Red Dog Music | Oct 9, 2018 | 0
An interview with Plum
Fresh from winning a Scottish Alternative Music Award for best electronic artist (sponsored by Red Dog Music, naturally) we caught up with the fantastic (and award winning!) songwriter and producer, Plum, and delved into her music-making world…
Congratulations on the SAMA! What do you make of being the first woman to take one home?
I’m totally shocked and delighted. I literally had no idea I was going to win. I think most of the acts in the Electronic Category expected Chvrches to win. I’m honoured to be the first woman to achieve it, especially within the Best Electronic Category, and up against such incredibly talented peers. I’m hoping there’s a wake of female acts to follow in future. I’m excited about the Scottish music scene at the moment, and really proud to be part of such an interesting and innovative movement.
Describe your music in three words:
Quirky, heartfelt, intricate
What are the best and worst ways you’ve heard your music described?
Best: In line with Scandinavian innovators, heroically shoving the stale, lifeless music from the upper echelons of the charts.
Worst: Too leftfield to ever make it in the mainstream
Is there a particular moment or a particular record that made you want to head down the electronic road?
Probably when I first heard Lamb; Fear of Fours was a real changing point in the way I listened to music. I fell in love with all the intricacies. I was doing work experience at Split Level Studios then, so working with really interesting bits of equipment such as reel-to-reel tape machines, a variety of fx hardware and a huge mixing desk, and I suppose with both of those combinations I started thinking about how to write electronic music as opposed to guitar ballads.
For acoustic musicians and bands, there seem to be plenty of open-mic and jam nights to start getting a bit of gig time. Did you find it challenging early on to find opportunities to play live?
To be honest, early on I was terrified of playing live, so I wasn’t actually trying too much. I was booked to play Wonky Wallpaper at the GRV as my first gig, which was a great night – very creative night, run by Martin Sweeny and got a few offers on the back of that gig. But it is more difficult to get gigs that fit. I did end up playing a lot of nights intended for mainly acoustic, or for bands. Sometimes the sound system wasn’t up to it for the acoustic nights, and sometimes it was strange to change the atmosphere of the gig when one act strolls on with a guitar and then the next act takes 20 minutes to plug in all her gadgets.
Can you talk us through your kit list, how it all fits together and how you play live?
It changes a lot, but currently I’m using Ableton Live to run everything through, and a Launchpad controller. I also have an Akai MPD24 which plugs into that which I trigger samples from, and some pad samplers which my friend Pete Brittain programmed for me. I also use a Korg microSampler – which I can trigger samples from and it doubles up as a synth and a midi keyboard. I use a Boss RC20 Loop pedal for the occasional track, and play bass, guitar and sing. The live set uses various combinations of these – not always at the same time ;)
How do you sit down to work in the studio: do you have some different gear to the live setup? Do you start with something in your head or just see what happens?
I rarely have any clue as to how the finished piece should sound before I start writing. It’s about throwing ideas around and trying things. I don’t write deliberately with the live performance in mind, so it’s usually a pain trying to figure out how to get what I’ve recorded in the studio ready to play live. I tend to just play about until I get something that makes me get excited. Sometimes I have lyrics first.
What is your most inspiring and creativity-inducing piece of gear?
Ooh good question. Probably my Zoom H2. I record a lot of samples on it which can become so many different effects and sounds when I use them in the studio. I have so many different bits & bobs, the combination of them is the best.
Which gig you’ve been to still gives you the most goosebumps?
I went to a violin concerto in Vienna in a building that was purpose built to amplify a couple of hundred years ago – it had amazing acoustics. It was a really memorable experience.
Which of your past gigs, still makes you smile or say “good times” when you think about it?
Oh there’s so many! I think the time I played Sneaky Pete’s and the bass was so loud my laptop stage dived during the last song. The crowd were amazing, so supportive & in great spirits. I always love playing Sneaky Pete’s!
Which song in your record collection do you wish you’d written?
All Along the Watchtower.
What are your thoughts on the number of women making electronic music? Do you think there are any barriers to getting into it or would you say there are maybe fewer women listening to electronic music?
Bring on the women! Fiona Soe Paing is brilliant – she’s based in the North East of Scotland and makes some really great electronic music, but I’d love it if there were more of us to hang out with. But yes I think there’s definitely fewer women listening to electronic music…though it is edging its way into the charts more and more which I think will catch a few more. I don’t know… I’ve been patronised a LOT which is really irritating. If I had a pound for every time someone has said ‘I take it you’re the singer’ I’d be loaded. Bubbly excitement in electronic music production is genuinely seen as a sign of weakness, and I do that a lot.
If you were to recommend one of your tracks to someone who wanted to hear what Plum was all about, which would it be?
It depends who it is and what they’re most into. But for the sake of answering your question, probably The Seed, or maybe Myriad.
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If you were recommending a music shop in Edinburgh with a nice, central location to up-and-coming electronicists, which would it be?
What’s on the cards next for Plum?
I’ve just started working with an agent looking to place my music in film & TV in the UK and USA which is exciting. I’m releasing my next EP, Betsy Thunder in July, I’ve just finished a Dance Residency and will be performing it in June (I do the music, 4 dancers do the dance), and hoping to get to a few festivals over the summer.