quiddity: Infidel Interview #79
First off, just want to thank you for participating in this edition of Infidel Interviews. Could you start off by giving a little information about you to the audience? Whatever you feel comfortable with, but name, age, and where you live would be pretty standard?
There’s two chaps in quiddity. Dan Doughty and Graham Thorpe (kosmischeboy and gribbles, respectively if anyone feels like looking them up elsewhere). We’re both originally from a market town in Lincolnshire, England called Gainsborough, but now are split between Lincoln and Halifax. Being born on the 29th of Feb on a Leap year, technically Dan has had 11 birthdays and Graham has just turned 50. But we don’t talk about that. We have been making music together and apart since the late 80s. Starting off in indie tinged guitar groups, through dalliances with other bands we started making electronic music as Aztechnology in the mid 90s. This period produced live improv gigs and a demo, but life conspired to get in the way and the project had to be put on hold. Somehow we have ended up two 40/50 somethings dreaming of being 20 somethings, but a steady trickle of music created hundreds of miles apart has started to flow stronger and, older and wiser, we’ve decided to ignore life and get on with what we enjoy.
Do you consider yourself to be part of a particular sound or scene? What is your thoughts on the nature of genres and styles, and do you have any particular ones which you find to your enjoyment more, listening and/or production-wise?
I guess you could slot us firmly into electronica. Whatever that means, as it’s a pretty broad church. But we’ve done a range of stuff. From early thumpers on the Broadening album, through pop influenced tunes, cinematic sweeping pieces - and the latest few EPS have a more chilled, possible even ambient feel to them. Chuck in a couple of covers with a political tinge to them, and I guess we’re covering a few bases.
[g] I don’t dislike the idea of genres or styles - they’re a handy shorthand to help guide the listener. I think I start to get itchy when they are used to segregate. For example, “I don’t like the genre xyz, so therefore I won’t like the band abc because they’ve been described as xyz’. But I think that’s an age thing. One thing I’ve learned in nothing is black and white. Personally, my taste is all over the place. It’s a cliche, but I like what I like. :) So I don’t think there’s one genre that I gravitate towards.
[kb] I think one of the primary motivations for quiddity at the beginning of the project was that “it is what is is”, we didn't want to limit the style of music we could make by choosing to position ourselves in a specific genre. So it's been an organic project right from the start, we play with sounds and see what happens basically, sometimes we are surprised by the results ourselves! From my personal point of view I've always hated the idea of genres, and pigeonholing, I consider myself to be open to all kinds of music and have a pretty eclectic music collection, which I guess informs the music I make in many ways. I like the idea of soaking up influences from many different areas (not just music incidentally) and synthesising that into something new, and again i think that is a primary driving force for the work we do together.
In terms of genre I'd probably say that discovering Krautrock had the biggest influence on me, this was as a result of one of my big influences in life and music, Julian Cope, waxing lyrical about bands like Faust and Neu! in interviews. This happened in conjunction with immersing myself in the growing electronica scene (Warp records, Rising High, Ninja Tune etc.) in the UK in the early 90s. While in theory both genres were poles apart, they both played with exploring sound and musical frontiers, and at that time there really were no boundaries of what you could do with sound, especially with the advent of cheap MIDI kit and computers. This is what inspired my first electronic experiments which led on to working with G on the aztechnology project a little later.
Would you say that your choice to pursue music has changed your life since you started? Would you say that creativity has evolved you spiritually, emotionally, or logically? What are some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your musical career?
[g] That’s an interesting question, because I can’t really remember a ‘life before music’. I can remember a life before creating music - but even then, going back to my early childhood I can still remember certain records that would come on the radio moving me in different ways. I understood quite early on that music can do things to people. Those records still grab me today - though I’ll accept they’re a level of nostalgia and Proustian rush overlaid on them as well now. So in the way that music can move you both intellectually and emotionally in a very real and perceivable way, I have no problem attaching the label spiritual to it. Both Dan and me have been quite involved in the church in the past, and there’s no way that that didn’t have some effect on us. For me, it did give me another filter to parse things through - and again define what helps place us in the world. And being creative is a large part of that - though that isn’t necessarily just about ‘traditional’ arts - creativity can flourish in many other ways.
