Maybe it needed a move to finally step into the limelight. Maybe it needed the width, ironically speaking, of a Stockholm apartment to finish his first EP. Callum Nixon, better known under his artist alias Planar Traits, ‘escaped’ from his ordinary life in Glasgow and moved to the Swedish capital where he finalized the upcoming Portal Vision EP on Magic Carpet – the artist’s first full release and with all honesty speaking, it’s a game changer and not only for the artist himself. Shortly before it’s out, Torture the Artist caught up with the Callum Nixon to speak about the release, his studio routines, differences between the scenes in his old Scottish home and his Stockholm residence, his insecurities when it comes to own music, pressure he puts on himself, how his artist moniker Planar Traits came about and his early days respectively his teenage years in music. Additionally, you can listen to Callum’s favorite track from the EP, Exo-Realm.
Torture the Artist: Hello Callum, what do you have on your agenda for today and where are you now?
Planar Traits: Nothing so glamorous unfortunately – it’s Monday night and I’m sitting at home feeling pretty tired.
Torture The Artist: What do you typically find yourself listening to in the mornings when you’re getting up for the day?
Planar Traits: Really it depends on my mood! Some days/weeks I can be listening to more energetic club focused music to get hyped up for the day ahead – other days I just want to take it easy and put on something more easy going. That said, there is something special about listening to a Hiroshi Yoshimura record on a lazy morning.
Torture the Artist: And what’s your favorite one from him?
Planar Traits: At the moment it is Wetland.
I like the escapism an alias can give.
Torture the Artist: How did you come up with your artist moniker Planar Traits?
Planar Traits: About three years ago I dreamed up a concept all around the name. In short each track was meant to be its own dimension or “plane”, each with unique characteristics. Now I don’t think about the concept behind it much but I like the escapism an alias can give so I have kept the name since.
It was nice to have a bit more time to get lost in making music but after a certain point I did feel a bit stuck creatively.
Torture the Artist: During the pandemic or basically over the last 1,5 years going out or visiting events basically not possible. Where did you find escapism during these times?
Planar Traits: A lot of it was probably in producing music, it was nice to have a bit more time to get lost in making music but after a certain point I did feel a bit stuck creatively. I also live close to some nice nature which I appreciated even more during those times.
Torture the Artist: You ‘gave up’ Glasgow for Stockholm, what made you move in the first place and what did you really have to give up in your new home?
Planar Traits: I moved to Stockholm in the second half of 2019 with my girlfriend. We both felt like a change of scene and she managed to convince me Stockholm was the right choice. I really like it here but the biggest thing I had to give up was space. In Scotland I was able to have a studio in our spare bedroom, which is a luxury I’ll probably never have here (apartments are small and expensive). I actually made most of the Magic Carpet EP sitting on my living room floor!
Torture the Artist: Do you participate in the local (electronic) scene in Stockholm and do you feel there is a difference between the scenes in Glasgow and Stockholm?
Planar Traits: Yes! Though obviously it’s been a bit quieter for a lot of my time living here. Stockholm seems to have more underground events and I love being able to dance outside in the summer. There’s some great open airs in forests and other nice locations which is something I never really experienced in Glasgow. On the other hand I think Glasgow wins for having better clubs – I’ve not visited any venues here that live up to places like Subclub.
At times I can put a lot of pressure on myself to make something for a specific release but really the best results come when you let all that go.
Torture the Artist: So it definitely is a Magic Carpet Ride. Let’s start talking about your most recent release, the four tracker on Magic Carpet, or ‘propulsive breaks and mystical atmospheres send us crashing through the waterfall, deep into the velvet jungle beyond.’ How would you describe your approach for the EP?
Planar Traits: The main approach was just to keep it fun! At times I can put a lot of pressure on myself to make something for a specific release but really the best results come when you let all that go. I usually start each track by creating some kind of sonic world or space, this can be around a specific sample, field recording, drone or anything really. Then build the rest of the track within that world. I think I followed this process for most tracks on the EP.
Torture the Artist: You combine various musical influence on the EP Portal Vision, where does your variety come from and how would you like to be perceived artistically?
