We really dig Uther Moads’ electronic music. We had the chance of talking to him about music and technology and also had him prepare us an exclusive exemplary mix tape.
Rhodi Karim, the man behind Uther Moads, has a quite impressive bio. He grew up in Abu Dhabi, he studied computer technology in Cambridge, he lived in the countryside of Wales and he just moved to London where he currently works as a software developer. His eponymously titled debut EP released some time ago in Association Depth Sound Recordings, is a combination of the sounds he loves and was defined by with chilled electronic sounds, carrying pretty vocal lines that remind you of the folk heroes of the British countryside. Together with his photographs, his words and his opinions, he shares with ough! a mixtape that he exclusively created for us, featuring some unreleased material and also a fairytale penned by himself.
Dubai - winter 2010. I don't like the gaps between buildings being
filled with nothing but sand
Who is Rhodri? Tell me some things about your background. Where have you grown up? What was your childhood like?
"Rhodri" as you know him is a finite integral over the four-plus dimensions of space-time. I was born in Wales, but our family moved out to Abu Dhabi in the Middle East when I was but a toddler. It was a dusty and sun-drenched time of hot concrete and school playgrounds. This was broken up by regular intervals back in Wales, where I rode bikes and rambled through the woods and played around with an old computer and an old piano. Abu Dhabi, on the other hand, was an experiential vacuum. So, I made films, took photos, formed a radical band.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
My earliest memory is a strange one, because a photograph of the moment exists. I am one year old, in a dressing gown, and this memory has the distinctly unusual quality of being one I actually remember the experience of. I remember seeing my parents, watching the camera flash go off. I tend to summarise more recent memories into lessons, stories.
My desk, Cambridge - exam term. I kept my pens in order, my water glass full and my mind in meltdown.
When did you move to England? Why?
I moved back to the UK, this time to England, for university. After so long in the sandlands it was as if someone had turned the contrast knob up on the world. The vibrancy of it all was inspiring. In Abu Dhabi you forget that you are always seeing things through a haze of sand.
Andrew told me you are a computer scientist. Can you tell me some things about your studies? What exactly do you do?
Computer Science is the study of problems and their solutions. It teaches you how to think when you work in a medium where anything is possible, and complexity is the only constraint. There is a deep need for efficiency in the subject. It's a lot deeper than I ever imagined when I set out to master Windows 95. Right now, I'm about to start work as a software developer in London.
When did you start making music?
I'm not entirely sure. I had the requisite piano and guitar lessons when I was young but I never really enjoyed them. Then, after I discovered Radiohead and Aphex Twin when I was 13 or so I started playing around with a couple of software packages, Reason and then Cubase when I was recording my band. Through the band I taught myself the bass, then scraped together what I remembered of the keyboard. I moved on to my current setup, started playing with hardware and generative music. And, suddenly, I was making music.
My room, Cambridge - exam term. double exposures add an end-of-the-world quality to all my party snaps.
Why do you make music?
To begin with, it was to produce the kind of music I wanted to hear. That's still true, but now I make music also because it's the only way I've found to articulate certain experiences, emotions and ideas. Also, I just love to create, and to perform.
How much has your special knowledge about technology helped you create music?
A little: I'd say knowing my way around a PC helped me get started quicker in making electronic music. I've written little programs to help generate music, but it's only within the last few years that I've developed any idea about what kind of music I want to make. But the best way to create original music is to listen to as much as possible.
What are your main musical influences?
When it comes to Uther Moads, I was listening to a lot of Björk, Kate Bush, The Knife. I marvelled at the sheer innovation of these girls, the volatility they could bring to electronics. Before that I had started seriously listening to jazz, Bill Evans and Chet Baker especially. It's hard to try and decipher what has influenced me, I've lost myself in far too many albums to count. Most of the Uther Moads sound stems from trying to slow down, to articulate a long train ride coupled with a sleepless night.
Lake Bohinj, Slovenia - summer. it was pouring with rain, but we canoed anyway.
What kind of music you remember playing at home as a kid? What is the first record you bought?
The only musical influence I've had from my father is Paul Simon. Even that took me a long time to understand, but I used to get swung around the room to The Rhythm of the Saints. The first tape that ever blew my mind was System of a Down's debut album, which I heard from a much older kid on the school bus. I'd never heard anything like it, and I loved it immediately. That set me on a bender that lead to my first legal purchase: Daft Punk's Discovery, followed by all the Radiohead tapes I could find.
