By Laura Turnbull
Taking up a corner of Reuben’s workroom, hemmed in by scraps of old metal and rolls of bubble wrap, was a big analogue mixer. Rescued from a skip outside his school’s music department, it had four working valves and – “that’s original 80s dust on it”, Reuben pointed out. It was a skip-digger’s dream. And it seemed this dusty relic was just the tip of a golden scrap-heap of stuff Reuben had salvaged and recycled. “Do you remember those really industrial-looking tape machines, they had a microphone built into them? One of them was faulty at the school so I asked if I could have it. I fixed it up and for ages that was my only way of recording things.” The awkward missions to record sounds with this machine, trailing a microphone on an extension lead around his garden, sounded like a Looney Tunes episode on field recording. Reuben had a sentimental perspective on it all, though. “I love that I was from a kind of analogue start, all that cutting and pasting… you end up with something that has all these artefacts on it.”
As we were talking Reuben kept scribbling down little bits of software advice on a post-it note for me. In return for invading his home studio, I got a cup of tea and a mini mentoring session. Hands down the best deal. Reuben’s generosity was the kind that made you feel less lonely on whatever music-y outpost you’d found yourself adrift on. “It’s just really nice when people take an interest, it can be such an insular thing,” he agreed, “I’ve been totally hermit the last couple of years.” It was easy to veer into Havisham territory, hiding away in your own reclusive den and creating stuff. Spending a couple of hours in Reuben’s workroom was the kind of fresh air every musician needed.
Check out Reuben’s most recent release as OPPOSITEBIRDS here:
“This would have taken about five seconds if I had a computer that worked,” Reuben jokes, untangling aux cables while coaxing his laptop out of paralysis (“You’re doing very well laptop, you can do it, I totally believe in you!”), until eventually one of his tracks came rippling out of the speakers. Like a slinky bouncing down an elevator shaft, it was a mesh of zingy percussion. “Buried in there is an actual melodic tune!” Reuben laughed, stopping and starting different tracks to reveal all the jittering layers. Somewhere a hi-hat snapped into the mix. “Those extra little sparkly bits at the end are ‘cos the clips aren’t cut well,” he explained. But it was those glitchy artefacts Reuben had talked about that made each sound glow.