Written by Chris Woolfrey
Photos and illustrations by Owen Richards, Fotonay
07 Sunday 07th August 2011

What was the process behind the making of your new single?

It started as an exercise for one of my programming classes, doing stuff with random note generators. I did nothing with it, and then as term went on and I was doing assessments, I'd come back to it and flesh it out a bit. Not with the idea of it becoming a release; while I was in my final year I was kind of shying away from the music stuff and just trying to focus on my course. But I kept coming back to it, and over time it started making more sense trying to split what I'd made into these two tracks, and when I'd found the samples that I was going to use it all suddenly happened quite quickly.

Your last release, Tourist, was based on your time living in Berlin, and heavily featured the sounds of the city; the new single was born because you had to deal with uni assessments. Do you need a hypothesis or a premise like that to work?

Yes. Absolutely. I'm mostly lazy, and there's too much Internet on the Internet, so I'm not one of those guys with a massive vault of finished tunes. I've found that up until this point I can only make stuff that has, if not so much a purpose, then a target or a concept.

Tourist came together very quickly and worked, because I was there and there were all these sounds around me. It was supposed to be a quick throwaway thing that was kind of like a postcard, like a “Here's some interesting sounds from whilst I was away”, and it ended up being a proper release.

As soon as 'Focus Energy' and 'Motive Order' started splitting into two and I found the samples, that was the concept: can I make something that's like a club 12” that will make sense in shows, and be a bit more “pumping” or “driving”. I wanted an exploration of “beats”, rather than it just being eight minutes of street noise.

Once you're fixed on your concept do you listen to certain things for influence?

I don't really listen to the kind of music that these new tracks are. I mean, I made this single and thought “I guess this is techno” and then I played it at a show, and some girl who thought I was a DJ came up in the middle of the set and started telling me it was trance.

I didn't know what Trance was...but apparently it's this. I'm not a clubber. I listen to left-field dance stuff, which is more headphones music, stuff like Luke Abbott and Actress; which is rooted in dance, but it's not, you know, club chart “bangers”. I never got the whole minimal techno thing. But as time's gone on the rhythms of it feel quite natural.

Is there a difference between Seams as a listener and Seams as a creator, then?

Yeah. I listen to electronic music but the things I've listened to most this year have been things like tUnE-yArDs and Little Dragon, and I still very much listen to guitar music, at least as much as I listen to electronic stuff.

The thing is, I still can't make the music that I hear in my head and want to make. So even if I was trying to make music like the stuff I hear and listen to, I can't do it. So I just make it the way it comes out, I suppose.

Vocal sampling aside, all your tracks to date have been instrumental: do you imagine a narrative for them?

Most things I write, for me, have a beginning and an end. Not in terms of time passing, but in that something's changed. I feel like most of my tracks are building towards something and it feels like you've moved somewhere. I think it's more about movement, travel: but not necessarily with that being to do with people.  It's more to do with movement than it is to do with stories. You're going from “here” to “there” and because of the changes in your surroundings, the sound is changing as well.

So when you do use a vocal sample, as both 'Focus Energy' and 'Motive Order' have, do you think of it as a voice? Is it just another instrument?

Because, obviously, I know where it came from, I see the faces and I remember the context of where it's come from so they never became something disembodied and completely instrumental. I kind of imagine them singing, almost like I was conducting or instructing them to perform on top, rather than it being manipulated. What I do with the vocal is something that could be someone singing it anyway, and I think of it that way, rather than that I'm warping this sound beyond recognition.

In terms of finding your sound, are you trying to find a kind of continuity? Each of your projects so far has sounded quite different.

In the last week or so I've been trying to work on new stuff, now that I'm free from uni and I haven't got the excuse of having lots of work to do. And this new stuff has the punchiness of the single, but it has the lo-fi, cassette sample style of the old stuff. It feels like the two are converging. Hopefully it'll stay like that long enough for there to be a continuity within the next batch. It's starting to get there, I just need to not rush myself; I always feel like I need to keep changing and progressing.

When you do work solo, do you end up arguing with yourself?

I think there are different aims you have to try and balance, but I haven't quite got to the Tyler Durden stage yet: I'm not, you know, punching myself or anything. I definitely work in stages. The stuff I'm making at the moment sounds like shit, because they're the raw, pre-production things, and the next stage will be turning that into the song. I definitely think of things in separate stages.

Given that you have a good live reputation, how much of that process gets formed or re-formed through playing live?

The more I've gigged, the more I compose in the way I perform. It's fed back into itself. Before, I wrote songs that couldn't be performed the way they were on the record, so I'd have to work out ways to play them live, and the more I compromised on that, the more that way felt normal. When it came to writing new stuff, that way of performing felt so natural that the compositional process started working that way, too.

How much do you think the software you use impacts on that side of your music?

People attribute too much credit to the gear. People say “What do I need to buy to sound like Flying Lotus?”, and that kind of thing, which is ridiculous. Generally, most of the tools these days are the same: it's just which feels more comfortable to you. Obviously there's an argument to say that if you use LinnDrum you might sound like Prince but not really, because Prince is Prince.

When I started using Ableton and that level of improvisation was thrown in, that was great: I think I'd struggle to work without using Ableton, but that's not because Ableton gives me anything that anything else doesn't, it just has that level of spontaneity and improvisation, and that's the process that works best for me.

What's next for Seams?

I've just signed up for a tour along with Three Trapped Tigers - that's across the U.K, and then there's a show in Copenhagen in early September. I'm hoping that I'll have a new release, a more substantial release, out just after the tour, in the autumn hopefully.


Check out Seams' site to keep up with his tour schedule, release news and more.

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