Interview: IdleGod – 10/05/2019

Photo: Max Harris

Self-assured, yet down-to-earth, George Edwards, a.k.a. IdleGod, is quite a character. I reviewed IdleGod’s headline show at The Fleece a few months ago and was rather impressed with Edwards’s songwriting and performance, so, naturally, he was put at the top of the interview hit list. As we sat in Arnolfini’s bustling café on a sunny Friday afternoon, the conversation was packed with interesting, and often surprising, opinions and insights. Read on to hear more about Edwards, including how the artist shifted from rock n’ roll purist to shamelessly gushing love for Kanye West

So why IdleGod?

*Chuckles profusely* Well, I used to have the name ‘Alphadeus‘, which was really pretentiously named after a character I wrote to be in the ‘concept of the music’… I was a real, pretentious progressive rock teen… But then I was travelling in India with my girlfriend, Helen, and I found out that the name was already taken, after years of having that name! I was like, ‘Ah… Bollocks.’ Helen said to me, ‘I think the English translation of that is “idle god”,’ which I thought was really cool… and that’s all there is to it, really. In the story he was – oh my god it was so rubbish – the first original thing in his world… It was just so lame. But yeah, I just think ‘IdleGod’ sounds really cool, plus it’s easy to brand. You can really overthink names.

Definitely. You’ve done well in going with ‘IdleGod’ – it’s a name which sticks in the mind.

Yeah… It sounds self-assured, but in a not-too-cocky way. I don’t want it to sound cocky, but I hope it annoys people just a bit. If you can get a name which stands out because it offends slightly, in a harmless way, but enough for people to remember it, then I think you’ve done it right.

Interesting. So how did you get into music?

I asked for a guitar for my eleventh birthday, just because I thought it looked really cool. I hardly touched it for ages. I’d pick it up occasionally, but then I really got into it when I started listening to Guns N’ Roses and everything clicked. I began playing loads, and started writing my first lyrics ever around twelve or thirteen. I was in rock bands, playing in garages and everything… And now I’d say I’m more of a producer than a musician, weirdly, haha.

So would you describe yourself as shifting from that guitarist mindset to thinking about the bigger picture?

Massively so. For about four or five years, I was so concerned about being the best guitarist, ever. It was a lot of fun – I did loads of gigs as part of this progressive acoustic duo, making a sort of acoustic math rock, with progressive metal influences. It was pretty mental. People enjoyed it, but I still felt disconnected from it as I didn’t think I was really writing stuff beyond being the ‘Holy s***t! What was THAT?!’ kind of memorable. I’d rather make music memorable through being a great songwriter or producer. I also like producing as it means I’m able to manage every element of what I’m doing. If I make a mistake, I can just go to me to correct it, rather than needing to go to someone else.

Yeah, I can see the appeal of only holding yourself accountable! Is it less hassle?

Maybe not… I mean, I do outsource people where I need to: I have a co-producer and a co-mixer, and someone to help with my next project’s visuals, but I always have the base ideas coming from me. That way, if something needs fixing, I don’t have to chase after people.

Sure. Do you feel that the move to a more production-oriented mindset has altered your songwriting approach a lot?

Massively. I feel that when you play guitar, you often just play guitar – you’ll always write from that standpoint. Now I play synths, bass, and do vocals. I actually often start writing a song with a drumbeat first, and then write chords over it. I’m really bad with chords… I hardly write with them at all anymore, and I really should.

Haha, I can certainly relate to that… Never really knowing what chord you’re playing, but not caring as long as it sounds pretty!

Yeah same, man. I really need to get back to writing with them, though. I feel that my writing process is a constant elimination of my process. If I get too comfortable with a certain way of writing, that’s when I’ll stop doing it that way. Getting comfortable in that was is dangerous in my opinion as it makes you lazy. Changing it up can mean you can risk losing cohesiveness but, over the years, I’ve learned to make it cohesive, even though I’ll be on different instruments. I’ll probably go back to chords eventually. I haven’t used them in ages!

Yes, by avoiding them for a while, you’ll be coming back to them as something fresh again.

