Modal Electronics Backstage: Lapalux
From cassette tapes to modular rigs, we take an exclusive look into the mind of one of the UK’s most experimental producers, pushing the boundaries of music production well beyond its status quo.
So, tell us who you are, where you’re from etc?
Hey, I’m Lapalux. I live in North East London. I’ve lived here for the past 12 years. I’m originally from Essex which is a stone’s throw away. I’ve got 4 albums and a slew of EP’s that have been released over the past 11 years on Flying Lotus’ record label ‘Brainfeeder’.
What’s on your playlist at the moment?
I’ve been listening back to Steve Reich’s discography and a lot of other contemporary classical music as of late. I seem to always come back to this. It’s a form of meditation and comfort for me.
Has Music always been a part of your life? Was Music a big part of your childhood? What did you listen to back then?
For as far back as I can remember music has been an integral part of my life. I ended up studying it most of my life too. Although I struggled with music theory as a kid and failed most exams I continued to be excited and interested in the manipulation of sound and became fascinated with the idea of transforming sound with computers. Back then we only had a very primitive family computer, you couldn’t do much with it but I started to play around on Cubase when I was around 16 or 17; I would record guitar into the computer and manipulate it, cut it up, rearrange it, and re-pitch it to create something completely new. That process stuck with me and the experimentation into sound and the use of technology took flight.
As for the music I was exposed to, my Dad had a vast vinyl collection full of the usual suspects; Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, The Alan Parsons Project, along with more experimental Psych Rock records. Later on I was exposed to more left field electronic and experimental music through friends at school and then college and university.
What inspires you musically?
In truth I don’t actually listen to a lot of current music in the same sphere as my own so I tend to look at other art forms for inspiration. Films and physical art is what I gravitate towards. I’ve realised that as I’ve gotten older my inspiration has shifted somewhat. I look back on my own life and experiences to influence the music more now. It’s a kind of cathartic process.
Releasing on Brainfeeder – what a great achievement and a super fit for your production. How did that come about?
I released a small EP which was doing pretty well on a small london based record label back in 2011. I was also playing a few small gigs around London at the time that a friend of mine was organising. Shortly after I reached out to Brainfeeder via an email and they signed me up… the rest is history.
So, portastudios and tape loops? How did this come about? How do you use this to such creative effect?
I grew up with cassette tapes so I think I just resonate with the sound of tape. It brings me back to listening to records on my walkman. I’d replay the same cassette so much that the tapes would wear out and become more and more degraded and distorted. I’d also record radio and other records onto tape so Ii could listen to them on my little walkman. There’s a certain affinity I have with it that is still present today. I just released my latest record “Total Reality, Total Chaos” which is a long form ambient piece formed of various tape loops I’ve collected over the past couple years. I made a bunch of tape loop cassettes that I’m able to record short loops on and then overdub onto them using the 4 available tracks on the Portastudio. There’s a certain magic that comes from the process that I love.
We see you have a great Modular rig in the studio at the moment – tell us more about your exploration into the modular world. Has this changed your perspective at all in terms of creativity and music making?
I got into modular as a way to steer away from the computer. It’s just another extension of sound experimentation and manipulation. You can really go in depth with it and make your own unique sound with it. Although to be honest, it does make me drift from actually making music sometimes. It becomes more scientific for me, like understanding the actual way a sound is made rather than developing a cohesive piece of music. The fun comes when you start to go deep into the rabbit hole and layer up modules and create something that to me at least seems unique. It’s a double edged sword sometimes though. I can spend hours on one single bleep or bloop and get completely lost in it but have nothing to show at the end of it – or i can program some incredibly interesting groove or some beautiful random generative ambient progressions – Its all a bit chaotic and arbitrary, but that’s what i signed up for.
Looking at your releases, there is always a concept that drives these – do you have this from the outset or is it discovered during your creative process?
With albums, I’ve always found it important for me to have an idea of a concept or at least a vision of what I want the record to be based on. It helps me write music that fits within some self made guidelines. My most recent album “Amnioverse” was deeply focussed around a concept from birth. Each song is a journey and combined they tell a story, at least to me anyway.
