Since its release in 2008, Lone’s debut album has remained something of a secret weapon.
At the very least, Lemurian has managed to retain its cult status. Originally released on Nottingham’s Dealmaker Records, it was so well-rounded and full of life that you wanted to really consider who you played it to. Not because you were scared they’d dismiss it as trip-hop, but because letting other people in on it might immediately dilute your own connection with it. Even now, revisiting the record some seven years later, Lemurian is still – thematically speaking – pretty much a perfect album.
Combining Matt Cutler’s trademark retooling of sun-drenched sample material with track titles like ‘Interview At Honolulu’, ‘Lens Flare Lagoon’ and ‘Under Two Palms’ and a computer enhanced cover, the album plays out like an existentially peaceful beach holiday soundtrack. In fact, that exotic idea is so pronounced that on album closer ‘Minor Suns’ you can actually hear the waves, subtly amplified by swathes of static lapping gently at your earlobes.
I’ve been talking to Cutler on Skype about Lemurian’s forthcoming reissue for five or ten minutes, staring at his avatar on my screen when it finally dawns on me who the other person in the picture is. It’s Thom Yorke. Instinctively I start thinking about the time I met Yorke when I was working in a London record shop, a little too happy to show him where The Whitey Album was in the racks. And then I begin wondering whether if I had a picture of the two of us together, I’d use it in such a manner. After deciding that I definitely would, a couple of instantly recognisable namechecks snap me back into the conversation: “…I was listening to tons of Madlib and Dilla and just lots of hip-hop in general. I was just really into making hip-hop beats”.
Looking back at it a few days after our conversation, the fact that he has a picture of him and Thom Yorke serves as a pretty neat summation of Lone’s career to date. He’s gone from listening to golden era Stones Throw and making beats in the spare room of his mum’s house to getting plaudits (and photos) from one of the most celebrated experimental musicians out there. We spoke about why the time was right to reissue Lemurian, how he feels when he looks back at it now, and what the future holds for him and his Magic Wire label.
“I had a crap job in a supermarket at the time and I was living with my mum.”
Lemurian – just the name of it brought back so many memories. For me it’s a classic. What’s the deal with the re-release?
Well basically, Magic Wire, the label that I started in 2010 with my manager, was designed as a means to put out a bunch of club tunes I had that were supposed to go on other labels but they didn’t really have their shit together, so we just set up our own label and put it out. So we set that up and I got signed to R&S shortly after and just took it for granted, kind of ignored it and it dried up. And now we’re at a point where R&S are willing to co-operate the thing so we’re relaunching the label. Lemurian never came out on vinyl so we thought that as we’re relaunching it, it’d be a good thing to put out.
So it’s more of a prelude to more/new stuff than a strict reissue?
I guess it’s not really like “Oh, fuck yeah, it’s seven years old! Wohoooooo!”
[laughs] Seven years is quite a weird number really so it’s not an anniversary thing or anything like that, it’s a good starting point to inform the new stuff.
What was it like for you going back to that music, those stems and those sessions?
It’s cool because I still really like it. It represents a time when I was just making stuff. A lot of those tunes… I was making like two or three in a day, like first take beats, sort of jam things whereas now it’s taking me about a month to get anything done or finished because I just obsess over it too much but it was nice to go back to that stuff because it reminded me of a time when it was so easy and it was just about capturing quick vibes. So it’s nice to go back to it and maybe get some inspiration for what I’m gonna do next.
I was gonna ask that, has listening to it given you any more ideas in terms of new tunes?
Not massively, but it’s just that thing where I should get off my arse and stop obsessing about the little details and just go back to trying to capture a vibe really quickly and move on as opposed to sitting on stuff for so long and not finishing it and getting bored with it or obsessed with the technicalities of it.
It feels like you were perhaps a bit more prolific back then, just bashing things out with no expectation – and no pressure?
Yeah, I had a crap job in a supermarket at the time and I was living with my mum – in the spare room at my mum’s house – and music wasn’t a job at that point, it was a hobby so I was in a totally different mindset really. It’s not like now when music is a job and there’s pressure on what I do. Back then I didn’t even know if anyone would even hear these tunes, so there was literally zero pressure.
So how did you then hook up with Dealmaker?
Basically I was doing a hip-hop/turntablism thing with my best mate from school called Kids In Tracksuits. And we actually put something out on Dealmaker a year or two before Lemurian came out. Andy, who I was doing it with decided he was more into graphic design than music in a sense and I’d being doing Lone tunes since I was like 10 years old but no one had ever heard them and I was like ‘ok, well I’m still up for doing music’ so I thought it was a good time to play it to some people and because we were already hooked up with Ste and Shaun at Dealmaker it was just a natural thing to get it out with them.
