Travis Stewart is fiercely original to the point of exhausting the concept of genre altogether. His body of work continually shapes and delights his contemporaries and a decade after his first release, his taste-making output thankfully shows no sign of abating. This July sees the release of two rather distinct records from his Machinedrum moniker - his full length LP Room(s) on Planet Mu, and his Alarma EP on LuckyMe. As Stewart reflects on ten years of Machinedrum, it becomes apparent that the process that brought us Room(s) not only drew on a veritable melting pot of musical influences and production techniques, but also that this more immediate and personal creative experience will shape Machinedrum's own production style in years to come.
Dazed Digital: Is it true that Room(s) was made on the road?
Machinedrum: A lot of it was, yeah. The inspiration to write more on the road came when I wrote one of the songs 'Now U Kno Tha Deal 4 Real' while in Berlin on headphones at a friends flat. I realized that my favourite songs are written when I'm having fun; not under a deadline and limited to just my laptop and headphones. I spend less time over-thinking and more time creating and trying to get down as many ideas as possible before I have to get off the train, plane or go to play a gig.
DD: Was the experience any different to how you'd produce in a studio space?
Machinedrum: The experience actually influenced the way I approach writing songs in the studio. I try to wrap up as much of a song as I can within four/five hours and then move on to something new. It keeps a good momentum going, and before I know it I'm sitting on fifteen/twenty tunes that only need one or two more sessions to complete. I tend to "ruin" songs if I spend more than four sessions on it. I want to add new synths, new drums, take songs in different directions etc., and almost 99% of the time it's unnecessary.
DD: Looking back to 2001's Now You Know, and now to 2011's Room(s), what has changed for you musically in the past decade?
Machinedrum: The biggest thing that has changed for me is the ability to let go of my work way more easily than in the past. Before I would never think a track was finished and would keep revisiting it. When I would revisit songs in this way, I tended to add things that weren't needed. A more obvious change for my fans would be stylistically jumping around from release to release. For me it becomes quite boring to stick with one sound - I've listened to so much music new and old in the last ten years that I can't help but want to experiment with different sounds that I'm influenced by. Rather than try to make tons of side projects for all the sounds I'm into, I try to fit what I think is appropriate in to the Machinedrum project. Another thing that has changed is less use of DSP or crazy micro-editing of tunes. In the past I would add tons of glitches and weird pitch bends, fx on every second of the track. I kinda miss doing that actually.... lets see what will happen on the next album!
DD: It feels that some of your older tastes have come full circle on Room(s).
Machinedrum: Full circle is the key phrase that keeps coming up in my mind. If you listen to Now You Know, my first Machinedrum LP, there's lots of integration of slower beats with fast paced moments interspersed throughout the tracks. I was really interested in the flux between the two extremes. With Room(s) the approach is the same, but this time working within faster tempos against a slower half time feel rather than slow tempos with moments of double time programming. Both records are influenced by the relationship between Jungle and Hip Hop.
Machinedrum's 'Room(s)' Album Launch Party will be held at The Rhythm Factory, London, this weekend on July 23rd - 10pm-5am.