With releases on Cocoon, Siamese, Life & Death, Get Weird, Pets, Elements and Needwant under his belt, Joseph Ashworth has established a reputation for high-quality melodic electronica – something he is seeking to cultivate further with his recently-launched label Sound Of Outside.
Ashworth is set to release his new album, Stay, in March – remarkably his first long-player since 2015’s Grain – which incorporates elements ranging from Italo Disco to early 90s era Warp Records. The album was preceded by the single Pepper, which can be listened to here.
In developing the album, Ashworth also embraced the world of artificial intelligence through the AiMi platform, where elements of his unreleased work are re-interpreted by machine learning to create a unique listening experience.
909originals caught up with him.
Hi Joseph, good talking to you. How would you describe your forthcoming new album, Stay?
I think it’s an album that pulls together the different aspects of what I do as ‘Joseph Ashworth’. There isn’t so much a concept, more a selection of tracks I love, brought together in 2021 to work as an album.
Would it be fair to say that the album was a product of lockdown? Was that a productive time for you?
Lockdown and no travelling for ages afforded me the time to do the painstaking and time-consuming ‘finishing’ part of the album process, so in a sense it is yes, but the tracks are from various points in the last four years.
I wouldn’t have been in the headspace to make more banging stuff like Carbonated and Resin during the lockdown, but I started those a few years ago, so it was a process of tying it all together, making sure the tracks flow and work together sonically.
Lockdown was generally productive – on top of this album, I spent my days producing other artists, and working on different collaborations.
While you’ve had plenty of productions, this is the first full-length album you’ve produced since 2015. Why was the time right to develop another long player?
I’d been wanting to do album #2 for a while, and the catalyst was being asked to contribute to AiMi, an AI-driven music app in which the artist inputs components of a selection of tracks and then the app creates this ever-evolving piece of music in an extremely clever way.
I was compiling all this music from the past few years as well as making new stuff for the app, but it dawned on me that a fully tweaked/arranged album would be the perfect opposite side to the coin. An album with all the precise, thought-through decisions and tweaks, to juxtapose with the wonderful chaos of AiMi.
There’s a broad range of styles at play on the new album – it’s fair to say that you draw inspiration from a myriad of genres?
It almost seems like a cliche to say but I genuinely don’t consider genres at all. I do think of certain DJs’ sound when I make certain tracks, and obviously I’m aware a heavy metal track wouldn’t have worked on the album, but with electronic dance music the genres are a bit of a nonsense to me.
No DJ I would ever pay to see sticks within a genre, and all my favourite producers have a sound, but that sound is their sound, that could be applied to multiple genres.
Tell us about your experiences with AiMi – how did it help you with your creative process?
Dance music can be very back-ward-facing and stuck in its ways, so anything that pushes things forward interests me massively. I’m fascinated by the interplay between technology and creativity, and the way AI can create situations where as an artist you’re more likely to be creative.
For me personally, having technology that takes your work and bends it into a new direction is massively inspiring, almost like when someone remixes your track and finds this blindingly obvious idea that you were overlooking. I found that AiMi threw combinations of my music back at me that then inspired me to make more music, so this cyclical nature to me is the future.
More generally, if AI gets to the point where it can predict certain repetitive processes I go through as a producer – organising stems, arrangement suggestions, certain patterns of work that I do most of the time, obvious mixdown problems – then I would be more than happy to see this incorporated into my DAW so I can focus totally on creativity.
You recently launched a new label, Sound of Outside. How are you going to be positioning this label, what sort of sound/sounds do you want to cultivate?
It’s a tool in my belt that I’ve needed for a long time. I love releasing on different labels, and will continue to do so, but I need an avenue to just make music and release it how I want, on my schedule. I quite like the idea of owning my music, having the freedom to release new versions or my own remixes at a later date.
I’m also very good at finishing other peoples’ records so I have the freedom to sign music from other artists I think is creatively interesting but lacking finesse.
We understand you are a fan of field recordings – did this influence the name of the label?
I am, and yes. It’s a (not particularly clever) double meaning. I love recording sounds and recorded sounds contribute a lot to my music, but also I’ve always felt like I sit slightly outside of the various scenes and sub-genres.
I’m not saying that I’m Aphex Twin or Frank Zappa – I’m massively inspired by the club scene, DJs and other producers’ work – but I’m always happiest sitting slightly outside the normal way dance music is packaged.
What’s next on the agenda for you, and what do you have planned for the year ahead?
Finally touring is starting to look a bit more solid, so getting back on the road, travelling around, working on music in different cities. I also have two side projects on the go, and I’m producing a bunch of other artists, so I’ll be keeping nice and busy!
Thanks Joseph for chatting to us. Main photo by Rob Jones. Stay is released on 25 March on Sound of Outside. A tracklisting can be found below.
1 – Kings
2 – Fearless
3 – Carbonated
4 – Dressed Up
5 – Pepper
6 – Loved You
7 – Freeze (feat. Run Rivers)
8 – Resin
9 – Wrong
10 – Cold December