When you start creating a synth sound, how do you approach the process – do you already have an idea in your head before you start tweaking knobs or is it a process of experimentation?
I’d say both but more so nowadays I usually have to have an idea in my head before I sit down and spend time making a sound. Saying that though, my attention span dwindles so I try and get somewhere quick; if that’s not attainable I’ll usually go off piste and start twiddling all the knobs, patch cables until I get somewhere or nowhere. Happy accidents are always welcome but sometimes that doesn’t happen so easily.
The joystick control is actually great for expression and developing the sound.
Lapalux about COBALT8
Do you ever suffer creative blocks? What is your coping mechanism?
Yes quite frequently actually. I would say my “blocks” are more like time I need away from music to get inspired, that energy and passion for music creation can’t be forced. At least I can’t force it. It’s a hard thing to deal with. I have to remind myself that I am a music artist and when I need time away from it, I should step away and focus on something else. Sometimes creativity flows, sometimes it doesn’t – there’s no rhyme or reason to it for me. I think the pandemic put things in focus for me. The music machine stopped, all the touring over the years and various people in the industry took its toll and you can easily burn out. I’m aware of that always so I choose to let times that I don’t create anything go by and never force it. If i catch a vibe then all good, if i don’t then that’s good too, quality over quantity – that’s what i say.
How does technology impact your creative process?
Technology is integral to my craft. If it wasn’t for explorations in sound technology and exciting new opportunities granted by computers to manipulate sound I wouldn’t be here talking to you. I have keen interests in where we go from here in music and technology. There’s already machine learning software that eats music data and spits out songs. That sort of thing is fascinating.
What has your experience of the industry been like thus far and what advice would you give to anyone just starting out?
As with most industries there are many ups and downs. My advice would be go with your gut feeling. I’ve had meetings with people and gigged various places where I’ve been like: “what the f**k am i doing here?”. I’m not a major star or anything of that nature and have made my way through the past years generally at my own pace which has suited me. I’ve never wanted to be huge or have a no.1 or anything like that. Being thankful for what you have is key in this game. Recognise your own talents and believe in yourself.
What is your production setup at the moment? Is it fixed or do you switch things up regularly?
I switch it about very often but recently I’ve stuck with a setup that’s good for getting ideas down quickly. I recently got a patch bay that makes everything much faster. Flow is everything when I’m riding the wave of creativity. Space is very important to be aware of too. I’m currently in a tiny study room and it’s pretty cramped in here at the moment, so it’s not ideal but you can’t have everything can you?
How does the space in which you create impact your creativity?
Talking of space, It’s important you have enough space but music really can be made anywhere these days. I’ve had fun just getting out of the small room I’m in at the moment. Eventually I want to be in the middle of the woods somewhere in a cabin with a large room to make music in, all the space in the world and a huge sound system. That’s the dream anyway….
So we hear you have the ARGON and COBALT modules in the studio at the moment – what’s your impressions on these?
Yeah, great little machines – I have to say I’ve gravitated to the COBALT8 a lot for pad sounds. The joystick control is actually great for expression and developing the sound. I’ve used that feature a lot on various ideas I’ve been putting together. The plugins for both are solid too. Like I was talking about before, I need to get to a sound fast and not feel like i’m wasting time menu diving, the software really opens everything up quickly – when I first got my hands on them I didn’t even peak at the manual and I was already in there manipulating sounds and switching waveforms and algorithms and assigning the joystick to things, great fun. The ability to seamlessly crossover between algorithms makes for really interesting sound design and sound exploration. The ARGON8 and COBALT8 are definitely mainstays for my studio.
Lapalux Signature Sound Pack
Dream Drifter for COBALT8
Fancy injecting some Lapalux inspired sounds into your next performance or production? The man himself has curated an exclusive selection of presets that guarantee to spark your creative juices with the Dream Drifter Pack. Whether its gritty basses, ethereal pads or arps that evoke sultry precision, this is one COBALT8 Artist Signature Series patch collection, you don’t want to miss!