Kirk Barley

Musician and producer Kirk Barley tackles this month’s quick-fire questions

Hello Kirk, where are you right now and what can you see?

“I’m currently at home, in my studio, looking at my chilli plants on the windowsill. They’re a bit sad with this cold weather, but they’ve done me proud this summer.”

Is Kirk Barley your real name? 

“Haha. It is my real name.”

You grew up in Yorkshire, right? Bet  there weren’t many Kirks in your school?

“I grew up near York, and I studied in Leeds  before moving to London. I’m back in Yorkshire now though, as London got far too expensive  after the pandemic. I’ve only met one other Kirk  in my life. Weirdly, his second name was Barley  too… perhaps he was just pulling my leg.”

You also answer to Church Andrews, which is a great name

“Kirk is actually Scottish for church, and Andrew  is my middle name, so that’s where it’s from.” 

But you do like a pseudonym, don’t you?

“I guess it might look that way, although since 2018 I’ve only worked under two names, and I’m planning to keep it that way. Most of the others are from past collaborative projects I’ve been involved in.”

Talk me through them

“Bambooman was my main pseudonym up until about 2017, with releases on labels like Matthew Herbert’s Accidental, Sonic Router and also  a few things on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood compilations. There was Segilola, which is the name of an amazing singer I collaborated with on a few EPs. Her name sounded cool, and it didn’t need to have ‘produced by Bambooman’ attached to it. There was Supergod, which was a collaborative thing I did with King Kashmere, who’s one of the best MCs going, and Grouphums – that was a very low-key thing I did ages ago. Sonically, it’s pretty similar to my Kirk Barley stuff, just a bit more wild.”

Church Andrews is also a collaborative project, isn’t it?

“I work with a fantastic drummer and lovely chap called Matt Davies. We use his drums as triggers for my synth stuff, which has been a really fun way of working. He also appears on a lot of my Kirk Barley work too, but more with his jazz hat on.”

You have fans in high places – Aphex Twin, for one?

“That was nuts. I really don’t know how he came across the Church Andrews and Matt Davies project. It’s nice to know he still goes properly digging for interesting and obscure stuff to play.”

You talk about the compositions on your ‘Marionette’ album being like “landscape or static scene paintings”. How so?

“The static thing is something that comes up often in my work. Things usually change very slowly and subtly in the music, rather than feeling like they’re on a journey to somewhere. I imagine my composition like sitting on a bench by a pond and watching nature do its thing.”

That’s a lovely image

“Sometimes, I describe the music like chucking  a load of harmonious bells and drums in a stream together and listening to them clatter against each other in the currents, which works quite well too.”

I like the notion of your tracks being “unfolding sound worlds”, like Terry Riley or Jon Hassell. ‘Nectar’, ‘Seafarer’ and ‘Kites’ are fine examples – talk us through the idea?

“I guess this slightly contradicts what I’ve just said, but a lot of the tracks on ‘Marionette’ slowly build to a crescendo. A cliched analogy might be like  a plant going from seedling to flower. Terry Riley and Jon Hassell are big influences in all my music.”

The title track has proper spooky puppet vibes. It’s amazing how instrumental music can conjure up these images. How does that work with you?

“I usually start by playing around with sounds and riffs. I quite often make big batches of ideas using a particular process or technique, and then develop the best ones. It’s at this point I can begin to conjure up images of what the track might represent, and from there I can use these images as cues for what to add or take away. I guess this kind of links back to the landscape and the static scene thing.”

There’s a real power in naming things, don’t you think?

“I often struggle with that, and I usually go with having one-word track titles for some reason. Sometimes I name them randomly and it just  sticks… and then it feels wrong to change it,  though there is probably something a lot more suitable I could use. In the past, I’ve spelled  track names wrong and hadn’t even realised  until it was too late [laughs].”

Can’t stop thinking about Church Andrews – imagine being brave enough to call your child Church!

“Yeah, my best mate calls me Church. I kinda like  it. I think that’s what pushed me to use the name, to be honest.”

Any good names lined up for future pets or kids?

“When I lived in London, we had a cat in my house-share that we took in off the streets. She was named Nana by my housemate, but we eventually found out her actual name was Gucci, so she’s now called Nana Gucci or Gucci Nana. Definitely keen to get my own cat soon. If I do, or if I have  a child, I’d better double-check I’ve got the spelling of the name right.”

‘Marionette’ is out on Odda

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