u n c l e j i m
is a collaborative between David Goard and Rob Robinson
example of soundart 1
Interview: 10 questions
Transcribed from a conversation between David Goard and Rob Robinson recorded on August 26th 2006
When did you start making music, what is/was your motivation to do it?
Rob: Umm…I started playing guitar when I was little…and keyboards. We had a synth at school…in the music room. I remember messing on with that and thinking – I WANT ONE (laughter)…and I always wanted a house full of instruments…but I was much more interested in recording music…rather than performing.
David: But your motivation wasn’t just to have instruments was it?
Rob: No no no. I just loved music and I liked music that sounded different to things I’d already heard. Do you know what I mean?
David: Yeah. It’s like Frank Zappa said – “I make music to hear the things I can’t hear”…or something like that…I can’t remember the exact quote.
Rob: Yeah. That’s what keeps me going now – doing stuff I haven’t heard before.
David: Yes. And for me. Um…when did I start making music? I guess…when I was a teenager. I did the thing of being in a band but as I tend to do everything the wrong way round (laughter) when everybody was leaving art school to join a band I left a band to go to art school…but, in a way, what we are doing now has its roots in all of that.
Tell me something about your living environment and the musical education.
David: I think we can share this answer – we live in rural Northumberland.
Rob: It’s not the backwoods though.
David: No…um…I think …in a way…there is a slightly strange connection.
Our education? I had an art education but my…our…formal music education is, I would say, non-existent.
Rob: I went to a guitar lesson once.
David: Did you?
Rob: Just the one.
Rob: It was too much like hard work. Carrying the guitar. Getting on and off the bus.
Rob: So I stopped.
David: (Laughter) High motivation there…um…but the living environment…though we live in a rural environment… for most of my life I’ve lived in cities …I think our references are urban…our work is more urban.
Rob: I don’t think that we are a folk act (laughter).
Is making music your profession? What is the context in which you practice music nowadays?
Rob: If by profession…it means…
David: Making money?
Rob: No. It’s not. But in terms of what I consider myself to be? Yes.
David: In the sense of BEING a professional?
David: Yes. I’m the same. OK. What is the context in which you practice music nowadays?
Rob: It’s the same as it’s been for the last 20 years…for me.
David: Is it? What about technology?
Rob: Oh yeah. The technology aspect…as I‘ve said…I was always more interested in recording…capturing…rather than just playing…creating different sounds. I started with sequencers when they first came out. I got into sampling in a big way back then and obviously with digital technology as it is now – there is such an ability to manipulate those things.
David: Yeah. Yeah. Our context is digital then isn’t it? And collaborative.
How do you compose or create music or sound? Have you certain principles, use certain styles etc?
Rob: In terms of where the ideas come from?
David: I don’t know. Our answers to this are going to be slightly different. Initially I compose on guitar – but then – if you send me something I compose in relation to what you’ve sent me.
David: The creation of music or sound, for me, at the beginning, is acoustic but then goes into all sorts of other processes.
Rob: But then – that’s not the way I work. I don’t have the same starting point for each piece of music…it could be a musical thing or a word, an idea or anything.
David: Yeah. Yeah. In terms of composition we have different roles. They blur…
yours is musical…mine is musical – but, for me, it’s mainly in relation to words – so in terms of composition I can be inspired by a headline in a newspaper, something said in conversation, a line from a film or whatever but then…our process is a kind of “clagging together” isn’t it?
Rob: That’s it.
David: Or is that a bit crude?
Rob: No. It’s like I’ve said to you before – when we get to the end of a piece I don’t know how it’s happened. But I don’t mean that it’s a gift (laughter). It’s just that I don’t know how…
David: It evolves.
Rob: Yes. One thing leads to another. Obviously you make conscious decisions but quite a lot of it is more…sub-conscious.
David: And our principles?
Rob: Um…I suppose I’ve got broad principles. I don’t like to stick to a recognisable format. I’ve got broad musical interests…I mean…I like really good dance music but it would be pointless for me to make dance music when other people do it so much better.
David: Yeah. My roots are in blues but I’m white and I’m English so…
Rob: You’re a country bumpkin.
David: (Laughter). Yeah. I’m gonna stick to country music boy (in an American accent).
David: So…anyway…yes…stylistically…we’re broad.
