"It’s just a matter of getting that time" - Discwoman co-founder UMFANG interviewed by Various Asses
Various Asses: How do you see the relationship between djing and producing moving for you?
Umfang: I guess from DJing and listening to other DJs, I think a lot about what I like about mixes or tracks. It’s a good time to kind of meditate on ideas, but then I feel like the production process for me is often like using that idea until it gets really abstracted and kind of hidden because it’s sorta mixed with more synth experimentation. I feel like although they’re kind of related in my mind, it often doesn’t come out that way. It doesn’t make sense, I’m not making functional club tracks when I’m producing music even though it’s kind of what I’m thinking about.
It’s more subtle influence?
Yeah or like I might be inspired by a specific sound in a track, and I’ll work on that idea, but then it kind of becomes abstracted.
I read somewhere that with your current album, you use the same equipment and processes you used for your previous EP, Riffs?
I used the same drum machine - the DR-202, which is like my main instrument but then I usually use one or two things with it and for this album those are a little different than the EP.
Do you think about how that format might change for you in the future?
I think the DR-202 is really easy for me to use, and I still feel like I have a lot of new ideas with it, but I keep trying new things for other sounds. Recently MOOG decided to sponsor Discwoman so we all got some of their equipment. It’s incredible, so something like that is definitely gonna influence my process a lot as I integrate it with what I do.
And I also read that the title of your album was influenced by the 50’s Japanese film Rashomon?
Yeah, I really like the imagery and the mood of that film... the symbolism and how well it was thought out. I was reading their wikipedia page and there’s a headline that says ‘Symbolic Use of Light’ - it talks about how light and dark symbolise the opposite of what we often associate with those terms with in the film. I have this sort of personal meme of taking pictures of sunrises and sunsets on my instagram so it’s both playful and really meaningful at the same time, and like skylights and images of skylights… all these things I’ve been thinking about kinda tied together with that phrase.
You are the co-founder of Discwoman, and you also DJ and produce your own material - do you feel like you need to switch between those things and have a different personality for each?
My production and DJing has always really been a solo effort. I’ve always pretty much worked by myself and it’s a typically introspective process, but Discwoman is completely collaborative - everything you do is something we’ve all discussed. For me, it’s like introverted me vs. extroverted me and I feel like I can get into a kind of motivational speaker mode when I’m working on Discwoman projects, and when I’m by myself I don’t really wanna be around anybody. Sometimes it can feel like a conflict of interest if I’m not interested in engaging with anyone but I’m also working in “activism”. So that can be a bit of a weird thing to balance but I find that I can just switch modes, like as long as I have some time to myself I feel grounded enough to work with others.
Have you collaborated with your production?
I feel like when I was learning I did a lot more sessions with friends and just recorded for fun or to learn, but I haven’t pursued a serious collaboration for a while, other than like trying a one off jam session with someone. I’m working on a remix right now that’s kind of a struggle for me so yeah I don’t know - I like the idea of collaborating more with music and there’s some people where it’s really fun to play a back to back set with or something like that, but in general I feel like it’s powerful for me to do it by myself. I feel most accomplished when I’m able to do things by myself.
When you do make music, you were talking about disappearing for a while and getting into a solo headspace - how long does it take you to come up with a body of work like Symbolic Use of Light?
It’s kind of a complicated question because at the time (December-January) I wasn’t travelling a lot so I could finish it all. Everything came together but that was allowed to happen because I had blocked off a month to finish it. I’m travelling so much this year and I had this last month off, but I hadn’t been home for more than a few weeks like all year, so it took me so long to sort of catch up on everything that I feel like only now this week am I really getting back into my studio… and now I have to leave again on Wednesday. So it’s like if I was given two months to finish another album, I could do it.
But it feels like when I’m travelling all the time it makes it really hard for that. So I do work pretty quickly, it’s just a matter of getting that time.
I think one to two moths is incredibly fast. I’m quite jealous. When you are working on these tracks, how much discarded material, if any, do you have after you’ve picked what you want to have as an album?
Honestly not that much, like there’s probably 3-4 tracks per session that I actually go ahead, finish and not like. I would say even less - usually I feel like I know that the track has potential and I’ll finish it. And then it’s likely to be something I like enough to put on an album... but I would definitely say that there'd be 5 or so tracks in a session I would just say doesn’t do anything for me - I don’t really revisit something if I don’t think it’s working. I don’t do a lot of post production either, usually I’ll build one song, record it and if I’m happy with that then I’ll finish it.
You seem to have it down pat.
I try to.