Self-Portrait: Webmoms

Karum Cooper is the mind behind Webmoms; a project that showcases his range as both a producer and multi-instrumentalist and pulls from his inspirations in jazz, soul and hip hop.

Based in Cornwall, Karum has been making music for years — first as a guitarist for alt-rock band Hypophora, then as a drummer for prog-rock outfit For The Oracle, before going on to play bass for pop singer Daisy Clarke.

All of these experiences have furnished him with the tools to embark on his own solo journey — cue Webmoms. Matching his skills as a guitarist with lo-fi drums and beautiful jazz motifs, his debut EP Ruchikar – named after the Hindi word for a pleasant and delightful experience – is a window into his far-reaching musical talents and the influences that have paved the way until now.

Following the release he delivers a mix of unreleased original material that is an amalgamation of almost every track he’s produced or worked on since the beginning of 2020. This sits alongside an interview about his creative process and approach to production.

Ruchikar is out now – grab your copy.

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?

Anyone who’s grown up around Jamaicans will know it is categorically impossible to avoid music. The Caribbean carnivals and sound clash culture, Bhangra groups at Indian family functions. Pretty much everything was musical!

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?

Absolutely. Both of my parents are skilled musicians. My father a guitarist/bassist and my mother is classically trained in Clarinet and Piano. Both of my younger brothers play a little bit of everything too. I started playing the guitar around age 10, graduated on to drums and bass at 14, even flute for a little bit. I then found myself playing in every musical project possible, performing in a shed-load of bands all over Cornwall between the ages of 15 and 19. I’ve dialled back on the ‘being in all of the bands all the time’ vibe because that shit is tiring.

What led you into music production?

Truro college. Insanely talented and passionate lecturers that inspired and helped me cultivate my love for music production without drawing it out and making it uninteresting. That, coupled with a love for hip hop, RnB and a newfound love for electronica and experimental gave me an insatiable thirst to create production-based music.

Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your production?

Tonnes. I’m a big fan of the 90s/2000s Hip Hop and RnB scene. Cats like Pharrell, D’Angelo, Andre 3000 were all self-producing and insanely talented multi-instrumentalists were killing it back in the day. The modern counterpart would be guys like Tyler The Creator.

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio?

Brew a fresh cafetiere before anything else. Then dim the lighting, flick on some fairly lights and set the mood of the room, which is everything. I always make sure that I have as many pieces of equipment on standby, mic’d and running as possible. It’s crazy how much that can streamline your creative workflow, especially when writing and recording. I try and warm up on guitar too so I don’t spend ages re-doing the same take because of some random finger cramp.

Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

Often I have a definitive idea of where I want to end up – particularly if I’ve been vibing over a certain song/artist/album/genre that I want to try and take influence from. Occasionally I just free wheel it, not thinking about style or mood or BPM or key. I just see whatever random shit comes out of my head.

Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

This is something I’ve battled with for AGES, and something I know a lot of producers will agree with. I’m currently trying to unlearn the idea of perfectionism; especially in music. I used to spend days whittling away at one track and subsequently neglecting other ideas and jams that had really exciting potential. Obviously that’s an awful habit to have so I’m trying to work on being happy with a first draft, then moving onto something else for a little bit. It helps keep creativity flowing and stops you from getting into a production rut. It’s working so far!

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track?

Chords first. Chords and harmony are my favourite musical elements so 90% of the time I end up jamming out a chord progression until I’m happy. Then I’ll roughly draw or play in the kinda groove I want to hear as a placeholder, play around with some melodic ideas and basslines, then slowly start replacing all the rough takes and draft ideas with good shit, until I’m happy! Once the creative side of composition is done, I start mixing, playing with effects/risers and finding ways to make the track really pop.

How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?

The only part of my music that’s sample based are some of the drum loops. Even then it’s only a few of the one-hits and they’re mostly made by friends in the scene. I try and keep my stuff as organic as possible. I’ve been having a lot of fun with Taurri recently; using random objects from around the room and our mouths to make our beat.

Congratulations on your recent EP Ruchikar, can you take us through the creative process of one of the tracks?

Thank you! My favourite track to make by a looong shot was ‘Summer Salad’. I had been jamming in this tuning of EADF#AD, came up with that boppin’ chordy riff thing and recorded that straight away. Slowly whittled away at a drum break to carry the momentum of the song without it getting repetitive. I wanted a summery, laid back but also sort-of danceable vibe so I recorded in some live percussion (congas/shaker/woodblocks/cowbell) to give it that almost tropical kinda feel. Plugged my bass in and the bassline came fairly naturally.  The ‘B’ section was a lot of fun to record, similar method to the above but with more experiments and weird FX pedals/plugins. Once all that was gone I sent it to James to get his opinion on the mix and within the day he’d sent back a fully written and recorded Saxophone melody with harmonies and all. Bare in mind this was deep into lockdown so nobody had anything to do.

This mix is comprised of 100% original Webmoms material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

Some of this stuff hasn’t been properly touched in nearly a year. It’s an amalgamation of almost every track that I’ve produced or worked on since the start of the year. A lot of these tracks are really special – a couple of these were made just a few nights after moving into a new house. Some were remote collaborations with far away friends that I haven’t seen in years. A few were made just last week and will be on releases imminently. I’ll leave which is which to the listener’s imagination.

Anything on the horizon for you? Any releases we should know about?

Maybe. Keep an eye on the 13th. Of every month. Forever. X3i.

Ruchikar is out now – grab your copy.

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