Every so often, here at Truants, we’ll receive something that stops us in our tracks. Most recently, that something came in the form of Imami’s debut EP. A continuation of the exciting, forward-thinking output from Apothecary Compositions, Madhouse caught us completely off guard. Taking pre-existing dancefloor formulas to task, we’ve treated you to five lots of Imami’s warped visions, all carried out with the panache of a seasoned pro. Here you’ll find spots of blissful sunshine-funk, you’ll find harrowing industrial techno, and you’ll find much more in between. There’s also a good chance you’ll find the most exciting piece of music you’ve heard in a while. Remixes of title track “Madhouse” come from young guns SCNTST and Visionist and are predictably excellent in their spinning of playful techno and paranoid grime, respectively.
Madhouse had such a resounding effect on us here that we caught ourselves searching for Imami’s back catalogue on Discogs. Nothing. We googled, we wiki-ed, we did everything in our power to find out anything we could about this producer. Nothing. Naturally then, we had to get in touch. The results are as engrossing as they are informative. Hang around to read about Imami’s twenty years of music making, his musical influences, his LuckyMe affiliation and his love for ginger beer!
Stream: Imami – Melted Love (Apothecary Compositions)
There isn’t too much information about you on the internet right now, which seems pretty strange in a time when you can more or less chronicle every meal that 2 Chainz has eaten for the past few years. For those that might not be so familiar, could you tell us a bit more about yourself? “I was born in the north east of England in an area that was considered the most polluted place in the UK at one point, maybe it still is. There’s a huge chemical factory there that you can see and smell for miles around. Awful place… Thankfully I spent a lot of time in France as a child because my dad got a job there as he couldn’t find work in the UK. We moved around a lot when I was young and we never lived in the same place for more than a few years at a time. I’m still like that now. We have itchy feet in my family. When I was 18 I moved to the USA and lived over there for quite a while; 8 years in Brooklyn, New York and 4 years in Baltimore. I moved back to Europe a few years ago, I was in Amsterdam for a little while and then I came back to the UK so I could get more involved in music stuff over here. The 8 year period that I lived in Brooklyn was the longest amount of time I’ve spent in one place…people say I have a bit of Brooklyn in my accent but I don’t know.
When I lived in New York I was heavily into clubbing. Every Friday night I went to see Danny Tenaglia at a club called Vinyl in Manhattan. He would usually play all night but sometimes he had friends hanging out with him in the booth like Francois K and people like that so they would take turns playing stuff. On Sunday afternoons at the same venue there was a fairly well known club called Body & Soul which had DJs Joe Claussell, Danny Krivit and Francois K as residents. The crowd was a mix of gay and straight people and they played deep house. Real deep house I mean. One of the promoters was an English guy actually. I would also go to a place called Shelter sometimes which is somewhat well known in the realm of house music.”
Some people might assume, with this being your debut EP, that you’re relatively new to the game but as we understand it this might not exactly be the case. Could you tell us a little bit about how you got started making music? “I started making music very early, when I was about 11 or 12. This was over 20 years ago. I was somewhat precocious due to having siblings who were much older than me. I didn’t have any equipment or money, and you couldn’t make music on a PC back then, so I was quite limited in what I could achieve. We had this electric organ thing that had little rhythms that you could play along with, like “bossa nova” and “foxtrot”, stuff like that. It sounded really cheesy but I opened it up and messed around with the parts inside, like potentiometers and stuff, and got it to make really weird sounds until one day I accidentally stuck my screwdriver between two wires and fried the whole thing. It never worked after that. I also had a PC with Windows 3.1 and I made crude gabba tunes using random .wav files in the sound editor. Then my uncle gave me an Atari ST and it came with some sequencer software. That was my first real foray into music composition in terms of what I do now with sequencers and stuff. I still didn’t have any synths but you could play samples through the internal Atari sound card. Then I saved up enough money for my first synth.
When I was 13 I used to skateboard quite a bit. One of the other skaters in my town was this older kid (he was about 19) and he got into wanting to make tunes. He was aware that I knew about producing music using midi equipment so we ended up making stuff together. His parents were quite well off and we had some pretty nice toys to play with, my favorite of which was a TR-909. We made industrial hardcore techno because that’s what the guy was into and it was mostly his equipment. My tastes were a bit more eclectic but I liked the stuff we were doing and was happy to go along with it. We performed live at some raves despite the fact that i was so young. When I was 14 I moved away from that town so that came to an end, but by that time I’d scraped together enough equipment to make some tunes on my own. I made everything from house to jungle through techno and ambient etc.. Even some dub (not dubstep, that wasn’t around then).
