Music / Features
They Made Me Do It -
Talking Influences with Daniel Joshua
Words by Conor Lochrie
Friday 10th September, 2021
Off the back of the release of his new single ‘Future Past Present’, we got in touch with rising producer Daniel Joshua to dig into the influences behind his latest dose of otherworldly electronic-tinged art-pop.
“If you've felt like your career or life has been put on hold, especially in the last two years, this song is dedicated to you.” This is how Melbourne singer-songwriter and producer Daniel Joshua introduces his latest single ‘Future Past Present’ on Bandcamp. It’s a relatable dedication - if we’ve not been furloughed ourselves, we know someone who has; if we’ve not been in a band suffering the stagnation of the music industry, we’ve watched one of our favourite artists go through it.

Having released a series of bootleg remixes under the moniker Droptail, things seemed to be going according to plan for Joshua. Even when things seem to be on a strong path, though, something just doesn’t feel right. He stepped away from music for a much-needed break, recollected his thoughts and vision, and returned under his own name, a strident statement that this would be his most personal music yet.

So ‘Future Past Present’ is his second single of this year, following the previously released ‘Hivemind’. And although it was completed by January 2020, the track poignantly captures the enervating existence felt by many in these last 18 months. It’s a lamentation of stagnation; it’s a reckoning with an uncertain future.

“This song evolved out of a session I had in my old studio,” Joshua explained. “I got some initial musical ideas I put down in that session, but quickly got frustrated at not being able to develop the song further. This spiralled into very defeatist thoughts about myself and my life’s direction, and weirdly these distraught lyrics soon poured out of me at home.” He continued: “At the time I felt like I’d made something that seemed poignant to me. It was the last song I made in that old studio before I had to vacate it at the start of the first lockdown, so it’s at least a little ironic.”

The track is accompanied by a haunting music video, a collaboration with audiovisual artist SWIM. Filmed on an iphone during Melboirne’s fifth lockdown - who’s counting? - the woozy distorted blue palette of the psychedelic clip perfectly captures the disorientation that the lyrics detail.

The intricate electronic landscape is enhanced with stirring strings, recalling the melancholic textures of James Blake or Radiohead; “This is how we walk on the moon,” Joshua cries during the song, surely a nod to the American compositional master Arthur Russell.

‘Future Past Present’ is the second taste of a planned debut EP from Joshua. We caught up with him to discuss the key influences on the track.

Portishead - ‘Chase the Tear’
Portishead was one of those revered bands that everyone talked about that I just didn’t find myself connecting with for a while. That was, until I listened to Third. It awakened a really primal musical part of my brain I think. Their work has such a haunting, yet beautiful quality to it and I became really enamoured with their synth work. This song is an off-cut, but I really enjoy the krautrock influence and the way the synths propel it forward and sort of caress Beth Gibbons’ fractured voice. It was a big inspiration.

Caribou - ‘Barnowl’
Another krauty cut, I absolutely love this tune from Caribou. The syncopation between the drum groove and the rhythm of the guitar parts has this lovely effect of putting you in a psychedelic-esque trance. I was particularly inspired by how this song (as well as a lot of what else is on this album) made me feel - this sense of almost washed out bliss and of being taken on a journey by the instrumentation.

Jonny Greenwood - ‘Proven Lands’
A hallmark of a good soundtrack to me is how much of it you can listen to casually outside of the context of the film. This soundtrack is unbelievable. I hadn’t actually seen There Will Be Blood before I heard some of the cuts from this soundtrack on Nicolás Jaar’s essential mix from 2012, which prompted me to go listen to the whole thing. I love the visceral percussive nature of the string arrangement. He’s using a technique called ‘col legno’ - which is to strike the strings of the violin/cello with the wood stick of the bow, as opposed to the hair. That was a completely foreign concept to me having played violin, so I wanted to try and attempt it in a song.

Björk - ‘It’s Not Up to You’
The more I think about it, the more I realise how ubiquitous Björk’s influence is. This is one of my favourite songs of hers in what might be her best album in Vespertine. One of my favourite things about this album is the use of what Björk herself called ‘microbeats’: bits of little percussion that sort of flutter around your head particularly when wearing headphones. I’ve never really heard percussion like that in pop music, it’s pretty adventurous, but that shouldn’t really come as a surprise for her.

Boards of Canada - ‘New Seeds’
There’s not much really left to say about Boards of Canada at this point but, similarly to Portishead, their synth work resonates with me deeply albeit for different reasons. There’s a melancholy that flows throughout their music and, when lying in bed listening to it, can provide very colourful feelings of nostalgia. The chord sequence that occurs around four minutes in when it shifts to a major key really lit me up, and provided a framework for how I wanted the song to feel.

Jon Hopkins – ‘Open Eye Signal’
The ultimate tune for focused tasks. The way this just constantly evolves and develops is brilliant - it’s become the pseudo signature of his sound, and he’s one of the best producers out there because of it. In making ‘Future Past Present’ in my old studio, I tried to mimic the way Jon Hopkins drove this track with a single synth lead, using my Korg MS-20. I didn’t end up using it in the same way Jon did, but if you listen carefully you can hear that pulsing synth lead layered underneath the main chords of the song.

SWIM - ‘First of the Year’
Really could have picked any of this guy’s videos but I’ll go with the one that introduced me to him. I found SWIM through my mastering engineer, Wayne, who had mastered his previous work. I love the vivid, psychedelic atmosphere SWIM creates through the pairing of his music with footage that he runs through visual analog FX – its sense of space is immaculate. It captures the essence of the rave completely. I knew I had to work with him on a video for ‘Future Past Present’, because I immediately saw in my head how these vivid images could translate some of the despondence and barrenness feelings associated with the lyrical content of the song.
'Future Past Present' is out now in all the usual places.