Texture Tape 036:

Georgie McVicar

Interview by

Assembled by Georgie McVicar, Texture Tape 036 is a kaleidoscopic journey as refractive as their new album – the quietly stunning Tiny Grassland. The mix weaves a sea of samples and instrumentation into a blanket of many threads, a patchwork quilt of influences and musings. It’s a fitting accompaniment to the album and it’s adjacent book, both out now via Mutualism – get comfy and dig in.

Who is Georgie McVicar?

Musician, writer, customer service advisor, Boudica impersonator.  

Tell us about the inspirations and themes behind the mix – how does it relate to Tiny Grassland?

This was a tricky one to make because I was trying my best to include as much influence and inspiration for Tiny Grassland as I could. It features some film soundtracks, prayers, sound effects, organ drones, poems, and some repetitive electronic stuff. It’s a bit of a patchwork quilt but I hope you can trace the threads within it!

What were you listening to and reading whilst making the album?

The album took 3 years to make – so I’ve been through a lot in that time! Big shout outs to: John Coltrane, Anna Meredith, Iannis Xenakis, Klara Lewis, Actress, Laurel Halo, peb, Bach, Virginia Woolf, Gribs, object blue, John Milton, Laraaji, Ann Annie, Tara Rodgers, Beyonce, Günter Grass, AJA, Mozart, The Knife, Karin Bijsterveld, Tony Conrad, Cocteau Twins, James Joyce, Richard Dawson, Wolfgang Voigt, Machine Woman, Erik Satie, Stereolab, Alan Partridge, Joanna Brouk, AYA, Thomas Köner, Aircode, Virgil, Laurie Anderson, Ellen Arkbro, Penderecki, Okkyung Lee, Mark Fell, Anthony Braxton, Harold Budd, Thomas Mann, and Lotic.

Tiny Grassland explores the voices and internal dialogues that reading produces, nestled amongst intricately assembled soundscapes. How might the messages and ideas of the book and music develop in separation from each other?

Yeah it’s an interesting one. The album was about 80% done when I started writing the book, but I got a bit carried away and began retrospectively adjusting things in the album to align more closely to the accompanying literature. I would even go so far to say that this process of triangulation compromised the music in some ways, but I really wanted the two things to tell the same story through different modalities, if that makes sense? I like the line in Emile’s introduction about allowing the two to feed off one another, that’s a good way to approach it I think. 

Have you found that the music aligns with other pieces of text or indeed that the book works in concert with other pieces of music?

Interesting thought! There are a lot of literary allusions in the music, and a lot of musical allusions in the text. In the book, there’s even an ekphrastic poem written by Laurel Uziell about one of the tracks. I do like the idea that the book lends itself to further listening beyond the album, to the many other musicians mentioned in the text. If you’re anything like me when you read, those reference points will encourage pauses in reading to make room for YouTube rabbit-holes. In a way, a lot of the music was also written with certain texts in mind: litanies, catechisms, prose poems, plays and so on, but I don’t know if the music has the same cross-pollination into literature. 

How does physical media intersect with your experience of music, both in composition and consumption?

This album was a bit unusual for me in that it’s based on some recordings I made at Stockholm’s EMS studios, and particularly on their massive Buchla synthesiser. I recorded probably about 80 hours of music there but most of it was just bleepy bloopy nonsense. Tiny Grassland is the cherry picked bounty of what I recorded there. Beyond that, physicality in music doesn’t play a big part of music for me. I have lots of physical relics from music, like old equipment, instruments, controllers, turntables, cassette players, and other stuff. But I’m quite a lazy person and I usually can’t be bothered to set it up in order to start writing or listening. Most of the ‘physical technology’ on the album is not musical, but there are a lot of household appliances which operate as set design for the ‘rooms’ featured along the album’s narrative. I’m particularly fond of the kettle recording I made for the end of the first track. That’s one of the my favourite bits on the whole album. 

Do you find it easier to convey ideas through words or sounds?

I’m a lot more experienced in using sound as a medium and writing is a little newer for me (especially in the creative sense). So I do feel more confident in using sounds to express ideas. There’s tonnes of enigmas and puzzles in the music which are usually the reserve of literature. I had great fun trying to incorporate scenes, characters, symbolism, jokes, metaphors, cliffhangers and stuff within the music. For me it’s just a way of trying to capture more within the medium, and using novel techniques to create new sounds. Tom Nolan once said that Brian Wilson shifted his focus to film in the 60s because, “if you couldn’t get a sound from a carrot, you could show a carrot. But he would really liked to have made music that was a carrot.” I fully endorse this approach.

Listening to the music and reading to the book simultaneously really reminded me of the near-overload of the video piece “Felt Tip” by Elizabeth Price. It feels natural but equally, as expressed in your writings, synthesised. A balm for endless recordings of water trickling and birds whistling that clog our digital arteries. I’m wondering if the process of creating the album and book changed your perception or attitudes towards the division between the natural and the constructed.

In a way yeah, if only in that it made the line between natural and constructed even fuzzier than before! For a while, I got super interested in the prevalence of artificial nature soundscapes online. The kind of audio that is made for relaxing and falling asleep etc. I think people today are really stressed about their disorderly lives, and about the impending environmental catastrophe. They feel in need of a kind of deep calm and tranquility, and the audio of waterfalls or sand-raking are a kind of short-term solution to that. So the promise these constructed sounds offer of a luscious natural world (albeit an artificial one) is as a kind of antidote to these anxieties. I hope this album can also offer some help or refuge from those anxieties (or even better, a motivation to overcome them!)