[kb] Unsurprisingly, it's very similar for me, as G says we grew up together and our musical journey was shaped in unison, often swapping new tunes with each other and our close circle of equally music obsessed friends. As a child my exposure to music was quite minimal, although my mum is a classical music fan and an excellent pianist so that definitely rubbed off on me. I can always remember having a piano in the house and ‘playing’ on it from a very young age. As G mentioned we came together through a church background and I guess this has subconsciously shaped our appreciation of music as a spiritual thing. Certainly as I became a late teenager and drifted away from the church I discovered the spiritual power of music in paganism and shamanism, which shaped that part of my life and inspired some of the music I made later. Music is a powerful tool that can fire people's imaginations and I guess in turn their spirituality. It's also inherently connected to memory, which I find very fascinating.
[g] In terms of challenges. I think one thing is the usual stuff that generally gets in the way of any creative (or spiritual) endeavour - daily life. I’ve often found it hard to carve out time to do music. And then when I do, the muse doesn’t work to a timetable!
[kb] Yeah, one hundred percent agree there! Life and in particular work often gets in the way of the creative process, I'm lucky enough to work in a creative based environment but still find it hard to find time to be creative myself outside of work. This is something we talked about together recently and one of the reasons there has been a spike in quiddity activity this year is that we have consciously decided to spend more time creating music together. Which has been an excellent experience for both of us, and I think has taken the music we make to a different place.
When you first started making music, was there a particular sound or artistic/musical influence that you would say was your biggest inspiration to start pursuing the creative path yourself? Is electronic music where you started making music? Or did you have previous musical background or experience before hand? If so does/did your previous musical experience affect your electronic compositions?
[g] So, when we talk about us starting making music, we’re talking the mid to late 80s here. In terms of getting my first band together - which both me and Dan were in - I don’t know if there was a particular sound or band that influenced us to start our own. We just knew we wanted to be in a band, and so did it. We covered Stranglers and U2 songs and wrote our own. I was well into Gary Numan (The first album I bought was The Pleasure Principle), and he has remained an influence on me to this day. But I must admit i’m struggling to nail the decision to do electronic music on any one artist. I’ve always loved synths. Always. I guess if you twisted my arm, then Underworld at Reading Festival in 1996 was a bit of a revelation to me. It opened my eyes to how euphoric live electronica could be. I think that gave me & Dan a bit of a shot in the arm. But there have been so many bands across so many years that I have loved - you assimilate them all in some way and they all play a part.
[kb] My background was very much in guitar based bands until the early 90s, when (as mentioned above) I immersed myself into the world of electronics. Like G I was inspired in the 80s as a teenager by people like Numan and Depeche Mode (alongside our love of all things Punk) but I also liked the darker side of electronic music like Fad Gadget, Nitzer Ebb, Cabaret Voltaire (who G also loved) and DAF. I just had no clue how to make music like that! Then as midi gear became a bit cheaper and I got an Amiga computer in the late 80s I began putting tunes together. As the 90s rolled around new people influenced what I was doing, like autechre and Aphex Twin; who both took elements of the older more industrial bands I liked and fused them with new electronic influences (and even elements of my beloved krautrock!) to make new and exciting music. Even better, they were doing it in bedrooms with dodgy midi kit just like me! I was lucky enough to see some of these artists live as dance music became more popular in the U.K. Seeing Orbital and System 7 at Glastonbury 1995 left a big impact on me, and as G mentioned we both had a bit of a revelation when we saw Underworld at Reading Festival in 1996. Another revelatory thing at this time was the Global Communication album 76.14, which we both devoured, I'd also say The Orb have been a pretty constant influence on the pair of us too, especially in terms of the more ambient music we make. Finally we can't talk about influences without mentioning the two Fs: Finitribe and Fluke both of whom set high targets for us in electronic music which we are still striving to hit!
