Ali: I co-run the Frequency Domain label, which was started with my friend Paul accidentally in 2015. Paul and I met through a magazine I ran some years back called Overload – quite a few of the artists we release are connected to that project in some way. We had last year off from FD, but we’ve just released our third label compilation and have three artist albums out soon, which we’re pretty excited about. I’ve never really considered myself an artist or musician, though my lifelong imposter syndrome feels like it’s fading slightly with time.
Paul: I skew towards the admin side of the label and make music as Southfacing, where I try and forget all about having to do the admin side of the label. I should have an album coming out on our Space Surgeries sister label this year, if we get round to releasing it.
Where did you come from and where are you going?
Ali: I grew up on the edge of Dartmoor and recently moved back here. It feels like home and I’m enjoying the pace, familiarity and of course nature. It’s very hobbity around here.
Paul: I came from the 1970s and I’m hopefully headed for the 2040s.
What preoccupies your mind these days?
Ali: Music, DIY, habitat restoration, my parents’ health, feeling fortunate for what I have. Paul: I’ve just read Paul Rainey’s “Why Don’t You Love Me?”, so I’ve been thinking a lot about permanence of being, relationships and the power of simple, well-crafted line work. Musically, I’ve been re-listening to a lot of stuff like Happy Flowers and Lard and thinking I should drop the deep, serious schtick and get stupid for a while.
Name a favourite taste, touch, sound, sight and smell
Ali: Freshly picked strawberries, old oak bark, random tonal interactions (my fridge playing along nicely to Pauline Oliveros, that kind of thing), sun through fog (bonus points for heavy frost), toasting spices.
Paul: Sugar, edges, feedback, darkness, coffee.
Describe one of your most vivid dreams or nightmares
Ali: I have this recurring dream where I’m having a bit too much of a good time at a festival. I lose my car keys, then my wallet, then my clothes – then I wake up. It’s been going on about ten years now. I draw my own conclusions.
Paul: When I was about five, we visited my aunt and uncle, who lived in a vicarage near Lincoln. I remember it being a vast, creaky mansion, but I think it was probably quite cosy. In the dream, I woke up, hearing a disturbance outside. I crept my way through the dark corridor, climbed down a dark stairway and was confronted with the sight of my stepdad, who had turned into a space hopper.
It terrified me and to this day I still get freaked out by those nasty orange bastards.
Have you ever had an uncanny experience?
Ali: Quite a few, actually. The one that shook me up most was some years ago when I briefly dated someone who I’m certain was a practitioner of witchcraft. I’d never really spoken to them about my family, but when I called her to break off the relationship, she said to me, ‘I hope your father gets better soon’. I called him straight away to find he’d fallen ill that morning. It took him a week or so to recover, much longer for me to process the unfathomable weirdness of that situation.
Paul: The space hopper experience was enough uncanny for one lifetime.
How does your sense of place affect the way you express yourself?
Ali: I’ve moved around a fair bit and noticed how much my environment shapes my creative output, listening habits and interactions with people. It’s very rural where we live now and when I travel to Bristol or London to hear music I feel like a mute bumpkin with straw in my hair. I’m listening to a lot of the records I grew up with – less purely electronic stuff, more dub, folk, off-beat indie, etc. – and getting a lot from that. It’s very grounding. I know it’ll be an inspiring place to make music once I’m more settled.
Paul: Not as much as I’d like it to. A lot of my favourite music is where a band or artist has captured an atmosphere which feels like you’ve been transported to a different place, but I’m not sure how you go about doing this. It certainly isn’t achieved by slathering everything in a tonne of reverb. I think it only comes from having a very deep connection to your environment, which living in outer South London I spend most of my life trying to avoid happening.
What has particularly touched or inspired you recently?
Ali: My partner and I went on the recent protest against the actions of Alexander Darwall, the hedge fund manager who bought up a large chunk of Dartmoor, then won a legal case to ban wild camping across the whole moor. Camping on Dartmoor as a kid was really formative for me, so I found the verdict quite upsetting. He just wants the land used for pheasant shoots – it’s the most backwards shit, honestly. The protest was joyous – 3,000 people amassed in just over a week, with the local community overwhelmingly supportive. I saw friends I’d not seen in decades and there was a stunning sunset as everyone descended the moor. Feels like a pyrrhic victory for Darwall – he’s galvanised a whole bunch of grassroots organisations and blown wide open the whole debate about increased public access to the outdoors.
Paul: In a bad way, reading the details about the 2021 shootings in Plymouth made me incredibly sad. In a good way, I saw Rolo Tomassi play in London a couple of weeks ago and seeing Eva Spence get overcome by the reaction was both touching and inspiring.
Tell us a good story, anecdote or joke
Ali: I always manage to break one egg nice and cleanly, but then make an absolute mess of the next. It’s that difficult second albumen (With thanks to Dan Bean).
Paul: The only joke I can ever remember is one my daughter brought home from school when she was about nine, both because it’s very funny and pretty inappropriate for a kid of that age to be telling it: What is a kidnapper’s favourite type of shoe? White Vans.