The British duo of Sounds From The Ground (SFTG) formed by Nick Woolfson & Elliot Jones with a musical career of this project of 20 years and 13 Studio albums, 2 producers in which Elliot Jones has his own musical career and Nick Woolfson in 20 years has been involved in multiple projects both in groups and alone.
CLG – About your beginnings, how you started your contact with electronic music?
NW: I started as a keyboard player in bands and progressed to building and running a studio and from there got into clubbing and making club music…from hardcore to house, acid house, trance, deep house and of course downtempo / ambient dub.
E J: I started out writing and experimenting with sound manipulation in my teens, I went on to start my own label and being involved with chillout rooms and club nights.
CLG – The musical equipment in electronic music have evolved a lot in these 20 years, how you see this evolution between analog synthesizers and digital technology?
NW: There is always new gear coming out…that’s progress but to me the sampler was hugely instrumental in electronic music from the last 25 years along with Logic and more recently, Ableton. Producers today are looking back to the past to try and create some individuality by using sequencers and analog synths and drum machines. I think there is a place for everything and its more about the music you write rather than the equipment you write it on….they are only tools at the end of the day.
E J: You can’t beat the warmth of the analogue synths, a lot of those 80’s machines have been brought up to date on digital plug-in’s, We find blending the two works for us and have put this to practice on the newly released ‘ALCHEMY.
CLG – What means, instruments are those that you use currently for the recording of your compositions, and method of recording?
NW: When we started working together in 1994, we recorded everything thru the mixing desk and used Cubase on an Atari 1040, very basic sequencing software. We used Cubase to run our analog synths live and recorded onto DAT so we wanted to incorporate some of the old techniques in the making of ALCHEMY. We used some of our old synths, sequencers and drum boxes but of course used Logic to glue it all together.
CLG – How is the process of creating your compositions?, all thought is, it leaves much to the improvisation?
NW: We either write from scratch when we are in the studio or Elliot may come up with some ideas he has created at home to use as a start point. We are fairly fluid in our writing and don’t generally like to get bogged down in a track. We feel that if it isn’t showing promise early on then put it aside and start something new. We never seem to have a problem with ideas generally and enjoy the creative process. We always have a couple of tracks that we feel are not strong enough at the end of making an album and they go into our ever growing collection of ‘nearly’ tracks. Sometimes when we listen back to them, we realise they are good tracks and worth using sometime in the future.
E J: We find it’s best to start with a blank canvas, sometimes I’ll have put together a demo or idea as a starting point otherwise we just pick a tempo and off we go, the system works well for us and doesn’t constrict us in anyway.
CLG – What the realisation of the live shows?, the interpretation of your compositions, the equipment that you use on the live shows?
NW: We are not doing any live shows at the moment but I would realty like to do a live set soon. If we were to do that then I would like to use maschine, ableton and live keys as the basis and use some of our more successful hooks and play / jam over the top. Keep it deep and loose.
CLG – When performing a live show, with a trajectory so extensive and so many compositions, how is the selection of tracks, what you present yourselves live?
NW: As above, we are not gigging but if we were to…..we would have a lot to choose from. Making that choice would be difficult but it would be like programming a dj set where it would be a bit of a journey, starting on a high maybe and ending on a high. I know a couple of tracks that we should definitely start with and I think Triangle would have to be in there somewhere.
CLG – What relation exists between SFTG and individual projects of you?
NW: I do lots of other music projects and have always kept them separate until recently. I don’t think it is detrimental to any of my projects to have other guises musically and be known for that and I know some musical elements find their way into the other projects so there is always benefits…..a bit like cross pollination.
E J: I haven’t been involved in my label for a long time now, I did spend years dj’ing, I have an ever expanding library of demo’s that one day may make a solo album, but I’m concentrating my output with S.F.T.G
CLG – What are your next projects? How see SFTG in the future?
NW: We have put a lot of albums out recently so we will probably ease up next year…..maybe just put out an e.p and, if I get my way, work on a live set!
E J: We plan a ‘ Best of ‘ compilation later this year thru Waveform Records in the U.S, in 2015 We’ll be back in the studio to record new material, there’s also talk of a live set, never say never……
CLG – How you see is the current state of the music scene, labels, groups, trends?
NW: I think the music scene is very productive with lots of new acts, producers, labels etc out there and it’s becoming very crowded. The technology is so available and accessible that it is allowing more new artists and writers than ever to emerge which in one respect is healthy but in another makes it hard to hear the good from the bad but I guess that’s just progress. To me, the biggest problem is how increasingly difficult it is to earn any meaningful income from sales, streams, downloads etc that it must be very difficult for new acts trying to break through.
E J: We don’t really follow trends too closely and find it’s best to continue our unhurried path
CLG – As independent artists, how you see the current media when it comes to publicize your compositions? (Soundcloud, Facebook, Bandcamp, digital portal, Youtube…)
NW: See above! As for promotion, they are all useful tools to help get the name and music out to potential new and existing fans. Very necessary these days and good that the artists can do self promotion which is now one of the key skills on a par with music making skills.
E J: Having these platforms has enabled us to to reach new people around the world exposing us to new generations both young and old.
CLG – How does the piracy and illegal downloading of music?
NW: It has completely transformed the industry and it will never go back to where it was 10 plus years ago from an income point of view. The compilation and physical sales market has all but disappeared and although the download market has increased it doesn’t replace physical sales. Streaming and youtube etc are new sources of income but you need an immense amount of streams / plays to see any worthwhile income. I don’t understand why music buyers and corporations such as Spotify and youtube don’t want to pay for their music when we spend so much time learning our skills and buying our equipment in order to make records for their pleasure. One downside from the massively and freely available music out there in the ether is that because it is so easily available it means nothing any more. Back in the days when we had to save up for that record meant that we valued it that much more. Now it just doesn’t mean much. Very sad.
E J: Free sites are damaging to artist’s who rely on income from selling cd’s, it’s harder to sustain a living by album sales alone, when you spend months making an album only to find it for free on the day of release, is disheartening.
Thanks a lot to Nick Woolfson & Elliot Jones and specially to Filippo Rocco