Club Experimentalist LCY Talks New Sample Pack, Bionic Autonomy
Club Experimentalist LCY Talks New Sample Pack, Bionic AutonomyMarch 16, 2022
When we catch up over Zoom for our interview with LCY – an artist who has played alongside Giant Swan and DjRUM on Tower Bridge, taken on the Boiler Room as part of the DJ group 6 Figure Gang, and starred in a FILA campaign – the conversation starts off on a considerably less glamorous note.
“I’ve spent the entire morning putting my live set together. Basically, just bouncing out a million files and making sure they’re all correct, and then putting them into a specific filing system. It’s very tedious.”
File management might be the mundane side of music production, but these are the hard yards that have to be put in behind the scenes, small details that can’t be overlooked, and LCY is all about details. After initially garnering a buzz with their blend of grime, dubstep and shadowy bass as the masked LUCY, LCY dropped the face covering and pivoted their artistic direction in early 2020. Feeling an urge to add dimensions beyond the sonic boundaries of music production, LCY began to envelop themselves in the conceptual processes of world-building, displaying an expansive, unified creative vision that spilled over into other art forms.
Almost two years of visual, audio and written experimentation led to the release of Pulling Teeth in 2021, an EP that’s far more than just the six songs on the tracklisting. Released on their label SZNS7N, the EP is built around a dystopian world inhabited by Ériu, a character born out of LCY’s interest in traditional Irish lore, fantasy soundscapes and the books of Mary Shelley, and was accompanied by a clay model image series and longer live audio piece.
Since then, the multidisciplinary artist has continued their scorching upward trajectory, commencing a BBC Radio 1 residency at the tail end of 2021 alongside talent including Goldie, Sama’ Abdulhadi, Folamour, Or:la and Scratcha DVA. In this interview, LCY reveals how storytelling reignited their love of music production, and gives some insight into the foley and soft synths that make up Bionic Autonomy, their debut Loopmasters sample pack.
How are you finding the preparation for your first live performance as LCY?
It’s an interesting one. I’ve done some live stuff before, but mostly with Maschine and not as intensive. This gig is going to pretty much solely rely on my technical ability to not fuck everything up! I feel very grateful that I get the opportunity to do it, but obviously it’s a lot of pressure for my first live gig, and I’ve been having the craziest anxiety. Performing to people is a completely new format for me, and in the future I definitely want to move into much more performance-based work, and not just tech-based things.
What’s your live setup going to be like?
I have Opus playing live viola, and this amazing artist called Nwakke who’s doing live vocals. I’ve tested all the possible performance routes, but in the end, I landed on Ableton. I’m a Logic user normally, so it’s been a bit of a learning curve, but I pretty much have it down. I wanted to use Elektron gear, so I bought a bunch of it. But it just didn’t make sense for my live setup. I still hope that someday that I can do a full modular sequence live, but at this point in my life, with the budget I have, it would be tough.
What can you tell us about your new sample pack, Bionic Autonomy?
I was very obsessed with robot, futuristic concepts when I was making it, so I spent a lot of time trying to get as many metallic sounds as possible. I happen to live by a scrapyard, so I went around with a Zoom handheld recorder like a complete psychopath getting bits of audio. The pack ended up being a lot more melodic than I originally intended, but you can still get robotic sounds from it. I use a lot of really high end, piercing transients in my music, and you can get a similar vibe from the percussive elements in the sample pack.
Bionic Autonomy is directly related to the world-building that I was doing for my track “Garden of E10,” which I was doing visuals for around the same time. I pretty much got obsessed with certain concepts for two years. I’m out of that now, but both those projects are very much encapsulations of me at the time.
What else was involved in the recording process for Bionic Autonomy, aside from the foley recordings?
I don’t have very many hardware synths – I’m more of an in-the-box synth user. I use Serum a lot, as well as the old Massive, and I’ll often use custom synths that people have developed themselves. Sometimes I borrow hardware from other people, for example, a good friend of mine lent me a SOMA Lyra-8 recently. Once I get the sounds I want from the equipment I give it back. My housemate has a nice modular setup upstairs too, and they don’t mind me using it.