Your influences bubble through to the surface at times but it can be hard to separate the myth from the fiction from the reality – if they are even intended to be separated! I’m curious how you feel releasing music and conducting interviews across digital spaces and how you feel that influences or frames the work that you create.

I’m always quite hesitant about interview answers because there’s no fun in being told how to understand something. To be honest, all of the resonant interpretations of the album/book so far have come from other people, who are much smarter than me. The process of writing is so often a messy and incoherent process. I usually find that the themes and concepts only begin to crystallise as the process of writing is nearing its end. So please don’t take my explications too seriously – take what you will from it, your thoughts are probably more coherent.

I’m really interested in your relationship to technology, and utilisation of synthesis to try and probe or provoke more critical approaches to its utilisation in music. What sort of future does Tiny Grassland envisage, and what role might technology play in the sonic spaces of the future?

I guess more than any other genre, it seems as though electronic music has been consistently spawned out of new technological innovations. There are whole genres that have come out of the drum machine, amplification methods, DAWs, sequencers and so on. So if you track the history of electronic music, it seems like the significant cultural changes seem to occur at points where significant developments in technology also occur. I think this close relationship to technology can sometimes lead to quite an uncritical admiration of tech, and its relationship to work, politics, society, and the environment. I get pretty irritated by the lack of political commitments made by contemporary electronic musicians who obsess over technology. It seems like so much electronic music these days wants to present our current situation in an exaggerated worst-case techno-dystopian scenario. But is that the extent of the comment? ‘What if the world was the same, but worse?’ I really believe technology and capital will continue to infiltrate our lives in ways that are far from positive, and I don’t think uncritically submerging them into our music is a good idea. Call me old fashioned but I want something more. I want a way out.

On a similar note, your discussions of the music as mutable, unfinished really reminded me of some reading I’d done for an essay about afrofuturism and the need for a human component of a listener or dancer as part of the core of electronic music. It’s an attitude Kodwo Eshun communicates really well. Does Tiny Grassland need an audible footprint, or a listener, in physical space? Also, does it ever move you? How?

Interesting! I do have a habit of overthinking music and other stuff that I make, so in a way I will always consider things I do as unfinished. I think at a certain stage in the process you have to accept it for what it is, warts and all. I’m definitely very against the hyper-competency of a lot of computer music and much prefer sound that is fallible and broken in some way. Some of my favourite albums, films, and books are complete sprawling shambles and I love them for that. There’s so much in Tiny Grassland I would change if I had the chance, but maybe those errors can act as their own portals of discovery.

The book moves between the minutely personal and the densely abstract. Are myths more alive than ever before? How do we recognise them?

Well, as peb writes in the book, “self-mythologising is fun”. I think so long as you’re doing it with fun in mind, and not in some grandiose in-the-stars kind of way, then I’m all for more mythology. Mythologies that take themselves seriously have no resonance with me – but I don’t mind a bit of good old-fashioned world-building. I just hope the book, and the mythology within it, helps to provide some more shape and colour to the music. I wrote it for fun, not as a textbook.

What is your favourite noise?

Never underestimate the smack of a perfectly executed high five.

Is there a show you would love to go back in time and experience again?

I once saw Animal Collective play an acoustic set of the entirety of ‘Sung Tongs’, including bits from the Vashti Bunyan EP! But I found I didn’t get a job I wanted that day, so I wouldn’t mind watching that again in a better mood.

A track you’ve always wanted to play out or perform but never had the chance?

I’ve been trying for years to learn the Frog Galliard. One day.

A track that never fails to make you dance?

I’m dancing to Oli XL’s ‘Ribbon Bone [Silk Chaser]’ as I write this.

Your favourite club or venue?

I’ve had some really nice pints in the Pride of Spitalfields.

The soundtrack to your funeral?


And on a lighter note, the tune you’ll still be listening to in 50 years?

Happy Birthday.

Lastly, any upcoming projects or gigs we can look out for?

I have 3 records coming out of some super repetitive electronic stuff, which I’m mega excited about!! The first should be out before the end of the year.

Tracklist ~
Maurice Jarre - Kaschubien
Brian Wilson - One for the Boys
[Some bubbling sounds from freesound.org]
[Flipping the channel on a TV in the 50s - YouTube video]
Gordon Koang - Asylum Seeker
Nicolas Jaar - Être
Ebo Taylor & Uhuru-Yenzu - What is Life?
Xosé Lois Romero & Aliboria - Danza de Lampai
Olivia Tremor Control - Black Foliage
[Flipping the channel on a TV in the 50s - YouTube video]
Black Dice - Kokomo
Xosé Lois Romero & Aliboria - Danza de Lampai
[Thunderstorm sound FX from freesound.org]
Chino Amobi - LAW 1 (THE CITY IN THE SEA)
Ian William Craig - Doubtshapes
Oli XL - DnL
Luke Abbott - Dumb
[Flipping the channel on a TV in the 50s - YouTube video]
Olivia Tremor Control - Animation 5
Phil Niblock - Feed Corn Ear
Canción Asturiana - El Gaiteru LLibardón
Asa-Chang & Junray - Hana
The Beach Boys - Meant For You (Alternate Version with Session Intro)
UMFANG - Symbolic Use of Light
UAN0005 - It doesn’t seem
Machine Woman - Have You Been To Salford Shopping Centre, Have You Seen Argos?
Shackleton - Test Tubes
Shelley Parker - Red Cotton
Einstürzende Neubauten - Der 1. Weltkrieg - Percussion Version
Speaker Music, Syanide - Of Our Spiritual Strivings
Szun Waves - Constellation
Joe Meek and his Blue Men - I Hear a New World