To accompany the 16th edition of the Berlin based happening, we asked participant Lawrence English to mix us a CTM Carhartt WIP Radio special that gains an insight into his very own music, his favorite contemporary sounds and music by artists that will perform at this years CTM.
Under the theme Un Tune the festival features shows by artists such as US producer Craig Leon, delicate sound tinkerer ATOM TM, the UK metal group Electric Wizard, Simian Mobile Disco, Evian Christ, teen hip hop newcomer Yung Lean and an improvisational performance by Carter Tutti Void. In addition many collaborative world premieres take place by musicians like Emptyset, Mumdance + Logos + Shapednoise or Alec Empire and Zan Lyons.
For background information, venue details and timetables visit the CTM website. We now give the floor to Lawrence English - composer, media artist, curator and record label head of Room40. Since long the man from Australia works across a broad range of art forms. His music can be found in the catalogue of labels such as 12k, Touch or Winds Measure Recordings. Beside working solo he collaborated with artists and friends like Japanese avant-pop musician Tujiko Noriko, Australian producers Ben Frost and John Chantler or the Spanish veteran of minimal electroacoustic music Francisco López. Furthermore he composed sound for contemporary dance ensembles, worked as a sound designer for video installations and licensed his music to several movies. Outside of his recording and art commissions, he produces the annual Open Frame festival and is curating numerous conceptually driven art projects. Even though Lawrence English is a very busy man he has been so kind to talk to us about his art, music in general and the upcoming CTM festival.
Hello Lawrence, many thanx for preparing us a Carhartt WIP Radio special show on this years CTM festival edition in Berlin. Can you introduce yourself to our readers a bit? What were your early passions and influences and when you began writing/producing music?
Lawrence English: Greetings from the sweltering sub tropics of Brisbane, Australia. This has been my home for all my life. An aspirational place that has ridden through some rather unsavoury political histories (both historic and sadly, present). It's a city that is coming of age, awkward at times, but with a group of people inhabiting it that makes it ultimately worth while. For me, it's been the perfect place to build Room40, my label and multi-arts organisation. When I started playing in bands, making zines and tapes back in the mid 1990s, Brisbane was so cheap to live in, it meant you didn't have to loose time with some useless job to get by...with a little hustle you could get by doing mostly what you were interested in. Those days are sadly gone and now most of our best younger artists leave to places where the rent isn't so hostile to creativity. To me though it's still a good home, I've felt very inspired working against the dominate political shortcomings here this past couple of years. A little friction sparks the hell's fire of creativity!
If you have to describe your music to someone who never listened to it, what would you say?
Lawrence English: I once played in Osaka at a venue called Bridge. Amazing place, no longer there. I was playing material that would eventually become the album Kiri No Oto. At the end of the set this very small lady came up to me and smile,
She said : 'You know Moses?'
I said : 'Yeah, of course'.
She replied : 'You're music is like Moses, parting the waves'.
I think that sums it up much better than I could do it!
What do you find most challenging about the work you do?
Lawrence English: Good question. I think the most challenging thing as you progress through your life is time. When you're first starting out, there seems like this swelling of time, sometime too much of it. But before long you realise time is working against you and you can only get so much done in your flash of a second on this planet. So, time is challenging and I think the other connected challenge in making sure you do something decent and aren't just a useless vacuum of oxygen and resources. Nothing worse than being alive, but not actually living!
Can you describe the relation between your work and your identity?
Lawrence English: Stuart Hall, who sadly passed last year talks about the notion of identity as becoming. I like this idea because to me there is nothing set. Nothing is really understood until it can be recognised with any real sense until it is complete or viewed within some kind of framing. So for me, this relation between myself and the work I do is a dynamic flux, one compounding and confounding the other all at once. Knowing the answer is nowhere near as seductive as asking a more interesting question.
What is your creative process like and how do you keep your work fresh and continue to evolve?
