Get To Know: Solipsism
GET TO KNOW: Solipsism
Glasgow may traditionally be known as a city of House, Techno and all things 4×4, but in 2012 it can lay claim to a wide spectrum of different sounds. Supported by a passionate and creative core of producers, promoters and fans, everything from Dubstep to Juke, Drum & Bass to Disco can be found in the many clubs and localised parties. And it’s perhaps this very open-minded attitude towards electronic music that has encouraged a growing number of ambient producers to soar skywards. From Soosh to Holobeams, North Sea to Fall, it’s a sound that is becoming ever more prevalent in a city which is widely recognised as having a notoriously hard edge.
But perhaps that contrast is indicative of the sound, as only the opening chords of Craig Murphy aka Solipsism’s music can take us far, far away. Seduced by tracks like ‘Planes Of Existence’ and more recently ‘Eyrie’, we’ve been very much under his spell for a long time. Having grown up with influences which form the very basis of electronic music (Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream etc), before exploring numerous and wildly eclectic sounds which he refers to as experimental, it’s perhaps no wonder that he has arrived at a place which is sonically immersive.
Having been releasing music via Bandcamp since 2008, his music has taken twists and turns which are truly captivating. The very nature of his sound means that just one track can deliver a whole field of emotion, and without being unduly dramatic, it’s this ability to express emotion which allows ambient music to connect on another level. Craig himself refers to the sound as the ‘perfect way to escape reality’, and that really personifies just what ambient music can do to the listener. With plays on the likes of Radio 1, BBC6 Music and XFM, and a new album incoming, this is a journey which in many ways is only just beginning…
Check out some of Solipsism’s sounds below as well as an in depth interview with the man himself:
Synth: Ok, so can you start by giving us a bit of background on who you are and how you got into electronic music? Obviously you’ve dabbled with different styles in the past, but how did you arrive at the ambient sound you’re producing now?
Solipsism: My name is Craig Murphy and I’ve been into electronic music since I was a wee guy back in the 80s. My first introductions to electronic music were the synthpop bands of the 80s such as The Human League and Depeche Mode. Although the sound today can seem rather dated, back then it was something completely different to what I was used to and it left an indelible mark on me. As I got older, I started to expand upon those early influences and began to investigate the music that had inspired the synthpop bands and that introduced me to the likes of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and Kraftwerk. The early Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze stuff in particular was influential on the direction my music took in the early days and it still holds some relevance today. I later went on to completely immerse myself in many diverse forms of experimental music and I believe that has enabled me to approach my own stuff in a similarly eclectic style. I don’t really know how I arrived at the style I’m producing now however, to me it just seems like a natural progression and I tend to just work on what I feel like, rather than feel that I have to work within a certain genre or frame of reference.
Synth: So let’s talk about your sound and the nature of ambient electronic music, what is it that appeals to you about lo-fi and cinematic soundscapes? Do you feel ambience allows you to convey emotion that other types of music can’t?
Solipsism: I think ambient music and soundtracks, soundscapes etc. demand your attention as a listener, it’s the sort of music you can listen to time and again and have a different experience each time because of the nature of the music and your subjective state of mind. The same piece of music can be incredibly sad or incredibly uplifting depending on your mood, and your mood will determine what aspects of the music you focus upon each time you listen. I personally do not like to be told what an album or piece of music is about as I prefer to draw my own conclusions from listening – each person is unique and each person has a unique experience with the music, so it seems rather grandiose to assume that you know what each listener will experience when listening. If a piece of music can produce a range of emotions in a cross section of people, then for me, it’s striking the right balance. Ambient music is the perfect vehicle for conveying subtle emotions through sound and slowly evolving sounds are the perfect way to relax the mind and escape from reality for a while…for me anyway! From an artist’s perspective, I also find it to be a very effective form of therapy where I can channel my thoughts into sounds, much more so than other genres I’ve worked in. Ambient music is probably the most reflective of who I am as a person, so the emotion comes more naturally.
Synth: We can imagine that creating ambient music can be quite a delicate process; can you talk us through how you approach it and what methods you use to fine-tune and deliver the finished product?
Solipsism: I’m always adapting and developing how I work because I think it’s a good way of keeping yourself motivated to experiment and explore new ideas. For the past two years I’ve been incorporating heavily-manipulated electric guitar into almost all of my ambient material. I started off by using it in sections only to help me create a more natural dynamic range, but as I developed the processing techniques I began to incorporate it more until it got to the point that it became the key ingredient of the tracks and albums. Most of the delicacy, with regards to process, is the actual processing and manipulation of the audio itself. I generally record the parts from the guitar, microkorg and whatever else I’m using in relatively quick fashion and then spend an insane amount of time working on the recorded parts. I can get really obsessive about it, but it is all part of the process.
Synth: You also run your own label called Herb Recordings which you of course release your own music on as well as artists like Pumajaw andSkytree, what sounds do you think define the label and what inspired you to start it?
Solipsism: When I started the label in 2006 I only wanted to release music I liked that fell within certain parameters. I wanted the music to have a nice melody and I wanted it to be experimental in some form or another. Those are still the guidelines I choose music by today in the most general sense. Other factors do come into play however, but they can be too varied to go into detail about. I felt there were already enough labels around at the time doing the standard Boards of Canada style sound (which I’m a big fan of) and I really wanted to avoid that and there were plenty of labels around who had their own sounds but were very particular about releasing only music with that sound, I wanted to avoid that also. I felt there was a gap for a label that had more of an eclectic focus while still slotting into a genuinely experimental framework, and I think we achieve that.
I started the label in 2006 after realising there was a wealth of genuine talent out there that in my opinion should have been getting heard by a wider audience. I therefore wanted the label in the beginning to be the perfect platform for them to release their music and hopefully both the label and the artists would benefit. My somewhat naive enthusiasm for how the music industry should work wasn’t in tandem with the reality however, and I had to re-calibrate my motivation towards making the label a platform for the artists to hopefully go onto bigger labels/better things and benefit from greater exposure. That’s still my main goal today.
Synth: You’ve had your music played on the likes of Radio 1 and BBC6 Music, and there also seems to be quite a few other artists coming through with a similar style at the moment, do you think ambience has got potential to grow into something bigger and how do people react to it at your live shows?
Solipsism: Ambient music has fluctuated in popularity for the past 30 years almost and in that time the genre has truly evolved to incorporate new stylistic approaches. I love the fact that the genre has evolved so much since its beginnings and I marvel at the sheer scope and scale of diversity within what is essentially a very strict genre with regards to the finished sound. This is thanks to the fact that so many new artists are beginning to work in the genre, often themselves coming from related genres and bringing those previously alien ideas and approaches with them. Right now is a very fertile time for experimentation, probably the most fertile and productive decade since the 1970s and I think this will develop further as more people switch off to the humdrum served up by the mainstream. I’ve never performed a properly ambient set live! My previous gigs have all been based around ambient techno. I will hopefully be getting out next year though when my new album comes out, so I will report back then.
Synth: The new album is called ‘A Distance Between Us’, can you tell us a little about what to expect from that and what else you have coming up that we should be looking forward to?
Solipsism: It’s an ambient drone album that I’ve been working on for most of the last year and is loosely based on some mythologies I’d been reading about at the same time. The focus is more on the emotional responses I had to the various mythologies rather than monolithic drones, but there is still a strong drone element to the album. It will be the first album I’ve released under my own name also.
Solipsism ‘Weaving Spiders’ is available now via Bandcamp.