Gear Talk: Bullion

By in Features





With Gear Talk, we learn about the set-ups and instruments of our favourite artists and experimentalists. 

Nathan Jenkins has a production résumé most could only dream about. The British producer and songwriter has worked with an enviable, varied collection of artists including Carly Rae Jepsen, Ben Howard, Avalon Emerson and Nilüfer Yanya, Sampha and David Byrne.

Alongside this, Jenkins has released three albums under the pseudonym Bullion–the latest of which, Affection, was a masterclass in peppy yet substantial alt-pop and featured contributions from Jepsen herself, Panda Bear and Charlotte Adigéry.

We catch up with Jenkins to learn more about the gear and equipment that form the backbone of his creative process.

What is the first piece of equipment/instrument you worked with?

A Yamaha DX21, belonging to my dad.

How does your production process differ when working on your solo material versus working with other artists?

Lunches are longer! There’s usually less time overall, so that’s a healthy pressure. The scrutiny of someone watching you program drums can be a little tense, so I try to make time to work on my own, too.

When inviting collaborators to work on your material, how do you approach the collaborative recording process?

I put an ad in The Loot (UK reference!) for singers soon after I finished school. It had way more replies than expected and a load of strangers turned up at my parents’ house. My folks must’ve wondered what on earth was going on. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. You just keep going until you make a connection.

You have a home studio, how did you approach developing that studio?

I work from home occasionally but my main studio is out of the house. There’s a cash ‘n’ carry underneath, the strip lighting interferes with guitars etc. I’ve found the perfect position to avoid the noise but it means holding the instrument in an impossible position, so the next development will be a harness suspended from the ceiling to sit the guitar in.

What equipment is essential to you both in the studio and performing live?

I like utility. A good chair, a useful shelf, and orange tape. Musically it’d be the Waldorf Microwave. Synthesizers come and go, but I can’t seem to part with it.

Is there one piece of equipment or instrument that you couldn’t live without?

Atkin acoustic DI’d into Jazz Chorus amp is particularly sweet lately! When I’m writing chords, I can’t get to the harmonies I want without playing guitar. I just don’t interact in the same way with a keyboard.

What role do DAWs play in your creative process?

I accidentally recorded myself on a voice memo for 5 minutes recently, editing and automating in Logic – pretty funny to hear, sounded completely unhinged. I’m sure it’d be a similar picture before DAWs existed, but the capabilities of a program like Logic still blow me away. The fine detail is mainly about creating an illusion, for me.

How do you approach writing music? If you have had a moment of inspiration, what step comes next?

It’s less writing and more re-writing. Over the course of a week, a song I thought was exciting on day one has an entirely new set of chords on day two, a different rhythm section on day three, in the bin on day four and a scrap of it becomes the beginning of something worth pursuing by the end of the week.

What informs and inspires your work? How essential is pushing boundaries and experimenting?

Sometimes things that seem a little more ‘high-minded’ like a film or piece of writing, but generally it’s people and what they do that I find interesting–how they keep going forward. I don’t set out to experiment in any pioneering sense, but I pay a lot of attention to harmony and I love that in the context of pop music.

Are there any instruments that you would love to work with more?

Anyone who can yodel!

Bullion’s Affection is available on vinyl now via Ghostly International.

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