“I highly believe in ideas and influence being something that is an external force. When the ideas come, it’s up to my training and experience to decode them the best I can. It’s like a dance between my knowledge of music and a spirit or ghost that just came by to show me what could be done.” Clearly this guy is a monster, in his work as a producer and DJ, but let’s focus on the production that Machinedrum pulls off. When it comes to making phenomenal music, you can basically guarantee that Travis Stewart should already have your ears and body vibrating, and if not, get on it.
In 2012, respected label Ninja Tune took their interest and reached out to Stewart while he was already underway with his latest release, Vapor City. “I’ve been listening to Ninja Tune since very early on. Warp and Ninja Tune were huge influences for me when I started making electronic music. It’s an honour and honestly quite surreal to be releasing my music on such an important label.” Not only does the label have complete faith in his abilities as an artist, Ninja Tune also supports and aids Stewart in exploring concepts further, keeping the future in the mix.
If you have explored Vapor City, or any of his other work, there is a very apparent reason as to why he would perk the ears of label heads anywhere. In a gist his latest album inspiration reads like this: Stewart had recurring dreams of a city with districts that didn’t seem to belong, yet fit with perfect symmetry, all switching music and tone as soon as an invisible barrier is crossed. “When I was choosing the tracks that would go on the album I started noticing that I had a few things going on sonically. I’d pair 10 tracks that sounded one way and then five or six of another direction, et cetera… even though there was an obvious distinction to me how the tracks could be grouped, they all seemed to connect through an overall head space that was created. Everything seemed to have a hazy dreamy feel to it.”
The entire album, really, is full of different distinct sonic vibes that have shaped the idea that Stewart was trying to get across, an idea aided by the artwork accompanying the album done by a recurring artist on past albums: Eclair Fifi and Dominic Flannigan. “The textures she created for the artwork really make the whole thing come to life and not feel so cold. I was ecstatic when Dom told me that he and her were going to collaborate on this project.” In Stewart’s own words, “‘Rise and fall’ really sums up the direction I’ve been going in with a lot of my music at the time.”
Perhaps it’s the way Stewart keeps house when it comes to his music history. Binning tunes is a recurring activity — he emphasizes “countless” as the amount of songs that have been cut, deleted and no longer exist. This air of clarity in studio keeps the process in check and leaves space for real work, instead of a claustrophobic closet of have-not tunes taking up space. Seeing as being an artist is essentially the process of having your body and mind become a vessel for ideas to become physical, what would the plan be for Stewart in the new year? “Back to the studio!”
Machinedrum will be playing 919 in Victoria on December 4th and Fortune Sound Club in Vancouver on December 5th.
By Jamie Goyman
Photos: Andrew De Francesco