Is it transcendental meditation that you do, or something else?
It has things in common with that. I do this type called Yoga Nidra. It basically allows you to send your body into full deep sleep while still having a completely lucid mind, it’s pretty amazing.
Wow, that sounds like something I need to try.
Yeah, I highly recommend it, I mean you can do it quite easily. You just have to start off by getting a recording, you can buy them on iTunes. It’s like an hour-long thing. It has a lot of similarities to transcendental meditation but you can do it on your own without having to go to classes.
You played piano as a pretty young child, around four or five years old I’ve heard. Was this your own decision, did you naturally magnetize towards the piano or was it pushed on by your parents, and if so, do you think it’s important that it was encouraged by somebody else?
They bought me a little musical toy when I was about two. Apparently I wrote a little tune on it. I was playing with a friend at his house, I was about four and he had a piano, it was the first time I had been near one. I remember just ignoring him and started pressing keys on it and listening to how it sounded right away and finding it absolutely fascinating. I got a little practice piano at home and I started improvising and taught myself. Then when I went to school, they did encourage me, or basically arranged piano lessons. I was reluctant, I just wanted to play, I didn’t want to learn other stuff, but I’m glad that they did because it got me listening to the classical side, which has definitely been a useful thing and exposed me to some amazing music.
The reason I ask is because I’m a musician myself, but I came to it late. There was no music in my school, or in my house. It was basically when I went to college and met lots of open-minded people that played and listened to lots of different kinds of music. Do you think music should be a mandatory subject in schools for kids?
Yeah, I think you should definitely have the opportunity to explore it. I remember my group music classes at school and the kids that weren’t into it were never going to be into it. The best story I know is from this school called The Elliot School in South West London where Four Tet and Hot Chip and The XX and Burial and loads of others all went to. Speaking to friends from various bands, they all said it’s like, just a big room of instruments and they were allowed to go in whenever they wanted and just played together rather than it being structured. It can’t just be coincidence that all those guys came out of that one place.
You say that the piano was there for you at a young age, but when was the first time you made a musical purchase you made, whether it be an instrument of and album or single?
When I discovered stuff like Depeche Mode and The Pet Shop Boys, I found that kind of area that I was going to become fascinated with, which was electronic sound. I remember the first home keyboard I got was a pretty exciting moment, I was about eight. When I was ten, my parents bought this amazing knackered old secondhand four-track cassette recorder thing, a Tascam Portastudio. I actually learned how to multi-track and how to bounce tracks.
So when you are going to be learning the new software you mentioned earlier, will you teach yourself or will you do some online courses?
I don’t know, I’ve thought about this. I’m incredibly impatient. I’ve always worked best when just sitting there myself and actually operating and then just maybe being told and asking when I don’t know what to do next. That’s how I imagine it going.
You collaborated with quite a lot of people on the last album. You’ve remixed people and done all sorts of collaborative work. Have you worked with any of your dream collaborators or is there someone else still on the list you want to work with?
Brian Eno would have been my number one and it was ridiculously good fortune to work with. I think if I worked with Thom Yorke that would be great. I imagine that’s a fairly obvious choice for electronic music. Also, Jonsi from Sigur Rós would be someone I’d really love to work with.
When is it you know that a track is done? Do you need somebody else to hear a song for you to know that it’s done? Such as maybe Guy Davie, a sound engineer, or anybody else that you trust?
It’s fairly internal for me. I do play to some people along the way but when I can see someone else listening to it, I actually hear it differently myself. I’m looking for a particular bit of feedback. I’m very kind of stubborn really. I tend to just get on with it. I know it’s finished simply by, when I come in in the morning the next day, if I listen to it all the way through and nothing occurs to me that needs to be changed and it sends me off to that place where it’s supposed to send me, then that’s it – it’s done. It’s like, there’s lots of things I’m unsure about in my life but the one thing that I’ve always known is the music and whether it’s done, and whether it’s worth finishing or not, or worth releasing or not. I don’t mean to say that I think it’s all brilliant, I just mean to say that I like it, basically.
Could you give any new musician or maybe someone that’s just thinking about learning an instrument any advice? Is there any one piece of advice you could suggest?
Well, certainly if someone is looking at becoming a recording musician, just being patient. I always advocate teaching yourself as much as possible and if you want to really do it seriously, allowing a good seven years of struggle before it starts to go well, because it’s pretty difficult but if you keep hold of that idea… I think if you make stuff that you love… It’s an incredibly bland and obvious thing to say but eventually people come around to it. Don’t worry too much about trends. Don’t worry too much about the most popular used drum sound of the time. I think that’s what dates music and that’s what makes things fleeting so I always like to ignore these things.
Last question, Jon, thanks again for your time. It’s a three-part question. Let’s say there’s a movie being made about you, maybe today or in fifty years. Who would play you, who would direct it, and who would soundtrack it?
Hmm, I need to think about that… I mean, who’s going to play me? You know that guy from Superbad, McLovin. The director would be, let’s see… You’ve put me on the spot here. It’d be nice to have David Lynch direct the story of your life, wouldn’t it? Just to really explore. He’d make it a lot more interesting than the reality, exploring the kind of nightmarish side of the subconscious.
And who would soundtrack the movie?
I always loved Underworld. That’s a totally bizarre combination, but why not?
Watch “Breathe This Air” (non-album version) featuring Purity Ring’s Megan James:
Watch “Open Eye Signal”, directed by Aiofe McArdle: