Slugabed gifts us our 94th Truancy Volume. 2012 was a busy year for the Bath-born, London-based producer: his debut album, Time Team, was released on recently diversified label, Ninja Tune. Meanwhile, he was laying the foundations for Activia Benz, a label that coolly promotes the music of a splash of artists from around the globe. During our lengthy Skype conversation, we talked about composition, Internet culture, how hip-hop’s changed and ever-changing and the importance of visual art in music today.
So, how are you? What have you been up to today? “I’m pretty good. I just met some friends from Prague for lunch. I’m going to go and play with them in two weeks at a party they do there and they holiday in London, so I thought we’d go for some lunch.”
So how long is it you’ve been in London for? “I’ve lived in London four years…” But you’re from Bath originally – what was that like? “It was all right – quite a nice town. Small, pretty. Quite a lot of drugs.” Haha, I imagine it as a little sister town of Bristol, sort of. Were you connected with Bristol at all? “Yeah, well you know people from Bristol, you go out with people in Bristol but at the same time, it’s very different from Bristol.”
I think of Bath as quintessentially British – do you think your music challenges that at all? “It’s pretty disconnected from Bath as a place. I think the fact that I was in Bath lent itself to making music; there’s not a lot to do, there’s not a huge scene. So I’d spend my time listening to stuff from L.A. and instead of going to cool club nights I’d be going around my friends’ houses, listening to different music. Bath is responsible for what I was doing but not directly. I feel that this is something that’s happening more and more with music: you get ‘bedroom producers’ who are fuelled by the experience of going around to other people’s houses and listening to songs on the Internet. It means it’s more varied, and it doesn’t really matter where you’re from. “Yeah, now it doesn’t matter. You’re growing up in the early 2000’s so, say, you’re part of the dubstep scene, that’s what you’re going to be creating. Whereas if you’re just in the middle of nowhere nowadays you can pick and choose what you want to be a part of or not a part of.”
Stream: Slugabed – Superphreak (Stuffrecords)
Something I’m really interested in is your track names. “Sun Too Bright Turn It Off” and “It’s When The Future Falls Plop On Your Head.” These, and most of your track names, remind me so much of weird Twitter (like Paul Jac) and also of producer Wanda Group, who also has amazing track names – “Piss Fell Out Like Sunlight”. “I really like his track names, a lot.” So why do you do it? “A lot of the stuff that came out around 2012, like Time Team, was childlike. All ideas about innocence. “Sun too bright turn it off” was something my brother said when he was younger as my family was driving out of a garage or something. The other, apparently, was when I was three years old. I turned to my Dad and said: “What’s it like being dead? It’s when the future falls plop on your head.” I don’t know why. I don’t remember it obviously. I don’t feel I can claim ownership over it.” It’s funny, when those track names are placed within the context of your album, they become something a lot more profound in a strange way. “All the stuff from that era of production was just silly little ideas, very ethereal, hard to explain imagery in my head and childlike nostalgia. More feelings and images, really. Because it was my debut album, it was a very personal thing for me. It didn’t need to make sense.”
I wanted to ask you about your melodies. For me, they set you apart from your peers. They always seem very considered. How do you compose them? “It’s tough to say how I write a melody but it’s definitely something that’s always been at the forefront of what I want to do with music. At times it varies into making beautiful, ugly music; sometimes it becomes beautiful clubby music. But on the whole what I want be doing is creating a nice atmosphere and nice harmonies. That’s what drove me to make music in the first place so that’s where the emphasis is for me as a producer. And I think it’s something, as you say, that sets me apart a bit. If I tried to make stripped back club music, I’d struggle to make it as unique because what I’ve got is my melodic side. I don’t actually have a piano myself but my dad does and when I go round there I’ll spend hours on that. Always long-winded, simple, ambient type stuff but I’ll be able to use some of it.”
