20.04.2012, Words by Ruth Saxelby

Actress interview: "It’s medicine - that’s what music is."

It is raining typical April showers and I am walking through east London listening to Actress’s new album ‘R.I.P’ on the way to his studio to speak with the man himself. The sky is thick with sludgy blue-grey clouds but the sun breaks through: sunshine and rain, joy and pain. ‘R.I.P.’ is Actress’s third album, and his grandest. It is more a collection of meditations than tracks: landscapes in which to lose yourself, spaces to fill the voids in your mind. In that sense, ‘R.I.P.’ is a comfort: a literal feeling of resting in peace and momentary relief from the purgatory of life.

Cut to a white-walled cube of a room with two curtain-less windows looking out onto the east London street below. Across the road are a pharmacist and a pawn shop with a garish SELL YOUR GOLD HERE sign. Inside the room, which Darren Cunningham aka Actress has used as his studio since December, are various synths, computer, speakers and other bits of electronic kit. On the walls are two framed images of the abstract crouching figure that adorns the front cover of ‘R.I.P.’, facing one another on opposite walls. In the two alcoves either side of one of them are the twin tall metal frames, each holding a blue fluorescent strip light. “I like looking at blue,” Cunningham explains. In the space between the two windows is a Matisse print from his Blue Nudes cutout series, holding court between and in conversation with Cunningham’s own two figures.

We sit either side of his desk, on which is his laptop, various notepads, rolling tabacco and weed. He rolls a joint but doesn’t light it. We talk a little about his recent trip to Brussels, where he worked with artist and fashion photographer Pierre Debusschere to produce a series of images and a short film for Dazed & Confused. The results are incredible, painting Cunningham as a Jesus figure in a hood with metallic tears coursing down his face. I ask him about the experience and he enthuses about Debusschere, and his studio and how he had so much going on but was so organised – how it was so next level that it made him think about his own working processes. Throughout our conversation Cunningham’s answers dance off into intriguing tangents but always flow illuminatingly back to the subject. He is lively, quick to laugh, always questioning.

How different is this from your old space? I didn’t expect it to be so light.

Actress: It differs only in the sense that because it’s in east London, and I live in south London, I’m mainly here during the daytime, and it’s a larger room. It’s got two large windows, which I never had in my home studio. But comparatively, y’know, I had a window and even though it was smaller room it wasn’t too dissimilar to this. It’s just that this now it’s a lot more open, it’s less boxed in, less closed. So yeah, it’s nice. Even when I’m here at night I feel a similar vibe to when I was recording at home. But it’s taken me a while to get used to. I’ve been here since December and it’s only really now that I feel like I’m settling down into the environment. Before I was sitting here and just kind of looking and assessing. Which is important as well. It’s like the next phase really. I think everything I’ve done since December in here has been pretty… [makes face] fucking hell, that’s pretty shit. But you start to feel things evolve steadily. I think once you get into that set pattern and routine it starts to come again.

Inside Actress’s east London studio. Photo: Darren Cunningham

There’s been lots of things going through my head recently – not specifically about music or your album but just generally – about slowness and quietness and small movement. We all know we live in accelerated times and it always used to be the radical thing to do something big, quick and loud and now it feels like it’s more radical to put the brakes on. It’s almost like we’re missing lots of stuff, or can’t take things in as much.

I never viewed it as work before because I wasn’t really established; it was more like a kind of religion.” Actress

Actress: Yeah. It’s like noise, isn’t it? It being London: it’s always a hive of activity. You always have that feeling of noise, y’know what I mean? Information passing all the time. I’m not even talking about the internet. The pace – it’s almost like a chase. And that’s interesting because I’m generally quite laid back. I work hard. Even when I’ve had jobs and stuff I’ve always applied myself and worked quite hard. But I’ve always liked to hold on to that bit of freedom that you’re allocated at different stages in your life, y’know what I mean? So to be able to be here now, it’s almost like… It is work, I guess. I never viewed it as work before because I wasn’t really established; it was more like a kind of religion. Religiously creating and seeing what evolved, with not that much of idea in the first place. Trying to develop something and trying to create something from very early times to be honest with you. I try not to allow things to get me frustrated but there were times when I didn’t have…my computer crashed, for instance. When you don’t have much money and your computer dies, that’s a major thing. So I just didn’t make music.

