Wednesday, 26 May 2010


It's all well and good to talk to an artist on top of their game, another thing entirely to talk to one who's on the verge of creating something truly amazing. An early contributor to Sweet and Sound's Best of Vimeo submissions group, Universalis is a one man project that spans media and genres all in that attempt to express creativity in it's purest form. Featuring videos, photography, dub tracks and droney future loops, the otherwise anonymous creator and sampler comes from the Forest of Dean.

What is the Universalis project, what does it mean to you? What was your basis for it?

Well I was making music for ages, under a different name it wasn't really a proper name, I never used to show it to anyone. But when I started the Universalis stuff it was supposed to be really kinda mysterious and space age, the name comes from Latin, Universalis Musica, the music of the spheres. I'm still not there with what I want it to sound like, I it want to just be like music that no one's ever heard.

Is that meant to be reflective in the other work that you do, your videos, or is it mainly music?

It's mainly an audio thing but yeah just the images is part of it, I just wanna start doing crazy things.

I know said you want to make music that doesn't sound like anyone else but are there any influences you could pinpoint?

Well round the time I came up with that name, the whole concept of what I wanted to do, I was into quite a lot of Techno, this guy Jeff Mills and he was in this group with his other guy, I can't remember their name, (X-102) The Rings of Saturn the album was called. Some of it's got no drums and it's just really pulsing and that's the kinda vibe I wanted to get. And the whole early Techno stuff of disregarding conventional music as in verse chorus verse style and having words, just making music, that's what inspired me.

What do you create music on?

All the stuff on Internet and all the stuff I've shown people so far is on an MPC 2000 and on a record player.

I've noticed you use a lot of found footage, are you trying to reinvent or reuse sounds, how do you approach using samples?

I've just always done that, from Hip Hop, that's where I started to want to make music that way. Because they just sample from older records and I was really interested in that because you could just get a piece like a drum break or something and keep looping it and looping it and looping it. And it's a similar thing to like if you say one word over and over again it completely loses its meaning and becomes something else, and that's what inspired me from that.

With your video work as well, you use found footage from other film projects, do you approach it in the same way?

Yeah I just get a piece of film I like, and cut it in a different way and try and make it become something else.

Like with that 10David guy?

Yeah, with his one, he just gave me a stack of Mp3's he'd made on his MPC, one of them was called Chin V, that's not the actual name for it but that was one of the records he sampled from maybe. And I just loved the track and it had that oriental vibe to it, it just made me think of this film that I've got on video called Ugetsu Monogatari, it's a Japanese film from the 50's. That was one of my favourite films and the way I did the video was just look it up on youtube and just download the bits that I could, but I was really limited with what I could use. But they had my favourite scenes in there, I had to cut around subtitles, I left a few in that I felt were pretty poignant.

I suppose that's quite interesting, that you only had that footage, it constricts you but you also work around that, do you try and work with the mistakes?

Yeah, it's the same way I make music, I like the limitations that are put on me. That's why I carried on using MPC, because a lot of times I'm listening to a track and think 'oh that would sound great with echo' or 'oh I could do something different with that' but because I can't it kinda makes me work harder.

One of your more striking tracks is Skylarks, what was the story behind that, where did you take that from?

That's actually taken from a 1952 recording of Under Milt Wood by Dylan Thomas, just the intro to it. I was making another track and just put records on and sampling them and I came across that and it's just the way the guy said Skylark is was just so raspy and it had this sort of click or something half way through it, and I just thought that sounded crazy and it just had a whole list of birds after it. I just started pressing buttons, the skylark, the skylark, the skylark and again I just thought with the saying the same word over and over again, it became something else. And when I came to sequence it, it became a sort of psycho acoustic thing where it's sort of hypnotic and you don't know what's going on after a while.

Are you a fan of Dylan Thomas?

I've never read any of Dylan Thomas' books or anything else he's done but I've had that record since I was like 17 and I really like the sleeve but listening to the record just doesn't make much sense to me.

With sample culture it's really interesting because even though sampling's been around for 30 years I feel with people like yourself and others you're still able to take something you love and try and make it your own rather than try and emulate it.

It's about putting your stamp on it, there's a thing William Burroughs said, like a concept, he used to take books and cut out page 100 and page 1 and cut them down the middle then slice them together, then retype it. It comes out like a loads of shit but he says something will crop up that'll refer to a future event or something like that. and that's another concept for Unversalis where you're creating all this stuff, pieces of time, that someone's recorded then put it in a new order. It becomes futuristic to me, music that hasn't been made yet.

Do you feel you ever might make something of your own?

I've done a lot of that, borrowing synthesizers and drum machines, but it's not what I'm feeling, it doesn't have the same grit to it, the same depth I suppose. I just really like sampling.

It's a very personal thing, it's something you do by yourself and it's really reflective of your tastes

When I started I only wanted to sample things I loved, if I like a track from start to finish. more recently I've been digging around for sounds that just flash out from a track and be like yeah I want that. And I'll manipulate more, I used to not time-stretch anything really, just have a loop from start to finish then find another loop to fit with it. I used to be a lot more purest.

That's one of the most interesting things you can do with it, even the phrase itself, time-stretch describes what you can do.

Stretching time, yeah I'm definitely into the time thing of it, like someone recording a Saxophone in the Sixties and that was just a section of that time recorded onto a tape. and now I'm sampling it, yeah definitely, making the future out the past is a big thing for me.

I've noticed that on SoundCloud your music has quite a different vibe to it, I'm not sure if you do that on purpose because it's more of a dance based website, and this might sound facile but it was a lot more dubby. Is that an influence?

Yeah definitely, well I'm always buying records, old records from anywhere I get. And I'm really into old music, but the new records that I get... I'm really into Future Garage sounds, and Bassline things. And with SoundCloud, I just put my new stuff up there and don't tend to put the wierd stuff on.

6 figure income by universalis

Even though it's still under the same name are you concerned about who's listening to what or does that not matter to you?

Not really, I've thought about doing stuff under different names but I couldn't see the point really. It's just the same person making music the same way, might as well call it the same thing.

You said the closest city to you is Bristol, do you go out there much?

No to be honest I don't really like Bristol, but that's generally from personal experience. I generally come to London to listen to music, or just buy the records. I think London's more of a central thing, but in my area in the early nineties there was a lot of ravin' going on. Especially in the Forest of Dean they still do it, now they do it with Gabba and stuff.

Oh man, Gabba's awful

Yeah? I like it, I like the speed and confusion.

Do you reckon you'll ever have a physical release to what you're doing?

I've been speaking to a guy on the Internet who's interested in getting unknown sort of producers with my sort of sound to get releases in future and there's a few friends of mine s in London who'll be starting a record label and they want to release my stuff. but i just want the tracks to be perfect and at the moment they're sketches.

I quite like that about it, even if you see them as sketches a lot of people like that whole rough around the edges if you try and perfect it too much it might take away from its original appeal.

Yeah well I've definitely done that with a lot of tracks, I've had an alright demo and then just gone too far with it and scrapped it. But I think some of my tunes are finished, maybe a bit of tweaking on EQs and things but I'm pretty raw and I haven't got a problem with it.