Who ever said crowd-funding is not meant for musicians, should be slapped upside the head!
London based The Mars Patrol is the perfect example it does work, with dishing out this awesome rocking pop track! They definitely delivered! And it shows, ’cause they’re in the studio right now, recording their second crowd-funded EP. And if ‘Young Lovers‘ is an example on what we can expect soon, they’re not only successful at crowd-funding in my personal and humble opinion!
I’ve been following Andy Mort of Atlum Schema for some time now and I was happy & honoured when he sent me a digital sneaky-peek of his highly anticipated and soon to drop album ‘Year 0‘ a few weeks ago. What an absolute joy to listen to, where Andy’s vocals just gently strokes your eardrum!
The Dutch Guy (TDG): Can I borrow 20 bucks?
Atlum Schema (AS): Absolutely. I’ll have to go and get them changed from my fine British pounds though. Give me half an hour…
TDG: Can you describe yourself in one sentence?
AS: Someone who likes to create and build things, oh and quietly challenge myself and the status quo…
TDG: What are your roots?
AS: I’ve played music for as long as I can remember.
I started off as a drummer. There’s a picture of me as a kid with a drum stick in one hand, using the other hand (and arm) to cover my ears. I hated loud noises. It was quite a predicament.
But in the end my love for the drums won and I had to live with the noise that came with them. I played in a load of bands growing up and started the Atlum Schema project in 2004 when I was just messing around with some solo ideas, a computer and various bits of equipment in my bedroom. It’s been quite an organic evolution over the years. Musically I’ve always loved Bob Dylan, Radiohead, Brian Eno, Chet Baker, and Sigur Ros (after watching Vanilla Sky). I’m not sure that all of these influences are obvious in my music though…
TDG: How long have you been working on ‘Year 0’?
AS: It’s been years in the making really. A bunch of the songs have been kicking around for a long time. I’ve been playing ‘Empire Of The Soul‘ and ‘Traveller‘ live for three years. But they’ve never found a place to settle until now. I’m really happy with what they’ve become even though they are very different from what they would have been a year or two ago.
The album only took 2 weeks to record. I did it last summer after the ‘Year 0‘ concept came to me in about January. There was lots of space and time around it. I decided not to rush anything. That was a conscious decision because normally I just rush into stuff as fast as I can. It was a good exercise in discipline for me. I wanted to make this album really count for something…
TDG: How would you describe your sound?
AS: I’ve always found that a pretty hard question to answer, but have been describing the new stuff as ‘ambient electronic acoustic’. It is deeply inspired by ambient artists like Brian Eno, Lowercase Noises, and Marconi Union. I just applied some acoustic guitar and looped programmed beats. I hope that’s succinct enough!
TDG: What’s involved in your songwriting process?
AS: Lots and lots of ideas. I record ideas into my phone whenever I have them. From little snippets and lines, to whole songs. Then I go back and listen to what I’ve recorded and take the things that I like and adapt them. Then I start formulating the song, whether that’s with a guitar, piano, or by actually just recording them and seeing what comes out. Lyrics generally come last. I record singing gobbledegook and then formulate lyrics around the sounds that I sang before. To this day I have no idea where songs come from. They just seem to appear. What I’ve learned is to make sure I have a tool to record or note down those ideas before they disappear…
TDG: Which aspect did you enjoy the most while working on your album?
AS: I love the aspect of surprise. I started work on it believing I was creating an acoustic album. But then it progressed into what it became and I was surprised by that. I love sitting in the studio at the beginning of the day wondering what is going to come out…
TDG: Who or what inspires you the most?
AS: That’s an interesting question. I think I would have to say human behaviour. People fascinate me, the way we behave, the way we react to one another and situations, he things we care about, and the beliefs we hold.
A lot of my songs are written as responses to the ways I see people being. I get very inspired by how ideas spread and cultures develop, and generally by the notion of artistic evolution.
As an artist I’m in constant flux, moving and changing. Each piece of work is little more than a memory marker of where I was at a certain point in time. I find the idea that I’m not at the end point yet quite inspiring. You know, where will I end up next? I don’t know!..
