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Pedestrian: Far from middle of the road

Marcus Barnes
Pedestrian 300x225 Pedestrian: Far from middle of the road

(c) Jess Piper

Every now and then I hear a piece of music that completely throws me. As a music writer I’m constantly listening to new stuff and, while I love most of it – being a complete glutton for house and techno – sometimes it can get a bit samey. Which is why Hoyle Road by Pedestrian really caught my attention – beautiful vocals, bright shimmering chimes, a slightly melancholy undertone, but a general feeling of warmth and positivity permeating throughout. I’m not afraid to describe the track as ‘gorgeous’, which may seem a tad feminine, or an exaggeration, but it really is a lovely piece of music. I recently posed some question to Pedestrian and, of course, asked him all about Hoyle Road…

Can you begin by telling me a little bit about your upbringing, as I believe you moved around a fair bit in your formative years?

Yeah, my Dad got made redundant in the recession at the start of the nineties, when I was about three. He got offered a job out in Bahrain, so off we went. It was only supposed to be for a year and a half…

Nice and can you remember what it was like to be on the move? How did you adjust to it?

Kind of. It felt completely natural at the time so didn’t feel like I was doing any adjusting. I’ve stuck with the trend since then, and never lived in the same spot for too long. I like it.

How long were you over there for then?

We ended up being there for just over 7 years. I’ve never been back since. It’s changed a lot since we were there though, I’m not sure I’d want to alter those memories. The Sheikh at the time was very forward-thinking and accepting of different cultures; he died shortly after we left and his son took over has very different views. I’m sure everyone remembers the uprising in Bahrain that was all over the news a couple of years ago.

Where are you based at the moment? What effect has that had on your musical output?

I moved to London just over a year ago, it’s definitely had a big effect on my output. Mainly for the first half of last year I couldn’t seem to write anything – horrifically frustrating writers block. Once I got settled in and comfortable, I slowly started getting into the swing of things again. I started renting a studio space recently and that has helped massively. I’d say my music has a bit of a darker edge since moving to London, compared to what I was writing in Cambridge; more gritty.

When did your musical journey begin?

I was always into music, I think. I can’t remember not being obsessed with it. I remember my Dad telling me a story about when I was two years old – I blew one of his amps because I was always crawling over and cranking the volume up to 11. I guess that habit’s stuck with me a bit, too.

When did music become an integral part of your life? What kind of music was your first love and which artists really inspired you to begin with?

Like I said I’m not sure there was a turning point… We always had music of all sorts playing around the house and in the car so I was continuously surrounded by it. I first liked a lot of old soul stuff – Stax Records, Motown – that kind of thing. I also loved The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and music of that ilk. I’m sure there were a few debatable flavours in there too but I won’t divulge quite what! Luckily I tweaked my tastes and fully fell in love with hip hop in my early teens – the nineties US stuff like Guru, Jeru The Damaja, Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul etc, and also a lot of the UK hip hop; artists and crews such as Jehst, Task Force, Rodney P & Skitz, et al.

BE002 Hoyle Road (clip) – Release 29/4/13 by Pedestrian

How much influence did moving around a lot have on your musical tastes? For example, did living in the Middle East have any effect on what you listened to?

I don’t think so, not directly anyway. I lived in quite a western environment when I was in the Middle East, with a lot of ex-pats. So the music was very similar to what was being played in the UK and US, it was just a few months behind. There was obviously more Arabic music floating about than what would be usual elsewhere, but that definitely didn’t dominate the airwaves. I’d say the variety in my musical tastes are more down to my parents, but living in the Middle East has definitely made me enjoy experiencing different cultures.

When did you start to consider making your own music?

When I was about 12 my Dad got me a CD-ROM by eJAY that Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim) had supplied a load of loops for. I was infatuated by it; all the different combinations of loops, basic structuring of tracks etc… It really taught me the basics of production and song writing. After that a friend told me about Fruity Loops, and my mind nearly exploded. I was like, ‘YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN LOOPS?!’ Up until that point I thought you had to have a £500,000 studio to make music from scratch. I was straight on it – there was no looking back from then on.

Did you have any formal training?

Nope. I wish I did though, and by that I mean classical training. I played a bit of saxophone at secondary school and that’s about it. I started Uni at one point, doing a Music Tech course, mainly so I could get away with continuing to mess around with tunes whilst still getting some of the ‘Uni experience’. The course didn’t really work out – I loved the student life though!

How did you go about learning to produce your own sounds?

Trial and error really. Experimenting with sampling, synthesis and effects treatments. I spent and still do spend quite a lot of time thinking, “What shouldn’t I do with this plug-in or synth?” Trying to break away from conventional methods and general experimentation, really.

Where does your name come from?

There’s a few reasons I opted for the ‘Pedestrian’ alias. I was living in Cambridge when I first started listening to stuff around 120 BPM and I used to walk to Uni or work listening to it on my iPod and it was the perfect tempo to walk in time to. I also like to include the idea of walking somewhere in my song structures. By that I mean ending up somewhere different to where you started and seeing different points of interest along the way, as opposed to going round and round in circles for 5 minutes. I was aware that pedestrian can mean boring and mediocre but I quite liked that as a challenge to do the opposite, which I have tried to do. I really was expecting to see reviews describing my music as pedestrian, but fortunately it hasn’t happened yet! The only time I’ve seen the wordplay was in a review for something of mine a little while ago which said something like “…and this track is anything but pedestrian” which was a pleasant surprise.

That’s a really interesting approach to song structures, have you ever tried to recreate a real-life journey on foot musically?

