We caught up with musician ARKELL LDN, following the release of his brilliant single ‘MERGE’. Read our full interview now!
Hi ARKELL LDN, tell us about yourself?
Hi, I’m John, a Drummer from London. I also like computers… when they behave!
Tell us about your latest release ‘MERGE’?
It’s made up of two tracks where the projects were getting way out of hand. I tend to get very single-minded with tunes and can’t let them go once I’ve started. I have to keep chipping away at them until it’s in some kind of listenable state before I close Ableton, it can go on for way too long, sometimes I forget to eat etc, and these two were already at like version 4 or 5.
At that point, I normally know it’s just not happening and force myself to bin them. But for whatever reason, I didn’t want to give up on these and started crudely smashing the masters together before deciding to literally merge both monster projects into and even bigger disgusting mess. I’m glad I did, but I’m normally much more efficient. I wasted a lot of time haha.
‘MERGE’ is a classic dance tune; what draws you to the genre?
I’ve been trying to figure this out for a while, I think it has something to do with turning 16 around the end of the 90’s rave era, and wishing I was part of that scene a bit more, I kinda missed the boat.
I was always a grunge & metal kid, but also the guy who turned up to rehearsals with a laptop or drum machine, even in a really inappropriate indie band setups just in case, haha.
There’s something about the power and perfection of a computer that you just can’t argue with. Now I’m too old to care where I fit in; I just wanna try and make stuff that bangs as hard possible. I suppose dance music formulas can deliver these kind of feelings/ideas a bit more consistently?
You previously released the single ‘Reach, Snow, and Nice’, is ‘MERGE’ a continuation from that release?
It’s the same tempo and is still ultimately a breaks tune, yes, but that’s about it. This one is nearly 5mins long and kinda has a 2nd drop within the drop, so that’s always fun. It’s not as ‘friendly’ as the others but still just as grandiose or whatever maybe… Merge and Snow are both kinda dark too.
I like getting as much out of a single idea as possible, the end of Snow feels very different from the same riff at the start, and I like how instrumental music can do this, especially in electronic genres. It’s repetitive but not boring. You can kind of relax with it a bit more sometimes, even if it’s a hard tune you are not forced to follow the melody or story and can focus on the flow of the tune, or just let it happen & enhance whatever mood you’re already in if that makes sense.
Having said that I do have a couple of ridiculous singers on some upcoming stuff that I can’t wait to put out.
You are a multi-talented artist, self-taught producer, animator and drummer, which comes first in your writing process?
Thanks! with computers & software there’s definitely at least 50-75% technical knowledge in my opinion, so I can’t take all the credit haha … the machines do a lot, and that’s fine with me, I still put the work in.
The music always comes first, I slam out a vague idea on keys like a child or drunk baby, & usually have a beat in my head to go with it loosely based around 128bpm or 168 ish if it’s DnB… these days anyway …
I’ve been drumming for a long time so can keep evolving those ideas throughout the writing/arranging process without caring or getting too stressed… my biggest thing is trying to maintain the intention of the track throughout, like that initial thing that got me excited. That’s actually why I give them a single word right at the start as a sort of ‘feeling’ reference to hang onto before the nightmare of sound design and technical mixing decisions starts.
I don’t start a video for a tune unless I know I’m gonna put it out, it’s too time-consuming. I see myself as a good Drummer, an Intermediate producer, and a beginner in the 3D world. So as much as I love making visuals, I know each time I start something I’m still gonna be opening a real can of worms in terms of tutorials and animation options. I think it’s important to play to your strengths and work within your technical knowledge, but especially so with animation stuff. The range of what’s possible and how good people are is so broad it’s quite intimidating.
Who are your musical influences?
The Prodigy, Machinedrum, Throwing Snow, Jamie XX, Stanton Warriors, Left/Right, Mall Grab. Deftones, A Perfect Circle, Soulwax, Noisia, Newham Generals, Bonobo, Submotion Orchestra, Pengshui, Camephat, MK, Fisher, Disclosure, Death From Above, LCD, Toya Delazy, True Tiger, Plaid, Jon Hopkins, Azelia Banks, Wilkinson, Andy C, Bicep, Ivy Lab, Former, Basement Jaxx, Boston, Foreigner, Pat Benatar…. and a million more.
Who are your non-musical influences?
bran_cuzi, Beardyman, Ian Macarthur, NONOTAK, Max Cooper, @stuz0r, @thomsontattoos, @yorghtattoo, Markus Cleveland, Fridge, the mountains, Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous, Peep Show, every Pop act I’ve been lucky enough to work with, every Musician and photographer I’ve met all doing their thing.
What’s the best gig that you have ever played?
I’m old, so there’s been a few… probably Rock City with Saint Raymond. Outlook MainStage with True Tiger wasn’t bad either. Supporting Blondie at Brixton with about 24hrs notice was terrifying. There’s been much ‘bigger’ and some monster supports, but the ones you work the hardest for in front of the right audience who are proper rowdy are the most satisfying for me, even better if it’s with some pals and it’s not too ‘sessiony’.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?
Money. It’s obvious and boring, but not having financial support or a place to stay when your out of work no matter how busy you are, can make it impossible to stay sane and get motivated to create something or learn a new skill.
It’s better than ever in terms of gear and what’s possible on the internet I guess, but everything is still monetised. You need bit of cash to even get heard unless you want to make a viral video in your pants.
There’s still no substitute for touring I think, if the venues and festivals start opening again and new artists can get themselves to the stages without breaking the bank and are offered some compensation, and given decent slots, it’s still the best way to find new fans, then again I’m biased coming from a live background. It’s hard, that’s it.
If your prepared to do whatever work or gigs it takes in between, the good gigs & moments are worth it.
What are your hopes for the next two years?
Release better tunes, get my animation skills up, stay patient, and turn this thing into a live set. Some kind of Ravey DJ AV show, but heavy and raw… and of course with plenty of drums.
FV Music Blog December 2020
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