For our next session of Functions of the Now we’ve tapped LA local Guy Fridge, a character who has been quietly hard at work behind the scenes at some our favourite labels. After a stint working as A&R for Fade To Mind (where he was instrumental in bringing Neana into the fold) and Private Selection, Fridge has turned focus to his own methodologies and practices.
The mix tracks interaction between these artists’ vivid, grimey soundscapes and the humanoid contours of modern RnB and grime. What makes this instalment unique is a specific focus on vocal-led club music, one that refreshingly denies the empty and reductive ‘instrumental’ tagline that often accompanies new grime. Like many other apophenic mixes in the series, Fridge gathers data from a wide range of geographies and has them hit with the same reflexive, globalized energy. But here the cyborg collaboration, evident particularly in modern RnB, between human and machine is highlighted, spitting flames at the sacred binaries of yesterday and embracing a more ambiguous transhumanism. Suitable in a time in which artists like TCF are pushing the boundaries of anthropic artistic process. In a discussion after our Skype date Fridge emails me asserting “Latour says that in human-machine networks, such as the computer-user paradigm, machines play an active, rather than passive, role in creativity. The contours of technological systems shape, mold, and direct the human creative process… Consciousness is probably just a specialized organizational state of matter that can be replicated in any substrate- even synthetic ones!”
Fundamental for Fridge is an understanding of the constraints inherent to the computational creativity of Ableton and the drum machine, an age-old aesthetic question that harks back to Dogme 95 and the Oulipo movement but which remains crucial in our time. This mix tracks the various interpretations of these technological constraints so integral to grime and its praxis, particularly in its Fruity Loops era, and other sounds like it.
As usual, since our last edition there’s been a wealth of interesting music from the star system surrounding this series. Checking in first with our friends at Local Action we have Finn Remixed, a victory lap for ubiquitous 2014 grime anthem “Keep Calling”. Strict Face, the man responsible for the first mix in this series, turns in another fantastic instantiation of his ethereal signature sound on his remix of Only Boy but it’s Samename’s contribution that steals the show. Utilising the Japanese sound palette he perfected on eski-referencing debut ep Yume, Samename takes a sharp left turn from the vintage RnG of “My My”, and instead moulds it into a raucous hardstyle banger. Other FOTN alumni M.E.S.H. and Air Max 97′ also make a return with Infra-Dusk/Infra-Dawn and the Fruit Crush EP respectively. M.E.S.H.’s offering is the perfect sequel to last year’s Scythians, solidifying the ghostly presence of that record’s title track into something with a potent physical heft. Meanwhile Air Max 97′ continues the rhythmic trickery on his second release with altogether more playful results. There’s a definite point of intersection between the two if you examine the percussive skeletons but their respective moods demonstrate the breadth of the aesthetic we’ve been charting with Functions Of The Now. Out in the Soundcloud ocean we’ve been particularly enamoured with CLUB CACAO‘s uploads, ranging from classic 03 grime to noisier and more abstract excursions. Another essential transmission from those waters comes from Amnesia Scanner’s “As Angels Rig Hook”, a technoid backdrop to Jaakko Pallasvuo’s poetry that compellingly connects the dots between figures like TCF and the Janus crew. And though we’re sure you’ve heard it by now, it would be remiss of us not to mention Novelist’s first bold steps into the big time with his Mumdance collaboration on XL, “One Sec”. The 18 yr old MC sounds every bit the part as he navigates through stark and weighty sound design as well as its negative space.
So the first question I wanted to ask was about your work at Fade to Mind – you were an A&R there? “Basically I saw on twitter that Prince Will needed some help so I just hit him up. I didn’t know what they were looking for or anything but it turned out they wanted help doing like mail orders and shipping and just creating some better organisation in the business. We were also just sharing music, we’d just sit in the car for hours and play stuff for each other. At the time I’d been talking to Tim Neana for about a year and a half prior to that. I was a big fan… actually it’s funny, we used to have this pipe dream of starting a label together ourselves!” Hehe, what was it called? “Oh man, I don’t even know if it had a name. We were really young, Neana maybe 15 and me 17-18. Anyway, one of the first things I played to Will was this pack of dubs that Neana had sent me, and bang, it ended up becoming the basis of his upcoming EP for Night Slugs, as well as “Bow Kat“, the most recent release. Then L-Vis came out to LA for a weekend and Will hooked him up with the demos, immediately he was like ‘we need to work with this guy, he gets us’.” Sweet, such a nice little piece of history. To be honest I was surprised to learn that F2M had an A&R considering everyone is so on point. “Yeah, I mean the crew overall is very close knit and it really formed organically, they were all friends and knew each other online… actually everybody had each other as top friends of Myspace. Dave (Quam, Massacooramaan) also had this blog and would have people do mixes, and everyone loved his blog, loved the music he was covering and the shine he was bringing to global urban music. So it really started with these naturally forming friendships that happened online. Neana and Georgia Girls are really a newer generation, they were like 15 or 16 when Kingdom was releasing his first records. It’s a new set of people and they’re bringing their own ideas to the vision that the label has.”
