Process 1: De-labeling

Essays and themes in this section address the problematic nature of, and our beliefs about, using labels within the creative process.

Identity: An image of 2 people kissing before a twilit bay.


Two identical pictures of a girl and boy under tree. The girl is stroking the boy’s hair. He lies with his head in her lap.

Caption under 1:
The ending to a happy film?

Caption under 2:
The start of a very sad film?

Remember, we always see what serves us best, and what we really want to see, long before we see what’s really there. Use this well.

Without labels or genres.


Current policy is to remove harmful or limiting adjectives from any stage of the creative, or music-making process. As I began to use language that felt free of terminology, labeling or artistic judgment, I found that I also felt happier about much of it. Instead, I was favoring a system of organizing music by its innate qualities. I find it freedom-inspiring.

I proposed this as I organized a database of all my musical tracks – by the time I did this, I had over 1400 of them. Each track would take on a measurement in each of the following categories:

1. Timbre (mood-keywords)
2. Melodic (musical key)
3. Tempo (speed in beats per minute)
4. Rhythm (the artist or identity)

I felt my definition of modern music becoming more important around 1994, although it had always been really significant since 1980, but really the deciding factor in Day For Night’s output. My eyes opened about a lot of things, and I realized that I had already been down a road that had been about new music for the concert hall and modern classical. I liked the openness of a term like avant-garde-jazz-classical (to coin Vini Reilly’s own description of Durutti Column). And post-chamber music for keyboards and ensemble players.

Really, it’s more that genres exist to give journalists and people who work in record shops an easier life, but they don’t help artists… except to give them something back to react angrily to.

As soon as you inform a new age musician that they’re it, they hate you, and they hate the term even more. Tell any electronic musician that their downtempo grooves are them doing “Trip-Hop” and you’ll get a look back. No matter how convenient the wording, all genres are there to be shattered by the best artists, who are happiest when their work falls in between the cracks. And the more popular the subgenre, the dirtier the hatred, and the greater the need for defying those boundaries.

I have also identified categories in my work, some of which do work: “Arty Noisy Abstraction” … “Complex, cerebral, sophisticated” … “Post-Niche, Reinvented inside a Computer”… “Trip Groove Downtempo”… “White, Funky Contradictions.” This works for me to identify trends in my music, though it, too, is a process that is likely to be reinvented often, as it is founded upon my personal code.

It made me remember that, earlier on, I had used personal shorthand or code to label tracks, before they received official titles. Sometimes in fear of committing too early to a name, I would favor language like: “Robert Smith of the Cure battles Julian Cope in the carpark to a 1983 Eindhoven New Order gig.”


Process #1. Developing content, via consistency.


Begin by putting all the ideas into a kind of bag. This restores a greater degree of equality between each idea.

This, in turn, builds awareness of the effects (sometimes adverse) which labels can have upon our beliefs about what we create and do.

So de-labeling at the beginning, that is a system that works great for the during any brainstorm.

Proceed to grouping ideas using key words and themes, with the aim to identifying patterns and waves; the peaks where any two ideas resonate through things like rhythm and tempo, and can mutually reinforce one another. This works with all forms of music and art. Visually this happens when we overlay tissues over a backdrop and see the cumulative effect of our decisions emerge along the way.

Identifying a likeness of ideals and purpose is key at such an early stage. Ask: Do all the elements in this subset share an objective?

Eliminate dead weight often… Travel light.


Musical chairs.


I have limited attention and like to work on only one project at a time.

But often, I’m required to manage many more, and so my attention is continually being divided between what I feel I should be doing and what I prefer to be doing.

So, each week at Day For Night, Thursday is played out like a game – the objective is to not treat Thursday with great seriousness, but rather with renewed energy and by tackling fires at an invigorating speed.

The game is about freeing up attention – such that Friday becomes a fully available play day of its own right, creating a sort of three day weekend.

Begin Thursday with a list of hot items – your big To-Do list. The objective is to confront attention-deficit, by giving each activity exactly 20 minutes, measured using an egg-timer with a bell.

The rules are simple: Each time the timer goes off, I stop where I am, save my work, go to next thing on the list. I found that I would invent new shortcuts by playing this game; for example, I found I was happy to create files with consistent naming trends, and make aliases or shortcuts, on my computer’s desktop so that I could quickly revisit what I was doing, later.

The objective of such a day is to change the dynamic of work by releasing attention that gets fixed upon chores that demand the most attention. By addressing each thing on the hot list for exactly 20 minutes, I found I work smarter at it. It also leaves nothing up to procrastination. Although each project may appear to move forward only slightly, the overall momentum results in a greater excitement, and movement forward, than by tackling only two or three projects for the day in their near (but often not complete) entirety.