Saturday, 25 January 2014

How Hot Do You Like Your Nandos? - Lung

It seems 3rd year got the better of me for a little while in terms of work / life / blog balance, but with exams now out the way it's time to get things restarted with something a little bit special in the form of an interview with Med School aficionado and local boy Lung, who plays Cardiff in just over a month as part of Hospitality in Solus.

I was introduced to the deep, soulful drum & bass of Lung a couple of years ago at a little gig in Koko Gorilaz and ever since have kept a watchful ear on all his various releases, which culminated in the launch of debut album, Wait Less Suspense. Where other, far more prominent artists with major recognition can often skimp on a debut, filling it with old releases and unstructured filler tunes, what sets James's debut apart is the sheer level of quality throughout.

It's an album of paradoxes, sonically it manages to be both energetic, built through the deep, warm basslines, even when combined with a dark ambience thanks to the instrumentation that emerges from it, alongside haunting vocals, most notably from long time collaborator and fellow Welshie Rachel K. Collier. The tempos fluctuate but in branching out the record develops it's own unique concept, this is not a DnB album but a Lung album. The biggest contrast rests on how forward thinking the work sounds, without ever once latching onto any passing fads, instead highlighting the best possible future for Drum & Bass, placing it atop a pedestal with only two other recent albums, S.P.Y.'s What The Future Holds and Nu:Logic's Everlasting Days.

Read on to hear about what Lung (one of those lemon & herb guys), thinks of his album, gain an insight to his creative approach to his work and learn why he'd never have only Red M & M's. It's rather fantastic:

The Music of Lung

Where does the inspiration for your songs come from and how does a track come together?
To be honest, most of the time I just start messing around with some drums. Sometimes I’ll have an idea in my head, but getting that down on my computer is never an exact process. More often than not the idea will change over time and develop. I don’t like to put too many restrictions on what I’m doing, so I’m quite happy to let the ideas unfold naturally, even if by the end the track sounds nothing like the original idea, sometimes that’s for the best.

Your debut album, Wait Less Suspense feels very grand and perhaps cinematic at times, was this deliberate or something that developed during the creative process?
Thanks for the kind words! Writing an album, to me personally, has always been my main focus. An album is a perfect platform to truly indulge and I wanted it to be something that would have a longer shelf-life than your average 12” single (at least I hope that’s how it’s perceived!). Too many albums, especially within electronic music, are just compilations of throwaway singles and I struggle to differentiate between tracks and other releases from the artists.

As a listener, I want to hear the artists’ personality in their work, I feel an album should be a statement - a place for an artist to really make their stamp. I was just trying to achieve that with my own work, whether or not the end result reflects that is entirely down to the listener! But I like to think I achieved what I set out for on a personal level.

Hell Is Other People (A great Sartre quote) is possibly my favourite track by you, even though it’s not a full on DnB track. Is it fun to step outside your comfort zone when writing a track?
I think you’re the first person who’s recognised where the title is from (ed. Oh the joys of bizarre French Philosophy)! Kudos! In answer to your question, most definitely! I find nothing more boring and stale than when an artist doesn’t progress and evolve throughout their releases (following on from my previous answer!). Personally, I like to challenge myself, and explore - for my own sanity! Picture sitting in your room for hours on end over months (or even years!) - it can become pretty tedious when you’re working on the same track (or even just the same tempo) for that amount of time, so it’s always healthy to switch things up and keep it interesting - it’s what breaks up the monotony! (I’m sure a lot of others would agree!)

If you had the chance to work with any musician (past or present), who would it be?
Well, I don’t really know where to begin! There’s obviously plenty of musicians and artists who’ve inspired me in what I do, and the opportunity to work with them would be amazing. I’d love to work on something more chilled out and get Johnny Marr to record some guitar, maybe get Mark King to lay down one of his crazy basslines, and Stewart Copeland to lay down a drum track. That’d be pretty cool! Would love to work with Trent Reznor, too. Maybe, Emiliana Torrini as well - would love to work on some music with her.

