A.G. Cook on PC Music

Let's take another look at Simon Reynolds' putdown of the PC Music label:

...whether you should even go deep with something so determinedly shallow as the PC Music aesthetic is debatable. But then these sort of operations are never content to just be blank, are they? They can't resist showing how thought-through and conceptual the whole thing is. Pointing out the references, the precursors, the intent.... Just like the art world.

If there's any basis for this it can't be found in this interview with PC Music founder A.G. Cook (hat tip kiptok); it seems quite unpretentious and un-conceptual, while clearly not stupid. Below are a couple of excerpts that get at what this label and producer are about. It's not clear from the music how fully collaborative Cook's production role is -- the various PC artists have a unified sound and intent that makes me think he (or he and someone else at the label) have their hands in everything. Would like to get in touch with one of the artists, say, GFOTY, and ask "who is GFOTY, is it just one person, and if not what is the breakdown of who does what (vocals, production, songwriting, etc)?" Not that it ultimately matters in a post-identity world, it's just a nerdy itch of wanting to know what individual consciousnesses contribute.

Here's AG Cook, from the interview, on his approach to the label:

I've always enjoyed playing a bit of an A&R role, not just through finding new music but also by embracing the major label concept of "artistic development". I particularly enjoy recording people who don't normally make music and treating them as if they're a major label artist. Often we end up developing a really strong musical and visual identity, which is still kinda personal and idiosyncratic. Working with all these different personalities and styles has become a core part of how I think about music, to the extent where, for me, it's becoming a style in itself. So starting a label isn't just a way of releasing all this stuff, but it's also a way of operating as a larger structure that can still be categorised and understood. The label's called PC Music, which alludes to how the computer is a really crucial tool, not just for making electronic music but for making amateur music that is also potentially very slick, where the difference between bedroom and professional studio production can be very ambiguous.

This seems neither studiously "blank" nor excessively "thought-through and conceptual" so Simon Reynolds must be getting those pejoratives from somewhere else. Here's Cook on his musical influences:

...those [UK garage and David Guetta] are both pretty big references for me! I'm relatively up to date with chart music. I like keeping track of the mega-producers who have been responsible for endless hits over the last decade or two – Max Martin is probably my favourite, I'm usually drawn to his tracks whether they're for Britney Spears, Taylor Swift or Cher Lloyd. Also producers like Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis who worked on great New Edition and Janet Jackson albums and then gradually evolved their sound to make songs like "U Remind Me" for Usher. I listen to quite a lot of RnB; I really like Cassie – some of her tracks epitomise the minimal, synthetic, almost robotic potential of commercial music, something which can sound crap when it's done badly, but can also become a sort of perfect, untouchable product when done in the right way. I always find any kind of "extreme" pop music interesting. One of my favourite albums is Cupid and Psyche 85 by Scritti Politti, which was a conscious decision to take pop music and make it as shiny and detailed as possible – it's a really beautiful balance of great hooks, rhythms and sounds. There's so much other stuff that has been influential: J-Pop, K-Pop, Nightcore, Ark Music Factory, Hudson Mohawke and Nadsroic, Frank Zappa's Synclavier stuff, Jumpstyle. Recently I've been really into Ukraine's Eurovision 2013 entry, "Gravity" by Zlata Ognevich. It's the same few chords throughout, but they keep moving them around to create different sections – it just feels like it's infinitely escalating, really clever.