Culprit 1 – Part 1

A two-part post on Culprit 1, an electronic artist who’s origins are in classical music. He’s from South Wales (Newport) but is, for now, in London. His work is interesting stuff, so an interview seemed in order. First part of the interview today, second tomorrow.

James Hannam, for that is his name, has been making music since 2003. He’s also done a range of remixes for people like The Automatic, DJ Shadow and Paul Hartnoll (from the sainted Orbital). But his work also gets played on Classic FM. That’s a rare combination, hence the interview:

1. You’ve a classical background. So what was your journey to dance music?

I began studying the clarinet in primary school and continued with it until university, where I studied composition. Growing up, I’d always preferred rave music to indie (it was strictly one or the other in our school) and loved the tape swapping culture. I particularly coveted the sets by Easy Groove and Simon Bassline Smith.

During the late 90s, I really got in to the familiar big-beat and trip-hop acts of the time. It was that amazing period when electronica briefly ruled the musical world and I was obsessed with The Prodigy, Massive Attack and The Chemical Brothers, along with Orbital and DJ Shadow (both of whom I’ve been lucky enough to remix).

Whilst studying at the RWCMD in the early 2000s, I was introduced to electronic pioneers such as Pierre Schaeffer, John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen. For the last few years though, I’ve been focussing on artists such as Apparat, Fennesz and Four Tet – the recent output from all three has been really impressive.

I guess the perfect marriage of my classical and electronic influences occurred when I remixed John Hardy’s composition ‘Letters’, as performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. That was an amazing project.

2. You’re based in London, though originally from Newport in South Wales. You’ve said London is ‘manic’ and not necessarily in a good way. What does London do for your music – good or bad?

In my opinion, London is the best place in the world for art lovers. On any night of the week, one can attend an inspiring event in any artform, so I never take this incredible cultural scene for granted. In addition, I’ve been here six years now and it has provided me with wonderful opportunities and amazing friends.

Recently however, I’ve come to hate the general hustle and bustle, the unfriendly attitude and the tangible air of self-importance displayed by many Londoners. The Olympics offered two weeks’ break from this kind of behaviour, as people seemed to become a bit chattier. But having grown up in a place where everyone says hello to each other, I still can’t fathom the lack of interaction in London. [it’s not simply that we’re nasty people, it’s as much that privacy is hard to find in cities and so respecting people’s space is an important courtesy. Having gone the other way, I found people constantly talking to you in the streets of South Wales really disconcerting]

How has London influenced my music? I don’t think it has, really. I make a point of ignoring the latest ‘scenes’ that occasionally appear, only to be viciously discarded a few months later.

3. Newport Sate of Mind put Newport on the map. Is it a fair representation of the place?

I did enjoy that video, but many of the references were wider observations about Wales as a whole rather than the city itself. Newport is certainly going through a difficult patch at the moment; unemployment is quite high and lots of shops have closed, along with several music venues. It’s great that the town still has places like Diverse Records and the Riverfront Arts Centre, because it’s an extremely creative city.

Here’s a track from 2011’s Grains of Light EP. Whilst the title track falls into that classical trance trap, this track has a bit more gumption. Drums thunder and it flirts with a breaks sound akin to those other South Walians Hybrid. Stirring stuff.

After Dark

Full EP here:

~ by acidted on August 29, 2012.

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