Insight Interview: palence

We caught up with London lo-fi magician (or ‘post-lo-fi-IDM-core’ as the man himself describes his music when he’s on the pull) palence to talk through all things music. Here’s what he had to say…

Hey palence, 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?

Yo. I’m based in London – aside from once spending a year in France for studies, I’m very firmly rooted here. I like to travel when I have the funds, but I hope to be able to always call London my ‘home’.

Can you recall your first real exposure to music?

When I was born, my parents made a cassette tape for me that they would play as I fell asleep at night. It was loaded with absolute bangers such as Henry Purcell’s ‘Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, Z. 860.’ and Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘St Matthew’s Passion Part II No. 39: Aria “Erbarme dich, mein Gott”’. I remember a little later on in life, I heard the latter again on the radio and remarked that it sounded very familiar, to which my mum replied “It was probably the first piece of music you ever heard”. Whether or not it was a true case of subconscious recognition, I can’t be sure – but it’s still a pretty cool story right?

Also, hearing Chief Keef’s ‘I Don’t Like’ for the first time obviously completely changed my life, as it did for all of us.

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

Before I started writing/creating music, I simply learned it. I was brought up playing classical instruments: The piano and the clarinet, which I learned up to grade 8. Lugging around that huge briefcase-looking thing (I also had braces and long hair) made me so popular at school, you wouldn’t believe. The grading-system really sucked the joy out of music for me and it wasn’t until I started learning the guitar in a more relaxed and informal way that I developed an interest and appreciation for music.

While I was studying in France, the university I was at went on strike for practically a quarter of the year. At first I just enjoyed the time-off by cycling to the beach and eating bread, but after maybe my 8th or 9th sand-encrusted baguette I started to feel a little empty – like it was about time that I started using this newfound freedom to do something productive or creative. I was very active on Soundcloud as a listener at this point in time and really admired the underground Hip Hop, Cloud Rap and Vaporwave scenes, and so I decided why not have a crack at producing some tracks. My early stuff was awful, I had no idea how to mix or master, but amazingly I persevered and continued to produce terrible music throughout the rest of my time there. When I returned to London, I had developed an awareness of how bad my music was and decided to upgrade my software, learn how to EQ and finally make use of real instruments that I own. Fast forward 3 years and here I am, with a slightly better set of production skills and a slightly better haircut too.

Can you describe your music for us?

I’ll give it my best shot. Post-Rock and Slowcore-èsque guitar melodies laden with DIY self-recorded percussion (think the speed and flux of IDM rhythms combined with the timbre and heft of Hip Hop beats). All of the following is then usually passed through my grandad’s old 70s reel-to-reel and sometimes pitch-shifted to give it a warmer organic/analogue feel. ‘Boards of Canada’ are a huge influence when it comes to this process.

When I’m trying to flirt with girls at a bar/pub, I’ll often condense the above into: “Hi, I make Post-Lo-Fi-IDM-core in my bedroom which is also an attic. Can I buy you a drink?”

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

I haven’t performed any of my material live no, I think figuring out the logistics of it would be difficult though not impossible. I’ve been asked to DJ a number of times, but it’s a skill I’ve never learned and the last thing I want to do is get up on stage and make a fool out of myself. Maybe in time I’ll learn to mix live, or figure out a way of performing my tracks – but for now I strictly produce only.

What have been your biggest influences?

My biggest influences have been 90s Post-Rock and Slowcore bands such as ‘Low’, ‘Duster’, ‘Slowdive’ and ‘Bluetile Lounge’. Their floaty guitar melodies and slow-paced song structures are just my kind of thing, and they reflect my rather mellow demeanour perfectly. I also love IDM synths and rhythms – I listened to a lot of ‘Aphex Twin’, ‘Boards of Canada’ and ‘Autechre’ growing up, and I take huge inspiration from their pioneering techniques and layering of percussion.

Finally, and most importantly, I’m heavily influenced by my peers – all the amazing underground artists/producers from all over the world that interact with me over Soundcloud and other platforms. I love you all.