Later on I became obsessed with Goldie and Metalheadz so I made a lot of that kind of stuff for a while. I tried to copy a lot of production techniques from that first Goldie album, Timeless. To me that was the pinnacle of electronic music production at the time. The first time I listened to it I was just floored. I never sent any demos to anyone back then, even though I believed some of my tunes were on par with some of the stuff that was coming out on Metalheadz. This was in the dark ages before the internet so I didn’t know anything about how to get my music out there. I basically had no connections and no idea where to get the information that I needed. Not to mention that I was just a kid, who was going to give me the time of day?”
Stream: Imami – Panlight (Rinse FM clip) (Forthcoming LuckyMe)
“I know it’s kind of a massive cliché for me to say this but kids these days don’t know how good they have it with the internet, full production suites inside laptops etc.. Information on demand. Absolute luxury. I had to figure everything out on my own, no YouTube tutorials and message boards, just the occasional synth magazine. In some ways it was a disadvantage but in other ways I think it had a beneficial effect on the music I make. I think when you hear my music you can maybe tell that it’s coming from a different place than the music of someone who learned to produce in the last few years. Not that it’s necessarily better, just different. Maybe being forced to use whatever random weird equipment I could get my hands on has forced me to be more resourceful and maybe sent me on some weird tangents as far as the sounds I produce and the methods I use go. Or maybe I’m just trying to build some half baked romantic mythology about my origins.
In the early to mid 00’s, like a lot of people, I got bored and burned out on dance music. I got into producing more downtempo psychedelic indie-rock/electronic crossover type stuff and learned a lot about old-school 60’s and 70’s production techniques and equipment and started lusting over old Neve’s and Api’s and things like that. I made a vacuum tube mic pre-amp based on a schematic for an old RCA broadcasting console from the 50s, which took me about a year because I had no knowledge of electronic engineering before I started. A guy I used to talk to on an audio electronics mailing list had some of the original audio transformers from that console and he let me borrow them for a while to use in my pre-amp. They were great monolithic metal hunks of cold war technology, they felt indestructible.
One day I accidentally erased my hard drive and lost everything I had ever worked on. I was so upset that I ended up taking a break from producing and kind of forgot about it for 5 years. During that time I opened a home made ice cream shop but that’s a whole other story. Around 2010 I sold the business and had started to feel excited about electronic music again so I got back into producing. I have spent the last few years synthesizing all this knowledge and these unique experiences into a sound that I hope is equally unique and specific to me. I will leave it to others to decide whether the fruits born of this synthesis are worth their valuable time.”
Stream: Imami – Ambulate
We think we’ve managed to track you down to Leeds, how do you feel about the scene there at the moment? “Well I did live in Leeds for a bit when I first moved back to the UK but I’m not from there and I have since moved to another city. I moved to Leeds because I have some connections in the scene there and I have some family and friends in York which is just down the road. It also seemed like the most cosmopolitan of northern cities and I was considering studying science at the university. There are a lot of good producers who come from Leeds and there’s a fairly active scene there but to be honest I was never particularly involved in the local scene.
When it comes down to it, I have always been kind of an outsider. I think it’s from moving around so much and living in foreign countries for most of my life. There is no place that I could say that I ‘belong’ but I’m fine with it because I’ve never known anything else and it’s just who I am. I have a tendency to isolate myself from people but I’m trying to change that.”
Now, let’s talk about the release. First off, congratulations! It’s been on heavy rotation here at Truants and I know we’re all digging it. It’s out on Apothecary Productions, how did you first connect with Druid Cloak? “Thanks! As far as I know he first became aware of me through the LuckyMe radio show on RinseFM and then he contacted me and said he was interested in releasing some of my music. His label was brand new at the time and had not released anything but I had no qualms about working with him as he is also a talented, well respected producer in his own right and is very passionate about the whole thing. I knew that he would run a serious operation and that I would not be disappointed in the outcome. I think he wants to make his label something special and he has the vision and determination to see it through.”
How’s the reaction been so far? “The reaction has been very good so far and I feel very blessed that there are people who appreciate my music so much. After all this time, it’s nice to be putting stuff out there and to be getting some good reactions from it.”
