When it comes to forward thinking techno, Ploy is your man. His tracks are densely textured, but his production skills give his music a slight of hand that makes the end result never feel too intense or overbearing. Having come to prominence with a string of releases on imprints such as Hessel Audio, Timedance and Hemlock, Ploy has been understandably turning some heads lately, which is why we jumped at the chance to pick his brain about his creative process. If you want to see him in action, he’s playing at Five Miles in Seven Sisters on the 10th November.
Tell me about how you first came into contact with music technology. Was it love at first sight or the start of a long and difficult relationship?
The first time I really got stuck into music technology was when I started the college course in music tech, before then I had various bits of software but no real clue of how to use them.
It definitely wasn’t love at first sight, I found logic quite tricky to get to grips with and it didn’t come easily. It took years for me to finally get anything out of the DAW that I was happy with or that resembled a fully formed track. Now about 8 years down the line and I can pretty much get what I need out of it but the annoyance just manifests in different ways like not having enough processing power to run all the plug-ins, random crashes, CPU meter in the red etc.
All technology takes time to learn obviously, nothing is really intuitive enough for you to pick up and start to get ideas down, that you’re happy with, straight away. Therefore, the relationship is always going to be pretty challenging in my opinion.
Describe the space where you have your studio. How important are your surroundings when you’re making tracks?
Up until a few weeks ago my space was terrible to be quite honest, I was working out of my tiny box room (single) bedroom, which wasn’t even big enough for my clothes let alone a studio space. But I made do with that and wrote the Hemlock 12” in there so I don’t think it has that much of an effect on me mentally. Just got a bit cabin fever-esque cooped up in there all day and sleeping in there also. I don’t have much in the way of studio gear so on the whole I can work from most spaces so long as the acoustics aren’t too awful.
However, I don’t sleep in that room anymore so that’s now just a dedicated space for music with far more room than previously. Having that separation between your living space and studio is nice for peace of mind and on the whole feels a lot more organised than before. I’m definitely appreciative of the change in surrounding now.
Is there one piece of gear or software that you feel you have a particular relationship with? Are there any pieces of gear or software that have sent you into a blind rage?
Not particularly, I’ve always worked in logic for my daw and work a lot with audio. The vast majority of the production is shaping and manipulating audio when sampling. There’s probably far quicker and more efficient programmes to do this in like Ableton but I’ve always had the “make do with what you know” attitude.
I mentioned the crashing and high CPU meter levels being a pain before, that’s probably the closest I’ve come to being in a blind rage.
Do you ever experience creative block in the studio? Do you have any strategies for dealing with this?
Yes often, best thing I’ve found is to take yourself away from the process and do something else for a bit until you feel like you have some ideas. Go to a few more good parties, clubs etc. if it’s ‘bangers' you’re trying to write. Otherwise just listening to lots of other music generally does the trick. It's obvious but you get very consumed in writing your own stuff that it becomes what you spend the majority of your time listening to, pulling yourself away from that is always going to be a good thing. I swim too; natural endorphins always cheer you up if you’re having creative frustration.
Do you go into the studio with an idea already in mind or do you find yourself experimenting with your machines/software and seeing where they take you?
It varies, I’ve usually got ideas in the back of my mind especially in terms of aesthetic or mood which is the main thing, the actual realisation of the ideas definitely comes from hours of experimenting. Usually pulling samples apart or bending loops into new rhythms as a starting point, and building from there. It’s rare that I would sit down to work without some idea of how is want finished product to sound.
How much does happy accident come into your creative process?
I think happy accident is all part of the experimentation process, unexpected results occur most when you start fiddling around with bits and pieces looking to kick start an idea so happy accidents can happen a lot in the early stages of a track. You might stumble across something cool layering up some FX and plugins, which happens a bit further down the line. So yeah, they are happy accidents but you kind of set out to achieve them still in some respect.
What is your worst habit in the studio (please keep it clean for our readers)?
Eating biscuits, I’m pretty tame, but no one likes crumbs in the keyboard.
What is your best habit in the studio?
Eating biscuits, works both ways if the biscuits are good. Little boosts throughout the day, can’t go wrong with a Fox’s golden crunch cream or a hobnob.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting out producing music what would it be?
Invest in a good packet of biscuits.
Ploy will be playing at Five Miles in Seven Sisters on Friday 10th November - check the event HERE