Paper Talks to Liam Fairclough pka Aniso Topics
Aniso tropics is indeed a busy fella!
As well as making some pretty outstanding (and bloomin’ unique!) spaced-out cosmic wonky electronic music, he & his partner have just welcomed their first baby into the world! Luckily we managed to grab a bit of time with him in between feeding & nappy changes to get the lowdown on his studio sessions & what goes into his productions…read on!
An obvious one to start but where did the name Aniso Tropics come from?
The name derives from the term Anisotropy, *commences Wiki copy and paste* – “….is the property of a material which allows it to change or assume different properties in different directions.”
A couple of boffin friends who work in physics and chemistry have picked up on the connection. For me, however, this term was discovered via Anisotropic filtering, a feature synonymous with graphics settings in PC gaming; a method of enhancing images and textures on surfaces in relation to distance. I liked the idea of splitting the term into two: juxtaposing Aniso which sounds quite cold and mechanical, with Tropics, conjuring a feeling of nature and warmth.
Your productions have a lot of elements happening in them whilst retaining an element of being stripped back & quite minimal too, where does the inspiration come from in hour creativity? Are there any specific environments or artists you draw on?
I love this description as it’s exactly the kind of vibe I aim for, so cheers! I’m not really one for brand loyalty but I’m a bit of a freak for Ableton. I approach my productions like a sketchpad, creating a big palette of loops, chopping and changing over and over until I really like the stuff that sounds good together. This could take anywhere from days to months, the actual flow and automation of the finalised track comes right at the end and usually just takes a day or two. I think this is where the feeling of many elements happening in a stripped back vibe comes from. I tend to add lots of elements and then pare them back, sometimes quite far into the distance, for the final mixdown.
With regards to influences, that 90’s/early 00’s Warp Records stuff was my gateway drug into off-kilter electronic music. The likes of Boards of Canada and Future Sound of London made me realise a world could be created in the mind’s-eye with just a pair of headphones. I actually got into electronic and experimental music quite rapidly from my mid-teens, falling asleep every night to ambient stuff like Brian Eno. Head nodding to video games in the day with (in my opinion) the golden era of soundtracks, those mid/late 90’s Japanese productions which had heavy influences of ambient jungle/techno and acid jazz. Ridge Racer Type 4 and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike immediately come to mind.
It was when I started to go to club nights in my 20’s that my horizons broadened outside the electronic sounds and seeing the likes of Mr. Scruff and Gilles Peterson opened me up to a world of music past and present. I love all that rare groove, disco and afrobeat stuff and that’s the kind of thing I tend to play when out and about DJ’ing in bars. Also, a big fan of German Kosmiche Musik from the 70’s, bands like Kraftwerk, Can, Faust, Cluster, Tangerine Dream etc. My track Ferric Bias was heavily influenced by this style.
In terms of contemporary influences, I have to give a shout to Lone and Space Dimension Controller. Lone clearly grew up in a similar era to me with loads of nods to those 90’s ambient flavours and his recent productions are especially lush and layered. Space Dimension Controller knows his way around an 808 like no other and has this minimal sound filled with tons of space and reverb from which I really take inspiration.
Keep an ear out for a relatively new kid on the block, Tom VR, a great producer starting to get his props from the likes of BBC 6Music and Luke Una.
Have to say thanks to you guys at Paper too for the Northern Disco Lights documentary, it’s one of my all time fave music docs and I think the track Lubek especially has a flavour of that Norway disco sound. Was especially buzzing to release my tunes on Paper off the back of this.
There’s always a very solid & tight sound to your tracks, what is your studio set up and do you have any official training or education or have you just jumped in feet first & found your way around?
No official training or education per se however music production has been a staple in my life for over half of it! Big props go to my dad who nurtured and encouraged this hobby from my early teens. He’d bring home these big old IBM machines and music software from his work in educational IT, loaded with old school tools such as Sound Forge and ACID (the Sonic Foundry era) which opened a gateway to manipulating waveforms and samples. Huge appreciation goes to Music 2000 on the original PlayStation too, my first foray into using a DAW (you could even sample from CDs in the PS1 itself, genius!) I still have tons of semi-finished tracks made over the past 20 years or so on old hard drives, sadly the PS1 memory cards are long dead!
My dad also knew Martin Price, the founder of 808 State, and I went around his house a handful of times in my late teens to record vocals and hang out. He’d have this huge stack of big box VSTs and an iMac with Pro Tools in his living room and would tell stories of working with Bjork and crazy worldwide tours. I didn’t quite realise the gravity of 808’s influence on many artists I love back then, so it’s pretty mad looking back in hindsight!
In my early to mid-20’s, I ran a not-for-profit record label called Retronym with my mate Lee Ackerley. We would scour MySpace and fan forums for bedroom-made music we loved from around the globe that harked back to that Warp Records/IDM/Ambient style sound. We would release stuff for free download with an optional pay-if-you-like model with 100% of funds going to the artist, around the time Radiohead made it popular. The label kind of died out with the advent of Bandcamp, and artists being able to release stuff themselves.
Here’s a couple of artists I’d highly recommend who we had the pleasure of releasing on the label:
Boreal Network: https://borealnetwork.net
After the label phased out I decided to re-focus my energy on my own productions and conceived Aniso Tropics. I’ve actually pared back my setup quite a lot over the past few years, no longer clogging up my DAW with tons of VST’s I never use but investing in a handful to fully master and utilise to the fullest. Big shouts go to Valhalla delays, Arturia synths and XLN XO which has revolutionised my beat-making. Also for me, the Korg M1 synth will never die, those crystalline 90’s pad sounds go into most of my tracks. I use my MicroKorg an awful lot for both sampling and MIDI input, and an AKAI MPD for beats and sample triggers. I sometimes throw some of my old guitar pedals into the mix too. Ableton has been my ‘bread and butter’ DAW for a good decade or so now.
As well as becoming a dad really recently (congratulations Liam!), what else is next on the agenda for Aniso Tropics?
Thanks! I’ve got a few more almost finished tracks in the pipeline, these may end up as another EP or time permitting (looking at you our wee new boy Oscar!) a full-length release. I’ve been dabbling into recording my own vocals for the first time in a long time, so expect some more personable releases in future. I’ve also been formulating and tweaking a setup for potentially playing my stuff live with room for improvisation. I also took a bit of a hiatus from regularly DJing to focus on production and using that precious time outside of full-time work. Chomping at the bit again to be out there playing tunes for folk though, so I’ll probably get back on that train again soon enough.
Fun one to finish off, do you have a specific studio snack or snacks which you always must munch on when working on music?
Knoppers Nut Bars from Aldi! They’re kinda like a Starbar crossbred with a Kinder Bueno. If I went off the rails and ended up driving to Dundee in my bare feet, these would be my crux. I also recall being at the height of creative writing the track ‘Lubek’ in the midst of a Wasabi Pea high. That pleasure/pain of delicious sweetness followed by a burn behind the eyes from munching too many at once really got the juices flowing.
Connect with Liam on his Insta.
Check out his Lubek release on Paper