I have a great mate called Matt – his offspring are a delight and it was a pleasure for Matt to approach me on behalf of his eldest daughter, Sophie. Sophie is working on a School report about a musician or someone who works with audio – I believe the emphasis is on Emotions and Music.
Matt email the questions and I tried my hardest …
Who is Andy Backhouse?
My name is Andrew W. Backhouse. I guess you could say I am the sum of all that has happened before; actualising itself as a confused, slightly chubby man who gets lost whilst looking for the Bread aisle in ASDA. This is a really deep question that can a lifetime to answer; I am a husband, a son, a brother. I am a disabled individual searching for meaning in the everyday through expressing himself creatively. I am always searching for meaning but never quite getting it right.
To express myself creatively, I work as a web-designer and I am a part-time musician. I say I am a part-time musician – but then – the day job (web design) is a way of funding my music career. In my music career, I have had two separate No.1 Hits in the Album Charts on Beatport.
Beatport is the go-to website for DJs and it is a global chart. So, for a few weeks, I was the biggest selling Dub Artist in the World’s DJ Charts. See, I am part of a producer duo – I produce music with a good friend, Allan. We call ourselves Guerrilla Dub System.
I am also a sound artist.
Isn’t there another Andy Backhouse in the world of music? Is that annoying?
Correct – there is another Andy Backhouse in music. No, I do not find it annoying. “Other-Andy” is a producer on the BBC. He works as part of the Introducing Team. In fact, he used to produce BBC Introducing York. So, when I started sending demo tapes to the BBC in York (my nearest local BBC Station) there was a bit of confusion.
The confusion continues in that I am the second most successful Andy Backhouse in radio – see, I have a radio show called The Parish News. On the weekly show I play experimental and avant-garde sounds, noise and field recordings (sometimes music / sometimes traffic noise). My radio show, The Parish News, is broadcast on American and local radio in the UK, in Devon.
If anything, I would say that having the same name as “Other-Andy” may have opened a few doors for me – no, I wish him the best of luck in his career. I am sure he would with mine. If anything, sharing a name spurs me on to succeed.
What sort of music do you make?
As part of Guerrilla Dub System, I make Dub Reggae music with my friend, Allan. So far, it has only been released as Downloads, but we are looking to release a Vinyl record at some point. Dub reggae music was a real passion for me when I was at Plymouth University – I had a copy of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s ‘Arkology’ that had some rare cuts on – it got me through heart-ache and tribulation as well as celebrating the good times.
I am also a Field Recordist, which is sometimes called a Sound Artist. Essentially, I record bird song and try and edit it so that it sounds like you are ‘there’. Field Recordists don’t just stick with Natural Sounds though – I am working on a project called The Sound Map Of Harrogate. This project combines my day job (web design) and an art form – you can see it at www.soundmapofharrogate.co.uk
How does the music that you make, make you feel?
When done correctly, a massive sense of accomplishment – proud. Very proud. I suppose it is comparable to overcoming an obstacle. It is like I have set myself the challenge to create something beautiful and – when I get it right – the reward is the satisfaction of creating it. There really is a sense of “Wow – I did that” when you listen back to your own music for the first time. This includes Field Recording and Dub music.
Dub, more so – it takes months to craft a drum pattern let alone work on the rest of the track – so when it all comes together for the first time …
With Field Recording – well, it is a bit like photography. It has a lot to do with the technical side of the art form. Even though I say that “The best equipment you can have is the equipment you already own.”
When I am actually making the music, I need to make sure I don’t sit in the studio all night working on, say, a high-hat pattern. Sometimes, when working on a track, I sit in the studio until 6am – unknowing of the time. I really do give it my all. And, I am also baring all; I am quite a shy guy and I do not know how to handle any criticism that well, having been bullied at school. So, I am always worried that I am doing the wrong thing … until I press play on a new version of a track I have been working on and then the hair on the back of my neck stands up and I know I have done everything to the best of my ability.
What are some of the biggest challenges you find in making music?
… and, being mistaken for “Other-Andy.”
Dub Music has been made for decades – I think it was the producer, King Tubby who invented Dub – he made an art form of the B-Side of records. Trying to come up with something original as a dub musician is always taxing.
With Field Recording, it is not taking any naturally occurring, un-recorded sound for granted. Field Recording lets you hear the world afresh, much as a photographer sees the world as a potential image or appreciates the fall of the light on a late September evening. An example of this is when John Cage, the composer, was asked what he liked to listen to, in his spare time, he said he would “open the apartment window and listen to the traffic” – this is where the Sound Map Of Harrogate project comes in handy – it is teaching me to hear the world afresh and it is encouraging me to engage with the world.
Who or what are your inspirations?
Previously, I have mentioned Lee Perry. He is the biggest inspiration on me for Dub music. He has a similar condition to me and to see him continually top the charts as an eighty-something-year-old who has an illness … it is mind blowing. He was the producer who made Bob Marley famous and he continues to make mind-bending music even though he is well into his eighties.
When it comes to Field Recording, I spent the majority of my early childhood deaf or hard-of-hearing – I had to have a series of operations on my ears so that I could hear again. I succinctly remember the first time I was aware of Birdsong (I heard a Chaffinch on my Dad’s farm). When I make a field recording, I am trying to present the recording in the same fashion as when I first heard birdsong. I hope to present the world afresh. I hope to give the listener ‘new ears.’
A good example of this is the Sound Artist Chris Watson – his artistic mission is to place microphones where we can’t hear. He won a BAFTA for his work on Life of Birds, an Attenborough documentary, where he recorded the sound of migrating geese as they flew in V-Formation high in the air (I think he had a paraglider). He also managed to record the sound of a glacier melting.
The soundscape of the world is dramatically changing – what will the world sound like for your Children’s Children? Will there still be petrol engine cars? Will the Post-Horn make a comeback? With the advent of smartphones – there are a lot of pictures being taken, an awful lot of historical evidence. But not as many people are recording the soundscapes that they inhabit. This worries me. But it also motivates me.
I hope that Sophie nailed her presentation – I hope she gets a great grade for it. I had been sent a copy of the actual presentation, as done by Sophie. But, I thought it a bit too personal to share with people – it is up to Sophie to share the .pdf file if she ever wants to.
This has been a good process for me. I learned a lot. I would compare it to listening to a field recording for the first time – it has let me hear myself with “new ears.”