Stream: Slugabed – GIRL FUK U
I watched a documentary about psytrance on Saturday night and Mr Kakehashi, founder of Roland, was talking about inventing the drum machine. He said that his invention means that “manufacturers and musicians manage without meeting,” which made me want to ask you about your relationship with technology, and whether you’re an instrumentalist too. We know you play piano… “So yeah, I play keys badly. My fingers don’t do exactly what I tell them all the time… I have an okay knowledge of harmony I suppose…” Your dad is a pianist right? “Yeah my dad’s really good at the piano. He finds it funny, how basic the stuff I do is.” Does he like the end product? “Hmm, he listens to loads of complex weird jazz. He listens to different elements of the music to me. He doesn’t hate it! I play drums badly as well. I haven’t sat at a drum kit for about five years but if I did, I’d stay there for hours. But as for technology, I like basic technology. I’m not a person who wants to update everything and I don’t make synths or do clever circuit bending. For me, the musical side of it is a lot more interesting – the composition and general arrangement of sound. I’m not in it to push boundaries. I produce on a really old version of Fruity Loops.” Why? “I guess the ideal answer is that I like its limitations but the real answer is just laziness. I don’t want to spend my week teaching myself to learn a new piece of kit. It [composing] is a very momentary thing: I want to sit down and do what I want to do there and then. So it’s part busyness, part laziness and part happiness with the crappy software that I use.” Some amazing stuff has been produced using it though, like “Brand New Day” by Dizzee Rascal. “I didn’t actually know that, but I think most grime probably is because it was a ubiquitous, easy-to-get-hold-of piece of software.”
You’re a hip-hop fan I gather. We want to know what you like – past and present. “I’m not as much of an expert on hip-hop as I’d like to be these days. I have this mind state where I like to focus on my own music. Sometimes if you let too much get into that… But when I DJ I need to know new music too. When I was 14, 15, it was loads of jazz and Madlib and Dilla so I was writing weird chilled out hip-hop stuff, all 90bpm. I listened to drum’n’bass when I was 17. But hip-hop first spurred me on to produce. But I never really considered what I made to be hip-hop because cos it was kind of weird.” It’s really interesting – I mean you’ve released loads of stuff – but you’ve ended up at Ninja Tune which, based on what you’re saying, kind of seems the perfect label – does it seem that way? “It’s good. It’s a nice label. It’s a nice place to be. I don’t know, so many people have so many different perceptions of so many labels. I mean some people think of Ninja Tune as what it was ten years ago – the trip-hoppy era, but it’s really been reinventing itself recently. All the team are really enthusiastic and everything. So when you remixed Roots Manuva’s “Witness”, was that the start of your relationship with Ninja Tune? “Yeah, they actually asked me to do a remix for their 20 year boxset and I said yes, then requested to do “Witness” then they said no. That night I downloaded the instrumental and a capella and got to work. My manager met with the label a few days later and took it on a USB stick and played it to them. I guess that was the first thing that convinced them that I was worth betting on… I don’t think I answered your question about hip-hop fully. I’m really into Yeezus. That’s my favourite hip-hop album. It’s so ridiculous and over the top and brash. It wouldn’t have worked in any other era. Lots of hip-hop heads say it’s stupid and not good hip-hop and that. But I think it’s what hip-hop needed. I also really like Leif and Mykki Blanco. I think Mykki Blanco is my favourite rapper at the moment and there’s all that hoo haa and everyone’s like, “What’s up with that? What’s happened to hip hop?” but things change. Who even cares? But to someone who is so deeply a part of hip-hop, I can kinda see why it’d be an issue but to me it is just music and we don’t need to put things in boxes. In my mind, there’s just one genre and that’s music and that almost bleeds into this one bigger genre called art.”
Stream: Roots Manuva – Witness the Fitness (Slugabed Remix)
It’s good that you say that art is the genre of your mind because I wanted to ask you about your label, Activia Benz. It was set up in 2012 by you and visual artist Jake Slee… “Jake is a general visual and ideas man and a graphic and interesting guy. He’s working on a bunch of ideas.” Is every record on the label uniquely packaged? Is that the idea? “To be honest, we don’t think too deeply. We all put out music we really like then we’ll curate the art and the general presentation of each release. Uniqueness comes into it but it’s a natural pursuit for us. We’re going to take the label onto a new platform quite soon but I probably won’t go into that too much unfortunately because we’re still ironing out the creases.”
