Interview: Q&A with Addictive TV – Feeding A Global Sounds Addiction (April 2022)
It was over 20 years ago that the sonic video wizards known as Addictive TV started to challenge the music world, hinting at new meanings, suggesting new formats and cultivating new multimedia languages.
It was the late 1990s when the London-based audiovisual collective, launched by digital artist and producer Graham Daniels, embarked on an adventure which brought them to travel the music world far and wide, from working with Hollywood studios to collaborating with hundreds of musicians on the far-reaching Orchestra of Samples project; Addictive TV’s creative vein is still far from draining.
A clear example is Plugged,a music initiative launched by the artists with fellow east-end producer Rob Parton four years ago, whose next iteration takes place May 5th at Walthamstow Trades Hall in North-East London exploring global beats and musical fusions featuring Iranian electronic visionary artist Pouya Ehsaei. Loyal to Addictive TV’s participatory and inclusive credo, Plugged also holds workshops, jams and events “where music makers can meet, learn and play together” offering artists, educators and young people interested in making music both opportunities and a stage where they can get together to play, experiment and collaborate.
We wanted to know more about all things Addictive TV, so we reached out via email to Graham for an all-embracing Q&A, touching on the Orchestra of Samples experience and ending with the live Plugged event in Walthamstow.
Addictive TV and Orchestra of Samples are two original as well as remarkable music and cultural projects. Can you explain to us, in a few words, how they came about and briefly retrace their stories?
Addictive TV is our artist name, and for over 20 years we’ve been known for our audiovisual sampling work, from music mashups to film remixes. Back in the day, when YouTube first started, many of the major Hollywood film studios got us to remix their new releases to create alternative trailers for movies including Iron Man and Fast & Furious. This is what our live shows were all about, like putting into a blender lots of movies, TV and music, everything from Star Trek to the Brazilian film City of God, and from Stevie Wonder to Adele, all very dynamic and crazy shows.
This way of putting together disparate elements led directly to Orchestra of Samples. We were travelling and performing so much, we decided to record and film local musicians everywhere we went, slowly building our own archive of recordings to sample from, and we’ve now done ‘pop up’ recording sessions with about 300 musicians in around 30 countries.
How do the two projects integrate with and influence each other?
Although these two shows follow the same methodology of sampling and both integrate a video element, they don’t relate as they’re quite different in their subject matters; one being very pop culture based and the other being more about connecting cultures via musical instruments. We have occasionally performed both at the same festivals, but always separately.
We know that as live artists, Addictive TV as a concept started in the late 90s. Since then, the music world has changed profoundly. How do you feel about the decades spent in music and what are the main changes/developments that have shaped your work?
We were totally inspired by the likes of Emergency Broadcast Network from the States, and started performing in the late 90s when technology was allowing us to integrate live video. Over the years, we’ve worked closely with a number of tech companies testing new ways of performing AV, such as Pioneer’s DVD turntables back in the early 2000s, then Roland’s visual synthesiser and in the last decade Native Instruments with a special version of their Traktor software. So each of these definitely shaped the way we perform! On the music front, probably the biggest change I’ve seen is a much more culturally connected world, most probably helped enormously by streaming – despite that this actual format doesn’t always help individual artists.
Your art goes far beyond the music borders and crosses over in the visual ones. How do the two worlds interact with each other and how do you employ the two media to express your creativity?
Addictive TV has always been fascinated by AV, where images are musically very connected to sound – there’s something quite mesmerising and hypnotic about it, especially when working with loops. Our work can be quite intense, how the music is created from the sounds you’re seeing in the images – from our AV movie remixes where rhythmic cut-up synths might actually be Mr Spock firing a phaser in classic 60s Star Trek to Orchestra of Samples where musicians are playing obscure rare instruments you’ve not seen before and are sampled and blended with one another. With the video element, there is a stronger connection with the sampled musicians, a better appreciation of their artistry and at times their culture, than if it was just audio samples alone.
The Orchestra of Samples can be described as a universal musical communion. How hard was it to continue the idea in these Covid times?
Well, the first Covid lockdown gave us plenty of time to create new tracks, as after 12 years our archive is now huge and there’s still so many musicians not sampled. And with the pandemic making it impossible to travel, and all our gigs abroad cancelled we couldn’t film and record anywhere except in the UK, so that’s what we did. When we weren’t in lockdowns, we recorded musicians, and were fortunate enough to receive some Arts Council funding to do this, and we filmed some great sessions, particularly in Manchester and London.
Throughout these “Addictive years”, you have worked with hundreds, if not thousands of musicians from all over the world. Is there any artist in particular who had and maybe is still having a more distinct impact on the Orchestra of Samples project and the way you make music?
