Stephen Wilkinson is the sole member of Bibio (his musical based pseudonym) and it doesn't take a genius to realise that the man has talent almost unmatched in today's alternative, intelligent electronic scene. From his vintage, authentic sound to his new divergence into more up-beat territory, Wilkinson has reinvented and added to his distinct sound time and time again.
So we were more than just a little excited to catch up with the man and see how the world of music has treated him thus far.
Strange Glue: 2009 seems to have been a busy year for you so far, what with two full album releases on two separate labels in a matter of just six months. How are you feeling about the year so far?
Bibio: Great. Had a good response with the new album, I'm intrigued as to how previous Bibio fans will take the new sound.
SG: Vignetting The Compost was your third record and third full-length release on Mush Records, why did you decide to swap over to Warp Records for your fifth and newest record Ambivalence Avenue?
B: I also did an EP on mush called Ovals & Emeralds. I've always wanted to be on Warp, it's the label I respect most for its forward thinking and now it has the added bonus of diversity rather than just being an electronic music label. I've already read responses to my new album where people are presuming that my new sound is due to being signed to Warp, the inverse is true. The album was pretty much finished before I got signed to Warp, I think it was the new sound that got them interested. When Steve Beckett heard the track "Ambivalence Avenue", I think that was the motivation to request more material. I think that was also the fasted CD in the post I ever achieved.
SG: There was a noticeable departure in sound from Vignetting The Compost to Ambivalence Avenue. Was there a reason for the artistic change or was it more down to overall growth as a musician?
B: No conscious intention to move on, it was more of a case of doing lots of other styles of music as well as the previously recognisable Bibio sound. What happened is that I stopped treating the 'other stuff' as side projects and started to stretch the boundaries of what Bibio meant to me. I was making instrumental hip hop while I was making VTC as well as more pop stuff.
SG: Though the two records sound markedly different from one another musically, as an artist you seem to have created an almost auteur-like stance within your material. The two albums sound conflicting but they both retain a strictly Bibio feel in production and originality. How do you achieve this kind of unique attribute as an artist?
B: I don't know. It's a funny one. You know I think it's a bit of a mystery to me, I suppose it's the unique set up I use, but also my attitude towards technology and using it. I like using old analogue gear that can be used to give something a rounder more grainy sound, I spend time trying to remove clarity and sharpness as I think sometimes that can sound tasteless and boring. But a person's mark on what they do can have many factors. If my girlfriend makes a lasagne it tastes different to when I make a lasagne, but my lasagne always tastes like I've made it and hers always tastes like she's made it. I like that about people and the things they do, they're as unique as their walk or their silhouette. I suppose when people make generic music it's because they don't cherish their personality enough and want to sound like others so much that they settle for mimicry.
SG: A lot of your music seems genuinely complex to actually create, even if the end product is relatively simple in sound. Do you have a specific process that you go through to make the type of music you make?
B: Not specific. I guess I have an array of tricks I like to use, but really it's a case of not being too regimented with the approach. Be imaginative, don't let other people or technology dictate to you how music should be made. I used to work at a college and some students and teachers automatically quantize everything they play on a midi keyboard, as if that's the correct thing to do, but it's basically taking the humanity out of the playing. It's as if because the function is there, it has to be used. I don't see things like that. Kids at music college are taught to not let things go into the 'red'.
SG: It must be a pretty meticulous process to create and produce the organic and textured atmosphere that you seem to so easily forge within your music. Would you say you were a perfectionist when it comes to putting the finishing touches to a record?
B: Kind of. I'm very fussy, but the meticulousness doesn't have to be painstaking like the work of a mosaic artist. Being meticulous might be the way you hear, in detail, being observant and considerate of what you hear, so the fussiness isn't always contrived, it's allowing chance moments, even being slapdash at times.
SG: Since your debut album Fi back in 2004, Bibio has become a name that has been spoken quite highly of and you've often been compared to names such as Boards Of Canada. Do you have any reservations about comparisons or how critics and the general public perceive you?
B: Well I really admire BoC so there's certainly no insult there, but sometimes the comparisons don't seem genuine, they seem like people who make them are regurgitating other people's words. It's not too often I read a review where the writer sounds like they've actually properly listened to the music. There's certain comparisons I hate, but I won't name them because I don't wish to be disrespectful to those artists.
SG: There's been so much coverage lately pertaining to illegal downloading and file-sharing over the internet. What are your thoughts on the current legalities of music downloading? Have you felt an impact personally?
B: I hate downloading culture. I hate the mentality that musicians should work for free. It's not going to go away but people who never buy music need to realise that if they don't support artists and their labels, they may not be able to make music any more or it may lessen the quality by reducing the time musicians can work on their music. This is more the case for small underground labels, where most of the best music in the world resides. I've heard about labels and shops going out of business because of downloading illegally. I was born in the 70s so I'm still clinging to vinyl. I'm not so bothered about CDs, but I do like to own a physical copy of something I spend money on, I choose CD over mp3 albums any day, but I choose vinyl over CD. Pay for download advance promos are the biggest con, you buy the promo and then get exactly the same track two weeks later on the album making your previous purchase worthless. At least when you bought a CD or vinyl promo the track was actually still worth something when the LP came out.
SG: The media tend to blow a lot of important worldwide events out of proportion but it's clear to see that there's a lot happening politically in current times. Do you follow current affairs?
B: Hahaha I had a conversation about this last night. Current affairs... What's current affairs? The things that the small aperture of the media wish for us to know about? There's a lot going on in the world, but people who settle for newspapers and TV to educate them end up talking about the same stuff and are often conditioned by it all. I've met people who flatter themselves for 'keeping up' with current affairs, feeling that this means they care about the world. I care about the world, I care about people and the planet, I think about it all the time, I talk about it all the time, I like to try and go deep into the psychology of humanity and it's part in nature. I try to spread some kind of positivity through my philosophies and my art, albeit small. But I don't read newspapers, I don't watch TV or listen to the radio. I'm not disinterested but I like to find out things for myself rather than hearing or reading the edited opinions of media folk.
SG: Are you hitting the Festival circuit this Summer? If so, where can we see you? If not, do you plan to attend any instead of playing?
B: Haven't got any live shows plans, I'm still working on my set. I may DJ some events. I enjoyed Green Man last year until it got too muddy, but I'd rather just go camping with mates somewhere serene. Festivals are expensive, I'd rather spend my money on something else like nice whisky to drink around a campfire.
SG: So as for the rest of 2009 and the foreseeable future, what can we expect from Bibio?
B: More records. Maybe a video, maybe some live shows. The occasional myspace blog where I rant about my version of current affairs.
You can download an album sampler of Bibio's newest record Ambivalence Avenue via the Warp Records site HERE.
Bibio - Mr. And Mrs. Compost (From Vignetting The Compost)