Seams, aka James Welch, is continuing to record electronic music that reflects his experiences, takes in his surroundings and taps into his inner most self. So with his just released double EP (Tourist and Sleeper) we’re party to an exploratory period in Berlin (arriving for an internship) and the more insular moments in Hampshire (returning home). It makes for a contrasting, yet strangely cohesive set – two sides of a psyche from one of the UK’s most exciting electronic artists.
Bowlegs: Your first release on Full Time Hobby is a double EP that includes a previously released set and a new set? Was that your idea? Why the two EP’s together?
James: I made the first EP, Tourist, over a summer in Berlin. When I got home I started toying with the idea of creating an accompanying piece. Something that contrasted the source materials and inspiration. Then when I started working on Sleeper, at home in Hampshire, it made more sense to me. It’s a bit darker compared to Tourist, but I am quite happy how they ended up complementing each other so well.
Bowlegs: The Tourist EP was recorded in Berlin – a place steeped in the history of electronic music – was that an inspiring time? Do the surroundings really affect an electronic artist’s music? Did you go to Berlin specifically to record the EP?
James: I actually came to Berlin for an internship and was inspired by the liveliness of all the different districts, and how much living was done outside. I just did a lot of wandering around and recorded interesting sounds on my phone or dictaphone. Each track was built around what I’d recorded, so I’d say the surroundings have a pretty direct affect, yeah.
Bowlegs: Sleeper was recorded back at your home in Hampshire, UK. Was it a bit of a come down being back at home? Do you think that is reflected in the music? Like you have said before there is a more claustrophobic feel?
James: It definitely was. Because at that point, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after my studies, so I was sitting around the house, staring at the walls. Making music was a nice distraction, but not necessarily an escape. I wanted to make something that felt a bit more airless than Tourist.
Bowlegs: Sleeper doesn’t use field recordings like Tourist? Were there any other purposeful changes in how you write and recorded the songs?
James: I avoided using reverbs as much as possible, and tried to re-use the same instruments and textures, to create more of a homogenous feeling.
Bowlegs: I read that your favourite place to listen to music is on your bike with the headphones on full. Do you think these songs are good for such an occasion? The Glow definitely throws up imagery of movement in my head?
James: Totally. I think different tracks work for different types of rides. Touristfor the more laid back and exploratory, and Sleeper for the more fast paced and frantic.
Bowlegs: Tell us about the track Carnival from Tourist, clearly you were at a carnival for the field recordings. Were you having a good time or just standing back with the recorder? What inspired this particular piece?
James: It was during Karneval der Kultur in Kreuzberg, Berlin. I was recording most of the day, getting involved, and afterwards took the snippets that I liked and found rhythmically interesting and build the track around them. The weird slowed down talking in that track is actually my flatmate and I watching an amazing 8 year old breakdancer, haha.
Bowlegs: Do you have plans to move abroad for your next project? Where might you go?
James: That would be a nice idea, if I could fund it! I work full-time at the moment, so am tied to Berlin to a certain extent. But if I could, I would definitely go somewhere in the east, perhaps Korea or Japan. I’d love to get a feel for the mix between tradition and technology.
Bowlegs: How do you perform these tracks live? With electronic music’s popularity do you have to try and think of new ways to make the live shows more interesting?
James: The live show is mostly centred around a few midi controllers I use to trigger sounds and manipulate them. I try to show the audience as much of what I’m doing as is possible, so they can make the links between actions and what they hear. I’d love to have a super impressive light show, but sometimes it’s just as good to see someone wrestling a bunch of stuff on stage, trying to make sure it doesn’t all fall apart.
Bowlegs: What electronic artists (from the past and present) inspire you? Did you hook up with anyone in Berlin?
James: In Berlin the only musician I know is Derwin Schlecker, aka Gold Panda – we’ve previously met doing some shows together back in England. We meet and have tea now and then, and compare how crap our German is. In terms of inspiration, the stuff Actress is doing at the moment is really inspiring, the way not very many things going on at once can feel so deep.
Bowlegs: The Long Wait, one of my favourite tracks here, closes Sleeper. This isn’t a hidden message about when the next record is coming is it? If not what inspired its title?
James: Haha! Hopefully it isn’t too long till I make an album. I’m trying! The name was more about the time I was waiting to find out if I’d got my current job, and if I was moving back to Berlin. Whilst I was making the new EP it was very much in a kind of post-uni limbo, it all worked out in the end though!