In our email correspondence before the interview you mentioned that with the mix you were trying to draw the link between various urban musics, I was wondering if you could expand on that a little? “Sure, I guess one of the main things I was trying to do is show the versatility of RnB music. I mean RnB is really just the idea of a soulful voice, which can happen at any tempo, within any rhythmic context and within any melodic context. So that’s why there’s a diversity of tempos there, showing the connections between these various geospecific urban scenes and how they all kind of think in the same way, ultimately.” And also how they function in the same way. “Exactly. I would say all effective urban music has its number one principal as doing as much as possible with as few elements as possible and boiling an idea down to its simplest, most elegant state. And there a million ways of interpreting that simple formula, that’s why we have all these different styles and ideas. But that’s what I see as the uniting principle through all that music. A big part of that is because they’re all made in the same way, they’re all made basically using the same set of constraints. You’ve got a sequencer, a drum machine whatever or you have digital software, which gets a little more complicated. There’s a similarity in the production method, it’s just that the context is different and that’s why the results are different.”
Let’s chat a little about LA, what’s going on there at the moment? “I feel like it’s in a really good place at the moment, there’s a lot more space for new ideas than, say, NYC, with its huge warehouse districts. There’s also a great history of club oriented hip hop music on the West Coast. I mean, that’s really how I got into club music, through hyphy and West Coast hip hop. I would go to dances in middle school and I’d be super awkward or whatever but they’d be fucking playing Dubee or Sleepy D and that’s just… tight. That’s the music that hit me first as far as the club space goes, and got me into that way of thinking about music.” That’s really interesting coz that’s quite a different context for this series. “Yeah, but then when I was in high school I was super into Detroit and Chicago and got really into looking elsewhere, but that was really how I came into it.”
So what’ve you been working on recently? “I’m basically just trying to apply this aesthetic I’ve created to a template that could be applicable for a vocalist. So I’m basically trying to update or modernize urban music with my own aesthetic and my own sound palette. I’ve also been focusing on creating the most complicated signal path possible to achieve whatever result I’m going for. So intentionally trying to find the most ridiculous workarounds. I might write a melody but I want to misuse it and abuse it as much as I can. So I’m really interested in process and repetition. I’ll load a sample into a granular synth and manipulate it, then export it and keep re-exporting the output signal over and over until its something totally different and fucked up. So I guess I’m just trying to use these constraints incorrectly, doing something your not supposed to.” Cool, so by extension how has DJing played into your process? I love the dialogue between those two practices. “I’ve been working on a lot of edits recently, a lot of tool tracks, which rises out of DJing. I’ll be DJing and do a blend and really like it and that’s where a lot of my ideas for tracks come from. That transitional section, it’s amazing because you get these moments of chaos which turn into accidental beauty.” Yeah that really harps back to surrealism and exquisite corpse vibe which I’ve been super into. It’s old school! “Yeah totally. I love moments of violent, chaotic juxtaposition in club music. That’s why I’ll do stuff like play a drum track into something beat-less, abstract, or ambient; I feel like those intense club moments bang that much harder when you contrast them with moments of stasis. I think listening to club music on headphones before experiencing it in an actual club is to blame for this; I guess I have a bit less reverence for the dogma and formalism of that space than some. I also try to recreate these violent moments of conflict in my own production by simultaneously embracing economic and excessive uses of sound. By this I mean a careful combination of elegant construction and chaotic disruption.”
1. GF – Automata V1
2. Arca – Bullet Chained
3. MC Messiah – Nelieskit Melynojo Gaublio (Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf Edit)
4. Luval – Arousal
5. Sage the Gemini – Gas Pedal (GF’s 01.15.30.09.11.13 Edit)
6. Sentinl – Shinkendo.nrl (Full Neural Rip)
7. Dinamarca – A.M.A.B ft. Gnucci
8. Tyga – Wait For A Minute ft. Justin Bieber (Total Freedom Edit)
9. Rayven Justice – Slide Through ft. Waka Flocka
10. Usher- I Don’t Mind ft. Juicy J (Playback Reduction)
11. ________V – 08182013VX
12. Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf – Screen
13. Dexter Duckett – Snowflake
14. M.E.S.H. – Scythians (Lotic Remix)
15. Rabit- Black Dragons ft. Riko Dan
16. Music For Your Plants – Fossil
17. Ty Dolla Sign – Bitches Ain’t Shit (Why Be Edit)
18. SD Laika – Flicker
19. Tinashe – Vulnerable (M.E.S.H.’s DAW Is My Sewer Remix)
20. Divoli S’vere- Too Much (ft. Beek)
21. Headlock – Hold
CTM is an annual festival that takes place in Berlin alongside its sister event transmediale, a year-long project that aims to draw out new connections between art, culture and technology. CTM focuses on contemporary electronic and experimental music and as well as the multifaceted disciplines that branch off from the club experience. A host of parties, shows, installations and lectures are presented over the course of eight days in late January. This year’s overarching theme was ‘Un Tune’: the aim was to explore and examine the functional significance and effect of contemporary music. To that end, the festival hosted some 180 concerts, performances and installations involving more than 200 participants. We spent a weekend in Berlin, soaking up as much as possible in an all too brief space of time.