With regard to our previous experience affecting our compositions I think that what we do now is certainly inspired by what has gone before but the way we write has changed considerably. Previously it was about assembling songs in a traditional way with verses, choruses and middle eights, now with electronic music it's very much about timbre, tonality and mood. This makes it much more organic and it's exciting to hear our songs evolve, often in unexpected ways, our recent cover of “The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum” is a good example of that.
You have released quite a few releases over you're active musical years. What has been your favorite album you have put out so far, and how do you feel your music has evolved over the years?
[g] We’ve done a couple of albums and a handful of EPs. I think it makes sense to talk about favourite tracks as we’ve not really released enough albums to be choosing a favourite. I do particularly like Float, one of our more recent tracks. Going by our releases, the more recent ones have been a bit more laid back - less big sounds and tracks. But I suspect we’ll be getting back to that sort of stuff soon. ;-)
[kb] I have a soft spot for “Bright Cadenza” as it was one of the first songs we wrote as quiddity and “Karmic Slam” is a favourite from the “aethersongs” album as it has a wonderful cinematic feel. More recently I love “Drift” and the wonderful video Elizabeth S from Eyeless in Gaza made for it.
What do you see in the near, and far, future for your creative output?
[g] We just need to keep going. I’d be happy with a steady stream of stuff just continuing to be put out. It’d be good for more people to hear it. But just for the reason, I want people to like what we do. Not bothered about traditional notions of success. If we could pump prime the machine enough to start to put out more physical releases - especially vinyl - that’d be cool. But as long as we can keep creating stuff we’re proud of, that’d do me. We enjoy the covers we’ve done. And we’ve got a few interesting people interested in us. Be good to capitalise on that - we have discussed an album of collaborations…
[kb] More creating definitely, physical releases would be nice. I'd also like to work on some soundtrack work as I think we have quite a cinematic sound. There's also talk of taking the songs out live at some point which takes things up a level, as I wouldn't want it just to be to blokes stood behind laptops…
When you write music there is a lot of trial and error. Would you consider yourself a person who goes into production with a defined sound in mind, and you work at it until you achieve the closest to the results in your head? Or would you consider yourself more of a person who feels and grooves music, letting songs progressively evolve and define themselves throughout the creation?
[g] For me, it’s about feel. I rarely have a predefined idea before I start - but when a tune starts to show itself, then I can grab it and run. Although I’m a great starter and not too good a finisher by myself. More often than not, I get an idea down, then Dan takes it and does wonderful things with it. We do work together well that way. Not that he’s short of cool ideas either. I think once we get started, he get’s more of fixed idea of what can be done with a track and works towards that. He’s much more of a good producer than I am. But when we’re sat in front of all the kit and the ideas are bouncing round - there’s nothing better.
[kb] Definitely about feel and groove for me too, when we write we tend not to have a specific plan. There's a lot of jamming ideas, recording them then arranging and jamming some more. We have a pretty solid setup gear wise (although it's took time and a lot of trial and error to get there!) and have worked together for a long time, so we interchange roles in the studio often. What makes things refreshing for me is having someone to bounce ideas around with because in my other projects I tend to work on my own more.
Do you spend a lot of time crafting your own sounds? Or do you value song crafting and effects tweaking more? Or do you find it's a balance between the two? What's your relationships with presets? When you make music are you primarily a hardware or software oriented musician? Or do you do a fusion of both? Are there any particular instruments, programs, or effects that you would say are vital to you making music?
[g] There really is no hard and fast rule. I think the only thing I’d pick out of the above is we’re definitely a ‘find a preset and tweak to suit’ . It’s more about the song and finding sounds that fit, than creating the sounds from scratch. But we use both hardware and software. In terms of favourites, I love the Arturia V collection plugins. And I’ve just got all the Output stuff - I can safely say that’s going to be all over stuff in the future. It’s great. We’ve used the NI Maschine on everything we’ve done recently - it’s Dan’s go to system for beats. Between us we’ve a nice smattering of hardware - all of which gets prodded at some point, really. Arturia Microbrute, Korg MS2000/Radius, M-Audio Venom, Moog Mother32, Novation Nova II & Ultranova. We love it all.
