Social distancing getting you down? Feel like you’re beginning to fray at the edges? ‘Locked In (Isolutions)’ is a week of iso-themed content, geared towards making yet another 7 days of stay-at-home mundanity that bit more bearable…
A deep soak for weary minds, Day 3 of Locked In (Isolutions) comes straight out of Lobster Theremin HQ. Deviating from the dance-focused fare he’s known for, label founder Asquith continues where the ‘Lobster Bubble Bath’ broadcasts on NTS left off, weaving together horizontal meditations and lithe, delicate ambient.
Alongside the mix he’s answered a few lockdown-themed questions, including how things have affected day-to-day operations at LT. Crack it on and let those iso-inspired anxieties wash away.
Hi Jimmy, how have you been finding lockdown to date?
I’ve actually not been too bad overall. My moods and feelings have been very up and down, the isolation has been quite a challenge and I generally have very manic energy levels so when they’re up I can feel like I have a lot of pent up energy, but I’ve been trying to focus this into projects and the label, creative projects and also doing good for others. Overall, practicing self-care, trying to stay optimistic and spending time on things that excite me.
Any go-to coping mechanisms?
Meditation is great once you can get into the swing of it. I’m very on and off and it seems to affect me in different ways. I tried it in a morning but it just totally depressed me for the whole day so I was like hmmmm maybe not for me hahaha. A quick bath and some music to match my feelings (big classic house + disco = Let’s get it! // ambient = emotional introversion mode!)
I stopped drinking and taking drugs three months ago and I’m super glad I did as it’s made things much more manageable in terms of anxiety and my emotions. I can handle the change of the tide better and not getting quite as overwhelmed, although there are moments where it’s still pretty difficult.
Eating well, regular exercise, good night’s sleep, time away from technology, time to rest and properly switch off. Not that I always manage to stick to these consistently but when I do I generally feel much better.
Giving yourself a break is a big one. If you can’t do that thing today, if you have to tell someone no, if you’re not able to meet someone else’s requirements, that’s ok. Explain that you need time out and will have to do/send/record/finish it later. Putting mental health first can seriously help to turn things on their heads.
Are you the type of creative that’s been social distancing for years without realising it?
Partially. I’d consider myself an outgoing introvert, in that I’m pretty outgoing when I’m in social situations but mainly with specific friends and people I click with. Sometimes I’m very reserved and in general I don’t spend a huge amount of time socialising, I guess that’s also partly due to working so much but it’s what I enjoy right now and I’m happy to keep plugging away.
I like to socialise via text and the internet, and I enjoy solitude and relaxing alone to ambient. I do this quite often to be honest.
How has the pandemic affected day-to-day operations at Lobster HQ?
It’s an interesting one this. I think if we had sat on our hands and worried about the situation it could’ve been quite dire, but the whole team are pumped and energised and we’ve been working super hard to bolster the business and to make sure we’re really on top of the current circumstances.
So far record sales haven’t taken too much of a hit and the last few weeks we have performed well across the distribution and shop. I’m conscious that the medium-to-long term effects of this situation may not be as forgiving on our side of the business though and so everyone here is remaining vigilant and keeping a close communication around the situation.
I have such an amazing team working around me and that has really helped me to feel reasonably confident that we can weather adverse effects and hopefully come out of the other side stronger than ever.
With expectations that it will have far-reaching implications, how do you think the underground music ‘scene’ will recover?
This is a tough one to nail and depends largely on each country’s government’s policies when it comes to supporting businesses and individuals. It also depends on the unemployment rate at the end of lockdown and how quickly that is likely to bounce back. Unemployment rates in some countries are back to 2008-2011 levels, which is a shocking statistic, especially as the US had 12 years of job growth wiped out in little over 2-3 weeks.
I would hope that the lockdown instills a stronger sense of community in the underground electronic music scene, and an appreciation for the freedoms and liberties that we have, especially in the West. A greater appreciation for our privileges and a drive towards greater equality is more important than ever in difficult and challenging times. We should strive to promote unity whilst upholding and furthering positive values in the industry and scene.
I would also hope that it leads to a more open conversation around where the value lies in the music industry and how this should be shared more fairly between say producers and DJs. With the slow change over to a DJ-dominant underground music culture over the last 7-8 years it was easy to start adapting to those systems and rules, similar to how DJ’s were attracted to producing in the previous micro-era of ‘vinyl record release = gigs’ where DJs known for being DJs had largely been sidelined in terms of booked performances for artists who had releases.
A stronger equilibrium between the two would be great and a moderating of DJ fees to be a more honest reflection of the individuality of each show – and to allow more budget to pay local artists better – is certainly high on the list of considerations I would put forward for agents, managers, promoters and artists themselves to mull over.
