Enter The Void: Squarepusher
Squarepusher is still widely regarded as possibly the most forward-thinking electronic artist of today. His rich approach to creating new and exciting music, while also pushing the boundaries of what a live show could be continues to expand minds and challenge orthodoxies.From the very outset his work showed a nous for the unconventional and this experimental edge to his production style quickly got him noticed as well as compared to other visionary artists of the day such as Aphex Twin and Luke Vibert. After swiftly making waves the young Squarepusher would then sign a five-album deal with the iconic Warp Records and begin his seminal career.
Interviewing Squarepusher seems a daunting task. Fiercely academic, the sonic research scientist Tom Jenkinson has been defying boundaries with his intense experimental electronic music compositions for over 15 years. Expanding minds and challenging orthodoxies we wanted to delve deeper into the rationale behind his music and the logic that oxymoronically governs his creativity so we caught up with the enigmatic producer and musician head of his performance for London’s The Playground Festival to discuss exactly that and found the LED welding mask donning maestro to be as interesting and witty as ever. Yes, from revolutionising the sound of the organ to asking you what hand you prefer this interview has it all…
If I could take you back to the beginning and ask you what first drew you to electronic music? Was there a defining moment when you decided you wanted to be a musician?
Well I can’t really answer the latter half of that question as I never really wanted to be on and to a certain extent I don’t think of myself as a ‘musician’ now. The starting point for me musically was as with most people the radio. As a child I was fascinated with the concept of how a radio worked- being able to decode music from the air. It was simple yet amazing and I listened to music from all around the world. I found the palette of music when totally devoid of context to be extremely liberating- to view classical music through the same prism as Arabic music what a revelatory experience. I take a very scientific approach to music as that is what interests me. I like logic so for me it is a mathematical process that I hope to get music from but as I say not all of my experiments are successful. It’s a very complex relationship and one that is very difficult if not impossible to describe. I could only really tell you about how I feel about the consequences of music rather than the music in itself.
Over the years the sound of your output has undergone a steady evolution from the rave tinted electronica of the 90’s to the bass guitar led works of today. Do you think that these changes reflect where you were as a person as well as an artist over your career?
Well I find it very hard to make any sort of aesthetic judgment on my own work. Can you have an opinion on ones “fundamental project?” For me it would be very much the same to asking me to comparing my mind to my face. I’m just synthesizing a series of sounds in a manner that makes sense to me, when people enjoy that then great but they have just as much right not to like and I prefer not to pass judgement on my own work, it’d be like asking me which hand I prefer!
Speaking of evolution, your live show has developed into something quite spectacular. Can you tell us more about the concept behind it?
Well as much as it is a nauseating term, I did always set out to create something that I thought would work as a audio/visual piece and so began extensively working on what I felt would be the best way to give people an immersive experience. I’ve always been comfortable playing live since I was a teenager playing bass in local pubs all the way through until I adopted the Squarepusher persona and began performing with lots of electronic equipment, that’s not to say I don’t get nervous as I definitely do before each and every performance. One of the foremost things I wanted about my live shows was for them to be intense. They have to be intense.