ARKELL LDN is a multi-talented drummer, producer, MD and artist from London and the latest string to his musically jam-packed bow is creating vivid 3D animations. Primed for the big screens of festivals and the big sound systems to boot, his effective visuals manage to represent the pulsating rhythms and deep bass of his newest dance tracks and will no doubt add to the experience when you listen to his music. Hear about how he creates his music, what inspires him and why he started making his own animations.
Your particular brand of music seems to navigate between trance, house and the DnB world but there is a consistent theme of fairly dark production and industrial textures going on. What do you experience whilst making music? Where does your inspiration come from?
Thanks for listening. As well as the pop stuff, I’ve been lucky enough to work on live shows alongside more established producers that are deeply Involved in the heavier side bass music, it’s had a huge impact on me.
I have a lot of respect for anyone who spends as much time as any other musician on their instrument, focussing & refining the details of their ideas behind a screen. With that in mind, often putting too much pressure on myself, I overcomplicate things and overcompensate for what is important, because I don’t see myself as a ‘real’ producer. I wasn’t trained in production, I’m a performer, So after any initial riffs have been smashed around in Ableton & in my ears for a while, I get over the idea that anyone actually cares about what I’m doing technically, and try to just listen to the flow of whatever sounds or recordings I’ve made.
I imagine I’m in a club or at a festival waiting for the next thing I’m presented with to really deliver, it’s just gotta bang in the right places haha. This usually involves a lot of deleting, and I always have a sonic reference. I try to use the single word I give each tune early on as a kind of ‘feeling’ reference throughout too. I can only imagine things based on my experiences, so I guess I’m looking to deliver music to my past or future self at a party? Haha … that sounds ridiculous, but if I’ve had a good time somewhere why not try to recreate music that brings that excitement again.
What drew you into performing and creating in the dance genres?
I guess it’s pretty obvious that The Prodigy and Soulwax have had a huge influence on the noise I’m trying to make. If you can cross the live energy and communication of a punk band with the power of a studio mix, I’m sold.
What’s been your most memorable gig or performance and why?
At the risk of sounding like a massive douchebag I can’t decide. Every single trip has been a different situation with a different set of people and a different audience. Such a boring answer sorry… a good gig is about the whole event, and it’s about how things feel with a crowd, band and entire crew that day or night. Live shows feel great when everyone involved is in a good place mentally. Luckily the UK still has several of the best spaces to facilitate that kind of atmosphere. Working with a team of people who are passionate about doing a good job and having a good time is really satisfying, I can’t wait for events to recover from this year.
I’ve been trying to associate making noises on a computer with what I feel playing drums or riding a bikearkell LDN
What do you love most about working in music and what are some of the not so great things?
Right now I love making tunes, and getting them to a finished state is so satisfying. Lately, I’ve been trying to associate making noises on a computer with what I feel playing drums, or riding a bike, or running, or snowboarding, or surfing, or anything. It’s freedom, you can do whatever you want for a few moments, but then you can give those moments some context, so other people can feel that idea maybe. People just want to connect and music helps that happen… I like it … I’m a massive hippy haha.
I suppose where you work in any job and who you are working with dictates whether it’s a good or bad experience. The moment you start doing anything I’ve mentioned above for anything other than its own intrinsic value and start to put a price on people’s time, you can run into problems. One thing I do believe is that if you pay artists and creators more, they will ultimately spend that money and time on making more music and better artwork, which is only going to be a good thing for everyone.
It was horrible, I felt like such a loser, I actually stopped making music.arkell LDN
When did you first start creating visuals to your tracks? What inspired you to use animation?
This is a weird one because I can be so militant about paying artists properly… about 2 years ago I was so inspired by what Max Cooper and Bonobo’s collaborators had achieved visually, plus what I was seeing online, whilst finally getting the courage together to put some tunes out, I tried to hire some animators to make visuals for some demos. I literally emailed and dm’ed everyone, sending messages to pro high-end motion designers like, “Hi I’m John, I’ve got these tunes, how much for a 3min video please” hahaha … it was pathetic, so cringy. The majority of responses were really cool, mostly “hey man, tunes sound great but I’m kinda busy with work, maybe we can sort something shorter out” before perhaps pointing me in the right direction for ideas… but then unfortunately one or two guys really took me for a ride and tried to charge thousands of pounds, for what I now know arguably isn’t that difficult or time consuming.
