As the new season commences we can't wait to introduce you to Malthus, the multitalented musician with a hauntingly delicate voice. Malthus creates a unique cocktail of classical and electronic music that has captured our hearts. If that wasn't enough, Malthus in collaboration with contemporary dancer and choreographer Magnus Westwell recently created ‘Lazarus’, a transcendent performance rave which will pop up around London this year.
Please can you tell us a little about your background and how you got into music?
I grew up in a small town called Skelmersdale in Lancashire, North-West England with my Mum who is a piano teacher. I was the first queer kid to come out at my pretty homophobic school and was obviously dissimilar to most of the kids around me - staying home and writing music instead of doing what other kids were doing felt really natural. I kept teaching myself how to produce and sing and perform alongside my education and just kept my head in my work as much as possible. The original intention was to go into something quiet and backroom-feeling, like film score composition or sound engineering, but the stage got me good. Performing is addictive.
I was doing it all for fun on my own in my uni halls until I met Sid Quirk and we started to improvise live DJ/vocal sets around Manchester. It was all pretty playful until I moved to London and then out of nowhere over the past year or so it just really started to pick up and I began to see a bit of a trajectory forming. There’s a lot written that hasn't seen the light of day yet so I’m pretty excited to see the world I'm building begin to resonate with people.
I don't really like to delve too deeply into my own lyrics - I much prefer when people are able to project their own meaning onto my words. That said, the tracks are definitely two parts of the same story. Heroin feels like as if it's a raw, loveless ode to hedonism and Shoulder feels lke the reflection that follows. These tracks (and most the rest of the record) have a very strong connection to my past and my childhood - the whole thing felt like processing memories and trying to create something tangible from them.
I started writing during the first UK lockdown in 2020 and it was a pretty hard time to be honest. I couldn’t afford a studio as I'd lost all of my commissioned work in the pandemic and was dealing with a pretty severe health deterioration after catching the virus. I've been living with the remnents of that illness forthe past 12 months or so and you can definitely hear it in the music. I wrote the whole album on broken instruments and an old electric Yamaha that I found on gumtree and was written almost exclusively through the night while my housemates were sleeping. There is a real quietness and lowlight feel to all of it that I've embraced a lot, even if t was originally intended to be a dance record.
Me and Magnus Westwell had an idea to create a performance rave in 2020 just before I had to take some time off for my health. We were planning to have this grand multi-stage warehouse event that would bring choreographed contemporary dance and live music performances into a rave setting to create something that felt more culturally interactive and kinder than some of the other parties we were going to around the same time. I think it was mostly about trying to attract the right kind of community for us; people who genuinely connected with the art and wanted to party in a way that was celebratory as opposed to purely hedonistic. It really worked because the people who came were so much a part of the experience - it was a real dialogue between the audience and the entertainers that I've never seen before in an underground rave setting.
Honestly looking back now, I’m so glad we had to put it off for a year. The first LAZARUS event we put on a couple of weeks ago was one of the proudest moments for myself and my friends and I think we're all just twitching waiting for the next one so we can do it all again. Coming back to live performance after so much time off sick and being greeted with such a full, warm room felt like my life kind of realigning. Watching people celebrate mine and my friends' work in that way was just unreal - It's given us all a real sense of how this is going to progress and we couldn't be happier about it.
Aside from Lazarus, I'd definitely say that the time off was an amazing thing for me. I really got to the core of myself not just as a musician but as a director and engineer. I have been working on artificial intelligence art pieces for visual and sonic pieces (Available via LITHIUM GALLERY) and working on some pretty exciting film scores and runway commissions for people I’ve been excited to work with for so long. Also getting to the point of independently producing my record without outside funding or a label, and bringing in collaborators that I've adored for years like Magnus, Machine Woman, Blackhaine and Rainy Miller, has been a dream, It's just great to be at a point of mutual resonance with artists I really respect.
Koreless and Zsela are two contemporary references that I come back to often. Amy Winehouse is a constant for me, and composers like Michael Abels (sp?) and Thomas Newman have inspired me most of my life.
For this record I also delved into a lot of experimental functional dance music. Labels like Hessel Audio, Machine Woman's Takeaway Jazz Records and artists like Happa have really gotten into my brain over the last year or two.
I'm attracted to anything that feels textural and thought-out. Renli’s work is really on the mark for me with those notes - it fits into the kind of thing that makes me feel empowered on stage. There is a strong sense of freedom that comes with wearing something well designed and well-fitted.
I love ArtSectGallery's NFT phygital display-I've had a friend exhibit their recently and it was so beautiful. I love going to watch horror at the barbican because of the way the empty streets feel afterwards, and I recently have been spending more time just wondering around the cemeteries in hackney and islington. There is something really inspiring about them.
Either a very blissful journey into obscurity or a very hectic accession towards a nursing home. I guess the work will speak for itself.