Richard D James just released the first album under the Aphex Twin name for 14 years, and—perhaps just as unexpectedly—has conducted a lengthy interview with Pitchfork.
Reading the piece I was struck by the manner in which a number of James’s thoughts seemed applicable universally across all creative disciplines, and at all levels of output. For instance, there’s this on procrastination:
But then I realized I actually like making studios more than making music, because I like the possibilities of what you can do.
The number of times I can convince myself to purchase a new notebook, or spend time tweaking settings in my suite of writing apps, instead of getting to work is maddening, and James captures that idea neatly. Sometimes it becomes about the setup rather than about the process, and the key is in catching yourself before that becomes too consuming.
I just really wish I could bloody keep the same setup for more than about five minutes, because then I would actually get good at that setup. But I just get bored and swap things out.
Similarly there’s something here about routine, and the ease with which we fall into the trap of changing the wrong things as a way of avoiding the real work. It’s easy to start feeling like the important part is that you have the correct items of kit, and that that’s enough for the work to magically start to flow. When that doesn’t happen I’m certainly dumb enough to think endlessly about changing the setup instead of persevering with the project.
I used to be a bit secretive and didn’t want people to know what I was using, or get too fixated and waste their money buying equipment, because it’s not about what equipment you have, it’s what you do with it.
And then there’s this, which is important I think.
The best artists are people who don’t consider themselves artists, and the people who do are usually the most pretentious and annoying.
Endless ink has been spilled, and pixels rearranged, on the ways in which the advent of digital has reframed both the publishing & consumption of art; I’ve read less on how that has altered our understanding of what it means to be an ‘artist’. Something about James’s comment speaks to the fact that it’s ultimately the work that’s important, rather than the source. It’s not who you or your marketing team say you are; it’s not the vector by which your output reaches its audience; it’s not even your pedigree that matters - it’s the thing you’ve made, and how it makes people feel. Which, actually, James is also brilliant on:
So if you hear a C-major chord with an equal temperament, you’ve heard it a million times before and your brain accepts it. But if you hear a chord that you’ve never heard before, you’re like, “huh.” And your brain has to change shape to accept it. And once it’s changed shape, then you have changed as a person, in a tiny way. And if you have a whole combination of all these different frequencies, you’re basically reconfiguring your brain. And then you’ve changed as a person, and you can go and do something else. It’s a constant change.