Interview with Chris Lody
Today we will have the pleasure of speaking of Mr. Chris Lody of Chrislody. I guarantee this is the Lody-est interview you’ll see all month. Actually, not his real name but facts be damned! His new LP, Proper Ambient Music, is a fascinating dive into one man’s desire to explore, whilst remaining tethered to the mother ship. Chris has this amazing ability to swell or contain his sounds at his will, which really shines on this album which is brimming with detail and nuance. Proper Ambient Music comes out May 15th on the Electronic Curiosity Collective and you’d be foolish if you weren’t already looking for a pre-save button.
Chris, just want to thank you for this time today. With your time zone being 5 hours ahead of mine it can be tricky, but amazing things can occur when you’re an insomniac! I knew you were a hell of a musician getting into the listening of this record, but, wow, did you really stretch your ear for this one. One really needs to listen intently to get your point and I greatly admire that. Especially since my style lends itself to *bash bash crash smash* quite often, your cognizance of the importance of subtlety in your work is what brings it to an even higher tier.
Hey, yeah good to talk to you and thanks for doing this.
Usually, a common question seen in my artist interviews is, “What is your ‘native’ instrument?” I think that may be a tad obvious, unless I’m wrong, so I’ll skip ahead to how long have you been tickling the ivories?
Ha yes you’re absolutely right, piano and playing keys in general has been a big part of what I do for about 17 years now. I started really late in life though, I got into electronic music production straight out of school but I didn’t start piano lessons until I was in my 20’s. My aim with that to begin was just to learn some music theory so I could play what I heard in my head, there wasn’t a lot to find on the internet to help with that at the time so it seemed logical. I can’t say it really taught me that but I learned there’s an incredibly large amount to explore on the piano which lead me to play expressively which is something I wasn’t really expecting. So I’ve always tried to bring that to whatever I’m recording.
I think this is an interesting question for someone who has a stage name that’s not their real name, but only a slight tweak off; Who is Chris LODY, specifically?
Well it’s strange looking back at that decision after a few years now. It came from the fact that my real name doesn’t really feel like it suits what I was doing as it’s a bit cumbersome to say, like you’ve gone out in the summer wearing too many layers of clothes or something, but I kept my first name as I didn’t want to it to become a total facade. But actually, the ChrisLody side of me seems to have taken on a bit of a persona and it’s enabled me to express some darker parts of my psyche that I wasn’t really expecting to find lurking in there!
What does Chris Lody want to accomplish that Chris Dodsworth (his real last name) can’t or does not want to achieve? And vice versa?
Well that’s a tricky one….. I’ve always been of the opinion that you should explore as much musical territory as possible if you’re really going to learn the craft of music making well. Trouble is that the more you look the more there is to find. Just recently I’ve been writing some soundtrack work and really enjoying it though…..Hmm, actually I think that ChrisLody would want to terrify the living daylights out of you or try to move you to tears while the real me would apologise for it. Ha, something like that.
In listening to this album, it seemed to me as if the reason for your somewhat subtle touch (at least for this go) is because you wish to force the audience to really tune in. No playing on your phone and listening to this one simultaneously, that’s for sure. You will miss some marvelous playing. Is this accurate, or was it even a conscious thought for you during production?
There was certainly a conscious decision to do things a bit differently with these tracks, yes. A lot of what I make starts off with either a ‘what if’ question to myself in the studio, like with Woods and Dales I’m playing a really jazzy set of chords but they’re drawn out over a super slow tempo, just to see how that would feel. At other times I’m just aiming to make something that expresses a specific mood. So there’s a bit of preconception in these tracks, a bit more than normal for me maybe. So perhaps that’s a bit more engaging than a bit of four to the floor dance music, which I also love to make by the way.
Square away, with the first track, it is evident that we have something both beautiful and Atypical sounding back at us. It’s hard, personally, for me to maintain this balance. Frequently, I find it’s all in on one or the other. How did you find/manifest this split?
I suppose that must come from being influenced by an enormous range of musical styles. I used to work as a carpenter and joinery manufacturer so I’d spend a lot of my time working on my own in a noisy workshop. Even with ear defenders on, the noise gets too much over the course of a day so I would spend hours and hours a day with headphones under my ear defenders listening to every type of music I could get my hands on. I owned a good few albums but it doesn’t take long when you’re listening to that much music to get bored with those and go off on a musical adventure.
