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In Conversation with Amon Tobin cover photo

INTERVIEW

In Conversation with Amon Tobin

by Jeff Davis

Amon Tobin is a recording artist working in electronic music. He has released eight major studio albums and is well known for his ISAM (“Invented Sounds Applied to Music”) performances in support of the album by the same name. I had the pleasure of speaking with Amon in advance of his upcoming Art Blocks project, Montreal Friend Scale.
Jeff Davis: Hi Amon, it’s great to speak with you! Tell me about your first experiments in making music.
Amon Tobin: I’ve been reorganising sound for as long as I can remember, but not necessarily with art in mind. Maybe more of a way to make sense of the world around me and often as a biproduct of a learning process. The medium isn’t too central as my creative input stems from how I might try to overcome the limitations of a medium.
JD: We’re glad that you found your way to Art Blocks, how did you discover NFTs and crypto art?
AT: I was introduced by artists in the space who share my enthusiasm for both art and crypto. I’ve made small ventures by way of a recent collaboration on the operator privacy/attempts collection along with music NFT’s on the catalog platform. But this is very much my first fully fledged outing in NFT art.
JD: How would you say your creative practice has changed over time and how did you adapt it for Montreal Friend Scale?
AT: I think once I found reliable ways of putting sensible forms together I got more brazen and started looking at how I might then build things in ways that were more imagined. So kind of a process of understanding and then abstracting from this foundation. For Montreal Friend Scale the foundation is in harmonic rules where chaos gradually conforms to those rules. Noise is gathered in order to make audible tone, and this is represented visually in kind.
Amon Tobin, ISAM, 2020..jpeg
Amon Tobin, ISAM, 2020.
 
JD: Any recent accomplishments you’d like to share?
AT: I’m lucky to have established a niche career in music over some time, and I’m more surprised than anyone to find myself expanding artistically still. Creative decisions in music seemed transferable to visual language for live performances I directed and digital art holds much to discover. Mostly it’s exciting to be exploring areas where I still have so much to learn.
JD: Can you talk about the inspiration behind your Art Blocks project?
AT: It came almost entirely from the limitations of the format in terms of bandwidth for sound. I was first frustrated by the prospect of being constrained to simple sounds but found the most satisfying solution in leaning into those same limitations. Stripping further to the simplest sound there is. Sine waves are beautiful after all. Pure tones which can be extracted from noise and tuned harmonically through basic subtractive synthesis. It lent itself very naturally to a visual representation of the same process which has its own stark beauty.
Amon Tobin, Montreal Friend Scale #0, 2022..png
Amon Tobin, Montreal Friend Scale #0, 2022.
 
JD: What should collectors look for in your Art Blocks project as the series is generated?
AT: It’s a stubbornly slow reveal in general. The individual pieces will vary in the time they take to materialize and there are some unique occurrences too. A small number of the outputs will stray from the monochrome palette. There’s even a chance that a very fleeting mutation will rotate. Quite the reckless maverick!
JD: Is there anything else people should know to better understand your work?
AT: There’s nothing too cryptic about it really. I make things because I’m trying to learn about their nature as best I can. I find synthesis fascinating because it forces you to analyse the natural world quite objectively and, in the process, leaves you stunned by how much is still unknowable.
Shy1, First Panther, 2022..png
Shy1, First Panther, 2022.
 
JD: And what’s the best way for people to keep track of your creative endeavors?
AT: You can find me on Nomark Records where I release music under five quite different aliases simultaneously over time. You can also follow me on Twitter (@amontobin) and as my visual alias, Shy1 (@shy1art). Shy1 just started and is quietly trying things out to about 20 twitter followers. There is a small NFT collection I’m building as Shy1 on the Foundation platform called full panther for anyone who’s interested.

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