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Charlie Alex March

The Hackney-based producer on his dream collaboration, plans for live gigs and running fingers down window blinds

Any musician who mixes soaring string-sections, gurgling analogue synths, and, erm, the running of fingers down window blinds into one cohesive sound, gets props from us. Cue: Charlie Alex March; a young Hackney-based producer whose debut album Home/Hidden manages the above whilst simultaneously sounding like a madcap collaboration between Ryuichi Sakamoto, Raymond Scott and Aphex Twin. Couple these diverse influences with a cast of supporting musicians including Stereolab’s Andy Ramsey, High Llamas’ Sean O’Hagan and Your Twenties’ Gabriel Stebbing and you can see why Dazed Digital wanted to meet Mr. March and ask him a few questions...

Dazed Digital: Your debut album has been a long time in the making. How do you feel about it now that it’s out?
Charlie Alex March: I’m never sure what people say to those kinds of questions, like, I don’t know if people say what they do is brilliant or something, but… it’s kind of a product of when I made it!

DD: You’ve worked with a lot of accomplished people on the record, how did the collaborations come about?
Charlie Alex March: Well, Andy from Stereolab I’ve known for years; he’s a perpetual thorn in my side, haha! He’s sort of mentored me for a long time and introduced me to lots of people he knows like Dominic Murcott out of High Llamas; Dominic then introduced me to Sean from the band and so I also started working with him. I got really excited because he’s done the strings on so many records that I grew up loving, like Fantasma by Cornelius. To work with people like Sean and to touch the fabric with which records like that are made is pretty special for me.

DD: So, who would the dream collaborator be?
Charlie Alex March: Cornelius, I suppose, that’d be pretty amazing. Or Aphex Twin, but I don’t imagine Aphex would touch me with a shitty stick, haha.

DD: You’ve produced work by other people. Can you detail a bit about this?
Charlie Alex March: Well, it never goes particularly well; I get the impression I’m awkward to work with. But, yeah, I’ve worked with a couple of bands. At the moment I’m working on some of Michael from Your Twenties solo stuff. It’s sounding good, quite weird. We’ve been doing an R&B pop thing. He came to me with all of these really great songs on the guitar. I didn’t really want to sit around for hours making indie music so I told him not to listen to anything with guitars and that he was only allowed to listen to Ciara and Stravinsky until the end of the month. He came back with all of these really interesting vocal ideas. I think this song Naszca is my favourite. We’re trying to get it done because he’s off on tour with the band. I mean, whenever I’m involved with stuff it always takes ages to finish, I think it’s because I can have trouble making final decisions about things.

DD: Speaking of which, rumour has it that you finished an album years ago, but for some reason didn’t release it? What’s the deal?
Charlie: I didn’t like the cut of its jib, basically. When I finished and took stock of it, I thought ‘Fuck, I don’t want it to sound like that’. And so, I’d rather lose it than have it come out and feel ashamed of it. Even though with my record now I don’t want to hear it, it’s only because I’ve heard it so many times. I mean, I wouldn’t let anything go out under my name unless at some point, for some reason, I thought ‘this is alright’, y’know?

DD: So, what have you got in the works at the moment? Any upcoming releases?
Charlie Alex March: I’m about to do some prepared piano recording at Trinity College - that’ll be for a a split EP with Gold Panda which will hopefully be out in early April. There’s also a thing of mine wanting to do a series of four space-themed EPs, but the label are saying it’s hard to get press on mini-albums. Y’know, they don’t want to lose money…So we’ll see what happens.

DD: There’s a very apparent mixture between old and new in your music; the way you use sampling and sequencing coupled with the vintage analogue gear, for instance. Do you consciously approach music making in this way?
Charlie Alex March: Well, I mean, I don’t want the music to sound like a pastiche of old, but I like the sound of old machines; they sound quite frail and each has its own character. I think modern synths tend to sound a lot like each other, and I think the cleaner things sound the crapper they sound. In terms of sampling and sequencing, I use it a lot because I can’t really play instruments very well, but I can work things out in my head; so I’ll know exactly what I want to program.  I’m a bit worried I’m driving myself mad with it all. I spend hours thinking about it.

DD: What’s the best thing you’ve heard recently?
Charlie Alex March: Ceephax’s new album United Acid Emirates is amazing, it’s out on Planet Mu.  It goes from sounding like normal Ceephax stuff to sounding really delicate, almost like Satie or something. I’ve been listening to Gold Panda’s new record a lot too. He’s really, really good. I think he’s been working with one of the guys from Simian Mobile Disco.

DD: You haven’t really played live yet…gonna’ start?
Charlie Alex March: No, I don’t think so. I don’t really see the point. The only plausible way of playing live would be to basically press play on a laptop and pretend I was doing something and if that’s the case I’d rather stay at home. I don’t know who would go to a gig of mine… I mean, maybe nobody and how depressing would that be?!

Home/Hidden is out now on Lo Records