alt-J drummer Thom Green delivers a Dummy mix that weaves in luscious soundscapes with the bracingly abrasive.
Best known for playing drums in Alt-J, Thom Green has been keeping himself busy over the past few years by moonlighting in the remix game. He’s put his name to reworks for acts ranging from Clean Bandit to Moby and, though the band have a carefully carved niche in electronics-soaked pop songwriting, Thom’s interests span in wider directions.
While fact he still sticks the band’s name at the end of his name hints that that’s his focus day-to-day, of course, that doesn’t mean his interests are restricted to the circles they operate in. That much is clear from pretty early on in the mix, which weaves in luscious soundscapes with the bracingly abrasive.
Alongside the mix, we spoke to Thom over e-mail to hear about plans for his solo material, going deep into melodies and the lines between metal and electronic music.
How did you approach putting together this mix?
Thom Green: "I always keep a log of music I’m currently listening to by making playlists, iPhone notes etc and I had an idea of what tracks I wanted to use with this mix once I learned I would be doing it. I knew I wanted to open with the Vangelis track because I’m kind of obsessed with that soundtrack at the moment. I’ve been listening to a lot of soundtracks recently as I’m enjoying making similar sounding tracks myself."
You’ve had a healthy sideline in putting together remixes for a while now. What is it that you enjoy about working on them?
Thom Green: "Whenever I get the stems for a new remix I quickly scan through them on Ableton until I hear something I like. Then I drop it into Iris 2 which is a sample based synth engine and just start fucking with it in whichever way interests me. I usually, if not always, lower the octave quite a lot and slow it down, then I start building sounds based around the manipulated sample. It’s always really exciting being able to work with what someone else has produced and to try and manipulate it until it’s almost unrecognisable."
The mix contains a couple of your own original productions, the first of which seems particularly indebted to the sorts of influences suggested by the piece from a Vangelis soundtrack that you open it with. Would you agree with that?
Thom Green: "Yes for the last few months I’ve found myself making longer and more abstract sounds. I’m trying to avoid writing drums into my tracks as a kind of challenge to bring out the melodies more. I used to always start by making a drum rack and then a beat and it would usually slow me down as I was trying to write everything based on a very restricted starting point."
Do you have plans to release those tracks or other bits of solo material in the future?
Thom Green: "I’ve been working on my album consciously for about a year and a half. I’m hoping to release it early 2016. I’ve got to the point now where I’m making three to four tracks per week and I found myself getting confused and frustrated because I don’t know what to leave and what to include in the album. I’ve made a point now to leave the album alone and almost forget about it so I can concentrate on being in the moment of writing, which is what it all comes down to. I’m very excited to finally release everything, I’m very proud of what I’ve made. I’m planning on making it into a live show with some live video made by a friend of mine."
There’s an increasingly muddied sort of beauty to a lot of the tracks in the opening half of the mix. Is that an aesthetic that appeals to you?
Thom Green: "I’m very aware that whenever I make a mix it can sound a bit confusing in terms of there being no obvious theme. I really enjoy pushing myself in terms of what I listen to. I listen to a lot of genres from pop to black metal and this mix is literally what’s going through my head at the moment so to me it makes perfect sense, it’s a soundtrack to my life at this moment. In the future, I would like to make as intense mixes as possible, like pure noise for an hour. I’ve experienced noise live a lot recently and it’s pretty incredible what it does to you. But it’s not for everyone."
In moving from the tracks by The Body and Thou into Oneohtrix Point Never, I wondered if you were looking to make that connection between metal and electronic music as a reference to the way Oneohtrix Point Never framed the new record in terms of the influence his tour with Nine Inch Nails had on him.
Thom Green: "I never actually knew he was touring with NIN. I come from a metal background and I can see a strong connection between electronic and metal music, there’s no difference in where the art comes from, it’s just the instruments used. I’ve always been a fan of metal and I think it definitely paved the way for my appreciation of electronic music. I think it’s great the OPN toured with NIN that shows that there isn’t really any boundaries between genres. I hope to make some kind of metal in the future, maybe next year when I have time away from touring I want to buy a guitar and fuck with it and make some really heavy sounds. It’s all about making and manipulating sound and I guess mixing tracks is just the same."