Sunday, October 14, 2018

Eddie Symons Chit Chat

I first met Eddie around a month ago, at the Drexciyan Legacy soiree Hector and Laurence Fisher were DJing at. He was introduced to me as "Mr Eddie Pointer", which made him sound like some sort of early 20th Century Royal Gun Dog. Recognisong an opportunity I offered him a space on this highly esteemed blog, which of course he accepted. I hope to be reacquainted with him on Friday the 19th October at the belated launch party for his splendid CPU release, 'AFTRMTH'. Meanwhile, here are some in depth words from the man himself to set the mood.
  When did you start making music, and what inspired you to do so?

I sort of got into it at the same time as learning to program. I had a Spectrum computer when I was little, and apart from playing games I also did some programming on it. It was just really simple stuff in BASIC, just bleeps really, but I liked that I could get it to do stuff. Fast forward a few years and I was doing similar on the Amiga, coding games in AMOS and doing the sound effects and music myself. I started with Soundtracker and then Octamed which I got on the cover disc of a magazine. I made loads of tracks using that, some silly novelty stuff with funny samples, but also trying to copy the kind of music I was listening to at the time. That was mostly techno and rave stuff, all built from samples from other tracks as I didn’t have any synths of my own. My brother was always encouraging me with it and would keep me inspired by sending me new music. He was getting into Warp and Rephlex, so it was him that really got me into the more thoughtful stuff, while I was also swapping rave tapes with a mate from school. I still really clearly remember the weekend he came back when he brought 'Surfing On Sine Waves' with him; that totally changed how I heard music.

You maintain a website, but haven’t updated it for a year.  Any plans to revive it, and is it important to have one?

My website is totally out of date at this point. I find that stuff like Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud, etc, kind of mean it’s not all that important for an artist anymore. I’d love to sort it out, but it’s just another thing I’d file under the admin side of being a musician, and there’s always far less boring things I’d rather be doing.

Explain the difference, if any, between your pseudonyms: Bovaflux, Broken Future and Nullptr?

Bovaflux is my first proper project, and the most long running one, which I use for idm/braindance stuff. Broken Future was a short lived alias for a side project I did with Highpoint Lowlife records, which was kind of grimey electronics. Nullptr comes from when I started dabbling in some more electro type stuff about 4 years ago, I played it under a fake name on my radio show which I was doing at the time. The first couple of tracks (Coriolis and Quantic) I ended up using as Bovaflux tracks on my Hermetic Peaks album, but when the electro obsession didn’t go away, I thought it would be interesting to try doing it as a proper project of its own. I guess the main thing I like about aliases is that you can do stuff without any expectations. If it goes well then people will eventually connect it back to me, but if not, then my reputation remains intact! :D I kind of see them as different identities now too, I almost separate them into different characters in my head. Nullptr has done pretty well so far, probably doing better than Bovaflux, so I have some weird internal jealousy going on now too. 

You have been running [d]-tached since 2002, but haven’t released anything on it this year. Could you explain why you set it up and describe the type of music you release on it? Are we going to see more stuff on it in the future?

I set it up originally for just releasing my own music. I got a bit frustrated early on with sending off demos and hearing nothing back, so I thought I’d just do it myself. It was (and still is) very small scale, but I’d rather get stuff out to a tiny audience than just let tracks sit on my hard drive. I’m not sure there’s a particular sound I go for with [d]-tached, it’s just stuff that I find interesting really. I should have stuck with releasing electro on it the last few years, it’d probably make it easier to sell stuff, but I have to go with what I feel like at the time. I wouldn’t really have thought I’d have put out anything like Supersentient Intelligence Construct, which is all drones, ambience and weird noises, but there’s something I find strangely hypnotic and fascinating about it (plus it always gives me weird dreams if I listen to it at night). As with most things in underground music, you kind of have to focus on whatever you have the most fun with, as there’s little chance of making any money from it (half our releases struggle to break even).

There’s only been one release on [d]-tached this year (Supersentient Intelligence Construct’s Holomorphic Metacrystal), mostly as I’ve been a bit distracted with my own records coming out elsewhere on CPU and Mindcolormusic. Also the fancy holographic foil print I did for it was really expensive so I couldn’t afford to do anything else immediately! I’m hoping to squeeze another release or two in before the end of the year though, including an EP from Joseph Morton. His way of making music is really weird, in that he doesn’t do anything for years, and then turns out an EP in a weekend. Like most [d]-tached artists, he’s not really thinking about fitting into a scene, he just does whatever he likes.

