Welcome to the inaugural edition of a new series I will be running here on the M+D website.
Interviews with artists whose work I admire, with questions about the creative process.
It’s called “What’s your favourite waveform?”
First up is Joe ‘Kowton’ Cowton:
MAGIC: So, the most difficult question first: what IS your favourite waveform, and why?
KOWTON: Square. Its absolute, all or nothing: none of this transitory business sine or triangle waves are into.
Do you follow any rules or systems for writing your music?
I try and keep things as simple as they possibly can while remaining engaging. I think I’ve learnt a lot from working with Pev about removing anything that isn’t necessary. If a track isn’t cluttered the parts that are there have more room to move and their effect is intensified, I’d rather have that than a bunch of noises that aren’t doing a lot.
Can you talk me briefly through the process of making a track?
Load up the sampler with drums, make a 4 or 8 bar loop and try and make something from that! Once there’s a rough arrangement I get busy trying to record some sends: reverbs, delays or flange or whatever and give the track some movement. From there on in its just a case of deleting sections and adding more effects. To finish I run the whole thing through my tube eq a couple of times to add a bit of grit and cohesion.
What is the part of the process that you least enjoy?
I find arranging things hell. Not so much once a shape’s forming but more the initial period of taking a loop and creating the skeleton of a track. I think a lot of people probably share this sentiment!
What is your favourite piece of equipment?
My tube eq: I’ve never used a plug in that sounds this good, I think distortion is a difficult thing to emulate with software. I just borrowed a Sherman Filterbank which sounds fucking great too, its a different kind of distortion to the eq though – more brittle and cleaner.
Do you ever have a critical voice and / or an imagined audience responding in your head whilst working?
Usually only once I’ve sent it someone! Then I imagine Chris [Farrell, Idle Handler] or Pev scowling at the track and make loads of changes, thats probably the most productive phase.
What’s the atmosphere of your studio / workplace like?
At home its pretty relaxed: i’ve just got my gear setup in the corner of my bedroom. I used to hate working there because the hot water tank was in my room and it was permantly about 30 degrees in there! That’s been taken out now and it’s a really nice place to work. Then there’s the Livity Sound studio aka ‘The Broom-cupboard’. That one’s dark and cold with no windows, but Tom’s got all his gear in there so its great for processing stuff. I need to go down there more.
What do you do when you get stuck?
Give up. Talk to my housemates or go to the shop or the Bell. I don’t bother sweating it any more, I’ve been stuck so many thousand times that I know its just a case of waiting for some fresh inspiration rather than trying to force anything.
How do you know when a track is finished? How do you choose a title for a piece?
When I start making it worse rather than better. Sometimes I’ll send a track out a bit prematurely but I think generally speaking you just know.
What’s the track from your own catalogue that you are happiest with?
Des Bisous - I’m still not sure how I got it to sound quite so rough, but that’s the kind of tune I want to be writing. I’ve been playing the dub version out quite a lot and it always down really well: given its not got a kick it still surprises me that everyone doesn’t just leave!
Do you create in other ways than writing music?
Not really: I wish I could draw or paint but I’m terrible. Or write at length for that matter, I think thats one of those things that needs a real investment of time though. Next year.
Are there people from other disciplines (e.g. painters / writers / architects) who have influenced your creative process?
Not directly but I’m drawn to anyone who demonstrates control and simplicity in their work yet manages to create a very powerful impression. I go through phases like anyone else.
What piece of equipment / software would you wish into being?
An auto-arrange. It could form a algorithim based on every other track I’ve ever made and arrange the track in a semi-random fashion. I’d fucking love that.
How do you timetable / schedule your work time?
I tend to fit in making music around working at the shop, doing gigs and being in the pub. As i said earlier I find trying to force creativity a nightmare – when I’ve got ideas I’ll make the time and get the work done. I write quite quickly when I get going so this approach seems to work.
If you could go back in time and be a fly-on-the-wall at recording sessions for any track or album, it would be….?
Loose Joints – ‘All Over My Face’. Just such an incredible track, one of those where if someone doesn’t like it I think you’re genuinely entitled to demand a reply as to why not.
posted by MAGIC