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Rival Consoles

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Ryan Lee West, am: 28.07.2011 ]

Das kleine, aber feine Erased Tapes Label veröffentlichte dieser Tage ein ganz besonderes Album: „Kid Velo“ von Rival Consoles. Ganz im Stile des ungemein abwechslungsreichen Rosters des Labels, will auch diese Platte auf den ersten Blick überhaupt nicht in das bisherige Programm passen. Doch wenn man etwas genauer hinhört, macht das natürlich durchaus Sinn. Denn ein gewöhnliches Elektronikalbum ist es nicht geworden. Früher sprach man gerne mal von IDM, doch dafür ist „Kid Velo“ viel zu wenig prätentiös und legt zu viel Wert auf Melodien. Kurz: Ein fabelhaftes Album. Wir sprachen mit Ryan Lee über Musikhochschulen, Tanzen und Museen.


Musicscan: First of all, congratulations to the album! Since it sounds quite a bit different compared to your previous efforts, I was wondering if you approached the tracks any differently than you did before?

Rival Consoles: Thank you! The main differences between previous music is there is much more attention to melody and harmony and the structures are much more ambitious. I noticed that the best bits of IO were its developing ideas such as in ARP. But with KID VELO I wanted to push myself, I wanted to take more risks with bolder material, like for example I remember adding the synth melody at the end of KID VELO and sitting back and listening, thinking “God, this is obviously too much,” but then I played it at a gig and actually thought “fuck it, it sounds cool.” Cooler and stronger than anything else I could do, so why change it? I think lots of people are scared of bold, very direct sounding ideas in music.

Musicscan: Since you already started writing music at a fairly early age, I was wondering what first drew towards music? Did you grow up with very musical/artistic parents?

Rival Consoles: There is no music in my family that I am aware of. I became obsessed with music at around 15, learning lots of different music like Hendrix on the guitar, but I didn't get into electronic music until later. I've always been interested in composition. I've never been that into playing other peoples music, because it's much more fun to make something, even if that thing isn't that great.

Musicscan: In what way has growing up in Leicester influenced your approach to music? How would you describe the musical landscape there?

Rival Consoles: The musical landscape of Leicester is probably the same as most cities in England, not amazing. It has potential but I feel that creativity is often dismissed. Which is part of the reason I moved to London. The most important thing about Leicester to me was my university years. I met one of the most influential people in my life, Dr. Bret Battey, who is loved by anyone who has had the opportunity to meet him. I'd say that, without a doubt, studying music at university shaped me more as a composer than anything else in my life.

Musicscan: How do you usually go about setting down a track? Do you start with a certain melody or a rhythmic pattern? How do the tracks usually evolve?

Rival Consoles: I improvise until I have lots of ideas, then I make whole tracks out of these and from this I usually have around five to ten tracks. I then from these build the strongest version. In between this process I have days where I'm just thinking about options in my head, possible melodies for possible versions and then I try these out. It's quite chaotic but it works well for me because I make a lot of material, very fast. It's almost like a stream of consciousness. I just smash out ideas after idea and then I start to make sense of it later.

Musicscan: I have read that you simply contacted Robert Raths via email and asked him if he was interested in releasing your music. How would you describe your relationship and what do you most treasure about being on Erased Tapes?

Rival Consoles: I've seen Erased Tapes become more and more significant by releasing lots of great music, so I'm really thankful that I could be part of that journey. Had I signed to Warp or some other label I would just be a name on a huge pile.

Musicscan: What was your major in university? How does it feel being totally free now to work on your music?

Rival Consoles: I studied music technology at university with a main focus on programming and sound and image. I worked in a terrible job for 5 years of my life which almost killed me (mentally), so it was never an option for me to not make music most of the time.

Musicscan: What do you hope to accomplish with Rival Consoles?

Rival Consoles: Good question, the main humble focus is to make music that interests me. However, that is getting harder and harder to achieve. I am searching for a unique sound set. I think there a huge amounts of untouched ideas in electronic music, which I won't go into detail here, for obvious reasons.

