Owen Thomas produces some of the most interesting music coming out of Brighton. He is part of Speak Galactic which puts out a big sound with lots of samples and drums over the top. We spoke to Owen before a brilliant show as part of BrightonsFinest’s Alternative Escape to find out more about the man behind the music who is also part of Merlin Tonto an electronic dance three-piece and his solo project Japanese Sweets.
Where are you from?
I’m kind of from Brighton, I have lived here for a bit. I lived in Gothenburg in Sweden for a little while, it’s where I did the first Speak Galactic record. The music scene there is really good.
What kind of music where you brought up on?
My dad is quite musical, so he played a big part in what I listened to. I got really into film sound tracks, like Danny Elfman and Ennio Morricone. I then started listening to Sonic Youth albums and Godspeed You! Black Empire.
What was the first instrument you started playing?
At first it was mostly guitar. I got really into electronics through seeing what peddles can do with the guitar. Which then lead me to synthesizers, as me and a mate were listening to a lot of Aphex Twins.
Has you musical style progressed?
It was never too removed from what it is now, but it was definitely more guitar orientated. `Its only in the last 4/5 years where it has become more electronic based. Writing music on the computer, using a synth to write loops which is where most of the songs come from now, whereas before it would be made with more of a song structure.
When did Speak Galactic come to its present line-up?
When I came back from Sweden it was just me on my own for the first year, then I got Jim Morrison involved on drums to make it more energetic and to bounce ideas off. Alex Painter from Great Pagans joined us about a year and a half ago on bass guitar, saxophone and the OP-1 synth.
What are your main influences?
I have always loved My Bloody Valentine and the production on their records, also Animal Collective and Broadcast. Any band that mixes organic sounds with electronics in a really interesting way.
How do you approach making music?
At first it was very much me on my own coming up with things until it sticks, then I might change after a show if I come up with a new arrangement. Recently we have been jamming out songs as a three piece and seeing what we can come up with, which is new for me. I think it will give us more of a true representation of how we are live.
Is there a new release coming soon?
We made an EP last year that is shelved at this moment, as we are writing a lot of new stuff for the album so we can start recording it. But we are not sure when that will come out.
What has been a musical eye-opener?
The last show I saw that blew me away was Grouper at Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona. It is a solo project of Liz Harris who usually does songs with her guitar. But when I saw her she was using an electric piano and three Walkman’s which had ambient sounds on them, then singing over the top. It was a non-stop 30/40 minute performance to film where everything flowed into everything else.
Which three acts would you have for a concert you are putting on and where?
Nick Drake, Vashti Bunyan with Animal Collective and CAN, all playing on a stage in a forest.
If you could work with any artist, who would it be?
Beck, as every record he has done is different and I like his sense of humour as well. He did this brilliant project, Record Club, where he would cover an album in a day with all sorts of different acts.
What have you been listening to at the moment?
A lot of Luke Abbott who is an electronic act that uses modular synths, and a band called Hiss Tracts who are on the same label as Godspeed You! Black Empire and do ambient droney field recording music.
What are your future plans?
Writing and recording new songs. We are playing Latitude Festival later in the year. If we release the EP this year we will book a tour around it.