Russian Linesman: I’ve always tried to bottle emotions, feelings and places when making music…
Tell us about you
Russian Linesman: I want to say “Parts Unknown” like a 90’s wrestler but a quick Google search will tell you I am originally from Lancashire and now live in Nottingham. I started this Russian Linesman project about 12 years ago and I’ve DJed intermittently during this time on request. I see myself as more of a producer than a DJ these days.
How would you describe your style?
Russian Linesman: I’ve always tried to bottle emotions, feelings and places when making music. The style depends on what inspired me to write the song in question – most songs start their lives on either a guitar or a piano. I like to think of it as fuzzy electronic music with an organic spine. Someone once wrote that I capture “snippets of vocals, guitars and pianos…enclosing them in a digital sarcophagus.” I really liked that description.
What is your earliest musical memory?
Russian Linesman: Initial thoughts turn to long car journeys with my parents listening to the Beatles or borrowing Red Hot Chilli Peppers records from my sister. However, if I dig deeper, a lot of the TV and films I watched also informed my early musical tastes. “Transformers the Movie” had a scene in which Optimus Prime died – the music was perfectly melancholy and I still clearly remember the emotion that song provoked. I recently used it to close a guest mix I did for Bloop London Radio.
As a kid I would stay up late on Thursday nights to watch “Prisoner Cell Block H” – a TV show often the focus of ridicule – but if you listen carefully, it had fantastic music. It was mainly 80’s electronic library music with some eerily Board of Canada-esque synths.
I also remember getting a tape of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” soundtrack… “Shredder’s Theme” starts with some really dark synths too! Most of the album was garbage, but I remember listening to the first minute and forty seconds of this song and rewinding it so many times – I’m really enjoying listening back to these songs now!
I’ve talked extensively about my love for the music in “Twin Peaks”. Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack drew me right in – he can sculpt a mood flawlessly. There is definitely a common theme with dark synths here! Clearly, as a kid this has influenced me years down the line. Hopefully the Beatles taught me to incorporate some melody too!
What have been some of your biggest achievements?
Russian Linesman: I recently did “An Evening With…” for Nemone’s “Electric Ladyland” show on BBC6 Music. That was pretty special. It was listed in the Radio Times magazine and my Dad rang me to tell me he had seen me listed on the Sky TV menu! Hahaha… It was a very validating experience and felt nice to be asked my opinion on music.
One of my more bizarre memories was finding out Al Lowe, the creator of classic PC game “Leisure Suit Larry” has a link to my music on his website – high praise indeed! I also remember celebrating my first vinyl record being released with my friends Ollie, Dan and Liam – we were all dancing round wearing vinyl sleeves as hats… That was a proud moment. Then everything went digital, which was a shame, as you can never have enough hats.
Which has been your biggest source of inspiration?
Russian Linesman: Sasha and Digweed’s “Northern Exposure” was the moment – I realised there was more to dance music than the disposable chart music I had been subjected to previously. Those CDs are an incredible journey. Also, hearing “Horizons” by James Holden on a Gatecrasher album my friend had put on. The song came on and he jumped up and skipped the song… “Whoa! What are you doing? That is first actual music I’ve heard since you put this CD on!” So, I started to investigate who this young (at the time) maverick was and this led me to my DAW of choice: Jeskola Buzz. That’s when I started my own experiments.
You began your musical journey in the world of folk music, so what different ideas/attitude did you bring with you into electronic music?
Years ago, before the Russian Linesman existed I was an acoustic singer/songwriter. Both scenes have very similar attitudes – they both love their music and are very knowledgeable and passionate about it. In terms of ideas folk music taught me the craft of telling stories. I always try and tell a story with my music, even though most of it is instrumental.
Nick Drake has been a huge influence. He was an architect with a guitar. He could incorporate so many different layers into his music on a single guitar take. He played like he had octopus tentacles, all playing different strings from different angles. I knew I could never achieve such a sound with a guitar alone; he just existed on a different plain. I became fascinated with the idea of creating layers in music. I started tinkering with software and synths to allow me to explore this further. It satisfied the frustrations I had with my technical ability on the guitar. I was moving more and more away from songwriting to compositions.
Who are your Top 5 most exciting electronica producers and why?
Russian Linesman: It is well documented that I love Stumbliene. I opened my “Evening With…” on BBC6 Music with his song “Cherry Blossom” but his whole back catalogue is flawless. I spoke to him recently after Nemone’s show and he was very complimentary about my musical tastes, which was very affirming. I was trying to rope him in for a remix but sadly he is having a break from the project at the moment.
