I interviewed Loom last year via email ahead of the release of his debut Grade EP. Little did I know that an offhanded bonus question about his use of synths would result in countless sessions of online banter, one hell of a drunken night at Boxed in May, and one of the funniest online friendships I’ve developed in years. What I did expect, was that he’d expand on Grade’s potential, a goal he’s clearly accomplished with European Heartache, his second release on Gobstopper Records. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to speak with him again, and to get into more detail about his process, synaesthesia and Gary Numan’s sound palette. —Son Raw
Since Grade dropped, you’ve played Boxed at Ministry and you’ve been on Boiler Room. Where did you want to go after Grade and how did last year shape up for you?
Loom: Well, when I made Grade, I wasn’t even living in the UK so I wasn’t even thinking about bookings but then I came back and yeah, to be honest I was just waiting for bookings to roll in. I wanted to do a little bit more shows, I was DJ’ing out. I wanted to make more music I could play out, more clubby kind of stuff. But it’s been a transition, I reckon the stuff I do next will perhaps be more clubby and this European Heartache EP will be kind of maybe almost be like a stepping stone to that more clubby stuff.
Is it tough to separate the clubby impulse from the more conceptual romantic bits? Because European Heartache is not what I would call first and foremost a bunch of club tools.
Loom: Well I always try to do something that will go off in a club but I just can’t resist putting in loads of melody and music. I don’t try and force it or anything so I might say, “yeah I’m gonna do something upbeat, up tempo” and then it’ll come out like that but it won’t be pure club stuff.
Right. So when you sit down do you have an idea when you go at or are you like “let me put something down and see where it goes?”
Loom: I always start the same way. I’ll make an 8-bar loop and that will just come out of anywhere, that will just come out of my subconscious and I’ll just keep working on that. I don’t have any plans for it. I’ll probably plan the track names more than the tracks themselves. I’ll collect photos and stuff and try and build a pool of inspiration, which I can kind of pick from when I sit down and create.
Do the names usually come first or is it the music?
Loom: Probably the names. The names inform a lot about how I imagine the song.
I guess that leads naturally in to the EP title. European Heartache, that’s baldly emotional. What sparked that?
Loom: How did I come up with the name?
Well, was there an actual European Heartache?
Loom: Don’t know if I can say that… Mmm… No! I just thought it was kind of ambiguous enough to encompass the whole project. I think more than it being literal, I thought it suited the mood of the EP ’cause Heartache’s got the emotional side and then European, you’ve got the science. ‘Cause the music sounds quite big. I don’t really know where the exact name came from, I just thought it would work well.
I guess coming from the UK which is an island of a certain size, Europe seems big and expansive and when we think of Europe from out here, everything is squished together. We have the opposite perception.
Loom: I think it feels bigger than it is because there’s so much packed in to it./span>
In terms of photos you mentioned earlier, what kind of imagery were you looking at when you were making the tracks?
Loom: There was a lot to do with lights, stuff lit up. I’m going to have a look actually, ’cause I’ve got it on my computer. Yeah a lot of lights, a lot of buildings, a lot of people in car parks. A lot of the colours you see in their artwork. That stuff, those kind of blue and violet colours. Pretty much everything had that—that was really important.
I felt the same way about Grade, whenever I hear your music, I really think of purple light. There’s something about the square waves.
Loom: Yeah, I don’t know how…That’s a mystery.
Back to the EP, the first thing that struck me was the first bassline that almost feels kind of like a “Roll Deep” throwback, like a pure grime tune…And then it immediately does the exact opposite.
Loom: Yeah well I enjoy that kind of dynamic in a track, definitely. I think that beginning synth was originally more suited to the track and I wanted it to be a higher square sound. But I put it in this new synth and it was just really low and I thought it sounded a lot better. I liked how it gave you a false…What’s the word…Like you anticipate something different. Which is nice because after that bass line, there’s a really soothing synth.
You’re not expecting the drop on “Fractured Light” when it hits because you’re so lulled in to a sense of security. Did you make those pieces of music knowing they’d go one in to the other?
Loom: No, I didn’t. I always let Mr Mitch help with the track list. He’ll hear it with fresh ears and he won’t be so invested in an idea as I am.
Was there any other input from the label?
Loom: Not really, I mean there was one track which was kind of a demo and that didn’t really make it. But not a lot of input. I don’t know why.
Mitch just likes what you do.
He doesn’t seem like a severe task master.
Loom: No. The EP took ages and he was very patient, Mitch. I wouldn’t be able to do it because he didn’t even really know what I was making. And then there were a few times he hit me up like, “How’s the EP coming along?” I was like “Right, I just gotta hurry up and do it”…’cause I could easily just spend ages on it just tweaking random things and just pissing around, not doing anything. He’s pretty chilled out but I did sense a little bit of hype from him, when I sent him “Fractured Light” for the first time. He was like “fuckin’ hell!”
With “Dyed Black Hair,” it has that really gated sound that people associate with trance but to me the track doesn’t really sound anything like that, it sounds like it’s own thing. Then you had tropical drums on “Nylon.” Was that a purposeful attempt to integrate new things in to what you were doing?