The first event for Truants to attend is Xeno IV at Berghain. After stopping for a drink in the semi-infamous Sunflower Hostel we make our way to the even more notorious nightclub, forbidding by reputation and in its brutal appearance. Visiting Berghain for a festival occasion is, we’re told, markedly different from seeing the venue in its regular capacity, and it does indeed seem more reserved than anecdotal reports would have had us expect. After two hours of warm-up music from local Boiler Room host and CTM co-curator Opium Hum, Aleksi Perälä takes to the stage – a stage, somewhere – to perform Colundi Sequence, built from the custom musical scale he fashioned alongside Grant Wilson-Claridge. It’s a beautiful experience: uncertain where to look, the crowd shifts and moves with a slight awkwardness, unused to a situation where the DJ or performer cannot be seen, a captive audience forced to break from what a friend describes as the “slightly fascistic” element of DJ performance culture. The music itself is exquisite, with frenzied synth arpeggios darting about the impressive sound system, each track harder and more corrosive than the last.
Hungarian artist Gábor Lázár follows, hammering out 45 minutes of sonic abrasion – not dense noise, but rather clipped blasts of sound that stray away from rhythm whenever it seems to approach. It’s even less conducive to mindless dancing than Perälä’s considered elegance. This assault is followed by a similarly-minded DJ set from Prostitutes, who ramps up the tempo and hits hard. Egyptrixx offers some initial intrigue, if only by virtue of his tardiness. A bizarre experience for many, no doubt, is the total silence that greets us on return from brief sojourns upstairs into Panoramabar. Some time later he takes to the stage and blasts lengthy passages of the grinding, metallic noise central to his latest album, Transfer of Energy [Feelings of Power]. He eventually brings in some beats, and the crowd, at this point almost static, is shaken from its stillness. By now awake for some 24 hours, we head home without seeing either Powell or Maelstrom, though not before a languid walk down the affluent Münzstraße covered in fresh 5am snow, listening to the crisp sounds of Vitalis Popoff (following some U-bahn-related confusion).
The following afternoon, an insightful discussion takes place between Resident Advisor associate editor Will Lynch and industry veteran Craig Leon. At CTM for a live performance of his recently reissued 1981 album Nommos, Leon speaks about his professional history, from recording in Florida before moving to New York (where he discovered and helped launch bands like the Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie) and on to his present-day work in classical music. He describes his production style as more interpreter than dictator, helping bands iron out their ideas to create a coherent vision from their often rambunctious live approaches. In his mind, recording the London Philharmonic is no different from recording Suicide. He says that the albums he put out with the likes of James Galway and Luciano Pavarotti elicited more shock from the classical establishment than any punk album did from the mainstream. Mark E Smith of The Fall recently told BBC 6Music that: “A lot of producers, even if they’re big fans of the group, they won’t work with me any more.” On this day, however, Leon ventures: “Everyone says Mark is difficult to work with, but he’s one of the funniest guys I know. He’s incredibly aware of what he’s doing and he knows what he wants.” Coming across as truly affable and genial, perhaps Leon is simply that bit more relaxed than his fellow producers. As for the future, he describes a new modular take on the work of JS Bach inspired by the Wendy Carlos album Switched-On Bach. When an audience member asks why he hasn’t tackled the work of a composer like Bruckner, Leon responds that although he had actually suggested such a project, the money just isn’t there for anything considered that experimental. Furthermore, Bruckner’s arrangements are just too complex. Bach it is.
Jenny Hval and Susanna, joined by Heida Mobeck and Stine J. Motland. Photo by Oliver Beige
If Berghain was put to strange use on Friday, the setting at HAU seems a lot more appropriate for Meshes of Voice. An “interdisciplinary house”, the venue plays host to artists from the worlds of theatre, dance, performance art, music, visual art and discourse, and aims to create new alliances and produce different contexts. First to perform this evening is Lydia Ainsworth, a Canadian singer whose seemingly straightforward pop numbers are underpinned by electronic experimentation and heavily effected vocals. At one point her on-screen visuals cut out to a blank Apple screen emblazoned with the words “GET BANGED”, eliciting mischievous laughter. It’s a moment of levity before a really quite magnificent performance from Jenny Hval & Susanna, whose 2014 album inspired the event’s title. Accompanied by Heida Mobeck and Stine J. Motland, not only do they bring the album to life, but expand its character entirely, creating a dense and overpowering wall of sound causing an intense visceral reaction. Opening with unvoiced tuba blowing, manipulated to create the sound of waves, there’s an overarching sense of the mystic and mythical – forest spirits and mountain lords, benevolent and malevolent, hanging over the evening. The tension is so thick that after one lengthy sequence is complete, the audience remains deathly silent until Susanna playfully says, “Hello,” from her piano, prompting nervous laughter and well-deserved applause. There’s a sense of a unifying performance rather than a series of songs, those overlying meshes of voice – Jenny’s youthful, elfin, Susanna’s powerful, almost strident – coming together in grand harmony and discord.
Emptyset. Photo courtesy of CTM
One observation of the weekend is that Berliners don’t jaywalk; the locals are wont to wait for the appropriate signal before crossing the road. More than a few visitors are seen on their way to HAU for the world premiere of Emptyset’s ambitious Signal project, running across a clear street under the stern eye of a little red man in the hope of securing some of the few remaining tickets. In Signal, the Bristol duo aim to use ionospheric propagation (in the simplest of terms, radio waves) as the basis for their sonic explorations. In fact, the performance is delayed by an hour due to the unpredictability and activity of those radio waves. Their sound is initially transmitted to the Nauen Transmitter Station, the oldest transmitting plant in the world, some 42km away. It is then sent on to the Issoudun Station in France, from which it finally travels back to the HAU venue and out of its speakers. A long journey, along which many factors can cause havoc, yet the hour-long performance passes without any great hitch. The sound is thick, heavy and oppressive. Wholly immersive, the effect is heady, dreamlike, best experienced loud, and in the dark; something to be savoured and appreciated, if not enjoyed. A small sense of its scale might be touched when it will be replayed on Deutschlandradio Kultur in April, just after midnight (CET).
