Barefoot might be a new name to some. Can you give us some background on your history as a producer?
I started writing and releasing electronic music back in 2011, with my first releases coming out on the now defunct Influenza Minus label. Most of my work at that time was in the 130/140bpm range and I went on to release two tracks on the Med School ‘Blood Pressure’ and ‘New Blood 013’ compilations. I had a few more releases on labels such as Flexout Audio and Absys before going on a bit of a hiatus whilst studying music at university. During this time I explored writing in many different styles before landing on the ambient 85/170bpm work I’m currently creating.
The transition in sound from your early releases to now is pretty vast. Was there anything in particular that put you on this path when you went into a release hiatus or was it more about progression as an artist?
I guess I was driven by a want to create a more honest expression. The more involved in the 140/170 scene I became, and the more often I was DJing, I found myself writing to a structure that would allow my music to be mixed. Over time this felt like an unnatural way to work. By stripping back my music to a more textural and ambient style I feel I can better communicate my ideas without having to frame it within the context of pre-existing, genre-specific tropes.
During your hiatus from releases did you continue to keep up with the scene in general? Things must be a lot different since 2011.
I did keep up with it, however not as closely as before. The drum & bass scene has definitely changed dramatically since then! I was massively excited by the outputs of Exit, Med School and BMTM at the time for pushing the deeper and more experimental styles within the tempo, with artists like Stray, Synkro, Indigo and Bop really grabbing my attention. I feel some of these labels have had a slightly more commercial focus since then. This has definitely given rise to a lot of small-scale DIY labels, however, and that has definitely rekindled my excitement in the scene again.
So far you’ve had back-to-back releases on two of my personal fave labels in RE:ST and Literature Recordings. How did you come about making connections with these labels prior to getting the music signed?
I’ve known Literature boss Cuelock for many years, having released an ambient piece on his previous label Blueberry Musik back in 2012. Since then he’d kept an eye on what I’d been up to and we were both keen to work together again. In terms of connecting with RE:ST, it came about through my friend and collaborator The Vision Reels. After explaining to him that I’d been into the label for a long time and would love to work with them he put me in touch with Lcp and I sent him over some of my newest tracks.
Speaking of The Vision Reels, you two have recently had a release together “Ciara”. Talk us through how this came about.
I have been good friends with TVR for a number of years now and we frequently send music back and forth to each other for feedback. I was working on an idea at the time of Storm Ciara and sent it his way. He was immediately interested in it and asked if he could work on it. The process worked really well and the track bounced between us a couple of times before landing on the final result. I think we both have a similar aesthetic when it comes to ambient music and the track came together surprisingly quickly.
The way I would personally describe your music is “Bliss” ha ha! Spacey, ambient, and soul-soothing goodness. Do you have to be in a certain mind frame to make this vibe of music?
I suppose I have to be in a calm and focused place, although that’s not always the case. Often inspiration comes from a landscape, space, field recording, or sample. I find I have to get as much down in the first session as possible.
Moving on from your mind-state with the music, how about your creative flow? Give us a rundown of how much time you dedicate to producing and also if it’s easy for you to get into the “zone”.
I try to work in the studio as much as possible. I think the longer I’ve been producing the easier I find it to get into that “zone” and can happily spend the day with my equipment making music. That being said, getting into the modular side of things has definitely brought back an element of fun into the studio and that can really help with creativity.
Will you be resting within the 85/170bpm ambient vibe for now or can we expect any other styles from Barefoot?
For the time being I have been really enjoying this tempo and style, however recently I’ve been letting ideas dictate the tempo and some of my future projects will be at varying speeds. Working with my modular rig allows me to be more fluid with tempo and structure in a way a DAW can’t.
We saw you recently did a live electronic gig in London. Firstly, how did it go? And secondly, talk us through the live setup you are working with?
Yes, I recently performed as part of the piece HERD at The Place. It was a collaboration with my partner Winona Guy, a contemporary dance choreographer, and five brilliant dancers. I performed a live soundtrack using my modular synth rig, providing grounded beats and atmospheric pads and textures. It was a really exciting process as I was present during rehearsals and the movement and music was created side-by-side. We left the timings and subtleties loosely improvised so I could react to what the dancers were doing and vice versa.
Can you give us some more insight into your modular setup? Firstly, when did you start? And in addition, do you intend to carry this through to perform your material out and about for gigs?
I have been interested in modular synthesizers since seeing the Doepfer Dark Energy in a copy of Sound On Sound magazine while I was at secondary school. It’s something I’d read about and studied on forums and tutorials for years before pulling the trigger on my first semi-modular synthesizer. I started out with a Moog Mother 32 around 2 years ago and was instantly hooked. Within a couple of months I’d acquired an additional oscillator: the Intellijel Dixie II, and a Mutable Instruments Clouds, which is a gorgeous granular audio processor. Since then I’ve filled out a much larger Doepfer case, with my module choices being made with ambient in mind. I definitely intend to perform live ambient sets on the modular and had a couple gigs lined up for 2020, however one has already been postponed due to the current situation in the world and I imagine the others may also be postponed or cancelled.
While we are talking setups let’s talk about the studio setup.
I use a Macbook Pro, running Logic X as my main DAW, with a Focusrite 18i20 interface and an Emagic Amt8 for MIDI syncing. When it comes to sound sources I’ve recently been leaning more towards an ‘out-of-the-box’ approach, using hardware synths and effects as much as possible. My modular setup has been a huge source inspiration in the past couple of years as it offers a totally different approach to composition. Aside from that, a Moog Minitaur provides bass, MFB 522 and Volca Beats for analogue drums and an assortment of guitar pedal effects, most notably the Fairfield Circuitry ‘Shallow Water’ and Montreal Assembly ‘Count To 5’ for adding movement and unpredictability to synths and texture. Field recordings also play a key role in my tracks, for this I’ve been using a Zoom H2n. Many of the atmospheric sounds found in my Fulmar EP are from a trip around Iceland in 2019.
With where your current music is at I’m guessing you are a fan of that style in general? Give us some people who you listen to and are inspired by.
I am definitely a big fan of the ambient style in general, however, I like to keep my listening as open as possible. In terms of ambient electronic I’ve loved the recent releases by Jogging House, Sonmi451 (or anything on Astral Industries) and r beny. Dauw is another great label to delve into. Some of my all time favourite and most influential ambient releases are ‘Tryshasla’ by Secede, ‘First Narrows’ from Loscil and William Basinski’s ‘Disintegration Loops’.
With an impression over the last few months, what can we expect moving forward from you?
I have a track coming on Groundwork Recordings at the end of April, alongside Ruido and Kodama, as well as some collaborative projects in the works.
Lastly, the name! How did you come about naming yourself “Barefoot”?
I can’t exactly remember where the name ‘Barefoot’ came from, however, I do remember making a conscious decision to go by a name that doesn’t instantly tie me to a particular genre or subculture. I avoided adding numbers or removing vowels, which seemed to be the way to go at the time! This has allowed me to transition from my more beat-orientated work to the stripped back ambient style without my alias clashing or contradicting with the sounds I create.