It was horrible, I felt like such a loser, I actually stopped making music, or anything for a few months. BUT! … I didn’t give up, I managed to get a copy of c4d from a friend, and as cheesy as it sounds, the rest is history haha. I’ve got so much to learn still, but I’ve taught myself everything. You should see my initial animations, they are hilarious, the latest ones I’ve put up are still bonkers and pretty abstract, but I’ve got to a point where I understand what’s happening on my own. Animation is a massive can of worms, there are so many fields to master. Basically, don’t do it, haha… no actually… do it… do the tutorials, do the weird exercises, spend 2 hours looking for that one thing you need to know in amongst a 20min video, and render some weird shiny bouncing squares for 9 days. Do it. Go bananas.
I’m still treading water and trying to stay afloat like everyone.arkell ldn
As well as your own successful artist project, you work as a multi-talented MD, drummer and producer. How does your approach to working on someone else’s project differ from your own?
Successful lol, I have just started putting stuff on Spotify, but thanks… Work comes and goes, running around calling yourself full time or posting how busy you are doesn’t interest me at all, especially not in London, I’m still treading water and trying to stay afloat like everyone.
In my mind, if you’re managing to make time and have the energy for any personal projects, that’s a huge success already. For other people, I like to think I have always been comfortable and confident in playing a supporting role. With live situations whenever it’s appropriate I like to work out where a song came from and often ask about the lyrics. I can get behind any track, I’ll go mental behind a kit, completely lost in the moment, mental, fully mental… I am mental haha… but if I know a bit more about the message or emotion behind a song it can give me that extra oomph, and it feels good. It’s mental.
With 3D or Commercial production work, it’s more about jumping through technical hoops and working fast… again I prefer to make stuff I can get behind, if that makes sense.
What are some of the collaborations you’re most proud of?
Building the True Tiger and Son Of Kick live sets were a huge learning curve a few years ago… and I can’t describe how nerve wracking the first few shows were, Ableton was still relatively new back then. A lot of stuff I have done with Chris Hargreaves (Submotion Orchestra, Pengshui) has been really satisfying too, that guy keeps my wild ideas practical & grounded. Of course Callum of Saint Raymond fame has been a big part of my life and ‘musical journey’ haha….
One of the worst things about this pandemic this year is you can’t really collaborate… After everything I like to think I’m quite fiercely independent, but there are some ridiculous singers like Laura Oakes, Ffion Davies & Charlie Bath that I would much rather hang out and throw some ideas around with in person, instead of just over email.
I was out on tour in February/ March when everything started going fully sideways.arkell ldn
What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in 2020?
No gigs. I was out on tour in February/ March when everything started going fully sideways. Stuff gets canceled and that’s fine, I chose this stupid life, but I wasn’t prepared for the psychological effects of not knowing when you are going to be watching a show or performing with a real crowd again. It’s not natural. Regardless of staying employed or anything to do with money & status, I felt more useless than I could have imagined once or twice, it can be terrifying if you let it be. People need to hang out, chat nonsense and get weird on a regular basis.
The thought of anyone out there actually enjoying the racket I’m making at home is so satisfying.arkell ldn
Have there been any positive surprises to come out of this year for you?
Despite all that, yeh loads haha… I’m closer to my family, I’ve really listened to and found out about more artists than ever before, I’m more aware of what gets me fired up stylistically, and this whole releasing music thing has been great. Ultimately I know it’s like throwing paint at a wall and hoping it sticks, but for me getting over the imaginary hump of putting music out, after pushing other people’s tunes with what I can offer for so long has been awesome.
The thought of anyone out there actually enjoying the racket I’m making at home is so satisfying. It’s also reaffirmed that I can do whatever I seriously put my mind to and has weirdly given me extra hope. When we start to see the venues and festivals reopen, I think a lot of people are going to come back with a vengeance… people are gonna get loose! in a good way… that’s pretty exciting.
Can you give us any sneak peaks into what to expect from ARKELL LDN in 2021?
Better tunes, better visuals. I’ve started building a live set too.
What are some of your career goals that you’d still love to experience or achieve?
Getting this project onto some decent stages would be cool. As synthetic as the sounds are and as much as I love the studio, making music in general is always a live thing for me. I do think this music is perfect for gaming and any kind of sci-fi or action sports soundtracks, so I’d like to find some publishing options for it. I’d also love to figure out more physical ways to present the visuals that aren’t expensive… prints, merch, galleries, giant screens etc…
Can you give some advice to any musicians who are starting out in the dance music world?
Listen to Wim Hof.
Make sure to connect with ARKELL LDN:
Have a listen to a special playlist INTRODUCING where we share music from all the artists we have interviewed so far.