Turtle, aka Jon Cooper, is a Glaswegian songwriter and producer who managed to brighten a murky autumn with his intense debut EP Who Knows.
Although Jon has been making music under a number of monikers for the best part of a decade, the Turtle release saw his leftfield pop leanings come into perfect focus against a backdrop of blurred beats.
Title track Who Knows carries the intensity of Radiohead or Hurts and meticulous production style of Jon Hopkins, striking the right chord between lyricism and instrumentation.
The Scot was instantly heralded by The Line of Best Fit and This is Fake DIY for his efforts, performing his first London gig at The Nest last November.
We chatted to him on the long car journey down south to his first London gig to pick his brains about his diverse influences – including Helios and Peter Broderick – and learn why he’s doffing his hat to experimental Scots jazz band The Ballad of Mable Wong.
You had a really good response to your debut EP and the lead track Who Knows – did that surprise you?
Aye, it was a real surprise. But when I wrote the song it was meant to connect with people on a fundamentally human level. I wanted to make something on a basic level that would speak to people. I was expecting it to resonate something within people but I’m blown away by the response.
When did you first get into making music?
I’ve been making music since high school for my own amusement – for friends and family really. I’d release things under my own name but it was more like a hobby. But then I got into writing music for media and film libraries, and sync, so I’ve been doing that since 2010.
I came up with the name Turtle in 2004 and wrote some songs but never really released anything. It was really a way of taking all my production and songwriting elements and presenting them as something else. So I didn’t really want to use my own name for that.
I self-release under different names like Super Algebra and Network Lab but I’m not really pushing that at the moment.
What’s the thinking behind Turtle and how is it different from the other music you make?
There’s a basic philosophy behind it. It’s a message about survival and being human. It’s about making people think about good stuff and feel good about being human. I’m trying to use atmospheres and moods and sounds to try to carry the message. Turtle is my way to use words and language – so it’s not just instrumental music even though a lot of it is. There’s some kind of inner language and message that I’m trying to get through.
Your music is really expansive with a strong electronic base. Who inspires you?
I listen to a lot of Nils Frahm from Berlin and Icelandic artists like Múm and Olof Arnolds. I listen to a lot of Type Recordings stuff from London and Peter Broderick and Helios, who’s from Canada. I listen to a lot of stuff from outside of Glasgow. I don’t really listen to much local music to be honest. I source my inspiration from other places.
I really like Jon Hopkins. I’ve been described as sounding a little bit like him, which wasn’t my intention but it’s nice to have the comments. I really admire his approach to composition. Radiohead too.
You’ve mentioned a lot of artists who also create soundtracks too…
Aye, I really love that cinematic sound.
What’s the local Glasgow music scene like at the moment?
There are a lot of different things going on at the moment. Dance and techno really spring to mind. Having said that, for the last year or so when I’ve been playing live, it’s been in a more acoustic environment. I’ve noticed a lot of new things happening with electronica in Glasgow. But the history is there with bands like Biffy Clyro, Franz Ferdinand and labels like Soma.
Why do you think the city is so musically active?
Glasgow is similar to London in a way. It’s an epicentre for creative types and different movements and disciplines. It’s as active in film and literature too. I think people are attracted to Glasgow because of the buzz. A lot of artists move to Glasgow or choose to play in Glasgow because there’s an audience there. You’ve got your electronic audience, your acoustic audience, indie fans… It’s got a good experimental scene too. There’s a band called The Ballad of Mable Wong who are fantastic and instrumental. They’re quite similar to the Portico Quartet – they paint a complete picture with their music. They excite me. They don’t have a lot of stuff online but I like that about them. It’s cool when you get to hear them.
How do you think living in Glasgow has affected your music, if at all?
I live just outside of Glasgow in a small town. But we have the same kind of mindset and values. I think there are moments of isolation and financial struggle that add to the music. There’s not always a lot of opportunity so it forces you to get into what you’re doing and push yourself to create something that reflects that.
Photo credit: Maximilien Franco