Shapednoise (l), Logos and Mumdance present The Sprawl. Photo courtesy of CTM
The final event of the festival takes place at Astra Kulturhaus, a venue that regularly plays host to acts across the spectrum, from Amon Tobin to Yo La Tengo. Tonight, it is the site of Tune Out, the CTM x RBMA finale. To start, Melbourne-born Berlin transplant Phoebe Kiddo performs her exuberant Mind:Body:Fitness project, a feverishly upbeat yet manically forlorn take on modern club music. She’s followed by Japanese trio Nisennenmondai, whose performance comes off as a touch robotic and lacking in human spirit, despite undeniable technical prowess and unwavering steadiness, particularly on bass and percussion. The drummer even manages to maintain blistering pace whilst checking her phone at one point. Guitarist Masako Takada takes to the mic at the performance’s end to say, “We have new record, so please buy,” to genuinely heartfelt laughter and applause. A highlight for many, supergroup-of-sorts Carter Tutti Void take to the stage for their own twisted brand of electronics, a lurching technoid stomp encouraging even the weariest of festival-goers to get down.
Then, The Sprawl. Mumdance and Logos’ performance is far from the urgent heft of their collaborative album, Proto. Instead, the pair draft in Italian drone and techno explorer Shapednoise. His task is to deconstruct and transmogrify Proto, moulding an unrecognisable barrage of sound from its skeletal constructions, which is both deep and abrasive. Inspired by William Gibson, a writer of speculative fiction who coined the term cyberspace, The Sprawl is a grand look at the modern world and its urban conglomeration. (Note also that ‘The Sprawl’ is the name of a track on Mumdance’s Take Time EP for Rinse last year.) Beats and rhythms occasionally creep in amidst abstract explosions, a constant threat of thud hanging in the air. Always aiming for great sonic drama and tension, the performance is replete with the bare tropes of grime and rave – sirens and hoovers, gunshots and cymbal reverse – yet in tearing these elements apart, the effect is one of confusion and reflection rather than hedonistic escape. It’s reminiscent of Lee Gamble’s Diversions 1994-1996, in which he sought to “extract, expand upon and convey particular qualities emblematic of the original music” – old jungle tapes from his youth. Maya Kalev, writing in The Wire, describes describes the ‘weightless’ genre coined by Mumdance and Logos as “a shadow or palimpsest of dance music, rich in its signifiers and history but lacking its typical drive and force”. The same could be said about this show for the most part, although it’s certainly not lacking in force, blasting heavy noise and mechanical squawk. It’s a stirring end to the evening, if not quite rousing and triumphant. For that, the crowd is sent to the adjacent Urban Spree venue, where Kontra-musik’s Ulf Eriksson and Lobster Theremin and Dekmantel’s Palms Trax take things home over five hours of ebullient house and techno, while a secondary room includes the first indoor coal fire Truants has ever seen next to a DJ setup.
Despite the brevity of our stay, it was all too easy to find and enjoy a variety of performances and activities at CTM. Engaging with each event on any level was possible, from mindless dancing to deep-focused concentration and involvement – and there were plenty of shows we were unable to attend. Now in its 16th year, CTM is a well established fixture on the Berlin calendar and shows no signs of complacency, attracting a range of international artists that are across several scales of diversity. More than just a festival (to call it such does a disservice to its scope), CTM offers as much as you dare put in. Here’s to its 17th edition.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 26 February 2015. Leave a comment
A founding father of Rinse FM, recipient of an ASBO involving a ban from all rooftops and the man behind the decks at some of the scenes most electric moments; the name Slimzee is synonymous with grime. Whilst all of this is common knowledge, what you may not know is that in the early nineties he went by the name DJ Slimfast and predominantly mixed jungle and hardcore. For many of the grime scene’s originators, with some of whom he went on to form the seminal Pay As U Go Cartel, jungle is the foundation. Wiley, Riko & Maxwell D all “emerged out of jungle fever” and the same goes for D Double E and Dizzee Rascal who started off mixing jungle in their bedrooms as youngsters before picking up the mic. From its humble beginnings in London’s tower blocks and basements to NYFW and art galleries on the Queen’s doorstep, everybody wants a piece of grime. For our 111th Truancy Volume, we have the man who has been there from the start in the mix to take us back to his roots. Sixty minutes of Kool cuts, tape pack classics and B-side rollers. No MCs, no rewinds.
With jungle/hardcore being your first love, could you tell us a little about your own musical history with the genre and how you first got into it? I assume Kool FM and DJ Brockie make up a major part? “Yeah, Kool FM, Brockie, Weekend Rush, Red Ant and Brain Killers. I was about thirteen years old at secondary school and a few of the people in school were introduced me to some new stuff so I bought some records. I went on this station called Fusion FM which existed before Pressure. They weren’t even transmitting down the road, they didn’t have a clue what they were doing. My first proper pirate show was Pressure FM 100.4 which was Jamie B’s station. The geezer came round my house and said “Let me see you mix,” so I done a mix and he said I was on the station. I was shitting myself, I can remember it now!”
