‘I’m now approaching music with different motivations and aspirations – it feels a lot more fun and free.’
Following his recent return to music-making, we chatted with Rob Slade (aka Rigil) to find out what drew him back to songwriting, the inspiration behind new release ‘Black Clay’, and what else is on the way in 2021.
Hi Rob, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Introduce yourself to your future listeners. Hello. I’m Rob, a producer and songwriter working away in a loft in North London. I love mixing organic sounds that I can capture using what’s nearby and my voice, and then mixing those with synthetic sounds. The aim is to make pretty pop tracks with nice stories baked in.
Where does the name ‘Rigil’ come from? I’ve always been a little obsessed with space. That idea of huge vastness hanging out above our sky that’s filled with stillness but also huge moments of turmoil. There are monumental explosions and expanses with nothing. Rigil is a nickname for a star in the Centaurus constellation.
What 5 words would you use to describe your sound? Chilled, explorative, fragile, alternative pop.
Who is involved in your music and what do they bring to it? Rigil is a solo project – it’s just me. It’s a chance for me to be completely selfish in all aspects of it, which is secretly quite nice. Collaborating is wonderful and it can take you into new places, but working solo you can do that too, you’ve just got to stay motivated. I love working with people on remixes though.
Turning to your new release, what’s the story behind ‘Black Clay’? Everyone has the capability to be destructive at times – some more than others. The track is about a person who’s always embracing that destructive vibe, who’s keen to embrace the negative, and who’s seeking out confrontation. It follows that theme, and even when things are going in the right direction there’s an antagonist.
There’s a beautifully haunting atmosphere to the track. Was this the intention and how did you go about creating this? Yeah! I try to make landscapes with sounds. I think that because the strings are so rich and so full, the track has quite a thick sound that grows up to a stormy moment. In other work that’s coming up, there are loads of background noises that fill spaces. I like to make noises and single notes with my voice and manipulate these into different sonic bits and pieces.
‘Having to do everything as an independent artist really makes you value the creative time.’
Similarly, what was your approach to writing the lyrics? The music came first on this one. I start humming away on melodies over the instrumental, then turned it all back to the story and started writing from there. I think you just have to be confident with your lyrics – commit to them and say what you want to say. Sometimes I’ll be riding the tube and I’ll just be scribbling, keeping it for something later.
What led to the instrumental version being released as well? When I started making music back in 2003 (!) it was all instrumental. I like that instrumentals give you another chance to listen to the music and make it all up again. I could listen to the song a year later and feel something completely different.
I understand that the track was completed while at a barn in Norfolk. How did the change of location affect the final sound of the track? I was surrounded by so much space. My dog, partner, and I would go wandering every day between zoom calls and not see a single person! I’d listen to the demo versions and make changes, go for another walk the next day and hear new things to revise. It was amazing, incredibly different to my life in Walthamstow. Life is busier here, people to see, things to do. Being in this barn did bring some recording issues – the place was surrounded by Pheasants, and Pheasants.. love… to… scream! So I would record in the evenings when they would be quiet. I’d just have to tackle the dog in the background then.
Having taken a break from music-making, what drew you back to it and how does it feel to be doing it again? During a pretty huge break I was working on collaborations and band projects, but they never really got to the point of releasing something officially. My debut album was back in 2008, so I’ve grown up physically and emotionally since then. I’m now approaching music with different motivations and aspirations and it feels a lot more fun and free. I feel more empowered to write just for my ears, hoping other people like it too.
What are the blessings/curses of being a completely independent artist? Although working on your own is great because you can drive it wherever you want, it also means you’ve got to keep on top of all the admin too. It makes you value the creative time more though. I’m lucky that I have friends around me who can give me quality feedback.
Do you have any creative skills outside of music and if so, do they influence each other in any way? I’m a serial hobbyist and at the moment I’m into making pottery as Rob Slade Ceramics. Sitting at the wheel and being super tactile is a nice creative output when I’m here in London. Both the pottery and music can feel like a time black hole. I’ll think I’ve spent 15 minutes doing it but I’ve been there for 1.5 hours instead.
What are your musical plans for 2021? I’m going to be releasing 3 or 4 more tracks this year, leading up to an album either late this year or early 2022. Follow me on Spotify to make sure you don’t miss them!
And finally, what are the 3 tracks/albums/artists that you couldn’t live without? I love Bjork for her constant boundary-pushing music and visuals, Jóga is my favourite track. Patrick Wolf has an amazing voice and his songwriting is beautiful. It’s so exciting with him because you never know if it’s going to be up or down tempo. Kacy Hill’s career is a delight. Her track ‘Dinner’ is always popping up in my playlists no matter the mood.
Thanks Rob Slade aka Rigil for chatting with Listen to Discover