Glaswegian producer Andy Graham aka Sei A is responsible for some truly cutting edge club music. His releases on the likes of Aus Music, Turbo and Kompakt both challenge and electrify, reverberating with a very distinct sound which is matched by few of his contemporaries. With his imminent third album ‘Space In Your Mind’, he's discovered an entirely new realm of his sound and the result is stunning.
Existing beyond the dancefloor with ambient arrangements and stirring atmospherics, ‘Space In Your Mind’ is akin to lucid-dreaming, with each track beautifully realised and hugely absorbing. “Within making your own music there’s quite a lonely world that only you can really explore” suggests Andy, speaking to us from his base in London. “It definitely feels like more of a personal record, and at times it certainly wasn’t easy to write.” Vocal collaborations from Will Samson and Daudi Matsiko certainly crystallise a feeling of emotional investment, while the ‘space’ that Andy explores allows his ideas to breathe freely.
Listening to the album without interruption does induce a certain sense of contemplation. The fragile but overwhelming melancholy of tracks like ‘Tides’ and ‘Exit’ have the power to draw out your deepest emotions. It’s an album which commands your attention, but also invites you to drift blissfully away. With the relentless pace of modern life and the bombardment of data we process every day, the space in your mind is something you should definitely make time for.
Listen to a preview of ‘Space In Your Mind’ below as well as our full interview with Andy in which we talk in-depth about the creative process behind the album, the desire to tour it live and how it felt to make his DJ debut at the Sub Club last year:
SynthGlasgow: Space In Your Mind’ is your third album and it really feels like something significant. Can you tell us a little about what inspired this project and how the writing process began?
Sei A: For years and years I’ve been making music (and lots of it). The process has always been pretty fast for me, resulting in a huge collection of unreleased tracks. Whilst doing club EP’s for Aus Music, they asked me to do a bigger project and I started collating tracks that were moving very quickly away from the typical club sound. I guess as soon as you know it’s for a bigger project and it’s for one of the best labels in the UK, it breathes a new sense of life into it and you also have direction.
SG: You mention in the press release that you wrote a lot of music in a short space of time and that you had “grasped a sound”. What was it about this particular sound or direction that you wanted to explore?
Sei A: I bought myself a new Prophet synth and this was the first bit of hardware (synth-wise) I had been properly using since I left Glasgow, probably about 6/7 years ago now. The basis of the new tracks was solely from using the Prophet, which was giving me a whole new warmth of sound. I had also been listening to a lot of drone and ambient music from the likes of Stars of the Lid to Basinski etc and the music was beginning to design itself into a much fuller atmospheric type of sound. I also felt like I had a lot more space within the music and I wanted to explore way further into this depth of sound.
SG: The whole album is inescapably introspective and emotive, and at times quite sombre. What kind of headspace were you in while writing the album and how much of your own emotion have you poured into it?
Sei A: The album has a wide range of emotions for sure. Within making your own music there’s quite a lonely world that only you can really explore. It definitely feels like more of a personal record, and at times it certainly wasn’t easy to write - with the writing blocks that occur and the general headspace you’re in at that particular moment. There’s a lot of ups and downs and the writing blocks always come and go, but I always find that once the block has gone the next thing you make will be better than the last, and fresher, making it worth the wait even although dealing with the frustration. You’re right, the album has more of a sombre sense, but it also has a slight touch of euphoria, with a love song in there. So yeah, emotions are, and always will be important to my writing.
SG: Will Samson and Daudi Matsiko provide vocal highlights which really compliment the feel and flow of the album; how involved were you in the lyrical content? And do you think the vocals influence the instrumental tracks and vice versa?
Sei A: Lyrically, with the tracks on which they had collaborated, they wrote all their own words. I had previously worked with Daudi on an EP, which I released under a different name. That was released last year and was massively received so I wanted to expand on that and bring his talents to the album. The track he features on, ‘Exit’, towards the end the music really shows where I was at in terms of what I was listening to while writing the album, and his fragile subtle tones suited it perfectly.
With Will Samson, who features on three of the album tracks, I had been listening to his previous albums and we both were listening to a very similar genre of music and had been for years, so the collaboration with Will was very easy. Will expanded his vocal writing to also playing guitar and bass in parts of the tracks where he features, and for me, brought out some of the album’s highlights. All of this came together in complimenting the rest of the album even although he hadn’t heard any of the other tracks which were being compiled for it, so I kind of knew what would work in terms of being cohesive and would also work with the rest of the album.
SG: The production on ‘Space In Your Mind’ is just stunning – beautifully textured, hypnotic and melodic. Has this album allowed you to push yourself and realise new ambitions with your production?
Sei A: Completely. Will Samson produced beautiful soundscape guitar swells to work with along with the warmth of the bass pedal he was using, plus of course his vocals ranging between high and low. Originally, Will had sang only one verse then chorus so it was good in terms of production for me to then ask him to follow up with another verse to make the song sound and feel more complete. As a result of this, I was learning new production techniques in terms of structuring everything to make an actual song.
Also, towards the middle of the tracks I wanted to layer samples and then pitch-shift the guitars in harmony with the samples, which was then giving it a more epic and dynamic sound throughout. Everything seemed to come together perfectly.
SG: There’s clearly huge live potential with ‘Space In Your Mind’. Is translating it to a live environment something you’ve considered? And will you be touring – DJ or otherwise - to support the release?
Sei A: Years ago I had a live set for an older project I was doing and it was always massively received, but now looking at this project and the possibilities - it completely makes sense and it’s something I will do, and I’ve already started to look at. Will Samson and I had been chatting about what setup we would have, discussing bringing his studio input to play it live - aesthetically it should very appealing.
DJ’ing is something I will still do of course and April sees the start of the tour in the UK, and also dates in Nijmegen, Florence plus more.
SG: You seem to have developed quite a fruitful relationship with AUS Music over the past few years; what attracted you to AUS and why do you think it makes a good home for the album?
Sei A: I had a release on Will Saul’s Simple Recordings quite a few years ago and at the time I had introduced the current Aus Music label manager Jodie Ingram, to Will’s Simple setup, which then later progressed onto me recording an EP for Aus. After a few EPs we all started talking about doing a bigger project and they pretty much let me have free reign as to how I wanted it to sound.
As more music later developed we pushed the album back as the overall sound had started to make even more sense and I felt like everything was getting better. Towards the end of last year I was still making new music but we had to stop and decide on a final release date. I was then asked to gather the tracks ready for mastering and later that day, I ended making the track ‘Linear’ within an hour. I honestly could’ve made half an album that week haha! Jodie, Will and I are all really good friends and they were huge help throughout the making of the album.
SG: You’re based in London, but obviously have links to Glasgow. Are there any aspects of your native home that you miss? It must have been great to return for Sensu last year?!
Sei A: Having moved from Glasgow I miss my family and friends for sure, but I really enjoy London. There are so many Scottish people down here and wherever you go you’ll likely hear a Glaswegian or Scottish accent, and probably know them as well, so you never really miss it completely.
Sensu was amazing. I was on the warm-up for the Life and Death night with Tale of Us and by 10:30pm the Subbie faithful were banging on the ceiling. It was amazing; the Glasgow crowds never let you down whatsoever. That was also my first time DJ’ing in the Sub Club. Previous to that I had always performed live sets in there from years and years back so it was a great feeling to finally get behind that booth. I’m beginning to really show my age now but maybe one day I might be back in Sunny Glasgow…