More labels now seem to adopt visual as as important as sound. You go on to Activia Benz’ website and the aesthetic is confusing. You have to work your way down through the page to get where and what you want, which I think works really well in a digital age – it’s interactive. “Exactly. That’s what we’re trying to do with the website. We’re not doing vinyl at the moment because it’s too expensive. The way the release spins round when you hover over it is to give you a feel of having a tangible product even if it is an image on a screen. We’re updating the website to make it even more fun soon.” And in terms of the label, it’s quite far reaching, geographically speaking. You’ve got 813 who’s from Russia. Eloq’s from Denmark. Deech is Belarusian. There’s also Lockah who’s Scottish and Taste Tester’s American. Was it part of your mission statement to be quite diverse in this manner or just coincidence? “We didn’t sit down together and decide we’re going to get our artists from all over the place. It’s about hearing the music we love and being happy to bring it all together. To put it simply, we wouldn’t not put something out because it comes from a certain place. It’s nice how, say, Night Slugs are so centred around London but for us, I guess we’ve got quite a lot of friends from far-reaching places. We draw in anything from anywhere.”
And what’s coming next from Activia Benz? “On April 28th, we are releasing DZA’s Big Bang EP.”
Stream: Slugabed – DO U C ME THO (Ninja Tune)
So back to your music: generally, it seems to have gone from a quite abstracted and distant style (like your Super Freak edit) to more complex dubstep driven stuff (which gained you recognition from, suitably, Mary Anne Hobbes and Benji B) to more dramatic, almost spiritual stuff (“DO U C ME THO”). Can you explain it? Is this where you’re at now? “One of my curses as a music maker is that I always change what I’m doing. I’m always writing music for the moment that I’m in, for myself, in a way, so I’m fickle with it. I wouldn’t say I’ve arrived at this sound. The next release you hear from me will be different. But the development has become more spiritual and dramatic and that’s just true of me just nurturing the side of my music I like. I don’t want to write dark music; it’s boring to me; it’s an easy idea. But I like creating a complex emotions, so that when you listen, you feel a little bit of hope and a tiny bit of dread. That’s something I’m trying to perfect… My next E.P., which I think will be on Activia Benz, that’s happy summery music, which contrasts “DO U C ME THO””. So you match mood temporally… “Yeah but not just the season. While I’ve been writing this music I’ve been happy with it, happy within myself.”
You started producing before you started DJing – how do and have they influenced each other? As a 14, 15 year old bedroom DJ you can get away with some awful mixdowns and weird ideas. Weirdness is all good but you learn quite quickly how to be weird in a way that people actually like. I started DJing in the local pub when I was 17 and I played out my stuff which was so badly mixed and challenging that people were like, “This isn’t really music – can you put something else on?” You don’t need to sell out but there’s a certain level of getting it right. Obviously the more you play out the more you want to make more fun, dancey stuff. That’s the immediate effect from DJing. I still really love writing music that I would never play out, though.”
You went on tour, all over the place, really… “It’s strange. In some way, the places where you wouldn’t expect, they’re the most fun. Somewhere like a small town in Eastern Europe where they don’t have the luxury and choice of music we have in London. They come and they dance to the most weird and experimental stuff all night because it’s so exciting. Whereas somewhere like London, maybe people are too well-educated that they think, oh this is a bit too housey for me. But as for my favourite place ever that I’ve played, [clicks tongue], some of the shows that I’ve had on the West coast of America have been really special. It’s an enthusiastic scene and I feel that I’ve had fans there for quite a while. I feel appreciated when I go back there, like to California or Oregon.”
So the mix you have prepared for Truants. What can we expect? “Naturally there’s some unreleased stuff by me. There’s some unreleased stuff from my label. And some other stuff from my label that’s already out. I think it’s something you can put on while you’re getting ready for a night out or something you can put on in the bath. It’s dancey but weird and maybe a bit chin-scratchy.”
