Vegyn, Frank Ocean Collaborator, Gets 'Frustrated With A Lot of Modern Electronic Music'

Alec Martin
Vegyn

The London-based producer's new LP, 'Only Diamonds Cut Diamonds,' is out today.

Vegyn is an electronic musician and producer, but he’s less than enamored with the state of both descriptors. The 25-year-old London-based artist born Joe Thornalley sees himself as something different, an antidote to staid club scenes and bloated albums with more guest performances than original ideas.

“I really set out to make a record that wasn’t about the features. A lot of albums that get sold on who’s featured are uninteresting to me,” he explains. "I didn’t want to make a ‘producer album.’ I didn’t want to make a bunch of songs that had other people singing on them. I wanted to make an album that was separate from the work I’ve done for other people.”

This latter goal was tricky for Vegyn, who first gained notoriety as a contributor to Frank Ocean’s Endless and Blonde. Without a thorough discography of his own, there isn’t any way to escape the legacy of working with Ocean. “I love working with Frank. I consider it a pretty great honor to be so closely tied to someone of that stature and quality,” Thornalley says. “But, no matter how good the association is, it’s frustrating to have somebody’s name come before yours.” 

With his official debut album, Only Diamonds Cut Diamonds, out today (Nov. 8), Vegyn asserts his independence, boldly establishing himself as an exciting, progressive voice in independent electronic music. The album moves at a staggering pace, reflecting the paranoid mindstate Vegyn was consumed by during the recording process. He’s emerged clear-headed and excited to build upon this rich trove of ideas.

“I hope people have fun listening to it,” he says. “I’ve been given an opportunity to fulfill my fantasy of getting to make music for a living, and that’s something I never forget.”

Here, the producer talks about his new album, his "homebody" electronic music and his frustrations with the scene. 

When did you begin thinking of this project as an album?

The record has been done for quite a while now. I started it in January of 2018. I finished it in November of that year. I’ve been sitting on it for quite some time.

Is it odd being so far removed from the creation process? What’s it like revisiting these emotions you’re potentially so far removed from?

At first I was quite frustrated by it. But now, it’s been quite nice to have some hindsight on it considering that I’ve sat with it for so long now. I don’t want to change anything, which has relieved a lot of the anxiety around releasing something. I’ve had all of this time to change things if I wanted to, but I haven’t [laughs]. I’ve just been distracting myself with other projects. It’s nice that it’s going to finally get out of my Dropbox and people will finally get to listen to it.

Can you talk a bit about the philosophy behind this idea of extreme pace, and bouncing between ideas in a haphazard but brilliantly executed way?

I try to leave as much space in things as possible. I know that sounds kind of crazy given the amount of things going on, but I try to attain a sense of hyper-focus. I like to specify little one-off moments that make listening through it easier. I like the idea of jumping and changing, such that people can focus on different elements of a song.

With this album, I was trying to feel out a specific emotion and then follow it wherever it went. I try not to second-guess my intuition. Any time I’d have an idea, I’d try to implement it as quickly as possible, then think about its effectiveness rather than talk myself out of it.

Can you talk about the 71-track record you put out earlier this year, Text While Driving if you Want to Meet God!? The amount of music includes a built-in admission that a listener may not be able to get through all of it in one sitting.

David Byrne spoke a lot in one of his books about his live show, and if you have an audience, you have to assume at least 50 percent of the audience isn’t paying attention to what you’re doing. In the live show, if you spend half the budget on one particular set piece, you want to make sure people are looking at it. You have to gesture towards it. That mixtape checked a bunch of boxes for me.

Putting out that many songs takes away the attention from any specific track. I don’t expect anyone to like all of them, but maybe people will like a few. It’s structured like a big .zip file. It’s not even sequenced. It’s in alphabetical order. It was really just an exercise in getting over myself and paid off just in the ridiculous nature of it.

Were you involved in the electronic and dance scenes while growing up in London?

Not really at all, to be honest. I don’t really listen to that much electronic music now, either. I just picked it out because there’s enough room in the genre for experimentation. I really appreciate the ability to manipulate things. It’s quite broad church as a genre. You can get away with a lot of things, and it’s presented itself as a good canvas to paint on. I had a couple years of clubbing growing up, but I never wanted to go out. I’m much more of a homebody. This music speaks to that.

There are some ‘clubby records’ on there, but I get frustrated with a lot of modern electronic music. I feel that it lacks humility, melody, or inventiveness. For as broad as the genre is, a lot of people still pigeonhole themselves as house or techno producers. I understand it, though. If you make guitar music, it’s about what you do with those limitations.

When did you get into music production and see it as a viable career path?

I didn’t get into art school [laughs]. I was working at a bar, and it was always staring me in the face. At that point, I had friends that were making music. It became a bit more accessible and not just something my dad did. It opened up the playing field and made it more fun. I wanted to make things that friends would respond to. Having that community was great. It was a playful rivalry if anything, just something to inspire you to go and make something people will respect.

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