‘A Portrait Of John Doe’ sees Floex (aka Tomas Dvorak, the Czech clarinetist, composer, producer and multimedia artist from Prague), and London-based Hodge (the British composer, pianist, and clarinetist, who recently scored McMafia), bring together classical and radical “avant-garde” electronic music. The pair, who’ve previously worked with Max Cooper, began work on the album after meeting at the Berlin festival in 2014, the project has taken three years to complete and saw the pair work together with the Prague Radio Symphonic Orchestra to bring the music and their arrangements to life. ‘Wednesday (Is The New Friday)’ is the first piece of music to be revealed from the album. The original is accompaccompanied by a remix from Hidden Orchestra which further explores the electronic music dynamic created by Floex and Hodge…
Where in the world are you right now?
TH: In County Cork, Ireland, by the sea.
TD: Prague, Czech Republic, not so far from the centre. Btw. there is big church on the square close to the place where I live. Our new album starts with the bells of this church, since this is the place where we were working together mostly on the album.
What was the first piece of music you heard this morning?
TH: I confess I don’t rush to put music on straight away when I start my day. The first ‘music’ I heard this morning was the sound of the sea and the birds!
TD: Haha, it’s birds here too, but drunken Airbnb people coming back from the party shouting and singing some stupid songs as well.
When did you start composing and what drove you do it?
TH: Actually I studied social and political science but music was calling too loudly I guess. I wasn’t sure exactly what type of music ‘career’ it was going to be though! I then came to composing via media work. I wrote lots of music for commercials and other pictures and slowly found my way into making records as well.
TD: I was learning clarinet from 6, when I was about 17 which must have been around 95. I got crazy into the electronic music. For me in that time, it was something completely new and sonically undiscovered. Somehow I had need to express my love for this new music creatively. I couldn’t totally leave my interest for the acoustical instruments like clarinet as well and I started to explore the schemeses how to connect these worlds together. This approach somehow survives till these days.
Do you remember when you first heard electronic music? Where were you at the time and what were the tracks that drew you in?
TD: I am coming from the small country in the middle of the Europe. In that time there was just one indie radio which originally started as pirate radio ironically named Stalin since their studio was placed underground under the place where one of the biggest statues of Stalin was ever built in Europe, later this radio was renamed to Radio 1 and there was one dj who played this “new electronic music”. I had this old cassette recorder and I was recording the tracks from the radio making my own “compilation”. I remember the first song I have ever recorded on this tape was ‘Papua New Guinea’ by the ‘Future Sound Of The London’.
TH: I can’t remember honestly. I guess I was quite drawn in by Ninja Tune’s output; Cold Cut, DJ Shadow, stuff like that.
What is the concept behind the project you are currently you working on together?
TD: At some point, we were surprised to see stories hidden behind a number of tracks, and they led us to the imaginary character that is experiencing them. We have discovered that there is nothing special about this person really. He is not an intellectual, an artist, a scientist, simply does not excel in anything but his stories are strong and intense. We have discovered that these are stories of ordinary things – sometimes superficial, sometimes inward – and we all know them.
There may be some sort of effort to define with today’s time, which is so obsessed with performance, efficiency, extraordinariness. It is as if the value of life is judged on this ability to excel. By way of contrast, we have built a completely normal person and ordinary moments, kind of situations we all know. And the only thing we differ in is the quality we are able to experience from the inside.
So John Doe can be anyone and no one at the same time.
TH: This phrase by chance came up on my social media feed- ‘Why do we need the extraordinary when the ordinary is so mystifying and strange?’ Seems about right…
Floex, Tom Hodge - Prelude I ft. Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra
Where do you start when you start composing?
TH: Pretty much always the piano.
TD: I don’t have clear concept here. Funnily, both me and Tom play piano and clarinet. Piano is for me king of the instruments and musical healer. If I am lost I got back to the piano. Clarinet is the most natural instrument to express musical thoughts for me. Otherwise I am trying to be more conceptual, for example now experimenting a lot with Vermona Perfourmer, the new synth I’ve recently bought.
