Timorthy Clerkin has an undefinable uniqueness about him that emanates in his personality and his music. With a refined palette, his sound pulls from various domains, drawing a chunk of influence from rock sub-genres, As soon as you see the moustache, you have a suspicion that he’s got some interesting stories to tell. He did not disappoint.
You recently made the move over to Amsterdam. How's the place treating you?
Yeah really well thanks, absolutely love it! Living in London for 9 years took a bit of a toll. I still love London and hope to return one day (after Bexit is cancelled) but the pace of life, the cost of living, the space, the people, the common sense and efficiency in all facets of life are a welcome break from the London grind! Cycling is a whole different ball game here too, I’ve not been shouted at by a single driver since I got here two months ago. Game changer.
What have you already fallen in love with?
The beautiful canals and architecture are obviously great, not to mention all the amazing clubs and food spots, but my favourite thing about the Netherlands is probably the social responsibility people feel. The homeless community is tiny compared to London and the government have ensured there’s proper social care. One of the main reasons I moved out of the UK was because I didn’t want my taxes to go towards any of this horrific tory government’s policies; like stripping already marginalised or differently-abled people and of their benefits, cutting funding for vital public services, condemning more children than ever before to poverty, whilst simultaneously giving massive tax breaks to the country’s highest earners. I’d rather pay my taxes in a country that looks after it’s most vulnerable in society and has a financial ethos I broadly agree with. It’s not like I pay loads in tax or anything, just a personal choice on a moral level.
You recently released your Unborn EP on Ransom Note. Tell us how you approached this release differently to your previous EPs.
It’s the same approach as usual to be honest! They pick the best few tracks that I’ve produced recently that fit with the tone of the label. We try and get a bit variation overall, Unborn itself is a pretty full on acid-techno club track, so the other three are very much not that. The one thing we are doing differently with this release actually is releasing the four originals on one EP, then doing a remix EP later this month. We’ve got a remix of each track from the original EP an they’re all bloody amazing!
If you were to try and pinpoint it down to a sentence or two, how would you describe your sound?
Blimey, that’s a very tough one indeed! I guess it’d go something like: Indie-disco with a heavy dose of warped-guitar shoe-gaze, meets the late 80s UK rave scene, via Detroit techno and nihilism. All underpinned by a love of vintage, ambient, woozy, out of tune synthesis, homemade & lo-fi gear, with an eye on stoner and post-rock.
I think it would be fair to say that you aren't intimidated by trying something new. What's the process you take in trying to find a sound that is experimental and that no one has heard in the context of electronic dance music?
I think it’s pretty hard to do something that’s totally new to dance music. After 30 odd years, I reckon all the ‘fusion’ genres there could be have probably already been created! For me, exploring the limits of sound is a more interesting artistic endeavour. Though serious breakthroughs in that department only really occur when technology moves on a stage. There are some very interesting bits of kit coming out right now that are definitely furthering what we can do with sound design and creation, but also society as a whole is quite obsessed with looking backwards. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cheaper copies of vintage synths and new Star Wars films, but we do need to keep up the pace of moving forwards, in my opinion.
Are there any artists that you draw inspiration from when it comes to these experimental sounds?
Yeah plenty. Aphex Twin has always had a very ambitiously innovative approach to his music, I like how much contempt he has for rules. I try and include a bit of that sort of punk ethos, but he’s much more technically minded than I am (and more of a genius, obviously) - I’m yet to start taking my synths apart to see what else they can do! From a mixing point of view, Brain Eno has been a huge influence, that book he wrote a couple of years is a fabulous source of inspiring techniques. But really, I just tend to get inspired by sounds - sitting down with a piece of kit, whatever it may be, and just seeing what it can do is usually the most inspiring thing for me. A sound leads to a palette, which leads to an arrangement, which leads to a track. Usually…
You flirt with a few tracks that dip below the 100BPM mark. It's surprising how well these tracks can carry the same energy as some of your other uptempo productions. What do you think a slower BPM does to a track's energy?
Yes I’m a massive fan of taking things sub-100 - not all acid and techno has to be over 120bpm. When you slow things down, it’s easier to fit more complex polyrhythms and stuff in - like maybe something you’d find in a 170bpm jungle track, can work on a track that’s 90bpm. So perhaps that’s where the energy comes from... I was a massive fan of sludge metal back in the day, so maybe I’ve kinda carried that through with me.
Given your vast sound profile, one would assume that a lot of gear is needed to make up that. What does your studio set up look like?
Well, it got a lot smaller recently; as I moved country I decided to sell a few of the bulkier items, which of course now I regret hugely! But my go-to bits of kit right now are: Roland 303, Alpha Juno, Juno 6, TR8, JX3P, SH101 & Space Echo; Novation Super Bass Station, Korg MS-20, a few guitars and basses, my vintage organ, which I’m determined to get on some kind of 90s rave track, and then just a few outboard compressors and my Mackie desk. In terms of software, I use a lot of the Waves stuff and all their emulations of vintage things.
How do you approach producing vocal lead tracks in comparison to purely instrumental tracks?
Well it all depends on the goal; my track Knife Edge Heart was really, at it’s core, a synth-pop song, so I kept the vocals nice & clean, and very high in the mix so they were crystal clear. I’m working on another track right now that, although it has a full vocal, is a much dirtier, distorted, wobbly synthesiser affair, so the vocals will sit much further back in the mix and be used as part of the colour of the arrangement, as opposed to the lead.
What tips would you give aspiring artists who are trying to bring uniqueness to their productions?
Just experiment! Forget all the fucking rules you’ve learned or heard should be adhered to, they are absolute bollocks. Do what you want and don’t care what other people might think of it. Self-consciousness kills creative innovation.
What are some artists or genres that you listen to that some of your own listeners may be surprised by?
I still listen to a fair amount of heavy metal. I recommend Yob. Doom metal and post-rock are very similar to techno in that they both rely on the the build and release of tension. Pantera are probably my favourite metal band of all time, mind you.
Do you see yourself more as a producer or a live artist with a production skill set?
Hmm good question… I guess neither, but both? I’ve been playing live in bands and stuff since I was a teenager but I’ve spent almost the last decade producing most days, so one definitely feeds on the other and vice versa. They’re quite hard to separate in my mind now!
Thinking globally, where is your favourite city to play, and which city have you fallen in love with that you didn't expect to?
There are so many, I love playing wherever people are willing to listen… I really don’t have a favourite! Though Jakarta was an unexpected very pleasant surprise. Big shout out to all the Dekadenz crew, what a fucking top collective they are.
What's something that you're wanting to achieve, both personally and professionally, prior to the end of the '10s?
Crikey, that only leaves me 7 months, so I ought to be realistic! Um, sorting out the wiring in the studio once and for all, and shaving off my beard, Modest aims, but achievable.