chemboy

born in devon in the late 90s from the union of a powermac g3 and cubase 2, producing electronic music incorporating samples in a happy haze

music

lifelong learner

a look inside my mind through the process of spontaneous recording

rey madura

our traveller has come from a distant planet in the hope of making friends with rey madura. while making up the words the boiler kept coming on and i’d have to stop recording. in the end it ended up on the track. perhaps that was the machine’s intention?

why is it like this?

well, because i set the machines running and this is what i found i’d recorded when i stopped. i’m blatantly not quite singing the title, but what is it like this just sounds stupid. once it was in my head i couldn’t shift it and decided to play with the effects as i sang. i’m a big fan of the glitter band sound

it’s cold outside

same approach, only this time i was trying out my new looper on the vocals. i was so busy twiddling knobs and clicking things that i had no time to think about what i was singing. i was picturing myself on stokes croft trying to escape a winter night’s weather in the comforting confines of a basement club. safe space. once it took shape i knew it would follow straight on from the previous track

don’t mess with mine

the composing and recording process is a constant surprise to me, not least because i choose to do them both at the same time. my intent was to bring the pace down a few notches, while the synth line that set the tone and key ended up taking a back seat to what developed. don’t mess with mine just came straight out of my mouth and again i couldn’t think of anything to add to it, so i went for a second take with backing vocals in mind and out popped the m word. i had to stop because i was giggling too much

kitchen porter

i’d decided to concentrate on the beat and take more time developing each part. i sampled a load of kitchen utensils, pots and pans, running water and it draining from our sink and the idea of the kitchen porter formed. from there it developed into a full-blown song complete with lyrics and a host of samples, but i was never completely satisfied with it, apart from the drop, so i ditched the vocals. it’s so much better without them

say your name to me

actually the first track i recorded with vocals in 2019 and it’s an exercise in economy of touch. just four tracks recorded simultaneously with little post-production, i’m doing live effects, wham, done. to be honest it was earmarked for exclusion from the tracklist, but sally likes it and i figure it contributes some normality to the collection

two wolves

i’m a big fan of chicago footwork and wanted to produce something minimal with few effects. i worked on individual parts, recording spontaneously as i felt i needed something, a much more methodical approach. the lyrics stem from a folk tale i came across and knew i wanted to use here on this track. the lyrics took no time to write and sing, yet the sound of the vocals took ages to get to where they are

metal mouse

i’d written nine tracks and like to present music in around 40-minute packages, but felt this collection needed another and for some reason losar, the tibetan new year, and metal mouse was in my brain. that was to be my compositional direction. it was a bugger to give birth to, yet still it managed to write itself, like i was just clinging on. recording at both 80 and 160 bpm, three time signatures, similar but different chord progressions and layers of sounds all conspired to overwhelm me. usually i collect too much material and then delight in stripping things back, but this tune refuses to give me space. it still needed more, so i brought in jean-michel mateu, a cube orchestra colleague, to lay down some guitar licks. with hindsight some preparation might have made it easier for jean-michel, but i’m very happy with his contribution, which completes the track. he informed me it was actually the year of the iron rat

back to london

i found a sample of some london friends talking in devon at the time of the total solar eclipse of 1999 and isolated bex’s question. it’s only a 2-second sample, plus i found another word which, when looped, sounds completely different. i like that. that was the vocals done. the track is a journey and is intended to provide some breathing space on the album, whilst maintaining speed and altitude

call me back

i found a sample from 1998 of two telephone messages left on an old answerphone. my mission was to up the bpm, so i set the dial to 140bpm, opened up the ultrabeat drum machine and created a loop. they played beautifully side-by-side, so i added some dark soundscapes on a synth and turned my attention to vocals. never by my phone ‘cause i’m never alone sprang to mind, then off my lips. it needed more of a vocal hook so i hit record again and call me back came out. the song wrote itself in about 30 minutes from finding the sample

all tracks recorded between december 2019 and march 2020

a lifelong lesson

further adventures as sonic journalism

shufflepop

i’d been itching to do something acoustic for some time, but other matters were keeping me out of my creative bubble, so instead i turned to a folder of garageband sketches made on my ipad. such a great app. this one, from 2013 and already titled, is lovely and bubbly and short! i like short stuff. the vocal line is a typical case of pressing record and checking that the mic works. check and take, all in one