What is it like living in Wales? Why did you choose living in the countryside?
Wales is my ancestral homeland. Nature is an undeniable fact here, and over the past few years it's become more and more important to me to be close to greenery, water, wonderful things. It's the best place in the world to miss, but there is very little going on here, and I can't imagine living here until I am boring. So, I'm moving to London very soon.
Are there any people you can tell they are your mentors or have influenced you in any way?
That's what some of the EP is about. There are people who come into your life and rearrange you. But not a mentor, not yet.
Pag, Croatia - summer. torrential rainfall caused a mudslide directly through my camera. this is how the pictures turned out.
What does ‘happiness’ mean to you? Where can you find it?
I was asking those same questions while I was writing the EP. My idea of happiness has changed drastically over the last few years. Hopefully I will know it when I see it. Making music makes me many things, one of which is happy.
And the word ‘God’?
It's not something I think about much. University physics has given me a strange perspective.
Do you believe in luck?
I believe in probability, and that one can become more lucky by understanding how to use it. I believe in the limits of our current knowledge. I believe deeply in the power of the mind.
What’s your greatest fear?
That I will not be in love at 60. Or that humanity cannot avoid self-destruction.
What is the most risky thing you have ever tried?
I should probably not admit to the riskiest thing I ever tried. But: I tried to swim 500m across Lake Bled in Slovenia. I was swimming seriously for the first time in 10 years or so. My friend had a panic attack, and I had to support him as we paddled back to shore. It's a very deep lake. I hope I would have made it all the way across.
How important are your friends for you?
Very important. They bring wonder, fascination, and great despair. They are the medium of life.
Tell me some things that make you happy.
Sitting under a tree in August, with the sun shining through the leaves, while the breeze causes the long grass to ripple, and the shadows of the tree's branches to ripple too. Cooking with friends. London. Getting high and listening to The Eraser while we chat balls. Working, producing, whether it's code or music.
Has any of your dreams come true?
When I started making music I was proud of, that was a dream come true. Dreams are coming true every day now that I am an adult.
Tell me some things about your first EP. And your first live.
This EP is about slowing down. I was getting very tired of modernity, of constant work and disillusionment. I then had a very profound year, in which I did a lot of thinking about my relationship with others, and with nature. I wanted to articulate the inner space that I spent a lot of time in. My hope was that I could make sense of what I worried about by writing and recording abstract emotive electronic vocal music. I am very pleased with the result. I've been playing music live since I was 16, and a lot of improvised electronics over the past few years. I've included some of these tracks on the enclosed mixtape. Uther Moads live is a tricky proposition. I ended up trying to do too much all by myself in my first gig. I'm planning on getting a live band together for future gigs.
What was the last great album you heard? And 5 of your favourites for 2011.
I have only in the last few weeks discovered Grouper. Her latest releases, the two A I A discs, floored me completely. I haven never heard a more perfectly realised piece of impressionism. 2011 was a year of looking back for me, since I took a 6-week voyage around Europe in a van with a load of very close friends. I made sure Stereolab's Dots and Loops was on repeat for most of the journey.
But a top 6 of new(ish) albums in 2011, in no particular order:
- Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica (Software)
- The Endless House Foundation - Endless House (Dramatic Records)
- tUnE-yArDs - W H O K I L L (4AD)
- Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. II: Judges (Constellation)
- Hype Williams - Untitled (Carnivals)
- Forest Swords - Dagger Paths (No Pain In Pop)
What are your future plans?
To work hard, write music and get back into playing with a live band. To release another EP this year. To achieve psychedelic perfection in audio.
What has life taught you so far?
That good enough is good enough. But better is better.
"everything is accelerating" mixtape
1. introduction (field recordings / ruminations)
2. emptyset - gate 4
3. grouper - alien observer
4. r. karim - willow lake dub / interview with lighthouse keeper / futher ruminations
5. galwad y mynydd - niwl y môr
6. uther moads - in midsummer (demo)
7. the ace of clubs - cordial
8. r. karim - lowtrax ii
9. tim hecker - paragon point / short story: josefina, displaced