Maps photo credit: Phil Sharp
Maps [aka James Chapman] took a step out his Northants studio bolthole to embrace collaboration in his recent work. On the day his latest EP is released New Boots speaks to him.
New Boots: You still call Northamptonshire home these days. Is being “in home territory” something that suits you?
Maps: Yes, I have always lived in Northamptonshire, and I love it here. I do still work away from home quite a bit, but London is close enough on the train so it’s perfect for me. There was always that temptation to move away when I was younger, but I am glad I didn’t. It’s very peaceful where I live, which I find very conducive to making music. It’s a different pace of life to living in a city I guess, but it’s a good pace for me.
You changed your working methods for Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss., bringing in others and recording bits in Belgium. You must feel it was worth it, considering the positive response the album had.
Thank you! Yes, I made a decision when working on Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss. to expand the sound and push things as much as possible, and I was very keen to work with other musicians to make that happen. Prior to this album I was very much used to working completely alone, so it was a new way of working. I was really pleased with the results, and also very happy the album connected with people.
This EP, and the last album, has some collaborative work with, amongst others, Echo Collective. Do you now prefer to work with others?
I had been working on the album for a long time, but was still searching for a more expansive, orchestral sound. I was introduced to Echo Collective through my label, and started talking to them about making it happen. They are all such amazing musicians, and we got on really well. I did the orchestral arrangements for the album at home in my studio. It was a learning curve, but I loved doing it! It was truly thrilling to hear the scores come to life when I went over to Belgium for the recording. It added so much to the sound of the album.
I still love to have control over the sounds that appear on my albums, but this whole experience made me much more open to working with others. I guess it’s just a case of making decisions about the sounds and instruments that are needed, and then finding the right people to make it a reality. In addition to Echo Collective, I also worked with an amazing drummer and percussionist called Matt Kelly, and additional vocalists Cecilia Fage and Rachel Kennedy. They also played live with me for the Maps shows we did in 2019, which was a fantastic experience.
You left the anthemic ‘Sleep Today’ off Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss.Do you feel it is at all pointing in a future direction, sonically?
‘Sleep Today’ was written and recorded as part of the collection of tracks that eventually made the album. But it seemed to stand alone from the rest of the tracks somehow, so I eventually decided to leave it off the album. I always loved the song though, and was excited for people to hear it. It is a very upbeat and optimistic song, and I felt that this year has been so miserable for most people, that it was a good time to release it. In terms of future direction, I very much see this single and the new EP as part of the Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss. world, so the next chapter is very much yet to be formed. I am writing and recording new songs as we speak though, so I am excited about the next phase.
You’ve been having people remix your work a lot recently. Has that taught you anything/sowed seeds?
Yes, we did a whole series of remix EPs over the summer which was a brilliant experience. I had the opportunity to work with artists that I really respect and have loved from a young age. Stephen Morris [New Order], GLOK [Andy Bell from Ride], A Certain Ratio, TVAM and Barry Adamson to name a few. Some of the remixes were ‘swap’ remixes as well, so I had the pleasure of remixing their work in return. I have always loved doing remixes, and I spend a lot of time on them. I always enjoy trying to create something fresh, and putting a new spin on someone else’s work. It is also a great way for me to keep working on continuing to improve as a producer.
How have you coped with lockdown life? Have you filled your days with writing and recording? Surely you often work in isolation, haha!
It has been a tough year, but I have been very lucky because I work from my home studio anyway, so it hasn’t affected me being able to continue to make music. A lot of my friends and fellow musicians have been hit much harder than me, especially those who rely on playing live for their income. In terms of day-to-day lockdown life, obviously it has been weird. But as you say I am very used to working on my own so, in a way, I’ve been preparing for this for years! 2020 has been a hard one though, for everyone.
What music have you been enjoying in recent times?
I listen to many different genres, but I am currently enjoying the new Julianna Barwick album, Neu!, Sven Wunder, Nathan Fake, Harmonia, Steve Reich, Pye Corner Audio, with a sprinkling of The Byrds and lashings of The Beach Boys.
What can we expect in 2021 from you?
I am currently working on new music, so I am looking forward to continuing to get stuck into the next creative phase of Maps. I’ve also been working on producing some other projects which I’m excited about as well. Overall, you can expect more music. That I can promise!
The EP by Maps is out now via the usual digital platforms