Lawrence English: Creativity is like breathing, you need to make it a central tenor of who you are and what it is you do. When I think of creativity I don't think of virtuosity or some kind of ideal of perfection, that just sounds awful to me. I am interested in thought, in provocation, in being challenged and made to flex a bit. To informally quote William S Burroughs, The middle road, the road of mediocrity, this is not the road to aspire to. Take some chances, reach that little bit more than you think you should.
Are you strictly separate improvising and composing?
Lawrence English: Nothing is separate. We just like to tell ourselves this is a possibility. Truth is, everything we do forms a completely bewildering complexity of interaction, best embrace the chaos, or at least recognise that's what's happening!
What do you want to accomplish with music and what can music which all other art forms can not?
Lawrence English: What I found powerful about music is it's capacity to invade and occupy the body. This happens both in a cerebral way, vibrations stimulating your brain to create involved responses to what it's hearing. It also happens in a physical way, the body as ear, taking in the force of sound and physically responding to it. It's synaesthetic in many ways, your sense of hearing and touch combining to create some otherly experience.
How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences?
Lawrence English: I don't draw a distinction between music along those lines. For me there's two kinds, that which moves you and that which doesn't. This is a subjective position for sure and is shaped through the listeners willingness to invest themselves in the music. It's a lot like food, you can eat cotton candy everyday and it's sweet and nice, but at the end of the experience you're just left with an empty sugary sensation. I think music is more than that, it's a complex meal, that at times should make you unsure, perhaps even uneasy. But when you've finished the meal it lingers in your memory as something profound, much more than caloric intake, it's about memory and myth formation!
What’s something you’ve learned through music that has helped you in life (and vice versa)?
Lawrence English: There's a point with everything where it doesn't get better it just gets different. It's an important point to recognise and come to terms with, in all facets of life.
December 24 - Frost's Bitter Grip - Lawrence English from ROOM40 on Vimeo.
If you could spend a night partying with one of your idols, who would it be?
Lawrence English: I'm not sure it's good to meet your idols. But if I was going to meet one, I'd be curious to spend an afternoon with J.A. Baker. He wrote The Peregrine, a book that to this day haunts me. It's an incredible mediation on being, channelled through an exhaustive and obsessive examination of Peregrine Falcons in East Anglia in the late 1960s. It's elegantly misanthropic, I'd imagine he might have been like that also at times.
How does living in Brisbane shape your work?
Lawrence English: Right now it feeds a general state of disdain for what is a truly toxic political situation. This kind of situation can render some people crippled, but I must say I find it a good piece of friction against which I can create work. That said I won't be upset when things resolve themselves and we see a more considered government serving us here.
What kind of music would you do in a world without electricity?
Lawrence English: The human voice and a big cave is about as powerful as it gets. Lets never forget how powerful that can be! A little decay goes a long way.
Who are you listening to these days and what was the last composition that sent shivers up your spine?
Lawrence English: I've spent the year listen to a lot of great music. 2014 has been a year where some of my friends have really made amazing work, so I'm so excited to hear that. As far as that chill goes, I was listening last night to Ligeti's Lux Aeterna. That piece is something else, I mean the subtle force and presence it has. Some music is made to invade our psyche, and that piece is certainly a sonic marauder of the mind.
What are three albums that you'll never get tired of listening to?
Lawrence English: This is always a touch one! Here's three I'm not tired of yet and have listened to a great many times!
Elliott Smith: XO (DreamWorks Records)
Cliff Martinez: Solaris Ost (Superb Records)
Slayer: Reign In Blood (Def Jam Recordings)
Please recommend some artists to our readers which you feel deserve their attention.
Lawrence English: Like I mentioned, this year a bunch of my friends and colleagues have made a bunch of incredible records, here's a listener's list!
