SOMATIC RESPONSES :: Electronic deconstruction

Robert Galbraith exchanges a few words with John and Paul Healy, also known as Somatic Responses, and engages thoughts on composition process’, the art of collaborating together, software, hardware, vinyl vs. digital, and their past, current and future projects.

Somatic Responses

(November 2010) SOMATIC RESPONSES are a name that should need no introduction to fans of electronic music. Having released hundreds of tracks of over a myriad of labels, they have carved out a unique sound that is distinctly their own. While they may dabble in current genres, the output often bears little resemblance to what others may call breakcore, IDM, or dubstep. In the last year they have released a full length on Hymen, three digital EP’s and remix for Klangstabil. Constantly working on new tracks, John and Paul Healy slowed down just long to answer a few questions for Igloo.

Igloo :: What is your composition process like?

Somatic Responses :: The process usually starts with an idea of the type of track we want to write (it doesn’t always end as it’s started of course, you have to let the sound direct you as well), i.e dubstep or dnb which will give a strong indication of tempo & potential drum sounds. I (J) would normally start with beat patterns then work basslines, synthpads, etc around the beats – in a fairly basic structure. I prefer to establish a groove of a break and then progress that structure during the track by manipulating the percussion or adding other layers of percussion. We mostly use midi instruments over samples, however, there’s no harm in using a breakbeat here and there – it’s extremely difficult to replicate some of those old breaks via midi!

Sounds are then manipulated via effects and mixdowns (very important part of the process) and again developed & grown as the track progresses. A lot of time is taken on each individual sound – it has to be perfect and hopefully unique whilst still retaining our “style.”

Igloo :: Do you do most of your work together or are there “John tracks” and “Paul tracks”?

Somatic Responses :: We write individually but still work together on projects depending on each others availability. When we work separately, we exchange files / mix-downs extremely regularly to gain feedback from the other and make any changes that are required. It’s a very open and honest process which is essential for us and is probably why we still enjoy writing music together. Paul is more than willing to tell me if an idea of mine is shit –basically there are some “Paul” and “John” tracks but only we know which tracks are down to who!

Igloo :: I’ve read that Giauzar was your first album composed completely using software based tools. Are you still using a software only setup?

Somatic Responses :: The process is now 100% digital –that’s the biggest change to our music making and it still amazing us the things we can now do. Especially since we both flipped to Logic – it’s much quicker / easier and better in sound quality. We also find that Logic is far more stable than what we used to use (Cubase) and it allows us to push the envelope even further.

Additionally, some of the synths that you can buy for Logic are just simply insane – I loved the Nord Modular; it was everything to me, but, the sonic potential available today simply outclasses some of the hardware synths (if only there was a plugin synth version of the Nord Modular…HINT HINT). PLUS you don’t kill yourself carrying a couple of laptops compared to a studio of synths!

Igloo :: You have recently done some self released digital EP’s. How do you feel about the digital format as opposed to a physical product?

Somatic Responses :: We both grew up with vinyl and it will always be close to our hearts; if we were being honest, it would be great if each release could be on vinyl (coloured of course). However, NO ONE plays vinyl anymore, clubs rarely have decks in them, just CDJ’s and therefore digital IS the new vinyl with one very big difference – no one wants to pay for a digital release, even if the sound quality is better and the overall price is a fraction of vinyl.

We’ve grow to just accept the digital format, it’s the “current” go-to format, it’s like vinyl will be superseded in time so there’s no real point in pining for a lost age of vinyl.

Which is one of the reasons why we decided to start our own label, Photon Emissions. It’s something we’d discussed for years, but just never had the time to get the project starting as a vinyl release. The digital format / set up has allowed us to release material much quicker at a fraction of the price for our listeners – it has also allowed us to release anything we want.

Clone Aware

Igloo :: Your album Mercury was a free digital release. What prompted you to release a whole album at no charge?

Somatic Responses :: The idea of a free / digital release really excited us as it was something we’d never done and it felt like it was the right time to do it. We’re both really proud of this release as we didn’t compromise on the sound quality or content. To be honest, I could see us releasing more free material in the future as we’re not in this scene for the money, just the art.

Igloo :: I’ve come across a few Somatic Responses videos on the web including “Whatever” and “Adverts.” How did those come about?

Somatic Responses :: None of these videos have had any input or clearance from us. They are usually art students or fans who want to use our sound. It’s a nice compliment and there are some really good videos out there, it’s just as well these people have been inspired to do these videos as otherwise there would be nothing visual out there to represent our sound. We are more than happy for people to use our music in this capacity, hopefully one day we will have time to venture into this medium or at least have an input.

Igloo :: What are you currently working on?

Somatic Responses :: As ever, we’re writing all of the time. There’s a new digital release on Acroplane named Clone Aware (to be released late November 2010) and loads of new material on Photon Emissions. There’s also a few other vinyl projects coming up but we’d like to keep that under wraps at the moment as it’s going to be something very special when it happens. We also have around two albums worth of ambient tracks that we want to release, whether we do this ourselves or through another label is something we will decide in the very near future.

We have completed a Daedalus remix and a remix of a band called Crooked Cowboys for Phthalo Records. So far in 2010 we have released Dead Flies, PENCWNWC EP, Watching Our World Implode (Photon Emissions imprint), Neon (Hymen) and a remix for Klangstabil (“Vertraut” – Nostalgic Remix by Somatic Responses).

For more information about Somatic Responses, visit their Bandcamp website here. [Listen | Purchase]

Clone Aware is out now on Acroplane. Read the full review here.

[audio:|titles=”Hyperboyee” taken from the ‘Clone Aware’ album on Acroplane]
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