Forest Swords - Photo by Sophie Jarry

Photo by Sophie Jarry

FOREST SWORDS – that is UK producer Matthew Barnes from Liverpool. His music might still be a hidden gem, but not for long, that much is for sure. Only one reason why NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION could not miss his performance in Leipzig last week. Engravings, his latest record, ranges from daunting dark loops to catchy rhythms, creating an intimate atmosphere. We had to know why and how this one-man-music evokes so many feelings listening to it and what this has got to do with the simple cyclical nature of the music.


So you have been on tour for a couple of weeks, did you enjoy it so far?
It’s really good. We played Hamburg last night, it is really fun but really tiring emotionelly and mentally. It is a lot of travelling and we did like an eight hour journey last night. It is great to play for people and it is amazing to come to cities like this, I would never normally get the chance to go to. And this is fantastic. Coming to venues like this, obviously is just such a privilege.


‘Engravings’ for me feels like the perfect sequel to your last album ‘Dagger Paths’. It sounds like a really dark and wooden place to me, with its strong loops and simple beats that are slowly fading into a complete new sound. So, for yourself, do you work with visual discriptions to get a clear view of your music and the concept of it?
I’m trained as a graphic designer so I think visually about everything. That’s just how my brain works. So, for me, when I start making music I think about it in terms of colour and texture and what it should feel look like. I generally start off with a kind of word or a discription of something and than that can take you down interessting and different avenues.


And how does your work evironmemt look like then?
It is just inside my bedroom. It is a very small set up. I like having parameters in my life. I could quite easily go into recording studios and do this. But for me having such a small cheap set up makes things a bit more exciting. Because it feels like more of a challenge. And it means that, you go less crazy. You don’t have all this technology to explore and thousands of instruments that you can use. You have a very small pallet of sounds and so your music becomes a lot more consistent I think.

So you can actually just focus on your music and don’t get distracted?
Yeah, I think it is a concentration thing. I can concentrate more if I am sitting in front of a laptop rather than a huge mixing desk.


Did you have an idea how the album should sound like after ‘Dagger Paths’? Or was it more like a natural process?
It was a bit of both actually. I was very conscious of making it shorter. Because a lot of Dagger Paths felt very much like a journey for me. I would just start a song and I would finish it when it felt like the track came to an end. It kind of went on a very natural progression on it and finished very naturally. There were so many sounds and textures going on, that I was experimenting with. And I wanted Engravings to be a lot more focussed, taking the same sounds and textures but making them clearer and focussed.

What inspires you? Music, literature, art?
It is actually music that inspires me the least out of every art form, which sounds like a crazy thing to say being a musician. But I am more inspired by concepts. I am really into performance art and visual arts and film. For me those trigger of musical ideas, rahter than me listening to a record and than thinking: Oh, thats cool I will try and replicate that sound. For me it is more exciting to go to an art gallery and think: Oh those colours are cool maybe I could try and reflect that in music. During Engravings I really got into people like John Cage and Vito Acconci, who was a performance artist but is now an architect. He took ideas of performance art and interacting with an audiance into architecture and used those ideas. Filmwise, I guess people like DAVID LYNCH – visually rich with amazing colours, amazing cinematography – for me that is more exciting than listening to music. I think about music so much, that I don’t want to listen to it.


Since your music is quite emotional and it evokes so much feelings, listening to it, I wonder if it is a hard process for you to make music.
It can be very draining. Especially during Engravings where I was so concerned with streamlining things and making things very focussed. That the more you focus the more you become emotionally drained by it. The more you focus on a drumbeat or a melody you become emotionally connected to it so the more you work on it the more it drains you. I felt very tired during it and it was very hard in places but I think hopefully the people listening to it can understand that. With my music I am always trying to be as honest as possible. It is almost like a primal thing you can hear in someones music when they are trying to be honest and true about something and when it is a very open process.

So where are your roots musically speaking? Or what pops into your mind when you think of the first encounter with music?
I was really into pop music when I was a child. Like I saw Michael Jackson in concert and stuff like that, which had a huge impact on me because he was amazing. But as I got older I got into stuff like metal and punk and than got into hip hop and electronica. All those things were filtered into what I am doing now. I still have a big love of mainstream pop music and I am fasciniated by the structure of it and the way it works – I could never create something like that.