00:00 - 19:01 [Black book / Archive selection]
1. Typesun: “Hol(d)on”
2. Abacus: “On Meeting”
3. Abacus: “Sky Dancer”
4. Typesun: “Dead Stop”
5. Type & JB: “Closer (Theme)”
6. Typesun: “Decisions Decisions”
19:01 - 46:15 [140s mix + exclusives]
7. Siesta & Keyed Up: “Carina”
8. Typesun & Guido: “Heart Maths”
9. Typesun feat. Sabira: “Could It Be (Duppy Beats Version)”
10 .Typesun feat. Romaine Smith: [Sad Songs (acapella)] + Guido: “Something Wkd (edit)” + Typesun feat. Ernesto: “Sugar Rush (Guido Remix)”
11. Typesun feat. Ernesto: “How We Think About Us”
12. Wedge & Shadz [Root Elevation BBC Bristol LIVE SESSION]: “Running Away (Guido Remix)”
46:15 - 55:30 [Unsigned hype]
13. 7 Arrows: “Rain March”
14. Typesun: “Untitled”
Sometimes missing something can turn out to be a boon. About 8 months ago I was sent an album by Bristol-based artist Typesun – I think it was one of his friends I’m close to who’d sent it. The album laid in my to-listen pile, never to be actually listened to due to the, mostly, unhealthy amount of music I receive/go through/don’t go through (woe is me etc…). Fast forward to the beginning of this year and I began talking to Typesun on Twitter, blissfully unaware of the fact his album laid somewhere in my HD. This ‘situation’ continued for quite a few more months until he asked me about a promo he’d sent for his other project, 7 Arrows. At that point I began to piece the puzzle together and after he’d sent me the album, single and then a (new) copy of the album it all went ‘click’. What’s even funnier is that a few weeks after this happened I was speaking to fellow Bristolian Guido – for a piece we ran just yesterday here – who told me that Typesun was the drummer, and one of the driving forces, for his newly assembled live band. Full circle etc…
As I sat down with the album, titled “Work is Love Made Visible”, over the course of a few weeks I became deeply fascinated by it. It offers a mix of styles across its nine tracks, ranging from hip hop and soul to dubstep-influenced dancefloor numbers, with what to me seemed a clear live/organic influence making it a refreshing offering amid the saturated dance music scene – not that it’s a strictly dance music album per se, but parts of it definitely fit within that scope, alongside Typesun’s background and work. Add to this a string of beautiful vocals from a variety of singers dealing with subject matter that felt oddly in tune with my current moods and reflections – especially the songs that touch on love and relationships – and you have what really feels like one of the strongest albums I’ve heard coming out of Bristol so far this year, and one I felt was perhaps in danger of being too easily overlooked. So I got speaking to Luke, as he is known in the real world, and we arranged for an interview and mix for our ongoing series as a way to introduce the man and his music to the wider world. Plus it was a nice fit alongside the Guido piece too for a bit of a Bristol double bill.
What follows is an interview conducted over the course of a few emails. I’m not the biggest fan of online Q&A’s but I have to admit that this is probably one of the most genuinely fun and rewarding ones I’ve conducted (no offence to anyone else I’ve done it with either, just you know). It offers an insight into Luke’s artistic personas, as well as what drove the creation of the album – a subject I was particularly keen to explore as I’d discovered some of the songs were five or more years old. Despite being – by his own admittance – a tad ‘depressing/negative’ at times in its answers, I think this discussion offers a genuinely interesting insight into the creative processes that drive music, which often get ignored in favour of the more easily sellable elements of music or art. Alongside this you’ve got an exclusive mix influenced by our discussions and which runs through elements of the album, unreleased tracks and music Luke likes. An exclusive mix under his 7 Arrows persona will be online at Rhythm Incursions in the coming weeks too.
"Most people just
want to listen to
and aren't too
happy with the
idea of music
Let's start at the beginning, with the admission that I have no real idea who Typesun actually is! So what's the story there, who are you, where are you from and how did you become a musician/producer?
