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Interview: Origamibiro

2 February 07 interview: Amanda Young

The artist formerly known as Penfold Plum and one half of Wauvenfold...

Origamibiro (aka Nottingham’s Tom Hill) is about to release his debut album Cracked Mirrors and Stopped Clocks on Expanding Records. Formally one half of Wauvenfold (with Noel Murphy) he released three EPs, remixed the likes of The Super Furry Animals and has been namechecked by Bjork. In his former guise as Penfold Plum, Tom explored bloopy glitchy electronica, but now he presents us with a new sound full of classical guitar loops, sample recordings and sonic effects…

Your album Cracked Mirrors and Stopped Clocks sounds epic. If you could do the soundtrack for a film director who would you choose and what genre would the film be?
I’d love to make music for films. The whole of my album is actually telling a story I wrote a while ago. That first track was a response to me hearing a piece by Gustavo Santaolalla from The Motorcycle Diaries. It totally changed my mind about what you could achieve in terms of atmosphere. It inspired me to push the envelope a bit and see if I was capable of creating something as broad. I love films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Punch Drunk Love and Paris Texas. I’m looking for stuff that takes everyday life and portrays it in an abstract way.

You seem to have a knack for romancing the guitar. Is there some love affair happening there?
Haha, you’re spot on there. When I was in Wauvenfold I was trying really hard not to do anything I’d heard before so I didn’t allow the guitar to come into it much at all. In the end, I realised I was just denying myself something that I do actually really love.

Who was the last person you made a mixtape or CD for?
It was for my mate Chris. I gave him a CD of inspirations for music I’d written, like The Books, Tunng, Coco Rosie and Steve Reich.

I can sense your influences in the samples of background noise, crunches and guitar slides. It sounds elegant and real - not synthesised. Was that your intention or a mistake? A bit of both. It’s almost like the intimacy with the instrument comes across more if you let the mistakes breath a bit. All those noises deserve a place in the final piece.

Do you think the music you are making as Origamibiro fits into a particular genre?
It’ll probably come under something like classical electronica. I’ll let someone else decide that though.

It is being released on Expanding Records. This label does seem to be stretching out into instrumental more than just electronica…
I think that is an intentional direction for them. I know they want to move away from purely electronic based music. I think they just wanted to expand. Oblong, another soon to be released act, and myself could be a sign of this new direction… but you’d have to ask them that really.

What were you doing as Wauvenfold?
We made a good name for ourselves and had quite a cult following, but every track was really hard work. I think we set our standards a bit too high. We were always pushing for better, more original programming rhythms that never repeated themselves. Eventually, we folded up completely. But it wasn’t a bad split. We had a good run and we saved our friendship.

What has happened since then?
Penfold Plum was a much needed solo project that came as a bit of a release for me, mainly to have a laugh and not take myself or the music too seriously. But it started turning into a bit of a gimmick, so that annoyed me as well. You can’t win! Origamibiro is the result of me not trying to prove anything. So now I am the most happy I’ve been.

Best achievements?
The John Peel session that Noel and I did as Wauvenfold.

Ah, you met Peely?
No we didn’t actually get to meet him, which is the biggest irony of the whole thing. He asked us to do some session work that had never been released before for his show. I remember him talking about us after one of our tracks, saying: “Well, that was good wasn’t it. They do make a really good noise.”

Rate these in level of importance to you: software, hardware, instruments, sound system, concept, music...
Music, concept, instruments. I’m not sure about the others, the equipment should come last.

Are you an mp3, vinyl, CD or cassette boy?
I’m an mp3 person now. I feel quite guilty about that for some reason. But I’ve been using my computer and going on ITunes to buy and download albums. I end up finding things by following threads that I would never have found before. It’s great!

What are you listening to at the moment?
Jamie Lidell’s album Multiply. It’s blown my mind.

How do you place yourself amongst other Musicians?
Apart from the obvious, my influence is shit music. Without that I have no measure of the love I have for what I am doing. I’ve been reading a lot about relativity and how you only know what you’re doing relative to what other people are doing. You have to know that end of the spectrum to understand this end. I can’t hate any music for that reason. I’m turning into one of those middle-aged men who likes a little bit of everything!

What did you grow up listening to? How has this shaped you now?
My parents weren’t big into music when I was growing up. I struggled to work out what music I should like and bought some really awful stuff like Phil Collins (why did I just admit that?) But at thirteen I listened to my sisters mix tape of Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Fuck knows what would of happened if I hadn’t found that tape!

Any music epiphanies to speak of?
I recently saw a Southbank show about Steve Reich. It was insane! He gets musicians to gradually slow down, phasing out of sync with each other and as they do they start juggling the notes. The idea, when you interlace melodies like that, is the listener ends up creating the music in their own mind by choosing which part to follow. It’s genius!

When is your album on the shelves?
Expect to see it around March or April along with some live gigs incorporating interactive visuals by Eyelidnod (Jim Boxall). These will be one offs in unusual venues to be announced soon.

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