I like sound design, and in the future I definitely want to move more towards out-of-the-box stuff, but at the moment I mostly do sound design on Serum or use foley – that way I can get an original sound but not break my whole bank account. Often, when you really mess with foley you can get it to sound just like an expensive synth anyway.
How does working on a sample pack differ from your normal workflow for making tracks?
Generally, it’s just like chucking paint at a wall! Eventually, the day will come when I can make a 20-track project that’s all meticulously planned out, but at the moment I’m more likely to make a 90-track session and then just throw it all away into oblivion.
The psychology behind my production methodology has changed over the years. I had a mad writer’s block for a long time, where I was still making music but everything was sounding absolutely trash. I was just churning out these tunes and not really investing my time into them – I’d be thinking about other things while I was working and maybe just copying over elements from the last thing I’d worked on. Eventually, I lost interest in producing to an extent because I’d done it for ten years and it had become quite robotic.
In the last few years, I’ve really rediscovered my love for it through developing a storytelling aspect in my work. In other words: using production as a tool to tell other stories as part of a wider process, rather than just being the whole process in and of itself.
Photo by: Jake Davis
How do you translate the worlds and characters that you create for your projects into a more abstract art form like electronic music?
I don’t like things being too literal. If we take “Teeth” as an example though, which was the last track that I made for Pulling Teeth, I didn’t want to do a super obscure intro for it – I’d done that before and it felt a little bit self-indulgent – so I wanted it to start off as a really bouncy dance track instead, but it was missing something. I had a dentist appointment at the time, so I decided to go along with my Zoom recorder and record them cleaning my teeth, to get that really horrible high-pitched sound that comes from the dental equipment. I took the recording back to the studio and built the whole track around that sample.
I was on an operating table when the whole thing started with the character for “Garden of E10,” and those sounds I got from the dentist are the kind of thing that would be going on if someone was drilling into your head. I was trying to make listening to the music a more personal experience, and then the idea was that people could take my perspective and see it from their own.
There are a lot of strings and vocal samples in your tracks. Are they samples or recordings?
A lot of the strings are orchestral samples, and I do most of the vocals myself. It keeps me from running into any copyright claims, but it’s more about trying to sound original. A lot of my music is all over the place genre-wise, so it’s nice to have an element that kind of stays the same throughout. Often it’s just little percussive vocal parts or speaking, but those bits help to translate the story behind the track without saying too much.
You’ve said before that some of your favourite artists are people who put a lot of effort into their art. Can you expand on that?
There are loads of artists who I admire that truly give a fuck about their art, from people with million-pound budgets to those with 100-pound budgets. I’m someone who’s quite attuned to the visual side of things, so I love artists who pay special attention to their visuals and make it a whole experience. However, I do understand that some people aren’t like that, and I don’t think the expectations of the music world are always fair in that regard. It should be an option to remain old school and just release music without having to put your face out there, especially when that leads to ‘pretty privilege’, regardless of gender, due to things like Instagram algorithms. Music is beyond that – it’s the most magical thing.
You’ve just finished your BBC Radio 1 residency – how was that experience?
Yeah, that was mad – really fun, but a lot of pressure. Often I get people asking me what type of music I play, because everyone likes to be really genre-specific with electronic music and pigeonhole you. I was really thankful though that the BBC producers just trusted me to create four, quite chaotic, shows. I had the freedom to pay homage to my hometown, Bristol, as well as to a lot of queer artists that I’ve followed for a long time.
Each episode was associated with a phase of the moon. I’m quite a spiritual person, and I believe in lunar phases and how the pull of the moon affects the tides. Humans are made up of mostly water, so the lunar cycles affect our bodies. I’m not making this up by the way, I feel like I’m announcing this like I’ve discovered it myself! I know a lot of people can be sceptical about that kind of thing, but personally, I feel a certain way around specific lunar cycles.
Before the Radio 1 residency I’d just done “22:22,” which is a foundational piece for my upcoming project. When I was making it I would wake up and ask myself “How do I feel today?” and “How am I interpreting this lunar phase?”, so it just made sense to structure the Radio 1 shows that way. It was about spiritual alignment and a way of being introspective without being too on the nose.