Born in Bristol, grew up in a little town just outside, Dad played the piano but decided against it as a career. I always had music around, always made music, wrote lyrics etc… Discovered the battered school drum kit about the same time as I did the similarly battered school Atari (locked in a cupboard and never used). I was also hanging out in my mate’s older brother's room mixing jungle on belt drives. So you could say pretty standard beginnings for a lot of people in this country really but maybe one difference is that although I've tried, I've just never been able to separate the three (drumming, production and DJing).
From there I did what every teenage boy does, discovered free jazz and fell in love with it. It was like my punk. I was into the other important things in life too: hip hop, jungle, Buddhism, girls, weed and so on, but nothing like blasting out Kulu-Se-Mama or a Cecil Taylor record.
Since then it's been a series of highs and lows as it's slowly, painfully been hammered into my thick skull that it's no longer 1965, Orrin Keepnews wasn't going to magically appear and offer to record my band and most people just want to listen to Bros/The Spice Girls/JLS/Katy Perry (delete as appropriate to decade) and aren't too happy with the idea of music expressing the inexpressible and other such bullshit.
So one thing I've managed to gather so far is that the album has been quite a while in the making. What’s the story behind it?
There are many, many stories that I could tell but the simplest and most direct is probably that the whole thing has just been an explorative and organic process. At first I didn't even know I was making an album. I was just making the music that I needed to make. The material in this LP only represents a fraction of the music I've written in the last five or six years, and for some reason most of the pieces needed time to breathe or ferment along the way. Or in some cases wait for me to catch up with my initial inspiration in terms of my maturity and strength as an artist, so that I could actually play the parts or write the words I knew were wanting to come through.
What’s common about all the pieces on the album is that they all started as seeds or little packets of information to me, that had everything they were going to be already inside them. I just needed to unpack them. But actually doing that took a lot from me. “Little While” had seven different vocalists on it before Jonatan (Swedish soul gourmet “Ernesto”) finally took it where it needed to go with the chorus top line. Even then I ended up just writing the lyrics and verse melody myself. Not all the music I write is like that, “Could It Be” just fell out of the air for me and Sabira. Kind of like a freebie at the end. Then my house got broken into and the laptop stolen so I had to remake the whole thing from scratch, but it was still a breeze.
Gradually it became clear that there was a coherent body of material occurring and although I couldn't ever really fool myself that I was “directing” the process, I kept asking what the theme was and eventually realised it was just about songs. My love of songs as a drummer, as a DJ and as a producer, and the content was... whatever it wanted to be. Also something about people. They are songs for people. Sounds pretty obvious but it helped me discriminate between what was a part of the album and what was destined for other things. I also had a lot of support from a couple of labels in Bristol who pretty much knew they weren't going to put it out but still wanted to help. That's mind blowing to me. This album would simply not have happened without those people.
During the course of writing these tracks I've written the music for five professional dance performances, two of which are touring internationally. I've performed live in most of the venues in Bristol as a drummer and a DJ and pretty much written a second LP whilst waiting for this one to drop. I realised pretty early on that videos were going to be an important part of the process, so directing, collaborating and co-ordinating those has also taken a big chunk of time.
I've tried to speed up the whole timescale but even now, when it's a month till the first single comes out, there are still pieces that are refusing to fall into place no matter what I try. I think I just need to accept it has a life of its own and I just do my bit here and there where I can.
The music on this album is, to me, quite varied in style though obviously anchored in parts somewhere in the 140bpm/dubstep world. What drove you to make an album that diverse? Was it a normal result of your own musical tastes and inclinations?
It was just what was happening around me at the time. I have very little control over my output. It comes in, it goes out. I often wish I did but the best I can seem to manage is to hold an idea in my mind/body regarding the meaning of a piece and then let the battle commence. Or dance. Sometimes it's a dance. To me the album isn't that diverse per se, it’s become fairly honed down and single track in its approach. And the approach that emerged I think is: “meaning and contrast”, with the other polarity being: “song versus sound system”. I guess a more appropriate question would be: how did you finally manage to pull yourself together and make an even slightly coherent sounding record. The answer to that is: I'm lucky to have such good friends.
