Michael Simmons aka Conformist rarely gives interviews, so it’s truly an honor to know more about his career path. He showed interest in vinyl and cassettes from a very young age. Moreover, he quit his office job to pursue creative passions. Today he creates Electronica and his work is a referent to the UK underground culture. There’s so much more than just music in what he does. Clearly, his project is pure art!
1 – Where does your artistic name come from?
After I left University I got my first proper job in an office working for British Gas. It was depressing watching all the sad people trudging to their jobs every morning, hating their lives, giving in….i thought “we’re all just a bunch of conformists’…”
2 – Is it true that you prefer being at the studio rather than performing in front of an audience?
At the moment live shows are quite a rarity for myself however I’d definitely like to do more but maybe in less conventional venues, like pop-up guerilla one-offs or in art galleries and museums. It’s good to know the audience appreciate your work, as opposed to playing third on a bill alongside generic Indie bands to a crowd of Stereophonics fans with no clue about Electronic music, as I’ve done in the past. Live can be great when you have the right crowd to play to, desperate when not… I really don’t get asked to play live that much. So maybe it’s just a lack of opportunities…? Being in the studio making Conformist tracks means spending weekends and evenings alone. It can be frustrating but when a track comes together your first thought is “how would this work live?” The two platforms are entwined.
It’s not for me to say if I’m highly creative. People can listen to my records and decide. I don’t think I’m particularly shy but I’m probably not always fun to be around, pretty schizophrenic moods. I’m definitely not in sync with most people so maybe I might come across as odd or difficult to others? Not shyness but doubt…?
4 – What is the best thing electronic music has taught you and when did you learn to make compositions?
Not to follow formulas, don’t follow current musical trends, don’t try to copy other artists, do try to have an album worth of ideas in one track. Layer. Keep expanding and pushing ideas, recycle sounds until they grow into something that excites you.
I first started in making music when I was about 8. I made cut-ups of old vinyl records on my home hi-fi, then dubbed over primitive scratches using a double cassette deck. Then I got a 4 track recorder and as PC a little later on.
The record is a collection of remixes of songs from my second record ‘Lifestyle Bible’. I was really lucky to get such a cool bunch of artists involved, everyone delivered excellent new versions. Expect a diverse palette of styles and directions, it’s very humbling that the artists were interested and wanted to get involved.
6 – What has been the most interesting part of putting together reinterpretations of previous tracks in this compilation?
Seeing the potential avenues that weren’t explored and thinking “why didn’t I think of that….?”
7 – In your opinion, what’s different now with the new “Trust Exercises” remix?
It’s got more emotional weight and an intensity previously missing.
8 – How did you come up with the idea to collaborate with Man Without Country for this remix?
I’d always admired their sound and really wanted to get artists to remix my tracks that would take them to places I couldn’t. Ryan from Man Without County gave the remix a cool cinematic feel that I would never of considered a possibility but it works so well.
9 – Who else have collaborated in your upcoming album?
Kayla Painter from Bristol, Mark Pistel formerly of Consolidated and Meat Beat Manifesto, Odonis Odonis from Canada and my friends from Cardiff, HORSES and Location Baked. I’m really pleased that they all agreed to be on the record.
10 – Besides this project, what else do you have in store for us in the upcoming months?
I’d like to get a new Conformist EP out in the autumn so currently working on that.