Sunday, 2 October 2011

Tripswitch interview

1) Firstly thank you for taking the time out from your busy schedule to complete this interview. Could you tell us a little about yourself and how you started your musical career?

Having trained on the piano and trumpet as a kid, I settled on the guitar
as my instrument of choice at 12. I went up the classical grades through my
teens and taught myself the electric in parallel with that by painstakingly
learning licks from my record / tape collection. Play ... pause ... rewind
... play ... pause ... you get the idea. I played in a lot of bands in my
teens, blues, jazz, goth-rock, metal - we used to play pubs and clubs around
Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. I've always been broad-minded in my
musical tastes, I think it's healthy.

At the beginning of the 90s I started DJing progressive house and
Frankfurt trance, and I had a mate with a serious collection of analog gear
- a couple of 303s, a Juno 60, JX-8P, 808, 909, Korg Mono-Poly - so I used
to spend days and nights there mucking about and learning about midi and cv.
Then I moved onto Protracker on the Amiga, and started to build my own
collection of synths, starting with a Juno 106.

By '96 I was living in London and had immersed myself in the psy-trance
scene. I lived with Chris and Kostas from Magus for a year or two and we
kind of developed in tandem - I moved through Cubase, Cakewalk and finally
onto Logic in '98. By '99 I was co-owner of a studio and rehearsal room in
Kennington, which became a bit of a hub for all sorts of musical activity.
We put on some small trance parties under the name "Club Tiny" and hosted
some of the cream of London's trance DJs - the Transient guys in particular.

A CD of some trance I'd been writing ended up in the hands of Humphrey
Bacchus, who was managing Dragonfly at the time, and it had a couple of
chillout tracks tacked on the end - "Shamanic Tea" and "Deer Park" - and I
got a call saying he wanted to use Deer Park on a new LSD compilation. Then
he changed his mind and plumped for Shamanic Tea, and the comp came out as
"Mana Medicine". The rest, as they say, is history.

2) Your latest album "Geometry" was released in October. Could you tell us a little about we can expect?

Geometry's definitely moved away from "Circuit Breaker" and while it still
holds psychedelic influences, it's perhaps less identifiable as a psy-chill
album ... you can't keep writing the same stuff forever, it's important to
evolve musically or you just stagnate. It's been a bit scary anticipating
how it would be received among fans in the psytrance scene, especially after
so long and given the reputation "Circuit Breaker" has built up over the
years ... it's a relief to see that it's going down pretty well!

I'm now thoroughly in love with the guitar again and it features a lot
more on "Geometry". The ethnic influences have been replaced with more
6-string inspirations like shoegaze, blues and jazz while still maintaining
an primarily electronic thread. If anything it's generally a bit more dancey
than Circuit Breaker, with much of the second half sitting in the 115-120bpm
midtempo range.

Was this diluting of the psychedelia intentional? To some extent, yes.
Don't get me wrong, I love the scene, am still actively involved in terms of
festivals and parties and working with other labels, and I'm eternally
grateful for the support I've received from the psy community. At the same
time, I've been releasing for 10 years and there comes a point where you
have to start to think in commercial terms if you want to justify carrying
on. This scene, lovely and intimate though it is, is limited by its very
nature, and who wants to box themselves into a corner? Hopefully Geometry's
appeal is sufficiently wide to bring new listeners in without alienating the
old ones.

With CD sales in the psy scene all but dead in the water, and even digital
sales seemingly on the decline as fewer and fewer people are prepared to pay
for music, many artists now rely on gigging to make up their income.
Manageable if you're a main stage act gigging a lot, but as a chill producer
in the psy scene, there are very few promoters who consider what we do
merits more than a fraction of a main act's fees. It's understandable on one
level as people go to a dance festival to ... well, dance, so the budgets
are bound to be weighted that way. But on a practical level it makes it
very, very hard to build a sustainable career as a downtempo producer,
especially if you have kids to feed and mortgages to pay. Hence why
Geometry's taken so long to bring out ... you do what's needed to keep food
on the table, and sometimes the music has to take second place.

3) The album is being released on your own label "Section Records" could you give us an insight into the other acts you have on board?

I set Section Records up for 2 reasons - first, to take ownership of my
own music, and secondly to really focus my own musical tastes and provide an
outlet for anything fitting into those parameters. While quality downtempo
music will certainly be a cornerstone of Section, I'm also keen to explore
other, more uptempo styles and get back to my roots, as it were. I grew into
the psy scene after years DJing progressive house, and I'm going back to
that sound in a big way, both in my own productions and in the music I sign
and the remixers I'm bringing on board. I'm a big fan of dubstep and listen
to a lot of glitch too. I'm not ruling anything out at this stage, so be
prepared for some pretty diverse output over the coming years.