Your Nullptr release, ‘Aftrmth’, on Central Processing Unit is your most recent. What did the label want from you and has this translated into more exposure?

Chris (CPU boss) was a big supporter of my first Nullptr release, and I’ve always been a massive fan of his label. I’d been sending him tracks for a while (in an alternate dimension Optical would have come out on CPU) and soon after it came out he got in touch and asked that I keep him updated with new tracks. This was a big confidence booster for me, having someone like that be interested in my music, so I just started sending him batches of tracks every few months. Some labels like to be totally hands off and let you do what you want, but it felt a bit more collaborative with Chris, which I really appreciate. He’d give feedback on tracks and we worked out the track listing together, while other labels let you just pretty much put out what you want. I guess different artists like to work different ways, and some insist on total freedom, but I’m much happier working together on things. It’s definitely given me a lot more exposure - I got played on Radio 1, got a couple of print reviews and keep coming across nice feedback around the internet. I’m hoping it’ll lead to a few more DJ bookings too as I’d like to get out and play a bit more, especially around Europe before things become a mess next year with Brexit.

What is your favourite track from the many you’ve recorded?

Either ‘Many Worlds’ from Optical, or ‘NORTACID’ from aux4411.

Who have been your greatest influences, and what is it like making the music you do in St Ives? Does your immediate environment influence your output in any way?

As mentioned earlier, my brother was a massive influence on me when I was younger. If he hadn’t been feeding me music I don’t know what my life would look like right now. I grew up in a little midlands town where nothing happens, no music scene or anything, so having this whole new world of music made available to me was literally life changing. And for that to happen at the time Warp were blowing up, Aphex Twin was becoming known, and stuff like Jungle was just starting to happen, I feel lucky to have been exposed to it when I was. As for making music in St Ives, there’s nothing of interest going on here at all. We have an annual music festival where the headliners are an ABBA cover band, if that helps paint a picture. In a way, I kind of like being cut off from things a bit though. I think I’m a bit of a hermit, just give me a synth-nest and a cup of tea and I’m happy to just do my own thing. That being said, I am happy to have met Laurence aka Purplehands, the mastermind of Motherchip Connexion, who is really the driving force for electro in Cambridge. If he wasn’t around, Cambridge would have far less interesting music events happening, so I do everything I can to support him!

In terms of the effect of my environment on making music, I’ve lived in a bunch of different cities, and although you might be able to map how my sound has changed over time, I think it’s more me growing as an artist than picking anything up from the area. If I moved back to Frankfurt I doubt I’d start making the kind of music I was doing last time I was there. More of an influence is the closer environment, my studio. I spent quite a few years doing everything just on the computer, but now I have a nice set up with some proper synths and a modular, which I find endlessly inspiring. Having this stuff sat in front of me just waiting to be played with is so much more fun than fiddling with a vst. I tried for years to get hardware controllers and vst instruments to work nicely together, but it always just felt like hard work.

If you had to name a top five tracks (any genre), what would they be and why?

There’s way too much good music to be able to properly shortlist 50 let alone 5. I’ll give you my top 5 counting tracks instead.

1 Bjork – 107 Steps

Dancer in the Dark is possibly my favourite film, partly because of Björk, partly because my mum has a similar degenerative eye condition which has left her virtually blind, so somehow it feels a bit close to home (my mum hasn’t killed anyone though). How Björk manages to wring as much emotion out of singing a few digits is pretty impressive. I love the whole soundtrack to the film, which was made in that time when Mark Bell (LFO) was producing lots of her stuff, so fits in nicely between Homogenic and Vespertine.

2, Boards of Canada – Aquarius

Laid back idm funk with something sinister at its heart. It’s a classic album too, and has definitely had an influence on me. 

3, Venetian Snares – 12
I’m a big fan of Snares’ unusual time signatures. This remix of the Pointer Sisters reminds me of that time in the mid-00s when I went to see him play 3 times in a week and permanently damaged my hearing in doing so (pro tip: wear earplugs to gigs kids).

