WORDS: Alex Caslano
It’s probably every producer's worst nightmare, but when asked about losing his debut album in a gut-wrenching hard drive crash, Toby Ridler aka Becoming Real is surprisingly accepting. “Losing loads of music is no biggie” he says without a hint of resentment, “I have no real reason to make music; I only make it as it’s like an addiction. The process of making and what you learn from it - that’s what’s exciting for me.” After a string of acclaimed EPs which started with 2010’s ‘Fast Motion’ and saw the experimental producer draw on his love of grime and punk to create warping, abstract beats, Ridler’s debut long-player was highly anticipated. Its demise however, would arguably prove part of the plan.
In the aftermath Ridler split his time between Glasgow, London and Norway, setting up the Zone collective and label with visual artist and ex-Divorce bassist Vickie McDonald; electronic music meanwhile (and particularly bass-driven and experimental music), was also becoming less insular. “Even when the London scene seemed experimental and producers were trying new things, it was always confined to a certain scene” he tells us of his formative years. “It’s only recently that all these borders have more or less dissolved. That’s probably why I started thinking about releasing stuff again.”
Collaborating with Vickie McDonald on new project, MOURN, Ridler has also just released a solo EP called ‘LQD OIL’ which finds him at his sonic-booming best, delivering both jungle-infused hyper rhythms and beatless soundscapes (“‘Grime Lord’, for me, sounds like a fine neon green silk being draped over a cathedral” he suggests). With his debut album rescheduled for release on Transgressive, the old adage ‘everything happens for a reason’ has never been so appropriate.
Listen to the ‘LQD OIL’ EP below and check out our full interview with Becoming Real in which we talk more about his attitude towards making music:
SG: It’s been two years since your last release, punctuated by a very unfortunate incident with your hard drive in which you lost your debut album. What were the implications in terms of writing music after that happened? Was it hard to pick up where you left off?
BR: Hello, the implications were just keep making stuff. I have no real reason to make music; I only kinda make it as it’s like an addiction almost; I love the finesse of honing what you’re making and I make a lot of music, so losing loads of music is no biggie because the process of making and what you learn from it (production/composition/synthesis etc) remains. That’s what’s exciting for me: tightening the design, focussing and condensing ideas - minimalism basically; so I think I have a way of thinking that suits losing a load of tracks.
SG: Your new release, ‘LQD OIL’, is superbly engaging; do you write music with a firm idea of how you'd like it to sound, with a concept in mind?
BR: When making stuff I don’t plan for it to be of a certain ilk, it’s just a natural thing; I like to think of the process as an investigation. When you produce for a certain amount of time a dream like relationship or dialogue builds up between you and sound, when you are completely in the moment nurturing an idea and experimenting. After that point it becomes much more like an equation, so it becomes less abstract, and really quite formal; you’ve got the bones of an idea, and you now need to figure out how to convey this idea within the architecture of a song. I do always want the music to be onomatopoeic to sound, like you can taste it - really bright hues that you can roll around in your mouth. The track ‘Grime Lord’, for me, sounds like a fine neon green silk being draped over a cathedral.
SG: We read a few interviews from around 2010 in which your music is described as everything from dubstep to warped RnB; when you first started writing music did you think about where it would fit in? Was that ever an issue for you?
BR: There are elements of the genres you mentioned that were probably in my work at that point; I was more from a grime background though - grime and punk - so it was a weird combination of things to bring to the table at that time in the music scene. As to where something would fit in, is that ever an issue for anyone? Back then it wasn’t really about anything for me except making and experimenting; I was never part of any club scene back then, I was just kinda orbiting on my own. Even back then when the London scene seemed experimental and producers were trying new things (rhythmic structures, tempos etc), it was always confined to a certain scene; there where perimeters to work within and I think it’s only recently that all these borders have more or less dissolved. That’s probably why I started thinking about releasing stuff again.
SG: Generally, when most artists start making music they tend to be influenced by other producers, but when you’ve been making music for a few years you tend to grow into your own skin; is there anyone who has really intrigued you over the last couple years or had an impact on your sound?
BR: I listen to music, so yeah things creep in; but you’re right, after a couple years your agenda becomes stricter, I suppose. I became fascinated by marching bands for a while; I bought loads of 7"s with recordings of lectures being given about experimental medicines which really made me think about what it is to sit and listen to something without seeing its sound source - diegetic and non diegetic music. Music-wise, I’ve been enjoying Sophie, Earth, AFX and the Haswell/Hecker/Mego crew; but mainly it’s been joining up dots between different design elements/styles/motifs/rhythms I’m interested in.
SG: You moved to Glasgow from Norway, setting up a label and collective called Zone with Vickie McDonald; can you tell us a little about the origins of Zone and what you promote?
BR: My time is split between Norway, Glasgow and London for the time being. I did a lot of growing up in Norway; that’s actually where I came up with the name Becoming Real. There was a guy I met when I was trekking in the North, and he called himself ‘Lord Real' - my Norwegian is terrible, but I think his real name was Varg or Varns or something; either way, I had been studying a lot of Lacan (controversial French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan) and the name just kinda sprang from that. Zone came about a bit before Glasgow, but yeah, I basically wanted to set up a collective/label, and had done so for a while; I approached Vickie with the idea and she too was looking to get something started, so we took it from there. Zone for now is a creative hub; we have a couple different projects going on, and as a collective we've just signed some new folks to release and have a couple non-audio projects coming up as well.
SG: You’ll be playing live alongside Design A Wave at a Night School Records event this Saturday; do you like to experiment and manipulate your music in the live environment? And what can we expect from your forthcoming album?
BR: Yup, live will be fun! The album is like a quilt patchwork, comprised of tracks I’ve made over the last 4 years or so; I think of it as a document, but it’s more fun than a document. Rashad Becker actually mastered it; he's someone I've been trying to work with for a while.