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Spotlight: Akin

Spotlight: Akin
Jack Smith

Talk about hit the ground running: Samwell James aka. Akin has just released on R&S‘ prestigious sister-label Apollo with only a handful of releases under his belt. A sound that undermines his relative newcomer status, and one that channels the recent resurgence in ‘future garage’ for lack of a less generic umbrella term – his latest Ghost Orchid EP is a wonderfully explorative six-track excursion, full of progressive and atmospheric textures, and a perfect foil for label boss Renaat’s love for mellow, musical electronica… We sat down with Samwell for his ever interview [pleasure!] to talk Ghost Orchid, studio setup, family influences, and future music.


Greetings Akin! How’s life treating you right about now?

Hi Jack. Great thanks! To be honest, I feel completely honoured and humbled that my music has found a home in Apollo Records and with such a talented family of artists; this is a very proud moment in time for me.


Your debut EP on Apollo is due for release at the end of August; a continuation of the textured, ambient electronica upon which you have made your name so far. Talk us through the process of creation a little… your studio setup, working relationship with 3rdeye etc.

My working relationship with 3redeye stemmed from when we met in Byron Bay, Australia a few years ago. He was my lecturer and mentor throughout my audio degree at SAE. He pretty much taught me the fundamentals of production (with a few Jedi tricks sprinkled on top!) We kept in contact after I graduated and he is an all round bad man. We still send tracks back and forth for critiquing.

In terms of my setup; I have a humble studio of a laptop, monitors, midi keyboard, dual tape-deck, a turntable for sampling and a few guitar pedals. I usually start off with an organic sound source, something harmonically rich like a guitar, piano, or wind instrument and resample the hell out of it! I re-pitch, change start points and play with reverbs and delays in Ableton’s sampler. I then tap out the BPM that feels right and then start jamming some drums down. If my head’s not bopping or it doesn’t revoke an emotional response, it gets thrown in the “Graveyard” folder. Believe me there’s a few dusty projects down there!


Where would you say your early musical influences lie? If you could pinpoint any particular song, artist, album or experience that has had a direct impact on your music, what would it be and why?

It would have to be my dad. He used to commandeer the tape player in the car when I was younger and on long journeys it would be Pink Floyd for three hours straight, with a bit of Brian Eno thrown in here and there. Pretty trippy stuff to listen to now, let alone when you’re like twelve years old.

Also my younger brother has been a big influence on me. He runs his own label called Artful Division whilst holding down a full time job and still has time to produce his own music. He has some crazy work ethic. He didn’t even study music and still makes better music than I do! (Well almost.)


Would you say at this early stage of your career that you are hitting your creative peak? Are you happy with your productive output in 2014?

I don’t think I’ll ever know when I’ve reached my peak, but I’m happy with where my music is at and where it is going. I know I’ll always need a creative outlet to express myself and for me that is music. I intend to be making music with my grandchildren or until I can’t hear anymore! I’m only 600 hours into my 10,000 hours of practice, so there is always space to evolve.


What are your top three production ‘golden rules’ and why?

I believe rules are kind of a creative restriction. Indigo (Liam Blackburn) posted this quote by Vladislav Delay on his wall quite recently, which I whole hearted believe in:

“For an up and coming artist, I would say forget everything you have read about music making in the last ten years, forget about the gear and especially all the software made in the last ten years, don’t listen to any of the music made in the past ten years, don’t read any music blog ever again, go somewhere and isolate yourself from the civilization for a while, study music history, study art history, general history, forget everything you’ve learnt/read/studied, learn from nature as much as you can. Then go make some music you actually yourself relate to and which comes from yourself.”


What’s next for Akin, on both a personal and professional level?

There are several things flowing for me at moment and I’m involved in a few collaborative projects. I have a downbeat ambient project going with my good friend Sker under our guise Opeik. We actually have a track coming out on a compilation called “After The Rain” by Slime Recordings. There are a few other projects in the pipeline, including collaborations with 3rdeye, Sieren and Heden.

On a personal one I’m still exploring the sights and sounds in my new home of Bristol and when I get the chance travelling with my girlfriend.


And finally, what’s the one Urban Essential you couldn’t live without?

Ice cold filtered water, the life bringer.


Akin – Ghost Orchid EP is out now on Apollo Records. Grab your copy via Boomkat.