Artist Interviews

Q&A: Jim Perkins

By | Published on Thursday 27 January 2011

Jim Perkins

Composer, arranger and all-round neo-classical powerhouse Jim Perkins trained in composition and audio production before setting up his own label, Bigo & Twigetti, developing under that banner not only his own work but that of other producers and sonic artists. In 2008 he collaborated with folk musician Ronan Burke under the Ranger3 moniker, and also has remixed everyone from Steve Reich to Foals.

Jim’s debut solo album ‘Grains’ is a sum of many intricate parts, designed to resonate both with classical and folk fans and electronically-inclined audiences. It brings together organic instrumentals with rough-cut computerised beats, a grand soundscape dispersed by whimsical melodies reminiscent of The Flaming Lips.

He releases ‘Grains’ through B&T on 31 Jan with an LP launch party at London’s Vortex venue the same night. In anticipation of this, we caught up with the maestro himself to ask the Same Six.

Q1 How did you start out making music
The first memory I have of actually making music (about aged four) is sitting at opposite ends of my grandmother’s piano with my elder brother bashing the keys at either end of the keyboard as hard as we could, whilst making motorcycle noises. We used to call ourselves The Berry Brothers, I’ve no idea why.

Q2 What inspired your latest album?
The first track on the album, the ‘Chopin Prelude’, was the inspiration for the whole album really. It’s an incredible piece which encouraged me to listen to a lot of piano music. It lends itself so well to re-arranging and offered a perfect opportunity to fuse all my experience of editing and mixing digital audio files with the sounds of the piano. Although I did this not by chopping up the existing recording but by starting with the musical arrangement and the natural rhythm of the piece; this allowed me much more flexibility in producing the final piece exactly as I wanted.

That piece triggered a whole series of events which led to endless hours of recording piano, meeting some incredible musicians and studio engineers who generously donated their time to help create it. The title of the album, ‘Grains’, is taken from the small parts which a soundwave is chopped up into as a part of the process of digitally extending the notes length without affecting the pitch. This was used a lot in the creation of the album.

Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track
I like to be fairly involved at every stage. I try to think a lot about a piece before I write anything, then when I do I like to initially sketch a lot of ideas so that when it comes to writing the final piece there is a lot of musical material to choose from. I also like to rehearse continuously with the musicians before recording (in an ideal world!). Their feedback is invaluable in discovering whether what I have written is playable and how it might be improved (I don’t always agree, but it’s great to have the discussion). I’m involved in all elements of the recording, from deciding which takes to keep, to the final edit, and the application of the various digital effects or reverbs.

Q4 Which artists influence your work
Here are some of them: Ravel, Chopin, Schumann, Wagner, Tallis, Messiaen, Morton Feldman, Arvo Part, Leif Inge. Quite a lot of my editing techniques are heavily influenced by film editors and visual artists.

Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time
So, what did you think?

Q6 What are your ambitions for your album, and for the future
For it to be listened to and to inspire people. As for the future, I’d like to be able to continue to write and record music and to collaborate with more artists and perhaps even take a break from the piano for a while.