The music also has an ‘organic’ feel to it for me, and so after repeated listens I came to the assumption it was primarily done ‘live’ with instruments as opposed to sequenced/using a computer. If so, how do you find writing, performing and recording what is essentially electronic/dance music (I'm thinking specifically of the album's more obvious dubstep/140 tracks there) with real instruments?
Every track had an almost entirely different process. I got interested in that having been a drummer who wilfully ignored awkward things like 'harmony' and 'scales' for a number of years and who also spent years on just an outboard sampler. So when I finally got a workstation that could manage audio AND MIDI I couldn't believe it. I was just like “what happens if I start with chords?”, “how do people even write melodies?”, “what is the connection between me playing the drums live and making something for a sound system?” and of course: “OMG. You can zoom ALL THE WAY into the wave form!” Also I think I have the idea that if it isn't a struggle, it isn't really music.
Of all the tracks on the album “Upstream” is the most authentically 'acoustic' in the way you're speaking about it. The bass and drums were recorded as a single take with no click and after that it was just 'tape edits' to finalise the structure. There are no electronic drums tracked to it and it's completely off the grid so to speak. All the greatest old dub rhythms were just three or four guys in a studio laying it down and I wanted to prove that you could still do the same with a style of rhythm that is popular nowadays.
It was interesting to read your interview with Débruit actually, because he talks about drawing or writing his pieces on paper before he makes them and that track I mentioned came from a sketch that I'd done. Ben (Crackazat) who played bass and guitar on it was like “that's not music” when I showed him it and all I could say was “well it is to me...let's play it”.
"My hope is
will find that
to come back
to and that
it will keep
more of itself
when they do"
I'm actually really glad you touched on the point about the overall sound, because very early in the process I realised that it was the palette that was going to hold the whole thing together. I remember Joker once asking me “so what tempo do you work at?” and it really threw me. I was just like “all of them, I suppose”. I was never going to be someone who just got in a groove and stayed there. I'm too OCD. I want to try out all of them. All the grooves, all the tempos, all the production techniques, all the harmonic structures, all the moods, all the themes and I don't want to just parrot them - I want to steal them and make them my own.
If I told you exactly how I structure my style it would be a long and probably very boring answer and it would also probably take away from the experience of listening. Suffice to say that it took me a long time and a lot of mistakes and experimentation but in the course of this record I definitely developed a style that I'm happy with as an accurate expression of what I've been hearing in my head since I was a kid. There's a code. There are references embedded. My hope is that people will find that it's music they want to come back to and that it will keep revealing more of itself when they do.
On the subject of struggle and music. That's something I've thought about a lot myself in recent months, how struggle/pain drives forward a certain kind of quality in creative arts. Almost as if, like you said with regards to music, struggle and pain is an essential ‘quality’ for the art to have a value that goes beyond the obvious, beyond the surface. So flipping that around for a minute, what happens when you make music and there is no struggle? Does it even happen? It might sound like a stupid question but it's something I've been wondering, I don't think struggle and pain is the only thing that makes a certain type of art/creative product good, far from it, but it certainly can enhance it greatly. So what happens when there's less struggle and something comes out that you, as an artist, feel is good/worthy/etc...?
I'm glad you asked about this because I want to be clear. It's just something I noticed about myself that I have this idea lurking beneath the surface about my own work that it 'has to be difficult/pretty much impossible' or it's not worth doing. That doesn't mean it's true. In fact I'm certain it's not and in a way I can see that it hinders me more than it helps. When I'm working I have to catch myself thinking like that, or assuming it without even knowing and then remind myself: “it doesn't all have to be the North Face! You've been doing this a long time, let it flow!”
Labouring under that delusion does mean that I tend to produce music which has a certain intensity to it, which I like and is true to my experience but there have been lots of tracks that have just 'appeared' and I know exactly what they want to be and how I'm going to do it all in the moment. It definitely doesn't make them any less whole or significant to me. I guess I'm just more grateful for them, because it doesn't seem like I've done as much.