TDG: How important is connecting with fans for you? What kind of connection do you have or do you like to have with them?
AS: It’s very important. Over the years I’ve realised that connecting with people is what it’s all about. When people feel disconnected to you as an artist or even as a human they’re not going to be interested in what you have to say. This is where the performance side and the online side of things are now very similar. Something I’ve been working hard at is creating a sense of unity between me on stage and the audience watching me when I’m playing live. The more they feel a part of what’s happening, or the more they can identify with me and understand me a little bit on a human level, the more connected we become. And then they listen in a different way.
I realised this from my own experience as a fan of other artists. When I feel like they are 100% in the room, they want to be there, and they appreciate every single person who has come out to see them, I am totally on their side and I listen to their music on a much deeper level.
It’s the same online. Relationships come first.
Once you’ve built a connection with someone and you know something about them, then you want to support and encourage them when they put something out.
And it’s the relationship building that actually suits me a lot better than just megaphone marketing. I love connecting with people and talking about THEM. I don’t enjoy talking about myself (despite how I may come across in an interview), hahaha!..
TDG: And social media is a big help in your opinion?
AS: Absolutely. It’s where this magic happens. I find it incredible that I can connect with people the other side of the world. Twitter especially for me makes real time conversations possible with anyone anywhere. Online social media is such a great tool for anyone trying to create a platform for their art without going through traditional gatekeepers. We all have direct access to one another. If you have a message worth spreading then you don’t have the excuse of not being picked by the record label, publisher, studio etc. You decide to pick yourself, connect with people, learn, learn, learn, and roll with the momentum that you can create.
TDG: What do you do to stand out from all the rest on social media?
AS: Nothing really (that I’m aware of). Other people are probably in a better position to answer that because I don’t do anything deliberately to try to stand out. I just try to build relationships, share valuable, interesting content, and be as honest and open about the process through my blog and social media channels.
TDG: What is the biggest misconception people have about you?
AS: Haha, good question. It’s difficult to know, but from another interview I did a while back there was a question along the lines of ‘are you as intense in real life as you come across as online?’ So probably that I guess. That I’m really serious and intense. I’m not. OKAY!? Do you understand that!? RIGHT THEN. GOOD.
TDG: Who is currently on repeat on your iPod?
AS: I’m doing a lot of writing at the moment and find that when I do so I listen to a lot of ambient music. Currently got Jonsi & Alex, Marconi Union, and Library Tapes on repeat as I write this. I go through phases with music and at the moment I like to keep things gentle because there’s a lot going on in my head!
TDG: What’s the best piece of advice you ever got when you started out and you think it would help other aspiring artists/bands?
AS: Great question. I think it’s probably just ‘be patient and persevere’. There can be a belief that we will either see success straight away or it’s not an avenue worth going down (in much of what we do, not just creative pursuits). I think the most valuable thing I’ve heard is a number of people telling me to keep going, keep learning, keep growing into my voice.
And I think that is something takes time by definition. We are able to define success on our own terms and by hanging in there and doing a little bit every day we can remain true to what it is we feel impassioned to do. I spoke to a friend a while back who said ‘don’t give up, you’ll regret giving up and doing what society expects you to do’. He was a successful teacher, is now retired, and has bad arthritis. He regrets putting off concentrating on painting until he retired because he is now unable to do the work he believes he was capable of over the past twenty or thirty years. So yeah, define what success looks like for you, and find sustainable ways to keep going at it.
TDG: We are three months in 2014, but what do you have in store for us this year?
AS: The new album is out, then there will be lots of gigging, writing, and keeping up my blog/podcast. I have been invited to talk and play at the TEDx conference in Cyprus in September so I’ll be working out what I’m going to do for that. I’m very excited about that opportunity. I’ll generally be building momentum and building on that momentum. That’s the plan anyway. Who knows what else will happen. Life has a way of throwing all sorts in the way.
TDG: Got any last words of wisdom you wanna lay down on us before we wrap this up?
AS: Just a massive thank you for letting me jabber. I love doing interviews. They really give good space to think through what you think about things that you don’t normally think about. Haha. If that makes sense!