4 June 2012 | 3:34 pm | Chris Yates

"It’s very easy to plink and plonk and make a bunch of noise," claims Amon Tobin as he takes his music and visual extravaganza ISAM through Australia.

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Amon Tobin has been a mainstay of the Ninja Tune label almost since its inception. Although he created a name for himself by combining jazz and blues samples with breaks, drum'n'bass and hip hop loops, the album ISAM saw quite a drastic change in his style. Instead of assembling the tunes for his record from these familiar sounds he looked elsewhere to the everyday noise that soundtracks our lives. Using field recordings he has created a record that is more than just an experimental collage of noises – he's metamorphosised these random noises into electronic music. The end result is not merely an atmospheric soundscape; it's still very musical.

Tobin says this was always the goal. “I'm primarily interested in the music,” he confirms this idea, “but I believe that a lot of sound that isn't inherently musical can be used in a musical way. Music is what I'm trying to make. I'm not trying to make abstract noise or art experiments, I'm trying to make music that is emotionally engaging and a response to something musical inside of me. I get quite disappointed when people talk about this record in terms of pure sound design because really the sound design is just the scaffolding that holds up what the songs are and what the music actually is.

“I feel like it's very easy to plink and plonk and make a bunch of noise, but really this record is way more musical than anything I've done before, it's just that the sounds are a lot more alien which may be not so apparent on the first listen. Melodically it's doing things I've never even thought of before, and I'm trying to learn about that stuff a lot more. There was really nothing abstract about it really, I was just trying to find sounds that correlated to what I heard in my head.  I'm also really into making just straight-up beats, which I do as Two Fingers, which is a separate outlet for that. My own stuff is really about trying to find out what's possible with sound and music and how far I can take it, while my Two Fingers stuff is very much about just making beats – straight up rhythms and dance stuff. I've just kind of separated the two a bit.”

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Tobin says that he had to rethink his whole idea of playing live in order to present the album to audiences. This process has elevated the album to an event spectacle quite unlike anything he has achieved, or many other electronic artists for that matter. “The thing about this record is that it's kind of an odd record,” he says. “It didn't really fit into a club environment and it didn't fit into a live environment either. The show ended up being born out of that really. We needed to come up with a new way of presenting it, and that's kind of how it came to be the way it is. I certainly don't consider it to be particularly high brow, because it was so personal to me.

“It's not really academic or anything like that. It's more born out of my own curiosity about sound and about my own experiments with sound, and I tend to just work away at what I'm doing. The record doesn't really fit into any categories, and I'm hoping that because of that it will translate well into something like the Sydney Opera House as much as it does in somewhere like Coachella. It will always be a bit of an anomaly no matter where it is.”

Having a very clear idea in his head of what he wanted to see on stage, Tobin went about the task of getting people involved to help with the ambitious undertaking. He was eventually connected with the V Squared Lab team in Los Angeles to help turn his ideas into a reality. He says he had a very strong vision in his head and the team did an amazing job of getting that up onto the stage.

“I knew that I wanted to use projection mapping and I knew I wanted to integrate myself into the set so that I would be part of something – not the visual focus of the show, but more what I was doing would be the visual focus of the show, rather than just watching me move faders and twiddle knobs and stuff. I wanted to be inside the set, not on top of it or in front of it. I guess that with the content and the way the show developed, it happened over a series of storyboard sessions and we figured out a kind of linear framework for each song to follow. It all came together like that.”

Were there any limitations to what Tobin saw in his head that he wasn't able to achieve? “Oh yeah, absolutely,” he emphasises. “I had a lot of things that I wanted to do that weren't possible, but also there were a lot of things that I considered impossible that we ended up doing, so it was a bit of double-edged sword. There was a section where I wanted the ship that I was in to turn so the audience could see a sort of digital alter ego of me, but we couldn't quite pull that off, but we got pretty close. There was a few things I never would have thought of that got incorporated into the set as well, so it was a really collaborative process in many ways.”

While using visuals to accompany his set is not a completely foreign concept to a live Amon Tobin show, it's not something he has relied on heavily, unlike many of his contemporaries. “A lot of the time I really just wanted to focus on the music and not really have visuals be part of what I was doing at all. The thing about this record is that it was a very different kind of record to what I had made before, and so it kind of demanded a different approach to performing it as well. It was born out of that, it got turned into what it is because it followed the form and function in that respect.”

Although it's taken him some years to make his way back to Australia, he's very proud that he gets to present his ISAM show in the esteemed surrounds of the Sydney Opera House – a space which will add even more gravitas to the spectacle of the show and give audiences an audio experience unlike anything you could really hope for in a venue or at a festival.

“I don't really know what to expect but, you know, I feel pretty honoured,” he says, still clearly humbled by the invitation. “It's a pretty fancy place for me. We had to expand the set for Coachella because it's such a big stage and we didn't want to be dwarfed by it all, but I actually much prefer it when the venue is a bit more intimate. I think it works better when it's not such a massive production. It's a little bit more focussed – it works either way and I'm still very proud of the show.”