Is any of your work improvised?
TH: I come from the school of thought that composition and improvisation are two sides of the same coin. So, yes, improvisation plays a very important role. All the sketches on our record were created in an improvisatory manner- an intense live collaboration rushing around Tomas’ studio (and flat) playing everything we could get our hands on, including the pots, pans, and bicycle spokes… Then I guess you could call the ‘composition’ side all the scoring for orchestra and Tomas’ epic production work.
What have been the highlights of your career so far?
TH: Apart from working with Tomas obviously…Ha ha. In no particular order, writing my 90 minute symphonic ballet and seeing it performed by the 20 dancers, watching and listening from the front row to my soundtrack for Carolina Herrera’s New York Fashion week collection, playing a concert with Max Cooper in Abbey Road Studio 2, my recent score for BBC drama, McMafia. Looking back at this list, I guess ‘variety’ is also a highlight!
TD: First of all I need to mention that the way I met with Tom was on the festival in Berlin, I just came to him to say how much I love the music he is doing with Franz (in their project Piano Interrupted), so the sympathies are on both sides.
Otherwise the artists always have tendency to exaggerate their most recent works but I really feel that this cooperation with Tom is something very special. I think there are some pretty unique moments on our new album.
For me the personal albums are always the biggest achievement but I am probably known for the other work more. For example I did music for the game called Machinarium (by small Czech indie studio Amanita Design) which become cult game on the indie scene as well as the soundtrack, the game Machinarium sold about 5 million copies till today.
What electronic artists would you listen to for pleasure?
TH: The people I work with for starters! Also Rival Consoles is doing cool stuff, a bit of Hopkins of course, big fan of Anna Meredith too.
TD: Funny, Rival Consoles is just playing in Prague today. It is for the 2nd time and I am going to see him again since I like him too. Otherwise it is big diversity of music. Recently I have been listening a lot for example to Nick Bärtsch, Stephan Bodzin or Stimming. I really like label Atomnation, Olaf Stuut or Deltawerk are my favourite guys there. Also Hidden Orchestra or Max Cooper. It happened recently that couple of these guys including Max are remixing some tracks from our recent album which is in a way “dream becoming true”!
The artwork on your release project has received praise. Do you feel a correlation between your music and other art forms such as art and design, video, cinema etc. Do you set out to stimulate other senses?
TD: It seems both of us are not working purely in audio domain.Tom doing his media work and soundtracks, me doing multimedia projects and music for the games. I have actually studied visual art school and I have been always in the middle of this clash between audio and visual art. However in case of our recent project ‘A Portrait Of John Doe’ it was rather narrative stimulus which helped us developing this tracks as already mentioned earlier.
A lot people will be reading about you for the first time here. Do you see this as a strictly organic process or have you set yourself goals?
TH: Very much an organic one. This project couldn’t have been more so really. We had no idea or expectations when I surprised Tomas with a visit to Prague- first it was literally just some fun, then maybe it seemed like a single might be nice, then maybe an EP sounded good and suddenly it was an album with symphony orchestra, which I guess you might also say was actually just some fun!
What advice would you give to aspiring composers and producers?
TH: Work hard and search for something you feel is an original take on music and/or the world.. It doesn’t matter what you find at the end if the search brings something along the way! And did I mention to work hard?
Who inspires you musically and why?
TD: Beside direct musical influences, some of them were already mentioned. For me inspiration is really associative process. I am putting different sorts of little impressions from whatever media or context possible and later re-using them, personalising them in my own work. I think often I am not able to track the origin, it can be something very subconscious, but some sort of link is mostly there.
What accomplishment in your life are you most proud of?
TH: I guess the ongoing accomplishment of making a living from being a musician and composer! I’m proud of that and count myself very fortunate indeed.