How long a period was that?

Actress: I would say that was about [long pause] a year. I reckon it was about a year.

That’s a long time. When was that?

Actress: That was probably about a year before ‘Hazyville’.

Was that frustrating or did you get to place where you were at peace with it?

Actress: It wasn’t frustrating because at that time I was out clubbing quite regularly. That was a time when I was really enjoying going out clubbing, and just actually being able to not worry about it – admire other people and just kind of not really think about it. My mind is hazy going back that far but I don’t think I really hankered after it to be honest with you. It was only when me and Gav [Weale, who Cunningham started Werk Discs with] started DJ-ing together that it reignited. Electronic music at that time just felt…it was exciting me a little bit. A lot of early Matthew Herbert stuff around that time. I started to really get interested again.

It was just building shards and collages of stuff. It was just about being creative with sound.” Actress

Then as me and Gav started to do nights, the idea of starting a label was there. I’d just got hold of Reason at that point as well. I’d been playing around with it; at that time I always had cracked copies. I’d been playing around on the earlier versions [under breath] this is interesting, this is interesting. Up into that point – there was no Ableton or anything like that – my set up was generally a pair of turntables, a laptop, records – for a time. I would take samples and then use Peak, which is just a normal editing programme, and just basically chop different bits and different loops and kind of construct them together. Not even on a timeline, just actually trying to pick up the groove bodily. I’d use turntables to time it a bit, match it up. So it was just building shards and collages of stuff. Switching between turntables and laptop, and that’s all I could do at that point. For me, it was just about being creative with sound. Not actually thinking about making tracks. I didn’t have the time, I couldn’t be arsed; I was too busy enjoying myself.

Which is important.

Actress: Massively [laughs].

That the thing. It feels like there’s a constant battle between being in a moment and documenting it. How can you document it properly and understand it until you’ve reflected on it? I think there is sometimes a richness to being able to respond in a moment but if that’s all you’re doing, you don’t have any distance to see it.

“Me personally, because I’m capturing this, I’ve got to be amongst it and zone in.” Actress

Actress: Yeah. I don’t know. I was watching a programme with Martin Scorsese in it and he was chatting about making Taxi Driver. All the shot in Taxi Driver, there’s no extras. It’s all New York. Everything’s New York. They would take shots sitting on the pavement next to a car and some big deal was going on down the road and they’d just be like, right, sort of thing. But he was just like, we’re making a film – this is what it’s about, you’ve got to capture what’s around you. Me personally, because I’m capturing this, I’ve got to be amongst it and zone in. While trying to tell a story but also this alternative reality going on around you which feeds in. It’s like that, y’know. You talk about people like Scorsese and they’re just vast really, it terms of the skill, the mastery and the vision: it’s just crystal clear. So crystal clear, it’s ridiculous. These are the type of people who influence culture on a global scale.

But they weren’t always like that. They had to get to that point.

Actress: Yeah, exactly. And they had to get the opportunity to get to that point. I think you obviously have to have something about you to get that opportunity to do something like that. Personally, I think that’s by the by. I think it just happens, it just happens. People have to pay their dues. If you’ve worked hard enough and honestly dedicated your time to it then it generally comes around at some point.

I completely agree. There’s a lot of mediocre art and music out there because those people have had patience and perseverance, even though they don’t have that something. But then there are people who do have that something that fall by the wayside because they didn’t have the perseverance.

