Sofia Ilyas speaks to Felix Thorn of Felix’s Machines about his unique performance which sees him attaching his laptop to instruments in the newest way yet.
Trebuchet: Tell me about your previous frustrations in the lack of understanding from others of your music and what led you to the 'machines'
Felix Thorn: My frustration pre-machines was due to two main things: Firstly, my compositions would often be too personal. I’d listen to something I’d made a million times and ruin my judgment on whether it was any good or not. Secondly, I was beginning to find the limitless range of sounds you can make with popular software overwhelming. I think it is important to create limits by designing a system and a method for going about composition. Building machines has helped me understand where I want to go with my music.
Trebuchet: Do you view yourself as more of a performer?
Felix Thorn: Not myself, I like to put everything into the preparation for the machines to perform for me. In performance an audience usually looks for a person in control. I’m aiming to create a show that directs audience attention to mechanical objects and the sounds they can make and hopefully defeat the need for a human performer. Skillful performers from cellists to dj’s, with natural quirks, characteristics and popularity are pretty difficult to rival with a bunch of flashing lights and electromagnets. However, the challenge of machines performing exclusively encourages my continuous obsession to improve their robotics and visual manifestations.
Trebuchet: Do you feel a detachment from the instruments due to not having direct physical contact with them or closer as you connect the machines directly to them rather than using samples?
Felix Thorn: A great deal of sentiment comes from having experienced what went into each little mechanism. Materials are carefully selected, spring tensions need to be adjusted, and placement needs to be chosen to suit the room space they’re set off in. It’s not as convenient as loading drum samples or presets in a synth and choosing the way they sound through monitor speakers. The process is a lot more strenuous but satisfying in the end, and it helps tune my ears. I probably care way too much.
Trebuchet: Tell me about your upcoming EP
Felix Thorn: The 7 track EP will be my first release. It includes some recordings made while the machines were exhibited documenting certain stages of their development from a fragile state back in 2007 to the reinforced version they are today. Intentional or not, the machines tend to change so every show requires maintenance and new music. It’s near to impossible to reanimate old compositions, especially in different spaces.
Trebuchet: What’s your connection to Plaid?
Felix Thorn: I first collaborated with Plaid in 2009. Their music is some of the first electronica I got excited about, and they were keen to work with acoustic robotics. We’ve recorded samples and are writing tracks for the machines and will also try out a few ways of amplifying the machines for a much louder performance. This time expect brighter lights from me, and some plush processing from plaid.
The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. – Aristotle