Stuart Howard, better known as Lapalux, is the sole UK-based member of the Brainfeeder label. His work is incredibly textured, experimenting with low-fidelity and analog recording techniques to create multifaceted, layered soundscapes.
He was in the VIA Festival lineup as part of his first US tour. I got the chance to sit down with him and talk a bit about his time in the US, future work, and inspiration for his aptly named debut album Nostalchic.
Well, first off, I guess I should ask you: how do you like the US?
Haha, well, uh, you know, its great. Its a cool place. I’ve been around quite a few areas now, so, I have a good feel for a place. It’s actually really nice. Lots of good people. Its been awesome.
Do you have a favorite city?
Hmmm.. I don’t know. Where was it? Venice beach. That was really nice. Really great weather as well. We rented bikes and rode along the beach. It was really nice.
Venice beach is really nice. Do you think that you’re going to stay based in the UK?
Yeah, I don’t know. Been thinking about moving out here. Either to the east coast or west coast. But yeah, I dunno, sometime in the future, next year kinda thing. I’m excited to go back home. Been pretty mad here so far.
How has Brainfeeder influenced your music making so far?
I don’t know really. It’s kind of pushed me to work a whole bunch harder to try to impress Fly-Lo and everyone else on the label as well. Kind of work for my keep, if you will. I’m still doing my own thing. And they’re really open with it as well, with what they allow me to do. It’s been really good.
Do you think you’re going to do any collaborations with anyone on the label?
Yeah, well, I’m working with the Underachievers from Brainfeeder. I have a couple of tracks, one or two maybe, on their next release hopefully. And, yeah, talking to Steve about doing some stuff as well. Just see what’s going on, really. I’ve got to kind of focus on my own stuff for the time being. Hopefully starting next year we will work a bit more to start collaborating.
What direction do you think do you think you’re going to go in for your next release? There’s been a definite progression in your work so far.
Yeah, I’ve been working on dancier kind of stuff. And bits and pieces of other, kind of weird hip-hop, dancey, housey type stuff. Like wonky house. Yeah, I’m working on a few bits and pieces. I’ve gotta like, sit down in the studio and and try to work them out. Just going to play around and see what happens. I don’t really want to stick to any one type of genre. I love to dance around and experiment with things.
Is there a particular type of sound that really draws you to create samples and loops from in your work?
I don’t know. It could be anything, anywhere, any time really. If I hear a sound, like, earlier tonight, I heard a mad sound of crickets going mental in this little grassy patch outside. I was thinking about recording that. I just go out with my portable recorder. I often record some weird sounds. I go out and listen to shit, whatever, and wherever really. Like stuff out of film, stuff out of television, stuff out of other songs as well. Whatever catches my ear I guess.
What got you interested in this low-fi, found footage process?
I don’t know. I’ve always had a passion for recording stuff really low-fi, and messing around with it to try to make it sound really nice. I like polishing really old, crappy sounds and trying to make something pretty out of it. I’ve just always had a fascination with the sounds you get in old records, old tape machine noises, the bits that you don’t necessarily pick up on the first listen. I’ve always been especially fascinated with the way tape sounds, or even vinyl. And old analogue-y stuff. I just like that whole thing.
You seemed to apply the same treatment to the album art on Nostalchic. Can you tell me a bit about that?
The actual full piece is about 630 odd photos from my parents when they were young, growing up, and from when my sister and I were young. Family holidays, going to zoos and all of that. Its basically slices of both minute parts of time in my life and my family’s life. We just put it all in one massive collage. I like the fact that someone could look at it and it doesn’t mean anything to them at first until they look at it and think, “Is that a face?”. Its nice for me as well, because I know each of the photos. It reminds me of growing up.
Do you have the same experience when you listen back to the music you’ve produced?
Yeah, definitely. I wouldn’t say I live in the past or anything, but with the way I make music, it is kind of leaning towards old styles of music. I still use digital things, I still I make most of my music through Ableton, but I try to make it sound and feel like it’s some weird place in the 1980’s.
I also wanted to ask you about your collaboration with Nick Rutter on “Chrysalis” and “Without You.” Do you think you’re going to do anything with him in the future?
Oh yeah definitely. We’ve been talking about maybe doing a feature film and I could score it. That would be really cool. I’m going to try to focus on getting that to real life. That would be really cool.
What was that working process like between you two on your collaborations?
It’s weird because both were very different. First, on “Without You,” was his conceptualized ideas. You know, the music was already there, and we worked on the video together, and we made it all that way. And “Chrysalis,” the short film we did, was the opposite of that. We already had the video there, and I just scored it for him basically. It was a quite interesting way of doing things. It just worked.
Is there a difference in the way you produce an EP versus an LP?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, with the EPs, I try to put a bunch of tracks in there, they work together in their own right, but its kind of like testing the waters really. I want to see what I can get away with, what’s popular. It’s a good way to to test the waters before releasing an LP so you can really focus on conceptualizing everything and making it all work together and make it all flow. Its a very different process. It’s a lot harder.
What brought everything together for Nostalchic as a concept?
It kind of came together by itself. I had done a few tracks about a year or so before and was kind of working with them, trying to figure out how to put them out as well as bits of new stuff out. I kind of found a middle ground, and worked on everything over and over again to try to make it all fit and be continual.
What is your process like when you worked with vocalists like Astrid Williamson and Kerry Leatham?
Basically, I’ll send them a loop, or very simple idea for about two or three minutes, just looping it over and over. And then either they’ll record themselves singing or we’ll work together in the studio and put it together that way. I get it back from them, and mess around with it, and to and fro a bit more and then it comes together.
Do you mostly collaborate with vocalists long distance?
Not always, I kind of like it that way though. There’s pros and cons to it, but I like to sit by myself and get on with it rather than having someone there. If I ask someone to do vocals for a certain bit or piece for a track, its easier for me to sit there by myself and work it into a different track if I’m not happy with it, or just mess around with it. That kind of process though takes a little bit more time, but I think that longer period of time makes better tracks. I’ll see if they are happy with it and do it that way. I enjoy it, I’m a very solo person. I prefer to write music without too many people around; I’ll lock myself away for weeks on end.
Interview by Katherine Frazer.