Actress: I think what you have to remember also is that there’s always an audience out there for something. It’s a big place, this place that we live in. When you talk on mass levels, there’s mass information. Already you’ve got loads of layers to penetrate just to have a voice. But you know, some people want that, they desire it, so the route for them… There’s different paths, different decisions, integrity comes in. Being true to yourself…how far you’re prepared to sell out. At the start I considered what I was doing to be niche. It was an opportunity just to make crazy sounds with a computer; sounds. But then it becomes about something else. All of sudden you get asked to make an album and you’re like, yeah I can do that. Fuck, yeah [laughs]. And then you start thinking about all these records that you’ve bought, all these doyens of electronic music. If I’m going to dedicate some time to putting together an album, I would want to put together a good album. I’ve bought all these records, these are the people that I’m into, these are the lessons that they’ve taught me. I should try and do something, try and be original, and do something that is of my own making. A massive guide is Detroit techno – it’s a guide. The artists that were involved in it were so inspiring. I mean that’s when I was a real listener of music, when I was really obsessive about certain artists, certain tracks, what an artist did there. Real monumental moments in some of the records that I’ve purchased. It’s like a reflex, it just stays with you if you have that sort of brain anyway.

“At the start I considered what I was doing to be niche. It was an opportunity just to make crazy sounds with a computer. But then it becomes about something else.” Actress

I don’t think I’m obsessed by it; I’m not obsessed by it at all. I think there are people out there who are much more disciplined about getting in the studio and focusing on the kickdrum and focusing on the snare and focusing on the production and focusing on the arrangement, and everything’s just POW – properly finished. That’s not me; I don’t have that sort of application. The only way I could do something like that is if I was to have a team and directed them. I’m too lazy to do everything. I have to come in here and be like, okay, what equipment do I have and how creative can I be with it? That it. Work, work, work. Listen through to stuff I’ve done: that’s shit, no that’s alright, what kind of mood was I in at that time? Or yeah, that’s alright actually, hold on to that. So it’s always the process of selection as well because I can’t put shit out that. Personally, I can’t put shit out there.

I remember when I first heard ‘R.I.P.’ …do you say RIP or R-I-P?

Actress: I say R-I-P but I’m fine with whatever people what to call it.

When I spoke to you after you said something about how it’s not necessarily about listening, it’s about being about to meditate or have a space. That’s something that I feel strongly with this album – there’s a definite shift from music made to affect the body to music made to give you a space in which to breathe.

Actress: You know what I was thinking about the other day? I was thinking, we can hear each other when we’re talking but do people really hear things in the same way? Y’know what I mean? In here I rarely have the speakers on, I’m always in the headphones. When I’m making music and I look at the speakers it gives me a completely different sense. I can see the speakers vibrating. I catch myself not concentrating on the frequencies on my actual programme, I find myself mediating on: those speakers look amazing, look at the aesthetic of those speakers. This track’s going on and on and I’m just zoning out on these speakers. Again, it’s your environment that dictates the way that you make the music. It’s the process of perception, I guess. The track that I’m making at the moment on headphones sounds completely different listening in the headphones than from here.

“There’s a fine line between a soap opera and a proper opera, y’know? I can be kind of half and half in both camps sometimes because half of the time I’m just laughing to myself.” Actress

I don’t really want to say it’s self-indulgent because it’s not; what I do is experimental. I do experimental electronic music. It’s avant-garde music with avant-garde ideas. The only thing is I’m trying to put across quite a clear image, quite a clear impression, some sort of impression anyway, and maybe trying to add a narrative to it. That’s my production. There’s a fine line between a soap opera and a proper opera, y’know? I can be kind of half and half in both camps sometimes because half of the time I’m just laughing to myself, finding different moments in time to dwell on. Is dwell the right word? Sometimes I do dwell but I need to get away from that. Ponder, I guess, certain things. And then trying to put it into the creative process as well.

I feel like ‘R.I.P.’ is an album that stretches the imagination, I think it really reflects a place we need to move towards. The slow movements through. There are two or three tracks that have more of a fixed identity, like Raven and Caves of Paradise – not fixed exactly because they’re still fluid but they’re more upfront – but there are other tracks that carry you through without you realising it. I think that it speaks to an identity that we are hopefully shifting towards.

Actress: Do you see it as quite a dark album?

I don’t think it’s a dark album.

Actress: Right.

I’m really interested in light and dark at the moment because I think traditional ideas of what light and dark are are changing. There are a couple of artists that I’m hearing that are showing that light can be a negative thing and dark can be a positive thing.

