Feed Me
Future Music|Autumn 2021
EDM producer Jon Gooch revives his cartoonish Feed Me moniker. Danny Turner finds out how the use of live instrumentation changed his production approach
Danny Turner

Debuting in 2008 as the first peripheral artist to feature on Deadmau5’s mau5trap label, Jon Gooch (aka Feed Me) exploded onto Beatport with his unique brand of bass-heavy electronica before creating his own Sotto Voce label to garner full creative control. As a former multimedia designer, Gooch has become synonymous with his green Feed Me monster character, infusing its fictitious narrative into his music and infamous ‘With Teeth’ live productions.

Alongside his drum & bass stage name, Spor, Gooch is known for his eclecticism and cutting-edge approach to sound design. On his latest, self-titled, Feed Me album, the producer decided to switch up his creative process. Alternating between his live instrumentation and programming skills, the record showcases Gooch’s audacious production skills and high-octane brand of anthemic bass and electro.

You’ve mentioned how you differentiate between EPs and albums, comparing them to magazines and novels. How does the latest Feed Me album play into that?

“I grew up listening to prog-rock albums that had distinct story arcs and weren’t exposed to pop music until I was a bit older so, to me, an album was something you’d put on and listen to in its entirety. I like the idea of an album is a journey and try to consider a screenplay element when I’m writing. There’s been an aesthetic to each one and I started to Feed Me as a figurative idea, with the character not referencing food but being consumptive.”

So there’s an ideological component to the Feed Me character?

“I turned Feed Me into a character to turn the attention away from me because I didn’t want to be in the artwork, but it’s definitely a fantasy – a way of expressing my more mischievous and energetic side without having to be the central ego of the project. With this album, I wanted to take the character back to the abstract and consign a color palette that joined the sketches I’d made in the studio. I was also trying to work out how little information I could put in an image while still being able to tell it was the Feed Me character.”

Aligned to that, how do you think the music has evolved on this latest release?

“With the benefit of hindsight, the last two albums were a collation of ideas that I wrote on the road, off the road and all over the world. They’re like a scrappy diary of sounds and ideas. I was pleased with the end result, but pulling them together was like trying to fit too many clothes into a suitcase. Coming into a third album, I wanted to change how I approached making a record from the ground up, so rather than using emulated sounds, I went straight to the original source. I’ve realized I’m no longer obsessed with fidelity or ever-improving a sound. The experience of making it has become just as interesting to me, so I brought in a lot of analog media, expanded my modular setup and went out and bought a couple of guitars that I particularly wanted to use. Ultimately, I wanted to try and create shorter distances between the sounds I imagined and what I ended up with.”

Has software become a dead end for you?

“I certainly think there’s a little bit of repackaging going on and it’s very difficult for current software to move much further than it’s gone because you’re still a person at a screen with a mouse and a MIDI input. The experience is limited by that interface unless you start talking about people making things in virtual reality, but that’s still a bit esoteric and novelty. Plenty of people say they want to get away from a screen, pick up a box, go somewhere and create music in a different environment. Varying the experience is part of keeping things fresh and interesting and can be far more useful than updating a soft synth.”

We read that you’re motivated by balancing analog and digital domains…

“I’ve always worked between the two. I grew up painting and drawing but also learning Photoshop. I took photos on film, but now I use film and digital cameras, and I played in an orchestra when I was young and now I’m using soft synths. I just thought I should include more of that tennis match between digital and analog right from the beginning.”

Squarepusher is an influence of yours who also balances his digital side. For example, by implementing electric bass…

“Yeah, and I don’t know how he plays bass like that either – it almost sounds impossible for it to be physical, but it’s based on a lifelong dedication to the art. To me, Squarepusher sits closer to drum & bass, and when I was making that stuff he was the person I was listening to most because the music had a lot of classic rave breaks and sub sine wave basslines. It was much more abstract too and I liked how jazzy he was. Feed Me is a lot more 4/4-oriented – I imagine it as a rock, funk, and psychedelic band, except I’m the whole band.”

Would Squarepusher be an artist you analysed to pick up production techniques?

“I’ve done tutorials in the past but decided I never want to do them again because not knowing how something is made is always more interesting than finding out. When I first heard Kid A or even Music for the Jilted Generation, I sat there in wonder but had no exposure to a synthesizer or sequencer and just wondered where the sounds could possibly be coming from. The years I spent thinking that way were far more influential than when I actually got my hands on the gear because imagining where a sound might have come from gives it life in your mind. When I’m producing I’m always trying to hide the process so you just hear the result and don’t get to pick apart every detail and turn it into a tutorial in your mind.”

You’ve mentioned your music representing creation and destruction. Does that have a wider philosophical meaning?

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