You were in your early teens at this point but were there any seminal raves/parties that you can remember being put on at the time you and your friends may have gone to or dreamt about being old enough to get in? “I didn’t play at them but I remember Telepathy, Desire, Labyrinth. I was a bit too young to go at the beginning as my dad was a bit funny about it. When I was getting into the music he thought I was taking drugs and that. I think the first one I went to was Labyrinth on Dalston Lane. A club called Four Aces.”
Telepathy is where people like DJ SS got their big break. Could you tell us a little bit about it? “SS, yeah. It was raw in there. It was like an Eskimo Dance, if you know what I mean. The darker side of a rave. Andy C used to play there along with Brockie, MC Det and Red Ant, he was a big DJ.”
Were there any particular MCs at this point that you’d have wanted on a set with you? “Yeah, I liked someone called Rhyme Time who was on Kool FM at the time. I liked MC Det as well and Skibadee, who else? Remedy and Fearless were good. Fearless was on Weekend Rush with Brain Killers. I used to like loads of people.”
Around ’96-97, jungle started to transition into drum and bass. This was also around time you started to play garage. Do the two have something in common or was it something else you felt about jungle that made you switch? “Well, I wanted to get more bookings but I couldn’t get a break, really. I switched a few times then played garage for a bit then I went back to drum and bass. Then I started playing jungle at 33RPM and making it into grimey garage, like the ’98 sort of stuff. I made my own type of garage, ha! After that, people started making garage tunes that were meant to sound like that. I still liked drum and bass but it got a bit technical, if you know what I mean? Jungle was better.”
What can you tell us about the mix you’ve done for us? We’ve noticed a lot of tracks are from around ’94-95. Would you say this was your favourite period in jungle? “Yeah, that was the best bit. I got rid of a load of my garage records but I kept all my jungle. I’ve got a massive cupboard full of it. I didn’t go through everything but I picked out some Ray Keith, some Joker Recordings, MA2, SS. Didn’t plan it, just filled up a bag and went down the Rinse prerecord room and did it. Freestyle like I would on radio back in the day.”
Words by Koyejo Oloko, 25 February 2015. 3 comments
As observers of American label cum curatorial servicer Apothecary Compositions, it’s not at all surprising how we once again are presented with work from a producer who inhabits a junction of disparate modes. While being a “jack of all trades” may or may not be a promising qualification for some artists in this day, and Cearà could have been equally at home on other labels (Hyperboloid and Mixpak come to mind), the quality of C Plus Plus’s debut should be recognized in as many locales as there are regional influences found in it, and the album is a proper way to kick off another year of variable Compositions. Apparently, the real-named Dylan Howe has retired the a i r s p o r t s moniker—with which he used to present experiments in lo-fi, internet-wave miscellany up until early last year—and now justifies an apparent interest in grime, Baltimore club, and dembow rhythms with the conviction of a cagey veteran.
A facet of C Plus Plus’s production, on this album at least, that might seem at odds with a presumingly tropical vibe—the photograph featured on the cover is assumedly of a piece of coastline of the Brazilian state after which the project’s named—is the working-in of field recordings and off-kilter sounds. Check out the natural, nocturnal underlay on the grimey opener, which isn’t especially conflicting in case; the titular instances of brashness on “Shatter”. What ultimately comes to make the album remarkable and cohesive as a whole despite an array of palettes and rhythms between each track is the Portlandian’s way of casting a less-than-hedonistic shadow on what is more often than not a sonic emulation of the tropical vis-à-vis exuberance and native patois fetishism. Inventiveness is abound. “Swimsuit Clique” and “Gunshot Riddim” both drive, the former on a lighter vibe with B-more-esque WHAT interjections (there are HEYs on “No Lights”), the latter weightier. More straight-away than the rest, “Karaiba” is something we’d hear from the 1080p catalogue, with its daydream tones and layers of tangible abrasion. Ironically then, but certainly not out of the ordinary as a frequent collaborator, Karmelloz (Source Localization) assists on the deranged and seesawing “Cnidaria” and the following “Mystère Riddim”.
Cearà is out now on cassette via Apothecary Compositions.
Words by Michael Scala, 24 February 2015. Leave a comment
With this years much anticipated Bloc less than a month a way we’ll be posting a series of interviews of artists playing at Butlins in Minehead this year in the run up to the festival. First up is Scott Fraser, a DJ and producer currently based in London who alongside Timothy J Fairplay make up the brains behind record label and party Crimes Of The Future. We caught up with Scott to discuss his current residencies in Glasgow, his early collaborative projects in the 90s, the process behind putting out some of 2014’s Crimes Of The Future releases and how he’ll be bringing Bodyhammer to the Friday night at Bloc.
Just want to start with asking about the Crime Of The Future residency at the Berkeley Suite in Glasgow. Despite you and Timothy both living in London now it seems like the nights have been a continuous success. Wondering if you could tell us about how the residency in Glasgow formed and what you think has contributed to it still going strong now. “It started in Glasgow as a result of a friend of mine who was promoting ALFOS with Andrew and Sean, asking me if he thought myself and Tim would be up for doing a regular night in Glasgow. Originally it started on a Thursday, moved on to a Friday and now found it’s final home on a Saturday night. I have also known Fergus who is the venue owner for a very long time and they took on the promotion in house a year ago. The Berkeley Suite is a lovely venue and Fergus and his staff have been very supportive of what we have been trying to create in terms of the crowd, music and overall vibe. I guess this is always important in all the best residencies. Because myself and Tim work together so closely at the studio it’s been pretty easy to plan it and work with them up there or anywhere we have toured it throughout the year. We only play one record each now which makes for a very interesting and dynamic night all in all. I guess that’s why it’s worked so well when we have taken it out on the road. We never plan it so it’s all the better for that too. The night has grown stronger every time we have done it and musically it has formed really well along the way, so I think a combination of friendship, hard work and persistence with the music has carried us through.”
