QRD - Current Issue   About QRD   QRD Archives
QRD #35 - January 2008
about this issue
Origami Arktika interview
Plumerai interview
Jessica Bailiff interview
mwvm interview
Aarktica interview
Brian: A Hero
QRD - Thanks for your interest & support
QRD - Advertise
Silber Records
Silber Button Factory
Cerebus TV
Silber Kickstarter

Interview with mwvm
January 2008

Michael Walton is mwvm.  He plays indie ambient guitar based music.  His full length debut was released on Silber in late 2007.
mwvm - rotations
CD Album 2007 | Silber 063 
10 tracks, 61 minutes
mwvm is content to express himself in sound, and fine sound at that....too interesting for brain-dead chilling.... too clinical for stoner drift.... ideal for open-minded listeners...
 ~ unpeeled.co.uk

Indie-ambient debut of guitar manipulation, layered drones, & electronics in the vein of early Remora & Aarktica.

: Listen to the track context. where?  : More info  : Reviews

QRD – How do you describe your music to “regular folks” like co-workers or family or what not?

Michael – Fridge music.  My music sounds like a fridge or a petrol pump or whatever.  Friends that bother to listen actually agree.

QRD – Everybody keeps asking, “what does mwvm stand for?”  I have always assumed it stood for something like “Michael Walton’s Version of Music”, but you’ve said it is arbitrary.  So it really stands for nothing & the first two letters being your initials is coincidental? 

Michael – There’s no hidden message or acronym.  Plus, although I rarely use it, my middle name is James so if it was my initials I’d have probably included that.  I did think about it for quite some time though.  Yeah, it doesn’t mean anything, however, the original idea was for the name to look like a triangle waveform squiggly pulse thing.  I wanted to use a logo based on this idea.  Obviously, I needed to translate this “squiggle” into text form & that’s how mwvm came about.  I decided to use mwvm as it isn’t symmetrical, where as something like mwwm is.  I don’t recall why I did this, but I remember not wanting to use a symmetrical text name.  There was one minor problem I forgot about, my lack of artistic skill & imagination to design a logo was too big a hurdle to get over.  All my designs looked rubbish, so I left it as it is in text form.  Anyhow, I was kinda use to it & by that point.

QRD – I know you work alone on your music partially because of geographic location & a difficulty of finding same minded locals.  In what way has working alone helped or hurt you musically?

Michael – Yeah, that’s unfortunately the truth.  I mean, it’s not like I live a million miles away from the nearest city or anything.  It’s just that the circle of friends I’ve grown up with, drank with, play football with, etc. aren’t interested in music.  Musician ads never seemed to materialize into much.  We’d never get past rehearsals.  Although on the odd occasion some interesting things would happen, but for one reason or another they eventually faded away. 
I think I’d be a more versatile musician if I’d worked more with other people on a regular basis.  The few times I did work with other musicians I’d pick up ideas, techniques & tricks, which was handy.  The thing I miss the most is hearing someone else play an instrument, feeding off it so to speak, & bouncing off each other’s ideas.  Another thing I enjoyed was playing the producer role, picking the bones out of what folk played.  Like, “Oh, that was nice, let’s record it,” & the arrangement generally followed.  That’s how I liked to work anyway, it was a bit of a buzz. 
Working on my own?  It has helped me define my own sound.  Delving into your own indulgences can be a very liberating thing to do.  Your musical motivation, drive, & focus is 100% in your own hands.  The important thing is that I’m content working this way; it’s the only possible way for me to achieve a certain mood through music.  Inevitably the decision was made to concentrate on being a solo musician.  I don’t think I’d turn back the clock.

QRD – I know Silber is helping you organize some folks to work with you on remixes, how is that working out & has the experience added or taken away from you wanting to work alone?

Michael – The remixes have been great.  I had a bit of a scare with the same track being remixed by quite a few folk but that problem ironed itself out over time.  I’m very happy people made the effort & I really appreciate their contribution towards the release.
I’ve collaborated over the internet in the past, the odd track now & again.  It’s a fun thing to do.  I’m not sure how an EP or an album would pan out using this method.  Collaboration proposals do come in, but it’s not something I have any plans to do anytime soon.  Maybe later under a different guise.  Who knows?

