Yarning with an artist: Andy Mort @atlumschema

by Anna Blanch on February 9, 2012

This week I’m yarning with Andy Mort. Andy Mort is a UK based musician and writer, also going by the moniker, Atlum Schema. I first met Andy at Greenbelt in 2011 when we were thrown onto the same panel talking about faith and creativity. He is funny and talented, and quite humble and I’m extremely glad to be able to share this interview with him here as part of this series on emerging artists. Atlum Schema are very enjoyable live (and if you’re in the UK you should take up that opportunity should it arise for you).  He has just released the final part of a year long tetralogical album/novella, which can be downloaded via his website www.atlumschema.com, where he writes about creativity, art and many of the things that confuse him about the world.  He has a new single, Empire of the Soul, coming out in March.I’m glad that you get a sense of Andy in this interview – especially his love of creating and his enjoyment of his pursuit of his craft.


When did you first realize you were artistic/musical?

I’m not sure it is something I have ever realised per se.  I guess it’s one of those things that has just been with me through my life.  I have been into music for as long as I can remember and loved drawing and writing stories when I was a kid.  My interest in these things just led me to evolve my creative endeavors.  My parents bought me a drum kit from a toyshop when I was three or four and that really got the ball rolling.  I am a drummer at heart but have managed to muddle my way through other instruments as I’ve gone along.  So, yeah I guess it’s something that I’ve always done and been into so it has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember – I’ve never known anything different so there has never been any tangible realisation.

Could you tell us some more about your work? What are you working on at the moment?

I am first and foremost a musical artist and produce most of my work under the moniker Atlum Schema.  I am very much out of the independent DIY mould, and have self-produced three albums in the last five years.  My last project was a four part album, which I released along with a 55,000 word novella throughout 2011.  It was my first real venture into writing so that was fun and as far as I can guage, pretty successful too.  This year I will be putting out a few singles (first one in March), gigging lots and writing as much as possible for various projects.  I have so much I want to do so we shall see.

Describe yourself as a sandwich/lunch.

Hmm, that’s a hard one.  I reckon I’d be the seeds on the bread.  You don’t notice them but they can sometimes make a big difference.   Without them the bread can be kind of bland, they just add a little bit of something without drawing too much attention to themselves.  I think I see myself as potentially playing a small but important part in a bigger and more bready picture.

What is it that inspires you to write about a particular subject?

It’s a really interesting question and one that is quite difficult to answer.  I often write without meaning to, out of passion or as a response to something that has pulled at my heart.  Broadly speaking I am moved to write when I hear and read about some of the peculiarities of human behaviour.  I love taking my own assumptions about life and questioning them through my writing.  Questions are everything to me, and I suppose the things that baffle me, both in myself and in the world more generally, often act as the stimulus for my output.

What famous artists/musicians have influenced you, and how?

All sorts.  At the moment I am really inspired by alternative comedy, I suppose for reasons explained in my last answer.  I love the way artists like Bill Hicks, George Carlin and currently Stewart Lee deconstruct our assumptions about things.  It is a really important thing that we should all be doing, but I find the way they use comedy to make such serious points truly inspiring and massively impressive.

Musicially I have been influenced by different people throughout my life, although I can pick a handful of those that I always return to when in doubt: Radiohead, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Blur.  They are all examples of artists who generally put their artistic integrity before the requirements of business.  You can witness evolution throughout their histories and there is an obvious process of seeking, rather than a product oriented model of creation.  I like the idea that albums (or any artistic output) are just points on a map and not just churned out for financial reasons.

What about an artist/creative person I may not have come across but that you think the world needs to know about?

One of the most important and life changing things I have come across in recent times is the series of three ‘Money as Debt’ films by Paul Grignon.  They are very simple yet profound animated outlines of the way our financial system works and provide some alternatives for how we could structure our economy.  I was amazed at how much I didn’t know about the most important structural part of our world.  I would love for everyone to watch them. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dc3sKwwAaCU

What do you do for fun/other interests besides make music?

I guess I spend a lot of my time reading, writing and other similar things, which often lead to the music making – it’s all very much an intrinsic part of who I am and what I enjoy doing.  But I suppose when I’m trying to disengage my mind I’m quite partial to a round of golf and a nice cup of coffee.

What inspires you to create and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?

I guess I have covered the first half of this in question four.  I create because I have to, I don’t know anything else and when I have tried not to it has been simply impossible.  I very much respond to that urge and rarely have a problem of not being able to create when necessary.  Because I have so many different projects going on I always feel compelled to contribute to one of them so if I’m struggling for inspiration in something, I try to work out what I AM in the place to contribute to and switch to that.  For me, being malleable and having the ability to be spontaneous and not necessarily stick to plans is a big key to keeping motivated.  I guess I’m quite lucky in this respect.

How have you handled the business side of being an artist/musician/writer?

I suppose I have a fairly mixed response to this question.  I love coming up with new ways to package my work and enjoy the fact that I am around during a time when content creation online serves as both a creative outlet and a marketing tool.  I have done alright in respect to merchandise sales, but I’m not very good at keeping myself organised and am dreadful at selling myself.  Self-promotion has never been my strong point.  Fortunately fans enjoy doing it, and the internet is again great for allowing others to play this vital role.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I have absolutely no idea. 🙂

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Just create create create, and don’t worry about the future.  Enjoy the process and find your voice.  It takes time to do this and there is no need to rush.  Don’t let others talk you into places you don’t want to go, and question every assumption that people make about art and what you are up to as an artist.  But most of all, enjoy and don’t let money dictate what you do.

What/Where is the most inspiring place in the world for you?

Weirdly enough it is probably at my desk where I can unjumble the messes in my mind and turn them into something tangible.  I do very much like Copenhagen though.

Thanks Andy for such an honest interview! I look forward to hearing your new music in March!

For more of Andy’s music and writing, take a look at his website: www.atlumschema.com. You can also connect with him on  Twitter: http://twitter.com/atlumschema or Facebook: http://facebook.com/atlumschema


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