Lawrence English – “Music and cooking go hand in hand for me. I cook a very simple Spaghetti Aglio e Olio… it’s a version of the recipe shared by my friend William Basinski”

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I love the wooden stool in front of the LPs. It makes me figure you sitting there for minutes in order to choose the right one for a specific moment, a sort of ecstatic or sacred approach to music listening. I think it might be connected with the nature of the music you play or release under Room 40, something that usually deserves a lot of attention, not good for the background of other activities. What are your listening habits in that term? Do you also listen to stuff incidentally, in a more ‘shallow’ mode (Burial maybe?) or it’s always so deep as I’m figuring? Or I’m totally wrong, and the stool is there only to reach records that are too far to be reached?

I’m not sure I have a predominant way of listening to music these days. I think broadly my music habits can be broken up into a few modes. If I am listening to record, this tends to be a very social way. My records are in the living area of the house, so if I put on a record everyone here listens to it. That’s actually a wonderful way to listen I find as people’s impressions of the work are often so radically different to my own, it’s an interesting exercise in reconsidering how it is music tends to settle in your mind’s ear.

I do a lot of listening to music whilst I am cooking. Music and cooking go hand in hand for me. The duration of preparing a simply meal is often around the length of a record, so I think there’s a natural unison there. I also like when a friend has recommended a recipe to me and I listen to their work whilst making it. I cook a very simple Spaghetti Aglio e Olio… it’s a version of the recipe shared by my friend William Basinski. It’s amazingly delicious and I often find myself listening to his music whilst he’s making it.

The other place I listen to music a lot if whilst I am touring. The nature of touring means there great chunks of time that are in transit, especially when leaving from Australia to say Europe. So I tend to do some of my most focused listenings during that time. One of the things I love most about listening to music when I am touring is listening to music made by friends. It’s almost as if they are keeping you company. Grouper’s “Ruins” album is a great example of that. Or Xiu Xiu’s “Forget”. Those two records I listened too so very much last year whilst touring.

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Did you make it on purpose to take pictures of many Italian records or you really have a good percentage of your collection covered by artists from our country? I see Giovanni di Domenico with Jim O’Rourke, Bellows, Claudio Rocchetti, the big box of “Prima Materia”… and others that I don’t know (my ignorance): Alessandroni / Kema / Di Marco… Do you have a special interest in Italian experimental music?

Actually that is one of the ‘to be filed racks’…of which I seem to have a few these days. I had three hours spare in Milano last year in transit from Braga to Zurich. I used those three hours to go and see my friend Fabio [Carboni] at Sound Ohm. Apart from being a wonderful human being, and knowledgeable as all hell (!), he happens to run some great labels and also a super record store. I had been meaning to make an order from him for sometime, so I thought I’d go one step better and just go visit him! I bought something like 20 records on that visit. It was a good day!

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It’s nice to figure you and William Basinsky discussing of spaghetti aglio e olio (and usually peperoncino also), and the idea that you listen to music made by friends while you’re touring. What is your position on that? Being a musician with a family, as you are, might mean sometimes being ‘forced’ to stay away for a long time. How much do you enjoy it? I was struck time ago by an interview from Battles, where John Stanier (also in Helmet in the past) was complaining about the fact that nowadays he and the others had to tour a lot… and he started to feel too old for that, but he couldn’t stop for economical reasons. Is it the case for you maybe? Or it’s just a matter of finding the good balance? Maybe the loneliness of staying far from friends and family is rewarded by lovely meetings like the one you had with Fabio?

I think everything in life is about balance and about a sense of optimism really. I think once things get out of balance it becomes problematic and can have an emotional and physical toll. I am very conscious of what touring means – both for me in a subjective sense, but also broader than that. The environmental cost for example is huge for someone like me, as I am travelling from AU to EU first and then starting to tour. The carbon footprint is massive. I’ve actually started offsetting my flights and other things in my life as a means of addressing that. I think generally you need to keep those pragmatic considerations in mind. Rather than leaving things unchecked, you need to attend to them. Like the body, it’s easy to forget that part of the equation whilst touring, or living more generally! I had a pretty big shift in my late 20s when I got very ill from essentially overworking myself. Since there I have really changed the way I live and treat my body….it is not a machine as I thought in my 20s, rather it’s an organic system and needs to be thought of at some meta level.

As to touring, I do prefer shorter runs, like 14 days or so…after that I don’t think it’s good for me or my family. I love seeing my friends whilst I travel. That is increasingly a part what I travel for. Most of my dear friends are not here in AU, so we only see each other in these fleeting moments usually in a country that is home to neither of us. It’s a curious and intensive way to maintain friendships, but I have grown to love that aspect of what this community enables.


Lawrence English is composer, media artist and curator based in Australia. Working across an eclectic array of aesthetic investigations, English’s work prompts questions of field, perception and memory. He investigates the politics of perception, through live performance and installation, to create works that ponder subtle transformations of space and ask audiences to become aware of that which exists at the edge of perception.

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