Barry Lynn has always moved on the fringes. His first releases as Boxcutter revealed that his speciality was a panoramic view, always open to moving between the dynamics of bass music and less orthodox IDM. Over five years and four albums later, his name has become a sure thing for Planet Mu, and he is one of the bastions of the iconoclastic spirit of Mike Paradinas’ label. This spirit is only confirmed by his new work, released under the alias The Host, an album in which he gives free rein to all the musicality of his training as a guitarist and bass player to create evocative synthetic landscapes, with analogue synthesizers and dusty drum-machines.
The result is a sound that distances itself from intricate adventures driven by the digital setting of his early works, to reach new heights of vivacity in his music. Coinciding with the album’s arrival, he has recorded a mix for us that is short but juicy; within which he shows his taste for nervous rhythms and atmospheres- ranging from the underwater worlds of Drexciya to the bubbly footwork of DJ Earl or Lil Jabba, including some label mates such as Ital Tek. To top it off, the session includes the occasional unreleased cut of his own work. Along with it, he spoke to us about the reason for his new project, his disenchantment with dubstep, and his transition towards analogue machinery, among other things.
After four albums and multiple EPs as Boxcutter, what brought you to sign your new album as The Host, apart from the sonic differences?
I thought it might be better appreciated as a standalone project with its own sound and themes. And I liked The Host as a project name for it all; it had a Philip K Dick-ish ring to it, and it adds another layer of meaning to the track titles.
Although the organic component has been increasingly important in the Boxcutter sound, the new album seems to take the organic approach to a new level. Do you agree? What was your main idea when you started working on the album?
Yeah, it's a much looser thing, lots more drifting sound. It starts out quite energetic, but the overall flow of the album is a sort of unwinding. I completely let go of dance-floor concerns for the most part, and that let the music develop in a more open way.
The album is very diverse on various levels. Not only style-wise but also in the way you play with contrasts. For instance, I really like the way you match calm atmospheres with nervous footwork-inspired rhythms. Is this diversity and use of contrasts a key element in your music?
Yeah. I'm not so into albums that are just iterations of the same formula, and I'm not particularly interested in creating a conventional narrative or telling a story with an album either. I think I've watched too many abstract films full of jump-cuts and non sequiturs. For the same reason, I'm not offended if people describe the tracks as vignettes.
Related to that, your music has always proven that more than a “simple” producer you’re a fully trained musician. Also you're an accomplished bassist and guitarist. What is your musical background? How did you first get into electronic music?
I've been playing guitar for about 16 years now. I can't let an interview go by without mentioning my Dad's collection of LPs; he has some good stuff. I remember discovering “Another Green World” by Brian Eno in there, and “(No Pussyfooting)”. All the electronic stuff he had always featured guitar, so that's probably shaped me.
Your first releases were quite dubstep-oriented, but over the years your sound has progressively been enriched with plenty of other styles, especially funk and jazz. Does dubstep still interest you?
Not really. I still check some of the original producers I've always liked, though. I was around from quite early, so I remember when it was presumptuous to even say what you were making was dubstep, it was so exclusive. But I recall around 2007 feeling like it was already making a lot of moves towards mainstream appeal, and that only got worse as time went on, and I felt less and less connected to it.
What kind of music are you listening to nowadays?
We had a week of nice weather here, so I soundtracked it with the Stan Getz / Astrud Gilberto LP from 1964, Creed Taylor-produced jazz samba. I'm really into a lot of Latin music recently. Another LP I'm playing a lot lately is the first Return To Forever LP “Light As A Feather”; I'm obsessed with the song “Spain” on there.
Vintage synths seem to have played an important role in the new album. Are you a vintage synth freak? Do you collect them?
I definitely had a phase where I wanted to move away from VSTs. When I first started using them around 2001 I was really impressed with how clean they sounded; I used to make lots of very twee melodic tracks with really crystalline digital synth sounds. But that sort of sterility they have can get uninspiring after a while. So I bought a few analogue synths with the proceeds of my albums and gigs, and I use them a lot. I don't like the idea of electronic music as a rich man's hobby, though, it doesn't have to be like that and I'm really glad that financial barriers to producing don't exist anymore.
What would be your favourite piece of gear nowadays? Also, do you have any “object of desire” that you haven't been able to get yet?
I got a fretless Fender bass quite recently— it's been keeping me busy!
You have a long relationship with Planet Mu. How did you first establish contact with Mike Paradinas and how do you feel being in the label has influenced both your sound and the development of your career?
As the long-standing bio on their website states, I sent Mike some ‘drill'n'bass tracks’ in 2002 that he quite liked and phoned me up about. Then after I'd starting making garage and 138 stuff, we played at a gig together in Belgium, and he asked me to do something for the label. I sent him some of the music I'd been working on and he compiled the “Tauhid EP”, and the “Oneiric” and “Balancing Lakes” LPs. This was around October 2005. I think they're a fucking cool label. When you look at what Mike was accomplished over the years, it's phenomenal, there's a lot of great music in their catalogue.
You also help run Kinnego Records. It seems like you take things calmly with the label. What would its philosophy be? Any releases planned for this year? That Beaumont EP was amazing!
I had a second one from him lined up, even better than the first, but I didn't have the finances to release it. I've never cut any corners with Kinnego, but the flipside of proper mastering and packaging is that you need to sell a lot of copies just to break even. And vinyl sales are in such a slump...
How and where was the mix recorded? Is there any specific concept or idea behind it?
No concept, it's just a lot of stuff at or around 160bpm that I'm into, with a few of my own tracks mixed in, some new and unreleased bits.
What are your plans for the immediate future? Music and non-music-wise.
I've done quite a few remixes lately, so they'll all be coming out. Also got some live shows and club sets coming up, check the Boxcutter Facebook page or the Planet Mu website for places and dates. Non-music, I've been getting out on my mountain bike a lot lately, especially during the nice weather I mentioned.
Albums The Host - The Host
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