Insight Interview: Jameson Hodge & Waller

Wednesday 19th July // We recently dropped the album ‘Form‘ from producers Jameson Hodge & Waller, a 7 track mini album featuring some of the most beautifully crafted compositions we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. The atmospheric chill electronica album captures the best of the producers emotion, an extremely well produced concept featuring majestic instrumentation. In this interview we talk to both producers about their musical background and the concept behind ‘Form’.

Hey Ed and Jameson, thanks so much for agreeing to an interview. Where are you based? Do you tend to travel a lot, or are you firmly rooted at home?

E: I currently live in London, studying Sound Arts. I’m originally from a little English village at the foot of the South Downs so it was quite a shock moving to the city. They both have their perks! I don’t travel much at the moment, I’d really like to take a year travelling after uni – I would really like to go somewhere like Iceland or Austria, or somewhere Scandinavian with mountains.

J: I was born, raised, and currently reside near Atlanta, and I’m currently studying computer science. I love travelling, especially when I get to meet internet friends from around the country and world. I’d love to travel more!

Can you recall your first real exposure to music?

J: I was never really interested or passionate about music before discovering classic rock–I believe it was the song “Let It Be” by the Beatles that really sucked me into playing and listening to music. I was really only into rock music until discovering dubstep in the early ‘10s, and since then I’ve started branching out into other electronic genres.

E: Not properly to be honest. I always disliked my parent’s taste in music (he laughed, and took a swig of red wine). I had an awful taste of music when I was younger, I listened to horrific pop music when I was very young and later on in my early teens horrific EDM. My music taste changed dramatically in college when I was introduced to artists like Brian Eno, Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter and Nils Frahm. Now I listen mainly to ambient/drone/piano music as well as a lot of experimental and contemporary composition through my university course.

How and when did you first begin writing and creating music?

E: I began learning piano when I was 6 – I didn’t really enjoy it until I was around 11 or 12 and I started being able to play pieces I enjoyed listening to. I started composing music at that point, definitely not at any sort of advanced level (he chuckles and takes another swig of wine). When I was going through my horrific EDM stage, I became interested in the creation of electronic music and I picked up a demo of FL Studio. I was all very ‘SoundCloud’ at that point. As my music taste changed, so did the music I created, which has eventually led me up to this point.

J: I started writing music as soon as I started learning piano at a young age. I’ve always had creative inclinations, and I went on to start producing electronic music around the time I was introduced to EDM in 2011. I’ve been serious about it ever since.

Can you describe your music for us?

J: One thing I really like to focus on when producing is the contrast between organic and digital; it represents the harmony between the synthesizer and the musician, and there’s just something so beautiful about that. A lot of producers will harp on about making electronic music sound mo

re organic (which can definitely be beneficial for novice producers), but I believe there’s also a lot of value to be found on the less human side of the spectrum. So while I hope listeners of my music can relate to the more human side of my music, I also hope they can see the beauty in the relationship that exists between the human and the interface.

E: It is the greatest.

Have you ever played live? Would you like to in future? Any upcoming shows?

E: I’ve had fun DJing with friends for Kaleido shows, which is a collective I’m involved with run by Subtact and Duskus. I usually play dubstep, not the EDM screechy kind (although I do enjoy that) but subby, sound system dubstep because I bloody love it. Producers like Kloudmen, Enigma Dubz and Bukez Finezt are still killing it. I’m going to see Hatcha and Benga tomorrow too, which is sort of bucket list material considering I was too young to see Benga when he was first playing shows. Other than those gigs, no I haven’t. I’d really love to do a piano night and also a live ambient night, but I haven’t spent too much time thinking about it yet.

J: Not yet! Book me. 🙂

What have been your biggest influences?

J: I’m a bit of a sci-fi nerd and I love futuristic-sounding music, so naturally IDM and a lot of forward-thinking music (namely drum and bass, experimental hip-hop, indietronica) has sparked my attention over the years. I draw influences from many different styles of music so it’s really difficult to narrow it down to just a few artists, but if I had to make a list I would say Autechre, Aphex Twin, Porter Robinson, Daft Punk, and even the Beatles have had the biggest impact on me and my music.

