Barry Lynn aka Boxcutter spoke with Ian Maleney about dubstep, post-dubstep, running a label and the importance of music’s continuing tangible, physical existence. 

Barry Lynn aka Boxcutter spoke with Ian Maleney about dubstep, post-dubstep, running a label and the importance of music’s continuing tangible, physical existence.

Barry Lynn has been around a while. When he released the first Boxcutter album, Oneiric, five years ago, he was lauded as one of the most progressive thinkers in the then-burgeoning dubstep scene. The three albums he’s released since have simply cemented his reputation as one of the most inventive, charismatic producers working in music today, moving away from the dubstep tag towards something entirely different, drawing more comparisons to Squarepusher than the likes of scene mainstays like Skream or Benga.

Living in Lurgan, Northern Ireland his whole life has seen him maintain an aura of the outsider, a mysterious figure always on the edge of developments, pushing sounds and twisting genres further and further from where they started. His ability to work on an intense, cerebral level as well as a deeply physically affecting one, has seen him play to a lot of different crowds over the years, from packed late night basement raves to more straight-laced gatherings, like last weeks Steve Reich festival in Cork, which he seemed to enjoy. “It was pretty good. It was a really nice venue and really nice people. I was playing with Toby Kaar, he was on before me so it was nice to check out his stuff as well. I thought it went OK. I brought my bass guitar down and so I did about half an hour of playing things off the new album with live bass. Then mixing up older bits and pieces and some bits of juke and jungle just as a payoff for people who had to sit through all the earlier stuff! It was good fun though, really friendly bunch in Cork.”

It’s difficult to pin Lynn down to a single sound or genre and as he has progressed his sound has grown broader and more eclectic rather than the more usual development of a defining aesthetic. If there’s one thing that links his work, it’s that it retains a feeling of experimentation; a feeling that something else is coming just around the corner. Lynn himself agrees, “The sound does move around quite a bit so it’s kind of hard to summarise.”

His influences are just as hard to pin-point. “It’s the usual broad spectrum of things that catches my ear and I end up just trying to cherry pick the best results from my own experimenting. Can I be any less specific for you?”

Like many of his contemporaries, Lynn draws on both external samples and his own instruments, blending the new with the old. “It kind of varies from track to track. I do use a lot of my own playing and instruments. I like re-recording stuff and processing things through pedals. I try to put a bit of a stamp on every sound that I use. Even if it’s a sample, I might record it onto cassette and put the cassette through some delays so I’m always mucking around with the source material.”

One thing that quickly becomes apparent from listening to Lynn talk is that he is intensely passionate about and interested in music, discussing it and dissecting it in a way that shows a very sharp mind at work. The eternal problem of what to call music like his leads to a discussion on the nature of “post-dubstep”, music that may not have the wobble and drops that people associate with dubstep, but keeps that style’s rhythms or movements at it’s heart. Of course, the qualification is fraught with difficulties. “What would you call post-dubstep anyway?” he inquires. “I’m just curious what you would say it is, where the “post” began, you know? What was the step or where was the break?”

It’s a strange tack to take, as locating a definite break in any genre is always going to be near impossible, never more so than in the warren of genres and cross-genres that is underground dance music. Lynn does see a certain characteristic element in it though; the presence of vocals. “That’s kind of a hallmark of that post-dubstep style stuff. If it’s not like a sample diva-style garage thing, there’s always some sort of vocals there I think. The Jamie XX stuff, and James Blake as well. SBTRKT is gone all vocal-y now too. It’s funny, I heard someone describe post-dubstep as just dubstep with singing on it and I thought that kind of hit the nail on the head.”

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