Last Tuesday night (10/11/15) I was invited to The Joker, London Road, to see a show that was headlined by new-wave shoe-gaze band ‘Hypnotized’. They played a lengthy, spaced-out and wondrous set that sonically engulfed the audience in a big cloud of heavy chorus sound and animalistic drumming patterns, great stuff. But as good as ‘Hypnotized’ were, I was utterly captivated by their support act that evening. Boasting one of the most hardware-heavy stage setups I’ve ever seen, ‘Inwards’ blew me and the audience away with a very personal and intimate, yet emotive and confident set. It consisted of never-ending modular synth sequences accompanied by a back drop of visuals that wouldn’t look out of place in a concept art book for ‘Blade Runner’.
Enthralled by his music and intrigued to a fault, we made plans to meet for a drink and talk about his work and luminaries. We met up some days later for a quick drink, he got a mulled cider that gave me instant drink envy, and after some chit chat about broken subwoofers that he was repairing, we headed to his flat.
Instinctively, we started with a rundown of his synthesisers. The same set up as the show, ‘Inwards’ confidently pilots a drum machine that feeds into a 6U rack of Eurorack modular synth that sprawls with patch cables and different coloured interfaces, that then leads into a delay and tape echo pedal. Lastly, the wires become fewer and are neatly fed into his desk. He explains that a few of the modules in the rack are homemade, as DIY synth builds can really save you some pennies. All the while, and amidst all the talking, there’s deeply rhythmic synth patterns bouncing all around the bedroom, and I’m overcome with the sense that when it comes to creating sound and evoking emotion through said cacophony, ‘Inwards’ really knows his shit.
On the complexity of his setup (particularly the patch leads) he said: “I used to get them all confused, wouldn’t know where they’d all go when performing, but the more I played shows, the easier it got to keep track of them. I get confused with synchronization and the sequencing of things too, sometimes clock rates do funny things and make different parts of things run at different speeds, lots of confusing elements but that’s why I like it. It scares me getting up and doing it live.”
This honest sentiment translates to his sets, ‘Inwards’ looks like a mad scientist behind his plethora of cables. But this hasn’t always been the case:
“When I started playing live, I was just using Ableton on my laptop and I felt like that wasn’t doing enough. It wasn’t hitting the spot. That’s why I got into all this [gesturing to the modules], to make it all more fun. Had loads of help from Simon at London Modular on what modules I might need in order to do what I wanted musically. With this stuff, I have the potential to make some interesting and immersive live performances.”
Thus, ‘Inwards’ isn’t your typical electric-based artist, there’s a sense that his interest is raised due to knowing the whys and the hows of his synthesisers, making a point of getting down to the bare bones of his unique sound. Not only this, but he clearly loves the live performance aspect of his music too, and this is another part of his set on that Tuesday that I thought was so innovative. I asked him about visuals at the show:
“Yeah they’re all live. I met Jev a while ago, I asked him if he wanted to work together, we did something together at the Green Door Store and it went down really well. It’s really cool because we can sync up. I can give him my audio feed and the visuals will sync to the transient peaks in my audio. If there’s a kick in the track that I’m playing, he can create an image that moves in sync with the kick, and the image can vary in harshness depending on the nature of the kick. His project is called IRIE PIXEL and he works doing other visual things like 3D mapping and stuff, it’s sweet.”
With such intense focus on adding atmosphere to his stage shows, is it any wonder the crowd was eating out of the palm of his hand?
“It’s good to experiment with that stuff, getting to gigs really early to check out the space and see what combinations of light and sound you can come up with in the venue.”
