added: 11 Jun 2012
interviewed by: Ross Cotton
Paul Wood is a solo electronica musician who goes under the name Arc Vel. His style of performance fuses together laptop electronics with live instrumentation, in order to develop unique, melodic surprises, crafted against lounge soundscapes. After releasing a string of Eps, Arc Vel releases his debut album 'Orrery' today.
“I made the alias [Arc Vel] in 2006”, explains Paul.
“I was working on a Saturday, and I made up a Myspace while I was there. I used to work with this Italian lady, she's like the sweetest lady, but she was neurotic as hell, so I just came up a name on the spot, which was a kind of hybrid of her name. I didn't want to call It her name because she would think I was some kind of stalker!”, he jokes.
When listening to Paul's music, you'd easily mistake his sound for a band line up rather than a solo effort, and this adds great character to the mysterious and dreamy world of Arc Vel.
“I think one of the best compliments I get is that people think I am a band and not just one person”, says Paul.
However, Paul did originally begin his musical life out by playing in bands, but later opted to take his style and imagination into a personal direction.
“When you're in a band, you sometimes don't feel like you want to compromise with people”, he says.
“I enjoy doing my own music because you have complete control over it, and there's a certain amount of creativity involved in electronic music that isn't necessarily in guitar bands. I suppose it's because I used to play in bands at school, and I've been playing guitar since I was 13”, he says.
“I think you get bored of playing guitar; I think most guitarist do. I started getting more interested in actual producing, and the electronica I first became influenced from was actually through guitar bands such as Tortoise and Hood, who incorporate electronics into their music quite naturally; so it doesn't sound contrived.
“That's how I came into electronic music”, he says.
“You can use so many sounds, and I use field recordings in my music, which you cant really get away with in guitar music.”
When listening to Arc Vel, you can't help but draw comparisons to Four Tet's folktronica style of natural organic sounds, produced against man made electronics, even though Paul is completely different in developing his own unique musical language.
“Obviously Kieran Hebden is a massive influence production-wise”, admits Paul.
“If I ever make something, I always try and steer it away from sounding like Four Tet. I've always been a fan of music that's loose and has loose acoustic sounds as well as electronics, which [Kieren] does really well”, says Paul.
“Recently, I've been listening to more R&B and garage, but I think that I still take a lot of influence from guitar bands. From the past, I used to listen to Slint, and I love the way they use tension and dynamics in their music to subvert the listener. I've always tried to obtain some kind of similar unpredictability in my sound”, he says.
“I also take influence from Afrobeat and Tony Allen, which has groove. So I try and keep the precision and intricacies, as well as the looseness. I've always strived to make music that sounds good at home, where you are just relaxing.”
When performing live, Arc Vel has mesmerising, natural visuals behind the music, which complement his beautiful resonance that soothes the ears of listeners.
“All the visuals are done by me, but they are filtered from the Birmingham Library” says Paul.
“I started using visuals for my first gigs because I'm shy and didn't really want to stand on stage with people watching me; So I put some visuals together for people to watch as well. Originally I used to show underwater documentaries, because my music fits nicely with slow moving, hypnotic weird sea creatures.
“But then I thought, I'm being a bit lazy here, I'd better put a bit more effort into it, so I started cutting stuff together using visual editing programmes. “I've also started filming stuff of my own”, he says.
“I usually get quite a good response, and it draws in people who aren't that into electronic music.
“I'm quite influenced by nature, like today if you walk around Birmingham, you'll see dirty grey buildings in contrast against blue sky, and I just get inspired by stuff like that.
“If I ever get stuck in a rut with music, I'll get out on my bike and cycle in the countryside and just get inspired. I always try and keep something natural in my music, but then there's the man made electronic sound, so I try and reflect both in the visuals.”
While thinking about the comparisons between mad made and natural sounds, me and Paul both realised that Brian Eno is the greatest, most iconic artist for creating natural beauty from electronics. Nobody has ever mastered minimal delicacy as good as he has.
“[Eno's] An Ending (Ascent) is one of the most beautiful pieces of music”, says Paul.
“When I die, I want to get blasted off into space with that as the soundtrack. “That is so perfect, it's absolutely beautiful.”
From what I've heard and seen of Paul's music live, I personally expected the debut Arc Vel album Orrery to be completely instrumental, and it is..... Until you hit the penultimate track Little Bird, which holds a brilliant surprise guest appearance from vocalist Lisa Waldron. The piece quickly grasps your attention, and as soon as Lisa begins to sing, a whole new dimension to the sound of Arc Vel is opened up instantly.
“With that song, I didn't want to put it at the start of the album, because I didn't want people to think, where are the vocals on the other songs? And I didn't want to put it as the last track, because I didn't want the album to end emotionally or sad. So I put it as the penultimate track”, says Paul.
“Little Bird was a real simple folk song that Lisa had wrote, and I built the music around it. We were recording the vocals at her house with duvets over our heads because we didn't want to get the ambient room sounds. So that probably looked quite funny to watch! Lisa has a really lovely folk pure sounding voice, and I'd like to do some more work with her”, he says.
“I love electronic music and instrumental music, but then I think people sometimes want the connection with lyrics and the vocals, so I'd like to start looking in that direction at some point. At the moment, I'm looking forward to writing new tunes and I'd like to put things out more regularly than I've done in the past. I'm always torn between doing things instantaneous that work well live, or doing something that requires a bit more input.
“There's always the longevity of stuff which you have to listen to harder, and because I've been playing live recently, I feel like I want to keep the element of being challenging.”
Arc Vel's debut album Orrery is out today.
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