Forest Swords: “You have to have your own confidence and reasons behind making it”
I’ll have to admit ‘Dagger Paths’ – pleasantly, yes – slipped through my ears back in 2000, but ‘Engravings’, released last summer, has stayed for good and is one of the very few abums I keep coming back to as often as if it came out last week. I’m not even sure if it’s proper to label Forest Swords as electronic music. Especially after hearing Matthew Barnes (and his squire, the bassist) live, when you simply don’t understand who you are and where the sounds are taking you. It’s dark but at the same time festive, absolute yet meticulous.
With the reasons stated above, I’m more than sure the show of Forest Swords will become one of the best memories of this summer for the observant visitors of Satta Festival that will be happening next weekend in Pape. Maybe even the best memory of the year.
The Saturday show in Satta will be fourth in a row for the musicians, after three stops in Luxembourg, Belgium and United Kingdom. That’s intese, but, after the Latvian seaside experience the pace will slow down a bit as there is just a handful of shows scheduled until the end of October. I sincerely hope a lot of studio time is planned after the ‘Engravings’ tour, and, probably, many other projects. Because, to put it simply, there is a lot of demand for the sound of Forest Swords, whether it’s solo work or remixes and productions for other artists.
It’s time to look at what Matthew Barnes has told me. The best soundtrack for the interview is definitely the ‘Engravings’ album itself. It has just been uploaded to YouTube by Matthew himself.
It was a bit strange for me in Sónar festival when you were billed at 4PM but in the end it turned out to be perfect because of the incredible ambience of SonarHall... I believe it’s night time most of the other gigs, right? What time of the day do you think is best for listening to your music? Also performing it?
Yes, it really varies depending on the venue and the time of day. I was a little nervous about Sonar because of the early time, but the crowd were very supportive and the energy was insane. I'd never experienced anything like that. But yeah, usually we play at night time in the dark, which is a lot more suitable to the music. It's an interesting challenge trying to perform it at other times of day though.
I think it’s a great decision to have a bass player on stage with you! ­Your dialog was so powerful and emotional I almost cried. Have you ever thought about an orchestra (or simply more people) performing your music? Could it be the next step for Forest Swords as a live music performance?
I think in future I'll probably try and use more people, but it's a lot easier to give instructions and explain things to just one person. I also don't want to be responsible for a full band - it's a lot of pressure, and very expensive to travel around. It's great that a live show can bring out such a strong reaction in the viewer, though. We both have played the songs for so long now that we have a very deep understanding and attachment to it. So that energy can be pretty intense to watch sometimes. But I only want the audience to feel the same way I do, to create an emotional response in them. We're coming to the end of our time playing together so there's a rollercoaster of emotions happening on stage.
Does criticism hurt? When ­ if! ­ you read your album reviews, how do you react to some people not necessarily digging it?
I don't really read reviews. Luckily, I have been doing music for a few years now, and I was a graphic designer previously, so I have come to understand and take criticism - you just can't please everyone, and I would destroy myself if I tried to. But that's what happens when you are an artist; you're never going to create work that everyone loves. It can take a lot of musicians a long time to come to terms with that. Egos are fragile. I often see musicians checking Twitter after their show to see if people loved it. But you just have to have your own confidence and reasons behind making it, and be happy with it. If people connect to what I'm doing, that's a huge bonus for me, and I have to stay in my own head space.
I know you’re a graphic designer and so many other things. But have you ever been a clubber? What has been your relationship with the, say, happier side of electronic dance music?
Clubbing in the electronic sense was never part of my growing up. When I did use to go out with my friends, it was either to rock clubs or hip hop clubs. They were a lot more fun for me. When I was in my early 20s I just didn't have the patience to watch a DJ play 3 hours of songs I didn't recognise. Nowadays, I can recognise the artistry in it and appreciate the energy of a club a lot more. But even though clubbing wasn't a part of my life, I did listen to a lot of electronic music and pop music, too. Everything from Aphex Twin to Alice Deejay.
Do you use a lot of field recordings in your work, or do you simply use nature as an inspiration? As far as I understand, the great outdoors are very important for you, if you even mixed Engravings on top of a hill. Was it a technically challenging issue, by the way?
It was technically challenging because I only had so much battery in my laptop - so I could see the battery draining every time I took it out to mix a song. That got fairly stressful, but it was also quite liberating because it meant I didn't spend hours and hours trying to mix a song. I spent a lot of time on the writing and arrangement of the songs so it was nice to be fairly punk about the mixing process. As far as field recordings go, yes, they are there in the music - but they're buried fairly deeply, and in places you might not expect. I like the fact that they're in there somewhere. I just use my iPhone to record them.
You’ve mentioned that you would like to create soundtracks for movies. Could you specify what sort of movies would that be? Would film language be important?
I'd love to try everything really. I think very visually when I make my own music, so I guess it would lend itself to things like documentaries or dramas. We'll have to see what happens, or who wants to work with me.
I'd love to get into making music for video games too - I've just done music for a game trailer, and it's interesting talking to friends who play them and they all have a very strong emotional attachment to video game music. It's a really huge part of gaming, which I didn't realise as I have never played them. So I'm looking forward to trying out a lot of new things.
D.D. 2004 - 2016
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