This all assuming that the structure of what we have right now will largely be intact. If there is devastation and there are wider casualties, I imagine that it will cut across both underground and more commercial companies and areas. I have faith in the underground to bounce back though as it’s based on genuine values and expression. It doesn’t need money or profit to survive in its most basic state, it just needs people.
What have you been doing to pass the time while stuck at home? Any new hobbies?
I’ve been reading a ton more. From foreign policy to Aussie crime thrillers to mental health, I seem to be burning through them at a much faster rate!
No additional hobbies outside of music, design, art and fashion really. Although I did compile a sample pack which was super fun and interesting. It’s got around 60-70 samples in it so I’ve been planning that to come out soon,
I’ve been enjoying spending more time with my cat Hilda (feathers and lasers-a-plenty) and hanging out with my partner Rosy (we’re isolating together), playing board games, eating nice meals, watching some TV.etc. The usual stuff really!
Can you tell us a bit about the mix?
The mix is a collection of ambient, soundtrack and beat-less tracks from albums I’ve been really enjoying during isolation and also just before we went into lockdown. All tracks I feel have a really tender, emotionally-activating or nostalgic quality. I want to frame this current situation and explore the emotions and feelings that we experience within that and also everyday life and situations.
There are segments of this that remind me of travelling to gigs, resting, natural city and surroundings, interactions, feelings, then slowing down and sleep. Rising again and feeling the sun on your face.
How would you recommend listening to it?
Ideally whilst lying down or relaxing. In the bath would be a good shout although you’ll likely have crinkly fingers by the time it’s finished haha.
Laid in bed would be good. In headphones with eyes closed almost anywhere!
I’m lucky that the flat I live in has a bath so I love taking baths. The shower broke just before lockdown so I’m kinda in my element in that I get baths everyday. My family didn’t have a shower until I was like maybe 11 (I think we got a PC before we had a shower haha) so ye it’s quite nostalgic to go back to this old routine.
You called your Lobster Theremin ambient sub label ‘Lobster Sleep Sequence’, but how are you sleeping at the moment? Increased levels of anxiety right now must be disrupting sleeping patterns for many out there.
My sleep has been quite hectic for a little while now. I started with a new therapist last year (psychodynamic/psychoanalytic therapy) and it’s been a real revelation. I’ve been dreaming tons more about people and situations from my life and it’s helped me a lot to reconnect with different periods of time in my past that I’d either forgotten about or blocked out. It’s made me much more open emotionally and more able to articulate how I’m feeling and therefore to actually understand my feelings and moods better.
Understanding that I suffered from anxiety has been a huge revelation. I never had the terminology to describe how I was feeling and how it was affecting me and it turns out that that was it. It can take a while to discover this if you’ve never come into contact with that terminology or the experience of others. It took me to the point of not being able to get out of bed and having suicidal thoughts for my doctor to actually prescribe me medication and if I’m being honest that’s been a godsend. I take Sertraline, which is low risk, but can be very effective. It’s helped to provide a nice cushion for how I feel and in turn that has helped me to tackle my anxiety, depression and emotional difficulties through therapy.
Do you have any sleeping aids? Anything you listen to or watch while trying to nod off?
Podcasts are great for me, especially UK and US political podcasts… Talking Politics, The Daily (NYT), Dan Snow’s History Hit, FiveThirtyEight, History Of The Cold War Podcast. A guided meditation or relaxation can be great too. Anything to help slow and settle my mind, or otherwise focus it on a single element, whether that be breathing or political chatter.
Adam Curtis documentaries are edited and sound-tracked incredibly so they can be great to nod off to although sometimes result in mad dreams (I’ve had that with some podcasts too). Anything monotone is good, the 45-part Cold War documentary series on Youtube is pretty solid and actually really interesting.
Any finally, is there anything on the horizon that you’d like to share?
I have new Asquith records out via my own imprint and Who’s Susan. A record for Private Persons (under my Reehl alias). There’s a new Tom Hang digital EP up on the Tidy Bedroom bandcamp plus a heavy track on Ceili’s new compilation Speed Bumps.
I’ll be launching the sample pack over the next two weeks (plug plug!) There will also be more mixes, announcements and bits of bobs and plenty of Lobster releases.
Bandcamp are waiving their fees again on 1st May so I might stick my alternative version of ‘Let Me’ up as I had quite a few asks for that one. If you’re going to support artists/labels/music peeps in the immediate future and have the spare cash then maybe save up and go crazy on that day if you can 🙂
Big love and hope everyone’s doing well and staying safe <3 Thanks for the chat If-Only gang!