Josh Molony is a long serving trainer here at Liveschool. He has guided hundreds of students along the way, imparting his innate understanding of groove and the fundamentals of music. To get a feel for what Josh brings to the table for our students you only have to listen to his releases under the monikers Setwun and Letabruthaknow. Overflowing with rhythmic nuance and melody, Josh is constantly pushing into new territory. We caught up with him for a chat about community and some key words of advice from Flying Lotus.
Is there a time you’ve heard your own music being played somewhere that has surprised you?
Someone sent me a video of Errol and Alex Rita playing this tune of mine ‘Sun’s Child’ at this big festival in the UK to this sea of people and was told it was as they were about to cross over to Theo Parrish’s set – so that did freak me out.
Last year was a good one for you with a couple of great tunes out as Setwun and Letabruthaknow – for the uninitiated what would you say the difference is between these projects?
Setwun is the main focus for me currently. It’s a project that pushes me to further myself as an instrumentalist, as a songwriter and lately as a singer. The aim with this project is to keep it really wide stylistically and not box myself in sonically. I want to be able to create a lot of different music that can translate into lots of different environments and I feel that Setwun is a vehicle for me to do that.
Letabruthaknow is a project that is influenced by the lineage of Jamaican Soundsystem culture and the importance that it plays in so much of the music we hear in clubs today. I always loved the idea that I could make some one-off tunes just for one particular dance that I may never play again. In that way, I suppose the writing process becomes a lot more functional when I’m writing. Harmony is less important in this project, it’s more a study of rhythm and texture.
Do you think it’s important to make the distinction between different projects?
I don’t think you HAVE to separate your sounds into different projects, make and release whatever you want!
However, at the time, separating my work into these separate identities was a freeing experience as I really just needed to say to myself “it’s okay to want to go forward with all these sounds”. Actually, LBK was supposed to be an anonymous thing, I’d just send out the tunes to the radio without any personal info from a new email. One day some people started calling me wondering if I knew who this new artist was and could I get them in contact with Letabruthaknow.
Out of nowhere you’ve just dropped a 12-track album you made at home in 10 days.
Yeah that was a trip for me too – I wouldn’t call it an album, I’d say it’s more a beat tape because I wanted that raw energy of working fast and not overthinking things – make a whole bunch of tracks, push it out there and keep moving before the panic and paralysis of perfectionism could get in the way.
It’s one of the upsides of lockdown I guess – you can really push yourself to work with what you’ve got. There’s a couple of bits of drum kit left at my place by friends between gigs, and I’d never really done DIY drums, so what better chance. I did this for 10 days, recording in my lounge room – drums guitar, keys, being mindful to keep it moving, to not overthink things – and it all came together.
What do you think is the importance of community in electronic music? Is there a way you would recommend for people looking to get involved in the community to make their first steps?
Community is key. If there is one thing that music has given me it’s family all over the world.
Get to those gigs! See the people in your city pushing it forward and say hi! Or if gigs aren’t your thing, find your people wherever they are
If you believe in it, do what you can to further it in an organic way, people will want you to be involved. Also, if you’re one of the ones getting those gigs, open it up, keep your hand extended out to others new to it and keep the cycle going.
How much is music a solo pursuit for you and how does collaboration factor into your work? Or when and how do you turn to others for feedback or input?
Music is a really therapeutic process for me and I love to work on music by myself. It gives me a chance to be really expressive and experiment. Collaboration is something that has become more important to me though as it’s a chance to learn and grow and hear music in different ways. The Setwun project is heavily collaborative with a lot of my friends playing sections on tracks or performing live with me.
How are you using Ableton in the Studio?
Live is with me the whole way. I usually program a bed rhythm and then begin to record endless ideas jamming on instruments in Session view until I lock-in. From there, it’s straight to Arrangement and I stay in there editing, programming, rerecording and arranging right through until the mastering stage.
Do you have a hot Ableton trick that you use often that might not be super obvious?
I’ve mentioned this in the past before but I’m still using the transient envelope in beats mode to gate audio. Sometimes adding extra transient markers to create a new rhythm.
What’s the best music advice you’ve been given by someone else?
Flying Lotus once told me, ‘stay inspired by any means possible’ That was like 10 years ago, I was 19 super fresh to the whole live electronic thing. That one does still stick with me.
What would you go back and tell yourself as a beginner starting off?
I’d tell myself to be as passionate as possible and try not to overthink everything. I spent way too much time in my early 20’s overthinking creative choices instead of just pushing them out and moving on.
What’s a tune with killer drums and why do you choose this one?
Can – Vitamin C (1972) – Jacki Liebetez’ feel on this whole record is so beautifully dynamic. Vitamin C has this insanely hard groove but all the playing is really light unless he’s really accenting moments. There is also all this separation in the mix which furthers this really dynamic playing. I think this dynamic approach is missing sometimes when we program drums.
Is there someone else’s work that changed the way you think about music?
All the time. There are too many of these moments. I feel like I’m always thinking about music, to others annoyance. As a result, upon taking in art of any medium, experiences or conversations, I end up reflecting in a way that always makes me change how I’m thinking about making music.
More lately, it’s probably a lot of my friends showing me works in progress that give me huge joy and inspiration.
What do you usually do when stuck on a track? Or how do you push through on a track that needs finishing?
This moment always changes for me actually. I think if I spend too much time on an idea I tend to smother my creativity. I think it’s helpful to try and detach from the piece for a moment and look at it objectively. What am I trying to do here? What’s the function of this track etc? As sterile as this sounds, sometimes answering these types of thoughts helps me become a lot more free with it.
What do you have coming up release wise this year?
I have two EPs and a few remixes coming out for the Setwun Project this year. I’ve started a few new collaborative projects also which may see the light of day this year and hoping to get some archived Letabruthaknow tracks out.