A chat with Amon Tobin

Innovative artist fesses up to The Journal

Amon Tobin performs at Alfie’s on Sunday night.
Amon Tobin performs at Alfie’s on Sunday night.

Amon Tobin is one of the world’s most innovative musical minds. Representing the Ninja Tune label, Tobin originally created music in the realm of drum and bass. Several releases later, his sound has morphed into something much more eclectic, matching crashing rhythms with intricate melodies. In conversation, he is friendly, quiet and very, very polite.

DW: Could you talk me through your creative process?

AT: Normally when I go on tour I visit various record shops and I get my source material. I’ll sit in the corner of some record shop with my headphones on and a small record player, and I’ll just go through lots and lots and lots of records and find some different sound and hopefully some things will start forming. Some ideas for when I get back off tour. And then I’ll get back in the studio and go back over all the records I went through and try and piece it all together.

DW: The sounds that you get on your tunes are always very organic. Do you get live musicians in to record at all?

AT: No, all my stuff is done just with samples. ‘All from records’ has been pretty much the general idea. Just because I’m quite interested in making music in a different way than how its traditionally made. So, even though I’ve got nothing against a live band I think the two things exist perfectly well in parallel. What I’m quite into is making music from bits of things that have kind of existed in different pieces of music before. Its just a different approach, that’s all.

DW: What do you think of guys like Moby who are not only breaking this kind of music into the mainstream charts, but seeing it used in ads and movies.

What kind of place do you think your style of music has in the mainstream?

AT: I don’t know, it depends on what your objective is, I suppose. I think the danger is when your main objective is to try and appeal to a lot of people. If you start tailoring your music so that it will be acceptable to a wider range of people, then you start changing what your music is and what makes it interesting in the first place. The way I look at it, I’m making the music I make regardless — it doesn’t become a bad tune if its used in a commercial arena, its the same piece of music. I’m not elitist like that at all.

And its a good thing as well for independent artists who aren’t backed by some huge major label. To have some kind of subsidy, to keep you going so that you can carry on making non-commercial music.

DW: You’ve been touring quite a lot, and you’re coming here to Kingston. Have you noticed any differences in the audience reception in the various places you’ve toured?

AT: I quite like playing smaller places, generally. I do enjoy going out and playing in all sorts of places, like remote places in France. In America as well, places like Kansas; we had a wicked gig in Kansas. It’s really cool because you don’t pass through that often, so when you do it’s an event.

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