Andrew Kay: The Evolution To Digital
September 3, 2011
Since the advent of the digital age, many things have changed and evolved into some interesting new creatures. It’s not that much of a surprise that music would be affected by this and I don’t mean in the sense of the ever annoying “pirating” issue that everyone loves to focus on. How one perceives, hell even creates, music has been evolving and now it’s to the point where almost anyone can digitally create their own. Andrew Kay is someone who has been doing just that for some time now. Personally, I find his work to be interesting so give it a listen; I’m sure you’ll find something that you like from him since he covers several genres. May you also enjoy getting to know him via the interview!
I've noticed that you've been creating electronic music as far back as 2005 and I am also vaguely aware that you have at least dabbled in Mathematics during your time attending a University. With those two facts in mind, has being in that field affected your approach to music in any way or do you see them as two completely separate entities? Has that view changed from your initial opinion on this matter from your times as a novice at music writing and what caused the transformation?
My degree was in maths. When people talk about music and maths, I get a ridiculous mental image of Beethoven with an abacus. Algorithms are awful at composing songs - where music and maths actually intersect is acoustics and signal processing. In 2005 I was writing computer programs to make songs, which were basically a sequencer and some software synths; studying maths definitely helped me with that. I've also used concepts of Fourier theory to understand sound design and mixing, and I've been writing a few of my own software effects.
Your style varies greatly from song to song which makes your album or batch releases very interesting. But I have noticed electronic elements as the almost constant presence within your creations. What is it about electronic/industrial music that first attracted you to it and, consequently, inspired you to create some of your own? Is that related to what made the desire to walk the path of a musician, be it full-time or in passing, take root within you? If not, what inspired you enough to make you embark on that journey? Why the decision to one-man it instead of joining a band?
I enjoy listening to lots of different music so I end up trying to make it, too - one constant is that all of my music is made on computers. Synthesizers have appealed to me for a long time because they'll sound like whatever you tell them to; or perhaps it's just because the first album I really listened to was "The Pleasure Principle." Electric guitars nowadays too can make a wide range of sounds. Other instruments seem limited by comparison, though they can make comfortably familiar sounds and be fun to play. My inspiration to start making music was completely separate from that, though. It was solely because I loved Nobuo Uematsu's soundtrack to Final Fantasy 7. No joke!
The music you create is very relaxing and catchy overall while, lyrically, topics vary from romance to other personal matters like in "Pressure To Perform." What is the main driving force behind your music? What is the general mood or feeling that you want to impart with it and how is the writing process for you? Do you usually have a concept in mind first or does one just develop along the way during improvisational sessions?
When I'm writing lyrics, what usually happens is I come up with a line or two which sound cool, then I work out what a song containing those lines could be about. The rest of the lyrics come after that, though sometimes it takes me a long time. Any ideas borrowed from my real life get distorted or disguised, hopefully beyond recognition, so none of my songs are really non-fiction enough to be that personal. I try to avoid sentiments which too many other songs express; you can judge for yourself how well I do at that, though.
Moving along the same lines, what musicians have had a big impact on you and has the underground music scene in the UK inspired you in any way? How involved are you in your local scene? Do you ever intend to perform live? If you have already, what was it like? What are the pros and cons?
Gary Numan and Nine Inch Nails have between them had the most effect on the music I make, though it probably doesn't sound like it most of the time. Other music I've absorbed includes bands like Jimmy Eat World, Amplifier, Pitchshifter and Hate Dept., and not-very-famous internet music-makers such as Bjorn Lynne, Sefiros and OverCoat.
I haven't really involved myself in the UK or local scenes, primarily because I'm no good at music when I'm not in front of a computer. I have never played live and I'm not much of a performer; that said, one thing I'm doing at the moment is assembling some of my songs into forms that I can play with a laptop, so live shows aren't out of the question in the future. I think I'd enjoy them if an audience would.
Aside from music, are there other non-academic activities that take up a good deal of your time? What about them keep you engaged for as long as you have with them? How did you first discover the ones that are most important to you and what do you hope to accomplish within those arenas?
My biggest other interest is Go, a strategy game popular in the East and, for some reason, among maths students in the West. So far it has been an extremely reliable way of meeting awesome people.
What are your plans for your music? Looking to get signed on a label in the future?
If I ever find myself in need of a large debt, I will go to university again and then sign a record deal. Otherwise, I'll just continue to not make a living as a musician, which is fine by me. If enough people start paying me for music so I can do it full-time, I will, but that isn't really my goal.
Been meaning to ask, do you have a favorite instrument or is there one that you like playing in particular?
I want to say my laptop, but actually guitar is still more fun. I have one with 7 strings.
Has music been a constant presence within your life in some form or other? What are some of your most memorable experiences tied to music?
Music goes all the way back to as early as I can remember. The most memorable experience has to be Rick-rolling an open-mic night in Beijing though. I actually got an enthusiastic round of applause. And a crate of free beer.
Thank you for taking time out to answer these questions! As it has been my habit to close with this, do you have any closing remarks or thoughts that you would like to share with our readers?
The most important thing to me is if you enjoyed my music, please share it. If I go around telling people to listen to me, that's spam (and it doesn't work). If you know someone who might like it, or you have a facebook/twitter/blog where you post stuff you like, that's a win for everyone. So, share it with your friends. Thanks! And if you're rich, I take donations. [smile]