Bowlegs recently caught up with celebrated Scots 3d graphics whizz turned soundscaper Tom Scholefield aka Konx Om Pax, to discuss his latest album, the delights of regional surrealism and the hitherto unforeseen links between ‘slootering’ and electronica….
Bowlegs: Great name – where did it come from?
Tom: It came from the title of a classical piece of music… its means “Light In Extension”… nothing to do with the occult as most people think
Bowlegs: You’re known primarily to music fans as a designer through your visuals for Oneohtrix Point Never, Hudson Mohawke etc. How do the world of the visual and the world of sound merge for you and what are the key differences in your approach to the work? Do you see one or other as the ‘dayjob’ or is it a finer, more complicated balance than
Tom: Up until recently I did view my visual work as more like a day job… but music is becoming more in the fore-front now – what ever helps pay the rent. I’m fundamentally a commercial artist, I like making things that people buy as tangible objects. It all comes from me so really there isn’t much difference. Apart from certain aesthetics, brighter visuals and darker music.
Bowlegs: Describe to us a little of your musical background – when and how you started making music and some of your formative musical influences.
Tom: I made really lo-fi techno as a teenager after getting into Jeff Mills, Richie Hawtin etc from listening to John Peel. I loved Peel for his tastes.. he was into everything and I think that rubbed off on me. I love all sorts of stuff from old electronic music to heavy metal and classical music.
Bowlegs: What kinds of gear did you use to make music when you started out and what are the key components of your set up now?
Tom: Nothing has changed much, basic sequencer on a mac and an assorted range of keyboards and microphones. I sample quite a bit from TV, film and field recordings
Bowlegs: Your album Regional Surrealism has been described as a ‘collage’ album. Was there a concept behind it or did it just take shape organically?
Tom: It’s like a compilation of stuff that I’ve made over the years that didn’t fit into other releases on my own label “Display Copy”. Once I started to compile tracks I started writing new works to sort of fill in the gaps between the older pieces…
Bowlegs: We felt that there was a strong sense of place and memory within the layers of the album which is also evidenced in the track titles. Could you elaborate on these concepts and how, if at all, they found themselves into the fabric of the album?
Tom: Time and place is a very important starting point to most of the tracks on the record, something might have happened in my life that triggered an initial idea for the piece. Like being with my family after time apart, or watching a certain part of a film… or remembering thoughts and feelings of happy events in my childhood. “Slootering” is an old Scottish word that means to play in water, my brother and I used to sit in the kitchen sink or paddling pool messing around with jugs of water.
Bowlegs: Some of your productions have been compared to legendary Scots duo Boards Of Canada directly. How do you see their lasting influence and what do you feel is significant about their productions?
Tom: Well I’m a massive fan but I’m not directly just trying to copy them, its just that we obviously share the same interests and come from a similar part of the country so its inevitable that there’s a connection. This record is by far the most listenable thing I’ve made. My first release sounded more like a noise/concrete record, fuck all like Boards of Canada. Its just a part of my personal development…
Bowlegs: Can you describe the methods you use to compose and put together the music – is there a collage aesthetic at play here too? To what extent do samples play a role in the composition process?
Tom: To be honest I tried to keep things simple on this record, I write melodies and process them to make them sound weirder, like slowing everything down and recording to cassette.
Bowlegs: The album has a contemplative, perhaps more muted colour palette and feel, in contrast to some of the more bright and vibrant textures that are present in some of your artwork. Can you explain the contrast and perhaps elaborate further on the different aesthetics at work?
Tom: This record was made as something I would listen to before going to bed after staring at bright crazily complicated 3d animations all day at work… Its a form of release
Bowlegs: We were thinking of a recent documentary on Glasgow’s art scene that was part of the BBC Imagine series in the run up to this interview. It was called The Grit and the Glamour , and it focused on award winning artists such as Martin Boyce, Douglas Gordon, Simon Starling and Richard Wright. How much do you feel that your geographic location and by extension your formative background plays in shaping your work?
Tom: Glasgow is a big influence, I think having decades of successful artists that all graduated from the same art school as me gives you a certain confidence to your work… like if they can do it so can you… The weather and attitudes of people here play an important role, a lot of time spent indoors making things, or in clubs socialising.
-Interview by Mark Williams-