A couple of days ago, through a Twitter contact retweeting a link, I came across the electronic music of Rory McCormick. I was immediately drawn to the sound he had created for himself and (what seemed to me) the fearless way he went about doing what he had done. His album WAVE IX is a mixture of melancholic electronica and performance poetry (with sometimes near to the knuckle content). It was, at the very least, something that made me sit up and take notice. Having listened to that I went on and listened to his albums Colony and Edgespace which continued the musical theme but without the poetry. It seemed to me that here was an artist, someone who had ideas behind what he did and I determined to see if he would consent to an interview to be published here so that I could learn more about it and, also, publish the results to a wider audience. I'm happy that Rory agreed. Printed below are the questions I sent him and the answers he sent back.
1. How long have you been making music and what is your setup? (i.e. what do you use to make music?)
I've been making music since 2013. To begin with I worked as one half of
a duo under the pseudonym '6&8', I was responsible for the music,
and she wrote words/poetry to go with that music. We released a number
of digital albums and EPs on a net label called Xylem Records (http://www.xylemrecords.co.uk),
and also one album that involved another collaborator, a music producer
who works under the name 'Day Before Us', on Auditory Field Theory (http://www.auditoryfieldtheory.org).
That all happened between May 2013 and March 2014, then later in the
year 6&8 split up and I fell out of love with making music for a
while. Plus various things going on in my life at the time seemed to
take most of the focus away from my hobbyist attitude towards it. I
started working on some bits I had begun but not finished in that period
earlier this year, May-June time, and then wrote more in a similar vein
and before I knew it I was hooked again and now don't want to stop. I
think I must have needed to fill that gap of more than a year by
releasing three things in one month – it takes the likes of Coldplay
years to get one album together, I'm knocking out three a month, I think
I know who's winning.
financial and space restrictions, I don't have any outboard equipment or
interesting boxes, I've always been drawn to hardware as a means for
electronic music, it's the deliberately limited scope of possibilities
(hardware depending of course, I'm thinking of analogue stuff here
really) and the physical interactions that I feel would be more engaging
when it comes to navigating the tumultuous creative process in search
of inspiration. Anyway that said, I don't have those things, I mainly
use a computer as a sound source, loaded with a selection of software
instruments and environments. I guess the feeling is that software
doesn't have any soul, but actually I don't think that's true at all. I
like instruments/FX from U-he and Madrona Labs best, the Madrona stuff
in-particular is really quite characterful. My main environment for
sketching, composition and mixing is REAPER, but I have used Renoise in
the past, and also Pure Data and SuperCollider, but I tend to steer away
from coding now as I always feel so much further from the music due to
the learning curve and program debugging that comes with that sort of
environment. If I'm getting a syntax error I'm probably about 10 minutes
away from going for a walk instead.
my recent solo releases I have succumbed to my interest in the analogue
approach and purchased a reel-to-reel tape recorder, a Tandberg 3300X. I
also have a Technics cassette deck, for when I want to keep some of the
clarity of the digital domain, as the Tandberg really does smear
frequencies all over the place. Anything that is fed into that is a
glorious lo-fi mess on the way back out. There are other small portable
cassette machines laying around, as well as a Tascam DR-100mk2 for field
recordings as well as two AKG C1000S mics. For my next release I have
picked up a small collection of acoustic instruments: zithers, guitar,
bass, xylophone, melodica, flutes etc. Which I will use to create source
material for digital manipulation at a later stage. That's a fair bit
of stuff I suppose. Maybe I'll just fill the wall behind my bed with
rack analogue modules after all.
2. What are you making music for? Is there anything behind it?
It's a form of expression, it's interpretation of the world around me
and my experiences: feelings, moments, awareness. It's also more
abstract though, for example I take a trip to London to look at the
architecture of the Barbican estate, all those edges and blocks of raw
concrete, what senses do they evoke? What might they sound like? How
could I communicate this appreciation of form and style with the timbres
within my grasp as a musician? I want to depict shape, space and form
with rhythm, timbre and melody in a way only a human being could. I will
practice this until I stop.
3. When you approach making a track what is important for you?
I find that a track will begin in one of two ways:
I will be led by a melody I have found on the guitar, and then
transplant this into the digital domain and build and orchestrate on it
with other instruments.
2) I will be
led by technology, some aspect or functionality of a computer program
will start an idea and I will follow it purely with the digital
techniques at my disposal.
Of the two I
find much more satisfying, and likely to result in a finished track
that I am proud of, is music with its genesis in method 1. When I play
something on a guitar I can almost 'hear the future' of that riff or
melody straight away, a developed piece of music appears like an
abstract concept and I have greater success in following those
abstractions than if they materialise during a session solely exploring
software. When using method 2 I find that moment to moment my creative
abilities are muddied by the task of navigating the software itself:
'How do I pitch the sample down?' 'What is the best method to automate
this or that?' 'Wait, where has that toolbar gone?' 'I didn't mean to
delete that' etc. That's not to say that purely software techniques
aren't responsible for amazing music, you've just got to get a grip of
them as well as I have of my guitar over the last 20 odd years. The
reality is that methods 1 and 2 will blend during a writing session,
sometimes seamlessly, but sometimes the gears will grind to a halt. I
guess what's important is being able to get what's inside my head,
outside my head with flow and accuracy, making use of any surprises
along the way.