And to wrap up: have you watched True Detective? “I haven’t I’m afraid. I haven’t watched Breaking Bad or The Wire or True Detective, or anything I should watch. Instead I just sit in front of Escape to the Country for hours.” When was the last time you danced? “Today, if that counts?” Yep, it does. “For like ten seconds? I dunno, I do it all the time.” What’s your favourite drink? “Beer.” Ale or lager? “All the beers. Yeah. Both.”
Words by Erin Mathias, 10 April 2014. 2 comments
Veteran German duo Boozoo Bajou have been in the game for almost two decades, and they’ve just put out their stunning new album 4. Gorgeously rendered soundscapes that evoke beautiful vistas and a stirring emotional landscape, the pair drafted in a sterling team of musicians to help them out – guitarist Frank Zeidler, Stefan Pötzsch on strings and mbira, horn player Markus Stockhausen, duduk player Frank Freitag and synth extraordinaire Max Loderbauer. We spoke to Peter Heider about the work that went into the album, their change in labels and what to expect this summer.
Stream: Boozoo Bajou – Jan Mayen (Apollo Records)
First off thanks for speaking to us. How are you? “Excellent, the weather is stunningly here the last weeks…” This is your fourth album, so you’ve chosen a rather functional title. What led to that choice? “Well after three album titles with definition, we thought why not to use something very short and simple, let’s take a number it’s our 4. Album and the logo looks great on the cover..”
It’s an impressive listen. Can you tell us about the process behind it? “We had a lot of time, and no pressure from outside, what we really enjoyed. We also moved our studio, and the new surrounding was inspiring. Mainly we got a very laidback working attitude. We let things happen, and when something hits us, we know we are on the right trail..if you remember, on “dust my broom” for example, there where some short ambient-cuts, like “Barkensignal” those pieces where pretty much our favourites to do, so we took our time to follow that and to concentrate and process that ambient vibe – we waited for a good situation, and it became achieved right with the contact to Renaat´s Apollo/R&S.”
You released the Jan Mayen EP last year on Apollo. Have you noticed a change or development in your audience since then? “Not really. We are not on the road, and we stopped our local dj night. Right now we are only in the studio world. We get some feedback by friends from time to time. But let’s see what happens when the album will be released….could be we find new listeners, could be our old audience will be overstrained. you know, we both change and develop always a little bit , personally – musically, so it needs some time to follow that…or even not. Krautrock, Ambient or contemporary music or fine arts in common get more and more in the foreground, so it´s a n interesting process to expand. “Jan Mayen” is a really stirring piece of work, everything shimmering and growing and of course that horn. Was there ever any doubt that it would open the album? “To be honest, no. In our view it is one of the strongest titles on the album. The atmosphere is very intense, and it is a good entrance for a inner journey, and it´s important for the audience to know, that we are not a chillout thing. we don´t want that “easy listening” attitude…Jan Mayen and “4” generally is a good ambitious piece to realize, that we did a change. as the first track, the audience will realize, what they´ll expect.”
For me the album conjures up memories of a place visited in the past, and a return to that past that not only fails to live up to one’s expectations, but actively disappoints and ruins those memories. “Der Kran” and “Tiefdruck-Hochdruck” are the truest expressions of that heartbreak. What do you make of that description? Does it tell a story? “Well the album is very personal and works well for inner travelling. The winter 2012/13 was so dark here in Germany that we start to search for pictures of arctic islands. It reflected very good our mood and the landscapes we found fit perfect to the music, so that we followed this way. there where strong personal mood changes, a family damage…heavy exposures that left some strong influences on “4”.
