When Leon Vynehall was a kid, he used to listen to his mum’s music tapes in her car. His mum had quite good taste, owning tapes of Mr Scruff funk and cinematic trip-hop like Aim. This was how he got his musical education, so that when he came to making electronic music himself a few years ago it was only natural that panorama would seep into his productions.
“Absolutely,” Leon exclaims. “I'd like to think I was at least getting close to making the house equivalent of something DJ Shadow, Aim or Madlib would do. I take more influence from hip-hop, funk or soul than I do early or contemporary house records — especially the textural side of it.”
Leon has only been making electronic music for about four years — before that, he was in hardcore rock bands, which has given him an outsider’s angle on music production. “I used electronics a bit when I was in bands in my younger teens after listening to people like Errors and 65daysofstatic,” he tells DJ Mag. “Also, throughout my later teens at college, studying music technology and trying to copy-cat Aphex Twin or artists from Rong Music.”
He says he’s grateful to have had a varied musical upbringing — as are a lot of people. So enamored is he, though, of the memory and experience of listening to cassettes in his mum’s car that he recorded his new mini-album, ‘Music For the Uninvited’ (out this month on Martyn’s 3024 Records), onto tape.
“The record is, in a sense, me re-creating my journey to school with my own music,” he explains. “Cassette tape was the medium that all the music was listened to on. My mum doesn't have a CD player in her car, she never has. So in order to make it more authentic and representative of those car rides, I recorded and mastered it from a cassette deck.”
This process ain’t no future-retro gimmick. There’s warmth in the dusty house of ‘St Sinclair’ and ‘Goodthing’ and the deep, flowing ‘Be Brave, Clench Fists’ that’s akin to the evocative productions of acclaimed French producer Saint Germain. And there’s more than a touch of Steve Reich scoring a Peter Greenaway film about opener ‘Inside the Deku Tree’, DJ Mag tells Leon.
“That's a very flattering comparison, thank you,” he says. “The name of the song is a level on the [computer] game Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The character basically walks into a giant living, talking tree. Once you're inside the Deku Tree, the music changes to a very ethereal, calming ambient soundtrack. I wanted to do something in that vein, so I wrote a chord structure and had a good friend of mine — who makes music as Eagles For Hands — play the string parts on his cello. Another friend, Rob Flynn, played trumpet.”
Despite the cinematic quality to his music, Leon pretty much uses the 4/4 pulse of house as his template. How come? “I, for the most part, still want to make music that is 'danceable', so I use those rhythms because they work,” he says. “My main instrument is drums, so it's an important part of the process for me. House is a groove, right?
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