In the first of an occasional series profiling underground electronic musicians from the north east and beyond we caught up with Newcastle-based Ako – aka Simeon Soden – to learn about Commodore 64s, video recorders and Vapor Trap…
Welcome to Tunnel Club. Let’s start with some background. How did you first get into making music?
I was involved in orchestral music when I was teenager, but I really wanted to write my own music not play other peoples’ (plus counting silently through 120 bars before you get to do your bit can get a bit boring), so I started messing about in garage band when I was about 15. I was really into IDM and Breakcore and things progressed from there.
Could you describe your musical influences?
Main influences: Salem, IC3PEAK, Zola Jesus, Com Truise, Marcel Dupont, New Order, Purity Ring, Health, the Knife, Aphex Twin, Toecutter, Boards of Canada and Clams Casino, everything Warp has ever released, minimal wave and using hardware (preferably old or analogue).
How would you describe your sound & style?
It varies a bit, but I’m going to say witch house / synthwave / IDM. My last release, NIGHTFOREST has been referred to Vapor Trap, that’s a thing apparently, but the next one I’ve got in the pipeline is like Com Truise meets Vaporwave.
When you’re composing a piece of music, do you have a particular objective in mind?
I usually start because I’ve been inspired by something I’ve heard, so I want to build on their ideas in the ako style. I like atmosphere in music, so I am usually trying to create something reminiscent of a particular vibe or experience or tableaux that’s probably the main goal, and a lot of the time where the name of the track comes from.
Would you say your sound has changed over time?
Yes and no, this project has been going on for a while, the first coherent EP was put together in 2011, lots of things changed some things stay the same. I have always placed emphasis process and hardware. I also think doing things for the “right reason” has always been important to me, you should make music because you have something to express and not with hopes of success alone, thankfully the woeful economy has saved me from that burden…….
As for what’s changed, probably the biggest changing factors were witch house and synthwave and minimal wave, before that things were more a mixture of dubstep, hip hop and IDM. I still have a lot of IDM influences though.
Give us a run down of a selection of your studio and live kit.
Live I use 2 launchpad minis, korg nanokontrol, Behringer BCR 2000 controllers and my long-serving Roland SH201 synth. For the visuals I use a projector, a VCR and Puredata.
Studio: Roland SH201, Roland JX3P, Yamaha DX7 and Yamaha DX21 synthesizers (ranked most to least used). Drums are made with Roland TR505, TR707, Yamaha RX5, Commodore 64 running Cynthcart and Nanoloop (running on gameboy DMG). I record and sequence in Ableton Live. I’ve also got a Grundig TK-140 open reel tube tape recorder which is used quite a lot on my last EP to warm things up by bouncing down to tape. Also I manipulate the tape to create interesting pitching effects by either stretching it or holding one of the reals to slow down playback. Recently found out from an interview that Boards of Canada use the stereo version of this recorder, you can really hear it on thier stuff.
What’s your view on the electronic scene in the north east at the moment?
I think Newcastle has a really strong clubbing scene and a lot of people are interested in electronic music but I think the local music/gig scene is still slightly more dominated with more rocky stuff, which is a bit of a hangover from the UK music industry at large. This has improved a LOT though, it has to be said, since I first starting playing gigs about 10 years ago, it was almost impossible to play a gig with other electronic acts on the line up, now that’s a lot more common. Live dance acts I think sometimes find it hard to find a niche round here because club nights with live acts are a bit rare in my experience and they don’t necessarily fit into the more tradition gig setting. This something we’re trying to make more prominent with our Kaneda Records club nights, with their format of live electronics mixed with DJs. Newcastle also has this subtle, ingrained attraction to esoteric, noisey or industrial genres, and there’s quite long standing noise/drone/breakcore/avant-garde culture that goes back a long way and has really permeated everything, which is something I love about Newcastle’s scene in particular.
You’re involved in Kaneda Records – tell us about the label and sound.
Me Callum and Tom set up, Kaneda Records with the intention of raising the profile of electronic music in Newcastle and the North East as we are all producers and it’s something we are really passionate about. We all felt there was lot of interest in stuff like dance, electronic and hip hop and a lot of unheard of talent but not enough opportunities for electronic artists and less of a coherent local music scene for these artists. Sound-wise we specialise in anything electronic, dance or Hip-Hop made in the Northeast.
Any releases up-coming we should look out for?
There will be an as yet untitled new ako track out this year on Kaneda. Also my band Mausoleums is releasing a new EP in July at this years Northern Electric Festival.
Which other artists are doing it for you at the moment?
Currently really into: Health, Pictureplane, Psychic Rites, Why? (this is a long standing addiction), Zola Jesus, Purity Ring, Kontravoid, and Youth Signal
Any hidden gem releases from lesser-known artists you’ve come across that you can share?
Everything on kaneda!! In particular John Dole’s new single. But other than that, I’m gonna go with Kontravoid, listened to them a lot lately.
We’re looking forward to you joining us at Northern Exposure on June 4th. Tell us a little about what people can expect.
Thanks for having me, you can expect me pressing buttons and some new projections made using a VCR.
Where else can we see you play over the coming months?
Im playing John Dole’s single launch at Bar Loco on 17th June. Will also be playing cumberland Arms as Mausoleums on 22 July (with you guys!)
And finally, where can people find out more about you?