On the advent of his second EP, Oxford producer Chad Valley talks to Skiddle about Ibiza, masking production with lo-fi values... and why he loves Aqua's 'Barbie Girl'.
When that whole lo-fi fad came to town, there was always one begging question on my mind. Was the static and endless reverb just a way for the indulgent bands to cover up minor ‘flaws’? Was lo-fi’s fuzzy sound really what they said it was?
After speaking to Oxford musician Chad Valley my question is answered. “With the first EP I think I wasn't as confident production-wise, so I would mask the tracks with lots of lo-fi-ness,” says the artist. If that honest comment is anything to go by, then you can bet his second EP Equatorial Ultravox, released 20 June, is dripping in the sweat and perspiration of someone who knew exactly what he wanted and where he was going.
Highly glossy and devoid of any trace of that ‘lofi’ haze, Chad Valley’s second EP will lather your ears in the silky, polished notes of ‘hi-fi’.
UK producer Chad Valley contrasts what once was: the Ibiza’s Cafe del Mar, overlooking the sunset strip, to what is: the grimy outskirts of east Oxford, the BMW factory and a bleak street named ‘Hollow Way’ - the place where he wrote and produced ‘Equatorial Ultravox’.
You’ve spent quiet a bit of time in Ibiza, how did your first trip come about?
Just connections, yo. Stayed in a great flat in San Antonio above the Cafe del Mar, overlooking the sunset strip. Sipping Hierbas Ibicencas and listening to mad bongos all night long. I love it there.
You’ve openly admitted to studying the pop-styles of Madonna, Kylie and even Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’. What is it about the pop song that wins you over?
Songs like that are very much written to spec, and that’s totally not what I do, but there is some very sophisticated stuff going on there and I think music like that deserves to be recognised. After all those kind of songs are written by actual professional musicians, who are professional because they are good at writing songs. 'Barbie Girl' has one hell of a middle-eight... that’s why I love that song.
Chad Valley is your solo project while pop band Jonquil and Blessing Force are collective efforts. How different is working solo and making all the decisions to collaborating and compromising?
A lot of my ideas I have are pretty ropey, so the great thing about working collaboratively is that you have other people around you to say 'shuddup Hugo that sounds rubbish'. With Chad Valley I just end up listening to a tune 100 times trying to work out if that particular chord is good or not. It saves a lot of time having other people around.
Your second EP, Equatorial Ultravox is released on June 20. In what way did you approach it differently to the first?
The first EP was literally the first four songs I had written, so there wasn't much of a thought process in putting it together. There was quite a long time between getting those tracks together and doing the same for Equatorial, so I had amassed a lot more songs and it was more of a case of picking and choosing seven tracks that worked really well together, with an eye for keeping some left over for the album. With the first EP I think I wasn't as confident production-wise, so I would mask the tracks with lots of lofi-ness. Recording things onto rubbish tape-decks and then back into the computer, but now I am more interested in good, almost glossy production, so some of the new EP has that to it.
- Date: Saturday 27th August 2011
- Event: Creamfields 2011 at Daresbury Estate
- Venue: Daresbury Estate
- Artists: Erol Alkan, Gareth Emery, Calvin Harris, Above and Beyond, Caspa, Danny Byrd, Eric Prydz, Laidback Luke, Goldie, Katy B, Paul Oakenfold, Sasha, Paul Van Dyk, David Guetta, Armin Van Buuren, Sebastien Leger, The Chemical Brothers, Tiesto, diplo, Magnetic Man
How many EPs before the LP?
No more. Maybe a single or two preceding the album but for now I'm done with EPs.
Where were you located and how important was the location when creating Equatorial Ultravox?
All of that was written and produced in my bedroom in east Oxford, in a house that was half-Jonquil and half-Trophy Wife. It was on the out-skirts of the city in a grimy area near the BMW factory. So it is a kind of escapism, dreaming about being on the sunset strip in San Antonio rather than the bleak winter on a street appropriately named 'Hollow Way'.
You’ve also started a blog. How prevalent is the Internet and technology in your music and its processes?
Man, I just realised how Tumblr is the new Myspace. All the kids have got Tumblrs and they just constantly post animated gifs. It’s mad. I now discover pretty much all of the music I listen to through the Internet, and I pretty much only read about music through the Internet. It’s just taken over everything like that. However, nearly all of the instruments I use are at least twenty years old, so really the stuff I make could have been made a long time ago… it’s not like Autechre or something where they are using technology that just didn't exist five years ago to make their music; I'm not totally down with the latest technological advancements in music. I'll leave those to Autechre.
First album you bought?
The Best of David Bowie 1969-1974
Last song you listened to?
Ford and Lopatin - World of Regret
How important is the live aspect of the Chad Valley shows? Are there certain elements you put a lot of emphasis on?
I'm kind of a fan of the Tough Alliance School of live performance. They just put their CD on the PA and mime along (not even with mics) and dance around waving baseball bats. I'd much rather watch that, than watch some dude standing behind a laptop, pushing buttons. I don't mime, but hopefully my live show is slightly entertaining, although I'll happily admit to not being Queen or something like that. I just try and sing as best as I can and I think people appreciate that that’s my 'thing' live. Maybe. (Laughs).
Do you approach the festival gig differently to one of your own gigs at a venue?
I've only played one festival as Chad Valley before I think, but it’s usually more a case of just getting on with it and making sure there are as few gaps between songs as possible. Don't give people time to clap, because it might just be an embarrassing patter. (Laughs).
The one constant in your life?
Interview by: Jasmine Phull
Catch Chad Valley at Creamfields this Summer.
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Originally published: 11th Jun 2011