I recently discovered the music of Roman Fahls – very evocative, well-crafted music. I know little about him apart from the fact his Soundcloud says he’s from the Faroe Islands. I’m trying to get him to do an EP for Loki, so watch this space.
I also recently discovered Eevee. She sounds likes a laidback Dutch girl who sits in her flat overlooking an Amsterdam canal making hazy hip hop, sampling from her extensive record collection. I think that’s exactly what has happened here and it’s great.
One of my favourite artists from the Loki stable is Mig Dfoe. He has recently sent me two albums worth of new material and we are hoping to release it soon. His music is wild and rejects all convention.
Finally… Jesse Somfay is so inventive and exciting. He’s remixed me a few times and he also did a remix for Loki. This song is one of my all time favourites.
Which do you consider to be your most accomplished tracks to date?
Russian Linesman: “Great Northern” from my 2013 live album “Nostalgia Story”. It captured a moment perfectly and is full of the emotion that was poured into it. The song in question starts at 0:44 here:
“Bratislava Story” is a song I am proud of for two reasons… It was my first vinyl release and was used in an interesting advert campaign by broadband provider TalkTalk.
“How Can The Sky Be So Beautiful When We Have Been So Bad” was the first song picked up by Nemone on BBC6 Music. It made me realise I must be doing something right.
I’m always proud when people relate to my music. These are my most popular songs according to Spotify:
You’ve created a mix for our C-U Presents feature entitled “Greatest Hits and Misses” selection, where you showcase and join the dots between your current musical output and previous singles and albums from the past 10 years. Tell us about what we can expect to hear?
Russian Linesman: With this mix I’ve tried to give an overview of how my music has evolved over the last 10 years. It includes some of the songs I mentioned above – songs I am particularly proud of. I’ve also picked other songs that have been popular with other DJs and my fan base. Also included are some of the more experimental music avenues I’ve explored. “There’s Not Enough Hours in the Night” is an interesting song for me to look back on – I remember writing and recording it, my sound being strongly pulled in a very uncertain direction. It’s not the easiest song to listen to but special to me.
The mix also ends with an early preview of a song from my latest “Eysenck Suite” EP entitled “Loch Ken”. I think its one of the best songs I have ever done – it has a spoken word story, singing and is 12 minutes long. I’m very excited to see what people think of it. Essentially, I have always believed in melody and emotion and I hope this resonates throughout this mix.
Tell us a bit more about the final episode of your latest four part musical jigsaw puzzle?
Russian Linesman: My current suite of four EPs – “The Eysenck Suite Parts I – IV” was born from a love of Psychology. The catalyst for this musical project was finding an old Psychology book in my parents’ loft. It contained an analysis of Temperament Theory and its roots in the ancient ideas of Hippocrates and Galen. Galen had named four temperamental categories as being “Melancholic”, “Choleric”, “Sanguine” and “Phlegmatic”. I wrote songs to communicate my interpretation of each of these categories.
To quote from the press release: “This is the 4th and final EP of the series. The element of water is abundant in this detached and hazy EP. As contentment and calm take centre stage, this is a perfect place to rest before we head back into the inevitable Melancholy as the circle is joined. Shaking hands with this music is like shaking hands with a fish.”
I think it’s my favourite EP of the four, encompassing the sound of contentment. Nothing is rushed and it’s very slow burning.
You also run ‘Loki Recordings’ what other artists are featured on the label?
Russian Linesman:About 30 artists in total have released music on Loki. I’ve put together another Spotify playlist for you here:
What can we expect to hear from you next? What are your plans for the future?
Russian Linesman: January 2018 will see the launch of a new EP series, featuring remix interpretations of some of the “Eysenck Suites I-IV” finest moments. There are some really great artists involved such as Maps, Simon Mills, Jesse Somfay, We Are All Astronauts, Roman Fahls, Lanny May, Aiden, Matthys, Anders, Betamax Warriors, Mig Dfoe, Xspance, my.head – and more people are being recruited as things progress. If anyone is keen to be involved they can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also… my new project is well underway. Again, it has a theme, but that’s a secret for now. It’s shaping very nicely and most of the music is written. The theme has really allowed me to focus my writing and has yielded a somewhat evolved sound. The project is quite ambitious though, so post-production is going to take a while! I’m hoping it will be finished this time next year.