Five Queries With… James Osland
As we approach the halfway point of the year, 2018 has already been extremely busy James Osland; having released ‘Gone For A While’ on Whitelabrecs in February, and more recently ‘Manitoba Gardens’ via Rusted Tone Recordings just yesterday. James joins us in answering some questions about his processes of creation, managing the balance between musician and label owner, and taking his music into a live setting.
IC: Field recordings, non-musical textures, and sounds manipulated far beyond how they sounded at the source feature prominently in your music. With such a wide-ranging palette in your music, do you have a typical starting point when working on a new piece, or does the process vary between different projects?
JO: It very much varies from piece to piece. Sometimes I have a particular recording in mind, using this as a bedrock to build the piece around, other times it may be a simple melody I have written that sparks a starting point. For this particular album I was focused predominately on childhood memories, letting my feeling and emotions set the mood for each piece and allowing ideas to develop from there. The album title ‘Manitoba Gardens’ is the name of the street that my primary school was situated on. Many of the pieces refer to specific memories associated with that time of my life.
IC: There has been a recent surge in general interest towards the art of field recording and the practice of attentive listening when it comes to environmental sound. Are there certain sounds or place you seek to record?
JO: I like to think of my recording process as a sonic journal, something that documents a specific time and place in my life. Rather than seeking certain sounds I like to get a feel for the place I am in. I often take long walks with my recording equipment waiting for the right sounds to reveal themselves to me. There are certain sounds that seem to peak my interest more than others and recently I have been really interested in exploring the micro environment our ears are unable to listen to. I find it fascinating that there is this whole world of sonic activity happening around us that we are usually so unaware of.
IC: In addition to your work as a solo artist, you also run the label Elm Records. How do you find managing the balance between making music and releasing the music of others?
JO: It can be difficult at times, as I am sure you are aware. The label side of things can be quite demanding; however, it is always worth the effort. There are so many great independent artists out there, it’s really rewarding to help people find a platform for their music. There is also a really strong sense of community with all the independent artist and label owners, I feel really privileged to have met so many wonderful people through Elm Records. I do often find that I don’t have as much time as I would like to create music however this just means that the time I do get now feels a little more special, I think I now realise the importance of making the most of the time I do get.
IC: Quite often you share music on Facebook as part of ‘100 Days of Ambience’. Can you shed some light on what inspired you to keep up with such regular posting?
JO: There is just such a wealth of interesting music around at the moment, I really enjoy sharing content with our listeners and helping other independent artist reach a new audience.
IC: A recent image of you performing at a Bristol Ambient Ensemble event reveals a complex set up for live performance. What equipment are you using for live shows at the moment, and what is the next gear item you’d like to add?
JO: My live set up in somewhat fluid, I like to mix things up to try and keep my approach as interesting as possible. Quite often I will perform with a minimalistic set up of just my laptop, a midi controller and Ableton live, other times I will dig out all my guitar pedals, synths, instruments and microphones. My sets can change dramatically depending on what equipment I am using but I always try and find the right tools to fit the situation. I’m currently trying not to look at any new gear (something that I struggle with all the time!). I have recently brought the OP1 from Teenage Engineering and the Organelle from Critter and Guitari; with these two instruments I am finding endless possibilities, so much so that I think it will be a while before I have really got to grips with all they can do.