London-based producer Samuel often feels “itchy” and “uncomfortable”. He’s been given a surname but prefers not to use it. He’s made records that haven’t been released but would rather not say with whom. He’s 28, living in Lewisham and is speaking to Dazed through his Korean housemate’s Skype account for his first ever interview. “Oh my god, I feel like we’re on a date!” he says with a nervy, oddball wit that offsets a chat that, after a few minutes of monosyllabic answers and deflective interrogations, becomes an open and earnest dialogue about the Irish-born drifter’s music.
His childhood was fraught with instability, moving between orphanages and gypsy camps before ending up in London nine years ago. Those feelings of longing and rootless-ness are characterised by the wistful optimism of his debut EP, Falling Star, released on Ninja Tune affiliate Technicolour on October 20. Samuel joins a roster of artists including Micachu & The Shapes’ Raisa K and Kid A who’ve come to define the label’s taste for destroyed and distorted electronics. Yet there’s an agitated, visceral undercurrent that lies beneath the surface of liquid melodies, and a confidence to the slightly slurred sensuality of Samuel’s voice, where deep bass drums caress a sound sprung from its R&B origins.
His idiosyncratic sense of humour emerges at intervals, most clearly when his smooth-talking emulation of a US playboy breaks through the sonic mood-lighting of forthcoming EP track “Boom Boom Boom” with the cliché "I’m not a fighter. I’m a lover, baby." That’s an example of Samuel’s ingrained sense of life’s absurdity, embodied by his oft-repeated motto: "It’s all a load of bollocks."
Dazed Digital: With Falling Star, I get the sense that, although it’s sonically quite earnest, there’s also a thread of irony running through it.
Samuel: Well it’s just because I don’t really have a clue what I am anyway. I’m just a pleaser. I can give you what I think you might want, I do that with everybody, and then I have no idea what the fuck I’m left with. So the music is difficult to make.
Then I also think that I’m funny and I make myself laugh so I put bits in that are cute for myself. Then I feel frustrated so I put a bit of that in and then I make it and I try and listen to other music and I go, ‘well, it’s not what that music is’. Not that I’m some sort of pioneer of anything, it’s just a big fucking itchy, uncomfortable thing that makes me feel frustrated and exposed for a load of the time. So this is the first time that it’s come through to, really, other people hearing it.
DD: Is that feeling of being itchy and uncomfortable from the fear of people listening to it or the process of actually making it?
Samuel: No, the making of it is fine, I like making it. I get off on it and I get whatever I need from that bit. I would like to share it with people and I would like to move on and play it live, and connect with people in that way; I’d like to feel what it’s like to have that. I’m interested in exploring that. I mean, I may hate it and decide never to do it again but I’m up for sharing it.
DD: Do you think that, in working with other people a lot, that reflects a desire to remove your own ego from the process?
Samuel: That’s the most used word that I can ever get to, this bulging ego that I have. I tell you, the things that I’ve worked on in the past, or have really come close to being finished, my ego just tears shreds out of everyone involved, I just can’t help it. I’m really destructive, when it comes to music and I fuck it up all the time. Like, a couple of people that I’ve worked with, they don’t even speak to me. I just can’t help it. I do try. I go, ‘you know what? I’m not stupid. I can try and be likeable,’ and then I just end up fucking it up. I don’t have a clue why that happens.
DD: I get the sense that this kind of avoidance of ego is also a cop out. By not putting out your own stuff, it’s really just self-preservation.
Samuel: I can honestly tell you, I have no clue of who I am because I can sit very comfortably and say, ‘well, I’m aware of my ego and therefore that makes me ego-less’. But then, there’s the other side of me going, “well you’re just sounding like a dickhead. Why don’t you just fucking put it out and stop being conscious of your ego?’ The people that are conscious of it, I can tell you, a lot of them are twats. So I’m trying to maybe just stay present with it and then focus and commit to the process of it. I think I have become a dickhead in getting to an end stage and then saying, ‘well, actually, it’s not quite the great masterpiece that my ego is telling me it should be’.
DD: Do you think, in not identifying with a surname, that lack of an identity feeds your creative output?
Samuel: It’s not that I don’t feel like I have a real centre, or identity. I feel pretty comfortable about feeling itchy if I want to be and not knowing what the fuck I am, if that’s what I want to feel. I’ve never had a problem with that bit. I try not to run away from stuff or put a front on.
Even the love songs, I write loads of them but then it’s not a thing that I know too well. It’s an idea and a dream that I have of it. But at the same time it’s uncomfortable because it’s just an uncomfortable topic so then I try to be joke-y with it. I feel itchy all the time, pretty much, so all of that stuff represents how I feel. That interests me and I think represents part of me.
DD: In saying you write about love but you don’t really know that much about it. Do you find it hard to get close to people?
Samuel: No, it’s the opposite. I’ll happily follow you home and pitch outside your house for five weeks [laughs]. I can’t find a balance. I won’t do that, obviously.
Video by Cal Bain
Written/produced with Okzharp of LV (Hyperdub)