I’ve really been enjoying Moon Zero’s approach to sound design, with dark, dissonant drones contrasting with moments of blissful ambiance. I managed to catch up with him, to ask five questions.
Do you have a musical background?
I started having piano lessons when I was pretty young. I did them for a few years but grew bored of the rigidity of learning an instrument properly. It was also around the same time I started to form a music taste and everything that I was into sounded terrible on the piano. So along came the inevitable guitar. This really kicked me off into making my own music which I’ve been doing since.
I’ve kind of dabbled with quite a few different instruments now, my latest thing being the drums. I run a studio in Limehouse where I play in and record bands. It’s been a great thing for my musical education as I’m constantly seeing how other people do it, which ultimately leads to making better music I think.
When did you first start producing music?
We had an organ and an analogue delay in the house when I was in my early teens, I think a friend of my Dad’s gave it to him. Then I got given a 4-track and so this was how I got into producing. I was making strange pop songs and organ drones which were probably more lofi by default than design, but I was listening to a lot of psychedelic punk rock bands and this formed my love for noise and distortion.
How has your sound developed since then?
I moved to London in the early 2000s to study a music course and my mind was blown. Everyone was on computers and Logic and Reason etc. I still only had my 4-track so I felt pretty left out. I bought a computer with my loan money and thats when I started getting into electronic music properly, making loops and beats using Logic and Audio Mulch. I was into Fridge and Anticon and Constellation Records and was making a kind of ambient hip hop at that time.
From then until now I’ve been quite restless in my genre jumping. I like all sorts of music so something will catch my ear and I will do that for a bit. I think my brain gets over saturated with a form of music and it gets bored. So I ditched the beats and picked up an acoustic guitar and went folky. Then I got bored of quiet sounds and formed a noisy post-punk band.
But the one constant has been drone music. From my tape experiments in the beginning to learning how to use guitar pedals and mixers it’s been something that has always just kind of come out of me. I think Moon Zero is a good overview of all the things I’ve been doing up until now, which is why I feel close to this project at the moment.
What really inspires you?
I’m always searching for sound that moves in an organic way. That’s at the centre of what I’m trying to do with Moon Zero. I want the audio to take on a life of its own, to be constantly pulsing and shifting. I love contrasts as well, beautiful sounds hidden by noise, things like that.
I’m at a strange place at the moment because my sound seems to be more and more influenced by religion, which is funny as I consider myself an atheist. I think its their sense of “epic” that inspires me. Big spaces and big bombast. It started when I was staying at a friends house in Budapest a couple of months ago. On Sunday morning this huge sound woke me up. His flat was next to St Peters Basilica and the sound was the bells tolling. It was so intense, but beautiful at the same time. I’ve recorded in churches in the past and this is something I’d like to do more of, although sadly it’s not easy finding one that’s sympathetic to ambient music.
Music wise, at the moment I’m listening to a lot of Tim Hecker, Les Rallizes Denudes and Swans. I like it when it sounds wrong and broken up. I think my love of repetition comes from listening to too much of The Fall.
Finally, what kind of equipment/software do you use to create your sound?
Well I still use organs and delays! I’ve got a Wurlitzer organ at the moment and my trusty Access Virus B. I’m really into distortion and tremolo and so I generally send audio to a row of guitar pedals, building up drones with loopers and overdubs. Also I record found sounds and field recordings on my phone which sometimes act as starting points for drones. I have to use the computer a bit like my old 4 track in so much that I like to play everything live into Logic. I’m not a big fan of post-production and editing, although I do use plugins. The challenge has always been to make it feel organic, I don’t want the music to sound like computer music necessarily. It’s important to get the balance right.