There aren’t many artists who can claim to have inspired the creation of a record label, but East India Youth is one of them. The Hostel EP by bedroom producer William Doyle so impressed the editors of the independent music website The Quietus that they decided to set up a label just to release it: the Quietus Phonographic Corporation.
The website’s founder John Doran, who previously said he’d rather “cut off my own head with nail clippers” than start a label, met Doyle at a Factory Floor gig in London in 2012. Doyle gave him a CD of his album Total Strife Forever, which made it into the Quietus’s best of the year list. Doran and his team then decided to splash out on a proper release — without a pair of bloodied clippers in sight.
East India Youth’s sound is crisp and considered, inspired by the singular vision(s) of its creator. Rooted in software synths and computer sequencing, it’s an impossible-to-pigeonhole mix of pop, techno, Krautrock, electro and churchy crescendos, layered with melodic guitars and distinctive heartfelt vocals.
Doyle is a proper fan of German Kosmische muzik, as well as Berlin-period Bowie, Brian Eno, Shostakovich, Fuck Buttons and Tim Hecker. He has previous form as the frontman of Southampton-based Doyle & The Fourfathers, although he ditched his band to develop the solo opuses he’d been making on the side, in his bedroom in London’s East India Docks area (hence the name).
Stuart Turnbull caught up with Doyle to talk about why he’d rather be a “curator of sounds” than a celebrity.
On the desire to make music:
I feel that this in the only thing that I’m capable of doing really well. And I’m very obsessive about it. The urgency was always there, and it’s self-perpetuating. I get up at 8 a.m. and have breakfast, then I usually go for a walk. I get back and start making music until 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., or whenever things dry up. I think having a work ethic is a good way to breed productivity. I don’t find myself that productive at night. I’m much more creative in the daytime.
On recording in his bedroom:
Everything on the Hostel EP and my demo album was done in my bedroom. I’m in an old block of flats, so I can really blast it out. Concrete floors. Great.
When I recorded in professional recording studios in the past I never enjoyed the process. It felt clinical and didn’t help with creativity. The arbitrary order of recording bass first, then drums etc — there’s no room for abstraction. It’s more about getting the cleanest sound than making interesting music.
I’ve got a really basic set-up mainly because I haven’t been able to afford any really cool gear. But I don’t romanticise knobs and faders. I’m more about trying to make the sound with whatever you’ve got.
On listening to music:
I like to sit down and make a big deal about listening to a record. I used to buy an obscene amount of vinyl but I haven’t bought a record this year, because financially I haven’t been able to go on a spree. I’m getting withdrawal symptoms.
My mum used to play classical music around the house when I was younger. Then I studied music at college. Shostakovich really struck a chord with me, and more experimental composers like Arnold Schoenberg and the German expressionists. I love minimalists like Phillip Glass and Steve Reich.
I’m also really interested in ’70s Krautrock bands like Neu!, and the way the political and social atmosphere of the time affected their artistic output.
On hearing problems:
My hearing is quite poor for my age, because of years of playing in bands. I also had a lot of ear infections as a child and suffer from constant tinnitus. It gets worse after I’ve been to a loud gig — or if I’ve played one. But it’s very high pitched, so most of the time you can tune it out or fill your ears with other aural distractions. The problem comes when I want to give my ears a rest, because I can’t sit in a room in total silence. It’s annoying and frightening at the same time.
On making long songs:
“Coastal Reflexions” on the Hostel EP is more than nine minutes long. My girlfriend did the train-announcer vocals on it; she’s not that well-spoken normally. A couple of new tracks I’m working on last a good 17 minutes. I’m a bit worried I’m developing these nasty prog-rock tendencies.
People assign “self-indulgent” and “pretentious” to anything that’s long. But that’s not necessarily true. There are plenty of great 10-minute tracks that are about repetition rather than constant key changes. Some dance tunes go on for ages and no one says they’re self-indulgent.
On being compared to others:
Pet Shop Boys seems to come up a lot. That’s a bizarre one. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Pet Shop Boys but I don’t hear any of it in what I do. Although it’s not a bad thing, I suppose.
On going solo:
I got bored of being in a guitar band. Going up and down the country, we must have played with 600 bands. All that Gallagher-esque swagger on stage and being mouthy, it was depressing really. I didn’t want to hang out with those people.
With electronic music there’s less of an emphasis on the personalities behind the music. It’s more about the audience’s interaction with the sound that’s being made. The person creating it is less of a celebrity or icon, and more so a curator of sounds. That’s liberating idea.
On getting your ideas down:
I get thousands of ideas a day, but you can get too hung up on recording every little thing. It would seriously affect the rest of your life if you felt pressured to write everything down. Your brain acts as a sieve or filter and the good stuff will remain in your head. I’ll write it down when it’s been there a while. I don’t chuck anything out. Stuff I’m working on at the moment, the melody might be four years old. If it’s remained intact for that long I think it must be worth using.