[kb] Gear has definitely shaped how we operate, we are both synth nuts and over the years have had various synths and sequencers which have influenced our sound. As G says we tend to tweak rather than program from scratch, although particularly with analog instruments like the ms20 we can come up with bespoke sounds if we need them. We have a mixture of hardware and soft synths now and as we've mentioned tend to work organically. I suppose the key here is to familiarise yourself with the gear you have so you know what is capable of, then when you conjure up a sound in your head, or hear a melody you can find a similar sound to tweak straight away. The NI Maschine has certainly been the hardware that has changed my workflow the most, I find it very user friendly and easy to jam ideas out on and as it's constantly evolving (both hardware and software wise) it's always exciting to discover new features, and incorporate those into new songs in some way. Of course it's not important to have lots of gear either; our first album, “Broadening” was done entirely in Propellerheads Reason, partly because we didn't have much gear at the time, and partly through necessity as we were collaborating over the net.
Do you ever find it difficult to balance the creative and technical aspects of musical creation? How do you strike the balance for the need to craft and tweak your effects and sounds, in contrast to actually just getting the song itself created with structure and melody? What sort of element of creation do you prefer, the sonic shaping or the song creation?
Never really been a problem for us, to be honest. Probably be Fair to say we usually start with the sonic shaping - getting the sounds and yunes and different parts down, then we will structure the song. And iterate a bit. We are pretty loose in how we approach creating a track- whatever works or feels OK at the time. There’s no real, ‘Right, now it’s time to do this, then that, then the other’ - more, ‘OK. Shall we try this?’ Then sometimes a few weeks later, “what the hell were we thinking?!”
When it comes to making music it can be difficult to balance atmosphere, song progression, musicality, and excitement. Do you have any tricks, techniques, or methods that you commonly use to help your music sound coherent and engaging?
Nope. Can you tell us any ;-)
If you could collaborate with any musician or artist, dead or alive, who would it be? And what in particular draws you to want to collaborate with them?
Oh wow. This is a bit ‘tell me your favourite album’. We’ve both been around for so long it’s almost impossible to choose.
[g] You tend to think of your musical heroes first - for me Gary Numan, Roy Harper - just because they wrote things that mean so much to me and it would be incredible to share the creative process with them. Then I tend to move on to those artists that just makes incredible sounds, Robin Guthrie for example. Just to sit and see what would come out. I don’t know, really. Too hard, too many choices. Which is a bit of a cop-out, I know. But seeing as I bottled it to talk to Roy Harper when I was in the same room as him, I’m not sure I’d be any good in a studio with any of my musical heroes or inspirations! Thinking about it, given the style of stuff we write then I’d live to spend a weekend locked in a room with either Mark Pritchard & Tom Middleton (Global Communications/Link/Jedi Knights), Boards of Canada, FSOL or Fluke. Caverns of Anti Matter. Mainly because of the sheer amount of ideas these guys bring to fruition. Something good would surely happen. Now I’ve started to think about it, loads of people are popping into my head. Too many to list.
[kb] I've been lucky enough to collaborate with some of my heroes (German industrial legend Wumpscut for example) and it's been very exciting over the years. There are a few people I'd love to work with, Julian Cope is on the list definitely. Numan would be incredible. Aphex Twin maybe? And if I had the power to bring people back from the dead then without question the number one collab I'd love to do would be with Jhon Balance and Peter Christopherson from Coil, they were massively influential on me and the music I've made over the years.
For fans who have not seen you yet, when it comes to your live show, how would you describe yourself thematically and visually? Are you an energy and audience driven band in the live atmosphere? Or would you consider yourself to be more thematic or presentation oriented?
We’ve not played live as quiddity yet. It has been discussed. Quite a while back when we were making music as a duo called ‘Aztechnology’, we did a few live gigs that were loose jams and improv around musical themes. We got some fantastic reactions to it - I guess we were trying to emulate the previously mentioned Underworld gig we saw. We definitely went for feel at the time - there wasn’t a great deal of presentation - but we turned it up and belted the beats out. It was fun. They told us we were better than The Chemical Brothers! We should get back on that.