4, Kraftwerk – Computer World 2

Although I’d heard them loads as I was growing up, it was only recently that I actually gained a proper appreciation of their music. Once you see the background of typical German music of that time and see just how revolutionary it was, it puts it into a different perspective which I couldn’t appreciate as a kid. Some stuff off this album, such as ‘It’s More Fun To Compute’ could easily be released now. 

5, Quasimoto – Microphone Mathematics

Ok, no counting here but still lots of numbers! I’m surprised I managed to string it out this far really. Anyway, Quasimoto aka Madlib in fine form here. It’s almost like drunken boxing kung fu in musical form, with things being thrown in left and right in a pretty haphazard manner, but in reality he knows exactly what he’s doing.

A lot of your releases are only available as digital files, or CDrs. Do you have a preferred format to release on, and as far as the music you make is concerned, is there ever a contradiction releasing it on something as antiquated as vinyl?

Vinyl is the number one format for me in terms of releasing music, but not really because of the sound quality (which is massively variable). It’s more about the physical object, having something you made in your hand. It’s still an expensive format to make, which puts it out of reach of many bedroom producers like myself. That’s made it a bit of a holy grail, so getting my stuff on vinyl this year was a big milestone for me. All formats have their advantages though, digital is super flexible and portable, cassettes have the nostalgia factor and are cheap for labels to produce, etc. CDs are totally undervalued these days. Nice artwork potential, lasts better than any other physical format, etc. I think electro is well suited to vinyl though, we’re all obsessed with old Roland gear anyway, so why not have an old format to play it on? 😊

What do you think of vinyl purists, and purists in general?
I kind of get it, especially when it comes to vinyl only labels – there’s a trend of devaluing music that’s happened in the last decade or so, with people expecting everything for free, and vinyl is a stance against that - If you want this music, support it and pay a fair price for it! But when it comes to record buyers, I don’t know why you’d want to miss out on loads of music just because the person making it couldn’t afford to throw a grand at getting it pressed. I try not to set any strict rules for how I make or release things.  Variety is the spice of life, as they say. 

Could you describe the mix you have put together to accompany this interview? Did you have a specific approach to it and when DJing, how spontaneous are you?

I put together a mix which is typical of what I’d play out lately - very electro heavy, sneaking in a touch of braindance. I like to mix the kind of stuff that works in a club as well as on headphones, and I try getting a bit of the more unusual stuff in there too, some stuff straight from Bandcamp, to make the most of doing it digitally. 

Komarken Electronics - Better Tomorrow
Fleck E.S.C. - Discrete Opinion
Photodementia - Ds Groove
Plant 43 - Porcupine Meadow
Nullptr - Unreleased
Versalife - Scepsis
/DL/MS/ - Tides
Jensen Interceptor - Glide Drexler
Populist - Psychometric Profiling
Shinra - Propellor
Morphology - Mind Stealers (Sync 24 Remix)
No Moon - Sirens
Nullptr - Unreleased
Rolando Simmons - Wanderer 112.5
ERP - Vox Automaton
Assembler Code & Jensen Interceptor - Random Pain
Vertical67 - Intrasystem
Microlith - Remember Members

How often do you play live and DJ? What new music can be expected from you over the next six months?

I actually DJ semi-regularly these days, which is weird as I never set out to be a DJ. It’s more that I can’t really do live versions of my music as I can’t re-patch the modular, so I got into DJing as a way to play out my own stuff. I’ve really got into it in the last year or two since we’ve been doing our regular Motherchip Connexion nights in Cambridge. Our next one is a slightly late launch party for my AFTRMTH release on CPU, with our regulars Purplehands and The Subdermic, but also with 96 Back, who also had a release out on CPU. Hoping we get a good turn out, as it’s our first time at a new venue and we want them to let us come back!

In terms of releases, I’m sure there’ll be more Nullptr on the way (I have a stack of unreleased stuff), and I have plans for a Bovaflux album next year. There’s also the release of the Electric Eclectics box set on Fundamental Records which I’m part of, which is hopefully out soon. Oh, and a remix I did (as Bovaflux) for Ariadne’s Labyrinth should be out before the end of the year too. Lots of great artists on board for that so looking forward to hearing it!

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