Interview: Five Minutes with Ed Is Dead
Image credit: Maite Nieto
We pride ourselves in finding some of the best up and coming experimental and electronic artists in the industry, eager to watch them grow. Ed Is Dead is a little less in the “up and coming” category and moving towards the more established as the award-winning producer and label head has already collected a staggering 5 million plays across streaming platforms. His latest single, ‘Endlessly’ will soon be adding to that number, due to be officially released tomorrow, the single is taken from his upcoming album, GLOBAL SICKNESS (to be released on the 18th of March.
The percussive single, which will be released via Ed Is Dead’s own imprint, Idioteque Records, has already been picked up by BBC Radio 1’s Annie Nightingale’s Show as well as the BBC Radio 1 Xtra, BBC Asian Network. Knowing the producer would have some unique insight on the world, we sat down for an exclusive interview – catch it all below.
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
Good question, I think art is everything, it is everywhere, and not from a sophisticated and scholarly point of view, but as one of the most powerful connections that human beings have, (nothing to do with the art industry in this point).
I think that in the coming years in which more and more AI and machine learning algorithms will take on a more and more relevant role, art as a form of exclusively human expression will be more relevant than ever.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
It depends, I try to force myself to constantly get out of my comfort zone because only then do I feel that I advance in my development and in my research. It’s true that sound design is a very important part of my music, but I always try not to lose my emotional direction. I think that sometimes it is an evil endemic of electronic music, we get lost in extreme sounds and forget to tell stories. I try not to have that happen to me, I usually have “crutches” for when I get stuck, like imagining a virtual space, or contemporary dancers interpreting what I’m doing – that helps me a lot to structure the themes.
Does your material feature any collaborations?
Yes, although this is probably the album with the fewest collaborations I have done – only two. The first on the track ‘For me’, which I made together with the incredible producer 1101, based in Berlin. I met him on the internet and we were fans of each other. A real pleasure to work with and it is probably the subject with the most production laps that I have done, to date.
The other collaboration is with Serrulla on ‘Fuck This’ – probably the most “pop” theme of the album, especially in structure. It was very nice to work together because we were doing up to the letter in the studio. It is a criticism of everyone on social media and a showcase in which we live. Serrulla has an incredible voice and way of articulating, it has been very nice to have him on board.
What’s on your current playlist?
Uff – a tricky one. I think my Spotify algorithm must not understand anything, I must be driving him crazy. The AI can hear from crazy metal things like Igorrr to classical music, lofi or ambient, so my playlists usually make little sense. To name a few recurring artists lately: Vegyn, Bad Bad not good, Skee Mask, Nihls Frahm, Clipz, Weval, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Rone, Apparat, Particle, Arca, Camo And Crooked, Rival Consoles, Lowly or Squarepusher.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
I think the best chemistry is to be honest with your public. Before the pandemic I used to act in a circular format, where the public was located around my set, so they could see what I was really doing. I have always missed that when I see a “live set” of electronica – to see someone from below on a stage where it is not very well understood what he is doing at the table, turning knobs … I need people to see that we take responsibilities and play true. I alternate “traditional” instruments such as acoustic drums or bass with synths, groove boxes, modular stuff and others. My last performances have always been with dance companies or with contemporary dance impro sessions. I think that it is very important to make synergies with other disciplines and the public appreciates it.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
Normally, I am an avid consumer of technology and synths, but I think that on the album, if there is a technique that I have thought about more than usual, it has been granular synthesis.
Basically, granular synthesis uses very small portions of sound as micro samples to generate very rich sounds and textures, but this has some side effects. It tends to mess up the mix a lot and sometimes it is difficult to compose with somewhat elaborate chord progressions and harmonies. So that has been one of the challenges, to use granular synthesis but try to sound as clean as possible and have a diverse musical discourse.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
Luckily or unfortunately I divide my days between making music for other projects (dance, theatre, producing other groups) and my career as Ed is Dead. It has many good things, so I am constantly learning and working with incredible people, which is sometimes not so good… Many ideas “I give” them in other projects and when I go to use them in mine, I feel that I am repeating myself and I dismiss them.
