuff and the London sound. At that time everyone I knew was obsessed with the sound system at Plastic People. There were all these rumours that someone had basically hand-made the system, and would tune it on a daily basis. It certainly sounded that way. There was a kind of community spirit around the venue too, a general feeling of open-mindedness to the music. I heard there was a night you could just bring a CD of your music too and get it played out. I was way too self-conscious at the time to want people to hear my stuff.
I think it was the WotNot guys that actually took me to CDR. It was pretty special to have something played at Plastic People, that venue was the ideal club and atmosphere to me. I’m always going back to that space in some way, so to have something of mine actually played there…
Any noteworthy CDR memories?
My first memory is of hearing a track by JJ Mumbles that was just perfect for Plastic People. He needs to release some of that stuff soon. My other main memory of that night was hearing my track being played, and the mix being terrible. I think I left like pretty soon after I felt so embarrassed. But Tony thought it was pretty interesting, and ended up getting in touch with me.
How long have you been making music and how would you describe your journey?
I’ve been playing guitar since I was like 12, and took that pretty seriously for the first 10 years or so of my life. Since then it’s more been production and composition. Being around some amazing DJs and record collectors has really inspired me. I’d say I’ve gotten a lot better at not just copying whatever I happen to be listening to, feel a lot closer to something that’s me. There’s been a couple of times where I’ve made things that I’ve been 100% certain no one will like and it turns out to be the standout. So nowadays I’m a lot less worried about other people’s opinion on my music and more concerned with making exactly what I want to.
Please give a brief (as you see fit) description of your current production set up.
My setup is pretty simple. My laptop, my PadKontrol and my reel to reel. I’m using pretty old software and not too many plugins. You can have a lot of fun with a laptop and a reel to reel though. Lots of field recordings, lots of samples.
Have you a favourite piece of equipment? Something you always return to or at the centre of your studio. Please could you tell us about it? When/where did you pick it up? What makes it special?
I’ve had my PadKontrol for at least 5 years. It’s my main piece of live equipment. I can’t believe it still works, though I’ve had to replace quite a few parts on it. I really like the idea of viewing it as an actual instrument, rather than something to be updated every two years or so. Every now and then it kind of shows a new aspect of itself, typically something I don’t think it was really designed to do. But yeah, it’s used on nearly all of my music in some form.
Please could you describe your work life/creative life tussle. Any tips or tricks for managing to keep making music?
I’m a software developer by day, which is good because the hours are fairly flexible. The only real advice I can give is try and do something every day, even if it’s for 20 minutes. That seems to work best for me.
Any projects or tracks your working on at the moment that you’d like to let us know about?
I’m finishing up an EP I’m looking forward to people hearing. A bit colder than the previous stuff, hope people like it.
Finally, have you any advice or words of warning for producers/musicians developing musical works in progress to play at CDR?
Play the weird stuff. You never know what’s going to work.
Keep tabs on Alphabets Heaven via his Soundcloud.