DOORSTEP INTERVIEW: ako | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Welcome to Doorstep Interview, where we find out more about the amazing bands and artists we have right here in the north east. This time, electronic wizard ako tells us about what inspires him, his different projects and his record label.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you, where are you from?

Hi, my name is Sim, I grew up in Sunderland and currently live in Newcastle, via a stint in Birmingham where I studied Music Technology.

What inspired you to first start making music?

I think one of my biggest influences to start listening to electronic music was Kraftwerk, I had a Walkman, when I was about 12 or 13, and I wore out a Kraftwerk tape in it. My brother got me Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James album for my birthday around the same time that I absolutely rinsed, which got me onto Warp’s back catalogue and Wildplanet, and Squarepusher really inspired me too. I was fascinated by the sounds they were making really got me interested in synthesisers. I also liked their DIY approach and the way they explored sounds, creating weird dissonant landscapes and glitchy percussion. Toecutter and break core gave me the final push to actually start producing some music because at the time I just kind of thought “well fuck it, it sounds pretty easy to make…” (it wasn’t, unfortunately, as easy as I first thought).

Who would you say are your biggest influences?

A big influence is the way that IDM took ideas from dance music and explored it in other contexts and pushed it in experimental directions and that’s what I try and do. My biggest current influences are mainly taken witch house artists like Zola Jesus, Foster Care and Ic3Peak and that’s going feature prominently on the EP I’m working on at the moment. There’s definitely a seem of old school dubstep (you know, the good stuff) running through my music, like Skream’s earlier releases and the mighty Burial. I also like a lot of 80’s minimal/new wave artists like Martin Dupont and Joy Division and these have always been a feature of my music, as well as synthwave influences from Com Truise. I also like to let the process of making electronic music shape what I do too so I try and use a lot of hardware and sample a lot of drum machines.

How would you describe your sound?

I normally go with witch house / Synth wave / IDM. It’s a mix of expansive synthscapes, atmospheric samples, gritty, usually droney or electro bass lines. Groove taken from contemporary dance music is a big feature too and I love exploring complex rhythms and minimalism. I also like playing big synth riffs so there’s quite a lot of them in my music too (I think that comes from Slagsmålsklubben). I’m also half of Mausoleums, an electronic two-piece, which shares a lot influences with ako but with a bit more of an industrial twist with some minimal wave influences and heavy effected atmospheric vocals. I also form part of techno collective Shaolin which explores experimental minimal techno and is kind of a different perspective looking at grooves, spatial and atmospheric sounds and noise. Also keep an ear out for Badger which is new collaborative project that explores sleazy bass grooves, polyrhythm, synth riffs and hip-hop and new wave influences.

 

“It’s a mix of expansive synthscapes, atmospheric samples, gritty, usually drony or motoric-electro bass lines”

Where do you see yourself fitting into the local music scene?

I took a bit of a hiatus from gigging as ako so I’m trying to carve a bit of a niche for myself. I think there’s a lot of good electronic music round here and there’s a fan base too so I’m trying to connect with that. I also recently co-founded Kaneda Records with a couple of other producers from Newcastle. The idea is for a record label dedicated to creating a platform for our music and other electronic musicians in the area and hopefully put on some club nights.

Tell us a bit about your live performances. What can we expect from a gig by ako?

I think what makes ako a bit different is that I perform audio-visual sets using projections made using software that I programmed that manipulates video in response to the music and triggers computer generated graphics to create visuals that react to the music and performance. The video material used is made in variety of ways including VHS cameras, modified Megadrive and SNES consoles and some basic 3D graphics (keeping it Lo-Fi).

Can you tell us what gigs you have planned in the region in the near future?

I’m playing at Joy Atlas’ single launch at World Headquarters on Friday 31st July which should be a mint gig! We’ll hopefully be launching regular Kaneda Records Nights in the not too distant future too, so keep an eye out for that.

What do you think has been your biggest achievement so far as an artist?

So far it’s the live lounge session I did on BBC radio Newcastle, I’ve never really done anything like that before so it was pretty cool. Also playing at Evolution Emerging this year was lot of fun as was NARC. Fest!

Have there been any major challenges so far in your musical career?

Nothing that would inspire a biopic, mainly just first world problems and “liveable shit” (as the Sleaford Mods so eloquently describe it). Most of them seem to involve my laptop breaking whenever I’m presented with any sort of deadline…

What else have you got planned for the future?

I’m working on new ako EP that should be out in early autumn and I’ve got some releases in pipeline for my other projects including a new Mausoleums EP, which we’re hoping to release on tape too so make sure you keep checking up on those! I am also working on a couple more videos and there’s plenty of other releases planned for Kaneda Records too.

Keep up to date with ako and his various projects via his Facebook page. ako plays with Joy Atlas at World Headquarters, Newcastle on Friday 31st July.

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