Yeah, definitely. For my second EP, I discovered an amazing analogue pedal which was on every song and inspired a lot of the soundscapes for it. But on the third EP, I’ll try to not use it at all. I try to change the gear I’m using between every project.

That’s cool. Hopefully, it means you’ll never be simply churning out the same sounds again and again.

I think that’s really important. Look at Radiohead – Radiohead is the only band who have lasted for as long as they have in that they’re not only still here, but they’re actually making some of the best work they’ve ever done. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other band that can really claim to be at their best thirty years down the line. It’s because they keep changing. I want to have that trajectory.

Yeah, a lot of successful musicians have kept their longevity through constant reinvention.

Yeah, I’m really happy with the second project because, although it’s very different from the first, you can still hear it’s me. If anything, it sounds more like me than the first. The first one was, metaphorically, me trying on the shoes, and now I’ve broken them in. I like the shoes! I’d say it’s weirder, yet also more accessible. I love it when artists walk that line. For example, you can show St. Vincent to someone who doesn’t like that kind of music, but they’ll still go, ‘Oooh this is really good!’. It’s really weird, but it’s also poppy.

So can you tell me more about the second project? Or is it a secret?!

I am not going to act like that at this stage, haha. ‘It’s all top secret. I don’t have a label or ANYTHING, but nobody can know!’ No. I’m not like that. Seriously, though, if I could rate my music – not in comparison to other music, but within the narrative of my own songwriting – I’d give the last EP an eight out of ten, but this project is a ten. Everything I learned and heard that I didn’t like on the first EP, I’ve corrected on this one. This one’s a lot bigger, and a lot more honest and intimate than the last. It’s a giant contradiction, to be honest. It’s more accessible, but it’s weirder. It’s bigger, but it’s more intimate.

Is it finished now?

The writing, yes. I’ve written the songs, but now I’m going through and recording stuff. I’m doing it all in the studio instead of in my bedroom this time (which is how I did the last). That was quite annoying as I did all the guitars on the last project through Guitar Rig, so the distortion is massively lacking. I’ve done it all in a studio this time to get everything sounding bigger, and I’m taking more time over it. The first single’s nearly done now, though. I’ll still do all the synths back at home though – don’t need a studio for that. I’m not going to do some analogue, really pretentious mic-ing of the room… Mic-ing the dustbin in the room… But yeah, it’s got a massive philosophical element to it as well, which I love.

Is everything in the new EP going to be its own piece, or do the tracks link?

Unintentionally, yes, they do all link together. It’s really weird. I was thinking about the concept of it and realised that all the songs run identically to the concepts I was talking about, even though that wasn’t planned at all, which I thought was amazing! A complete happy accident, haha.

IdleGod is your solo artist name, and you write everything yourself. Are you picky when choosing bandmembers?

Very picky. I had a revolving door of a band for about five years, and there had always been something wrong with each iteration – always something. This one, though, is great. I love all of them equally! Once I had the new line-up, we practised loads in preparation for a headline gig over about six weeks and everything came together really well. I hadn’t wanted to have a band for ages, but being with them made me realise how much I like being in a band again, after getting really disillusioned with it for a while.

Do you find you feel more creative in a band setting or alone?

Here’s what I want to do with my third EP – I’m going to write it with the band, so we’ll find out. I have got into a bit of a rut doing it all alone, so I might really surprise myself by going to the group with some ideas and running with it. Every time Louis, Torin and Will have thought of adding something, nine times out of ten, I’ve thought it’s really cool and I’ve liked it a lot, how they’ve made it their own. They’re all such talented musicians that I think I should give them the rope!

What does the immediate future hold for IdleGod then?

