With a new single out today, ‘Reflections’, ahead of the full album, we speak to Laurence for our next instalment of The Shortlist.
Laurence Guy is a man of extremes. Emotionally, he rarely finds himself in that grey, fuzzy place that can be hard to define. Instead, he’s either climbing down from a high or crawling up from a low. It’s a divergent state of being that could be tiring, but when you’re creatively inclined and have the ability to channel that disparity into work, it can prove fruitful.
“Music is something that balances out those two things for me,” he explains over Zoom, from his London home. “I do everything at 150 miles an hour, which can be great but can also leave you feeling a little off-kilter. So the music I make is a way to bring everything back together. It makes me feel more peaceful.”
His single releases ahead of the new album Living Like There’s No Tomorrow But Killing Yourself In The Process are each a vignette offering insight into a particular moment or feeling. ‘On Your Side’ was the first, a gently rapturous instalment that represents the seductive nature of hedonistic good times, whilst his latest track ‘Reflections’, featuring the vocals of KiLLOWEN, explores the depths of the aftermath and subsequent quest for balance.
“For me, music has always been a way of processing things,” Guy says. “If I’m feeling a certain way and I make music, then the tune will sound like that feeling. Thankfully, it doesn’t take a huge amount of effort, it just sort of naturally happens, but it wasn’t always that way.”
In the past, Gus says he would write every day as a means to keep improving, but over time, he’s learnt to recognise that waiting for the compulsion to write rather than doing it regardless was the most effective way to translate his thoughts into tunes. Nevertheless, that daily ritual proved pertinent in other ways, allowing him to quietly acquire knowledge of his craft, which in turn has given him the freedom to delve into many pockets of the creative process.
“A lot of it was about getting technically proficient enough so that you can get what’s in your head into the software,” he continues. “Then it’s a direct link between how you’re feeling and what you make. If you’re worried about how to use this or that thing, you waste a lot of time on stuff that has nothing to do with the expression of the music. Once you’ve mastered that, you can just keep chipping away and let things happen naturally.”
Sweet spot located, he finally felt confident enough with this album to expand on his house foundations and to experiment with hip-hop, vocals, and a mélange of other genres.
“For as long as I’ve been making music I’ve wanted to make whatever style I want, but also make sure it’s still recognisable as me,” he says. “I feel like I’ve done that now because there’s all kinds of different stuff on there. This album is the culmination of many years of work.”
Guy has been laying down tracks since the tender age of 12. He had piano lessons as a youngster, but otherwise it was just something that came easily to him. He describes music as an extension of himself – consequently, no one was surprised when he released his first track in 2015.
From there, it snowballed into multiple accolades, including frequently selling out gigs at fabric, his own Rinse FM residency, and releases on Ninja Tunes, Late Night Tales and Mule Musiq, as well as his own label, Accidental Pieces. He’s had a solid few years to piece together his own musical slant, but it’s only now that he feels he’s approaching the apex.
“We’ve had a concept and a vision for this album for a couple of years or so,” he says with a grin. “So it’s really exciting that we’re finally doing it.”
To celebrate the album release, the plan is to do a live tour with a band, something he’s not done before; a premise that was laid before the onset of the cost-of-living crisis, the scourge affecting artists, venues, production staff and ticket buyers up and down the country.
“It’s pretty cheap to tour as a DJ,” he muses. “But it might be more difficult for a band so maybe I’m in for a shock. We might need to just tour on a smaller scale but I think everyone’s got to try and keep ticket prices down as much as possible. I don’t know what the solution is, but I think everyone can try and be mindful – everyone’s got to be in it together.”
Strangely, we reminisce about the pandemic, when there were promises of collaboration among the music industry that never really materialised.
“The community aspect seemed to dissolve almost straightaway,” he states. “As soon as people were making money again, there were expensive DJs and rich fans existing in a separate bubble. Everybody’s got to make a living, but it was a bit deflating. I don’t know what the answer is but there’s still some really good parties around. Hopefully, it all balances out.”
There’s that word again: balance. For Guy, though the scales may constantly be swinging, there is always equilibrium to be found in music.
“The reason I think I use music so much to express myself is because I’m not really very good at doing it in real life,” he ponders. “So it’s really helpful, but it also comes at the cost of being able to do it for real. I suppose it’s both a blessing and a curse.”
ON THE PLAYLIST
Arthur Russell – This is How We Walk on The Moon
Dean Blunt – The Narcissist
Roots Manuva – Witness The Fitness (1 Hope)
Kenny Wheeler – Part 1, Opening (Music for Large & Small Ensembles)
Willam Basinski – Melancholia
TRG – Broken Heart (Martyn Remix)
dBridge – Original World
Mike Westbrook – Metropolis X (part1 x)
Interpol – Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down
Floating Points – Vacuum Boogie
This is a selection of tunes that’s influenced me and shaped my style over the years. The Arthur Russell track is a big inspiration because he’s actually got a pretty weird voice. It doesn’t sound like a conventionally good singing voice but it’s still one of the most beautiful tracks I’ve ever heard. Then there’s the TRG remix, which is the first tune I can remember that bridged dubstep into future garage or post-dubstep. It’s like a hybrid that traversed all the different genres really nicely. Then there’s the Interpol track, which is just my favourite song ever. The rest have all influenced me in some way over the years.
Living Like There’s No Tomorrow, But Killing Yourself In The Process is out on 7 July via Accidental Pieces.