An interview with...

Lindenbaum Modular

LNR: So the first thing we wanted to kick off with - we’ve noticed lots of organic, lots of textural, quite nostalgic stuff in your sound, and we were wondering, what has pushed you to want to explore and to represent that sound in the stuff that you’re making? 


        LM: It kind of comes from going to different gigs really, and just having          different experiences, listening to people like - have you ever heard of            Suzanne Ciani? I went to [a show of hers] in York, and it was in a                    church - she usually performs in quadraphonic, so she’ll say she                    doesn’t perform anywhere that doesn’t have 4 speakers - and they                were all around us, we were sat in the middle of this church, and she’s          got this absolute Buchla spaceship machine in the middle. We just sat            for, like, two hours and it was amazing. She’d make these textures and          could basically fly them around the room and put them in different                spaces and it really just makes a whole world - it’s seriously cool. So I          started basically trying to do that - but I’ve not got four speakers, I’ve            just got two… 


LNR: When you’re making music, is creating something immersive, that really engages the listener on all counts, is that important to you? 

        LM: Yeah, 100%, it’s like when you want something to listen to, not                  really a background thing, something you could sit down and shut your          eyes and be transported… I really like creating environments. With one          of the songs I’ve been working on, I made all these different sounds,              and it almost sounded like a rainforest, with loads of different types of          animals, and you could have each one phasing in and phasing out. By            putting it in the left and right speakers, you can almost get the illusion          that things are whizzing around your head, and then trying to explore            the boundaries between that, and a song.

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LNR: How much do you work in a DAW, or do you try and do most stuff, if not all, on your modular setup?


        LM: I’ve started getting way more proficient at doing stuff in Ableton.              What I’ll do is, I have one of these jams, for like two hours, then scrub            through and pick out the good bits. What I’ve been doing recently - with

        my mate George, who’s an excellent drummer - I send him a couple of

        loops to fit some drums to, and then he sends me them back, and                  obviously I can’t do any of that stuff not on the computer. But yeah, it’s          kind of like a back and forth process between tinkering on the modular          and the computer - but as things get closer to the end, it’s basically all          on the computer. 


LNR: Live performance is clearly something that is really important to how you work, but as a spectator, as an audience member, what makes a really good live experience? 


        LM: Lots of people probably don’t realise that it’s live. I was like, ‘How            can we make people realise that these are actually sounds being                    produced right now, and not a DJ set?’. I played at this festival in Leeds          and I reckon like, 50% of the audience didn’t know that it was actually            live. Which is like, that’s fine, everyone’s there for different reasons,               and you can just want to have a good time. Anyway, I made this                       controller from a Wii nunchuck - people know this little Wii nunchuck             thing - and I hooked it up to control the bass of the synth with the                   joystick. I got a really long cable for it, and I passed it out to people who

        were standing at the front. When they played with it, there was that                head turn moment, where they were like, ‘Oh, this is real, these are the          sounds that are being made right now’. 


LNR: It sounds like it all kind of ties back to this notion of releasing control, and not having complete control over everything that’s happening - giving your Wii nunchuck to the crowd, letting them control the bass - that all adds loads of variables, right? 


        LM: Yeah, and someone could yank it and pull the modular onto the                floor - hasn’t happened yet, but - touch wood. Occasionally people put a

        pint next to it and I’m like, ‘Take that away right now’. That's true stress          - I don’t care about not knowing what I’m doing, or if my ideas run out,          or if I accidentally put in a sound too loud, but if someone puts a pint              near my modular, that’s bad.


LNR: That sort of approach sounds very, like, Steve Reich to me - playing with the sounds and how they’re presented to the listener, and kind of keeping that as the focus, rather than trying to write a ‘song’ specifically. 