Actress: The reason I say that is I’m just a bit surprised that people have such an authority on what light and dark is. We live in a light and dark world. You wake up in the morning and it’s light; you go to bed and it’s dark. You pick up the papers and there’s dark shit, and there’s some nice things in the papers. I’ve never understood this. Okay, I can sit down and listen to ideas…okay, that’s quite intense. I never really sit and think that’s really dark, isn’t it? I think that’s going into interesting territory, what are these sounds doing? Because nothing is really that controlled. It’s about seeing what sculpts out of it. And I’m not doing things that are too uncomfortable. There are certain resistances that you have to take into consideration, personally. That’s why I’m not really into drone stuff, really noise orientated stuff. I don’t get any enjoyment out of it at all. But other people do. Like I said, there’s audiences for everything.

“As far as life is concerned, it’s kind of emotion and then it kind of isn’t.” Actress

There are people who fear their own thresholds – there’s nothing to fear out there. We’re all going to die at some point. So live life and try and live it the best way you can, and try and be nice to people, and have general basic ethics and standards – and you’re fine. Obviously business happens and people do whatever in their business relations but as far as life is concerned, it’s kind of emotion and then it kind of isn’t. So but yeah, but this brings it into fear of death and stuff like that. I certainly think from an early age I always had this impending feeling of death, that it could just come at any time. To live with that is living on the edge. It takes friends, family, music, people who can make really soulful music, and people who can make really angsty music like punk. That’s why you have music like punk and funk and soul. It’s medicine – that’s what music is. You need people to make a certain style. Me personally I don’t try to go too far in any direction. When I meet people who say they’ve only been into electronic music I’m just [makes face] almost scared. You only like electronic music, really? You weren’t brought up on any other music? That sort of vibe right there is strange for me to engage with – but I do find it interesting.

Do you still feel an impending feeling of death?

“When I make music like ‘R.I.P.’ it’s medicine. It completely vibes me out.” Actress

Actress: No, it released itself over time. When I smoke weed it creeps a little bit closer. It’s a creeper. But when I make music like ‘R.I.P.’ it’s medicine as well. It completely vibes me out. I’ve experienced ‘R.I.P.’ not just from a listening perspective, I’ve experienced it from the process perspective so my experience of it is going to be completely different from anyone else’s and this is why I talk about perception of what you hear. It’s completely different. That’s why I said it’s not for listening as such. There are obviously tracks on there which are made to sooth the vibe but it’s not really a… There will be people out there who will be able to listen to the whole thing pretty comfortably and there’ll be people who like my stuff and will probably choose three tracks that they can engage with or really like. But the reflection for me is an interesting one because the narrative is such that I’m interested in the reflection because I know how I feel about it, personally. But I’m just interested, y’know. I’d like people generally to feel it and get it but if they don’t, I do understand. But I’m not really that bothered either. It’s been a different album for me, definitely. Now I’m thinking about ‘Ghettoville’. ‘R.I.P.’ is the album I’m proudest of but it’s probably the one that I’d like to not dwell on too much and move on to the next thing.

I was going to ask you about that – whether when you finished an album is it a closed book or do you live in it for quite some time afterwards, or has the living been the making of it?

Actress: All the albums for me are like specimens. The album that I’ve listened to most over time is ‘Splazsh’ because I just wanted to understand what it was that people really got from it. [pause] My understanding of that record is just as complex to be honest with you [laughs]. I still think about it and I’m like interesting. It’s kind of nuts that album, really. I’ve started going back to ‘Hazyville’ a little to pick up where I was there. I was listening to it yesterday and I can hear immediately how honed I’d gone in on the sounds. I think the fidelity on ‘R.I.P.’ is much better than ‘Hazyville’ but I think what I was trying to do then in terms of algorithms more than anything else are much more precise.

