Interview: Airhead

We’ve been fans of Airhead for some years now, writing about him twice in 2012, but his release schedule is painfully steady and considered. His last release came in 2014, the searing October / Macondo on Hemlock. Since then he’s been busy writing and touring with his childhood friend James Blake, as well as establishing party-slash-label 1-800 Dinosaur (alongside Blake, Dan Foat, Mr Assister and Klaus). This venture grew from after-show parties on the road, and has seen them play from London’s Plastic People to Manchester’s Warehouse Project, as well as international showcases worldwide.

We’re here now because Airhead is about to drop the monumentally big “Kazzt” on Different Circles, the label set up by Mumdance and Logos some years back to champion the weirder edges of grime-related club music. Mumdance has been championing “Kazzt” for almost a year, a track full of gurgling, mechanical menace, a far cry from the warm pads and introspective tones that permeate Airhead’s previous work. Mumdance himself took his hands to the track for the flip, which can be heard over at The Quietus. We have a full play of the original, however, and we managed to have a quick chat with Airhead while he took some time out between shows in Tokyo.

You’re in Tokyo right now, how’s that? “Good thanks, quite spacey with jet lag so please forgive these potentially obtuse answers.” What have you been listening to while travelling? “I listened to Resom and Laurel Halo’s excellent contributions to your Truancy Volume series on the flight here. Particular highlights include “Naja” by B.O.P. in Halo’s mix and the Cosime track at the beginning of Resom’s. Other than that I was recently obsessed with 2814’s Birth of a New Day album on Dream Catalogue; it manages to evoke a beautiful melancholic sound-world and always seems to reveal hidden layers and little secrets with each listen.”

“Kazzt” is wild, there’s no other word for it. Can you talk about the process that led to its creation? “Writing it was actually a very cathartic experience. I did it in 2013 just after my album was released and decided to experiment with a different workflow as I’d been stuck with an established process the whole way through writing that LP. It’s a rejection of all things melodic and harmonic, instead focusing on timbre, rhythm and dynamics using synths I’d never touched. I’ve always tried to retain a sense of childish wonder and experimentation whilst writing and regularly change my routine in order to make as many mistakes as possible. “Kazzt” is essentially one big organised mistake.” What does the title mean? Or is it an onomatopoeia thing? “Yes, it’s just an onomatopoeic thing…”

How did you end up with Different Circles? “I’ve always respected the stuff Mumdance and Logos have been doing and thought Different Circles would be the perfect fit for this track – the stuff they’re putting out at the moment is very inspiring in a stripped-back, tasteful way. Jack reached out after hearing Parris play it late last year and the remix came soon after. It’s always a pleasure to meet and get the chance to work with honest, genuine people in this industry.”

Do you find it hard to switch your headspace from stadium mode to DJ mode? “Not at all, there’s a strong thread running throughout – I’m playing music I love at all times, wherever that happens to be.”

You’ve got “Kazzt” and the Trim album coming out almost together, can we expect anything more from you this year? “Hopefully, yes. It’s too early to give details at the moment but I’m very excited about the stuff I’m currently working on.”

Is “Waco” [one of the tracks Airhead’s produced for Trim] about what I think it’s about? “I’m afraid not. You’d need to ask Trim with regards to his lyrics but the title is only there because I started the session as I was reading about the biker shootout last May. When I’m making a beat for someone it’s there to act as a vessel for whatever message they want to get across, in this instance the working title just happened to stick.”

Airhead – Kazzt is out on Different Circles on July 22. Buy here.

Aidan Hanratty

Dublin ...

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