I asked him about the organic nature of his live sets because personally, I feel that with such a nice analog setup, there may be the possibility that if you see ‘Inwards’ more than once, you’ll hear the same songs but, naturally, played with a different vibe each time:
“I’m glad you get that because I’m not sure where the line is when it comes to me knowing if the crowd understands what I’m doing. I do wonder if they know that the music is all happening right there in front of them. I stopped using a laptop in my live sets for a while, I like the idea that it’s all being generated on the spot. For the launch party of my new EP I got the laptop back involved for sample playback, using it in such a different way since getting well into hardware stuff is nice. Making sets takes a lot of planning and practice, lots of learning about things and making things seem more logical / sound more chaotic. Every set has been different, played differently, like a band would. Why should it be any different?“
To me, this signifies that of all the shows of his you see, each one will be personal, like a trippy time capsule. What’s nice about ‘Inwards’ is that he has never closed himself off to other genres, this was apparent when we spoke about his influences:
“Before I made electronic music I was in a band called Ass Pasty (on drums) which was so much fun, 3 piece funk band with a mathematical twist, spoken word poetry about football players/moles/local legends. Before that I was well into really heavy music, pretty much brainwashed by Meshuggah for a while. I went to this festival in Cornwall called ‘Bang Face’ in 2012, and I saw Aphex Twin play, Venetian Snares and all of the Rephlex crew. It was after that that I really changed the way I made music, I found the Analord series [laughs]. Started spending loads of time on this software called Reason.”
Brighton is a very important part of his current ethos it appears, and why not? He compares it to his hometown:
“I’m from Worcester originally where I think there are a lot of people who like a lot of varied music but that didn’t mean there was a scene, there just wasn’t a scene for anything really. There just wasn’t anything that was fresh, it was all cover bands and Bol club nights. I wanted to move somewhere that was the best of both worlds, where you’ve got the great music scene and the sea.”
I think Brighton suits ‘Inwards’. There is people here who want to hear something completely new, something that can make them think in a completely different way than previously:
“What I love is playing my music really loud. So people can feel it in them and be shaken up by it or make them move or want to lose their marbles. If people feel like the experience of hearing it changed them then that’s good I guess. I want them to have their own internal thinking experience.”
Question: It seems like you have released quite a lot of music in the last few years: can you tell us a bit more about that and more about your new EP “Forever”?
“When I first moved to Brighton I spent a lot of time making a lot of music, and not all of that music was good it was just happening. I felt quite removed from the world, didn’t really meet anyone until I started playing gigs. I made huge amounts of music in that period, it was great fun, some things I forgot that I’d even made and then found them kicking around on my hard drive. I started releasing music in 2014, all DIY. I like the control, so many great tools for artists to do things by themselves.”
“The new EP is a collection of things made since April 2015, quite dreamy, influenced by ancient wise folk I guess… That stuff interests me. The limited run CD edition comes with 4 bonus tracks that nobody has heard before, I thought I would just chuck those on there because they sound cool, seems like a waste of CD only having 5 tunes on.”
The next thing that grabbed my attention was the name. How did you come up with the name ‘Inwards’?
“I guess I decided it’s a good representation of my experiences… Always hard trying to think of a decent name, guess it doesn’t really matter, I’m not bothered by branding or any of that junk. I just wanna play gigs…”
Lastly, we discussed the music that he’s listening to and deriving creative inspiration from:
“‘United Organics’ is making incredible music at the moment, my sort of thing. Recently discovered ‘Stars of the Lid’, good sleeping music. There’s this guy called Aleksi Perälä who’s been experimenting with micro-tonal music, its called ‘The Colundi Sequence’ and I think everyone should look into that because it’s really interesting and it makes you feel really weird.”
‘Inwards’ went on to play a fantastic show at the Green Door Store, emotionally enticing and musically spotless. The crowd, once more, ate up the atmosphere. The man behind the modules would occasionally look up to smile at his onlookers. With a show on the Horizon at Sticky Mike’s, accompanying the likes of ‘Slugabed’ and ‘Mount Bank’, I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to be enthralled by his music. It really is something special.
Ultimately, ‘Inwards’ has created the perfect metaphor for his music and his personality with his stage name. His live sets are an escapist opportunity to venture inwards and think. The shows will move you, physically and emotionally, and leave you wondering if what you’re seeing does actually constitute music and not a pseudo-religious awakening of the soul. Or, you know, something else like that…
Words by Harvey Dent