“All the albums for me are like specimens.” Actress

This album is precise but it’s not.. [pause] it’s not so obsessively focused as ‘Hazyville’. That album took three years to make and what we were talking about before is how now things are quick – I wrote ‘R.I.P.’ in the space of about a year. When I think back to when I first got asked to make an album and it took me three years, it’s like I can write an album in a year? I wrote ‘Splazsh in less time. That’s the state of where you’re at, it’s like fuck, okay. I’m just happy that I’ve done three now and I’m happy with all three. They all say completely different things and they all show completely different hands. I’m proud of all three.

Do you now feel like things have stepped up a level? Feeling like this is work as an artist?

Actress: I was thinking about that today actually. The thing is I’ve always been an artist, so that won’t change. And I’ve always made my art for me, I’ve never really made it for other people. It does now become a bit more about being a working artist but to be honest with you, in terms of level, there are amazing artists out there. There are so many artists doing technical wizardry in completely different ways. You do want to make sure you’re making sure you’re maintaining a certain level but for me it’s all about evolving in the studio. So this studio is completely different to what I was working with at ‘Havyville’ stage, at ‘Splazsh’ stage. So really you want the sound to suit the space, at instinct level. That’s what the level becomes – instinct, not what other people demand of you. I’ve started to feel that kind of demand for something but I try as much as possible not to play it any attention. That’s not what is I’m about. We’ll see. I just come in and do work, really.

Cunnningam’s art at the recent Werkhaus Exhibit 1 event

That’s why I think darkness is a really positive thing – I associate it with instinct and feeling your way rather than light being this distraction. Life is so visually overstimulated and darkness is this refuge. For so long ideas of darkness have been negative or caricatured as gothic.

Actress: The thing is for me it’s like being monastic. Everyday you have to get yourself in a certain frame of mind. Have you got anything to say? There’s definitely been times when I’m like, I don’t have anything to say right now. I’m not going to get stressed about it either. You come in and nothing’s happening. You fanny around a little bit…look at stuff. Assess your surroundings [looks around] bloody hell, how the fuck did that happen? [laughs] And then a light goes off and you’re like, okay, I’ve got this piece of machinery over here – have I mastered it yet? It cost me a lot of money, I better master it. I start thinking that way. Because I’m not going to be making music forever, I don’t think.

Do you think you’ll make more visual art?

Actress: I think I won’t concentrate on one thing. I think I’ll zone in on an idea. I’ll try and develop it both sonically and visually. I’ll be heads down whilst I’m here and creating. Whatever happens after that, whatever point I get to, we’ll see. It can be quite frustrating generally because learning this stuff, we’re talking about manuals that look like this. Manuals that look like that [heaves two big manuals onto the table].

I don’t want to look at them.

Actress: They’re so fucking boring. Look at it! So dry. Stuff like this [points at columns of unintelligible technical jargon].

What’s this one for?

Actress: That’s for that [points to synth by the window]. You just look at it and you’re like [long sigh]. Attention span gone. Yawn. But there comes a time when you have to focus on it. I like to still down and just get feeling but there comes a point when you have to understand the mechanics, it’s important.

I think that relates back to what you were saying about perceptions of listening. When you zone it on a particular language, or listen or read carefully, then you start to get the value out of it. You start to find a way in. I feel like the world is at a stage when it’s listening to countries outside of the west, and we are started to realise that there are really interesting things going on over here, and over there. Maybe we’re a bit more interested in zoning in and listening carefully.

Actress: Mmm. We’re so spoilt being brought up in England. What’s been good at this, doing music and traveling, is that you get to see other people’s cultures. England, there was a time when people from the Caribbean came over on the Windrush to make a life for themselves and also to work and help generate this country’s economy as well. Outside of that what you had at first was culture clashes and then an understanding. Can you imagine what sort of communication levels you must have had to a) to be a white person or b) a black person and be confronted with that situation. Music is always the language that unites people – and you had it here with punk, that merge with ska. Then you had soundsystems, dub, things like that unite people and make people understand each other. Feed people, y’know what I mean? Feed people your vibe and you just see how things flourish. You go to countries and you don’t really see any black people in a lot of…

In Europe?