So I used to connect a VHS player up on a timer to record the radio and transfer to tape to listen to while I worked. Years later I switched to minidisc and ruined a steady stream of players and disc in the dusty workshop. We’re lucky here in the UK that there’s always been an enormous variety of good music on the radio. I think I’m lucky in that respect, my musical melting pot is pretty big so I can draw on lots of different influences at once.
Now, I may be crazy here. Would not be the first time I’d heard it, nor will it ever be the last, but in the fourth track, Watcher, did I hear a little bit of Flaming Lips ca. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots with the darker tones and keyboard effects which rush their way in rather quickly?
Oh that’s interesting. I own that album but it’s been years since I’ve listened to it. I’ll have to listen back and see if I can hear the connection.
I think my favorite track might be the eleventh. It seems I received a working title, so I won’t assume there. However, there’s the glorious, soaring pitch bends. A gut wrenching low end that leaves one a tad uneasy when you punch them in the stomach with it. Still though, you manage to pull this off calmly and in complete control, despite the fact there is so FREAKING much going on. Personal opinion, I think this is where ‘Chris Lody’ really shines. In this abyss of chaos there is perpetually a quiet calm. In your recordings do you find there is typically such a dichotomy between light and dark tonalities, or is this somewhat new territory?
Thank you, I had loads of fun making that one and got really carried away making it sound massive . A friend had left his Yamaha DX100 in the studio before the pandemic hit just so I could find a power supply for it. I got playing around with it one day programming a few of my own sounds and came up with that. The DX100 is a fairly basic synth so I was chuffed to find it could synthesize those huge brassy tones. I coupled that with a gothic hall reverb from an old Zoom 1201, so it’s a real bit of retro that one.
Anyway it’s funny you mention the balance between light and dark as this whole album was an attempt at making something that will be quite soothing to the listener, which became even more of a focus after the Coronavirus changed everyone’s lives. But I get easily drawn to the dark side of music by what’s going on around me, and there’s a lot of really dark things that have been going on in the world recently that I just can’t ignore so I think it’s landed somewhere nearer melancholy. A soundtrack to the times if that’s not too ecocentric of me to say. It’s also where the title of the album comes from as I was aiming for ‘proper’ even if my aim was a bit off!
What draws you to this notion of, what I like to call, ‘the weird’? By that I mean Atonal, angular or off-the-beaten path.
Well I’ve become more and more obsessed with sonic exploration, the idea that sound is like a landscape that can be explored and there are all these evocative things out there that have never been heard before. So I try to look for the ‘new’ in everything, be it just a sound I’ve synthesised or a way to express an emotion in a new and interesting way. Plus going back to what I was saying earlier about listening to loads of music, when you’ve exhausted exploring the normal then the weird starts to become more alluring. I listen to loads of experimental music nowadays. The weirder the better to be honest.
It may be a tad late in the conversation to ask this, but the question just dawned on me - Where the hell did ‘Lody’ come from and what does it mean/represent?
Ha, well, it’s actually my wife’s maiden name. It was not a name I’d heard before we met so that was interesting enough, but later I learned the family is possibly related to Carl Lody who, as I understand it, was the last man ever to be hung at the Tower of London on charges of spying. I can’t say that didn’t influence my thinking!
You had mentioned this was one of your forays where mastering was of considerable focus in post-production, to a point you yourself were unfamiliar with. Can some of that nuance and subtlety be attributed to this experimental aspect, brought to the surface by your mastering efforts?
I’m far from an expert at it but I think it’s interesting to bring all facets of sound making into the creative realm so I’ve been tinkering with it yeah. An expert might have completely different things to say about this but I like to think of mastering as just a cohesive process so the whole body of work has a sound all of its own. On this album in particular I wanted everything to sit nicely next to each other so nothing sounded like it was written and recorded in isolation. But I think my methods are quite old school, a lot of it was recorded onto analog tape so I’ve left noise and glitches in, warts and all. I haven’t smashed the hell out of the mixes in post production either as I want to preserve a lot of the dynamics in the recordings and I want it to sound warm so I’ve not made the whole thing really bright like a lot of modern productions are. So a lot of my tweaks were quite subtle. Less is more I think here I think.
Well, I thank you so much for your time today, Chris. Proper Ambient Music is out May 15th from the Electronic Curiosity Collective and available through the label’s Bandcamp. In my personal opinion you’d be truly missing out not giving this a listen. So, what’re you waiting for? Go … Listen … !!!... And follow! Below!!!!