E: I’m constantly finding new inspirations and influences. I think my biggest influences compositionally are Erik Satie, John Cage, Brian Eno, Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm (and occasionally Jon Hopkins but I admire him more than I’m inspired by him). Arnalds and Frahm are definitely my most listened. Arnalds is always hauntingly beautiful, touching into a forever present melancholy in me. Frahm is pretty much a genius. He seemingly does whatever he wants and never fails to create unbelievably gorgeous work. I can’t claim to know everything about John Cage, at least comparably to some people, however his approach to removing the composer from the composition dramatically changed my approach to listening. Erik Satie is sort of my hero. Not so much necessarily in his music but in his approach to composing and life in general. I won’t ramble on about him now but if you don’t know much about him past his ‘Trois Gymnopedies’ then he’s worth reading about. ‘The Writings of Erik Satie’, edited by Nigel Wilkins is a good place to start, or if you’re into a cheeky bit of anarchy then ‘The Banquet Years: The Arts in France 1885-1918’ by Roger Shattuck pins Erik Satie as one of the most important French artists of that period (whilst also talking about the divided politics and anarchy that was breaking out in France in the lead up to World War I). Beyond those named I’ve also been influenced by artists such as R. Murray Schafer, Pauline Oliveros, Arnold Schoenberg and Eliane Radigue.

Do you think producing electronic music requires technical or creative skill? Or both?

E: Both, no doubt. Creativity comes first. I used to think more about technical production but now I realise my ideas don’t have to necessarily revolve around electronic production, especially ambient which can be created acoustically if you find/create the right instruments.

J: I pretty much agree with Ed on this one. I also believe the two are pretty intertwined. For example, I think there’s so many creative options available in mixing and mastering. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the loudness war, but I hold the unpopular opinion that (specifically in dance music) this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but another means of creative expression. While it definitely requires technical skill to squeeze out as much loudness from a mix as possible without completely crushing it beyond listenability, it’s also a creative decision that can lead to some interesting results (like “artistic clipping”). A common saying for musicians is to learn the rules first, and then break them, and I think this also applies to the technical side of things as well.

Do you tend to find creating music a cathartic or therapeutic experience? Has creating music helped you cope with difficult times in your life at all?

J: Rarely does working on a track make me frustrated unless I’m working on the final mix or I’ve put too many hours into it. I tend to make softer, ambient music when I’m sad, and upbeat, dancey tracks when I’m happy; it all serves as stress relief or creative expression. I just want to show people a glimpse of what’s inside my head.

E: Yes and no. Often when I sit down and write music and it’s incredibly alleviating. I can escape whatever stress I’m feeling. Other times it’s incredibly frustrating because I can’t find the right sound or note to start a piece and a lot of the time my laptop or sound card fails to work so I can’t make music at all (He muses. I gaze into his eyes. We kiss). I had some anxiety problems in college and music really helped then. Generally nowadays I tend not to engage with my own music emotionally and if I do I don’t release the track for fear of it being interpreted differently to why I wrote it.

Your latest collaboration album ‘Form’ involves some of the most beautiful compositional work. There are elements such as live instrumentation and atmospheric soundscapes that really reach out to the listener. What was the concept behind the album?

E: Form was a very uplifting project for me. Usually when I write music I have an idea or sometimes I have even written the piece before I sit down and create it. With Form I didn’t have any idea where it was going or how it would sound. For the title track Form, Jameson sent me the intro pads ages and ages ago but I never did anything with them. It had these half-time drums on it which I didn’t know how to work with. On one summer day I didn’t really know what to do and I re-found the stems. I took away the drums and added a 4/4 kick drum and it sort of went from there. After we finished Form, Jameson suggested we do another track and then another and the project eventually grew into what it is now. It was very refreshing to not have any preconceived ideas about what the finished project would sound like.

J: Form really wrote itself. Ed and I pretty much just guided it into the direction we thought was best for it, and we’re happy with the end result.

Any new genres or musical styles you’d like to explore in future?

