#CREATORTALK is a series of articles and interviews, with a focus on the creative industries and the talent working within them. In this edition of #CREATORTALK, we talk to UK based musician Tony Mason, aka SubClass. His latest album Obfuscate is out now.
PW – Hello Tony. How’s it going?
Not too bad, it’s a gloomy Tuesday morning in Birmingham and the weather is wet and warm…which is a bit strange.
PW – So, first things first: how would you sum up who you are and what you do?
That’s a big question. I guess I’m a father and a husband, and when those things allow I’m a songwriter and lastly a musician.
PW – What’s your background in music?
I started playing keyboard then guitars when I was about 14. Knocking around in various bands and then I ended up working with click tracks and syncing electronics with live performances. This proved to be a nightmare on any number of occasions.
PW – Which artists would you say have influenced you the most?
My biggest musical influence is Depeche Mode’s, Martin Gore. The man with the melodies. After that it’s Matt Johnson, The The…. The Cure were also a big influence as were bands like New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen, Slowdive and early Arcade Fire. I also admire the song writing of Grant Nicholas from Feeder. I’ve listened to some grime recently but I’m afraid the lyrics just make me wince too much.
PW – The songs on Obfuscate interchange live instruments and programmed tracks. What inspired this approach?
I love the feel of live instruments and the immediacy of what they bring. But then it’s great to blend that with electronic noise and more abstract elements. I think it’s great to not rule anything in or anything out. I was pleased to work castanets and an accordion into this album.
PW – How do you feel your work has evolved since your previous album A Race Through Dark Places came out?
I’m not sure how it’s evolved in all honesty. It’s definitely changed. I’m happier to leave things out of songs now rather than having 5 or 6 lead riffs competing with each other, I’m going back to the old album to re-record, tinker and remaster with a bit more oomph, before starting to record the third album.
PW – Which themes are you most interested in exploring with your work?
Love, loss, sadness, religion, social injustice. I suppose that’s the Cabal of Melancholy.
PW – On Bandcamp your love of ‘Lush strings and melancholy’ is noted. Are contrasts in style and subject of particular interest to you?
Yes definitely. It’s something I want to do a lot more of if I can make it work. I don’t want to do it for the sake of it, but I like the Idea of mixing styles as long as people can see why, rather than wonder why.
PW – Are there other styles of composition, or genres, you’ve considered expanding into?
I’m intending to have at least one orchestral piece on the next album and one of the songs is going to have two versions, one of which will be Dark Electronic and the other well…it will be different.
PW – Which other independent artists would you recommend people check out?
There are so many brilliant artists struggling to be seen, I’ll give you four for starters
The first one is The Anthropophobia Project. I love Mike’s style and the feel of all his songs. It’s a bit like Leonard Cohen co-wrote an album with Interpol and had Robert Smith play the guitars.
Second is This Circle Squared. this always reminds me of the good bits of The Cult. He has some great tunes that deserve a listen.
PW – This site focuses heavily on creativity and the real people behind the art. How does creativity affect you on a day to day basis? Does inspiration typically strike you out of nowhere; or do you have very specific ideas and goals for any project you decide to work on?
I have a fairly strange relationship with inspiration. Now I tend to take half completed songs on CD and then sit with them in the car and record myself humming up riffs and vocal tunes in a fairly subconscious way. These tend to end up being in the finished product. I find writing a song a bit like untangling a big net. It can be really hard to see it until you’ve unraveled everything. I have a direction of travel when I start out. Inevitably the best bits happen once you stray from the plan.
PW – What are your ambitions for the future?
I’d like to collaborate with a female vocalist on a few tracks and link up with someone who could give a visual direction for the music. That’s one area I really struggle with.
I have songs already written for three more albums. I’d like to get them done and out there into the ether and let’s see what happens.
PW – In this kind of economy and industry, it can be tough to feel like you’re moving forwards sometimes. How do you battle these feelings when they come up, and do you have any advice to other people who might be struggling in a similar way?
Things are a lot different from when I started out, back then your rejections would be directly from record labels and A&R people. Now there is no rejection but it can feel like you’re working in a vacuum. I think this is true for both artists and digital media such as yourselves who are putting in huge amounts of unpaid effort and in a lot of cases without the exposure or plaudits they deserve.
I think when it comes down to it, if you enjoy it then do it. If it’s an emotional outlet then use it. And if it’s damaging you, then walk away from it.
Don’t take criticism personally and be generous to others with your time, because they are just like you.
Finally hope that someone else enjoys what you’re doing.
PW – And final question. Actually it’s more of an invitation. Feel free to use the next few sentences to self-promote the hell out of what you’re up to.
I’d love people to give an ear to the music and to let me know what they think, both good and bad. Any feedback fuels creativity. I intend to be around for a while making noise and I hope that people enjoy the music and will pass on the word.
You can find SubClass here: