Thursday, 31 March 2011
SR Mix #75: Konx-om-Pax [Display Copy]
Twenty six year old Glaswegian digital artist and sonic experimenter Tom Scholefield has been slowly rising in stature over the last couple of years. With mixes across a multitude of blogs and DJ sets in increasing demand it's hard to look across his rapidly diversifying body of work and pin him down to any one specialist artform – but it's under the banner of his audio-visual label, Display Copy, that he is most productive. As an artist he has been called upon to produce some high profile commissions including the hallucinogenic neon paint splashed video for Hudson Mohawke's 'Joy Fantastic,' the cover for Oneohtrix Point Never's Rifts album, as well as further OPN art, a Laurel Halo video, Mogwai posters and he has also worked with labels such as Optimo, Warp and DFA. You may well recognise his work if you’ve followed the recent releases on Numbers and the labels the crew ran beforehand, but in short, Scholefield’s is no small portfolio.
Optimo Tracks, the first record released on Display Copy was written for an AV installation at legendary club night Optimo Espacio in 2009 – the CD featured three tracks that flip between walls of screeching metal, analogue noise and sleek Detroit machine pulse with a remix from No-Fun-Acid impresario Carlos Giffoni sewing up the carnage left at the end. The second release on the label is Tom's debut full length album titled Light In Extension – a direct translation of his artist name Konx-om-Pax, a moniker taken from the Greek Eleusinian Mysteries. The tracks across the record draw a line like the vapour trail of an ascending rocket, piercing out of a collapsing constellation of abstracted industrial noise, techno and hypnagogic acid and into a space realigned across his own transformative vision of what transcendental noise can be.
To illustrate his influences, Tom made us a mix - number 75 in our ongoing series - that incorporates past and future signposts along his musical trip...
SR: First of all I want to ask about your name, Konx-om-Pax – is it from the Alistair Crowley book?
KOP: No, it isn't. People always seem to think that but it's from Giacinto Scelsi, an avant garde composer, it's the name of one of his songs. I didn't hear about it until people started telling me. It means Light In Extension, that's where I got the name from because I thought it related quite nicely with the visual aspect.
There's a relationship between the textures of the tracks on Light In Extension and the visual aesthetic of the artworks Tom produces – a nostalgic futurism...
Yeah, that's sort of it – BBC Radiophonic, Board of Canada influenced fuzziness to it. I listen to a lot of techno, when I make stuff I'm engineering it to sound good live, and simple. That's from years of playing techno and listening to what club music sounds like, so when I'm making weird fucked up synth stuff I'm still engineering it in the same way you would a House record. How it sounds loud on as PA
Did you start out making noise music?
I started out making really really hard Jeff Mills-y techno when I was about 15, on a Yamaha DJX keyboard. Really purposeful hard as fuck loopy techno. It sounded really bad and then I learnt more about production and stuff, moved away from more traditional music and got into noise based stuff later on.
On the mix there's a thread between the tracks that ties them together, a sense of formlessness to it, an amorphousness which is a counterpoint to the more structured techno...
They are two really clear things in my head and I understood when you said formless, I like the really loose and unformulaic – no rigid bar structure or tempo, music that doesn't have a repetitive structure. Really weird compared to more traditional dance music. There's definitely quite a strong link between most of the tracks in the mix.
There’s a noisiness and a trance-y, meditative aspect running through to the last track... a kind of religious, ritualistic trance music...
That sounds like something out of Blade Runner doesn't it? I found that last track on a really cool blog; it was tagged with the genre 'Ceremony'. I like that there was a genre called Ceremony.
And my mate Team Brick, I saw him in Bristol, came to the Mogwai show and hung out and gave me and Dominic from Mogwai a tonne of CDRs that he'd been making; a couple of noise ones a couple of really fucked up electro ones, and that track was off one of his electro albums that kinda sounded like a noise producer trying to copy the Analogue AFX series. Interested to hear a noise producer trying to make dance music, it doesn't sound quite right and that's why I liked it.
There's a dirtiness and darkness to one end of drum and bass that is very noisy, is that a kind of dance music you ever got into, or has it been purely techno?
You know that drum and bass track on Moving Shadow,? Dom & Roland 'Can't Punish Me'. I bought that on vinyl when that came out when I was about 16, and the bassline in that was by far the gnarliest bass noise I'd ever heard. And later on it kind of sounds like a sort of Japanese noise bassline or a Throbbing Gristle synth noise or something like that - just really nasty. It's funny how those noises then developed into dubstep and stuff like that, but it was just a real noisy resonance, the resonance was also quite high up, an acidy bassy sub sort of thing. Probably one of my favourite basslines ever, I think.
How did you come to work with Oneohtrix Point Never, and Carlos Giffoni?
Dan sent me a message on MySpace a couple of years ago after he saw one of my bits of work and asked me to design his Rifts artwork. That was quite an interesting working relationship because he's probably got one of the most overactive, visual, crazy, out-there imaginations I've ever met – it was this never ending gmail chat about ideas. I would say something and he would give me paragraphs of the most in depth code like language to describe what he wanted me to do. I was having to decipher this really personal language that he has to describe whatever the fuck he's going on about. But I got it because it we eventually came to something that he liked, though it probably took a couple of months to get that Rifts artwork to something he was liking.
I just got to know Carlos through that; we hung out in New York and he took us to this Venezuelan restaurant and ordered some really cool food, gave me some really really really strong weed, I don't think I've ever been that high in public just a pure grass joint before going out. Fucked me up properly, it was a good night. He kept it in the fridge and went “do you want that”, I smoked about half of it then was in another dimension for the rest of the night going round New York, it was cool.