Stream: Boozoo Bajou – Der Kran (Apollo Records)
Peter, you said that: “Doing abstract-noise soundscapes is easy too, but not a very interesting challenge for our project.” At points throughout the album there are elements of soundscape, yet they are grounded or bolstered by melody or instrumental prowess. What was it like trying to anchor those experimental passages? “Long story behind my personal alteration. i studied classical drums/percussion – orchestra percussion and piano and played e-music for many many years. also my father is a composer for his entire life writing contemporary music…i was grown with that, but was always fighting a little bit against it, not to get too introverted with my approach to music in general, and i never wanted to leave behind that soul in music. now i am at the point to say, if i do compositions with abstract elements, i want them exactly to the point and still with a deep warm attitude…and not by accident, only to make it sound stranger or darker…it is intended. now i think it´s very interesting to combine those different worlds.”
The album is largely instrumental, save for a few samples. What led you not to use vocalists this time around? “It was not forced, it just happened. There was no plan or something else.. maybe it brought us back to the early days when we started. We’ve been in the beginning more focused on strictly instrumental music. in progress we always discuss, with who we could collaborate on the layouts, but there wasn´t more to do, with vocals for example..
Have you any plans to translate the album to a live setting? “Not easy, as you can imagine…in fact, me (Peter) has to do a lot of work, to feed my family, so i spend all my remaining time in studio…and to fix a good working live situation, there must be a strong interest from the outside and paid bookings. but there will be possibilities we hope, we need to find a solution. right now we are expecting a video from that Berlin film/video artist Robert Seidel for “Der Kran” we are really looking forward to it, he is amazing in his genre !!”
Stream: Boozoo Bajou – Hirta (Apollo Records)
The album’s artwork is quite dark (in every sense of the word), seemingly presenting a world of beautiful chaos and power. How did it come about? “Werner Knaupp – the artist/painter of that front picture,did this after a while spending time in the north atlantic, the name is “Westmännerinseln” . he is a good friend of our family, we are in personal contact, so he told me, when he lived there for a while on a boat, he became fear about the blackness of the sea, and the violence of the nature around. we had this picture for more than three years on our table, and there was never a doubt, not to take it for our coverartwork on “4”… we are just sinking in it´s…how you say beautiful chaos.”
What are you looking forward to most this summer? “Beer gardens ;-)”
Boozoo Bajou – 4 is out now on Apollo. Buy here.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 08 April 2014. Leave a comment
Exclusive stream: Bambooman – Dulcet (Sonic Router Records)
It’s always a pleasure to do good things with good people, so it’s with great pleasure that we can team up with our friends at Sonic Router to bring you this first listen of “Dulcet”, the title track from Bambooman’s forthcoming EP. It’s his second on the label, following Hollowed last year. He’s caught the attention of people like Gilles Peterson and Kutmah, and played alongside the likes of JJ DOOM, Samiyam and Venetian Snares. Working with his own field recordings and twisting them into clean, crisp hip-hop beats, his sound is unfamiliar yet immediate. This latest EP, due out on May 5, offers bouncy, danceable grooves, awkward strutting numbers and sun-kissed synths over melancholy chords. “Dulcet” fits in the latter category, with bleeps and cut-up vocals flitting about over heavy chord blasts and washes of hazy synth. A syncopated kick and squelches of muddy footprints lend nervous tension, while muted arpeggios close out the track with wistful gloom.
Bambooman – Dulcet EP is out on Sonic Router Records on May 5. Pre-order here.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 08 April 2014. Leave a comment
Three-Peat is our feature spanning genres and labels to bring you three select releases from the past – whether the past month or the past year – that still deserve your attention. This edition we’ve selected three tracks from the avant-garde noise charmers who go by the name of Coil.
1. Coil – Ubu Noir
The London based group began to get recognized after member Peter Chritopherson of Throbbing Gristle left Psychic Tv. Psychic Tv is a band which started in 1984 with members who focused deeply on combining visual artwork with the power-driven sounds of psychedelic, electronic, punk and experimental music. A few months later in 1984, Peter Christopherson’s decided to leave Psychic Tv and started to work with John Balance who is the original founder of Coil. The first release from the group was a single track LP called “How To Dress Well”. After their first single track release Danny Hyde, Peter Christopherson, Jim Thirlwell, and John Balance produced a complete studio album called ‘Scatology’. ‘Scatology’ has a nostalgic touch of the mid 70s post-punk movement with spiritually driven late 80s industrial tones. ‘Ubu Noir’ is the first track on ‘Scatology’, which has a dark cynical ambience with a slightsense of innocence. The sense of innocence is created by a loop that has the sound of a squeaky trumpet similar to a circus theme song. However that slight sense of innocence is constantly being chased by a repetitive sample of a chalkboard screech effect that adds onto the overall feel of a twisted whirlwind of daunting confusion.
