Interview: Craig Howell (Monoform)

Fresh word after releasing his first album on Touched Music

1. How was Monoform formed?

I originally produced under the Transit Massacre moniker which was more Dub/Dubtech influenced but wanted to move into more IDM/Electronica sound, but it wasn’t a natural transition in genres so I started it originally as a side project. Which has now grown into my main output.
My interest in electronic music stems from the early Warp releases, and a club night called Oscillate in Birmingham in the early to mid 90’s which was run by Bobby Bird and Dave Wheels from The Higher Intelligence Agency.

They had guest artists every alternate week, and I saw Autechre, A Positive Life, Pentatonik, Freeform and a wealth of other artists live as well as DJ sets from HIA which showcased the best of underground electronic music.

2. What does your pseudonym mean?

I wanted something simple and as I am a solo producer I started looking for associated words. “Mono” covering the solo element and “form” picking up the creation element. I then searched to see if the word Monoform had any additional meanings, and came across this description “Spatial fragmentation, repetitive time rhythms, constantly dense bombardment of sound, and lack of silence or reflective space” – That seemed to fit the brief nicely!

3. Why did you want to release your music on Touched?

Touched is supporting such a fantastic cause and every single penny raised goes directly to Macmillan Cancer Support – all of the artists, producers, sleeve designers and mastering guys give their tracks, time and energy free of charge (and more recently on the releases of Covert and Covert II completely anonymously). As well as hopefully raising much needed funds for the charity, to have my music on the same label and compilations as some of my musical heroes is the icing on the cakeI cant imagine any other instance where I would have a track on a compilation album alongside FSoL, Autechre, Plaid etc.

4. How did you first hear of Touched music?

I was approached my Martin Boulton (owner & creator of Touched Music) to donate a track to the Touched 3 compilation after he heard one of my tracks on a Mixlr session run by Room of Wires. After that Martin and I spoke again as I had a few tracks already penned for “Mea Culpa” which I was planning to self-release. It was a no-brainer for me to offer them to Touched in the hopes it would raise more money and awareness for the charity.

5. How do you feel about the state of electronic music at this moment in time?

I think the beauty of electronic music is it is always evolving, there’s a constant influx of new artists and producers, but the fact that artists like Autechre, B12, FSOL, AFX are still making innovative, relevant music 20-30 years later, and reaching new audiences is proof that the genre is alive and kicking.

6. When did you start making music and how has it changed to your current set up?

I studied music at school, and can play piano and the drums, but I started making electronic music properly in 2012 (using a cracked version of Reason).
These days I use FL Studio as my DAW with various soft synths and .vst plugins (Alchemy, Reaktor, Kontakt, CamelSpace etc) and on the hardware side an Arturia Mini Brute 2, and a Maschine Mikro mk 2.

7. Where do you want to be in the future with your music?

I would like to do more live performances, I have done a few so far supporting Cloud Boat (R&S Records), FJAAK (Monkeytown Records) and Soft Revolt (Fields Records), and a few gigs in Manchester for my friend John Ov3rblast, plus a few DJ sets.

8. Tell us about the creating process and the story of your new album Mea Culpa. What is the main message of it? Why is it called Mea Culpa?

It originally started out as a 4 track E.P but grew into 10 tracks, I tried to keep a balance between a soft almost melancholy feel but with flashes of darker heavier moments . As far as the “Mea Culpa” title...I’d love to wax lyrical about a hidden meaning, but in reality I just really like the phrase.

9. Is there any difference in sound between your new album and the first release Amateur Electronics?

Not massively, I guess my attention to detail and overall production has got a little better, although Amateur Electronics is less delicate sounding to Mea Culpa.

10. What sound are you looking for and want to achieve in the project?

I wanted to create an album that you could listen to quietly at home, but with enough punch to hold it’s own in a live performance. The beauty of IDM is that you can really experiment with sounds so a track starts of on one path, but often the end result is completely different to the original concept. This give you quite a lot of freedom to evolve your sound. If I was making Mea Culpa today, it would probably sound like a completely different album.

11. Tell us what you’re doing besides music?

I work in the telecoms industry which includes a lot of travel, and have a 6 year old son, so I have a limited window of opportunity to make music – Thankfully you can save as you go along (and I have the project folder of 80-100 unfinished tracks to show for it)

12. Tell us about your guest mix prepared for Data.Wave podcast.

I’m lucky enough to have been asked to do quite a few guest mixes / podcasts over the last few years. I try to build sets that flow, whilst keeping the listener in a position where they are not quite sure what’s coming next.

For this mix I have featured some established artists, some unsigned artist I have met along the way, some of my favourites from previous Touched releases (and a couple of unreleased Monoform tracks).

     Questions: Ilya Kudrin