Tim Exile is one of a rare breed of producers in the electronic music scene who not only understands where the music has been, but has a driving urge to explore where the music can go. He has gone from toning down his eccentric DnB tracks to going full on, balls to the wall and not apologizing for it at all. He has created software to help expand on the live DJ experience, turning the art of mixing tracks into a free-form, hands-on collage of sound and personality. He released the critically acclaimed Pro Agonist last year, and now introduced us to the Gabba Lounge. We got the chance to bug him about his past, his present, and a peek into his workings... pull up a chair.
khal: Some people only know you from your recent string of releases, from your output on Evol Intent, Frequency right up to your Planet Mu excursions. You actually had quite a few releases out on Moving Shadow and Beta as well. Were you content putting out “safe” (or as safe as you can get) DnB tracks on those labels? Is that something you might get to in the future? Why or why not?
Tim Exile: For a short while I was yes. Although my first single on Beta (Fatal Exception) was actually pretty extreme for the time. John did ask me to tone it down a bit. From then on John encouraged me to keep other singles a bit more down the beaten track… same as Shadow, and I followed suit. There was a time when I regretted this, but I don’t now. Holding back has forced me into a very critical way of listening when I do let rip. There’s so much electronica out there now that ‘lets rip’ and is very mangled but I think a lot of it lacks fidelity… not necessarily production fidelity, but musical fidelity. I’ve always had a tension between wanting to make accessible music and wanting to make much more personal, less accessible music. There are merits for me and the listener in both. I may or may not return to ‘safe’ dnb. I can never seem to predict what my next musical whim is going to be. At the moment it’s tweaked out pop.
khal: You’ve had a critically acclaimed album, Pro Agonist, and your live shows have become an experimental treat to many heads across the globe. What made you decide to turn your live show into the Tim Exile’s Nuisance Gabbaret Lounge album?
Tim Exile: It made sense. I wasn’t really writing much in the studio at the time. It seemed so laborious after I’d made a machine which allowed me to improvise. The stuff I was making in the studio seemed to lose colour for me in comparison to the vibrant life I was leading travelling around and improvising on stage. It had to go down on plastic in some form. I realise there was no point trying to fight Pro Agonist with another Pro Agonist so I did something totally different. I think this is the best way to keep yourself alive as an artist.
khal: How much of your time is spent programming new and interesting programs/patches for Native Instruments and the other outfits you do work for? Is there anything new you are trying to accomplish that you’d like to share?
Tim Exile: It depends on what’s going on at the time. I’ve been doing the odd bit of sound design & programming for NI recently. Sometimes I don’t touch any programming for a while. I programmed the Bass Boxing game for Glade Festival during the summer. Earlier this year I spent weeks making live machine mk2. It turned out to be a little beyond Reaktor’s capabilities and drove me close to career-killing RSI so I had to downsize. I’m just about to get back into incorporating the progress I made on it into a new live show. It’d be nice to be able to programme in a more powerful language so I really can make the tools I want to, but I’d need a second life to do that. Right now I’m young and need to be a little more frivolous. For the time being I’ve accepted that the tools I want to use don’t exist, and that I don’t have the time or expertise to make them.
khal: When I’ve heard your live performances, I hear you mix in some very familiar tunes, like tracks by Krust and others, into your beautiful chaos. What are some tracks that you always keep in your PC to throw in and manipulate in your sets?
Tim Exile: I don’t know most of them. They just have random file names. I don’t even know who wrote them. Apart from the obvious ones of course…
khal: You don’t just produce DnB and fuck with programs, though. In reading up on you, as well as listening to Pro Agonist, you also produce breakbeat, house, and other types of music. Are there any non-DnB releases out there that people can check out, past or present?
Tim Exile: There are a few errors in the discogs.com discog actually… a couple of breaks tracks that I didn’t write. There’s a techno release that’s worth checking out though on Mosquito the ‘Hanzo Steel Cuts’ EP, if you can find it. The label’s stopped and the distro’s gone down the pan though, so you’ll be pretty lucky to find a hard copy! You can download it from bleep.com I believe. I have a bunch of tracks of lots of different styles on BMG production music compilations as well but you can’t buy these commercially. They’ve been used all over the world on TV though which is quite interesting to see when the PRS statement comes through. One of my tracks has been used loads on Newsround apparently.
khal: Your website mentions something about “Gabba Boxing”… what is this and where did it come from?
