Interviewing British artist Andrew Lagowski felt a bit like entering into a sonic labyrinth; where should I start? This artist is now active in the music scene for nearly fourty years, he has been involved with multiple bands/projects like NAGAMATZU, LUSTMORD, TERROR AGAINST TERROR, ISOLRUBIN B.K., LEGION, DIO<X>IDE plus of course LAGOWSKI and S.E.T.I. He released over the thirty albums on very different labels. I concentrated on the newest S.E.T.I. album “The Sphere Of Density” released this year on Zoharum while evoking the latest LAGOWSKI albums as well. ANDREW LAGOWSKI is a fascinating artist with a very own approach and an interesting man to interview.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: From the new LAGOWSKI albums “Secrets Of Numbers” and “Offshore” to the new S.E.T.I. album “The Sphere Of Density”, 2020 has been a real prolific year for you while the entire world is in the grip of the Covid 19-pandemic! What does it all evoke to you as artist and as citizen?
Andrew: I was aware that something bad was coming early in 2020, due to keeping an eye on the Asian news. Japan was already aware that contagion was bad due to visitors from other countries, so I was kind of expecting things to escalate fast.
I’ve been working at home on my regular 9-5 job since mid-March. It’s been very surreal and challenging for everyone. I’m very lucky in my role – I can’t imagine how bad it is for people whose income has gone. There are those who believe it’s all fake. But tell that to our neighbour, who has lost his uncle, cousin and grandfather to Covid-19.
As an artist, it’s given me more time to get things done and to focus. The time I spent travelling to and from work can now be used for more creative pursuits. I’ve not only done CD’s for Zoharum, but had time to release the more experimental drone series, via my Bandcamp page, which I initially began as a way to offer something calm for people to listen to while they were studying or working… or simply to help them relax in this stressful, angry world.
Q: The LAGOWSKI-album “Secrets Of Numbers” was a very personal production inspired by a book of your dad who passed away. What did you try to express by this work and how did you transpose this theme into music?
Andrew: I think I was trying to say that we should carry on; that our departed ones would wish us to carry on and not sit around feeling sad. I’m also saying that life doesn’t end when our physical bodies cease to function. There’s another dimension that influences us and that we influence back.
The music is very unsophisticated but it works physically and on your mind. It’s dark but dynamic – get up and dance, even though your world may seem like it’s falling apart. Some of the tracks were recorded live to HDD, as if I was playing them in a club. In fact, they were originally played in Berlin at the Sleepers party in the Ohm nightclub back in November 2019!
Q: “The Sphere Of Density” is something totally different and definitely into Dark-Ambient and Cinematographic music. Do you need some preparation, particular conditions and a specific mind set to switch from one project till the other?
Andrew: I don’t need any special conditions to switch between projects. I can do that very easily as it’s the same equipment and software. However, in all cases I need to be able to focus, so I compose and mix on good headphones first and then check things on speakers later. I can’t turn the gear on and start creating right away. I have to reach a point mentally, where I know I have something positive to contribute to any project, before I start.
Q: This new album is inspired by the work of Russian scientist Alexander Petrovitch Kazantsev. How did you get in touch with his work and theories? And how did you try to transpose his ideas into your music?
Andrew: Actually, the music was all done before I found the references to our Russian friend. I quite often make all of my tracks and then put them in the correct order and conceptualise things later. I was looking for something that romanticised space exploration and showed how people’s imaginations could be stimulated back when he was commenting on inter-planetary communications.
I feel that we have become used to being ‘dumbed down’ – through social media, in particular. I hope to stimulate people to think about things which exist outside the internet i.e. the outside world… the universe… I want people to use their imaginations to build films inside their heads… while I provide the soundtracks.
The title is obviously a commentary on how stupid and accepting the human race has become, while being a play on words. We often accept the crap that is thrown at us. We often believe everything we are fed by the media. I count myself in this flock of sheep, of course. I am no more intelligent than anyone else. Our future lies beyond this planet but I hope we will not poison any extraterrestrial culture we meet in the next few thousand years.
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about your way of working? What are the different stages to release an album and especially for “The Sphere Of Density”?
Andrew: With S.E.T.I. stuff, I tend to start with an empty folder on my computer. I collect many processed sounds from my iPad software, noise box improvisations, synth riffs and environmental field recordings. Then I start to throw them at the ‘canvas’ as if throwing paint. Then I can remove and add more paint, smear it… splatter it… use various techniques to stimulate the listener as much as I can. Maybe I want them to be comfortable. Maybe I want them to feel uneasy. This process can take weeks and months, as it’s not possible to turn creativity on and off like a switch, as I said previously. That’s why it’s important to continue to always be listening to the world around and to collect sounds for future use.
For the beat driven material, I tend to start with drums… more traditional… and then build things as the mood takes me… I tend to get hypnotised by the beats and go with whatever works for me. I understand that my sound can seem very 90’s to many people… but it’s ME….I make no apologies.
My mastering skills are crap, so I leave that to the experts who work in conjunction with the labels,,,
Q: The pandemic has seriously affected different kinds of artistic life and activities. I noticed the profits from the self-released LAGOWSKI-album “Offshore” is meant to help a youth arts group. Tell us a bit more about this album and its purpose?
Andew: The title refers to the fact that some of this was initiated and recorded while mobile (abroad; away from the studio). The photo was taken by me in Japan. I had tracks ready to be heard and thought that they should be out in the world rather than waiting for any label to release them. The Covid-19 isolation has focussed my impatience! I’m very happy with this album as it is a true collection of hybrid technologies; hardware, software and many iPad app’s. I wonder if people underestimate how good the sound of the iPad app’s is… and you can record 24 bit audio tracks in bed!
iPad apps used: iDensity, AUM, AudioShare, Sector, BeatMaker 3, iMelody, Fugue Machine, Patterning 2, iSpark, Poly, Eos 2, Replicant 2, Ripplemaker, Ruismaker, Atom, Mononoke, Moog Model D, Tera Synth.
After I finished the album and uploaded it to Bandcamp, I quickly realised that I have a full time job and that there are many who are not so fortunate. I don’t make a living from my music, but others are just starting out in this world, and need any help they can get, especially at this moment in history. That’s when I found the Young Urban Arts Foundation (YUAF.org) during a web search. They help young people to learn skills in the arts and media. So I thought that anything I make should be donated to them, however little that is. Not many have bought the album, which is a pity, as it’s something I’m very proud of, technically and sound-wise, and any benefit to YUAF.org would be a bonus for me… we should encourage creativity in others, whatever their level of experience or their background.