Basically, my life is to be locked in the studio making music, (it was before the pandemic)
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
I always say that music chose me, that it is a bit mystical but … it is the truth!
I started very young to play the piano and flamenco cajon self-taught. In my house, there is no history of musicians and we didn’t even have a piano, so when I was able to pay for some music classes, I was already working on it professionally.
I think that already in school, when I was very young, I understood how music worked, or so I thought. I think I created a special bond with the instruments, as a means of escape, and each time it was reinforced more and more positively. In fact, I do not understand how some people can get through the bad times without making music.
I started out as a session drummer touring with groups, then I became a musical director and had always played and produced electronic music as a hobby. So chance of life ended up being my current occupation.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
Well, I don’t know what to answer, because I think that almost in all the songs I include something new to see how it works on the set. It is usually very motivating, or a change of synth, or maybe it is some “small toy” type korg, volca o Tr. I try to have fun playing – I think it is vital … I probably think that the answer would be “room for improvisation”. I think it is necessary especially in something like live electronic in which we are normally “tied” to a metronome
Any emerging artists on your radar?
Lowly, ufff, probably my favourite song of the last years is Baglaens, I think it is a masterpiece. I also love Sault (but maybe they are not an “emerging” artists right now).
Another artist: 1011 I love everything it is putting out and especially it’s more ambient works. I think is really spectacular. And The low Flying Panic Attack, an independent band that I really hope will go very far.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Almost everything, from a series to a bike ride. Normally I don’t have creative blocks, but when I need to “get inspired” it usually works very well for me to go see other types of disciplines. Dance and contemporary art is amazing. You can get many ideas to translate them to the world of music, and ( I suppose this is nothing new), but in classical music, there is absolutely everything. They are inexhaustible sources of inspiration.
Normally I try to link concepts to structure an album but not necessarily everything has to be a super intense process. Sometimes I lead myself away but, for example on the album, I tried to find relationships between the decadence that our civilization is experiencing and the elastic concept of time.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
I think I have a kind of Diogenes of equipment, so to name a few things that I have used in the album (my studio is full)
Sequential Prophet 6 (my favorite synth)
Some mutable and befaco modules
Korg Delta, Roland Tr and then a lot, but a lot of vstis and things like maschine or the octapad,
The whole album has been produced and mixed in Cubase, although I have sometimes used granulator 2 in max dsp, I have also used a lot of Arturia things (apart of the vintage emulations, I love the granular engine of Pigments), and more typical things like Serum, vital or Diva.
Any side projects you’re working on?
As a producer right now I am with the album of a young band from the North of Spain: Merina Gris and with another group that will release an album this year: The Low Flying Panic Attack. I am also starting a beautiful project with Sound Earth Legacy for the sound research of the seabed in the Arctic, as well as all the music for the Contemporary Dance company Empusa Poem. Between that, together with all the preparation of my live set and making new songs, I think it can be said I´m a little busy.
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
I suppose that at the beginning I was much more eager to demonstrate everything I was capable of, especially at the sound level or sound engineering level. I have always tried not to stagnate but maybe before I was concerned about demonstrating something than seeing it with perspective, it was not important. I think we tend to associate different electronic artists with “their sound”, and it is difficult to dissociate ourselves from that, in the end, I have realized that the message, the content of your music, the story behind and what it transmits is more important. Not as much as your sound, but I am not always able to dissociate myself from the technical part at all. In the end, I am a sound geek and that takes its toll.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
At the moment we have just shared the second single from the album and I am very happy (for the first time I have entered BBC1 and that is a joy for me). I really want to release the album and hopefully, I can say playing and giving many concerts around the globe. But with the current situation, I am satisfied with being able to continue releasing music and finding reasons to do so, every time I finish an album it is something almost cathartic. So I need some time to listen and try different things (in fact, I do not rule out doing an AKA of Drum n Bass). I hope to be able to prepare something with other artists, be it installation or contemporary dance – these are the things that enrich me the most and make me the happiest and in the end … it’s about that right?
Famous last words?
I don’t know very well where I read it, but I think Bob Dylan once said “The world already has all the songs it needs”. I love that phrase – to put my feet on the ground and get rid of all that ego that usually accompanies artistic creations
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By Sarah Britton