4. Your three albums on Bandcamp, WAVE IX, Colony and Edgespace seem
thematically and musically linked. What are you trying to express with
Yes they are linked, in fact Wave IX only exists because I didn't manage
what I originally set out to do with the material on Edgespace and
Colony. The music on those two should have been the back drop to the
spoken word of Wave IX but when I put it all together much of the music
just didn't gel well with the words and I was making compromises all
over the place to try and make it work. So just decided to let Edgespace
and Colony go without the words and put other bits together for Wave
But once I decided that, it did
feel good to have instrumental tracks that appeared to link with the
spoken themes on Wave IX, e.g 'Survey Team' on Colony is the sonic
description of the brave men and women that descended back into the
mining network we hear about in 'Faces in the Strata' on Wave IX, the
auxiliary team on the surface is referenced in the title and the spoken
word. 'In the Betweens' is in fact a description of Edgespace, heard on
the release of the same name. There are further connections but I'll
leave them to be discovered. It all seemed to work well splitting the
work across three releases like this, like it was meant to be.
stories told on Wave IX are linked to some degree, the themes seem to
be to transcend the human consciousness/form, (In the Betweens, The
Exchange, Prayer for a Sunken Lime, The Configurations), I think 'Faces
in the Strata' strays furthest from that theme, perhaps as the survey
team strayed themselves from their own world.
5. If you had unlimited freedom to make whatever music you wanted to make what would you like to do that you can't do now?
Since I realised electronic music was the gin in my tonic (early 2000's,
camping trip to Cornwall, The Richard D James album on repeat in the
car) and I started to delve into the culture and technology, I've always
felt that Heaven would be a room full of modular analogue equipment. I
still do - perhaps to a slightly lesser extent now – maybe that's
because I'm making the most of the resources available to me rather than
desiring things I'll likely never have. The money and the
impracticality involved does put me off enough for it to remain a
fantasy. I have a desire to perform music in a live setting, and as a
hobbyist/nobody, hauling a tonne of oscillators, sequencers and voltage
dividers around just seems stupid now. Laptop, mixer, speakers, ears,
As for music I'd like to make
with the resources I have to hand, but have yet to, algorithmic and
generative music is high on the agenda. Beat oriented music that one
could consider moving to.
I do have
some musical ideas that currently seem hard to realise. I'd like to make
detailed environment recordings of industrial locations such as
processing plants, data centres, and manipulate them subtly with almost imperceptible glitches and additions. But in my mind that would depend
on having good quality, detailed, multilevelled location recordings of
areas and installations that I would likely not be permitted to enter.
to this, is the desire to make mock recordings of occult events, to
stage a séance or pseudo-ritual for example and mix multiple recording
sources. Not music so much as an audio play, scripted with a cast of
voice actors, but perhaps with musical elements, unexpected rhythmic
repetition, or low frequencies added to unsettle.
perceived scope of such projects (maybe just the knowledge that I would
have to involve others) has meant it has not yet moved from being an
abstract idea into an achievable goal.
6. What music and artists have influenced you? (Maybe your influences aren't musical, of course.)
Mike Patton, Jimi Hendrix, Jack Kerouac, Helmet, Therapy?, pre-turn of
the century Marilyn Manson, Stanley Kubrick, Aphex Twin, Autechre,
Squarepusher, Clark, Dave Monolith, Laurel Halo, Grimes, Morbid Angel,
Boards of Canada, Blade Runner, Yes, Vangelis, David Lynch, J.G Ballard,
Brutalist architecture, Shane Carruth Giorgio de Chirico and Calvin
Harris (not really).
7. What would you like to achieve musically in the next 12 months?
I have several album projects to work on, next is something vaguely
related to Wave IX, but instrumental (there is no further spoken word on
the horizon right now, but all it takes is a second of inspiration for
that to change. Hey it may have changed by 3pm this afternoon). Also I
have what I hope to be a series of releases employing algorithmic
techniques that takes its inspiration from plant inflorescences (see the
Wikipedia article on that topic and you'll probably already be in the
same sonic ballpark as I am) that will likely be far more rhythmic than
anything I've done before. I am fascinated by the way plant stems branch
off from one another, like a network of decisions from root to bud.
Also not too far off is a project that takes great influence from the
novel High Rise by J.G Ballard. I have a copy of that book packed with
my own annotations and highlights that elude somehow to the sense of
hearing, or that collide in an aesthetically pleasing way with my own
sense of what is awesome.
As for other
achievements, I'd like to release work on net labels again and have my
material played on various online radio shows, just get it out there in
ways. I don't do this for fame or money obviously, but it's a form of
expression, of communication, so nothing I make can be fully realised
unless others hear it. A major milestone as momentous as the alignment
of the planets would be to play or perform my music in a live setting of
any description, that would be a real achievement for me. To
collaborate again is possibly on the agenda too, but we'll see.
I'd like to thank Rory for taking the time to answer my questions. Personally speaking, I think its great to find such thoughtful electronic music that has ideas behind it.
You can hear the three albums referred to in this interview, WAVE IX, Colony and Edgespace at Rory's Bandcamp, https://rrymc.bandcamp.com/