I've got a couple of really solid acts coming under the roster at the
moment. The first is Aurtas, a Japanese producer who's relatively unknown
but seriously, seriously talented. His music has an old-school progressive
house sound, Way Out West kinda vibe with delicate but solid production and
bags of skill with his composition. He's done some amazing remixes of my
first 3 singles which you'll hear soon. There needs to be more music like
his out there, so I'm gonna do something about it!

The other act I'm working with are Koan, who you may well know ... they're
a Russian act with a smooth and deep production technique and an ear for
melody that you don't come across very often. They also feature on the
Strange Parallels release and I have some excellent new material from them
to release in the New Year.

I'm also giving my own Codemonkey project some love after parking it up
for a while. Conceived as an outlet for anything more uptempo, it's
developed into two strands, one dark and dubsteppy and the other more
progressive and dancey. I'm having a lot of fun with it at the moment and
the New Year will finally see some Codemonkey releases hitting the shelves.

4) Which artists currently impress you?

Within the chill scene, I'd say Ultimae really have the crown right now. I
love everything Magnus (Solar Fields) produces, the new Asura album is
absolutely stunning, and I heard a sneak preview of some of the new Aes Dana
album the other week which really blew me away. Petit Ange is another great
producer under their wing. They're an amazing family down there and have
been super helpful with the set up of Section, and are also handling most of
my distribution.

In other genres - I've been listening to a lot of shoegaze and nu-gaze in
recent years, bands that stand out are Port Royal, Mint, Oceansize and of
course Sigur Ros and Ulrich Schnauss.

Dubstep / Glitch-hop/ IDM: Liquid Stranger, Opiuo, Bass Science / Matt B /
Nalepa, Deru, Tipper and my good friend Gaudi. On a UK dubstep tip, Kode9,
Burial, Benga, Breakage. For me, Burial's probably the most striking
producer overall of the past few years. His sound is so emotive for me, the
broken two-step beats take me right back to the years living in South
London, but he puts those memories in a deep, dark and otherworldly space
which I'd not really visited since Joy Division. Sublime.

Progressive / house / minimal etc: Shiloh, Luke Chable, Tom Glass, Ticon,
Perfect Stranger, Antix / Fiord and Iboga, Hope Recordings, Baroque and of
course Deadmau5.

5) Could you tell us about your set-up and provide a tip for inspiring musicians?

I've just stripped down my studio and rebuilt it ... I've actually gone
very zen this time. From being surrounded by synths, samplers and other gear
a few years ago, I'm now down to a bare minimum and far more efficient as a
result. I have one rack with my beloved Virus C and some mixing / mastering
outboard, a pair of Mackie monitors, Kurzweil K2000 and am still running a
Yamaha 01v mixer which connects to my interface via ADAT. The room is
acoustically treated with a number of products from the excellent Vicoustic

I'm a Logic man through and through and have been using it for 12 years
now. Version 9 is outstanding, you can't beat it for flexibility and the new
Flex-time and Bounce in Place features are a godsend.

I have a couple of guitars at the moment, a Takamine steel-strung acoustic
and a Gibson Les Paul. I also have a bizarre aluminium foldaway Aria travel
guitar that's pretty dodgy really, but it's got a really bright sound that
works well for some things.

Here are my top tips for anyone starting out:

1) In terms of software, less is usually more. Don't be tempted to
overload your computer with every plugin and soft synth you can find,
regardless of how easy they may be to get hold of! Install less and devote
your time to mastering them, you'll be surprised what you can achieve
creatively and the theory you learn along the way. I have maybe 3 or 4
favourite soft synths which I use almost exclusively. Similarly with
plugins ... focus on quality rather than quantity.

2) When it comes to your album. work for the best publishing deal you can.
Find a publisher who will actively work with your music and get a lawyer to
look over the contract. That document could be pivotal to how your career
progresses from that point on.

3) Good quality monitors and a room whose sound you can trust will
probably be your most important investment if you're serious about your

4) Be patient, believe in your music, refine your technique, and enjoy it!
Throw in a bit of luck and hopefully you'll be on your way. Writing music
can be a truly cathartic and enriching process if you do it for the right
reasons and with the right mindset.


*Originally compiled for (but never featured)

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