LIMF Academy 2019: Podge
Continuing our conversations with the LIMF Academy 2019 “Most Ready” artists, Planet Slop talks to 20 year old, Wirral-born Podge.
20 year old Podge makes one statement during our conversation that seems to sum up a lot about his work; “I don’t like over explaining”.
It is hard to pin down exactly what Podge does. There’s a melting pot of different styles present in his music, but at its core, there is synthpop and soundscapes with a rhythmic focus. “Trippy music baked into me,” he explains.
In a sense, technology is at the heart of what Wirral-born artistdoes.It is even there in his name, if subtly – the screen name he used on video games and Skype growing up. “Me and my friends used to change our screen names every week,” he says. “One of my friends had that as his name once, and I just liked it and decided to keep it!”
But he doesn’t rely on technology, he simply tries to use it to his advantage. “The more I’ve learned about production and tech, I see more possibilities.”
It’s perhaps unsurprising to hear him count the likes of Aphex Twin among his biggest influences – not the production style per se, but certainly the method – but hearing his music we never would have guessed his musical beginnings.
“I wasn’t that into music until I was 14, and that was classic dad rock stuff.”
We, of course, look surprised when he brings this up, as it seems to have no bearing on the music he is making now. He notices this and immediately explains; “I had one friend who got us all into music – Hendrix, Dark Side of the Moon. I think I was trying to fit into my friend group. I don’t think anything was drawing me in. But once I got into it, that was it.”
“But that friend wanted to start a band, so I played bass for a year with him and then moved on to guitar.”
Perhaps he had a greater ambition than his friends, as Podge immersed himself in a constant rotation of sounds – he admits that sporting an afro in school meant he could get away with listening to music during classes. “At my peak, Spotify counted around 11 hours per day”.
He slowly started listening to his own discoveries around the age of 16, and cites Neutral Milk Hotel and My Bloody Valentine, but he wouldn’t call those influences on his work. Indeed, this too is difficult to hear in his music.
It was Japanese musician Cornelius, who he discovered in his first year at Edge Hill University and known by some as a “modern day Brian Wilson,” who he cites as the first major influence on is work. He describes Cornelius’ work as “so familiar, but really alien”. You can hear it immediately, especially in relation to his breakout album Fantasma; the high energy guitars, synths and electronic drums.
Japanese culture generally seems to be a muse for Podge. His affection for anime was birthed in high school, and he enthuses about Shibuya-Kei, a genre that flourished throughout Asia in the late 1990s.
It was no surprise, then, that he decided he wanted to make his own music.
Initially, this music was what he describes as “super slow”; just guitar and vocals. In typical teenage angst, he steered away from happy music, instead choosing to brood. But, something changed suddenly and he found himself doing a complete 180 degree turn, recording “cutesy, happy kind of stuff”.
Now, though, he has finally found his balance. He doesn’t want to write music for the sake of being happy. He cites added confidence in himself, and adds influences such as the Beach Boys, who at their best managed to create upbeat sounding harmonies, with an underpinning melancholy.
Most fascinating is Podge’s lyrics, which he strives to make part of the music itself; tone setting, rather than story telling. “It is basically stream of conscious. There is never one topic throughout the song, or necessarily a specific meaning behind the line”. This adds a level of ambiguity to each of his tracks that keeps the listener intrigued and potentially creates discussion about what, if anything, he is actually talking about.
This is possibly explained by his next statement; “On some level, I am really focussed on originality. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from what other people have done, but I try not to channel anything on purpose. And I’m self-taught, so I probably couldn’t imitate another artist if I tried.”
This is the first time he has applied for LIMF Academy – he knew of the festival, but not much about what the Academy could offer him. But, having played Liverpool Sound City through Edge Hill University, and been selected to take part in Merseyrail Sound Station, he soon began to understand the possibilities. “Merseyrail was the first thing that got me into the Liverpool scene,” he explains. “I couldn’t get a gig, and it introduced me to a couple of people. LIMF Academy makes me feel confident that I’m going in the right direction.”
And what direction is that?
“In the short term – I want people to hear my music. In the long term be an established artist in Japan.”
Obviously being “big in Japan” is such an old cliché that one of Liverpool’s finest cult bands was named after the concept, as was a song by Tom Waits – and ironically, this is especially true of the dad rock bands he grew up listening to. But for Podge it feels like a calling, a natural part of his development.
For now, Podge’s focus is clear; “I’m just keeping my head down, and working on an album.”
Podge will play Liverpool International Music Festival on Sunday 21st July.