WITH WILL FRAMPTON
During this interview, I change seats, place myself in front of another artist and ask him the questions I wish people asked me. Today, I speak to British composer and performer Will Frampton, who has just released quite a surprise, And to My Mind, the Loss is Worth the Gain.
So, tell us about your latest release, And to My Mind, the Loss is Worth the Gain, what is it about and how was it born?
It is my first album of electronic music. Originally this was a straightforward four-to-the-floor dance/electronic record that I was making for fun in my spare time and would probably have been released under another name. When I finished making that version, I saw lots of potential to do something more ambitious, so I scrapped about half the tracks, called in a couple of favours from some instrumentalist to add strings and saxophone, and finished the album as is.
To many listeners, the album will be a surprise. What is the artistic intention behind this quite unique piece of work?
It is interesting that you say unique because for the first time in my creative life I went into this consciously trying to make something that adhered to a set aesthetic. As I said it became much more than that and each track has its own intentions. Ultimately the experience became about acceptance of creative ideas and making them as good as they can be.
What has been the starting point, and perhaps influences, for And to My Mind, the Loss is Worth the Gain?
I love Björk both musically and artistically. She talked about how when she started making music under her own name, she had so many ideas built up that she knew it would take two albums those ideas out of her system. That is why she called them Debut and Post. To me you can really hear that Vespertine is her first really concise album. That was a big inspiration for me. I had so many ideas specific to electronic music building up and I just wanted to try them all. In terms of specific influences there is the standard electronica that you might expect. I was listening to Lunatic Harness by µ-Ziq a lot and Kelly Moran’s Ultraviolet. There’s lots of bell-like samples used on the album, influenced by composers like Janathan Harvey and the Spectralists. The way Beatriz Ferreyra works with samples is a big influence for me. She has an amazing ability to find patterns and musicality out of different sources without resorting to simply looping them.
There are so many ideas and subjects in the album; tell us a little more how you approach such creative diversity.
It is something I was naive about in my work for a long time, but I have realised how diversity, and particularly stylistic diversity, is a big part of what I do regardless of the medium. I like music that has a clear stylistic home, in this case electronica, but incorporates other styles in a sincere, reverent, and culturally appropriate way. Gradually I have begun to think of style as almost another element to explore. In the same way you might choose a certain harmony or rhythm to express the idea of the piece, you can also use a stylistic reference. In this way style can act as a kind of next-level meta musical element or compositional technique. Take for example the opening track “Eniuq”. At the climax I got my friend composer/producer Heron improvising these amazing high squeals on the sax. It is totally indebted to John Coltrane but amongst the harmony and electronic sounds of the track it is in a completely different stylistic context. I used it not as a reference to Coltrane but because it was absolutely the perfect sound for that moment in the piece.
You seem to have evolved a lot over the years, how would you describe yourself artistically?
I guess I would be quite prosaic and say I write and make music for a number of mediums and in a number of styles. I generally write abstract music or at the most music that is only suggestive of a wider subject. I have spent over a decade writing acoustic music, essentially in the classical tradition; sitting at a desk and writing a fully notated score which a performer interprets. That period was focused on studying and developing the minutiae of compositional technique. I am now in a period where I am trying to apply that knowledge and skill to a broad range of musical activities.
To some listeners, And to My Mind, the Loss is Worth the Gain, might appear challenging seeing the density of its creativity — which guidelines would you share with the listener in order for him/her to understand and appreciate your music at its best?
I would not want to be prescriptive about it. But it is probably best listened to actively, I think a lot would be lost if it was background music. Hopefully the track sequence creates a nice flow across the album and there are a few structural moments to guide the listening process. The album is roughly split in half with “Oyster” a clear centre point dividing the halves. There are two main types of samples; things that are plucked (strings) or things that are hit (mostly idiophones). Most tracks highlight one or the other so “Two-Level”, “Wild Yellow/Wild Red”, “ɯ+4”, and “HOLISM” all have bell or glockenspiel like idiophone samples. The rest of the tracks feature string samples. A final piece of symmetry, the album opens and closes with tracks featuring my friend Heron playing saxophone.
So after And to My Mind, the Loss is Worth the Gain, what’s next?
In the immediate future my orchestral work EATING THE SUN is being premiered by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales as part of their Compositional Wales concert. I am also working on some pieces for voice and piano, and a choral piece. My violin and electronics duo The Keeling Curve is currently preparing an E.P. release. It is the culmination of a two year long collaboration with artist Nastassja Simensky and is a documentation of our performance at the ancient chapel St. Peter-on-the-Wall. It is going to be a mixture of live and studio recordings creating one long piece. I am well on my way through a follow up album which hopefully will be more focused and features guitars being manipulated by modular synthesizer and other processing.
Thanks very much Will. It is a tradition now, so last one for the road — one book, one album, one film —, tell us about your latest cultural pearls?
With this kind of question, I either have about 100 recommendations or my mind goes completely blank. I am currently reading Dilla Time by Dan Charnas. It is a really well written book about J Dilla which falls perfectly between biography and musicology. The Worst Person in the World is a film I would really recommend to anyone in their late 20s/early 30’s. For me it really said something about feeling pressure to achieve something or have big plans in that period of life. It is both funny and sad and is beautifully shot. For the album I recently got a copy of Mahalia Jackson’s Live at Newport 1958 while I was in Germany. The performance was recorded on a Sunday morning and is imbibed with a kind of radiant spiritual beauty. She is amazing!
For any musician interested in diversifying his creativity, Björk is a great inspiration — she currently has a podcast which runs through each of her releases, and explores the environment and influences around them! Read my review of And to My Mind, the Loss is Worth the Gain.