We caught up with Tunbridge Wells-based musician James Myhill for an interview, following the release of his excellent ‘Year of The Rats’ album.
Hi James, tell us about yourself?
I’m a composer/producer currently residing in Kent but originally from London. Creating music is a passion for me, and I find it can be a necessity for my emotional well being sometimes.
I come from a musical background and have performed in a wide range of groups over the years as a younger adult, so I find myself drawing influences from lots of styles in some of my compositions.
Broadly speaking, though, my best work tends to fuse electronic and orchestral elements together and is mostly instrumental.
What is your songwriting process?
Sometimes I can be inspired by something I have experienced in life, and that can motivate me to create a piece of music. I may also hear an idea in my head and just record it as soon as I can as a simple midi keyboard sound for example, and then come back to it at a later date, and develop it into something much bigger.
Occasionally I may continue to write it in my head and then incrementally build the piece, bit by bit when I have time to do so. Sometimes I just let the leadoff so to speak, and dive in and make something from start to finish, purely on instinct, and let the musical direction carve itself almost.
Tell us about your latest release?
It’s a re-imagining of an old EP I put out in 2017, extended into a 13 track album (with additional content available if you get it on my Bandcamp).
It is essentially a collection of instrumentals, touching on different levels of intensity, from the positive and uplifting, to sinister, dark and foreboding moods.
It uses a lot of orchestral elements, some minimal experimental vocal sounds, guitars and synths etc. The title was inspired originally by my own political anger at the state of the world, and some of the figureheads involved in what I considered to be detrimental decisions for the U.K, as well as the appointment of certain global political leaders.. make of that what you will.
The re-release was driven still very much by this, but also because of the environmental crises, and ultimately, of course, the global pandemic. The association of rats with fear and disease made it an obvious choice.
The album should be digested as an exploration of the darkness we may all feel, but the moments of light, particularly in the final track, can serve to give us a sense of hope.
I try not to be cliche’d about music most of the time, but with this release, there really was quite a lot of artistic inspiration and vision driving the sounds.
What message do you think your music conveys to your fans?
I put out a lot of different styles sometimes, but with this particular release, I hope it conveys a sense of someone writing with artistic freedom. Beyond that, it’s up to the listener to experience it in their own way.
Who are your musical influences?
I would have to say, Trent Reznor, especially the film score work he has done with Atticus Ross. Other film/tv composers as well, for example, Mac Quayle – who wrote the music for Mr. Robot.
I’m influenced in my orchestral arrangements by Debussy a fair bit I think, and beyond this, a host of 90s rock bands are probably swimming around upstairs somewhere, subconsciously influencing how I write 😀
Who are your non-musical influences?
Snooker players Jimmy White & Ronnie O’Sullivan, Lebron James & Javale McGee of the LA Lakers Basketball team. Comedian Dylan Moran to name but a few.
What’s the best gig that you have ever played?
It’s not been for some time, but I would have to say playing in my Funk band The Layers at Jamm in Brixton one time years ago was a great one. We had a wicked crowd.
I also played a random hippie festival in Wales in a band at University, and the experience was awesome. Sorry that’s two, isn’t it? I couldn’t really choose!
What is your funniest gig moment?
It wasn’t funny at the time, but looking back, I did a gig at school in my 6th form, and my bass amp caught fire. It was quite Spinal Tap!
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?
The problem is undoubtedly that there are many many more openings, but also many many more people being able to record and produce to a good enough standard to release commercially.
In that respect, I’m very much part of the traffic, I suppose. It’s difficult to get heard through the noise, and a lot of the time now, social media reach is almost redundant.
I think the only answer is to get creative with promotion and get the music into the right places so that people can discover it for themselves. Currently, the biggest obstacle for a band would also be not being able to play a gig due to the pandemic!
What advice would you give to other bands/artists starting out?
Don’t expect too much from those immediately around you support wise beyond a certain point. Think about who is going to listen to your music, and then try and get it to the right ears.
Constantly look to improve and get better, and keep enjoying it, because, for the vast majority, it will come with frustration, but take time and build the right contacts and some things can happen.
What are your hopes for the next two years?
To extend my listener base, and to seek out opportunities to get my music used in film and tv. I’ve also taken a contract to compose for a computer game, so that’s very promising indeed.
I would say I’m probably going to take a break from releasing anything myself, but knowing me, this is very much subject to change if I get inspired!
FV Music Blog August 2020
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