As I say “Could it Be” was one of those, “Last Home” was actually also one of those… I had big plans to stretch the arrangement out and everything but I lost the files and was just left with that 4 minute version. “The PL” was one of those in the writing stage at least.
The one thing I would say to finish on that point is that I also notice I have this commitment to myself to 'make the difficult pieces' and I'm glad I do that. If I didn't, I don't know if the ones that come easy would be any good. I see a lot of young producers and musicians shying away from the challenges and sticking with material that demands less of them, not necessarily in time or effort, but in actual change as a human being. If music wasn't constantly pushing me to change - and at the same time giving me the precise opportunities I need to change - I don't think I would be bothered about it. By that I mean that I don't think it would hold the fascination it still does for me after all this time. It's certainly not about the money! Having said that I'd love to be able to roll out some bangers or chart hits like some people seem capable of…
There are related questions for me to this idea of struggle and creativity: when you know the struggle is coming and you seem to have a choice about whether you engage or not - where does the forward momentum come from? Is it always the same place? Does it change according to the time of day, time of month, time of life? How does that affect the work? Can you relate to that in terms of your writing? What is it for you? Maybe we need a hashtag for it #whenicantbefuckedistillmakeartbecause
Ha ha, it’s something I’m still ‘dealing’ with I guess. I definitely think the points you raise, especially about choosing to engage with it or not and its shifting qualities, are relevant to struggle and its relation to any form of creativity. I think a big part of it for me at the moment is that I’m binge reading a lot of Philip K. Dick and he was a man who wrote under/fed by a lot of struggle (if the documentary about his life I saw and the things I read are any indicators). And his work was mostly ‘ignored’ – especially in his home country, apparently he was massive in France which I find hilarious – yet now that he’s dead he’s been elevated to one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, and it seems to me that all he wrote that was great, came from struggle. And maybe that’s why his writing is so addictive and fascinating, because there’s a substance to it that everyone can relate to. Same with music, and maybe in a sense it’s the same reason why I connected with your album having listened to it properly at the same time as I got to think about this again. And then you said this in your answer so it all seemed to click. But you’re right, a hashtag would be good. Moving on, and back to the previous question, people making dubstep/dance music with live instruments seems to still be a bit of an exception despite the popularity of the genre. Yet there's good examples of people doing it well and, to me anyways, when done well it really adds something to the genre's potentials. What do you think and what's the best thing about making electronic dance music with real instruments for you?
"A big name
can have all sorts
of detail in it but
then the overall
lacking in nuance
that it couldn't
possibly be saying
anything which is
actually useful on
a human level"
For me the thing that I find interesting is the subtlety of expression that can be produced in any sort of medium. A big name pop production can have all sorts of detail in it but then the overall message might be completely lacking in nuance that it couldn't possibly be saying anything which is actually useful on a human level. By that I mean useful in terms of helping us connect more deeply to ourselves, our experience and to others. Then you can listen to eight bars of a Silkie tune or Led Zepplin or Bach or something and learn something completely new about yourself or your way of experiencing life.
In that respect, I find myself constantly trying to create the same extent of energetic response in my productions as I can get when I sit at the drums. An interesting track on the LP for that is “How We Think About Us” because actually it's almost all from Reason (grime heads - spot the snares!) and has absolutely no 'live' instruments in it whatsoever. But then maybe because the vocal is so strong that means that it balances out my usual rules about these things. I also definitely made an effort to get every element of the rhythm track to tell its own story though.
Part of the reason it's so uncommon to hear good live productions that stand up in a club nowadays is the costs involved in studio hire, session musicians and the fact that labels just aren't investing in that way anymore. You have to write it, record it, produce it, mix it, even master it, then make the videos and prove to someone who simply doesn't care about Weather Report or Charles Stepney, and probably never will, that you have 10,000 likes on some YouTube link before they'll even think about investing anywhere near the sum of money necessary to make a genuinely 'live' album.
