Half the fun of a musical comeback is in the mythologising. When Mark Barrott reintroduced Len Leise to the world via his International Feel imprint, stories about the discovery ranged from a charity shop find to an excavation in the outback. Whether the truth will ever be outed, the intangibility of Len Leise’s origins actually suit his music to a tee. His organic, balearic soundscapes, constructed through field recordings and live instrumentation exist in a musical dreamworld of its own.
His International Feel partnership continues to go from strength to strength, and with the advent on his new remix EP, he’s put together a smooth 60 minute mix for us, and answered a few questions alongside.
First, our usual ice-breaker. What’s your first musical memory?
My parents bought me jazz piano lessons when I was young and I remember my teacher smelling of cigarettes, coffee and chewing gum. I usually just loved sitting next to him watching him play. I think that’s why I was never very good at the piano but I did take up drinking coffee and smoking from a young age. I was already chewing gum.
You’ve previously said that you’re feeling at your most inspired from a musical POV. What do you see as the catalyst?
I did say that previously, but I think i’m in a bit of a rut at the moment or maybe that after the last few releases I’m a bit tougher on myself.
There’s some really interesting sampling at play in your work. Where are some of the places you look for samples, and what makes a good sample in your eyes?
I don’t really sample at all these days, I used to sample but only minimally. I try and play and create everything myself. Unless it’s for an edits release then I’m not sure, usually just digging through records.
Field recordings also play an important role in your music. Why so?
It’s because of where I make music my last two studios have been on the second level, I have a window in my studio which looks out over Melbourne, tress encroach on the glass and nature is at an arms length. This is terrible acoustically but helps me feel connected to my surroundings.
Does your work as a graphic designer cross over much with your music-related activity? Does one ever inspired the other and vice versa?
Not vice versa, but music can definitely inspire a design. Particularly for a record cover or something music related. Also I’m not a numbers guy and I’m terrible with sequencers. I like Ableton because there are just big dumb blocks of colour to push around and it’s very visually intuitive.
What’s been your favourite album art in 2016 so far?
Anything that my pal Valentino from Public Possession does is usually a fave, but I also really like the Asa Moto – Stay Awake / Wanowan Efem on DEEWEE (left) and Cs & Kreme’s self titled EP on Total Stasis design by Thomas Jeppe (right).
If legend is to be believed, Mark Barrott first discovered your music in a charity shop in Paris. What have been some of your favourite charity shop discovery?
David Parsons – Yatra (cassette). Super meditative spooky and contemplative chill vibes. A good time to slow time.
We hear you’ve had some crazy stories relayed back about your discovery by Mark. What’s been the craziest?
The legends at Piccadilly Records wrote this description for my Aficionado Release. I love it… I love people not taking things too seriously. Taking the piss is always preferred.
“Aficionado have everything in your wants list and more; those mythical records you need but have yet to imagine. One such artefact is a collection of future primitive symphonies from the Len Leise (International Feel), a visionary composer of organic soundscapes who lives hidden in the same dreamworld as his music. Rumours are rife as to where Aficionado found this cassette of rainforest swelter; some say Moon found it buried in a vault in the red sand of the outback, while others suggest Jason discovered the tape propping open a door in a backstreet off La Rambla. Either way, we’re spared the exhaustive search thanks to this gorgeous 12″ vinyl pressing.”
Do you enjoy the mythologizing or do you wish everyone would stop being so nosy?!
I don’t care at all, it’s all a bit of fun. Mainly I just want people to listen to my music. People can be as nosy as they want I’m not bothered. I’m just not a big fan of selfies or anything like that.
Seeing your records sell for extortionate sums without seeing anything in return, and even your identity has been called into question, are there times when you question whether you made the right call to come back after an extended hiatus?
No not at all, it’s all really trivial at the end of the day. I’m here to stay.
Without wanting to be overly negative, what keeps you keep positive and motivated?
Constantly discovering new music, being inspired by what people are putting out around me and the energy and unique ideas people have, pushing myself to be a better producer. To try and create new ideas and not replicate old ones. To be true to myself and what I want to create. To balance the music making with lots of reading, writing and design. As well as having a great bunch of friends to take me out of the music world and expose me to knew ways of thinking.
Melbourne’s a bit of a hotbed of talent at the moment. Are there any young producers and DJs local to you that we should keep an eye out for this year?
CS & Kreme are incredible!
Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us?
Lately some of my mixes have worked off themes, from jazz to afro to oddball percussive stuff. This time I wanted to be a bit more free-form with it. A bit more random and a bit more of a general expression of what productions I like. All of my mixes are normally 100% vinyl but I think that can be a bit limiting especially for CD or tape-only releases. So I branched out and even dug up some CDs and tapes, got a bit more random with it all, borrowed a CDJ of a friend and off I went. It’s probably 80% vinyl, 15% CD 5% tape. It’s purposefully random in nature and a bit all over the shop in a good way. I’m really happy with how it all came together.
What’s coming up on the horizon we should look out for? Any plans for more releases or Europe-bound trips?
Working on the next release but not sure when it will be finished or released. Hopefully soon but who knows! Planning on a European tour with my DJ pal Salvador in late August. We are still working out dates and times but keep an eye/ear out.