Simon James

Maestro of the quirky synth, Simon James braces himself for our quick-fire line of questioning 

Where are you right now?

“I’m in a B&B in Devon. The sun has set and I’ve been told I need to keep the lights off once it gets dark or bats will fly in to my room.”

The new album, ‘Space No Space’ is your third album this year!

“I’m actually trying to get a better balance, but music is always calling.”

Why the sudden burst of activity?

“Time! Some of the material had been around for a while, but I hadn’t had the time to finish it.”

You’re also releasing under you own name, what prompted that?

“The pseudonyms I’ve used before, like The Simonsound and Black Channels, have involved collaborators so they don’t exist outside of those partnerships. There’s been a personal shift for me where I’m working out what I want to do as an instrumental artist, so it felt like the right time to do that under my own name.”

Why do you think people like a pseudonym?

“For the same reason people like dressing up, maybe? It allows you to play with different ideas and try things out. And people do like a bit of mystery don’t they? I do like dressing up too!”

The new album is a Buchla record, right?

“That is one way of describing it, yes. I used a Buchla to make it, but it’s a collection of material I had lying around that I used to listen to when I was anxious. I found it beneficial for my mind and it matched the kind of space I was trying to find in my everyday life.”

You own a Buchla Electric Music Box, tell us a little about it…

“I’ve been obsessed with music technology since I was a kid. The Buchla was so far out of reach due to the cost, but by a sad turn of events I found myself in a position where I could consider buying a Buchla 200e. 

I placed my order and didn’t hear anything so called up the Buchla office in the USA and Don Buchla answered the phone!”

You also have a Ciat-Lonbarde Cocoquantus, which looks like someone spilt Cheerios on the garden decking…

“Yeah! It is an interesting looking machine. I stumbled across it on the music tech forum Muff Wiggler. I got my first one a few years ago, but sold it to fund another studio purchase. Then regretted it and bought another quite quickly.”

It’s a boutique “cosmic looper”, right? Erm…

“Well, in simple terms it’s a dual lo-fi looper with a complex modulation/oscillator section. The Cheerios are the ‘banana’ connectors that are the same standard as Buchla, so it interfaces with that very nicely. It’s difficult to tame, but the more you play it, the more you understand how to work with its oddness.” 

Give us a quick Ciat-Lonbarde history lesson… 

“Ciat-Lonbarde is Peter Blasser, based in Baltimore. He designs esoteric handmade instruments with interfaces that look like nothing else, and just like the Buchla, encourage play and experimentation.”

What’s next up for you? 

“I don’t think any more of my own material will surface this year, but I have two albums planned for early 2020, a collection of electromagnetic recordings from the huge electronics markets in Shenzhen, and two pieces for Buchla and Windchime coming out on Lo Recordings.”

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Sir Was

Pulling up a chair and making himself comfy in the face of our quick-fire line of questioning, it’s Sir Was