What would you say has been your favorite live show to play throughout your career? Who has been some of the coolest and nicest bands to tour with? Any good tour stories worth sharing?
[g] I’ll leave this one to Dan to answer. He’s played a few more live gigs than I in other bands…
[kb] Playing the world's biggest goth festival Wave Gottik Treffen in Leipzig with Orchis was pretty special, playing at Supernormal Festival in the U.K. with Black Tempest was also a high point. And playing a solo Kosmischeboy set at a disused WW2 military fort in Antwerp was a lot of fun, I love playing in mainland Europe anyways as the people are so much more accepting of any kind of music, they are still passionate about music in a way that English people tend not to be nowadays.
What sort of new bands have come out in recent years that have caught your attention? Is there any bands out there you see yourself, or would like to, remix or collaborate with in the future?
[g] We both saw Public Service Broadcasting in a tiny club in Hull before they started to get noticed. They blew us away. I think they’d be fun to work with.
[kb] PSB for sure, also Caverns of Anti Matter have impressed us both this year although we are yet to see them live.
Would you consider yourself to be an overall political or spiritual individual? If so, if how what would you say are your strongest/most important views and/or causes?
[g] Absolutely. Both. The way you’ve worded your question makes it sound like an either/or. I think one feeds the other - as with most things it’s about balance. From a political angle I guess I’m some sort of a liberal socialist. In the end it’s all about people and how you interact and treat them. I hate to see anything that simply isn’t fair or just - IMO. And there’s a lot of that shit happening right now, with no sign of it getting better. I’ve recently stopped funding my political party of choice, and will be putting my money behind organisations such as fullfact, 38 degrees, ORG - those that actively campaign against ignorance and unfairness. It’d be cool to work some of this into the music and/or the presentation. Back in the day I was an avid follower of the punk group/label Crass. In fact one of their slogans keeps popping into my head whenever I see reporting on the current state of affairs - Who do you think they’re fooling? You?
[kb] I think growing up in the north of England in the 1980’s it was hard not to be affected politically, at the time we had a government that was systematically destroying the country, and in particular the coal mining communities around where we lived. Punk music captured the feeling of frustration that many young people had, myself and g included. The later politically charged anarcho punk bands like Crass and the Subhumans particularly shaped my political awareness. I'm reminded of a great quote, that came to me through the band S*M*A*S*H, but I'm sure originated elsewhere; “Whoever is in power, I'll be the opposition”. That's always resonated with me. I think the world needs people to question things and to stand up for those without a voice.
As with g I think that political and spiritual life are related, for me spirituality is a very personal thing, sometimes related to place (I've had some amazing spiritual experiences in megalithic monuments for example) and sometimes situation. As I've got older I've developed a more open mind to spiritual matters, and I think that sometimes informs what we do musically. I'm certainly trying to make meditative music when we write ambient tracks for example. Often when I am in the studio, in the zone working on a track it becomes a spiritual, magical experience. G tends to leave me to it when this happens!
Outside of music, what are some of your favorite past times and emotional engagements?
[g] Music is The Thing. But I’m writing this from a lodge in the Lake District, looking across to the stunning Langdale Pikes. Currently snow topped. I love it up here - getting out onto the fells and walking round the tarns and lakes. It does a body good to get out into all of that.
I’m also not averse to a spot of gaming. Obscenely chuffed that a quiddity tracks and one of my own are about to be released in a Llamasoft shooter coming out on the PS4 very shortly. Keep an eye out for Polybius ;-)
[kb] Gaming is a big thing for both of us, it's shaped our lives. I work teaching kids how to make games now! I'm also a massive geek, interested in tabletop games, wargaming etc. And worked in that industry for a fair few years. I like to get out into the wild too, I love stone circles and ancient monuments so you'll more than likely find me in the middle of nowhere searching one out.
Thank you so much for participating in this episode of Infidel Interview. Any parting words for your fans, or my audience?
[g] Thanks for getting in touch and giving us the opportunity to do this interview. All I’d like to say to anyone reading is give us a listen, if you like what we do get in touch - we like a good chat. And tout us around. The more, the merrier :)
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