INTERVIEW: TOMMY CREEP

Tommy Creep is a modular artist who I feel I can relate to a bit more than most due to his darker take on the art of modular synth based music as well as introducing elements of the punk and metal culture into this world.

I stumbled upon his music by pure chance as I often do and discovered someone who seems to work in ways very similar to myself as well as holding on the DIY ideals of yesteryear that so many seem to have traded in for the conveniency of the digital era.

Tommy isn`t just a musican, he`s a true artist. Creator of the zine Black Panels Only and pioneering the patch blind panel I just had to talk to the guy and do what I can to spread the word as it were.

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How did you discover modular synths and what attracted you to it?

I got into electronic music and synths through the Game Boy music/chiptune scene. Between bands, I was looking for a way to create and perform solo that didn’t involve an acoustic guitar and saw videos of people performing live with just a Game Boy through a PA and loved the simplicity and anti-music feel of it. Eventually I got into hardware synths and modular always seemed like the ultimate end-goal. Being able to choose whatever modules appeal to you and create a unique system that feels really personal was one of the main attractions, I don’t think you can really achieve that in the same way with other synths. I’ve since sold all my other synths to buy more modules, I still have my Game Boys though!

Your music is “inspired by horror and the occult” how exactly do these things influence your work, are you a practitioner of any spiritual path?

I spent years playing in horrorpunk bands, where lyrically everything was about horror but musically it wasn’t really different from any other punk. Since getting into electronic music, i’ve focussed on trying to make music that creates the images that the lyrics used to. I’m not a spiritual person at all, for me it’s more about trying to create an atmosphere in the music that evokes a sense of unease and curiosity.  I enjoy listening to music by artists for whom their spirituality and ritual is a big part of the music they make but I also think immersive music can provide a similar response even if you don’t hold any particular beliefs yourself.

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You create the zine “Black Panels Only” you`re about to release the second issue, what drove you to starting this?

I wanted to cover Eurorack but from a different perspective and show some appreciation for some of the darker-themed synth-makers and artists out there and i’d always wanted to make a zine, I love the creativity in working on page layouts and designing for print. Also some great A5 zines have come out over the past few years, like Becoming the Forest, Hellebore and Weird Walk that served as great inspiration.

Why do black panels look so superior?

I think it just creates a totally different feel overall. A completely silver-panelled system looks cool too, with a more scientific, evil lab vibe but I think the black panels make the graphics pop more and suit better suit some of the more out-there designs and noisier modules.

What do you think is the ideal setting to listen to your music? Paint us a picture.

I’m lucky to live in Bristol, where we’ve got access to some really cool old churches and less-typical venues that let us put on gigs. The medieval stonework looks amazing lit up and creates a great contrast with the electronic instruments. That’s the ideal setting for the music, it turns it into an immersive experience, the audience doesn’t have to work as hard to picture a dungeon or an old castle when you’re halfway there already. Listening at home- candles and incense help- the music at the moment is fairly minimal, so it really benefits from some other factors to accentuate the ritualistic atmosphere.

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Are you fully modular based or do you include other hardware/software in your compositions?

I do everything in the modular, then just record the stereo output straight into a digital recorder. Something about doing everything in one-take, with no overdubs feels more authentic to me, but i’m not a perfectionist at all so I can live with little mistakes and imperfections that arise from doing it that way.

What inspires your song titles?

Usually after i’ve finished a release i’ll spend a day listening back to the tracks and researching the themes that inspired them, keeping an eye out for phrases that fit. The last two tapes, The Search for the Sulphurous Well and A Plane of Deprivation, explore concepts of death and hell in various cultures/spiritualities and literature.

You have a Black Panels Only patch which doubles as a blind panel, what gave you the idea to do this and how was the response?

I wanted to make a blind panel but don’t know anything about CAD software, so was trying to think of other materials you could make one out of- my first idea was a panel-sized sticker with corner holes, so it could be used as a blank or as a sticker, but I figured it’d probably be too flimsy. A patch seemed like a fun idea, if it would work, it fits with the black-metal/punk aesthetic of the zine and I wanted to bring some of that culture to the Eurorack scene. I think it works pretty well, it’s just a bit of a pain to screw in as they’re not at all rigid. Haven’t seen anyone actually sew one onto a vest jacket yet but I hope that happens at some point!

What`s next? Any plans for the future or are things just too dim to think there even is a future?

BPO Issue 2 is out within the next couple of weeks, along with a restock of Issue 1, then Issue 3 will be the Autumn/Samhain issue so i’ve got some really cool ideas for that. Outside of the zine, i’m just enjoying making noise on the modular for now and experimenting with improvising sets direct to tape and will get gigging again as soon that becomes possible.

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The space below is for you to use however you wish, shout outs, leave a message, music recommendations or whatever else you want to say.

Check out Blood & Dust who featured in Issue 1 – they’re an awesome folk horror duo combining modular, cello and field recordings in an incredible way. They’ve got a few tracks online now and an album coming out very soon.

Shout out to Serpens Modular, Error Instruments and ERD for making some of my favourite modules and inspiring me to make the zine in the first place!

Zines and tapes available via http://www.tommycreep.co.uk/

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