Interview Series: RefraQ.
Saltash, UK native Joe Mawson, a.k.a. RefraQ, is easily one of the most inventive producers to have emerged in recent years. And while his experimental sound design and forward-thinking composition are impressive, it’s his command of emotions and sonic storytelling, really, that is most striking – it’s that which truly defines his music.
Between his absolutely incredible self-releases and contributions to our favourite “Internet Oasis,” Soda Island – of which he is one of the founding members – RefraQ has built an extensive catalogue of original work to date.
His tracks often run over 5 minutes in length, sometimes vastly surpassing that, and each one truly transports listeners to an entirely new plane of musical cognizance.
If the level of intricacy in his work is predicable, his thematic choices are anything but. RefraQ’s creations range from playful and uplifting to moody and introspective, always guaranteeing uniqueness and a strong emotive reaction, but constantly keeping you on your toes – one never knows what to expect.
If pulsating synths, painstakingly detailed soundscapes, and inventive progressions are up your alley, this guy is the perfect match. We had the privilege to chat with this awesome talent in the wake of his last single release of 2017, “Olomeq” – a track that contains all of RefraQ’s signature elements.
Read on for the full interview below!
What got you into music, and production, specifically? Did anyone or anything in particular really push or inspire you to start creating?
I’ve been listening to music for as long as I remember honestly. Most of what I like comes from what my parents used to play in the car or around the house. Hilariously, I started becoming inspired to write after playing Minecraft as a kid and loving the soundtrack and the mystery surrounding it haha, especially all the stuff with the music discs, it really caught my attention for some reason.
I guess I started properly delving into production once my mate showed me Pendulum’s album “Immersion” back in year 8, and from there it kinda just set off a producer chain reaction; Skrillex, KOAN Sound through to the underground scene! I guess those dudes were my main motivation and inspiration to focus on production.
You do all the art for your self-released tracks, is that right? Do you feel as though the interplay between your music and art enhances the overall process/experience?
Yeah for sure! These days what I end up doing a lot of the time is drawing some things and then coming up with a loose musical concept to go along side of it. So starting to do all my own art has really helped flesh out some cool ideas and concepts in my head, which means it’s generally easier for me to write a track.
Your music can be described as “journey music” in the sense that it always takes listeners on a trip – is that generally your goal?
I wouldn’t say I actively try to make music that tells a story or takes you on a journey.
I think it’s more to do with the way I approach production, which involves creating a section, then listening through and figuring out what feels most natural after that section, and then writing it, regardless of the overall arrangement.
So most of the time the end product is something which has a lot of twists and turns.
On a related note, you’ve developed a pretty recognizable sound for RefraQ – one that’s pretty much unlike anyone else’s – what was the process of carving out your own sonic identity?
The process was pretty much exclusively just writing tracks in the most natural manner I could. So basically forgetting about how well it might do or what promoting channels I could get it on etc. I think that’s when I released my most recognisable tunes. I spent a lot of time overthinking and worrying about adapting my sound and that’s when I kinda lost my way musically.
As far as I’m concerned the less you think about what you’re writing the easier the process becomes.
How did you link up with DMR for that collaborative AENAK project [the production duo dropped their first single a few weeks back]? What are your goals/ambitions for it?
I think initially Tom (Vorso) put us in touch since we are both from Plymouth in the UK, and after a while we just started writing weird beats together and thought we should make an alias. I think in the future we are looking into writing an EP and hopefully playing shows in America once things pick up a bit more!
You recently got together with Nick Coletti and Medasin to put together the latter artist’s fourth volume of his Overdose sample series, released via Splice – how was it like working together with those guys?
Haha it was really cool. I didn’t actually communicate with Nick at all, I think Medasin had a bunch of adlibs recorded and he kinda joined all our samples together to create a big pack. He was super nice and responsive as well so the whole process was really fluid and we all really liked the final product.
What will 2018 have in store for you in terms of releases? Is it true that you may have a big collab lined up?
The plan at the moment is to just keep releasing singles until I get to a level where I’m happy to start expanding. I have a few collabs in the works with some awesome producers and another collaborative track with Avionics for Soda Island which we wrote when I stayed with them out in the Czech Republic.
What advice might you offer to a producer who’s already developed solid fundamentals but is trying to come into their own musically and really stand out?
I guess just figure out exactly what it is you like about music, and really push that.
I’ve found it’s really easy to end up forcing a style just to say you have a particular “sound,” it’s better to just write what comes naturally and then everything else will fall into place by itself.
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