And how did you feel it went down at the time? Were you chuffed with the reception it got?
Yeah, I mean looking back it was a really small operation really but it was amazing because Bleep is a Warp thing – and I’ve always been a Warp obsessive – and they really got behind the release. They made it album of the week even though it was a completely unknown thing, that was a huge deal. It actually led to getting picked up by Actress, which then led to getting picked up by R&S so it was the starting point for everything that’s happened since. So yeah, the reception it got was great. I started getting bookings which meant I could eventually quit my job.
“I remember having it in my head that I was thinking about it as a Hawaiian beat tape.”
To me, it’s kind of thematically perfect, being that it’s built from a very certain set of samples. For a debut release it was so well rounded.
I’d been working on the Lone project, or whatever you wanna call it, since I was a kid and it wasn’t actually my first album really, it was the first one that got released. There were another 20 before it. Not that they were any good, but I sort of knew what I was doing by that point.
When I went back to listen to it, it really did transport me back to that time seven years ago. Which is crazy, but you know, music is a powerful thing. Has that happened to you too?
Definitely. I mean that’s one of the main reasons I do it at all, documenting my life really. I see it as a diary. Taking photos or recording footage on video – it’s just a snapshot of the time, and my memory is awful so when I listen to any of my music from over the years, it completely takes me back to specific times and even smells. It’s fucking weird but it’s a great way of documenting your life.
And I guess it was a good time? Because it was maybe a bit more of a carefree time?
Yeah, that’s perhaps why I can’t remember much of it [laughs].
Could you make something like Lemurian now?
I’d quite like to give it a go and go back to that, but I don’t think I could. Just because the way I think about making music has changed now and I am more obsessed with the detail and part of me doesn’t want to be carefree like that because my ideas are a lot bigger now and there’s no way around the fact that it takes a lot longer to achieve that.
And I guess being seven years older, you have a lot of different priorities now.
Yeah, absolutely. And I’m touring pretty much constantly so it’s totally different.
Do you think that has affected your music too? I mean, obviously it does, but do you think it makes it better?
It did when I first started doing it as a job. I was playing clubs all the time and I was making house and techno influenced stuff so it was definitely rubbing off, getting inspired by house and how it goes down when you play it in a club whereas Lemurian was not about that, it was kind of a home listening thing. But touring’s definitely has a massive effect because it means you can have long periods of time where you can’t really work on music at all, and it’s about not freaking out too much, I think. I’ve got back into a phase at the moment where I’m writing stuff all the time, but there was a bit of panic for a while. I’ve toured a lot in the last six months, so I had a freakout that it was gone forever, but it all comes back so you just learn not to worry too much.
Can you remember what you were shooting for when you were writing Lemurian, in terms of the overriding themes, that shimmer?
I remember having it in my head that I was thinking about it as a Hawaiian beat tape. I was listening to tons of Madlib and Dilla and they were the main things I was listening to and just hip-hop really, so I was just into making hip-hop beats. I can’t really pinpoint where the sort of sun-drenched sound came from originally. It must have come from a sample that I got from a soundtrack, or something. It seemed perfect and I kind of realised that I knew how to achieve that every time, so I ran with it for a long time. I had maybe a hundred tracks that all fitted in with this vibe, so it was actually quite easy after stumbling on it out of nowhere. After that it was just super focused.
Talking of focus and the fact that this re-release will be kicking off Magic Wire again, does that mean there’s going to be new Lone stuff?
Well, the plan is, we’ve signed a guy from the States, a beatmaker called Lance Neptune, which is probably the best name going [laughs], he’s gonna come out next. He’s got a bunch of really beautiful material kind of hazy and out there and kind of Lemurian-esque I’d say which is another reason that this works so well, as it’s got a summer season, hazy vibe to it. And we’re just gonna take it from there with the label but yeah, I’m working on a new Lone album. It’s two tracks in at the moment but I want to get it all done by the end of the year. I’m just working with loads of fast breakbeats really [laughs] it’s all really fast and kinda jungle sounding so yeah… that’s all I can say about it really.
It is funny how your music has got quicker and quicker. I like that you focus on nailing one thing and then move on.
I see it as being a lot like my favourite film directors, they don’t just make one certain type of film. If you look at Stanley Kubrick he did 2001 and Clockwork Orange, The Shining and Barry Lyndon, and they have completely separate subject matter but it has his stamp all over it. Like it can go anywhere as long as it has your identity and that’s the way I see what I do. I mean, I’m definitely not comparing myself to Stanley Kubrick [laughs], at all, but that idea of using different styles of music as subject matter in the same way that a writer or a filmmaker would. I think as long as it has my stamp on it I can take it anywhere.