• Syan Leung

Joel Gumbe and Elaine Kwok on their creative partnership and codifying human desires

Joel和Elaine接近四年前在倫敦相識,至此成為佳友和創作伙伴 。這次他們再度合作,由Elaine執導為Joel最新推出歌曲Seeker創作的影片,探討”真實我”和”理想我”造成自己勒索自己的綑綁。


Seeker由rapper Uzzee Zero填寫和演繹的rap verse作為開端,講述由制高點望下,現代生活充斥著誘惑,掐入權力和人性的掙扎。


另一邊廂,Joel在second verse與chorus抒發在現今主流趨勢強調個人成就的環境下,渴望尋求平靜和思緒清晰的人生態度。



Joel Gumbe and Elaine Kwok

Discuss their Latest Collaboration





Joel and I first met in London in 2018, and we have since then developed a close friendship and creative partnership. I recently had the chance to reunite with him for a conversation about his arrival of a rising musician and the music video I directed for his latest release — Seeker.

ELAINE KWOK What made you decide to pivot from architecture to pursue music? How do you stay resolute in your decision in a time when stability is sought-after?

JOEL GUMBE Curiosity and passion. I don’t perceive my action as leaving architecture behind. I’m pursing music in parallel to my architecture practice and other creative avenues. To not do it, would leave a big void within myself. The making of music is a transcendental experience, it allows me to tap into a state that not many moments can equate to it. The desire to make it has become so loud that I can’t dismiss it.

KWOK

High-visibility success = Living your highest potential?

GUMBE No. At least that’s what I tell myself. There is an innate desire for exposure and I believe there’s a balance to be achieved. People being aware of the work does grants a certain amount of gratification and material exchange, I’m not denying its significance, ultimately you have to be able to sustain yourself and your loved ones. But when I expend a lot of energy dwelling on thoughts inspired by fear, it makes it hard to tune in to what I want and need. Straying away from what draws me to create in the first place won’t get me very far. Sometimes the action is more important than the outcome.

KWOK You’re in your early stages of your music career, do you put pressure on yourself to land a high stream count? How do you feel about streaming service’s role as a platform?

GUMBE It’s going to take a lot of time and effort to build an audience. You got to surrender to the process and not let the numbers drive you to madness. Streaming is the way we consume anything and everything nowadays, I don’t see a way out. I’m actually still trying to understand how I feel about it. Platforms like bandcamp made available for musicians and listeners to forge a more personal and meaningful relationship. I think that’s beautiful.





KWOK You seem very modest about your work, do you struggle with feeling the need to self-promote to get people to engage with what you worked on?

GUMBE I struggled in the beginning with the idea of “self-promoting”, drowning myself with questions like how to pander to the algorithim? Should I be putting myself out there more and finesse my way into the stratosphere? And when I do meet new people, am I making the “right” connections? Not to mention, there is the Sisyphean task that is staying relevant on the internet. But at the end of the day, I don’t feel beholden to a particular set of success metrics. I rather focus on putting out work I’m proud of.

KWOK The notion of self-branding seems crucial when it comes to drawing attention in the public domain. Do you pay attention to that?

GUMBE To some extent, I try to live by my truth. Therefore everything I publish needs to fall in alliance with my beliefs.


KWOK The sentiment of transience and sense of disconnection is evident in your work. Is it an accurate reflection of your moral landscape?

GUMBE For sure. My music is like a sequence of vignettes that capture different stages of my life.





KWOK Directing the video for seeker was very special to me because it talks about the idea of as long as you are governed by your desires, you will never get what you want, which is something I believe most people grapple with. Do you find the addictive nature of desire affects your relationship between agency and satisfaction? If so, in what ways? GUMBE Yes, the desire for instant gratification is strong. It’s a never-ending dilemma. The onus is on me to resist the allure to take short-cuts when knowing there’s nothing worthy to be found reaching whatever destination that lives in my imagaination. You reap what you sow. I try to stay close to that.

KWOK I feel a lot of our conversations outside our creative collaborations revolves around the importance of positioning yourself for the long game. How do you find the balance between recognising the times we’re in and still being timeless? GUMBE I haven’t completely figured out the idea of timeless and perhaps never will. I find operating from a place of certainty is not necessarily conducive to my creative process. I tend to take a more searching, experimental approach, pursuing the questions and possibilities that I live with through my craft has a stronger appeal to me.






KWOK Your score catalog is interesting. It is a fusion of mixed media projects, performance art films, melancholic drama and fashion films. What’s your process of choosing the projects you work on? What content piques your interest?

GUMBE First and foremost is the narrative, I need to connect with the story that’s being told, then the visual representation of such story. To write music to a brief really allows me to dive into different sonic scapes and motifs that I might not be able to get there on my own. It’s a big honour and responsibility, because it has such an important role in magnifying the viewers experience.


KWOK What’s next for you? Is there anything you want to venture into?

GUMBE There are lots of unresolved ideas, music is just the beginning. I’d hate to spoil it :)

KWOK The result of this creative partnership came out beautifully. How did your collaboration with Uzzee come about?

GUMBE For LOULOU, the EP I'm putting out this year, I wanted to dig deeper and discover different parts of myself from collaborating with other people. Usman’s a very close friend, he is one of the reasons why I actively make music today. It was only natural to get him in the studio alongside another friend of mine, Alana Curtis, who played all the drums and percussion in LOULOU. It was refreshing to have other people in the room and simply allow the creativity to flow as I’m so used to working in solitude.




KWOK When I heard seeker for the first time, I remember my mind was conjuring up flashing images and an array of emotions were evoked in me. There is this compelling phantasmagoric quality about seeker. The distinct contrast between Uzzee and your writing perspectives is also something that caught my attention. Let’s delve into the process of making it. I'm curious.


GUMBE The song itself was not meant to be part of LOULOU, I had three days booked in the studio with Moshik Kop, my recording and mixing engineer, to go through three out of four fairly structured songs. Seeker at the time was only the synth chord progression and a half resolved drum pattern. Getting the track done in mere three days was a triumphant moment for me since I still fall into the clutches of the tyranny of perfectionism more often than I'd like to admit. I learned that sometimes constraints, in this case a limited time frame can lead to more fruitful results. I have to give credit where credit is due. Uzzee was initially only going to help with the backing vocals, but he went the extra mile and pulled up with a complete verse that he had written on the tube en route to the studio. That ended up being the first verse in the song.