Scott Walker + SunnO))): Soused (4AD)
Ben Frost: A U R O R A (Bedroom Community)
Grouper: Ruins (Kranky)
Xiu Xiu: Angel Gut: Red Classroom (Polyvinyl Record Company)
Blank Realm: Grassed Inn (Fire Records)
Alessandro Cortini: Sonno (Hospital Productions)
Deru: 1979 (Friends Of Friends)
Tujiko Noriko: My Ghost Comes Back (Editions Mego)
Earth: Primitive And Deadly (Southern Lord)
Andy Stott: Faith In Strangers (Modern Love)
SWANS: To Be Kind (Young God Records)
Loscil: Sea Island (Kranky)
The Bug: Angels and Devils (Ninja Tune)
Einstürzende Neubauten: Lament (BMG)
Black Rain: Dark Pool (Blackest Ever Black)
Can you send us a picture (of you or of something/place) that best illustrates your current state of mind to post along with you answers?
Lawrence English: This picture was taken whilst in New Zealand. The hat, which I picked up in Otorohanga, was locally designed there. The gentleman who designed it kindly fitted me with the hat. If you're ever in Otorohanga pay Karam Haddad a visit. A gentleman and one heck of a hat fitter.
How did you select the tracks for your Carhartt Radio show?
Lawrence English: It was a pleasure to put the mix together. I selected tracks that were currently in my mind, or at least in the orbit of my mind!
You perform at this years CTM edition in Berlin. What distinguishes the CTM festival from other festivals in your opinion?
Lawrence English: I think what CTM has achieved over it's formidable history is a strong curatorial aesthetic that reaches beyond what many other festivals become content with. The team there are very dedicated and engaged, seeking ways to position artists in ways that often extend their approaches and ideas. It's not easy to consistently curate to such a high standard, but these guys make that look like child's play. I tip my hat to them!
Who are you most looking forward to see at this years CTM festival live?
Lawrence English: I have to be honest there's a bunch of artists I'd be very curious to hear at the festival. Alas, being on tour means I only get a couple of nights to enjoy the program! I can safely say that performing alongside Alec Empire will be a pleasure and honour. The Low On Ice record he is performing is something I listened to a great deal with it was first released on Mille Plateaux. I loved the sensibility of the record, it's icey, but also very warm and reverberant. I'm excited to hear how it comes off live!
What was the most magical festival moment you ever had?
Lawrence English: That's a difficult one. I tend to enjoy live performances that have some usual characteristic. Performing in Dom Im Berg in Graz was pretty amazing. Inside the middle of a mountain, with a ten channel video and 16.8 sound system as part of Naut Humon's Cinechamber project. Recently though I had a blast playing in an old house in Perth, the sound was so epic we basically split the plaster ceiling open! Everything was covered in plaster dust at the end of the show!
What superpower would you like to have?
Lawrence English: Is the answer America or Russia? Though lets face it, are there any other superpowers left these days? A super power feels so 20th century!
Can you name us some people that should collaborate for a better world?
Lawrence English: David Lynch and Ikea (flaypack furniture Lynch style is a worthwhile dream).
Manuel De Landa and most any Capitalist economy (there's a role for history in the present and the future, one that's still largely underexplored.)
James Turrell and Akio Suzuki, somehow I think they imagine the potentials of sense and space in complimentary ways!
Who are your favorite heroes/heroines in fiction?
Lawrence English: Lets live in the real. Lets escape in the fictional.
And your favorite heroes/heroines in real life?
Lawrence English: Here's some folks I deeply respect
For words - William S. Burroughs, J.A. Baker, David Toop, Gerald Murnane.
For thought - Neil Postman, Mark Fisher, John Cage, Peter Szendy.
For song - M.Gira, Elliott Smith, Liz Harris, Jamie Stewart.
For art - Sol Lewitt, Steve Roden, James Turrell, Christian Marclay.
What are some of your favorite places to hang out in Brisbane?
Lawrence English: Bunker Coffee are true god's among baristas, not to mention lovely folks. Carolina Kitchen make an incredible Cheese Burger, followed closely by the folks at Ben's Burgers. Goma, our gallery of modern art does some pretty amazing work, as does the Institute Of Modern Art. If you want to escape, Brisbane Forest Park after dark is pretty amazing and transformative.
Lawrence English discography
23/01/2015 - 02/02/2015 - CTM - Berlin - DE