Tim Exile: It’s boxing with boxing gloves that trigger gabba kicks. It’s now changed name to Bass Boxing. It debuted at Glade Festival in July this year. There’s a mini documentary about it forthcoming on the Native Instruments website which will explain it in greater detail than I have time to go into here, not unlike the one about my live patch which appeared about this time last year.
khal: I’m also reading that you have a Gabbaret Lounge radio show forthcoming. What made you want to start your own radio show? Are there any surprises you have in store for the listeners? How can people check it out?
Tim Exile: I did the first one for Resonance FM in
khal: When looking at the electronic music scene, many see you as a brilliant musical mind that is out there really doing some forward thinking things, technology wise. What would you like to be remembered for when this is all said and done?
Tim Exile: I think it’s up to people to remember me for what they want to in an age of unfettered media. I’m acutely aware of how impossible it is to dictate to people what they should think or remember about what you do. It’s very healthy that way. If artists had complete control not just of their work but the way people reacted to and interpreted it we’d all go insane. It’s hard enough keeping a sane mind manipulating sounds… attempts at manipulating public opinion could send me over the edge. I’ll leave that to the press. In ideal world everyone would remember me for everything I do being amazing but that’s just childish and unrealistic.
khal: Out of all of the tracks you’ve produced that have been released, which one/ones would you consider your best, or your favorites? Why?
Tim Exile: The most perfect and detailed piece that’s seen the light of day is called Emergence. It was on a free CD of competition shortlists for the 2003 Jeu de Temps composition competition released jointly between Sonic Arts Network and some Canadian organisation. A track called Peristalt on the Hanzo Steel Cuts EP is a close second. Soulwise Slime on Pro Agonist is no 1, as is a track called There’s Nothing Left Of Me But Her And This which was released recently on Si Begg’s Noodles label.
khal: You mentioned in your Q&A on DOA’s “The Grid” that there is a lot of “turd polishing” going on in DnB, in terms of producers wanting their tunes to sound engineered perfectly, all the while losing something in the creativity and feeling. With each passing year, this trend seems to get worse. Do you think the scene will ever get out of that mode?
Tim Exile: I don’t really know much about the scene these days as I’m pretty distant from it, but from an outside point of view it seems to have cemented itself in its own bunker away from outside influence. If this is the case its unlikely to offer a fertile ground for invention if people who make it only consume the excrement of others. It’s probably a slightly naïve view though as it’s impossible to police the fringes. Some new ideas will undoubtedly leek in through the back door.
khal: You seem to tour a lot, whether it’s a club night or a big festival. What setting is your most favorite, something massively huge or a more intimate setting?
Tim Exile: I used to prefer the intimate settings as it’s easier to get a rapport going with the crowd in a small venue, but as I’ve got more confident and been playing to bigger crowds I’m beginning to enjoy the challenge of connecting with them more. The idea of playing to 1000 now really appeals to me. You need to be way more theatrical which is great fun. It really appeals to my attention-seeking nature.
khal: Where do you see yourself, music wise, in the next couple of years?
Tim Exile: I’m never sure what I’m going to want to do next, but at the moment I’m into writing songs and singing, with tweaked out production. There’ll be a bit more of that I’d imagine. I also want to work on some crazy stage shows, possibly working with other musicians.
khal: Do you have any tips for budding producers or DJs out there?
Tim Exile: Be careful who you listen to. Make yourself the person you listen to most. Keep at it, don’t lose hope. Don’t try to be original, if you’re an original thinker it’ll just happen. Don’t disregard ideas because you don’t they they’ll work or they’re not allowed. Don’t be bound by your roots. Don’t get a day job.
We would like to thank Tim for answering our questions. Check out more info on him below...
here is a clip from Tim performing live at alt ctrl, circa June 2005: