Baron Farg is the immaculate conception from Merseyside artist, Robert Alcock.
Whilst first releasing music back in 2017, the lockdown period has been a fertile one for Alcock, producing a swathe of releases in 2021, including The Enchanments EP, and two double A side singles, Nicotine Sand Path / Spiritual Crisis Symposium and Fortune Clock / Empty Lantern.
Across these respective releases, Baron Farg covers a great deal of ground, exploring deep into the terrains of krautrock, hip-hop, and Eno-inspired ambience. The final results are a thick cinematic fog enveloping the world of psychedelia; the very kind that the likes of Grails explored on 2017’s Chalice Hymnal.
It’s a sound world that no other artist in Merseyside has explored. Alcock provides the kind of perceptive and agile soundscapes that could find a home amongst many scenes and styles around these parts and beyond.
Shortly after his live performance supporting Bobhowla at Jimmy’s last month, we caught up with Alcock who took the plunge with our 13 questions.
1. Firstly, can you tell us about the history of Baron Farg?
Rob Alcock: “Long before Baron Farg, from my teens to my early twenties, I played guitar, bass, even tried the drums – all without a great deal of accomplishment or success. I also tinkered with electronic music via the OctaMED tracker programme on my Commodore Amiga – I’m showing my age there! However, I took a long break from music making and only got back into it in 2014. I was working as a social worker at the time, a rather stressful job, and felt I needed a bit of a creative outlet, so I started messing around with FL Studio on my laptop. After I while, I got a bit more serious and started putting tracks online in 2017. I played my first gig in 2018, which was at an Emotion Wave night at 81 Renshaw Street. It was also nice to be featured on some of the Emotion Wave compilations. I’ve done a string of online self-releases since, mainly as EPs, so I can continue a decent flow of content without pinning myself down too much.”
2. You’ve released a steady flow of new music this year. Has lockdown inspired this run of form?
RA: “Yes, I’d say it did help free up some time to get material finished. Like a lot of artists, I find the creative process rather non-linear. I’ll mess around with different ideas. Eventually a track acquires a critical mass and I’ll finish it off, but that can be a long time after the initial musical idea came about.”
3. How much does film play a role in the music you produce?
RA: “I suppose it is a creative aspiration to make music that has a filmic quality and can evoke a mood in that way. I’ve always liked soundtracks, that probably goes back to John Barry’s Bond ones as a kid. First hearing Bernard Herrmann’s Vertigo and Taxi Driver themes left me in awe. It’s not something that’s explicit in how I approach making music, however, and I’m certainly not a cinema buff.”
4. I think Baron Farg is an ode to your wealth of knowledge of musical history. There seems to be a big crate digging vibe to the music you produce. Would you consider that accurate?
RA: “That’s a flattering question! Well, I’m 42 and there are loads of downsides to ageing but there’s also an inevitable moss-like gathering of knowledge about the things you’re interested in. As for ‘crate-digging’, I’m a fan of that production aesthetic, thinking about some of the obvious points of reference such as Endtroducing era DJ Shadow, DJ Premier, Barry Adamson and more.
Without getting too technical, I write the music in MIDI and use Native Instruments’ ‘Kontakt’ extensively, which is an engine for multi-sampled virtual instruments. I think some of the Kontakt libraries are excellent and have a high level of realism, so to speak – take the Una Corda piano that Nils Frahm was involved with developing. I hope Native Instruments are going to send me some free stuff for this endorsement.
“However, to puncture the notion of crate digging somewhat, I listen to music much more on CD and digitally than on vinyl – but don’t tell anyone.
5. I find that each of your releases this year sonically differ from one another. There’s no real linage between each release. Was that the idea?
RA: “That’s true but it wasn’t really a conscious move. I suppose I’m still trying out different stylistic approaches. Also, to follow on from the last question, working entirely with software allows instrumentation to be swopped around with ridiculous ease. The early stuff I produced was much more synth-based, latterly I’ve been going for more of a mixed palette using Kontakt libraries.”
6. How did you come up with the name Baron Farg?
RA: “When I uploaded my first tracks to Soundcloud I was stuck for a name. I pulled a book off the shelf for inspiration and it was an anthology of scripts and writings by Peter Cook. The reference to Baron Farg was in an article he wrote in 1964 for Private Eye. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore arguably had quite a role in the development of electronic music, as A Guy Called Gerald sampled one of their Derek and Clive sketches for Voodoo Ray.
“I’ve sometimes wondered if I should have chosen a slightly more serious name. But I’m sticking with Baron Farg for the time being and it has the benefit of being quite unique and easy to find online.”
7. You played your first live show in some time recently too. Can you tell us about that?
RA: “I was chuffed to open for Bobhowla’s album launch gig at Jimmy’s on October 18. Howard from Bobhowla is an old mate – we went to sixth-form college together and had a little musical project in my bass playing days. The gig was rescheduled twice – first due to Covid then an issue at the venue. But third time round it was great, with excellent performances from Bobhowla and John Witherspoon.
“I was billed as a DJ, but I played a set of my own tracks which is perhaps a bit narcissistic. There’s also the perpetual problem faced by many electronic musicians of presenting a performance element to the audience, so I used a projector for some visuals – a mixture of abstract, noir and horror, which are part of the aesthetic that that the music seeks to convey. That links back to the question about films.”
8. We ask a lot of artists this, what’s your take on social media?
RA: “Social media is something I engage with in a very limited way. I do post some Baron Farg stuff but I don’t use it in my personal life. It’s funny though, seeing the current political discourse about it. There is clearly a huge case for reform and regulation, but it’s not like we can wind back to an old way of doing things. Like all technological innovation there’s a great dualism of both creative and destructive potential.”
9. Some fun questions now – do you have any hobbies outside of music?
RA: “I try to keep up with aspects of the news and current affairs. And I jog rather slowly.”
10. Favourite boxset over the last 18 months
11. What was the last book you read?
RA: “Will by Will Self. And some academic ones as I’m currently studying for a PhD.”
12. What’s next for Baron Farg?
RA: “I’m working on new tracks, mainly keeping with the downtempo and less synth-based vibe. From these, a release should see the light of day before too long. I am interested in seeing if I can find a like-minded label that may be interested in putting something out.”
13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Any last words?
RA: “Thanks for having me on. I’m rather enthused at how the jazz scene in Liverpool seems to be going from strength to strength. It seems there’s been a really good crop of jazz gigs since coming out of lockdown – I must try to get to more. Looking forward to the Liverpool Jazz Festival next February as well.”
The Enchantments are out now via 1214473 Records DK. Purchase from Bandcamp.