QRD – There’s a lot of “indie ambient” or whatever you want to call it coming out of the UK right now.  Do you feel linked into this scene at all?

Michael – Yeah, a few folk have mentioned this recently.  There’s some very exciting music being released by UK artists at the moment.  Last Days, Rameses III, & Pausal immediately spring to mind.  Is there a scene?  I’m not sure, I tend to relate “scenes” as something a bit more local.  There’s definitely a rich vein there to be tapped.  Do I feel linked this?  I do in a sense that I, or should I say we, share certain musical attributes with regards to the choice of timbre & song structures etc.  If some people feel I’m contributing towards a specific scene or genre of experimental music or whatever I’m cool with that.

QRD – Over your formative years I assume you were in some bands, did any of them do any recordings at all?

Michael – Kind of.  A few year back I managed to get a band together & we’d rehearse these kinda krautrock/post-rock/experimental songs I’d write.  It was always difficult finding the right personel; but to be fair, I was to blame the majority of the time as it slowly dwindled away.  After that, I hooked up with the guitarist & we recorded some stuff with a view to playing it live.  Slightly different from what we’d been rehearsing.  It probably sounded like a less jazzy version of Do Make Say Think crossed with a more tamed down version of Explosions In The Sky.  We used synths, an electric piano, & sampled drums too.  Some partial recordings are still on my hard drive, they’re quite good in my opinion.

QRD – For your live show you’ve recently made a switch from trying to sound like the album & having a laptop to being more minimalist & just the pedals & guitar, why the shift?

Michael – For the live performances, the plan was always to recreate what I had recorded.  What you hear on CD or MP3 via MySpace, is what you’ll hear at a gig.  The laptop was an integral part of the setup to achieve this.  However, it was becoming far too unpredictable to rely on & I’d just grown tired of using it.
At home the laptop is basically treated like a tape machine, well, a sampler, synthesizer, & mixer too I suppose.  Anyhow, 90% of the time when I’m recording, I’ll be capturing a room full of sound created via a guitar, some pedals, & an amp.  I’m using the laptop to record these experiments, why not take it out of the equation & create unique variations of the album like I’d put them down in the first place!  This portrays my sound & what I’m all about.  Ok, you’re not going to get 100% accurate versions of the album, but you are going to get minimized themes closely related to it.  The recent “almost live” set for Ambient Ping Things was an amazing thing to do.  I really enjoyed it & I was quite happy with the resulting set.

QRD – Do you enjoy playing live or just feel it’s necessary to promote the recordings or do you see them as two separate things at this point?

Michael – The first time I played live was a really good buzz, one of the best nights of my life.  The last gig wasn’t so good, for a number of reasons, but I suppose these things happen.  There’s some gigs lined up in March.  I’m really looking forward to them, especially with the new setup.  Gigs have always been sporadic affairs though, I like it that way.
Is what I do in great demand?  Probably not, no, but I do plan to get about the UK sometime soon to promote the record.  It would be cool to play in Europe or the US, too. Well, obviously if I wasn’t going to lose a lot of money.
I don’t feel obliged to perform live, it’s more like participating in a life long ambition rather than a promotional thing.  However, if a handful of people enjoy the set enough to buy a record or explore the Silber roster, I’ll be more than happy. 

QRD – I hear you sometimes spend a period of months tweaking & mixing & layering on an individual song.  How do you know it is finally finished?

Michael – Indeed.  “Context. Where?” & “Oratory Clout” literally took 6+ months to complete.  I know they’re finished when I’m 100% satisfied with every little detail.  Be it effect processing, mixing, adding/removing parts, re-recording, or whatever.  That’s why I take so long to write & record.  Well, not all the time because some pieces fall into place overnight, but for the main pieces on the album, yeah, it’s a long process.

QRD – I’ve read a couple of interviews with you & you always talk about “VST” stuff.  Exactly what does that mean?

Michael – Virtual Studio Technology.  Audio effect & instrument plug-ins for Windows.  All the synthesizers, organs, & samplers I use are virtual instruments.  With regards to effect processing, I’ll generally use VSTs that really mangle your sound like the Smart Electronix plugs, which are great.  I also use plugs for post eq-ing, compression, delays, & reverbs.  I’m not a fan of virtual guitar amp sims though, they’re rubbish.