Tell me something about the instruments, technical equipment or tools you use?
David: I use a good mic, a good pre-amp and a beaten up acoustic Fender guitar and…my voice.
Rob: Ah yes. We mustn’t forget your voice (laughter).
David: And then I go to GarageBand – which is great for ‘sketching’. And then…it goes on to you. And then back to me and back to you and so on.
Rob: I use a variety of software and I tend to use a lot of samples – obviously not scratched from records because there are royalty problems there…
David: Well said (laughter).
Rob: Yes. Now…what was I saying? Oh yes. I tend to run 3 programmes at once, some 16 bit, some 24 bit…really simple software for putting tracks together so that I can see the sound clips and where I want them to be…I’m not a computer expert…
David: It’s a tool.
Rob: Yeah. It’s what’s happening in your ears rather than how many things you’ve got on your desktop.
David: What about instruments?
Rob: I use virtual keyboards a lot and in the past I’ve used guitar and I do occasionally use guitar and bass. Early on I would sample real instruments played by myself and manipulate it that way but…less and less now because…
David: You’ve got access to so much.
What are the chances of New Media for the music production in general and you personally?
David: A strange question…I think it means what potential or what opportunity does new media offer.
Rob: We’ve discussed it before. I think it’s opened the floodgates. Anybody with a computer can now make music or sound.
David: Is that good or bad?
Rob: It’s got to be good in general but like any new media you’re going to get good stuff and bad stuff.
David: Overall I think it’s good. The opportunities are infinite but, as ever, those potentials are determined by creativity.
Rob: Oh yeah. It’s the person behind it rather than the technology itself. It gives you the potential to emulate very easily but the potential to create something different is a little bit trickier.
How about producing and financing your musical productions?
David: The short answer is it’s self- financed.
Rob: Self-financed to the hilt.
Rob: We’ve had some commissioned pieces.
David: Yeah. We’ve had odds and sods.
Rob: More sods than odds.
David: Hardly a lucrative living.
Rob: No. Not really.
Do you work individually as a musician/soundartist or in a group or collaborative?
If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?
Rob: The way we work – It takes longer to get something done because we’re to-ing and fro-ing all the time but I think it’s actually better because it’s very difficult to be your own editor.
Rob: Initially, if I’m working on something knowing that it is going to be a collaborative piece I still have to fill in the gaps even though I know that eventually those gaps are going to be filled by you. From the start it has to be more than just a ‘backing track’.
David: For me collaboration is hugely beneficial because it means I can go way beyond my limitations – particularly technically – so I can see much greater potential – compared to working on my own. That doesn’t mean it’s not without its difficulties because we both criticise each other – which can sometimes feel a ‘drag’ but, in the long run, it’s beneficial.
Rob: I think it’s because we’ve got quite different sensibilities.
David: Close but not touching.
Rob: (Laughter). Yeah. It’s a fact though…and it’s interesting…if anybody met us they might not put us together in the same room! Do you know what I mean?
David: Unless it was for a fight (laughter).
Rob: Yeah and you would probably win these days.
Is there any group, composer, style or movement which has a lasting influence on making music?
David: We often talk about how different our tastes in music are…but the one thing we do have in common, as a reference point, is Brian Eno.
Rob: Yeah. He was one of the reasons I started making music as an adult. There wasn’t a lot of music with that sensitivity. The feel of the music was so much closer to how I thought it should be – in my head.
David: It’s his ‘digital ear’ apart from anything else.
Rob: Yes. And the cinematic feel to his music is so evocative. It stands…by itself…though some people seem to feel that it’s almost emotion-less.
David: Yeah. Many years ago I think I might have equated electronic music with a lack of emotion but I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Digital technology just enables you to do things and, for me – particularly with my role in all of this – it is now something that enables you to express emotions.
Rob: Yes. That’s why I prefer digital music that has a physical quality – either it incorporates environmental sound or it sounds like it’s in an environment.
David: Yeah. Digital music with a fat dab of humanity.
Rob: That’s us.
What are your future plans or dreams as a soundartist or musician?
David: We’ve got various projects ‘on the go’ but a few more commissions would be good. It would be nice to make a little bit more money…simply because money buys you the time to do what you want to do…otherwise though…
Rob: We carry on regardless.