Craig Connolly sits down with Brainfeeder artist Lapalux for a conversation, accompanied by photos by Ellius Grace. To see the full interview and photoshoot pick up a copy of Issue 003: Passion, Sex & Love.
“There’s nothing more I enjoy in life than just finding some weird sound or some fucking microsecond of some shit…”
I’ve known Stuart Howard for over five years, in 2012 I brought him to Dublin to play a relatively dingy basement in the city centre; upon arrival, one of the first things I asked was where did the name Lapalux come from?
He laughed and told me it came about while he was inebriated at a friend’s house and tried to say ‘lap of luxury’.
The genesis of his artist name is symbolic of what Lapalux as a musician is all about; juxtaposition and finding magic in inaccuracy. Now in late 2017, with a number of singles, EPs and his third LP ‘Ruinism’ out, I spoke with Stuart to find out if he uses the same traits when creating his art, his inspiration for the new record and where his passions lie beyond being Lapalux.
Lapalux plays The Sugar Club this Saturday with Bad Bones and Wastefellow on support. Doors at 11pm.
This is your third record, do you feel you fully know what you’re doing with the whole process now?
Yeah definitely, I know where I’m at in the music realm, so to speak. I’m moving all my shit into a new studio in North London at the moment because I can’t keep doing it (making music) in my bedroom anymore. I’ve never had a studio but I just thought, fuck it. I’m going to rent out a studio in a different area in London so it gets me out of the room a bit more.
Speaking about the new record, you’ve always had a creative way of coming up with the names of your releases, how did the name for ‘Ruinism’ come about?
The name sort of just came to me, I just woke up and I had this word Ruinism stuck in my head. I can’t remember the actual term…
I looked into it, it’s ‘The ideology of the destruction of society’, did you know that before or was it just a word that came up?
No, I tried looking it up and I couldn’t find too much about what it actually meant, on ‘Nostalchic’ (2012) and ‘Lustmore’ (2015) it’s always been a combination of words, or a saying that’s been condensed into a word and I wanted to keep that up with the latest record, so basically to me it just means ruined and the idea that it’s an ‘ism’ like minimalism, etc. and it just came together like that, I think it fits with the record as a whole really.
Yeah, the naming of your records seem to lend themselves really well to the music itself, musically and aesthetically there’s a big difference between 2015’s ‘Lustmore’ and ‘Ruinism’. Was there something that prompted the move in that direction of does the new sound and look reflect where you are as a person?
A bit of both I think, a lot of ‘Ruinism’ came together just out of frustration with hearing the same shit over and over again, and doing shit the same way. I’m never really one to stick at something forever, I constantly want to shift and learn new things, pick up new ideas and play around with new toys.
For me, this record is so different because of the stuff I was using and the way I was using it in non-conventional ways.
Would you be methodical in the way you set up to make music or is it a case of when inspiration hits you, you just go with it?
Yeah, I think nowadays I’m a bit more methodical, before I used to have the patience of a saint and sit there all day, everyday and just work and work and work. Now, the more I’ve created music and been around music, it forces you to really take a step back a little bit and really think about the music you’re making a whole lot more.
Now, I need inspiration and I need to feel something new and it’s very hard to refresh that feeling.
‘Ruinism’ feels like your most cinematic piece of work, there are elements that resemble a score, was that a conscious decision or were there certain things that triggered this during the creative process?
Yeah definitely, it was a major aspect of the record, a lot of the first half of the record has a filmic vibe. The record itself actually started out as a theatrical performance art piece in London, I did the score for this walkthrough experience in a graveyard and had this idea about where you go after you die.
I had to work to a lot of briefs and have a lot of meetings with people and the dancers to see what works and doesn’t work, and a lot of the actual raw material is used in ‘Ruinism’. A lot of it inspired me to take it way further down an artistic, theatrical realm rather than just sticking to making songs for a song’s sake.
Did you find that it could be a challenge for you to integrate it into a record?
I wanted to make the record approachable but still have elements of avant-garde and musique concrète. A lot of the music I was listening to at that time was very abstract and minimalist as well as some techno stuff that I was never into when I was younger.
A lot of the new things I was listening to when I was looking for inspiration was all very fresh to me and I wanted to blend that with the soulful side of my music in a sort of melancholic way. I’ve always been a fan of that, the light and a dark side of music.
