By Amanda Nordqvist
On July 7th, London-based producer and composer James Maloney had his debut album, Gaslight, released by our friends over at Moderna Records. With experience both from studying music and producing scores for film and theatre, Maloney channeled his creative spirit into an exceptionally atmospheric album, filled with intensely harmonious as well as more experimental pieces. James took some time from his busy schedule of composing for a huge musical play, and spoke to us about his debut solo release.
Firstly, James - how were you introduced to music? When did you start creating your own?
My introduction to music was an organic one. Music was constantly playing in my home when I was a child, by my parents who are music enthusiasts, but not musicians. I remember vividly hearing Holst’s ‘The Planets’, which my dad brought home when I was about three, and experiencing a total, overwhelming euphoria, which I realise now probably isn’t a normal reaction to that music for a three-year-old.
I was exposed to a really eclectic mix of stuff, and got really hooked on Michael Jackson’s music. One Christmas, when I was about six, I saw a Casio keyboard with a picture of Michael Jackson on the front of the box; that was my Christmas present, and it all started there.
From that point I started making my own music, in rudimentary ways, and it’s never stopped.
Could you describe your creating process for me?
Every creative project I have brings its own process; this in itself is terrifying, but also vital for keeping the journey invigorating, and the end product interesting.
Generally, however, I have an impetus. This might be a vague idea I’ve had for something, or it might be a commission. This is what sets the ball rolling. What tends to happen next is a lot of thinking; eventually I get brave enough to try to make some sounds, whether it be at an instrument, a laptop, or notated on manuscript paper, and the rest tends to be a process of constant reworking.
It’s so important to have the courage and tenacity to keep reworking ideas until they’re where you need them to be. It can be hugely exasperating, but that’s how I get most of my work done.
Are there any significant differences in composing your solo work and the work you create for film and theatre?
Ultimately it’s always about graft. People think making music is about inspiration; it’s not. It’s about really hard work, perseverance, imagination, and a bit of cunning.
The principal difference is that with solo work, you have total control of everything; in theatre, you’re at the mercy of many exterior factors which are completely out of your control; that’s what makes the latter so terrifying, and so exhilarating.
What or who is your biggest inspiration when composing?
Bach, I think, is the ultimate master; students of composition can little better than study his work in minute detail. Other major inspirations are Radiohead, Steve Reich, Miles Davis - warriors of integrity.
What can you tell me about Gaslight?
The impetus for Gaslight was twofold: I’d been living in Paris, and then in London - two very intense cities – and found myself listening to more and more ‘quiet’ music, as a means of counteracting my surroundings - I liked the idea of making something in this area. Additionally, I’d been writing a lot of very complex, densely orchestrated atonal music, and was getting nowhere with it. I imagined what the musical antithesis of this might be, and arrived at a vague idea for the album.
Then it was a case of making several hundred iPhone recordings of little musical ideas on the piano, whenever I could access one (I don’t own a piano), over the course of a couple of years. Eventually, I realized there was probably an album’s worth of decent material in there somewhere, if I really worked at it. I borrowed a couple of microphones and spent some weeks at my parents’ house experimenting. I’d return a few months later, and do a few more days work, and it grew like that.
In regards of Moderna Records: I was a big admirer of the label, and simply followed them on SoundCloud after I’d uploaded some of my music. I had the very, very good fortune that they noticed that I was following them, listened to my music, and got in touch. I’m so grateful to those guys.
How does it feel to have released your debut album? What were your thoughts and expectations throughout the whole process?
It’s been joyous getting it out there - especially on a label like Moderna - and the reception has been brilliant. But at the same time, I’m already onto the next thing. Knowing myself, it’s important to be working on new material straight away, rather than spend too much time thinking about what’s already complete. I’ve made a couple of sketches for my next album already, which I’m really excited for, and a big Shakespeare play I’ve written the music for is about to open too, so I’ve had little time to bask.
Any thoughts or advice you’d like to share with young artists out there?
Make something that’s true to you, and work hard at it. Keep going, keep going, keep going.
And keep going we will! While we all wait for James’s next album, you can listen to his latest release on Moderna Records’ Bandcamp.