E: Yes, I’m constantly exposed to different styles of music. I live with Klahrk who makes grungy bass music and I have a few future bass friends among others so I’m constantly exposed to other genres of music. I might have a couple of bassy tracks coming out in the near future, keep your ears peeled!

J: Though ambient music will always be an element in my production style, lately I’ve been really into happy hardcore, trance, and other dance-oriented genres. Music oriented for dancing is something I feel ought to be explored more, as I find there to be a lot more beauty in it than I reckon most people give it credit.

Do you have any thoughts on the future of underground musical styles? Do you think the scene will evolve further?

E: New genre’s will always emerge. I do think the bridge between underground and non-underground music becomes increasingly blurry with the internet and it’s becoming increasingly hard to identify what makes music ‘underground’ but either way people will always innovate.

J: The underground scene will never stop evolving! Creative people will always find a way to be creative.

Any artists you’ve not worked with yet that you’d like to work with in future?

J: There are loads of producers in the community I’d love to collaborate with or make remixes for, but off the top of my head, I’ll go with leopold, Rob Araujo, and Holly, all of whom have incredibly unique styles.

E: I don’t think too much about that – if I feel I need help working on a track or there’s a specific idea that I want to work on someone with then I’ll ask. It’s a whatever happens, happens sort of thing. I’m always open for collaboration though!

Do you have a favourite track / song of all time? Favourite artist?

E: I am never able to pick a single track or artist, it depends on my mood. ‘Says’ by Nils Frahm comes to mind along with ‘An Ending’ by Brian Eno. The only cemented hierarchy of music I have is my top 4 albums which are (in no particular order) ‘Music for Airports’ by Eno, ‘Spaces’ by Nils Frahm, ‘Immunity’ by Jon Hopkins and ‘Demon Days’ by Gorillaz.

J: There is too much to pick from, but right now I’m really digging “Us” by Valentine and 4AM. As for favourite artists, I’ll have to go with Burial, Porter Robinson, Jon Hopkins, Aphex Twin, and Autechre. Scratch that. Gangnam style.

It’s been said that a life in music can be a hard one. Would you agree with that?

E: Only when trying to pay rent.

J: Our society seldom rewards creativity. People that do get lucky enough to get a job in the music industry often get burned out by turning something fun and exciting into work, or by the stress of needing to pay the bills. I would say follow your passion, but think realistically about it too! It’s okay to have a career in something other than music, even if music is your primary passion.

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring young producers?

E: Research what squirrels you can hunt. Many states additionally regulate the specific breeds of squirrel you can hunt in any given season. In South Carolina, for instance, you can hunt gray squirrels, but many areas do not permit the hunting of fox squirrels. Choose a good time to hunt. Squirrels are most active during daylight hours, and both morning and late afternoon can prove very productive times to hunt squirrels. Many squirrel hunting seasons start around late summer or early fall, so time of the year plays a part as well. You can use the rustling of not yet fallen leaves to help you locate squirrels in trees, though the same leaves that give away their position help to camouflage them as well.

J: Stop watching synth tutorials on YouTube! Seriously, the best way to learn is by practicing or by watching an advanced musician doing their thing. YouTube tutorials are usually way too specific and rarely teach anything worthwhile other than how to copy a few parameters. Experiment and think outside the box! Break rules, abuse parameters, stretch your tools and mind to the limit. If you are passionate about music, it will always draw you back.

Any other projects on the horizon that you’d like to tell us about?

E: I’ve been working on some more experimental composition. I’ve also been writing scripts, which is a fairly new hobby. I’m setting up a club night with my flatmate and I’ve been drafting a new EP too.

J: I have a few dance tracks I’m sitting on and waiting to release 🙂

And finally – are there any tracks / artists that are relatively unknown that you’d like people to know about?

E: Not so much unknown but check out Valiska, CITYTRONIX, Solace, The Aurora Principle and Klahrk. There’s so many talented artists out there that demand more attention, I couldn’t list them all now!

J: A few artists I can’t get enough of lately are yitaku, CITYTRONIX, Koe, Airuei, and ghostwerk.

‘Form’ is out now on both digital and physical formats. Purchase your copy here.