Following the release of his new long player, Narisshu, on Soma Quality Recordings, Petrichor took time out to chat with The Waveform Transmitter‘s Simon Huxtable about art, his music school, and his Petrichor alias…
You will now likely have heard what Petrichor has on offer from his latest LP, Narisshu, which he released last week via the inimitable SOMA stable. We premiered a track from the album, which you can listen to here alongside reading the full review (although we will be liberally peppering this interview with tracks from the album, too).
As a nice little follow up, Simon Huxtable took his notepad and pen and asked Mr Simon Stokes a few questions about what exactly makes him tick so, without further ado, lets get down to brass tacks with the man himself.
Waveform Transmitter: Hi Simon, great to meet you. How’s your day been so far?
Petrichor: All is well at this end thanks, currently in the process of moving my studio and music school into a new building we’ve been renovating so slightly more chaotic than usual..
W: Let’s jump straight in with this new album. It’s incredible! Can you tell us about the tracks and how it all came together?
P: I’m glad you like it – this album took a long time to make. Soma Records had been asking me for new music ever since my first album ‘Mångata’ but I find that creativity for me comes in strong bursts that can be fairly far apart.
So the first track I had was actually the title track ‘Narisshu’, which I had made and kept a hold of for years because I thought it was special. I wanted to begin the album with a continuously mixed section (much like my first album which was a full hour continuously mixed) to set the scene and much of this made when my daughter was just a baby and it relates to that journey – you can hear her heartbeat in the womb right at the start of the album.
I’m a big believer in the album format for electronic music, as it allows you to explore your different tastes whilst creating something which immerses the listener for that hour out of their life whilst telling them your story. Therefore every track on the album was created specifically for that point and to help get across the mood of the whole piece.
W: This is your second long player, sometimes tagged as “the difficult album” in music terms. Did you feel any pressure at all during the writing process?
P: In the past, when I’m not making music I have felt this enormous guilt like I’m wasting time and should be working on new material. But more recently I’ve come to terms with the fact that I make my best music when I’m not trying hard, and that my creativity comes sporadically – when I get the bug for something, I obsess over it and this album was no different. Once I had begun in earnest, it was all I could think about until it was complete. But of course you need a deadline (to break), you need pressure from a label to push you to actually achieve something.
W: The Petrichor alias has been going for some time now, and maintains a pretty narrow artistic narrative. Has that been tough to do? Artists develop organically, tastes change, how do you keep the alias on an even keel?
P: When I’m making a Petrichor track it has to give me a very particular feeling in order for me to be happy with it. It’s a strong feeling of love – it sounds crazy to say it but just the right synth sounds and field recordings can give me a really strong feeling in my heart.
I look for this feeling for every Petrichor track that I make and if I don’t get it, it gets binned. So I guess that probably leads me down the route to having a particular sound that keeps coming back.
W: This album has been released on Soma, a label you’ve had a strong bond with for many years. Can you tell us about how your relationship with the label developed?
P: Being from Glasgow and cutting my electronic music teeth on the dancefloors of the Sub Club and The Arches, Soma Records had a huge part to play in the development of my taste in electronic music in the early days.
So I had always viewed them as a target for my music, and I used to send music over to friends who worked there before my Petrichor project started. Slam would give me feedback, and the guys at the label would take the time to listen and feed back as well which was always great.
When I created the first EP for Petrichor, they loved it and immediately signed it with a goal to create an album. We also launched Soma Skool courses at my music school in Glasgow to teach the next generation how to create quality electronic music. And here we are many singles and two albums down the line…
W: Talk us through your live show. How long has it taken to develop and what hardware do you take with you?
P: I’ve always loved playing live, there is no greater feeling than watching a club or festival go off to something which you have created 100% from scratch and performed live. I have been playing live sets for around 11 years now over many different setups, but right now I’m using Ableton Live & Push at the centre of it all, a few controllers, a Roland TR8S and a Roland SH-101.
With these instruments I feel like I can really take the set in different directions when I want to – right now it’s the perfect setup for me. That’ll no doubt change in the near future though, I’m a sucker for new gear and for giving myself new challenges.
W: With so many changes in how our music is curated these days, is there a sense that art for money outweighs art as expression?
P: Making music for me has never been about a career or making money, it was always just about expressing myself with whatever instruments I had – it just so happened that labels took notice of my YouTube channel years ago and started asking for tracks and so I got the opportunity to tour and perform. So when it comes to brand-awareness, that term really jars against what I feel this music should be about.
W: As well as a brilliant producer and live performer, we hear you also run a music school. Tell us about some of your success stories.
P: Yeah that’s right – I run an electronic music production school in Scotland called subSine | Academy of Electronic Music, where I’ve teamed up with Soma to offer Soma Skool courses specialising in house and techno music production primarily, and keeping it largely to ‘underground’ music.
We’ve got an incredible community of past students (our Alumni) and we run a record label for them, club nights, radio shows and have listening sessions in clubs before they open so students can test their tracks on huge sound systems and get some feedback.
There are too many success stories to mention but loads of past students are now making their way in the industry and releasing on labels from Soma Records to Universal to Flashmob and more. I reckon the next few years will see a lot of past students hitting the big time..
W: Have you noticed a shift in the motivations of the students coming through your doors? Do they see a life in music as a long term option or quick fix for fame and glory?
P: I try to instil my own anti-corporate feelings about this music industry into students in the classroom. I’m careful not to over-promise and to make them aware that they should be in this for the love of the music and not some notion of being the next Drumcode artist or whoever the flavour of the month is.
Electronic music is for exploration and for finding your own sound, so I’ve created a ‘New Artist’ course which aims to give people the toolset and confidence to craft their own thing rather than imitating others. So I’m looking towards our Alumni as being the next wave of interesting electronic artists coming out of Glasgow in the coming years.