        LM: Yeah, that’s exactly it. Working with modular synths is an organic            process - you set up these rules that you want your system to follow,            and it’s very much a ‘happy accidents’ kind of thing, where you try                  really hard to make something that sounds a certain way - and 90% of          the time it will not sound anything like what you’re trying - but it’ll still          be really good. Which is a fun thing. It’s why I have to sit down, have a            jam for like an hour, and have to record it all because I know that when          I don’t record it, something great will happen and I’ll have missed it.


LNR: With your live sets, do you have a setlist, or is it more jam-oriented? 

        LM: This is something that I’ve kind of managed to hone down quite                well. Say I’m playing for an hour, I’ll plan like 45 minutes of stuff, and             I’ll make a patch maybe in my room the week before, and then I’ll write          down a sequence of things, like - I want this to happen, then that to                happen, I’ll unplug that cable, plug that one in - in this little book that I            take up on stage with me - this little Bible. Inevitably, I always get                    through 45 minutes of stuff in 20 minutes, because you’re always going

        so fast - then I’ve got 40 minutes left and usually I’m like ‘Okay… well…          Now’s the time to step up and do something really good’. And that is              always when the best stuff happens - always, it’ll be the stuff that I                haven’t planned, it’ll be this accident - it’s the same as when you’re                producing things, it’s that happy accident, and it’s so fun to do live. 

LNR: Do you think a big part of your workflow is kind of based on getting yourself to that point where you have to renounce control - where there’s no more planning, no more structure? 


        LM: Yeah, there’s a nice element of control when I’m producing and                making ideas and I’ve got a very clear idea of what I want that song to            be like, but particularly for live sets, I’ll plan to get to that point. It                    makes me a bit stressed, a bit nervous, but that adds to it - and I’ve got          a load of backup things to do - I’ve got this Behringer 303 synth and if            everything suddenly goes wrong, I’ll just press play on that, and…                    Everyone loves acid. 


LNR: Emergency acid button! 

        LM: That’s absolutely what it is - the emergency acid button - and yeah,

        hit play on that, then sort out all the chaos that’s been caused.

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LNR: It seems to me like you’re mostly a live performer - you’re doing more and more studio stuff, but even when you’re making studio recordings, they’re kind of done live at their inception - as a live performer, do world tours still seem relevant to you, or is the local scene taking more precedence?


        LM: There’s something really nice about really small venues, where it’s a little bit dingy - it makes it a bit more personal, I think. Obviously, everyone’d like

        to do a world tour - that’d be great. But local venues, venues that I’ve been to loads of times and seen people that I really respect there - there’s this place          called Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds, and I’ve seen so many people that I really like there. I’ve got this kind of group - it’s me, a guy called George Purnell,            who’s this really great drummer, and one of my mates Ollie plays saxophone - so, I was on the modular and we had saxophone and drums, and we got to          play at Belgrave, which was really really great. We did a gig at Hyde Park Book Club as well, that’s a really great local place - it’s got a capacity of like 300,

        and it’s just in this basement of a cafe, and we put it on ourselves, we weren’t expecting anyone to come, and then we get there and it’s full, and we were          all terrified, like, ‘Oh my god, what if it’s rubbish?’ - but it was absolutely awesome, it was so good. 


LNR: The emphasis you put on venues reminds me of this, from a David Byrne book - he says that the venues basically affect the sounds that get played there - like concert halls being built for symphonies - do you feel like that still translates? Like, the venue changes the vibe, and that influences what you’re doing in a live set? 


        LM: Yeah, I think so. I really like venues that are really up close and personal, it means you can do stuff like the nunchuck stuff, and I’m sure that would              translate being on a big stage but yeah, I think it definitely depends on the venue. I don’t know if you listened to Floating Points’ Crush - what he’s done              amazingly in that album is create this perfect intertwining of organic instruments like violins, cellos, flutes and things, and put it together with electronic            music. That’s something I’ve tried to start doing with the drums that I’m getting recorded - I’ve also been a guitar player since I was really young, that’s              why I started doing music basically. Playing like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, those kinds of things, so it’s been really nice to bring that back.