Dark Transmissions: an introduction to Loom

An interview with Loom about digital distortion, pirate radio, and outside influences, ahead of his Gobstopper Debut.
By    October 30, 2014

Loom - - credit Chiara Giurato 2Son Raw’s radioactive, catch him being active on radio.

For those keeping score, since relaunching this year, Gobstopper have released narcoleptic electronica, near ambient synth jams, 80s boogie funk and trapped out video game beats, all under the auspices of Grime. If Butterz returned the genre to the dance floor after the mixtape era, Gobstopper’s done everything possible to cast it out into space, reframing the instrumental side as urban head music. Next up on their roster is Loom, whose Grade EP looks back to the square wave synths of the Eskimo era, but also the technology that shaped it: hissy cassette tapes, scratched up dub plates, dodgy pirate radio signals and early computer pluggins. We caught up with Loom ahead of the release to discuss just how he reached such as unique sound.

First up – why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers. Where are you from, how’d you get involved in producing/making music?

I was born and raised in Ipswich, Suffolk, then I moved to London, then to Milan now I’m back in Ipswich. I Started DJing when I was 13, then got into producing a year later after hearing Grime on the radio and it’s all spiralled out of control from there.

I checked out your Love is Noise mix and you might be the only person on Earth who’s ever name-dropped Wiley and [experimental synth group] The Knife in the same sentence – but that really makes sense listening to Grade. How did your music journey bring you to hearing those two artists – and in many ways synthesize their contrasting moods in your own work?

I really hope that’s true. I suppose I have radio to thank really: I was really into the Grime I was hearing on local stations and pirate radio, but back then late night BBC Radio 1 was also really good. Mary Anne Hobbs, Giles Peterson, Ras Kwame, Rob Da Bank all played really good new music, stuff I would’ve never of heard if it wasn’t for them. The selection between each DJ was so broad it was really the world in music and as a 15 year old this was a really an important musical education. It taught me to appreciate many types of music which is pretty challenging for a 15 year old. So basically from there I started collecting all this music but really those two artists along with Erik Satie have really had an impact on my work.

It makes for an interesting dichotomy in your work: on one hand a lot of the sounds you use like square waves could be construed as really purist in a Grime context, but on the other you’re really drawing from contexts that the first wave of producers might not have heard or identified with. How do you balance getting that Grime sound that captured you as a listener with incorporating outside influences? Is that a factor in your process?

It’s easy, I know what elements of Grime I want to use in my music. I know what I want to hear and the same goes for all the other influences I draw from. From making music since the age of 14, I’ve slowly but surely discovered my own voice within music, it takes time, at the start you’re just copying other peoples stuff then begin to feel your way out and you create your own voice. I know my music was never going to be 100% Grime, that was never my plan, plus I don’t think I could make music that slotted neatly into any genre, even if I wanted to. I’ve always positioned myself as an outsider. However, there’s a certain pressure that comes with this mentality, there’s always that feeling that you should try and fit in and that no one will support your music if it’s so against the grain, but I don’t care. What can I do but be honest?

A lot of dance music trends towards hyper clean production values these days, but Grade EP, particularly the title track, really has a rough hewn quality thanks to the static and sample – how did that direction come about?

Grade was an experiment. I was trying to recreate the world in which I first experienced Grime, through a crackly old radio, awful radio rips at the lowest quality possible. I was experimenting a lot with creating parts for tracks and degrading them by reducing the bit rate/sample rate. Plus, slowing a parts down, exporting them, then speeding them back up and what you’re left with are all these digital artefacts of the algorithms working within the part to try and correct it, which can be really interesting. I’m really into hearing digital processes at work and not working as they should. We don’t often get to hear digital equipment break or degrade, not like how analogue equipment changes over years. Digital usually just stops working completely. I was exploring this within Grade.

Grime, particularly at its genesis, was so thoroughly associated to this locked off urban community that I don’t think anyone even realized that there’d be people experiencing it second hand. It was made by kids for their peers but now years later there’s a boomerang effect where people who heard it through those limewire rips are feeding back into it. Having grown up away from London, how’d that play into the way you hear Grime? Typically the imagery surrounding the genre is tower blocks and emcees…

Well, It wasn’t part of my life really, I wasn’t born in London nor did I grow up on an estate, I’m from Suffolk, if you don’t know it, it’s pretty rural. So the world of Grime was purely imaginary for me, I had my own interpretation of it formed entirely from the music and I still do, I hear the music from a different perspective, hopefully I can use this to my advantage and it comes across with my music.

]In Rain Falls Hard there’s this abrupt shift from the intro to the outro that stands out structurally from a lot of Grime (or dance music in general) out there, and Fukushima has a sudden scratch that might mess up more than 1-2 DJs. Could you talk to us a bit about the decision to structure the release that way?

That’s where I’m trying to push grime into the headphone space as well as the club. There’s no reason why we can’t have both. So in this different context, you have to rely on different musical devices to create a complete piece of music, that’s why ‘Rain Falls Hard Here’ has these changes and shifts, it’s a different context so it relies on different techniques. It’s all part of the music I draw from for influence, this is what all these different influences sound like.

How’d you link up with Mr Mitch and Gobstopper?

I knew him from college, we were both into Grime so we got to know each other talking about that. After that finished we kind of drifted apart, but years later after hearing some of my stuff on Soundcloud he asked me if I wanted to put out an EP with Gobstopper, so I begin working on it and here we are.

What’s your favorite oldschool Grime instrumental?
Ruff Sqwad ‘Pied Piper’, it has everything you need from old school grime, Square lead, sparse drums, weird percussion noise, that’s it.

Finally, anyone you want to shout out?

Yeah, big up Mr. Mitch, Iglew, Utah?, Tsunga, Jexxa, DJ SagePay, Riz La Teef and Unafinestrasulmondo for all the support.

Stream:

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