Turtle Talks Colours And Glocks
A sense of humour doesn't get lost on Scottish artist/producer Turtle aka Jon Cooper, as you'll soon discover from reading on. Still fairly fresh on the block with the release of his second EP Colours due out on the 11th of May via Beatnik Creative, Turtle has already achieved a considerable amount of interweb praise.
He's been compared to the likes of Thom Yorke, SOHN, Jon Hopkins and James Blake, and I've found it hard not to get his aural outpourings into my headphones… and quickly. Inspired after hearing atmospheric electronics, and no thanks to a so-so audio engineering course, Turtle began experimenting with sounds and instruments – teaching himself to become the total 'grand super-lord of the synths' that he is today. Note: he doesn't actually own a single synth…
We had a chat with him about a little bit of everything;
So you’re producing Elton John’s new album! Now don’t go breaking my heart by telling me it was an April Fools prank…
Heheheeee it was a bit of a "sacrifice" mind you (I'll get my coat).
When did you first begin your love affair with electronic music?
I was in high school and started listening to Jean Michel Jarre and was completely captivated and mesmerised by his various synthesiser sounds and how he composed them all. It was the first time I heard proper atmospheric instrumental electronic music and it totally inspired me to try and make my own.
What was the first bit of hardware you bought or borrowed and never returned?
It was a Korg Trinity. It had an internal 16 track sequencer with loads of nice midi sounds and I kind of lost myself in it for a few years getting to grips with sequencing, arranging and mixing.
Were there any particular producers or DJs that you went to see live on a regular basis that may have inspired you back when you were first finding your feet?
I was a huge fan of Sasha. Especially his own original productions but also loved his DJ sets too. I also loved the production work of Future Sound Of London, BT, Leftfield, Oliver Lieb and Brian Eno.
I believe you wrote and produced your first EP ‘Who Knows’ and your forthcoming EP ‘Colours’ yourself. Is it purely a solo process for you or do you occasionally get in some helping hands?
Yeah man, I do everything myself. The piano melody in 'Who Knows' was actually my buddy James Crawford who played it. We were jamming it out in his living room and I recorded what he was playing. Such a sweet melody. But yeah everything else is played and recorded by me. I've always worked this way and enjoy getting lost in my own head and then try to translate it. I'm not the greatest musician in the world but it was always important to me throughout the years to learn various instruments so I could best express my musical ideas.
How did you go about learning the skills to produce electronic music? Are you self-taught?
Yeah I'm musically self taught. I did an Audio Engineering course at SAE in Glasgow which was ok. I learnt some basic signal routing and software stuff but most of what I learn is through messing about with software and gear and just trying stuff out and seeing how it sounds. I am inspired by the music I listen to and I guess on some level I also learn from what I listen to and I like to credit that too.
Since releasing your first EP ‘Who Knows’ back in 2013 you have been compared to artists like Thom Yorke and SOHN. I can hear the polyrhythmic Yorke like beats and your vocals could be SOHN himself on ‘Who Knows’ but your new material leans further away from that sound. Was this intentional?
Not really, I was just feeling my way about new ideas. I was conscious of trying to have a similarity to the first EP though. I just like to try and carry some kind of continuity to my music wether it be musically or from a production sense. Their are still lots of polyrhythmic elements going on in the new EP though, more with subtle sounds and pulses like the synths on 'Colours', the glocks on 'Floor' and the gtr/beat on 'Us'. Drums were my first instrument and I love exploring these little off rhythms etc especially with musical sounds rather than drum sounds.
‘Colours’ has already received some glowing reviews with single ‘Lavender’ reaching number two on Hype Machine’s popular chart. Are there any plans of a tour in support of the release early May?
No tour planned yet. Just a couple of headline shows in London and Glasgow but no dates confirmed for these either.
The new video for single ‘Silent Weapons’ directed by Jack Daly is a perfect example of the ‘cinematic’ themes in your music. What was the thought behind the concept for the video?
Thanks man. I love what Jack has done. The idea was to find a director who had footage that would suit the atmosphere and feelling of the song and Jack's footage was perfect. Beautiful shots. We then focussed on getting the editing and tone right and also play with the video looping to mirror the hypnotic end section of the song.
Reworking tracks is also a talent of yours with works from Phoria, Mt. Wolf, Attu and the most recent Matt Emery’s ‘L For Luna’. Have you been working on any new projects?
Sure man, I love doing the reworks. It's lots of fun and it also allows me to refine and establish my production aesthetic. I only work on stuff that I genuinely feel inspired by and it's important for me to be true to the source material, even if I re-organise, edit, cut certain parts, I still like to keep focus and pay respect to the artist I'm reworking. It's also very refreshing to be able to get creative with other people's audio parts. It can be a weird and obscure thing constantly working on your own parts and can often be a tad self obsessive so it's nice to take a little step out of my own head for a while and play about with other peoples musical ideas.
Musical Moses calls you ‘Grand Superlord of the Synths’…how many do you actually own?
Hahahaa. This made me smile actually as I don't own a single synthesiser 🙂 it's all plug-ins I use. Also a lot of the sounds I use are organic instruments like gtr, piano and I then treat and process them with noise, distortion etc which can often suggest a synth sound. But yeah I do like to use synths too, pads, bass, sound design stuff. I'm very humbled by it but it's the last thing I would have thought about myself haha. Their are many many many musicians out there who rightfully deserve the 'superlord of the synth label' more than I do but yeah, big love to Musical Moses for saying that.
You’ve mentioned before that your ultimate collaboration would be with Thom Yorke. Out of his entire catalogue of music which track would you say has you captivated every time? I know it’s not an easy question.
Ooofffft, eeerrmmm, lemme think, well, what about, no but that's, or there is, hmmmmm, depends what mood I'm in 🙂
Probably The Eraser. But then again, Weird Fishes hah.
Do you have anything else you would like to share with us? Maybe your obsessive love for turtles or itching desire to make ‘neo-minimalist-future-jazz-step-punktronica-wave- music?
Haha love it!! Can I quote you on that please?
More music and also I am a very distant relative of William Wallace's sister Morag.
Turtle's EP Colours will be released on 11th May via Beatnik Creative.
Check out Turtle's Soundcloud here.