Musicscan: You have performed in museums, concert venues and clubs. What do you prefer and why?

Rival Consoles: I love performing in less typical places because if allows me to try out things I would never do in a typical venue. Having said that, the beauty of performing in a standard venue amongst other similar music is that you have to prove to yourself and to the people why they should bother to listen to you at all. I like this pressure, which I think doesn't exist in a museum because people are far more open minded in the first place.

Musicscan: What do you hope people to take away from a Rival Consoles show?

Rival Consoles: That they're wrong about dance music. I think most people's preconceptions about dance music - including my own - is “ohhh God this is gonna be crap” because we're constantly exposed to God awful dance music. KID VELO is full of ideas, climaxes and valleys and is perfect in a live environment because it was meant to be heard loud. I've been programming some visuals in Jitter which mutate and bleed colours, which works very well with the music, so expect to have your eyes and ears smashed to pieces.

Musicscan: What do you think you’d be doing if the whole music thing hadn’t worked out, or, put differently, what inspires and fascinates you apart from music?

Rival Consoles: I like this question because it suggests I'm hugely successful. I'm interested in loads of things, maybe too many things. I love animation and still make short animated films with sound design. I also frequently do sound design for short films or adverts with a great young director called George Horne. I guess the area that I really love aside from music is animating with computers. I'm a sucker for Pixar because I think I feel like most people treat all this amazing animation with a casual interest, but I think it's incredible and will no doubt be one of the most prominent art forms of the future.

Musicscan: Is there a difference between art and entertainment in your opinion?

Rival Consoles: I think to form a distinction between art and entertainment or art and non-art is very complex and almost beside the point. I think a much more useful question is: Is this thing good or not? That's worth talking about for a longer period of time. I'd rather hear someone tell me why they think something is great for hours than having someone tell me that a thing does not meet the criteria of a certain category.

Musicscan: You mentioned that you would like to create expressive electronic music? What do mean by that? And is music always inherently/necessarily expressive of something?

Rival Consoles: It's extremely difficult to make electronic music expressive in the same way that someone playing a cello might, even if they are playing the same melody almost exactly the same. Is it possible to not express something? No. Are their degrees of expression? Yes. I guess most electronic music I hear isn't very ambitious in expressing emotion. It's more about the rhythm and the dynamic, the texture etc. but certain pieces which are highly expressive are beautiful because we experience a sadness within the machines. A perfect example is Aphex Twin's “Albert Balsam” or Moderat's “A New Error”. In my work I really tried to achieve this, such as with the opening for “Vos”, the synth appears to be reflecting on something with sorrow. The synth itself is a vocoder with the sound of traffic stretched modulating the synth, which creates lots of mutations and human like expressions, when this is coupled with a carefully constructed rise in harmony I think it communicates a lot. Into the heart I's breakdown is very story-like and has a sense of time elapsing, after Ed is very tragic to me because it takes so long to communicate the phrase of melody which creates a tension. There are lots of examples in the album the more you look, the more you find them.

Musicscan: What makes music as a form of communication particularly interesting and enticing for you?

Rival Consoles: What interests me is that sound is fundamentally audible air vibrations, yet why do certain intervals of air vibrating appear tragic and others not? I won't go into this but I really like thinking about this. I feel I understand music in a way that I don't understand other things. I love the complexity of melody and harmony and how it weaves around rhythm and everything about music basically.

Musicscan: Three current favorite records, movies and books?

Rival Consoles: I've been listening to Ratatat a lot recently as well as Gold Panda. The thing is most of the time I listen to music I am listening on the basis of how someone’s kick drum sounds, how the synths are mixed etc. I know this is sad, but I learn a lot from this. In terms of films, I really enjoyed Scott Pilgrim for its superficial grandeur and immense sound design. The last book I loved was “Shortcomings” by Adrian Tomine who is an amazing graphic novelist, but mainly writes very short yet powerful stories about typical urban life.

Musicscan: What can we expect from you in the near future?

Rival Consoles: A never ending supply of music. I don't stop working on music, so my plan is to release some singles this year which, if you see me live, you can witness in the early stages.

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