Jackmaster recently did an RA Origins video where he extensively talked on how much Glasgow influenced him musically and all the parties he attended whilst growing up. Being a little older than Jack I wanted to ask if you could tell us a bit about your own musical relationship with the city considering you got to party at the Sub Club possibly around the time it opened? Were there any people influencing you on a local level? “Ha! Yeah I saw that, it was a very honest video. I know Jack and I can identify with lots of what he was saying there particularly in relation to the guys at Rub A Dub and the Sub Club. I was brought up in East Kilbride just outside Glasgow. It was one of the “New Towns” as they called them and had a windswept town centre bereft of decent music establishments (a few tried and failed to crack this nut over the years) so when I started going into Glasgow it was hugely important for me. I guess I first went out to clubs there in the mid 80s, really just before house started to take hold. You would hear a lot of 80s funk and soul mixed up with the clash and early New York music and stuff like that.
“Places like the Warehouse, Fury Murry’s and Tin Pan Alley is where I stumbled across Slam for the first time. Tin Pan Alley was a three floor place and Stuart and Orde had this little room there which was full of weird projectors. I guess this must have been around 88 as acid house was just coming through. I had been to the Sub Club once before with a guy who I used to work with who lived on the south side of Glasgow. We started going there again to Joy which was on Friday night and then Atlantis on a Saturday which Harri was then doing along with them. It really was a special period then, particularly in the early 90s. It kind of felt a little like a secret society I guess, it was the same people there every week and with the music and the vibe it was a great place to hang about.
“I had been into rock music in my early teens and use to go to Glasgow to buy records and go to concerts and had been going to the 23rd Precinct on Bath Street for years which use to mainly stock rock records (I think the guy who started it was an ex US copper). Around 84 I had started going out a bit in Glasgow to clubs where ladies attended rather than that of blokes in leather jackets. This was around the time that they were starting to listen to more 80s funk, hip hop and electro sort music. They stocked all this in the 23rd Precinct in a smaller way so I started buying this and the rock stuff was consigned to history. They got a few house records in and I started buying it all up. It was early DJ International, Traxx and some New York stuff like early Tommy Musto and Frankie Bones material. That was it from then, I was hooked. Obviously when I went to Tin Pan and the Sub Club and heard these records getting played through a club system rather than at home that sealed it for me from then on. The other big turning point was in the mid 90s when I was to introduced to Rub A Dub records and club 69 in Paisley. It was really special for me to then go on and do a monthly Friday at the Sub Club in the mid 90s.”
Would I also be right in saying a lot of your early connections were made from going to clubs in Glasgow? Weatherall and Peter Walker are people who spring to mind. “Absolutely. I first heard and met Andrew at the Sub Club when Stuart and Orde put him on there. Peter used to go to the Sub too and he also came from EK like me. The Sub is definitely hugely important in terms of my connections and friendships and still is today with Harri and Domenic still together there on a Saturday night and Mike Grieve being one of the directors.”
As someone who’s only discovered your 90s work as Bios with Alan Baxter and Peter Walker in the last year due to a track called ‘Basic Black’ (which I reckon would slay a dance floor if dropped now) I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about your time as Bios and possibly the music that influenced you guys to set it up in the first place. “Ah thanks! A blast from the past that one. I think it’s 140 BPM too! Did I really used to make records that fast? I met Peter through an old school friend Alistair at an Orb gig at the Barrowlands if my rusty memory serves me right. Alan was a mate of Peter’s and me and Peter started hanging about as we were both into the same kind of music but from different places. He wad gotten into it via the Belgian stuff and I had came in via the early Chicago stuff and really we met in the middle on the early Detroit records from Juan Atkins, Derrick May and co. Alan would agree he was not into dance music at that point at all really. Both him and Peter were big Depeche Mode fans. I recon thats how they hooked up but I might be wrong. Anyway, once we all got together and started mucking about with the keyboards and drum machines Alan started to get exposed to techno and absolutely loved it. Both myself and Peter were mad into DJAX records and I think that informed all our early experiments and ultimately influenced and shaped our sound as an outfit along with the rougher Chicago stuff that was out there.
“We tried going into a recording studio in East Kilbride that the arts council had set up but it was doomed as the engineer was into bands and seemed to want to use the flashy new EMU sampler he had to put barking whales over the top of the tunes we were writing so we kicked that into touch and worked out of Peters spare room from then on. Here I basically taught myself around the shoddy desk, effects and DAT we had and learned how to mix and record the primitive clanging we were pissing his neighbours off with till the early hours. After that we moved it to Alan’s for a bit and then when Alan stopped working with us we eventually got a small studio space round the corner from Rub A Dub on Dixon Street which sadly got broken into by some local wrong un’s and we lost most of the gear and six months of music from the computer they nicked.