I'm really sad about that and I've found my own ways round it, but it's hardly sustainable and not the same as getting everyone (at least the rhythm section) in the same room and laying down the truth. “Off The Wall” was a LIVE BAND. We may never have records like that again and I'm really sad about that. I reckon I actually think about that every day in some shape or form.
What's the difference between the Typesun and 7 Arrows projects? Why did you feel the need to create a new alias?
They're poles of the same thing in a way. Different dimensions of it. The main reason was a kind of humanitarian concern that somebody might hear “Sad Songs” or “The PL” or something from the album, look me up and then be permanently scarred by “Emanation” or the other 7 Arrows stuff I have coming out. As discussed, I'm only really happy when I'm pushing my edges musically so the differentiation is an excuse to just go as far as I want with production strategies and standards of expression.
From another angle maybe 7 Arrows is the band I always dreamt of being in, but found out the hard way that I just had to bring into the world on my own. Typesun has just been allowed to evolve and now he's a bit more relaxed and easy about the whole making music thing than he was to begin with. My first solo sets were pretty tense.
If I've understood correctly you're also the drummer for and involved in some way in Guido's new live project. How has that been? Challenges, highlights, etc...?
I've known Guy pretty much as long as this LP has been coming through and we've always worked on things. First up it was largely because I was defacto musical director for Javeon McCarthy's live band (then Shadz) and we played mostly stuff that Guy had written at that stage. We did Glastonbury and a bunch of other great gigs, but it's so hard to keep even a small working band together these days that I ended up just telling Javeon to let the band rest and concentrate on his recording.
After that I took a break from live performance to finally get the album finished, also knowing that when Guy got his thing together I'd be working on that with him. It all fell into place really nicely in rehearsals. Our first gig was in Madrid, then we did a little heads only thing in Bristol. The work needed to push a project like this can be frustrating considering Guy’s profile as a producer, though I guess that’s the way it is today. There are no click tracks on the live set either. That's non-negotiable with me for that kind of stuff right now. To me live music needs LIFE to it and LIFE is the pulse and the pulse coming from a microchip means I could just as well drop the MP3 and work on a dance routine instead. That's not to disparage anyone playing their whole set out of a laptop or a sequencer (which I'm all for and has its own swiftly developing art to it), just that as a drummer, if you have a drummer in your band I want to hear him or her play the time!
So what is next for you: when's the album coming out? What about the 7 Arrows project, any releases? And any plans to do shows/DJ sets etc... in support?
Next up is the first single from the LP, “Heart Maths”, which is a 12" vinyl and digital release with a Peverelist remix on the flip. We're pretty sure on the next single, but we're just going to see how this one takes before committing, it could be one of a few. The album proper will be out mid to late October accompanied by seven videos by some of the most creative, easy going people I ever worked with (stop motion animation, a 3D rendered puppet, extreme out-door ballet, a micro drama and some slow motion Krump to give you an idea of the themes). There will also be a full length remix album featuring versions from Behling & Simpson, Mematone, Crackazat, Andy Mac, Outboxx and Duppy Beats amongst others and of course, more vinyl.
There will be a live show to launch the single and LP campaign towards the end of August, for which I hope to be joined by Luke Spurgeon on visuals. It's a combination we've worked a lot with already after meeting when I played a support slot for Little Dragon and he was on visuals. After that it'll be something in London mid-September and then whichever other cool places I get invited to play drums or spin at. Would love to get up to Manchester and Leeds for sure. The tour support didn't appear just yet so hit me with offers.
I've done a couple of shows in my 7 Arrows mode around Bristol recently which have been really well received. I have another 7 Arrows EP completed, but as yet unsigned, in a similar vein to the first and most of an album done which I'm looking for a label to work with and A&R as I pull it together.
Last but by no means least: there's another release on Futureboogie coming too (sorry it's taken so long guys!) and an incredible extended VIP mix of “Last Home” on the way from a certified 'Bristolian of legend'.
Photos by K148/Shifteye, K148/Paris and Duchess Photography.
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