Interview: Five Minutes with INSTINCT

Image credit: Max Cooper

Not too long ago, James Burnham released the phenomenal LP, Point Of View under his INSTINCT alias on his label of the same name. More recently, we’ve seen him share an EP called Still Life Remixes which features his work remixed by three unique rising artists: Holloway, 0113 and Desert Sound Coloney. Burnham himself is a well-respected artist in the industry who also released music under the moniker of Burnski as well as founder of the esteemed label, Constant Sound. The two releases highlight the diversity in his work, allowing us to gain a glimpse into the musician’s love for numerous genres.

Curious about what makes the man tick, we sat down for an exclusive.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea? 

Both approaches can work great so I wouldn’t choose one or the other. Sometimes, I go in with an idea, sometimes my mind is just blank and I follow the sounds and see where it all goes. 

It can be good to have an idea or direction but also having absolutely no idea what your doing is also a great way to approach it.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound? 

There are so many ways you can make a track really. Sometimes I will just use one synth all day, or other times just use samples and using samplers to manipulate them etc. Chopping sounds up and replaying the sample is a good way to get creative. I try to mix it up a bit to keep it interesting, and sometimes set rules and limit my options so it makes things less complicated. There are no real technique or a set formula, I am just putting things together really and going with what’s coming out of the speakers to direct me.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

Usually, I get a few ideas down from 5-7 am. I always start new ideas first thing when your minds totally quiet and blank. I will then leave it for a few hours and get back in there from about 9/10. I never usually have a plan for what I am working on these days, I just follow what I find myself making. I use to try control and plan everything in the past, but now I just go with the flow and make what I find gets me excited at the time.

I will just keep chipping away all day from then with the odd break here and there, and usually start wrapping it up at 6. Sometimes I keep going till late if I am really in the zone, but I find it’s also important to leave it all alone to have a bit of a healthy balance. You can start losing your marbles a bit when you’re just going at it like a mad man 24/7 for months on end, it’s like you’re in another world.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”? 

I got my first set of decks and 14 and it was just 100% from then onwards. I started producing 2 years later, and have pretty much done it non stop since.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

There are loads of really good guys sending me music at the moment, Pinder, Pakzad, Holloway, Kepler, Yosh, TIJN to name a few all churning out quality. 

What gets your creative juices flowing? 

A propper quiet mind is when things start really flowing for me.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression. 

I’ve got loads of kit from over the years but haven’t used any of it in the last 15 months. I have been using different studios and just working in a really simple way. I’ve got juno synths, korgs, drum machines, nords and a few pianos. I have been loving just working in the box these days though with ableton and a couple of plugins…

Any side projects you’re working on? 

There are all sorts coming out, but I prefer to just get it out there as talking about it before kills the buzz for me, I think. I have a few aliases on the go already and there will be a few new ones popping up over the next few months.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

I’ve been releasing music for 15 years now. I’m in warhorse, veteran territory now! ha. I’m not sure really, you just keep moving forward with it all and make what your feeling at the time.

Tell us about your latest releases?

I put the ‘Point of view’ album out September, then dropped another album straight after that in November. They’re both very different to each other that’s for sure…

Famous last words?

I’ll just have a cheeky one…



By Sarah Britton