QRD – What’s a band you listen to who’s influence you can hear in your music that you feel most people cannot?

Michael – Pink Floyd.  Their pre-Darkside stuff is great.  Especially their late 60s & early 70s live ROIOs.  They’re still a massive influence on me & I can hear it in my work.  The mixing of the album, in fact my mixing & production in general, is a very poor attempt to emulate Pink Floyd.  I say emulate, it’s a natural thing really, considering I’ve been listening to them since I can remember.  When I do play regular guitar, I’m a terrible David Gilmour!

QRD – With how the music industry has changed over the past ten years, what do you see as the benefit of working with a label instead of just handling a release yourself?

Michael – Having a relationship with an experienced & well respected label like Silber is very important to me.  Kinda like a seal of approval, if you will.  I assume most musicians ultimately want (a) to be involved with one of their favourite labels & (b) as many folk as possible to hear their music.  I’m no different.  Would a self-release generate the same level of exposure?  Highly unlikely.  Thing is, you tend to find that even the most die hard prolific self-release artists eventually release music through a label.  I don’t think that’ll ever change because there’s a lot of passionate label folk out there willing to get music that they love heard.
I often trade via MySpace.  The majority of CDs I receive are self-releases or guys running non-profit micro labels.  There’re some real gems out there.  The downside is finding them, as a consequence many will get overlooked, which is a shame.  Recently, a friend of mine started a free download label called Either/Or with the purpose of bringing good music to folk that might otherwise get unheard by the masses.  Basically, it’s like a consortium of musicians/music lovers promoting unique, interesting, & experimental sounds for non-profit purposes.  Their first release “Reflecting (Ambient & Loop Tracks Autumn 2006” by EL Heath is really brilliant.  I thoroughly recommend it.

QRD – You told me once that all your song titles are pretty arbitrary, why have you bothered to title them at all?

Michael – Yeah, they were “named” “Untitled” for a good number of months actually.  Why bother naming any instrumental piece of music?  I don’t see the point, other than to identify a specific track from an album & that’s exactly why I eventually named them.  Personally, there’s no one to share hidden messages or in-jokes with, I don’t have any political statements or anything of that ilk to declare so the track titles are pretty dull I’m afraid.  In the past, I’d randomly pick up 2 or 3 CDs & use 2 or 3 words from each track list.  For rotations I used spam email subjects received in the week I completed the album, well, within reason.  The title track wasn’t a spam email though.

QRD – So the title rotations isn’t arbitrary, what is it in reference to? 

Michael – Recurring moods & themes as the albums progresses.  I wanted to put emphasis on the way these moods & emotions would kinda shift 360 degrees.  Almost like a sine wave.  Rising, peaking, falling, then rising again – obviously very slowly though.  The artwork also plays on the idea.  Linking the end of the last track to the beginning so folk could loop the album as a collage was a work in progress idea, but I thought that might be too much overkill for the listener!

QRD – What’s your favorite piece of musical equipment & what’s something you’re currently lusting after?

Michael – My Telecaster & a slide.  Seriously, a Tele with a bit delay to a valve amp is something I have never grown tired of.  Especially glissando slide.  The slide I use is actually a steel (I think) rod from one of those paperwork dividing tray things you find in offices.  Oh yeah, probably my Line 6 DL4, too.  The only pedal I won’t get rid of.  Gear lust?  I’ve always fancied a top end reverb/multi-fx like an Eventide, unless I win the lottery, well y’know, it’s not going to happen.  To be fair, I’d probably hate it anyway, sifting though tiny menu parameters does my head in.  Other than that I’d love to get my hands on some boutique fx pedals.  Zvex, Lovetone, & Keeley pedals come to mind.

QRD – To you what is music about in general & your music in particular?

Michael – Roger Waters once said “...the only thing that is important is whether it moves you or not.  There is nothing else that is important at all.”  I agree.  This is what I hope to achieve with my music.  Stir emotions.

Official mwvm Website
mwvm on MySpace