Actress: Yeah. Being black I obviously see these things a lot more and that’s why Detroit techno was such a major thing for it was like, wow, you’ve got these guys really freaking it on these machines and they’re all black guys. That for person like me is a moment, a real moment. Wow, okay, and you see how their music, how…monumental strides in electronic strides you’re talking here. Derek May, Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson – these are absolutely up there people [gestures with hands held above his head]. I’ll do what I do but I’m always reminded how good they were. That is really the benchmark I’m always striving for, personally. Trying to come as least somewhere close.

Presenting a vision without fear is what real artists do, and change stuff up and stretch people’s imaginations.

Actress: Yeah.

You’re doing that.

Actress: Well…[pause] I think I’m close. But again…perfectionism is quite violent at times. The kind of artists I’m talking about…Kevin Saunderson is quite a laid-back guy, he’s always got a smile on his face, big character. He’s from Detroit, and they’re American. Plus they had these guys within this community bouncing off each other. A lot of the musicians you hear about these days, they’ve either been to music school or production school and they’ve had someone to teach them the basics and get them on their way. I’ve never had that. I only had that once with a guy called Matthew who got me started in my studio and I’ve still got a piece of equipment that he gave me. But everything was really basic, it was just literally a drum machine. It couldn’t really show you anything. It wasn’t like now with computers where you see things. Everything for me was in the dark. It was in this box. I had to get the senses of what colours were coming out of it purely by feeling it.

“Perfectionism is quite violent at times.” Actress

People these days, everything’s so digital; it’s a different relationship to the process. For me what it comes down to is aesthetics and research into the music you’re into. It’s all out there, it all existed, it’s even more accessible now you’ve got YouTube, Discogs. That’s why it’s annoying because people can hear the levels that people can push out but they’re still prepared to put out real shit. I just don’t want to do that. That’s not what got me into it in the first place. And I don’t see…the superstar stuff, them guys loved it. And you have to have guys like that – for me personally, I like getting up there and obviously it feels nice when people respect what it is that you do but I don’t really want to get too carried away with it because I personally know what the levels are.

Obviously the Detroit scene had a bit collectiveness to it, people bouncing off each. Do you feel a sense of having contemporaries in the music that you make?

Actress: It’s different now. I reflect my environment more than anything else. The immediate impression for those guys was Eurodance and what was happening there and what they could do to do impressions of those really. What’s happened with me is an age thing really because at some point you lose touch with this moment in time that was so special, and obviously music evolves – you go from techno, house, garage, deep house, gangsta-ish rap – Ice Cube, EPMD and all that sort of stuff which is what I was mainly into – and then you’ve got swing beats, quite ghetto level, quite raw. But then, always into pop music, and always interested in the aesthetics of cold electronics but done at a pop level – people like Gary Numan. The juxtaposition between Gary Numan and Prince, for instance, is an interesting one for me. I will try and imagine the space between someone like that. What would possibly happen if they were to come together. That’s what I try to hold on to now because I don’t club in the same way, that music is now classic status or whatever.

“That for me is what it’s all about – the wonderment. The wonderment of what sound can do.” Actress

I’m not dubstep either so I never came up with that lot. Kode9, really. But even our relationship is weird musically because he was never really into techno. He was into jungle and drum and bass, and then obviously going into 2-step. But he has a slight aversion to techno but [laughs] he did like what it was I did and he obviously liked Drexciya. It’s just interesting how certain music changes people’s minds or gets them interested again in a certain sound. That’s what someone said to me recently, that they liked my music but what’s it’s done more for them is got back into searching for music that’s slightly different.

As people who are interested in music we’re very aware of how important Detroit techno is but when you look back what they doing was really radical.

Actress: Here’s a question for you, right. Okay, maybe one of the biggest records of all time from Detroit – Inner City’s Good Life by Kevin Saunderson, and any of Derrick May’s classics – would they be as successful now as it was then? We’re talking about records that were probably in the millions but would they still have the same impact now as they did then?

I think we’re in different times. I have an attachment to those records so I’d like to say that they would…but we’re in a different space and time. I don’t know.

Actress: I think the reality is that they would still have a big impact.

If we’d never heard them before.

Actress: Exactly.

