Production duo Karton have a long history of working in the studio. Churning out remixes and single releases with a frightening pace and getting love from DJs and radio stations across the globe including BBC Radio 1 and triple j, it’s surprising we’ve had to wait this long for an album. Luckily the wait is over.
Titled For All Seasons and showcasing their wide range of influences nodding to everything from breakbeat and drum and bass to dub step and hip hop, the album is a truly eclectic slice of modern dance music, if you can even call it that. Currently squirreled away and working in their next album we caught up with one half of the duo Paul Beohm to discuss the new album and the band’s approach to working as producers.
MF: So you’ve got your debut album’s release coming up; can you tell us a bit about it? What inspired it? What went into making it?
PB: Sure, we had always wanted to do an album and at one point we had a handful of tunes that we had written that we realised weren’t going to work as a single release, so we decided then to compile and work on them and see if we could come up with an album. The inspiration was to do something that represented our musical tastes and interests, which often you can’t do when putting out single releases. We toyed with the tunes for about two years, and then spent a solid six months working on it exclusively towards the end of 2009.
MF: Compared to your work in the past, how was working on this different?
PB: The main difference was we didn’t have to worry about falling into the constraints of what is required in terms of writing tunes that have an appeal to the dance floor or DJs. It gave us freedom to work with unconventional genres and structures; it also allowed us to do a lot of work with vocalists, which we had wanted to do for a while.
MF: Can you tell us about the writing process? Was it a process of collaboration through improvisation or do you guys bring ideas to each other that you then add to and work on?
PB: The roles we play in the studio differ from tune to tune, but the most common way we work would be to conceptualise the tune together before we even start writing it, just to get an idea of where it’s going to go. Then we will do some sound design and drum programming together. It’s usually at this point that the duties separate a bit with Richter then going on to work on melodies and movements; we’ll then both get down the structure together and then engineer and mix the tune both separately and individually.
MF: How did that process differ from say working on a single or an EP?
PB: The studio dynamics and process we followed when writing didn’t really change from how we would do it for singles or remixes. What the album did was probably define those processes a bit more and make us a bit more efficient in the studio.
MF: You guys do a lot of remix work; how do you approach that? Is it a case of you wanting to stay true to the song while offering a different take on it, or do you tend to use the constituent parts to create something altogether different?
PB: It really differs remix to remix. Early on we would take on any remix we got offered and some of them didn’t turn out great, either because we couldn’t come up with anything that we thought expanded onto the original or because once we sifted through the parts of the original there was nothing we wanted to use. These days we need to have an idea for what we would do in a remix the first time we listen to the original. We always try to do something different from the original and to take it somewhere unexpected, like we did with our remix of Soft Light by Duane Barry.
MF: How did working on the album or your own material compare to working on a remix?
I think we were much more precious with our own stuff. The thing about a remix is that you have something to start with, and build upon; when doing an album tune it’s a completely blank slate, which on occasion can be more daunting. Also, remixes have deadlines, which mean once you hit that date it has to be done. For the first album we didn’t have a deadline for a long time, which meant we just continued to work and change stuff continuously.
MF: What sort of equipment to you use? Do you use any instruments like guitars etc, analogue gear like samplers or synths; when or is it all done with software?
PB: These days it’s mostly all software synths. It’s much easier and quicker to get ideas down and then make changes to those ideas when it’s all inside the box. Once you start working with audio tracks it can limit what can be done, which isn’t always a bad thing, but we prefer to be able to make changes and get results instantly. Once in a while we will record a guitar or something else organic, but often we then process and chop those samples up so much it doesn’t really come across sounding like what it is.
MF: How do you think that influences your music? Would ever think about branching out and using different equipment?
PB: I think that while ever we are able to get the results we want using the setup we have we won’t change it up. That said, the option of recording lots of live instruments is something that I think would be a great experience if we ever had the means to do so.
MF: There is obviously a strong breakbeat influence in what you do, as well as touches of trance, rave, and even a bit of dubstep. When it comes to inspiration, is it a case of just constantly being inspired by what you hear, or are there set aesthetics you like to keep to?
RB: I think we are constantly being influenced by new styles, but I think we have locked down our ‘sound’ by this point so we know how to add our touch to a tune, be it breaks or dubstep or drum and bass or anything else we might write. Once in a while we might do something that just doesn’t feel right, but those occasions are pretty rare and we have got good at identifying them early on in the process.
MF: Do you ever look outside of electronic genres for inspiration, say to rock or Latin music? If so, what and if not, would you ever consider it?
RB: All the time; in all honesty neither of us really listens to a lot of dance music. More often than not I’ll be listening to hip hop or bands ranging from New Order to Crowded House to Delphic.
MF: Dance music seems in a way to be the new rock and roll, in that it borrows from what came before but works within it’s own set of rules and conventions. Also, it’s very much, along with hip hop, one of the genres that has really captured the attention of youth culture, in a way rock and roll did when it first came out. Looking across all genres, it’s evident dance music is having an influence and has inspired a lot of artists from other fields, Primal Scream for instance, but the question – where is this all going? Where do you see the future of both dance music and music in general heading in a music world where DJs like Armin Van Buren or Daft Punk are generally playing to more people than contemporary rock and pop bands? (Sorry for how long and involved this question is, feel free to skip it if it’s too ambiguous etc)
RB: That’s a good question, but unfortunately I don’t think it’s one I have an answer for. I think the thing that needs to be considered is that it’s all cyclical; one year it’s dance then it’s hip hop then it’s indie then it’s dance again.
I have enough trouble understanding the current state of the dance scene as some of what is out there and touted as popular to me is just horrible. I don’t think we have ever really concerned ourselves with where the scene is heading; if we did we wouldn’t be writing the kind of tunes we do.
MF: What do you have planned for the next few months, any shows we should be looking out for etc?
RB: At the moment we are locked down in the studio working on album number two. We got a taste with the first one and wanted to do it all again, so that should be out middle of 2011 if all goes well.
Apart from that all our shows and other general news can be found at www.facebook.com/kartonmusic
You can check Karton out at Soundcloud