How I Made: Samuel Organ on his ‘A Safe Place In Cyberspace’ album

The Brighton-based producer chats the collaborators, VSTs and musical influences that have shaped his debut album

11.05.21 Words by: Felicity Martin

In a new feature on Dummy, we’re asking artists to drill down into how exactly they make their music. We’re looking to hone in on the processes, equipment and locations they made their sounds in, and following South London rapper Le3 bLACK, we speak to Samuel Organ, the Brighton-based producer and songwriter signed to our DMY Artists. His debut album, ‘A Safe Place In Cyberspace‘, really pushes the boundaries, carving out its own space in the electronic music universe. Featuring a wealth of collaborators, including Slugabed, BABii, drummer Adam Betts and vocalist Dazey, the twelve-track release is diverse: a true melting pot of styles. To find out more about how the record was created, we sat down with Samuel Organ to get granular on his production methods and non-musical influences.

Where was this record made?

I started building ideas for this record when I was living back where I grew up in the countryside in Northampton, at the beginning of 2020. I’d recently moved on from working a job and had taken the leap to try and make music my full time job… little did I know this was going to turn out to be one of the most difficult years I could have picked to try and do that! I’d just finished long tours with my group (Physics House Band) across Europe and Japan, and was about to head out on a live tour with Kai Whiston, and I hadn’t really considered the idea of putting an album together.

I’ve always made bits of solo music across the last ten years, but always felt fairly apprehensive working towards a cohesive body of work. I was spending a lot of time on my own exploring the countryside around the Nene Valley which guided the more relaxed and subdued moments on the record, and initially the whole record was going to be pretty piano-led and slow. In April I moved back to Brighton where I’d spent the previous ten-plus years and I think being back in the city and subject to chaotic surroundings meant I started to focus on a lot of the tougher and more club-focused elements on the record.

What software or hardware did you use to complete the album?

My process is pretty in the box to be honest, and I really don’t use a complex ecosystem of plugins and VSTs. Even though I’d love to build experience and broaden the sonic palette of my work, it just doesn’t excite me that much so I keep it really simple. I love TAL’s Noisemaker VST – just an incredibly simple Juno emulation, nice and easy to use… sounds great. I also really got into Slate + Ash’s ‘Cycles’ and ‘Auras’ plugins – the most I’ve ever spent on something digitally, but totally worth it. Again, very simply laid out, and very easy to get something sounding great and capture a moment quickly.

There are moments where I use a MIDI bridge on my guitar. I love MIDI’s integration into other instruments, it totally changes what you create in the way you play things, especially using open tunings on the guitar and getting fucked up sounds when you bend notes. I also use randomly generated MIDI information at points on the record too. There’s websites where you can just generate completely random MIDI notes, or based on a sequence of parameters. I love generating files in this way then responding to the information by playing along to it – ends up sounding quite jazz… you can hear that working in the song ‘Unswear Words And Undo Deeds’.

Who did you work on it with?

There’s a bunch of collaborators across the record, including BABii, Slugabed, Cole Longanecker, Dazey and Colossal Squid (Adam Betts). It was so nice working with others on this record, and they were all really easy and natural moments working together. I’ve known BABii for probably about twelve years, and we lived together briefly in Brighton. I’ve always admired her music, art, determination and creative vision, and I’m so happy we finally made something together. Slugabed is also a longtime friend and collaborator, and someone I pretty much run everything I do creatively in life through. We’ve got a great musical bond and work together on so many different projects. I came to him with these two harder tracks wanting more variation and grit, and that’s what he brought to those songs. I think our strengths complement each other well.

Adam Betts (Colossal Squid) is someone I’ve known for a long time now too. I’ve done many many shows and tours alongside him and his Three Trapped Tigers project, as well as working on the Kai Whiston live band which is still yet to be debuted. We’ve always talked at shows about making music together and this feels like a first taste of a united sonic landscape, of which I hope we expand on more in the future.

My journey with Cole and Dazey is pretty fresh still. Cole and I made that collab track originally for an Activia Benz compilation, but I had it to stick it on this album… it’s just so mad and fits the vibe so well – big clattering kicks and sound design (Cole) alongside soft piano and warped synths (me). Possibly the most sonically different was the track with Dazey. I’ve been approaching the idea of songwriting differently as I get older, and embracing more traditional methods of doing so. Everything I’ve done to date with various projects has always been noisy and weird, and this track was a great moment to take a breath and just write a proper ‘song’. Anyone who knows Dazey’s voice says how incredible it is, and I love that we’ve created something together.

Could you talk through some of your main musical inspirations?

Definitely my friends first, more than anyone else. I’m really lucky to be surrounded by incredible musicians and producers, and their work and vision is what creates the most tangible and visceral moments of inspiration for me. Honourable mentions to Slugabed, Miles Spilsbury, Iglooghost, Kai Whiston, BABii. My partner introduced me to loads of incredible folk and Celtic music across the time we’ve been together too, which has really shaped the past few years musically for me. I’ve spent more time with acoustic instruments since and loved exploring their application to electronic music. Also, my main inspiration would have to be my mum. She introduced me to lots of incredible jazz, west-end musicals, opera and classical music from a very young age.

Were there any non-musical influences on the record?

Ideas always come to me from spending a lot of time outdoors, usually when cycling. I ride along Brighton seafront out to the neighbouring town of Saltdean most mornings, and go for longer rides at the weekends around the south downs. I draw inspiration from the weather and the subsequent moods those changing weather systems put me in, coming up with little loops that play in my head on those rides, and try to get them out when I get home. Making music is a really cathartic process for me and so often my songs are based solely around these simple loops which I’ve captured on those mornings. In the making of this record too I’ve sat with this idea of polarisation a lot, which is represented in the drastically varying styles where soft pianos are paired with aggressive percussive sounds. This idea of polarisation has manifested from different figures in my life. Where once I opposed those styles and tried to separate them into appropriate projects, ‘A Safe Place In Cyberspace’ brings them all together and presents them as a whole, to give the listener the truest connection to me I can offer.

Listen to the album below, or via your preferred service here.

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