Loom: I’d say definitely the drums on “Nylon” were influenced from clubbing and DJ’ing out. I love to dance and I like to dance to those kind of rhythms so I wanted to do something that I could play out and enjoy. With “Dyed Black Hair” and the vocals, the trance kind of gated thing, I think I was just looking for interesting ways to have melody and to have something that has impact. I grew up with a lot of trance, ’cause it was really popular when I was young, I don’t think you could get away from it, and yeah probably a little bit of that just bled through.
The trance is interesting. We have a huge trance rave here every summer where everyone wears white. The idea of trance as an influence, I think it could never work around here because there’s still people listening to it a lot. If someone tried to throw a trance night with a level of distance or irony, you couldn’t do it here.
Loom: I think it’s probably just the people where that was their first experience of clubbing, or seeing clubbing. I don’t know. There’s definitely some trance stuff about. I think it’s just the new thing, isn’t it? Every ten years or something whatever was ten years before comes back. I’m sure in ten years time or so, people will be saying “oh yeah the second wave of Grime, I’ve been listening to that all my life.” Or Trap. I’m sure trap will die and then in ten years time people will be like, Ooh yeah trap’s sick mate, I’ve always been making trap.”
I can’t wait until we have “Ironic Hipster Middle Class trap.” I look forward to that.
Loom: Well at the rate of the music scene and the internet, I’m sure you won’t have to wait that long [laughs].
You could argue that the whole EDM trap is middle class kids re-doing 2000’s hip hop stuff from the South.
Loom: It just keeps rolling over and rolling over.
I always feel at some point it won’t work like that anymore because everyone will have access to everything on the internet. I feel it used to be you’d go and the people that had these old records were really cool but when it hits the era where everything is online, you don’t get to be a badman because you went on Soundcloud and found something someone posted ten years ago.
Loom: There’s no merit in that, is there? It’s not cool. It’s better though ’cause more people get in to different stuff.
It actually forces people to be more original. That’s actually one of the things I like about the European Heartache EP . I picked little bits where the drums are this and the synths that but it doesn’t feel like anything that’s been done in Grime before.
Loom: No. That was probably a conscious thing definitely. And it’s weird ’cause if I was to say I was just an electronic artist, I think people would say, “Oh, you’re just influenced by Grime a little bit” or you could say you’re a Grime artist and they’d say, “Oh, this is weird Grime.”
Yeah it’s kind of a Catch-22. I like it just coming from a North American perspective. Remember we talked about that article a few weeks ago? The woman in the Independent wrote about white people being involved Grime.
Then there was this huge backlash about it. I felt bad for her because she tried so hard but everyone hates her now. It led me to think about what you do, it’s not even a class thing because no one who’s making Grime seems particularly posh.
Loom: I don’t really mind whatever class they are, really.
But I mean the stuff that Mitch does, that you do, that Slack does, it gets coded as less road or less hood and then I kept thinking, why is that a problem if that’s where you’re coming from? To me it’s more interesting than, “Alright, all the white people only get to use guitars from now on,” ’cause that’s what it’s like in America, we’re still stuck on Indie here.
Loom: Bloody hell. Well, I don’t know, you could argue that my music still has more in common with Gary Numan than Grime.
Novelist re-tweeted something really cool today, he said “Sid Vicious was a Lewisham Don,” and it’s true!
Loom: Yeah, definitely. I like that lineage of Punk to Grime and whatever happened in the middle. I mean when my dad was looking for music to rebel to, he found Punk where I’ve found Grime and it’s the same concept. I don’t actually like Gary Numan by the way but I’m saying he uses a lot of synths I like. I like Post-Punk but I’m not really in to Gary Numan. The lineage is just really interesting.
In terms of your own music, the biggest connection from Grade to European Heartache is those square wave sounds. You didn’t totally change what you were doing.
Loom: No I didn’t wanna do that because I hadn’t really found any other sounds that interest me or excite me as much as the ones I use, I mean I spent a lot of time on the sounds and really fine tuning them so they could be almost exactly like how I imagined. I just really want to bring out those kind of colours. That’s why there is that sound palette ’cause I’m just interested in those colours being in the music. I’m surprised people actually understand it and get it ’cause I didn’t think they would. But that’s how I make music and that’s how I find it the easiest, that’s how it’s easiest for me.
There’s some records where I hear it but then others where I don’t as much. I have friends that full on see colours when they hear music.
Loom: Yeah that’s synesthesia. I don’t think I have synesthesia but I definitely associate different sounds with colors and if I can work with them and mold them, then the colors do become brighter and more prominent. There will be different colors that I’ll be trying to eek out in to the music. Like the stuff I’m doing now is perhaps a bit more metalic, metalic and silver. Whereas the stuff before was more glossy and designer.
Is there anything else you got coming up that you want to mention now that you have a platform?
Loom: Me and E.M.M.A are writing a joint EP together which as it stands, the plan is to go quite ambient with it. That’s where I think both of our sounds could mesh and work well together.
Both of the music I’ve heard from you tends to have a lot of emotion and is very meditative. But beyond that you’re both funny people and yet your music isn’t humorous, in either case.
Loom: Yeah I know, it’s weird isn’t it? And then probably the same in reverse. I think we let out a certain amount of emotion in our music. We don’t find a need to express that outside of it.
Is there anything else you want to mention?
Loom: I really want to release Pompelmo Riddim this year. Don’t know where, don’t know how, don’t know who’s gonna be featuring on it—I just really want to do that one right.