Tom Scholefield isn’t simply a young dude from Glasgow who finds time here and there to make art, he’s a freaking workaholic art-creating fiend! By day (and night) he creates 3D animation videos for the likes of Hudson Mohawke and Mogwai as well as Martyn, Jamie Lidell, Kuedo, and Lone and designs sleeves for artists such as Oneohtrix Point Never, Rustie, King Midas Sound and others – plus, he has toured with Mogwai as a DJ. Apparently, sleeping is for lame-o’s.
If all that wasn’t enough, he’s also an electronic musician. Under the name Konx-Om-Pax, Scholefield released an album titled Regional Surrealism last week on Planet Mu. The work is as cinematically dream filled as it is experimentally lo-fi. Electronic music often lacks a human touch, however Konx-Om-Pax pushes the technology he uses to service the personal nature of his semi-conscious sound worlds.
I recently had the opportunity to correspond with the ever-restless Scholefield via email. We discussed everything from the origin of the name Konx-Om-Pax, to influential film directors, and the making of his new album.
I noticed Konx-Om-Pax is a title by Aleister Crowley*. Is he an influence?
It’s not actually a Crowley reference. It comes from a classical piece of music by the composer Giacinto Scelsi**, it translates as “Light In Extension.”
What is the significance of the album's title? How does “surrealism” tie into your outlook as an artist, both visually and musically?
To be honest I just like the sound of the name. It's not really a direct reference to surrealist art even though I have an interest in that group of painters. “Surrealism” is definitely a word that gets chucked around a lot or misappropriated. However my work’s been influenced a lot by dreaming and developing ideas I've had when I'm asleep.
Tell me about the genesis of the album. I read that these pieces go back at least six or seven years. How did you choose which tunes made the record? Instrumentation? Recording equipment?
Well, it’s partly made from old recordings that I’ve had for years that didn't really seem to fit with anything until I started to work on newer stuff last year. I pretty much joined the dots between certain tracks to create a full record. I mainly sample analogue sources or video clips, field recording etc. It’s a very haphazard, loose sound collage way of working. For example if I’m round at a friends house and see a random instrument lying around I'll have a quick play around on it and record the sound onto my laptop just using the crappy microphone. I like using badly recorded sounds. There’s more texture and sense of location. This is a pretty strong theme throughout the album. I'm into times and places.
How does your visual work influence your music? Does your music influence your visual work?
Not really sure. The two influence each other, it’s kind of like a massive audiovisual inspiration feedback loop at times. Ideas come from each of them.
What are your major influences? In film, art, literature, and music?
I'm a massive fan of early British electronic music. I quite like how quaint and academic some of it sounds. Also, I basically listen to loads of different types, too many to mention, from stoner metal to Gregorian chanting. Film-wise it’s mainly '80s sci-fi, Kubrick, and Herzog.
I’m not a massive reader, only if the books have lots of pictures in them or are instruction manuals for software! Art wise, well everything from De Stijl architects to '80s video artists like Nam June Paik, I'm one of these people with a sponge like brain for absorbing loads of inspiration from many different fields and eras.
How do contemporary musicians (either in Glasgow or elsewhere) affect your style/sound?
Well I think Dan [Lopatin, Oneohtrix Point Never] kind of gave me the confidence to start releasing music a few years ago after we worked together on “Rifts.” I just thought his stuff was on a similar vibe to the music I was making but wasn't releasing. It’s mainly people that are friends or have worked with over the years that have affected me in a way. Hudmo and Rustie, even though musically very different, they're very inspirational in the sense they've just kept their head down and got on with it. Their attitudes help me keep motivated.
Drugs? Booze? Meditation? How do you want your music to be experienced? Does it matter?
Late at night at the after after party! Well it doesn't really matter that much…
What are you listening to right now? Favorites of all time?
I'm currently listening to a mix I recorded a few weeks ago in Rubadub Records in Glasgow. It’s full of acid house and techno. All time favorites? Anything by Aphex Twin!
What is better for you personally, music or visual art?
Both the same, its all part of the bigger picture.
What's on the horizon?
Got a few short films to start, building a live show for a big gig in London at the start of October.
* Konx Om Pax: Essays in Light is a publication by British occultist Aleister Crowley, first published in 1907. The name Konx Om Pax is a phrase purportedly used in the Eleusinian Mysteries. Its companion is Khabs Am Pekht, which in the Egyptian language means roughly “Light in extension” or “Light rushing out in a single ray.”
** Giacinto Scelsi was an Italian composer who also wrote surrealist poetry in French. He is best known for writing music based around only one pitch, altered through microtonal oscillations, harmonic allusions, and changes in timbre and dynamics.