“I also want to mention Marty McKay at Rub A Dub here as he was really pivotal for me in terms of my record buying and this heavily influenced our musical direction too. At this point me and Peter had been going to club 69 in Paisley a lot and this had really introduced us to UR, Basic Channel and a lot of the more left field stuff coming out of the UK and Europe. The early records came out on Andrew Weatherall’s label due to a chance meeting in Rub A Dub during the day and then bumping into Andrew in the evening at a night that Martin and Wilba had Andrew playing at. He came up and said he had heard some of what we had been playing and asked would we be up for putting something out and it went from there. When we went down to London, we met Alex, Lee and the guys in Fat Cat and they introduced us to the Black Nation stuff which is how we hooked up with Jay Denham and doing the EP which Basic Black appears on. We ran a monthly Friday at the Sub Club called Lo-Fi and we booked Jay to do the opening night. He came and stayed with me at my house and we just all got on great.”
What was it you felt you wanted to do different musically that Bios eventually came to a natural conclusion? “Combination of things really. We had lost everything in the studio and had to start again from scratch and moved all the stuff back into my house again. We had less and less time due to me and Peters personal commitments and I guess I hit that point in music where I got a bit jaded and gave it up for a while. As I had the studio in the house I was still pottering around a little at home and did a bit of solo material which I still have and then I moved down to London permanently. The usual musical tale of musicians, bands and woe I suspect.”
Despite this would you say some of your newer records such as ‘White Of The Eye’ might have drawn some small influences from this era? “Absolutely, I have always liked that sound that got me into electronic music and clubs in the first place and this very much influences me to this day. At the studio I am still using a lot of the same machines and keyboards that I used on those early records and despite the doubting Thomas’s out there I still find that gear sounds fresh and relevant now. You can mix, arrange and effect something in so many ways. Despite the core sounds being constant you can make a 707 sound like something emitting sounds from another planet if you push it hard enough. Gear is just so damn hands on and tactile. With ‘White Of The Eye it started out like I usually do; drums and percussion first and then move along from there. I wasn’t intentionally thinking ‘I want to do something like that from then’. I hooked in Claire Elise for the vocal as I had done a remix for her previous outfit Featureless Ghost last year and was into what they were about. Juan was a natural choice on the remix as he had offered to do a split with me at some point and this record felt just right. Me and Tim still play a lot of the early Chicago stuff at the club so that probably had a bearing on me there too.”
Is this also indicative of the type of gigs you now play and what you enjoy DJing or would you still throw some of the 90s stuff into your sets? “I have played in lots of different clubs all over the world over the last year and the one thing I would say is that every single time I have played, all of the older stuff still goes off and is absolutely as relevant now as it was then. I play on balance mostly new stuff but maybe about 1/3 of it comes from the back catalogue. I’m telling myself you’ve got to always remember that when you have been buying dance music in some form since the 1980s most people in the club you are in now have never heard these records and its absolutely right you take them out and play them now. I don’t really pre plan sets, maybe the first couple and then I go on from there. So I will spend some time in the week, listen to records and then make a bag. A lot of the time you are pulling old 12’s out and that makes you think of another and so it goes. Never mind the 90s I’m still playing 80s stuff ha! I was playing at Animals Dancing in Melbourne on New Years Day this year which was fantastic. I played that League Unlimited Orchestra version of Seconds and this young guy runs behind the DJ box and he is going what the hell is this it’s amazing. So I tell him it’s the Human League and he is amazed. That sums up why older tunes are still relevant.”
Speaking of your Animals Dancing gig in Australia were there any particular highlights to the OZ tour and how did you find your music translated to an Australian crowd? “To be honest, they were all great in different ways. There is a great scene in Australia. There’s those young guys in Melbourne Sleep D with their Butter Sessions Label, Dro Carey/ Tuff Sherm, Animals Dancing, Tornado Wallace, Pelvis and Noise In My Head. I also met the Haha industries guys in Sydney who have been doing it a long time. I could go on. Kevin at Stable music and the Picnic guys had UR live at the venue I played on NYE in November. The thing that really struck me was how much they were into it and really open on the music front. I literally could play whatever I wanted. There are some fantastic 2nd hand record shops in Sydney and Melbourne too. I met some really lovely people over there so will definitely be heading back for round two this year I hope. Then there is the food and the weather! It was my wedding anniversary on the 27th December. We spent it on the beach this year, what’s not to like.”
Going back to Crimes In The Future, the record label itself put out six great records in 2014 including one of my favourites by Antoni Maiovvi. Along with Elizabeth Merrick-Jefferson, these are both artists based overseas so was keen to ask how those two records formed precisely and if you might have an A&R process to records you might release. Also can we expect a similar release output for 2015. “Thanks, we think so too! Antoni Maiovvi is originally from the UK but has a very exotic name (I’m sure he knows how exotic it is) Elizabeth-Merrick-Jefferson is a well known Detroiter under a different name and as I was a huge fan of their other stuff thats how that one came about. We’ll leave people to ponder who. With Antoni it’s a bit of a story but basically ‘Love Magnetic’ was due on another label but they changed their mind so we said we would put it out on Crimes instead. He then sent us ‘Black Jesus’ and ‘Spunnowt’, which are such strong tracks and backed with Tim’s remix, hey presto. Lucky us eh! Black Jesus is probably one of the biggest dancefloor slayers we have put out. In terms of the A&R, it has been lots of different things but mainly we have been approached by people who we both like (be them friends or otherwise) with really strong music that both me and Tim felt fitted with what we were trying to do. Basically records we would play at the club be it at the start/ middle or end of the night. This year we both feel we have a fantastic schedule lined up already and its only January. We have an amazing EP from Perseus Trax who both myself and Tim are big fans of. After that it’s “The Haunted Doorbell” which is Tim and our friend Matilda Tristram. This one is a proper old school jacker with twist. Then we have “Bulb” which is a bit of a special one because it’s a collaboration between me, Tim and Willie Burns that we recorded live together in Willie’s studio in New York when we played there last year over a few days. After that I’m keeping tight lipped but we have another three fantastic records lined up with a couple of ridiculous remixes on there. The plan is to put out a few more than last year also, with another couple of special one offs in between like the coloured vinyl we did for Sugar Puss. Gig wise, we got lots of requests to play together at label nights in clubs around Europe and beyond last year so we’ll hopefully be doing lots more of them too.”
