It's not often that music critics fall into unanimous agreement about the quality of a record. But from Mixmag and Pitchfork to Resident Advisor, the acclaim for Lone's Reality Testing has been virtually universal since the new album dropped this summer.
Granted, the prolific UK producer (born Matt Cutler) has had plenty of studio hours to hone his craft -- Reality Testing is his fifth studio album in just as many years. But it's his constantly evolving and wildly inventive sound, spanning house, techno, and future bass and breaks, which sets Lone apart.
Ahead of Thursday's highly anticipated performance at Bardot as part of his North American album-release tour, Crossfade spoke with Lone about his UK hardcore roots, his rare gift of musical synesthesia, and his creative process on Reality Testing.
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Crossfade: The UK has been home to the world's most fruitful and diverse electronic music scene since the '80s. How did growing up there shape your musical sensibilities?
Lone: I feel extremely lucky to have grown up in England, doing what I do. I think if I'd have grown up anywhere else, my music would be totally different. I was fortunate enough to have been exposed to a lot of really crazy and imaginative music, when I was very young. Older kids who hung out with my sister were always playing early hardcore and jungle tapes, and I fell in love with that stuff instantly. Me and one other kid at school would obsess over these tunes when we were maybe 9 or 10 years old, which seems completely mad, looking back. But I think because we'd been exposed to that music so early on, it had a really deep effect and totally pushed me in trying to write my own strange little tracks.
Your music is often marked by sophisticated melodies and arrangements. Did you receive any classical musical training? Or did you just pick up your chops along the way?
Never had any training whatsoever. I can't really explain the melodies and arrangements or how they come to me. I just remember when I first started making music on a computer and thinking to myself, Whoa, those bits are really easy to do. I dunno, for whatever reason, that side of things comes really natural to me. And obviously, over the years, I've gained skills and am on the right track to perfecting them. That's not to say I don't struggle in other areas, though -- I find certain sides of the process incredibly difficult sometimes.
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You've spoken in other interviews about experiencing a form of musical synesthesia -- perceiving music through other senses. Could you tell us a bit about that and how it applies to your music-making?
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Yeah, it's something that's been there with me since I was born, I think. I assumed it was the same for everyone else, until I read an article about synesthesia a couple of years ago and it just seemed to answer so many questions. I asked family members about it, and they had no idea what I was talking about, which seemed a little strange. It definitely helps with what I do, though; no question. The ability to visualize certain things can make the process a lot easier, I think.
Reality Testing is one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year. What can you tell us about your creative process on the album? Did you have a concept in mind before you set out to produce the material?
After finishing the last record, Galaxy Garden, in 2012, I had a huge creative block for a few months. I really had absolutely no idea what I was gonna do. I remember, one day, watching this skate video from like '98 called Fulfill the Dream, and something totally clicked. The graininess of the tape and the soundtrack really inspired me. I had a real moment of thinking, Shit, this could be where I take the next record. Totally dirty, heavily inspired by hip-hop -- a complete reaction to the shimmering aesthetic of the last record. That was important to me, I wanted to go in the opposite direction from where I ended up with the last one. With that record, it was all about extremes and being as maximalist as possible. With this, I knew it had to be more laid-back. A well-earned breather after that last set of tunes.
So hip-hop was a big reference point for you while producing the album?
Yeah, massively. Me and my friends were heavily into Wu-Tang and skateboarding in high school, so our teenage years were all about collecting hip-hop records. It'd been a while since I referenced that in my music, so I'd had enough time away from listening to and getting inspired by that shit. It definitely felt like the right time to go back and absorb that stuff again. One of the things I remember telling myself during the making of the record was, you're only allowed to listen to hip-hop and house music with the same raw production values as that. So yeah, it took over my life for a good while.
Reality Testing is your fifth album to date. Do you think the album marks an evolution or progression in your sound since the first albums you made?
Yeah, absolutely. The subject matter, or theme, is different to each album, and I knew I'd never made an album with this feel before. Also, as for progression, I guess I still feel like I'm improving and growing as an artist, and I still have a whole ton of shit to learn, so I feel totally comfortable that I'll keep progressing for a good while yet.
So what can Miami expect during your show at Bardot on Thursday? How are you presenting things live during this North American tour?
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It's as much about what you can see as what you hear, for this tour. I have Tom (AKA Konx Om Pax) with me, and he designed my last two album sleeves and worked on a bunch of animations and visuals for the shows. So it'll be us two on stage: me presenting the audio and him the visual. We're really happy with how the show is evolving. I'm hoping the Miami show will be the best yet.
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Lone. Live A/V show featuring Konx-Om-Pax. With Mr. Brown. Thursday, September 4. Bardot, 3456 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $15 to $20 plus fees via showclix.com. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-576-7750 or visit bardotmiami.com.