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Plaid Interview – “Electronic music and sci-fi are places where you’ll be at the edge of all sorts of ideas”

Plaid’s new album brings interstellar live performance to planet Earth

Feorm Falorx, the new Plaid album, comes with an unusual claim: the release is a recreation of a recent live performance from Feorm Festival, an intergalactic shindig held on the planet Falorx. In order to survive the Falorxian atmosphere, Plaid were converted into light, so the traditional recording devices didn’t function.

Luckily for the record buying public at large, they could recreate most of this live set in their Earth studio. We sat down with Plaid to chat about this new endeavor – out on Warp Records on November 11, their main sci-fi influences and the upcoming tour.

Hi Ed & Andy, it’s a pleasure to be interviewing you. I’d like to start from the new album
Feorm Falorx and specifically its concept, which I found fascinating.

ANDY: Well, it’s not a concept. It’s just what happened… We’re kind of recreating the experience and sharing it with people. Everything has been feeling a little weird for some years now, it feels like people want to escape reality a little bit. Lucky enough we did, so we’re happy to share our experiences with them.

ED: I’ve got a hazy memory of a trip to another planet, but I don’t remember it clearly. You have to be turned into a kind of “light being” to be able to exist on that planet… Perhaps it was an interdimensional travel as well. So it’s really hard to recall everything but I hope we did a good job with recreating the music in the studio.

I’m wondering what your main Sci-fi influences are? Were sci-fi literature and cinema important in your upbringing?

ANDY: Yeah, I think we’re both sci-fi fans. I particularly like an author called Stanisław Lem. He was a Polish author… He wrote Solaris (the original novel from which the subsequent movies were based on), for example. I have been into sci-fi since I was a kid, so I guess I have read a lot of stuff, which came in handy when we got our spaceship.

You had the instructions.

ANDY: Yeah! In general there was a lot of inspiring sci-fi stuff from the 80s. Chris Foss for instance, he was one of these airbrush artists, and the visual look is just really amazing… The colours, gradients, and subjects that were portrayed in the paintings. I was a big fan of that when I was a kid.

ED: For me it’s all the obvious ones like Star Wars and Star Trek. But then obviously, later on, reading writers like Lem, and J.G. Ballard, where sci-fi takes a slightly more adult and psychological approach. I love J.G. Ballard, his literature is like nothing else. Sometimes it goes full science fiction, with alternate universes and everything… But other times it’s just a slightly dystopian version of what we have here.

We certainly grew up with the classics, later on enjoying series like Battlestar Galactica. I think what was always interesting is this sort of quest, this long, endless journey through space that runs through a lot of sci-fi narratives which was really influential to our work. 

Like in Star Trek! In every episode they encounter something new in space, it never ends. Similar to producing music right?

ED: Exactly. There’s never a point where they say… “Okay, we’ve finished.” The kind of floating around in space in Star Trek is ultimately quite pleasant. It’s not goal-based, which is nice.

What about music? Do you recall any music tied to sci-fi, maybe a soundtrack that influenced you?

ED: A lot of soundtracks from big blockbuster movies are obviously very orchestral, and those kinds of pieces have little to do with our music. But I think a lot of the sound design had a significant influence on electronic music; this search for a novel, original sound… Traditionally, electronic music and sci-fi are places where you’ll be at the edge of all sorts of ideas.

On that note, I’d like to ask you about some more specific production insights on the album. When was the album produced?

ED: Some of it was done during lockdowns and the middle of the Pandemic situations. I was in the US for a bit of it, and then in France, so we worked remotely also. 

ANDY: Since we finished our previous album in 2019, a lot of the ideas stem from that. Most of the new album was written over a period of around four months, and we finished everything about seven months ago. 

How about the studio gear you used? What are some of the crucial instruments used in the record?

ANDY: We used a synth by Newfangled Audio called ‘Generate’ quite a lot on this album. I think that has a main role on several of the tracks. It would be a crucial one for me.

ED: I tend to often use something called ‘Falcon’. It’s a software synth stroke sampler by UVI. Its creator puts a lot of effort into it; there’s always new updates, so there’s always new types of synthesis and new effects to explore. And it’s also a lot of fun to play around with. 

Hardware-wise, we’re pretty basic. We use controllers and an audio interface and not much more usually… We use quite a lot more synths, but I am not sure if they all made it to the final recordings of the album.

But I did notice a little bit of guitars as well, right?

ED: Yeah, that’s Bennett. He uses a lot of pedals and things. I’m not exactly sure which ones he used on this, but I recall him using the Red Panda one. And quite a few other nice and unusual guitar pedals.

And in terms of style, was there anything you discovered in recent times that influenced you? Were you aiming for anything specific in terms of references, compared to your other work?

ANDY: I think we’ve kind of looked back further than we had in previous albums. We’ve tried to sort of emulate or recreate a musical style from the 70s and 80s, in addition to more contemporary stuff. At the same time we weren’t aiming for anything specific with the album. We just wanted to work with a broad range of styles.

ED: Like Andy says, there’s a slight retro aspect to some of it. It’s clearly showing some of our influences… Some of the electro and funky music that we used to love and still kind of do, and that are part of our history.

The album cover and press pics were done with an AI software. Do you think this will be the future of art production? 

ANDY: I think it’s developing so rapidly at the moment, it’s a little difficult to predict where we’re going to be in five or ten years time… But certainly, at the moment it’s an incredible tool. I think some people will embrace it, while others are already quite against it, believing that traditional artists are somehow going to lose work as a consequence… We don’t really think that’s the case. I think it’s more likely that artists will use it in addition to their other tools to create new types of work perhaps, or different kinds of work.

How do you feel about it in regards to music? When it comes to music composition, AI seems to be still a little bit behind. There are a lot of tools but it’s all very rough compared to AI producing images. Do you imagine AI-composed music taking over in a few years?

ANDY: It’s clearly coming. But at the moment, there seems to be an issue with re-synthesis. Which is clearly a bit more problematic than creating a pixel of a certain colour… We’ve messed around with a few AI-based tools, and for now we don’t really feel it has a high-enough quality production to be used anywhere beyond MIDI generation.

In conclusion, I would like to ask you about the upcoming tour. What can your fans expect from it?

ANDY: We are touring with Emma Catnip who is the AI artist who’s been helping us out with the videos and the album artwork. The whole show will be quite video-heavy.

ED: For sure, the shows will be very visual. A lot of it will feature some of the album’s artwork and conceptual themes… Some of those ideas extended and remixed. We’ll be playing with Ben, the guitarist and co-writer who’s on a few of the album tracks. It’s a bit of a development from the last tour and I think that, sonically, it’s going to be quite different from the actual album recordings. It’s gonna be something worth checking out.

Pre-order your copy of Feorm Falorx here

Giovanni Bodrato

See Plaid live at:

05-Nov-22     Erased Tapes 15. @ Printworks, Greater London, GB

10-Nov-22     Quarterhouse @ Quarterhouse, Kent, GB

19-Nov-22     Plaid Album Launch @ The White Hotel, Greater Manchester, GB

23-Nov-22     This is Tmrw @ Hare And Hounds, West Midlands, GB

30-Nov-22     Belgrave Music Hall @ Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen, England