That’s the thing – if we hadn’t heard them, then yes absolutely. But if we’d heard something similar to them I don’t know that they would have the same impact. Because even though everyone likes to pretend that we’re in these post-modern times, we’re still so caught up in modernity. We are now even more than then obsessed with new, new, new.

Actress: I just imagine the time then – and it is about time, you’re totally right. And this is also about the speed of things – technology was still really developing then. The 303 was getting chucked away by pop guys who didn’t find any use for it because they had the bass guitar and whatever so these guys were picking up this bit of equipment. So it becomes about technology, the evolution of technology, and what it is you can do with it. That for me is what it’s all about – the wonderment. The wonderment of what sound can do. It’s wow, that just happened. That’s so cool. It’s quite childish still.

That’s important.

Actress: Yeah, it is. It keeps me interested. There’s so much music now, so much information out there. It’s inevitable that things become blurred. For me, that’s the position – or it becomes extremely sparse. Maybe people aren’t ready for it now but I think the closed off nature of it may at a later point in the future be more regarded.

With ‘R.I.P.’?

Actress: Probably one or two tracks off ‘R.I.P.’. Probably more the stuff I was doing on the 12”s before hand, the static bleeps and stuff, that’s what I find interesting.

I really enjoyed your Tate set – it really reflected Kusama’s art.

Actress: I really enjoyed it. They asked me to do an hour and I thought that was probably too long but nevertheless… I love creating landscapes. Performing that, I’ll remember that for a long time. I was happy with how people received it as well. It was cool. I’m pleased people can enjoy sounds in that sort of setting and I’m really pleased that an establishment like the Tate is prepared to do something like that as well. It was good, thank you.

What’s ‘Ghettoville’ sounding like?

Actress: I’ve done a load of tracks so at this stage I’m kind of listening through to stuff and trying to determine the vibe I guess. At the same time trying to determine the quality, and being quite ruthless about it – if I don’t like something I don’t leave it on the computer, I get rid of it. I do that – I like to purge, I don’t like to hold on to stuff. It’s meant to be a sequel as well. This is what I’ve mouthed off about anyway. Fuck! I’ve already said this but I’m already thinking maybe I could go in that direction…

You can do what you want.

Actress: I can.

It’s got to be what you feel…

Actress: I don’t want to be indulgent. You’ve got to set parameters for yourself, set certain boundaries. You’ve got to know your limits as well, and try and push those limits. At this current juncture when music is constantly on my mind – at different times I’ve almost been climbing out of a hole – [looking around] it’s a bit more cubed for me, it’s a bit more white wall-y. To be honest with you, the main thing that’s sprung to mind is that I’m in the city now – the city is my backdrop. It’s quite ghetto, the city. The sort of business that goes down. I quite like the idea of not being so obvious about it, not so obviously fucking gunshots and wailing snares. It’s always the angle for me, where’s the opening, and then consider the tracks: that’s totally missed the boat, that should have gone out with the first ‘Hazyville’ and then move on to the next one. If there’s a foundation there then I’ll try and make music off of it. If I don’t feel like there’s a foundation there then it’s about starting to experiment in the studio, creating a new palette. The ideas are already there you see, the backdrop of the city.

There’s a lot of people who will sit down and make an album, all the ideas are clearly mapped out in their head, compositionally they’re all down. I do compose my tracks but it’s all like [reaches for notebook and leafs through it] …this is my idea of composing – sketching stuff, drawing different images, write different stuff. All this sort of shit, palm trees, snake…this becomes the composition. At a certain moment of time, it becomes, in that current state when I’ve probably had the right amount of weed and I’m in just about the right time and I have a pencil – I have a pencil to hand, for fuck’s sake! Amazing! [laughs] – okay, it becomes like that. So yeah, it’s just the evolving process. I do notations very scrappily. There is a process going on but it suits my philosophy.

Sounds like ‘Ghettoville’s going to be the life after the death?

Actress: Ha!

Because you’re in the city.

Actress: Yeah, exactly!

Honest Jon’s release Actress ‘R.I.P.’ on 23rd April 2012 (buy it here)

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