I’m going to graduate! Yeah, I’m finishing uni soon. Everything’s taken a bit of a backseat lately with finals going on. The first single from the new EP will be released. I’ve decided to release everything very differently to last time, putting a focus on building up a fanbase online. I feel like gigs are great, but I really think online is the way now. It’s so confusing – I get into two minds about it. I want to gig loads, but also I think people can be very forgetful about gigs. There’s a weird duality to it. The two are linked more than ever: you can get decent gigs, even if you haven’t gigged much before, just through being put on an amazing Spotify playlist or having a large online following. I was looking at a load of my favourite underground artists at the moment, like Baby – she hasn’t gigged that much, and has only written a few songs, but was on the Great Escape line-up on a really big stage, and played SXSW in Austin as well. I was thinking that, if you can do all that without touring once, it shows how differently the music industry functions now. Now I’m about to finish uni, I hope I can manage to build up both. I’m thinking I’ll do a lot of gigs and get posting plenty of content as I haven’t in a while. So yeah… Those are my immediate plans. I’ll just bombard everyone!

I do find it a bit sad that so much of one’s success is dictated by online following nowadays.

I think it is sad, but also not if you’ve really earned it. Billie Eilish has done an amazing job and I seriously admire her. I love her music anyway. People discredit her for being an ‘emo teenager’ or whatever, but I think her music is good. It’s unique for its time right now – in pop music, I haven’t heard an album like that since The XX and how long ago was that? I haven’t heard a production style like that, so whispery and close, for ages. Regardless of what you think of her, she’s headlined Coachella and did it well. It’s amazing what you can do online, but it’s also diabolical.

A double-edged sword… So who are your main influences? Actually, no! I’ll phrase that differently: how have your influences changed over the years? That’s what we want to hear!

That’s an interesting question for me, actually. *Ominous giggling*

*More giggles* I hope you’re not going to say Nickleback or something…

NO! Even though, I will say that my co-producer tried to explain to me at a Massive Attack gig that he thought ‘Rockstar’ by Nickleback was a dystopian song with some really deep themes in it. I nearly slapped him! He’s going to hate me for saying this, but it’s too funny… He was like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s got some really dystopian, underground themes.’ And I was just like, ‘No… It’s not f***ing Blade Runner!’

That’s hysterical. Thanks for that, haha!

In all seriousness, though, Metallica and Guns N’ Roses were the sole bands I’d listen to for like a year when I first got into guitar. I was SO pretentious, and am now so glad I’ve got that out of the way. I’m the least pretentious music person I know now! Well, probably, maybe… Top five at least. So yeah, I went from a massive rock and metal purist to listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, then hip-hop, getting into Kanye West. That changed everything. I feel that West has such a massive influence on me because of how unimportant to him the genre of rap is. Even though he’s technically a rapper, I’d consider him more of an artist within that genre. He produces everything himself and always has an incredible vision for each album.

Wow. I didn’t realise he was so hands-on.

Yeah. West is genuinely one of the most talented people of all time. A favourite album amongst many is West’s ‘Dark Fantasy’. The fact he brought together Elton John, Rihanna, Bon Iver, Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z, and orchestras, and made that an amazing album is beyond rap music. You’re not even making rap music anymore. I guess he’s my main influence. I want to make rock music that isn’t even rock music anymore, so it has the spirit of it, but the feel is different. It is possible: you see Deathgrips doing it, and Twenty-One Pilots managing it on their new album. I also think film directors have a big influence on me, such as David Lynch. If I can make a song which sounds like it could be in a David Lynch film, I’m happy.

That’s interesting, writing according to a visual image in your head.

That’s a massive thing for me, definitely. I get synaesthesia quite heavily with music, so a lot of the time I’m reacting musically to what I’m seeing, which is weird. I once saw a chart of what colours you can see for which key, and it was 90% accurate to me. It’s so weird.

I don’t really see colours, I don’t think… I just kind of make up stories in my head. Someone could, say, play something in a darker mode, and I’ll be there like, ‘Oh s**t! The axe murderer’s around the corner!’

Hahaha! Yeah, everyone’s got their own version of it, I think. I went for an interview recently and the guy had synaesthesia with numbers: he thought numbers had personalities, which I think’s amazing. It’s the same with music – certain people just have certain visuals. For me, it can inspire what colour scheme I’ll go for on the design of an album cover, or what I’ll go for topic-wise. It’s easy to do that when you’ll get that fed to you from the music. It nearly writes itself. Nearly!

Almost! Well that wraps up the interview for now. Thanks for taking the time to chat.

You can read my review of IdleGod’s gig from February here:

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