Planar Traits: I will really struggle to answer this one. <laughs> In terms of where it comes from, I think it’s just a collection of sounds I’ve gathered over the years. But really when I’m working on a track I’m guided by feelings, sometimes certain sounds and influences feel like they work together and other times they don’t. I’m sure a more analytical person could tell you why they do, but for me in music if things feel right to me then they are!
When I was 15 years old I started out making some pretty embarrassing music which was a hybrid of Chiptune + DnB/Breaks.
Torture the Artist: Not many tracks have been released under your artist moniker Planar Traits and the EP on Magic Carpet is your first. Can you tell us a bit more about the time before Planar Traits, like how did you get involved with electronic music and did you have other projects before?
Planar Traits: I’ve been producing electronic music in some capacity for around 11 or 12 years. When I was 15 years old I started out making some pretty embarrassing music which was a hybrid of Chiptune + DnB/Breaks. As I got a bit older my music went in a more “serious” direction, I moved to Glasgow at 18 and got exposed to all kinds of great club music. Since then I’ve had a few aliases but never released very much music, I always felt like I was developing my sound or that it wasn’t good enough so only really shared the music I made with a few friends. This is why I’m so excited to finally share this EP!
Torture the Artist: Why do you now feel confident enough to release an entire EP?
Planar Traits: A mix of feedback and support from others as well as realizing that not everything I release has to be perfect. It’s easy to end up hyper-focused on some small element of your track and end up unhappy with the whole thing, but I think I’ve gotten better at keeping the bigger picture in mind too.
Torture the Artist: Mostly electronic music isn’t the first music one listens to when starting to be more interested in music. What was the music of your childhood/ teenage years and how has it shaped you as an artist?
Planar Traits: I went through all kinds of phases as a child and teenager but did listen to a lot of Rock and Metal. The biggest influence is probably playing guitar. I started at a very young age and I think it really helped me develop my ear for melodies and song writing.
Torture the Artist: What’s first when you produce a track, the melody or the bass line?
Planar Traits: Usually drums and then bass, but it can vary.
Torture the Artist: Coming back to your EP Portal Vision, how did you select the single tracks to accompany one another?
Planar Traits: By feelings! But really just the faster tracks went on the A-side and the slower ones on the B-side.
Torture the Artist: When was the last time your feelings got in your way?
Planar Traits: <laughs> This probably happens every day.
Torture the Artist: What is your portal vision?
Planar Traits: It’s experience beyond description.
When I try to aim for a very specific sound I usually just end up feeling frustrated.
Torture The Artist: When producing, do you take an uninhibited approach rather than adhering to a strict schedule. With your style, what do you find motivates you into the studio?
Planar Traits: Totally uninhibited. When I try to aim for a very specific sound I usually just end up feeling frustrated. Letting go of what you thought you were trying to achieve is when you find the most interesting results.
Torture the Artist: What’s the synthesizer you are mostly using in the studio at the moment and why are you ‘addicted’ to it?
Planar Traits: Ensoniq DP4, it’s not a synthesizer but rather an FX box. FX are such a big part of my workflow and I just love the tone of the DP4 so much.
Torture the Artist: Is this also the synthesizer/ that always does the trick once you are creatively stuck or how do you overcome that?
Planar Traits: <laughs> Probably not. Stepping away from my own productions and falling in love with others’ music is a good place to start. Getting immersed in other genres or other arts can also help inject some inspiration while providing a new perspective!
Torture the Artist: What would be a musical extravagance for your studio you would pay for, if you were very wealthy?
Planar Traits: A nice analog mixing console.
Torture the Artist: What’s an artist you’d like to to produce a track/EP with, and why?
Planar Traits: This is a hard one! Possibly Boards of Canada, if anything just to find out some of their secrets plus I’m sure they could teach me something.
Torture the Artist: What are you three favorite (track) findings over the past months?
Planar Traits: There you go:
- Warpgate – Phazma [Space-Lab]
- Triform – The Howling [Undefined]
- The Oval Five Project – Vertigo (Doi-Oing v Spooky Thumper Mix) [Gee Zone]
Words by Holger Breuer