You tend to work with a lot of other producers for different endeavours be it with Andy Blake, Robi Headman, Jonny Burnip, Timothy, Sean Johnston. Have you locked down a process where it’s comfortable to work with other producers or this just down from years of knowing each other. Can you tell me individually what you like about working with these mentioned producers. “I think you naturally gravitate towards people you like in any walk of life, and in this sense it’s generally fairly easy. Most are good friends or have become more so through working together and to be really honest it was all pretty smooth. What I have found is that because I tend to work in a live sense in terms of the writing and recording process that kind of works with whoever you are working with. Tim and Andy work pretty much the same way as me and with Jonny he really enjoyed the whole way we did that Virgo 4 remix as it actually ended up more as a cover than a remix in the end. We really completely destroyed the original because Merwin and Eric did not have any parts of the original track. With Robi, we worked on it separately at first with me finishing the music in London and then him recording Douglas’s vocal in Berlin and sending me that to edit onto the music. We then did a bit of work in his studio in Berlin over a weekend.
“Of course, with Tim and me having our studios in Andrews’s place it’s really easy for us to work together and again, we both work in a very similar way. Tim has quite often played some guitar on some of my music and so on. Because we are working together down there every day doing a remix together for Black Merlin was really easy, it just flowed along. Tim is a bit younger than me (ha) but we both come from a similar place musically, with that love of the Chicago stuff, the Bunker stuff from Holland and so on.”
Can you tell us a little bit about the Fini Tribe mixes record you got coming out with Timothy on Record Store Day. One Little Indian is a great name to be associated with. “Davie from Fini Tribe contacted us and asked us if we both wanted to remix 101 which is a great thing to be involved in as it’s one of those seminal records that was pretty much slept on at the time south of the border. Andrew remixed it back then and some would say it’s one of those so called “Balearic Classics” now I believe. They were a band that were up there with the best of that first wave of UK electronic outfits and it’s great to see them back again (despite the fact that they are from Edinburgh) There was always a great connection between Glasgow and Edinburgh, particularly through Pure and Keith and we went over there a good few times to the venue for a knees up. Obviously it was never as good as the Club 69 though ha It’s a special orange Vinyl release on One Little Indian for record store day with myself and Tim’s remixes on it which is such a great thing to be a part of based on the history of that label.”
Having been making music since the 90s what are some of the key things you’ve taken away from what you do? “I can’t work from home. Surround yourself with the right people. My never ending interest in weird noises.”
Aside from all this, what else can we expect from Scott Fraser over the coming year? “A busy year shaping up gig wise already. In March I’m obviously playing at Bloc which I am massively looking forward to. We are doing Bodyhammer there on the Friday night. It’s just great to see it back and the lineup over the weekend speaks for itself. We are heading to Manchester to do our first Crimes of the Future there in February, then back to Glasgow for our first one of the year there. In London I’ll be continuing at my Bodyhammer residency with Joe Hart and Charlie Bennet which is a regular monthly party. We’ve got one of those at the end of February. On the road, myself and Tim have a couple of exciting tours brewing abroad this year already for Crimes which we will announce when it’s all nailed down. Looks also like we have finally found a venue in London where we can do smaller Crimes Of The Future parties although we are also looking at doing a couple of bigger ones in bigger venues later in the year. There have been a couple of interesting booking enquiries that will hopefully come off too, and you might well be seeing and hearing something fairly special in Carcassonne again this year.
“Music wise, full steam ahead at the bunker. I’ve got two EP’s that I am working on for two labels that I absolutely love so I am pretty excited about that. I’ve got a couple of interesting remixes to do for the spring and then I’ll probably get back into the process of recording something longer, maybe a double pack 12” or something like that for Crimes. I’m also going to be re-issuing some of that stuff I talked about previously and also a couple of house tracks under the Freeman alias. There is also some thoughts for some more experimental harder edged stuff I have and what I might do with that in terms of releasing it. Collab wise myself and Richard Sen are going to have something come out again together this year I suspect, but this will be material we have done together at my studio rather than the remix package like last time. Myself and Tim have an interesting remix together for an Australian outfit from Melbourne also. Lastly I’m working on some original music with Pete Astor who is formerly of the Weather Prophets and David Shephard who now work together as Ellis Island Sound, which is quite different to what I’m normally producing. That’s enough to be getting on with I think, although there are a few more bits I’m keeping for myself for now.”
Words by Riccardo Villella, 20 February 2015. Leave a comment