«Midnight Cowboy» brings together strands of UK Funky, IDM and Grime to create a unique take on contemporary percussion club music. Informed by DIY black music cultures like Dancehall and Techno, Instant Graham pays tribute by sampling genre-related voices, percussion, and found sounds.
The EP positions the listener as the ‘Midnight Cowboy’, an absurd avatar that experiences a series of spaces designed to create disorientation, introspection and catharsis. A restless sound design palette and hard-edged samples stretches over a series of rhythms ranging from blocky syncopated rhythms to landscapes of tension and release.
We have had the pleasure of speaking with Instant Graham and this has been the result.
Hi there ! Where can we find you right now? How did you start your day?
I’m sat in the alley behind the place in Brixton where I work. Actually, now I’m a cafe in New Cross. Now, I’m at home in Nunhead. It took me a few goes to complete this interview 😅
When did the idea of starting a project start to take shape? Has it always been something you wanted to do?
I find it hard to link together tracks I’ve made into a cohesive collection as they’re usually very different in sound, but I wanted to put an EP out so eventually I forced them into shape. I came up with the idea for release called ‘Midnight Cowboy’ and made some tracks to fit that, and developed some I already had in the works.
How would you define the sound of your latest work? What is the concept behind?
I usually have a lot of scraps of ideas and phrases knocking about my mind. Midnight Cowboy came from an inside joke of me obnoxiously singing ‘cowboy songs’ in the morning after a night out – ie. folksy songs that I grew up listening to at home, and still love! An example would be artists like James Taylor, who I very briefly sampled a youtube singer covering in ‘Midnight Cowboy’.
Most of my ideas have quite a silly basis like that. But then I became slightly obsessed with cowboys, which of course are such a commonly used icon that they’re slightly devoid of meaning – but that brings them around again to being quite funny and interesting. I like how people use the cowboy emoji to represent (in my opinion) a kind of carefree attitude, in the context of our super-commercialised, super-individualised society – it’s a little yeehaw in a howling void where it’s hard to find meaning or identity. Cowboys are a fun and daft symbol of individualism, and they are a completely mythical character to start with anyway. The guys at La Bonne Musique were really on board with these ideas I had, and were great at helping convey this in the artwork.
What artists are you interested in these days?
It’s hard to pin down just a few, but here are some names I’ve been listening to lately: Clavish, Don Sinini, Parris, Aya, Caroline Polachek, DJ P, Carl Stone, John Glacier, Novelist, Shenseea.
How do you manage to combine such disparate genres? How do you manage to give them unity and harmony? What do they have in common for you?
I usually try to play it straight when I’m making a track, but then end up using sounds and conventions from other genres to cover my shortcomings when I run out of steam! That’s why I really admire producers who can really smoothly make a track that pays homage to classic ‘genre’ dance music, like UKG or something. But in my case, it’s like – hmm well, I’ve got this trancey supersaw lead but it sounds very cheesey when I put it to a 4 to the floor drum pattern – let me try using a quite grime-inspired pattern with distorted 909 snares.
How would you define your sound?
I think texture of sound is very important so I like to play with what ‘organic’ or ‘digital’ sounds like, and at the same time balancing melody and harmony with rhythmic and percussive-led structures.
Can you tell us something about your current or future projects?
I’m hoping to develop my skills in making music for vocalists (and link up with vocalists – hit me up!), particularly at tempos around 100BPM. I’m also trying to learn guitar and improve my overall instrumental skills, so hopefully that will lead to some interesting developments down the line.