What’s the thing you love most about the actual release of an album? What aspect of the whole process do you enjoy most?
There are mini-successes all the way. When I actually finished the album and sent it in to Brainfeeder I was waiting to hear back and I was thinking, ‘I’ve done my bit here’, and that feels really good to be back on form again and to have a coherent piece of music made.
Then, the doubt kicks in where it’s ‘oh shit,
maybe I should’ve changed this part’ and then you hear back and get picked up again and then it’s ‘ok, now we have to start thinking about a music video’. It’s peaks and troughs all the way through.
Now, to have it out and to have not actually listened to it for a while and then come back to it and think ‘oh shit, that’s cool’. It’s a topsy-turvy, angulating thing.
“The record itself actually started out as a theatrical performance art piece in London, I did the score for this walkthrough experience in a graveyard and had this idea about where you go after you die.”
There have been numerous videos of you online playing with modular machines. From the outside that looks like an experimentation of sound and the creation of sound, is that the thing you enjoy most about being Lapalux?
There’s nothing more I enjoy in life than just finding some weird sound or some fucking microsecond of some shit, it could be some amazing ‘bit’ and just finding that sound and fucking around with it, that for me makes me feel like I’ve done something or achieved something in that day.
Where did this love for sound design and experimentation stem from?
I remember way back in the day I had this little mp3 player with a recorder on it and I’d record my friends and people in class and I’d come home and fuck it up.
I learned guitar when I was younger, I always did something different with it, I never really wanted to play it normally, so I’d tune it differently and learn weird chord structures, just trying to get different things out of it. I’ve always been like that, I always try and make instruments do something that they’re not made to do. A lot of early cassette tapes I had, I used to try and warp the tape and just try and mess around with different shit with that.
We touched on Brainfeeder, your sound very much fits into the label’s ethos, how galvanising is it to be a part of that extended family? How inspiring is it to see FlyLo releasing films and Thundercat making what is essentially pop music but doing it in the coolest way…
Steve [FlyLo] has released a film and that inspires me to up the ante all the time. We’re all in this ship together so let’s just expand and grow and push each other to do loads more cool shit.
Bootlegs and remixes have been a staple of the Lapalux output since the beginning, the latest being the remix of 21 Savage’s ‘No Heart’. Do you feel the current batch of hip hop superstars get the credit they deserve as artists and do you feel they’re pushing the envelope for what hip hop is and can be?
I’m definitely into rap and trap music that’s current and with a lot of it the artists image proceeds what they actually do creatively. I think it shows that for certain rappers image is number one straight off the bat. They’ve secured this image and are just going with that, but then their shit is weak! There are a lot of people like that at the moment. There’s a lot of rap out at the moment which I find undermines what hip hop and rap means and I don’t want to be too negative about it but there are a lot of artists just cashing in on really young girls and boys buying their records. I don’t want to sound like an oldie but I like raw shit and hard beats!
You said earlier that you were listening to a lot of techno in the lead up to ‘Ruinism’. Having initially come from an R&B and hip hop background, are there certain acts in techno that you’re fascinated by at the moment?
I think a lot of Clark’s new record is that middle ground between techno and dance music that I find really interesting, that led me into a bit of a wormhole listening to more obscure stuff; Louisahh, the person that I worked with on (Ruinism’s) ‘Rotted Arp’, her and Maelstrom’s stuff is quite techno-y and dark. I live with two other housemates and one of them is very into techno and I always put my ear into his room when he’s listening.
Aside from music production and being Lapalux, do you see yourself pursuing any loves or passions in the near future?
I’ve been trying to teach myself design, like really interesting visual art that I’m into, there’s this guy I’ve been looking up called David Rudnick, there are tonnes of guys out there and I’m looking up their stuff thinking, ‘Fuck, I really want to know how to do that’.
I’ve been working on some shit actually myself, I’ve been trying to use this font programme that I downloaded the other day which is crazy, I was trying to make my own font and realised I just don’t have the fucking patience for that at all.
I was looking at a lot of stuff along the same vibe as Rudnick and I really want to get into that. I’ve a bit of a background in photography and things like that, so it’s a nice crossover thing.
‘Ruinism’ is out now on Brainfeeder Records.
Photography by Ellius Grace