Edinburgh based producer Neil McDonald aka Lord Of The Isles has an uncanny knack for creating music with an incredible sense of fullness. Early releases, such as ‘Kurve‘ on Japanese imprint Mule Musiq or the Permanent Vacation release ‘301C Symphony‘, had the breadth and depth of a full album, drawing on an enviable palette, varying from cosmic synth disco right up to dark dance floor bangers. These were followed by a debut long player, 2016’s ‘In Waves‘ on LA based ESP Institute.
The interim years have been spent cutting a path on his own label DFSANT, with appearances on acclaimed labels such as Emotional Response, Firecracker Recordings, Tamed Musiq and Lone Romantic, plus a forthcoming extended player on Whities in the coming weeks. As long time admirers of Lord Of The Isles, we took the opportunity to reach out to Neil to discuss past, present and future releases. For the occasion Neil delivers a spellbinding mix, marking IA MIX 330.
Interview by Simon Whight
"I love the science of sound design. I think curiosity is my biggest muse."
First and foremost, and this is a fairly broad question, how are you doing in the lockdown environment at the moment? How have you adapted every day home and work life?
I’m doing ok thanks. Enjoying the family being together everyday. We’re usually all so busy it’s actually been really nice to slow down and live together! Thankfully I’m able to continue my design work from home so feeling extremely luck about that. I know it’s early days but just taking it one day at a time as much as possible.
What’s the first thing you are looking forward to doing once lockdown ceases?
Having family and friends round for dinner and getting into wide open wild spaces!
I’ve been turning to comforting albums in order to decompress. One such album has been your ‘In Waves‘ album from 2016. Whenever I listen to this, I’m always impressed with the sheer breadth of audio within it. What sort setup and creative process lies behind your creations?
Thanks! My setup has evolved and morphed over the years. I enjoy exploring different combinations and approaches using hardware and software. I find listening to and finding new music just as inspirational. All the usual things like field recording, recording percussion or hitting whatever I think might sound interesting! I love the science of sound design. I think curiosity is my biggest muse. Exploration and experimentation is what I enjoy the most.
Often I hear everything from Underground Sound Of Lisbon dark bangers right up to the most cosmic of disco strains in your music. What are your inspirations?
I don’t really have any set styles that I could single out as inspirations. I think it’s more about a certain tone, mood or texture that I’m drawn to and I can hear that in many styles of music. Other art-forms and nature can also jolt me into action.
Talking of dark bangers, that brings me back to last years Zendama collection. How did you end up hooking up with Ripperton?
He got in touch with me out of the blue. I was pleasantly surprised as he was always someone I admired as an artist. I went to Lausanne in 2019 to play for him. I took my wife and we stayed for a couple of days, we spent some proper time with him and his family. It was really lovely, so much nicer than the usual ‘in and out’ experience of so many gigs.
Over to the mix you have recorded for us – what was your process behind it?
I buy and dig for new music constantly, so I’m always thinking in the back of my mind about what might work together from my collection. I sometimes find it a bit overwhelming the amount of new music we find ourselves trying to process these days. Not complaining, there’s so much great new music around. The last few gigs I’ve had have been live shows so I really enjoyed getting my head back into my first love of DJ-ing.
Obviously future plans is absolutely in flux, however, with a lot of enforced time within four walls, do we think we could see a return of the DFSANT series as a result in the future?
The DFSANT thing was always a 3/4 release of ‘tracks from the vaults’ project. That’s it done now. I am still keen to do something again for myself in the future not sure exactly when.
My next release is on Whities – it’s an EP that features two tracks with local poet, Ellen Renton. I’m currently working on a new record for ESP Institute at the moment and I have releases already signed off for Kimochi Sound, Beats In Space and Eclair Fifi’s new River Rapid imprint.
I had big plans to get to Edinburgh later this year – which I hope will still be valid – what is the best little under the radar secret you could recommend someone to go to if they visited?
It would have to be Aberlady Bay. Located on the outskirts of Edinburgh, approximately 30min drive. It’s a nature reserve and beach. The beach is about 4km from where you park so it’s always deserted. Such an amazing feeling of wide open space there for somewhere so close to the city.
‘Whities 029’ is scheduled for release 1 May. Order a copy from Bandcamp.
1. Lord Of The Isles – One lifetime Is Not Enough For Us [Whities]
2. RDS – 224 [De Lichting]
3. Rod Modell – Jade [Tresor]
4. Galaxian – External Observer [Ilian Tape]
5. Pavel Milyakov – Dungeon [Gost Zvuk]
6. Kaiji – 赤ひげ [Kimochi]
7. SUED – Untitled
8. Quirke – Spinhaunt Coil [Whities]
9. Vril – Spes [Delsin]
10. Ground – Hayabusa [ESP Institute]
11. Afrikan Sciences – Have It All [ESP Institute]
12. Kuzma Palkin – Psychoticacidonset [Gost Zvuk]
13. Flaty – Celestial Bow (feat. 8ousy8oy & Muzzlebusf) [Gost Zvuk]
14. Lord Of The Isles – Luminous Black & Emerald [Zendama]
15. Edmundo – Opal Eyes [Borft]