|NOT PEDRO FROM NAPOLEON
BUT WEST YORKSHIRE'S JAMES RUTLEDGE STILL DESERVES YOUR VOTE
Let’s play Name Tag. I’ll grab a sound, slap a name on it and run with it until tired. Next I tag you. You grab the sound, staple a new term to it and sprint ‘til your momentum can carry you no further. You tag the next person. This chain of events continues until every one’s exhausted. It’s time we cast aside the fixation with hyper-hyphenation and marathonic run-ons. Let’s rescue music from the words.
How do you feel about the words people use to describe this music I’m sure you’ve heard them all: Folktronica, IDM, Folk-Hop…?
Oh, the dreaded F word…I think that’s the one that most people complain about. I have no idea where it came from. The problem with Folktronica is that it’s just expressing two genres stuck together, that’s it. It seems to have been placed on a lot of people in the UK, originally by UK journalists. And the funny thing is, I think that it’s been placed on some of the most forward-thinking musicians. It’s really weird, because things appeal like that - journalists have to pitch ideas to write features for magazines. So everyone is looking for the next big thing or the next big genre, and everyone’s in a mad race to pitch. I know this because I do a bit of writing myself. I have this theory that it comes out of that. I know some of the journalists that write those features and they’re really lovely and into the music and intelligent people, but they all write these features about Folktronica and its sort of insane. I mean personally, when I look at my record collection there are a few folk records, but not that many and actually not that many electronic records. The biggest is probably Jazz and then it’s hip-hop. So it’s just really weird. And when I was making the album, the acoustic elements to it had more to do with classical minimalism than folk people like Steve Reich and Phillip Glass. I haven’t really read that many reviews that use the term IDM, but I’ve read a lot that say Folktronica or folk-hop or free-folk or…
So how would you describe your sound with a hyphenated multi-syllabic phrase?
Yeah, I don’t know… I mean - it’s really difficult. The thing that annoys me about this is that everyone says in interviews that it’s such a difficult question to answer. And I always think it’s a difficult question to answer when friends or people I meet say, ‘Oh you do music, what’s it like?’ My parents always go, ‘Yeah, so I’m trying to describe to my friends what your music sounds like, how do I describe it?’ And I say, ‘Well, I have no idea.’ I don’t know, I suppose there are elements of electronic; I always like to think there are elements of Jazz and Classical in it. What would you call it: electronic-free-folk-hop-something I always feel really embarrassed about saying that I like hip-hop; I don’t know why. I meet loads of people (especially at university) that say they’re super into hip-hop, but it’s really embarrassing because it is all about posturing. To me the whole hip-hop thing is a really exciting and creative sound, but to other people it means something completely different.
That’s a problem I’ve been noticing… all of these catch phrases start to communicate different things to different people.
Yeah, it’s so true. I mean, the tag Folktronica sounds absolutely ridiculous to some people. To me, when I hear it I know exactly what it brings to mind: an acoustic guitar on a track, reversed and chopped up on the computer with some beats that are quite slack and timid, plodding along. Others probably think of the classic image of folk. I don’t get Intelligent Dance Music either, it sounds like dance music created by someone with a philosophy degree…like Mylo, he graduated my year from Oxford with some amazing philosophy degree and now he’s this huge dance producer. Now when I hear the term, I think of him.
What’s the I.Q. requirement to dance to your music?
Have you ever taken an I.Q. test? You get to the second page and it’s a picture of a triangle and a circle and it says, “WET FISH?” How’s this going to guess my I.Q? So I don’t know what I.Q. you’d need to dance to it.
Could you map the progression from your earlier works to your current outputs?
My music has progressed with the equipment that I have bought. My first EP was created about eight years ago and I just did it on a four-track when I was in the middle of university. It was really simple stuff and I had to hand-loop everything I didn’t have a sampler. There was no mission behind it, but I got talking to David Cooper at Melodic Records and he wanted to release my music. It took me two years to complete the next EP. I work really slowly, but hopefully I don’t repeat myself. That’s the key. The first one is very basic and repeating, which I got from Classical Minimalism and beat driven music. In the second EP, I was getting much more into Electronica. And the third one, I thought I’d try something with a singer, where I consciously integrated structures of song and folk with mad electronics. My newer stuff is all sample-based and it’s got some music concrete on it, but then there are loads and loads of drums. People have always tried to tell me my music is ‘this’ be it Folktronic or Classical, and I never want to rebel against it because I don’t want to be influenced by what review-writers say about my music. I feel a lot of my contemporaries are too influenced by their reviews. But, I guess that’s a very human problem; everyone wants people to say nice things about them, right? Well, maybe not everyone, but the majority of people I think.
Are you crafting a specific sound?
I never want to stand still and I never really want to cash in on anything. I also don’t want to be shouting about my music; I want it to be found out about naturally. I think that’s what’s starting to happen. The Mush thing almost happened by accident, when Boom Bip gave Robert a copy of my album after I did an interview of him. I’m really glad it came about. I was starting to get paranoid that my music would go unnoticed and be confounded to the dustbin of musical history like the scene from Scratch with DJ Shadow in the basement of the record store. The first time I met Prefuse, he told me how influenced he was by my first EP and I wondered how the hell my most basic project could influence a guy like that.
What lesser-known artists have influenced your boundary pushing?
I went to this bohemian cinema the other day and Jim O’Rourke’s Eureka was playing…he’s not that obscure, but I’m sure the theatres in the states have Whitney Houston playing or something. I was thinking about the massive resurgence of guitar music over here and how I admire his impact on it. He was quite ahead of his time. Who else? There’s another group Icarus that, to me, is one of the best electronic groups around. Some of their stuff is quite dense and impenetrable, but other tracks are much more listenable and dance-y. But I think they’re really pushing it forward and they aren’t particularly big, despite remixing Four Tet and being on the Leaf Label. Also, this guy Nuno Canavarro, who released an album in the late eighties called Plux Quba, which resurfaced on O’Rourke’s Moikai label. He was making cut-up edit computer music that you hear and just can’t believe was made back then because it sounds so modern. Hardly anyone knows about him. When you listen to Canavarro you see where loads of people have pinched ideas from it.
What’s on the horizon?
Well, I just finished up my new album. Then I’ve got this live project with a drummer and saxophonist, this techno thing with a friend, a beat CD for a few labels in America and this album with two twenty minute tracks which are really mad. It’s weird, I’ve been doing music for the past three years and I’m finishing it all up at once. So there’s going to be this massive four-year gap and then I’ll have ten things released in a year which is a bit tiresome at the moment because everyone seems to be doing that everyone is an over-productive musician now, aren’t they?