Utopia – A Q&A with Andrew Tuttle

Andrew Tuttle might be more familiar as his previous artistic alter ego Anonymeye to most fans of avant garde electronica. The Australian composer and producer has been a familiar edition to Lawrence English’s Someone Good imprint as the aforementioned moniker in the past and when that Imprint went on temporary hiatus, the Anonymeye was laid to rest with it. Andrew Tuttle was still active however and resumed where his departed moniker left off, releasing new music under his given name with a cassette release on A Guide to Saints last year. He returns in 2016 with Fantasy League, a record that also sees the return of Someone Good, a label that is in many ways the perfect vehicle for Tuttle’s blend of folk electronica and pop ambience. We caught up with Andrew via email to ask him about the new album, Someone Good and working with the Banjo.

Hi Andrew. I often get emails from you about new releases via room 40, so I imagine you’re quite an integral part to the label.

Hi Mischa! I just work with Room40 as a publicist on some releases, which still keeps me pretty busy! Lawrence English is the owner and driving force between the label and does amazing work as a both a curator and a sound artist in his own right.

It must be great having Fantasy League mark the return of Someone Good. Was the intention there to mark the return of the label, or was that just a happy coincidence?

It was a happy coincidence! I gave myself a deadline of completing a new album by the end of October 2015, which really motivated me into creating something. I was looking at having the album out in time for some upcoming European touring in April/May 2016 and talked to Lawrence about possible label options. He suggested Someone Good, which was a perfect fit!

The banjo plays a distinct role on your music, and I was surprised to find how well it works against the electronic components. What is it about the characteristics of the banjo that works so well with the accompaniment?

The banjo is such an interesting instrument in that whilst it can be used as both a lead and backing instrument, the twang it has tends to bring it to the foreground. As for how it fits in with my music, I really like the dynamics and tone of the banjo. I love that it can sound so bright and jaunty and then with a slightly different tuning sound incredibly sparse and haunting. When adding various filter, delay and other effects as well as microlooping, the banjo provides some really interesting sounds, which never cease to amaze me.

It also gives the stark electronic landscape a human element. What role does instrumentation play when you sit down to create a new piece of music?

Most of the time, the tracks on my recordings come about through improvisations at my home studio. The backbone of both my recordings and live performances is the wonderful Australian software program Audiomulch. When I’m at home creating music, I’ll generally load up one of my Audiomulch software patches, pick up an instrument and see where it takes me. These sessions usually result in hours of sounds over time, some of which I’m able to then select and edit in a multi-track recorder. As well as improvising, I also do occasionally write songs/compositions on my acoustic instruments. Sometimes these make it through to albums reasonably unedited, other times I’ll incorporate improvisations and loopings to radically alter the original compositions.

You talk about a fantasy utopian environment you wanted to create with this album. What would that environment look like if it could be realised visually?

I’m not sure actually! I think I love the idea of both nature and cityscapes more than I like the reality of either. I think my fantasy utopian environment would be one where I feel instantly at home wherever I am, but one in which there’s always opportunity to explore new horizons. Maybe? In terms of a musical utopia, I do love to get lost in the moment of creation, particularly when creating music at home. Hopefully my recordings and live performances convey this without being too indulgent or contemptuous of time.

There’s a calm ambience to Fantasy League. Did you have get into a particular headspace to arrive at this music and how did your physical environment influence you?

My physical environment definitely influences me. Fantasy League was created not too long after moving into a new house in the Brisbane suburb of New Farm. It’s a really lovely house that my girlfriend and I live in, but with enough room for a dedicated studio space. I’m fortunate to work within a 15 minute walk of home, so I’ve found myself really relaxed the past year rarely having to drive or commute. The combination of that inner calm and having a house/studio space in a residential area seems to have resulted in something that reflects this.

It isn’t always easy to get in the zone to create music by any means, in between working fulltime and doing other freelance work, sometimes when it comes time to making music I really just want to relax in front of the couch rather than stare at my computer to create and edit sounds! Once I do get in the zone to create though, I fall into that headspace really quickly.

I’ll be creating my next album at a two-week residency at EMS in Stockholm in May. Being locked away in a studio with some wonderful old synths for a fortnight will most likely result in something a bit different again! There’s a couple of different ideas I’ve got in my mind already, interested to see how it will pan out.

The progressive banjo, and the guitar parts float effortlessly within these electronic ambient spaces. How did these two contrasting elements come together for you?

On a practical level, the combination of banjo and electronics can take a lot of work to fit sometimes, particularly when performing live. An open-backed banjo is such a resonant instrument, which is beautiful but challenging when I’m creating multiple loops and adding many effects… it can be a feedback nightmare at times! Getting the balance right between the acoustic instrumentation, computer processing and the synth sounds involves a fair bit of risk, but I love the reward when it works!

You suggest in the press release that Fantasy League will complete the listener as s/he completes it. How exactly do you hope the music to complete the listener?

I’m a big fan of listening to an album as a full album. I mean I’ve got the same hyperactive tastes as everyone else has now where the temptation to change songs all the times is always there, but when I’m releasing albums I’m mindful of creating something which has a thematic consistency whilst also providing a fair amount of diversity on the way.

Does this also mean there’s a narrative to the album and if so what is this story?

There’s a very loose narrative involved. A lot of the time I come up with the concept of an album after it has been created. I’m a lover of many sports, and have spent more than enough hours over time joining, starting, but not often finishing fantasy leagues, superteams, etc with friends, work colleagues and occasionally strangers.

With these things, I start out with so much energy but usually get side-tracked pretty easily. All my best intentions of approaching the league with ration instead of emotion get thrown out the window, I forget which terrible pun I selected as a username, I forget to do it for a week or two and then give up all together. There’s got to be some kind of metaphor in that for creating any music, particularly reasonably esoteric music, as a solo artist. At least my completion rate for albums is much better than those for friendly online leagues though – which is definitely a good thing.

In 2013 you decided to drop your Anonymeye moniker and make music under your given name. Did you find that after completing Fantasy league something completed in you too?

I think because Fantasy League occurred fairly naturally, in that I didn’t have any set deadlines and I completed the entire album at my home studio, that it is more of a reflection of my ongoing development as a musician and interest in the particular processes/instruments I use rather than a start of or stop to anything radical.

Having produced under your given name only twice now (I believe), do you find Andrew Tuttle the artist has a distinct voice separate from Anonymeye and how do you see it evolving in the future?

I think genre-wise, what I create as Andrew Tuttle is definitely a continuation of what I did as Anonymeye. Part of the reason I got rid of the moniker was that I wanted to mentally free myself up to be flexible to create whatever music interested me. I’ve got at least an album’s worth of music that is fairly different to what I release and perform; even if it generally isn’t of public consumption standard it is nice to feel like I can create whatever I want without being boxed in.

The other reason I got rid of the Anonymeye moniker is because it was a terrible joke pun for a project that wasn’t meant to last for more than a few shows. Three albums, several EPs and over a hundred shows in; it was well and truly time to get rid of the name. There’s still a couple of songs, pieces and motifs from that time that pop up in my ‘solo’ live performances from time to time though, because I continue to enjoy to play them.

As for the future, who knows! I’m really looking forward to two weeks of touring in Europe followed by the two week residency, have always found that travelling and the deadline impositions of residencies are really inspiring and motivating to create new music. I’ve also been toying with getting a band together to play my composed tracks. Would be looking to have two electric guitars, bass and drums for that lineup – would be great to play with no effects and minimal setup time! Whether I end up doing that, finally getting into learning Max/MSP or end up getting sucked into the vortex of more fantasy leagues though is another matter.