Hi Shiva, we guess the best introduction to your music is through listening to it. With this in mind can you talk us through the mix / piece you've recorded for us?
Hello - This mix is a comprehensive guide into my artistic practice with the main focus being on my turntable manipulations, where I transform vinyl music on the spot, using turntabling techniques I have developed mainly through experimentations live in concert or on my NTS Radio show. There's also Composition no. 3 in there from my NEW FORMS LP where I took an orchestral composition that I composed (I am also an acoustic and orchestral composer), and electronically manipulated it using CDJs. However, most of the mix is made up of electronic transformations I do in playful improvisation with vinyl turntables. The rule with the choice of vinyl I use is that it is music I love, but also music that already has its own identity or familiarity in cultures (The only track I don't chop n screw on this mix is the Kilbourne track as it's brand new).
What techniques or technology did you use when creating the mix?
The whole session is improvised live using the physicality and motion of the spinning plates, and the only material I use is the vinyl discs mentioned in the tracklist. I don't add any further sounds: it is all me working with the materiality of the discs -- namely Janet (The Commodores), Cuba (Gibson Brothers), Photek, Eliane Radigue and Stravinsky -- and forming my own relationship to this music. So around 20mins onwards for example, the only sonic material is the Stravinsky Firebird Suite on vinyl, then I manipulate the soundform through my own turntabling techniques whilst also treating it live with effects, the analogue tape echo and a sampler. You then slowly hear the real-time version creep in after a few minutes. Hearing the real-time versions of the music emerge at different points, creates an interesting contrast in aesthetic between the abstract and familiar, the tangible and intangible, the tension and the release: All my explorations are a play on perspective. Like all my turntable performances, it's all done in improvisation, so the listener is really invited into the life, character and process, rather than just a mechanical track from preconceived sounds. It's like a very live form of production in performance.
Live-sampling also means I'm in control of what pulses and times signatures I explore, for example going from 3/4 to 7/8 to 6/8 to 9/8 and back into a simple groove at 4/4, whilst also modulating to a variety of related pulses, all in improv. There is no rhythmic work in this mix that is random, but extremely geometric full of complex ratios and a strong focus on pulse: My dad is a mathematician and maths was the main way we bonded when I was a child, so it's a big part of my composing. There's certainly rhythmic rubato in my turntabling but that is the human touch that adds expression. These complexities are unusual for the dancefloor but not for dance as a discipline: The most powerful contemporary dance choreography will hop and jump between intricate rhythms, rubato, ratios and cross-rhythms, rarely staying in the "square" state that most electronic dance music is formed on.
Your approach to turntablism seems completely unique. With that said do you pick up ideas from 'classic' turntablists? DJ Krush, who's also playing this year comes to mind.
Thanks! Musique concrete from the mid-20th century is a big influence on my work and early tape experiments into the manipulation of recorded sound still feels as free and contemporary as when it was first created by composers such as Daphne Oram, Pierre Schaeffer, Eliane Radigue, James Tenney and Pauline Oliveros. Broader concepts to do with the physicality of sound, or the physics and psychology of sound play a large role in my turntabling techniques away from actual turntable cultures.
I don't know much about DJ Krush but I would love to find out more and I'm excited that by doing cutting-edge festivals, like Sónar, I get to experience a variety of artists. That's the greatest gift of performing at a variety of events and festivals: coming across like-minded or interesting artists.
I'm also curious about how you see the rise of CDJ's. The more advanced they get the more 'hackable' they seem, giving rise to whole new genres, footwork, gqom, singeli etc…
Yeah that's really cool, and I really love seeing people and cultures use the technology in their own creative ways away from the now very standardised techniques of older dance music cultures. The technology is there with such extended functions that should be explored rather than following rules that have been set out in the past. That's the beauty of working with machines: how far you can take the machine with your own human touch; it's a fascinating collaboration.
I love using CDJS for my own manipulations as well, although it is rare for me to do so as I am drawn to analogue physicalities of turntables, and the direct nature of creating the sound. My CDJ manipulations are definitely cleaner and crisper though: Composition no. 3 on this mix was made using CDJs.
You'll be playing on the XS stage which is a home for artists who really don't fit anywhere else. I was wondering if you felt any fraternity with other acts playing that stage?
I saw Faka perform when we were both playing at a really amazing festival in Vienna called Hyperreality for Club Culture in 2018: I thought they were really cool and a brilliant live act. Everywhere I play I always seem to find myself alongside a new range of artists, as I play in such a variety of settings, so I'm also excited to discover what the XS stage at Sónar holds.
The history of electronic music has been closely tied to advances in technology, is there a statement you're making by deliberately using the mechanisms of turntables in your performance/composition?
It's not a deliberate statement, no. I make decisions in a very simple way, if I am drawn to a technology, or a technology crosses my path, then I will form a relationship with it, and if I don't feel a bond then I leave it. Creative expression and music technology do not need to grow in parallel motion, and some instruments simply become timeless if nurtured. These correlations change and transform through time so there is no need to see it as a rule. Electronic music is still so young in comparison to other musical traditions such as in classical history, so it can go anywhere really. For me, music is about freedom of choice and freedom of expression and giving that empowerment to the listener to broaden their perspectives.
Finally, do you see your work as closer to electronic experimental music or contemporary classical?
I feel like on one level I fit in nowhere but at the same time, and more interestingly, I seem to fit in everywhere.
My artistic output and skillset is extremely versatile and broad, so I float between many worlds, never static or stagnant, moving between different forms, cultures, opinions and perspectives. This means I have a very broad grasp on attitudes and values between scenes and cultures both on a social and an artistic level, which has been incredibly insightful and enriching. In terms of electronic music cultures and contemporary classical music cultures, my experience has taught me that both can learn from each other and develop from the insights of the artistic perspectives.
More than ever we need music to expand our thinking and open our minds to learning new things, by broadening our perspectives to form our own individual opinions for our own freedom of mind and harmony with others. Yet currently it also feels like the "new" or "different" or non-conformist music is treated with fear, completely missing the benefits of insight it can bring us. We have so much to learn from people different to us, with different attitudes, different values, and music can allow that education for us all. This is what being an experimental musician is about: to feel this responsibility even beyond the music itself.