Not exactly, but great idea! I wrote a track called ‘Midsummer’s Common’ and it was an attempt at putting a story of a summer day into a track. It starts off with meeting your friends and heading to your destination for the day, the time spent there in the afternoon, followed by dusk approaching, and the day coming to an end. I find it easier to write songs if I’m trying to achieve something. I used a similar approach with my forthcoming single ‘Hoyle Road’.

Yeah, Hoyle Road is a wonderful piece of music… what was the inspiration behind it?

Thank you very much. It was actually from just meeting a whole new group of friends in London. You know those people you’ve only known for a few weeks but it feels like forever. We used to go to a house party at theirs on a Friday, a house on Hoyle Road in Tooting, and end up not leaving until the Sunday night. The song is about how days can merge into each other on weekends like that, you should probably go home but you’re having such a good time that you don’t want to.

What kind of music were you aiming to make when you first starting experimenting with sounds?

In the early days, definitely hip hop, then drum ‘n bass, then a load of stuff around 115-140BPM. Now I’m making a strange combination of it all, which seems to have come full circle. Hopefully some of my more experimental tracks will see the light of day soon.

Was there a point where you decided that music was to be your full-time vocation?

I got hooked up with a work experience placement at a family friend’s studio in Soho when I was 16. After spending a week in there I thought, ‘Yep, this is me’. That was definitely the turning point from, ‘I really like making tunes’ to, ‘This is what I’m going to do’.

And what kind of stuff were you doing at the studio? Are you still in touch with the people there?

I spent a lot of time watching them – they were very good and talked me through everything. I also ran errands, grabbed our lunches and usual stuff like that. They set me up in one of the studios for a day so I could experiment with all their equipment. That was a bit of an aspiring producer’s wet dream especially as, up until that point, all I’d played around with was Fruity Loops on an ancient family PC. We still speak occasionally as they have a lot of experience in so many different areas of the business. Tthey are my go-to guys if I’m looking for some words of wisdom on the industry.

What other dreams/ambitions did you have as a youngster?

To be a fireman, postman, policeman and all the other cliché things I reckon! I never knew what I wanted to do when I was small. I’m sure it changed every week.

Did you have a ‘Plan B’ in case the music thing didn’t work out?

It’s stupid, but no. To be honest I’ve been like a horse with blinkers about this music malarky. I’m not that stupid that I think I’ll be DJing for the rest of my days, but I’ll be involved in music production in one way or another, I imagine.

After your initial experiments with making music, when did you start to send out your music to labels?

Once I had some finished music that I was semi-happy with, and once I’d gained a few contacts from meeting people on nights out and talking online…

How did it feel when you got your first track signed? Which track was it?

Blown away! Especially as it was my remix of Commix ‘How You Gonna Feel’ which was, and still is, one of my all time favourite drum ‘n bass tracks. Initially it was going to be a free download but Metalheadz and the guys from Commix liked it so much they put it on the flip to a Marcell Dettman remix for a limited 10″. I couldn’t believe it.

Is music now a full-time job for you?

It is. And I don’t know how I’d do music if it wasn’t! I’m in the studio about 4-5 days a week, the emails alone are pretty time consuming. I’m a pretty ‘all or nothing’ kind of person, if my heart isn’t in it i usually do a really bad job. Lets just say, I’m quite familiar with how it feels to be sacked.

Dance Around The Subject (Pedestrians Dusty Warehouse Remix) by Pedestrian

There isn’t much money in music, so they say, how do you manage to keep yourself afloat financially?

Times have changed for sure. Especially as, before, it used to be gigs that advertised your records, now it’s done a complete 180 – you put records out to get gigs! Most of my income comes from shows, remixes and some royalties, which is never that much; not enough to live off, anyhow. PRS need to have a look at themselves, their whole method of predictive plays etc.. is completely wrong and unfair, particularly for artists at the dance music end of things. God knows how many royalties slip through the system’s fingers.

How did you get involved with Born Electric?

My manager is good friends with James Zabiela, they were away somewhere for one of James’ shows, my manager put on a very early version of Hoyle Road, and James was really into it. Shout out to the big man, Mouj!

Your music has crossover potential, how would you feel if one of your tracks ended up at the No.1 spot – like Duke Dumont’s recent effort?

Hmm… I heard a quote on a documentary recently from Lemmy of Motorhead, he said, ‘If you get a number 1, you know you’ve fucked up’, which I partly agree with. Mainly because most of the songs that hit number one are mass processed, soulless pieces of garbage that have been manufactured to appeal to everyone. It’s rare that a genuinely great song appeals to the masses, but of course it does happen. I would never write something for chart success, I’m not about that at all, but if I wrote something that was well received by the general public, and I felt was true to myself then I suppose that’s a different story. I have no interest in being a public figure or anything like that, I just want to make music I like. I don’t see the kind of music I make ever reaching that kind of popularity.

What else are you working on at the moment?

I’m writing an EP for Born Electric that should be out in the summer,  I have a 12″ out on 2nd Drop Records in a couple months. I’ve also got a new project with my compadres Maribou State that should be tied up soon, we will also be developing a full live show in the next few months that will feature both our own original tracks and also collaborations of us together; which I’m really excited about.

Sounds great! What are your plans/ambitions for the future?

To keep on making music I enjoy, hopefully be well received and continue to tour with DJing and the new live show.

Hoyle Road by Pedestrian is out on Born Electric on April 29, featuring remixes from Doc Daneeka and Benjamin Damage, FaltyDL and Spectra Soul.

Tune in to Marcus Barnes’ radio show via www.mixcloud.com/marcusbarnes

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