Featured Album: An Electronic Heart

This month, acclaimed folktronica artist and producer James Yuill releases his first album into the Audio Network catalogue. An Electronic Heart blends acoustic elements with clever electronic production to create a compelling collection of tracks. We spoke to James to find out more.

Don't forget to watch the animated video for Mi Ran.

 

Published: 09 Feb 2015

How did you get involved with Audio Network?

I've done bits and pieces of production music in the past and was looking for somewhere that would give me more artistic freedom; my manager suggested Audio Network. So, we had a meeting and I realised that their company philosophy was exactly what I was looking for.

Can you tell us about your new album, An Electronic Heart?

This album, like my commercial releases, brings together my two great musical loves: song-writing and electronic production. The songs range from upbeat dance to acoustic guitar-led ballads. There's a whole spectrum within the album!

Your music blends live instruments with electronic production. Do you start creating on the guitar and then add the electronic elements or does it all start with the computer?

For this album, it was actually a mixture of the two. Some were started on the guitar, recorded into the computer and then messed around with. Mi Ran and Faded Photographs are good examples of this. They both have the 'organic' instruments - for example, the guitar and piano cut-up, which creates really cool, juxtaposing rhythms where there would normally be just plain strumming or hammering.

Others, like Silence In Me, were written all at once on the guitar and the production was built around it. Sometimes, the song can suffer if it's solely written on the computer. Things get quite formulaic and the copy and paste function is far too easy to use.

You have your own studio. Do you find that gives you more creative freedom?

It certainly does. I've been out of the bedroom studio for a year now and it's really increased my productivity. There are no distractions and I can turn it up loud without worrying about the neighbours. Plus, paying rent on the studio really makes me painfully aware of wasting time!

How did you first get into making music?

It all started when I got obsessed with Nirvana's Nevermind: I knew then that I wanted to play the guitar and I managed to persuade my parents to buy me one for Christmas. It was a bizarre angular shape and had a built-in amplifier that would howl with feedback when turned up to anywhere near halfway on the volume knob. Needless to say, I was hooked and enjoyed playing in many a school band (with a proper amplifier!).

At university, I discovered the music of Nick Drake and its influence on me is unquantifiable. The electronic aspect was as a result of getting into Pro Tools and producing with a friend. Warp Records and Ninja Tune, amongst others, were another huge influence on my style.

How does creating production music differ from creating commercial music?

I've actually treated the process of writing this album the same as any other. One area where it differs is the mountain of edits and cut downs that have to be done - not the most enjoyable activity, I can tell you!

Another difference is that I have a habit of writing negative lyrics and I've tried with a few of these songs to get them sounding a bit more positive.

For those who haven’t heard An Electronic Heart yet, how would you describe it?

I would describe it as a selection of wannabe Nick Drake songs remixed by Phoenix and The Postal Service.

You’ve played a number of festivals, including Parklife, Green Man and iTunes festival. What is it about live performance that appeals to you?

Festivals are great because you can play to such a wide variety of people who wouldn't necessarily come to see you in concert. On the other hand, concerts are 100% fans, so the reaction and vibe you get from the crowd gives you a much bigger buzz.

Unfortunately, for both festivals and gigs, I get wildly nervous. I only really start to enjoy a gig when I'm about halfway through! It would certainly speed up the process if the sound was banging. What I do is dance music after all.

The appeal of performing live is being able to include my fans in the creation of the music. That sounds pretty cheesy, doesn't it?! I was desperate to do as much as I could live and wanted the fans to understand they were getting a unique glimpse into my world.

You’ve also remixed a few other artists, such as Tilly + the Wall and Au Revoir Simone. Do you enjoy the collaborative aspect of working with other musicians’ ideas?

I love doing remixes. I relish the chance to get into the inner workings of someone else's song and rebuilt it how I see fit. It also gives me a lot of scope to experiment with sounds and techniques that later make it into one of my own songs.

If your music could feature in just one TV show or film, what would it be and why?

Well, besides desperately wanting to do the score for a horror film or psychological thriller, I guess I'd have to choose a TV show that gets tonnes of repeats on Dave! This way I can make sure my royalties keep coming in!

Finally, what have you got coming up next?

I'm currently mixing and producing some things for other bands; I'd like to do a lot more of that side of things. If you'd told me a couple of years ago that I would be doing more mixing and enjoying it, I would have laughed in your face.

I've been in the studio with Mousse T, co-writing some songs for his new album. I'm also working on a secret side-project that will hopefully be bursting onto the scene this year.

Update... einen Moment bitte.