I wasn't going to ask you anything like this, but since we're here on the topic - do drugs play any kind of a part in your music and art?
Not necessarily, I think every couple of months I use a joint to help me out, that's about it... maybe one spliff, creatively, if I seem to get stuck on something. All it does is remove me from the stress so I can take a step back and look at stuff. I could probably list all the things I've made when I've been stoned and they're all generally the funnest most colourful things I've ever come up with. But I mean, I don't rely on it, or I don't condone it, or encourage anybody to do it. I've had a few interesting psychedelic experiences in my life, but I think that influences the visual side of things more than the music stuff.
Are the inspirations for your art and music drawn from the same influences?
Yeah, everything comes from the same bracket, sort of 60s to mid 80's diy avant garde, handmade animation sort of stuff from Europe and America. Piotr Kamler.
Do you consider your work as having any nostalgic elements, with all the hypnagogic stuff around Oneohtrix, the American synth-age sounds, or is it a continuation of your current existence?
I think everything I do is relating towards creating a wee world of my own where I feel safe, and that's probably not nostalgias... I don't know, it's kind of difficult to describe 'what does nostalgia mean,' but I'm trying to create a world that I sit in and trying to seduce other people into that world where everything is a bit safe and nicer. I don't like living in this period of time now with everything that's going on, I much preferred it when I was littler and wasn't aware of all the bad things in the world. I don't know if that makes me sound like a hippy...
That's a fairly common sentiment, people feeling more comfortable in their childhoods...
Well, when you've got people like David Cameron running the country I don't want to be part of that. I'd rather just be able to put my mind somewhere else and not have to think about that.
Is that what you use music and art for, as a form of escapism?
Yeah, I think so. Escapism, and partly the reason why I do all these mixtapes and put up the tracklistings is just so other people and maybe get into it and realise there's more music out there than the newest UK dubplate that these blogs are going on about. There's tonnes of music that's been made in the 40's and 50's and 60's that's just as interesting. I think the fascination of the new really pisses me off, and how people discuss and compete against each other in having the newest music and how that equates to being the best. I like new music but I don't like how it is automatically assumed that because it is brand new it means it's good and there's just so much out there that's been made a long time ago that's just as interesting. It's kind of automatic: if it's new it must be good and only four people own it. It's not a competition.
Everything is like a never ending announcement, like we're stuck in an internet train station with fuck all info about all that is happening but there's no real criticism. I think I just need to get off the internet for a wee while and get back in to the studio; it's making me go a bit mad.
The momentum of the new and the lack of criticism doesn't give people much of a chance to put anything into a greater context. If there were more analysis going on there'd be more reference to older works and people would have the chance to slow down and discover more of the older music...
There's a really great interview with James Stinson (Drexciya) talking about how he makes things and how he was quite adamant that when he is making stuff he cuts himself from everything – obviously no internet, no going to clubs, no radio, just involving himself in his own little universe to make stuff and I think that's one of the best bits of advice you could get if you want to make something proper. You've just got to ignore everyone else and get on with it and I think I'm probably headed into that world at the moment, stopped going out as much and trying to just ignore all this noise that's buzzing about and getting on with making music and working on the film.
So what projects are you working on at the moment?
I'm just beginning to storyboard my first short film, an abstract piece influenced by stuff by a polish animator called Piotr Kamler and stuff by the Brothers Quay.
I'm going to be working with another Glasgow character animator and it's going to be really surrealistic and psychedelic. I'm going to be soundtracking it. I'm going to aim to be able to have it as almost like an installation piece, with people working with ambi-sonic sound, producing it. So it's like a step up from the 5.1 – this is all early days. Set up a guerrilla cinema system with an ambi-sonic sound generator so the sounds will be travelling through space in 3D. It will be really intense I think.
Have you done much sound installation in the past?
The only think I've done recently was at the Tramway as part of the Nurse with Wound event, I made a projection installation piece, there was sound to it a well but it was more of a passive, almost background element to it, it was really just to soundtrack the cafe space it wasn't intrusive in any way.
Piotr Kamler has done an amazing thing with Bernard Parmegiani, an Italian composer: Une Mission Ephémère is probably the coolest thing I've ever seen. I think that's a big influence on the animation film stuff I'll be doing, a surrealist non-space with abstract stories and characters I think.
This year I'm supposed to be doing more stuff with Oneohtrix. I was chatting to him about doing something on the Software label, but I don't know. Doing some music video promo work for - this is early days yet – for Hyperdub and a promo for Domino. Can't say what bands yet, just music video projects for two different labels. I quite like that I'll be working with a rock band and working with a dub thing – both visually very similar but at different ends of the music spectrum.
Psychedelia is the joining force between most of these things.
Is that what you tend to look for?
I think that's why people ask me to do stuff.
Because they're after that Hypercolour?
I think that's generally the common thread between everything... or they just want it to be a bit weird.
DOWNLOAD: Konx-om-Pax – Sonic Router Mix #75
1. Konx-om-Pax - 7th Dimension (Rustie Remix)
2. Team Brick - Track 3 (Klad Heist)
3. The Human League - Disco Disaster
4. Alexander Robotnick - Ar Stack 2
5. Konx-om-Pax - II
6. Bernard Parmegiani - Échos/mélopée
7. Carl Craig - Sound On Sound
8. Konx-om-Pax - Chevy Chase Mega Looper
9. James Ferraro - Untitled (Clear)
10. SPK - Stammheim Torturkammer
11. Synergy - Terminal Hotel
12. Oneohtrix Point Never - Gates of Sanct Vacui
13. Konx-om-Pax - Glacier Mountain Descent
14. Madhya - Thème Solennel de la Rédemption