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Photography by Shirlaine Forrest; Dress by Alison Hamilton Bespoke Clothing; Hair/Makeup by Having a Hairmare

Caro C Scaling an Electric Mountain

The Delia Derbyshire Day founder tells us about her route to a fourth solo album, via drum machines, binaural mixing, and double decker buses.

Caro C found her way through adversity to become a music producer, sound engineer and facilitator who is drawn to experimentation and pushing boundaries. She has worked on many projects across music, dance, theatre and film – including founding the popular Delia Derbyshire Day – and released her fourth album, Electric Mountain, this June. Unique and evocative, it is a collection of soundscapes which express the resilience and potential of humanity.

Caro opened up about her formative years as an artist, her passion for electronic music, and her dreams for the future.

What was your journey into making music?

A surprise! Life threw me a curveball around age 20 as back pain worsened until I was laid up and had to give up my uni studies in 1995. Then I discovered clubbing and raving which was medicine amidst my life crumbling around me.

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Caro C

Photography by Shirlaine Forrest; Dress by Alison Hamilton Bespoke Clothing; Hair/Makeup by Having a Hairmare

I had my first long-term relationship with someone who was already making electronic music with an array of hardware from a four-track to a few of the classic Roland drum machines. I was just the supportive girlfriend at the start, but then we bought a double decker bus and lived in it for a couple of years. I started playing around on said partner's machines when he went out for long walks and we started jamming together.

When we split up in 2000, we also shared the gear so I had enough to keep my new therapeutic hobby going. I continued tinkering in my bedroom and developing my own sound as I had no-one to tell me how I should or shouldn't sound. Still disabled, I decided to study music with the Open University in 2001.

What’s the appeal of electronica?

I guess it just feels right for me. It was the most accessible kind of music and sound play I could create myself when I started out. Within electronica, I can dance with rhythms, play with sound palettes, tempo, harmonic progressions which feel right each narrative. I suppose I am an artist first and foremost and electronica provides me with a framework that is expansive enough for me to transduce my own voice(s).

What obstacles have you faced?

Financial; physical, when I was disabled; with some gender conditioning probably in the mix too. And then there's also all the inner barriers to enjoying and self-actualising as an artist when you don't come from an 'artist' family.

What inspired your new album?

The state of our world, my personal journey, the mountains, the four elements – air, water, earth, fire. I love being in the sound, weaving the textures with voice, found sounds (non-musical objects such as oven shelves or clinking climbing gear), piano, synths, drum kits made from samples plus some good old 808 (drum machine).

It was all produced on my laptop in my modest studio space. It was my creative sanctuary last year, to get immersed in the sound sculpting, free of the limitations that life held otherwise. There are quite a few commissions that have been reworked from music for dance productions, a short film soundtrack and a sonic response to Hayling Island.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is in there with the track 'Fierce Love', a phrase I heard Gail Bradbrook from XR say and got her blessing to make a song from that evocative term. And the lyrics for the first verse of 'Little Song' come from a book by Jasmin Lee Cori (again with her permission). It's a snapshot for where I am at creatively and technically, as well as planting new seeds for future growth and directions.

What’s your favourite track on the album?

I think it would be ‘Shimmering Gear’, the binaural mix. Binaural sound is a 360 degree immersive listening experience designed for headphones. I found it overwhelming at first when learning to mix in the 360 degree space.

Once I grasped it, the grace that you can find with the choreography of the surround sound space felt a bit magic, literally and laterally adding an extra dimension to composition.

I love the sonorities of the climbing gear whose frequencies and timbre I have toyed with. And then there's the Skiddaw Stones lithophone (like a xylophone but made of stone) samples - real rock music! The moment the hums come in gets me every time.

How did the Delia Derbyshire Day (DD Day) project come about?

Delia's archive arrived in Manchester at around the same time I did. I was playing at the electronic music festival Futuresonic and my artist liaison person, Tullis Rennie, told me that the archive of one of the godmothers of electronic music had just arrived at the University of Manchester. I was fascinated and intrigued. So I approached the University and then two Manchester based artists – Ailis Ni Riain and Naomi Kashiwagi – with the idea of us producing creative responses to Delia's archive. It was Ailis' idea to have a DD Day – a mini-symposium and performances inspired and informed by the late great electronic music pioneer.

How has your work creating the Delia Derbyshire Day events fed into your own music?

Tapping into found sounds and other aspects of Delia's techniques and approaches definitely resonate with my own. Her archive feeds validation of my own work and processes somehow. It feels good to honour the lineage from where I stand on the timeline of women in more experimental electronic music and sound.

How can people start to develop their skills in music technology?

With your phone, curiosity, some time, and the discipline to keep showing up; you can make sound and music with so many different devices and approaches now. You can buy budget or expensive tools or just find a free app for your phone, like Garageband (Apple), Bandlab, Endlesss (Apple only for now I think).

What are your dreams for the future?

A world where we live in respect to our planet and each other. Where honesty is a given so that forgiveness can flow and emotional evolution can emerge.

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