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

Personally, I’d always weigh more in favour of creativity, but I think both are important to a degree. Technical skills are a great tool to possess, but what you create using them is an entirely different story. A professional technician who knows their software of speciality inside out will have the advantage of being able to make practically anything they can think up, but if they lack creativity then these skills pretty much go to waste. On the other hand, an individual who possesses a lot of creativity but lacks the ability to materialise their ideas is also in a bit of a stranded position. The latter was the case for me before I put time into learning how to use production software properly – I found it hugely frustrating when I had an idea for a track but lacked the technical know-how to actually put it together.

Ultimately I’d say it’s important to not rely too heavily on just one aspect, they are both pretty crucial in the process of making music and compliment one another 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?

I enjoy music, both making it and listening to it. I don’t think I’d go as far as to call my enjoyment cathartic or therapeutic, but it’s still a very important area of my life and something I have a lot of passion for.

I think I’ve been quite lucky in life so far in the sense that I personally don’t think I’ve seen/been through many difficult times. Obviously there have been occasions where I’ve felt sad about a breakup/dead relative/family feud, but the majority of human beings experience these things in their lives so I tend to look at these things as simply a part of life. If I ever were, however, to go through what I deemed a difficult time, I’m certain that music would play an important part in helping cope with it.

You used to be known as HVRXLD. What prompted you to change your name?

The name ‘HVRXLD’ was originally just the name I gave my listener account on soundcloud – at the time I was listening to a fair bit of underground Miami Hip Hop, including some stuff from ‘Raider Klan’ – my middle name is Harold so I just decided to spell it out in SGP’s ‘Raider Heiros’, and thus ‘HVRXLD’ was born. When I started to put tracks up online, I realised I was going to have to commit to the name, otherwise my small collection of followers might lose track of me/forget who I was. After 3-4 years of producing under this unintentional alias, I began to tire of it and eventually decided it just didn’t fit with the music I was making anymore. My new name ‘palence’, is an amalgam of the words ‘pale’ and ‘silence’ – honestly there’s no deeper meaning than that, I just like how it sounds.

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

I’ve been working on some shoegaze material which incorporates me having a go at singing for the first time ever. Whether or not it will ever see the light of day, I can’t say for now. I’m unsure of how it would be received if I were to release it under my alias of ‘palence’, since it’s quite different to the ‘Post-Sludge’ sound that I have going on at the moment. So for now, it’s just sitting and waiting on an external hard drive, gathering digital dust.

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

Absolutely, I think the underground will carry on growing, new genres and sub-genres will emerge and the scene will continue to thrive. Un-signed artists/producers aren’t held back by any restrictions and are free to experiment and push their practice in whichever direction they want, and this in my opinion is what makes the scene so varied, fresh and exciting.

Tastemaker labels and the mainstream music market have always looked here for inspiration – the underground is where real creativity and real ideas come from.

Do you enjoy working with other artists? Can we expect any palence collabs in future? Any specific artists you’d like to work?

I enjoy interacting and sharing ideas with other artists, however I don’t collaborate very often. If I’m sent a beautiful melody or drum pattern that I think I can work with, I’ll jump on the opportunity of course, but I have to confess I’m extremely picky. If ‘Duster’ (probably my favourite band of all time) were to reform, then I’d want to work with them – I love the loose jam-y style they had and their beautiful chord progressions. I would insist that they found the space in their capacious hearts to adopt another guitarist into their ranks.

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

My favourite artist would probably be ‘Aphex Twin’, due to the sheer volume and span of his work, as well as the level of pioneering and trend-setting he has accomplished over the course of his life.

My favourite album is Stratosphere by ‘Duster’, it’s simply beautiful and every track flows perfectly into the next.

My favourite song is Words by ‘Low’ – minimalistic, melodic and dark. Literally the epitome of a perfect song in my opinion.

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

Official release-wise – I have a 5 track EP called ‘telophase’ coming out with The Playground Records on the 14th of July.

Unofficial release-wise – I have plenty of tracks in the works that’ll no doubt uploaded to my soundcloud page at some point.

Finally, I’ve also been working on something special for the past few months. I don’t want to disclose too much info on it, but I’ll say this much: Keep an eye out for videos on my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/YouTube pages – something unprecedented from me is about to happen.

Thanks so much palence – best of luck with all your new projects!

Thank you!

Check out palence’s Bandcamp page here for his entire self-released back catalogue (all highly recommended listening!). Palence’s track ‘Tracery’ also appears on FOMH’s amazing recent compilation (available here).