“Click, bleep, bzzzzzz, crrnnk…”
Our Skype interview with Floating Points begins on a note that clearly references early IDM, with choppy vocal samples and buzzing electronic noise. Sam Shepherd’s voice creaks through the speaker, affected by bad connection, and the fact that he just woke up. He’s on the last stage of preparing for a tour that will last throughout most of the year.
“The music I collect is very wide-ranging,” he says, his voice swinging in and out of focus, “from German psychedelic rock to folk. All sorts of music. All those things influence me—I guess I’m the sum of my influences. I never think that I’m a hip-hop producer, a dance producer, a classical music composer… I don’t see any distinction between them. I just make whatever comes into my head.”
Do you ever have an outset of where you’re going?
Inspiration is always tricky, isn’t it? I’ve been releasing music properly for 7 years or so. At this point I’m resigned to the fact that at some point inspiration will hit, but it doesn’t all the time, there’s always downtime, where you’re doing nothing, there have been lots of times where I’ve been very frustrated because nothing is happening, I don’t have any ideas for music, the ones I do have are not very good, every now an then a good idea will present itself.
For the past five years I was at university, that was taking up a lot of my time, stopping me from spending as much time as I wanted to making music. I was making my album over the course of being at University, that’s why it took such a long time. I actually wrote most of it in the month straight after finishing, so there’s an explosion of ideas, things that have been boiling under the surface, things that I didn’t have the time to realise. The ideas randomly hit me. I could be standing in the shower or walking to the studio and the idea for a melody, a rhythm, a harmony will hit me. Or the entire piece. Sometimes I wake up from sleep and there’s a tune in my head.
And you can capture it all?
Last night I had an idea just before I fell asleep, and I knew should get up and write it down, but I didn’t, and now I can’t remember it.
Do the processes of academia influence each other?
To some extent. With my strand of academia, some creative thought where you have to imagine how you expect the biology must work, It’s a creative process, hypothesising is creative, but then you have to use rigorous techniques to test that which can’t be creative at all. Composing is creative process, but recording is quite rigorous. In music the difference is that if you’re not rigorous in recording, that can affect the music to a great extent, and to a beneficial extent. There are similarities but I don’t consider them similar processes personally. I don’t think “I’m good at music so I must be good at science”.
Floating points is a scientific term, right?
Yes. I actually didn’t know that when I was picking the name.
You started playing the piano quite young. At what time did you turn on to electronic music?
When I was 13 or 14 my school had an electronic studio, that literally no-one was using. I set up base there, I was the only person in there. The studio was an eight track recorder, mixing desk and an Atari S950 sampler and a computer with Cubase. You had to load Cubase every time on a floppy disk. It was amazing, you could sample all sorts of things. At that time I wasn’t sampling musical instruments, I was at a music school so I din’t need to sample the instruments, I real instruments around me and real musicians, so I was sampling domestic items, vacuum cleaners, fire extinguishers, keys, rocks on the floor…
See Floating Points at Sónar Reykjavík tonight (Friday), and follow him on Facebook here, if you like.
Posted February 19, 2016