It’s the combination of all the musicians that makes the project so unique and captivating. Some musicians who also push boundaries themselves with their music totally understood the concept behind Orchestra of Samples, and they gave us really varied improvisations to sample from. For instance, British percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie or Brazilian percussion group Patubatê, both who appear in a number of tracks because of this. Others played particular instruments with such a distinctive sound that we composed a whole track around them, such as the hang drum or the single string ribab from Morocco.
On the other hand, are there any musicians who have never been part of the Orchestra of Samples and you would love to work with in the future?
We have a very long list of musicians and instruments we’d like to film! The project has been growing organically and every year more are included. We’re currently talking with a Canadian arts producer about having a residency and recording indigenous musicians there, but there are also places we’d like to visit that have rich musical roots, such as South Africa or Cuba, and there are also instruments we’d like to record such as the Theremin.
How do you choose or meet the Orchestra of Samples musicians and what do you look for when you start a new collaboration?
There are so many different ways we get to meet all the musicians, through friends or recommendations from festivals we’re performing at. We also do a lot of research and Francoise Lamy, who produces the project, has created valuable resources and a great network. We’re always interested in unusual and traditional instruments, but we do also include more conventional instruments like the piano, guitar or drums. We’ve also recorded a number of musicians who recycle junk into instruments, which always adds a quirky dimension.
How does the creative process between the members of the team work?
There’s only a few of us creating it all; myself, Michael Neo and Stephen ‘Morf’ Hollands – and previously Mark Vidler – and it always starts with going through the samples, looking for a lead instrument in a track – finding loops and creating melodies from the snippets. Then trying to find short samples of a matching instrument in key and tempo to go with the first and so on, all whilst composing the samples into an arrangement. We also always have to keep an eye on the connected video footage of the audio we’re sampling too, making sure it works and that it tells a ‘visual story’ as such. We usually also do the video edit at the same time as audio composition.
Despite the fact you’ve travelled extensively with Orchestra of Samples, playing and recording all over the world, its roots are firmly anchored in the London soil. What’s your relationship with the city and its music scene? Is there any area you love, or you find more inspiring than others?
I’m from London, I was born here in the East End and still love it, that’s why I still live here. London is like no other city I’ve ever been to. I’m not sure how much of an actual relationship we have with its music scene though, what we do is very different to most bands, electronic acts or even DJs – so I’d actually say we’re not necessarily part of any particular London music scene and so, believe it or not, we don’t often perform in London! So May 5th will be a rare treat, and the first time performing the show in Walthamstow!
What can you tell us about your latest initiative called Plugged?
Plugged was set-up by Addictive TV’s manager Francoise Lamy in partnership with music producer Rob Parton; we all live in east London in Waltham Forest and wanted to run regular music events to showcase emerging artists and those doing interesting work with technology; we run nights, streaming sessions and occasionally workshops.
As you already anticipated, in a few weeks’ time, you will be performing in Walthamstow together with Iranian electronic wizard Pouya Ehsaei and his project Parasang. Can you tell us what to expect on the night?
We went to see Pouya perform at Grow in Hackney Wick, the fantastic venue space on the canal there, and afterwards got chatting and it turned out he’d seen us perform Orchestra of Samples at WOMAD a few years ago and loved what we’re doing! So we thought, let’s put on a night about electronic music, blending sounds from around the world with both of us! Parasang is an improvised performance featuring different musicians each time, and they’re all from London but come from different musical and cultural backgrounds; for the event on the 5th May, Pouya is performing with two fantastic guests, the award-winning trumpet player Laura Jurd and Ghanaian-born percussion master Afla Sackey. With Orchestra of Samples, we also invite guest musicians and our very special guest this time is singer-songwriter Plumm, who we discovered via one of our Plugged streams, but also EWI – Electronic Wind Instrument – player František Holčík and the wonderful percussionist Michael Forde. We’ll also be bringing in a massive cinema screen, throwing on there lots of sampled musicians from all corners of the world!
What are the future plans for Orchestra of Samples?
I’d have to say it’s to perform it more, taking the show to places we’ve not presented it. Right now, I’m writing this in my hotel room in India where we’re performing Orchestra of Samples for the first time here. We also want to release a second album of the project.
We usually close our interviews with a “tricky” question… How would you introduce your project to someone who never listened to it before?
For Orchestra of Samples, I’d say imagine a huge archive of diverse musical instruments recorded around the world, all sampled and seamlessly spliced together to create new music!
Plugged next episode will go on stage at the Walthamstow Trades Hall on Thursday the 5th of May featuring Pouya Ehsaei‘s Parasangs (with Laura Jurd and Afla Sackey) and Addictive TV‘s Orchestra of Samples (with special guests Plumm, František Holčík and Michael ‘Fordey’ Forde) and Moormur.
Find more info HERE, while you can get your ticket(s) following for the event THIS LINK
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