sol y sal

i wanted to produce something wth a more natural, human beat and very quickly an ibiza vibe emerged. i began thinking of santa eularia, the church on the mound, our odd hexagonal home and a little bay we used to go to nearby for a spot of nudie bathing, but couldn’t remember the name of the place. it had ‘sal’ in it, that much i remember. the big new thing to learn on the track was the vocoder. i used one of the settings on the kaossilator pro machine, which required singing and ‘playing’ an unpredictable pad keyboard as i recorded. it took a while with questionable results. it’s an impulse track and was meant to be dropped pretty quickly

take it with you when you go

i’m a big fan of the french house music scene of the late 90s and, while i didn’t set out to imitate them, this definitely has that feel. starting from the bass line, developing the beats, overlaying the fizz. the tricky dicky with this track was the acid part in the drop. trying to get the lfo to play ball at the right time was frustrating, so i found a workaround. i’d much rather learn how to do something properly, but flow is more important than standing still with creativity and i’m very happy with the result

magnetosonic waves

i wanted to begin with less structure, floaty synths, and allow any beats to flow in a less prescribed way. again i feel there’s an ibiza feel to it, or maybe it’s a bit retro, or slightly cheesy? like most of this seam of work, it wrote itself rather than following a known structure, with an eye on the time, little repetition, no indulgent rambling allowed

cleaning frenzy

my first track under lockdown and i’d been working through a series of diy tasks, but had come to a job i didn’t want to start. often if i’m avoiding something complicated i might turn to cleaning the house; it’s simple and achieves something. so i imagined lining all the cleaning products in a row and going for it, lining all the midi notes on the first beat and setting them off, see what makes it to the end. very happy with the bleeps and beats. wet! rub! wipe! clean!

can’t go back

second track referencing lockdown, this time with lyrics! i knew at the outset it was going to be a song, but i don’t know how it emerged as it did? it just formed, bit cheeky, bit bouncy, kinda familiar, kinda unusual. i tried to be lazy with the backing vocals by simply pitch-shifting my one take with unsettling results, so i bit the bullet and recorded three actual harmonies

what started and could’ve been

another intentional instrumental piece and another covid-influenced track, thinking about a pandemic that would wipe out the human race and what we’d make of our achievements and our lost potential. all those things started and not finished, all the things we intended to be better than they turned out, all the things as yet untried

dance guy

a sample from an afterparty in 2012 and a beat. sally’s laugh is infectious

words are meaning less

assembled from a short ipad sketch i was determined to keep it short with just the essentials. it sounds so much like whitey that i had to go check his catalogue to make sure i wasn’t just copying a song of his! the lyrics had been festering in my mind during lockdown. i’m very happy with my new vocal booth, in the boiler cupboard, padded with bed cushions and enclosed in our quilt. trouble is i use my noise-reduction headphones and can’t hear when the boiler kicks in. take two…

single orbit

another ipad sketch, this time from 2015. i didn’t touch a thing as there were only four wav files, as it was recorded live in four passes. you can hear the levels crackling in places. it is what it is, that’s how it happened

eden

sometimes i start writing about something very personal and disguise it in another more universal theme. so, like an old song of mine called ‘my secret fear’, i find i can’t talk about the real theme and the universal theme is obvious. the musical premise is explainable! i’d attempted to create multiple sounds from a single source on other tracks but not successfully. here i recorded a jam on synth both as straight audio and midi, then took the parts and, without changing a note, created rhythm, beat, pulses and modulation to develop the sound. i’ve been pretty strict and enjoyed the discipline, even if the result is a bit intense

le chit chat

blimey another lockdown-inspired track. our summer holiday had been cancelled and my mind turned to last summer’s trips abroad and how precious their memory has become. so i was listening to a sample of us walking through the crowded narrow streets of carcassonne (in august 2019), my mic picking up passing conversations and the general hubbub of the town as we strolled. and i was there, like a spell had been cast, a travelling spell. audio is such a sensory experience for the mind. i wanted my additions to blend in to keep the listener unsure what has been added to the original sample

all tracks recorded between april and july 2020, except single orbit (2016)