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Does touring kill creativity?

Artists are playing more shows than ever before and it could be keeping them out of the studio

  • Words: Joe Muggs | Illustration: Alex Jenkins
  • 28 July 2016
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We all giggle at DJs Complaining of course, and it's easy to write all this off as people not appreciating that they live the life of riley. But the struggle is real, and aside from the dispiriting general grind of it all, if you're trying to get time to actually focus on creating records that are more than dashed-off DJ tools, yet are naturally loath to turn down the gigs that are your bread and butter, then a major conflict is going to arise. For most people you can't just switch on studio mode like a light. As Bicep put it, “We still hit the studio almost every single day we're not touring, but it takes a few days to really get under the skin of the track... And then you're off on a plane again.” Not the most conducive situation for a focused artistic statement.

The still-prolific Erol Alkan tells us: “I've cut back drastically on how many gigs I take on as I found it detrimental to the creative process.” Krystal Klear has moved back to his native Dublin, “Where I know I will be a lot more restricted and confined to finishing a body of work.” Bicep say “We've found with heavy summer touring, studio productivity is almost to zero, and the rest of the year is a mixture,” so they've taken the drastic step of taking January and February completely off DJing to dedicate to studio work.

“I've cut back on gigs as I found it detrimental to the creative process" - Erol Alkan

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Even seasoned pro Roger Sanchez, while emphatically saying that “different cultures, different crowds and the mood in different rooms when I'm playing all translate into new production ideas for me,” still wishes that touring “could be two weeks on, two weeks off, although it rarely works out that way!” And Harriman, who says Dusky consider the experience and connection to audiences when touring “generally helps our inspiration,” admits it's a double-edged sword: “You can't get the ideas down properly when you're touring a lot,” he says. “When you're away for a long time you get excited about getting back in the studio so that helps to motivate you and increase your productivity when you finally get back in there.”

The consensus among everyone we spoke to, in fact, was almost total: tour to the exclusion of all else and studio work suffers massively. It makes us look again at why some of the best producers who also happen to have the most relentless DJ schedules – people like Skream and Eats Everything – aren't dropping the artist albums that so many people would like to see from them.

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