Do you have a favourite song that you’ve written over the time? Or is that a bit like choosing a favourite child!
I’m not overly precious about my tracks, and I’m pretty critical of them. There are some I prefer over others, of course. It’s often just down to whatever mood I was in when I was writing them. I think “Sunday Drivers” and “Stars, Hide Your Fires!” with Tiiu are two of my favourites. Anastasia just gelled with the music so well, her voice made a beautiful addition to the track. And, well, Sunday Drivers - I just like it! haha.

What makes a great live set?
When it is actually live for a start! Nothing beats seeing a good band coming together and interacting - playing off each other. There’s no way to put that kind of human connection in to words. I often get bored of watching DJ’s, even though I am one - and it’s a big part of my job. Don’t get me wrong, the right DJ will always play a great set - Marky, now he’s a damn good DJ and kills it every time.

I’m not overly fussed on how technically proficient a DJ is, I’m always much more interested in the track selection and whether or not, as a listener, they’re playing something interesting. I’ll always prefer a DJ who does their own thing and throws a few surprises in along the way! It’s not all about “What’s the biggest tune at the moment and how many times will it be played in a night”.  Not for me, at least!

Just as South Wales has created a lot of great rock bands, do you see a Welsh electronic music ‘scene’ (apologies for the phrase!) developing?
Absolutely. There’s an abundance of great talent coming out of Wales. Covering all aspects of electronic music. Bodhi, Nanobyte, High Contrast, Pennygiles, Quartz, The Organ Grinder, Luxe, Darkhouse Fam, to name just a few! All doing their thing (and smashing it - might I add!). There’s definitely a healthy scene here, and I think that can only develop further with all of the nights pushing these sounds, too.

Are there any plans for a second album somewhere down the road?
Most definitely! Although not for a little while just yet, I’m writing - a lot - but how and when it progresses beyond weird ideas and loops into something I can call an album is another matter. There will be one though! At some point, haha!

You’re obviously known for your Drum & Bass and the debut takes in a wider variety, but are there any strange musical genre’s you’d like to have a go at writing?
Nothing springs to mind as such. Electronic music has such a wide spectrum, I love all kinds of elements within it, and like to write across a range of tempos and styles. It’s easier for me to tell you what I won’t be writing; sqwauky microsoft advert “dubstep!”, haha. I just like the freedom at the moment to write whatever I feel and just see what happens.

The World of Lung
How hot do you like your Nandos?
I’m one of those “Lemon and Herb” guys.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever got a crowd to try and do?
Well, it’s not strange as such, but I was playing a gig in Brixton a little while back, mixing between two tracks and there was this big clapping break down - so obviously I started clapping a long in the hopes that the crowd would join in. Alas, nobody did - so it was more anti-climatic and embarrassing than strange. But hey, I was having a good time!

Where is your favourite venue in Cardiff?
Clwb Ifor Bach. Loveliest people, loudest sound, cheap drinks - and no fucking pretentious bullshit (with prices to match). Just good vibes in a dark room with a loud sound.

What’s the best / most outlandish tour request you’ve ever made?
To be honest, I’m just grateful people will book me to come and play some records at their night and have me there. You’d never find me asking for a bowl of “only red m&m’s” - that “rock star” shit is so arrogant! Only request I’d have is good company and a beer with the people who’ve brought me along to play some music!

Who’s the most famous person in your phonebook?
Haha! Well, probably the almighty HC of course! Although, Rachel K Collier is going to blow up this year, I know it - so then I’ll have TWO famous friends!

If you had the chance to rewrite the score for any film past or present, what would it be?
Ooof, good question! I’m a sci-fi buff, so an opportunity to score something like Bladerunner would be unreal - although I could never compete with the original - absolutely untouchable! Scoring is definitely something I’d like to get in to. Maybe some kooky independent sci-fi film. I’d love that - would be great fun!

Steak or bacon?
Bacon, every time.

If not music, then what?
Stumped! Honestly have no idea! Nothing, for a very long time- I imagine!

What would your 5 ‘Desert Island Discs’ tracks be?
The Smiths - Big Mouth Strikes Again
Deftones - Digital Bath 
Tool - Reflection
The Lotus Eaters - The First Picture Of You
Olive - You’re Not Alone

I don’t know what I’d do with myself if I was only left with 5 pieces of music, though. I’d want to bring everything with me.

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