Stream: Coil : Ubu Noir (SCATOLOGY) (1984)
2. Coil – Further Back And Faster
With the rise of acid house music in the early 90s, Love Secret Domain is the album that revealed Coil’s new direction they were taking in their career. Further Back and Faster is one of the tracks on Love Secret Domain released in 1991 that shows Coil trying to redefine acid house and make a new sound they could call their own. Love Secret Domain is Coil’s second proper studio album that could be looked at as a preview of what was to be expected from experimental industrial group who were leaning towards making purely electronic music at that time.
Stream: Coil – Further Back And Faster (LOVE SECRET DOMAIN) (1991)
3. Coil Live – Three
However Coil’s strong attempts at making electronic music was soon to come to an end in 1994. Nasa Arab/First Dark Ride was the farewell single to acid house music for Coil, which was released under their side project called Coil vs the Eskaton. Unfamiliar rhythms and a tribute to drone music, Nasa Arab/First Dark Side is a galactic solar journey that sounds like it was made by humans trying to get in contact with aliens. Earlier before the side project of Coil vs the Eskaton, Coil’s live performances from the mid-80s had been released. The four live albums are a key component in Coil’s musical career as an early emergence of a unique alienated syncopation was produced way ahead of it’s time and the live albums show how the later creations made by Coil in early 90s such asNasa aRAB/ First Dark Ride came to be.
Stream: Coil – Three
Words by Afi Baaqi, 08 April 2014. Leave a comment
There’s any number of quality tape labels emerging and doing big things in underground electronic music at the moment. The sense of being able to make and circulate a physical object of some worth on your own terms – while obviously not a new concept – is no doubt an attractive sentiment to the growing group of producers and labels putting out music on cassette, along with the prevailing appeal of analogue imperfection. Birkhouse Recordings put out electronic music that plays with an intersection of intimate bedroom vibes and hardware-driven noise. Based out of Bristol and Huddersfield, the label has acted as a sort of scrapbook and live showcase shared between a group of friends and artists since their appearance in January 2013. The first six tape releases were grouped conceptually as the ‘bone’ series, with the five following Birk.001’s various artists all split into two, with a different artist taking on one side of each tape. January this year saw the label’s first full-length release from experimental duo Tlön. It’s their strongest output yet: a dark clash of electronic textures with found and displaced sounds that often threatens to lurch into techno but refrains from offering such resolution. Title track “Truth in the 13th” layers an off-kilter snare with an assortment of organic samples and a looped melody in the beginning before gradually incorporating an assault of all sorts of noise, while album closer “Ancient Ruins” opens with distant drums that fade away to make room for a shimmering ambient outro that manages to glaze over, or re-think, the harsh tones that preceded it. It’s rare that music can be at once as hypnotic and punishing, but you can make up your own mind here.
The next tape to come out of Birkhouse is an EP by Pal, a duo of vocalist Morgan Barfield and producer Canoe Club, coming fresh-faced as the first standalone published work from either artist. The latter plays dance music patterns on the low-key underneath Barfield’s vocals, each resonating off the other but allowing enough space to breathe to make for a crisp and clear blend of electronic pop. It’s in a whole different and more conventional sphere to the Tlön tape, but the fact they’ve come from the same home shows Birkhouse’s refreshing openness to different shades and influences under the ever-widening umbrella of ‘electronic music’.
Stream: Pal - Here Comes Everyone (Birkhouse Recordings)
Pal’s self-titled EP is released 8th April on Birkhouse Recordings on tape cassette and download.
Words by Eliot Brammer, 06 April 2014. Leave a comment