What’s your recording process like and what set up are you using at the moment? “All the tunes on the Madhouse EP were made in the box, in Ableton with only a keyboard in terms of external hardware. I’ve recently moved into a bigger apartment so now that I have extra space I’ve started to acquire equipment to build a more traditional studio with samplers and synths etc.. I’m trying to find some unusual sounding stuff. I like a certain gritty character to my sound that is easier to achieve with external hardware, so I’m looking forward to having a lot of fun with that in the future. I look for the kind of old equipment that might have been used on my favourite records from the 80s.”
It’s fair to say that each track on Madhouse is markedly different, did you sit down and specifically write an EP as a cohesive unit or was there another intention to it? “No, the EP wasn’t written as a cohesive unit and the tunes were made at different times. I guess Druid Cloak just picked the ones he liked the most and thought would make a good EP. I realize it’s quite varied compared to most records but I think it works. There’s a sense of fun to it and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. That’s a certain characteristic I like to have in my music.”
With that in mind, I’d imagine you take inspiration from a wide cross-section of artists. Who are some of the people you take inspiration from and can you remember what, in particular, you were listening to when you made Madhouse? “Yes, I’ve always had very eclectic tastes in terms of music and love a lot of different kinds of music. Not to be cliché, but I take a fair bit of inspiration from Prince. The name Madhouse came from a side project that Prince had going on in the 80’s with Eric Leeds. So I was listening to a lot of that around the time when I made Madhouse and obviously the tune is inspired by it. There’s also this band from the 80’s called The Family which was formed by Prince and he wrote all the music and songs etc.. I was listening to that a fair bit at the time. Besides Prince I listen to a lot of other 80’s stuff too; Tears for Fears, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Art of Noise… All kinds of stuff.”
“I love Sonic Youth, The Cure… The list goes on. This is stuff I’ve always listened to so it’s sort of ingrained in my psyche. Not that I think it’s particularly ground-breaking that I listen to that stuff and take inspiration from it. I don’t think I’m the first or anything. Of course, all the electronic music from my youth is also a big inspiration. I had a friend who was obsessed with Strictly Rhythm so we used to listen to that stuff a lot and that’s kind of where “Melted Love” came from.”
When I hear “Ghost2Ghost”, I always think that it would fit perfectly over an old-school driving game like OutRun and you’ve got some other stuff on your Soundcloud like “Orion Part 1″ which I hear a lot of “Golden Age” platformer influence in… Would you say you’re also influenced by video game soundtracks? “That’s interesting, I can’t really picture that tune being in a video game for some reason. I used to play OutRun like mad but I don’t remember the music. Like a lot of my peers, I grew up playing all those old-school games to the point of impairing my vision, so I’m sure those soundtracks and sounds are a big part of my psyche now too. I think it has been done a lot at this point though so I don’t really use those kinds of sounds these days. I would rather try to come up with something new.”
Stream: Imami – Orion Part 1
We recently interviewed The Range who said he discovers a lot of his samples in the depths of YouTube; where do you gather your samples, or inspiration for your samples from? “I like using acapellas for vocal samples… Yeah, I can definitely say there have been moments of inspiration brought on by watching random weird videos on YouTube and hearing a sound or something. I remember getting samples from a YouTube video once or twice in the past but I can’t remember specifically what they were. I’ll take samples from anywhere really, I don’t care. If I think it’s right for what I’m doing I will use it. I sample records that I like… Anything really.”
You’ve got remixes of Madhouse on the EP from SCNTST and Visionist, what can you tell us about these? “I became acquainted with SCNTST online through Soundcloud about a year ago and we send each other tunes. Visionist, same thing, but I think I’ve been in touch with him a bit longer. He is involved with the label/collective 92 Points and I know a couple of the other people who run it with him. I respect them both as producers and they are very talented so I knew they would provide some interesting remixes, and their styles are quite different so I figured it would add some interesting variety.”
Can you talk to us about your LuckyMe affiliation? Obey City recently put Ghost2Ghost in his Fader mix and it seems there’s always something new from you on the label’s RinseFm show. From what we understand you’ve got a forthcoming release with them, is that right? How did that come about and what does it mean for you to have their support going forward? “Yes, I will be releasing on LuckyMe in the future. Basically, the way that came about is that I sent some tunes to Eclair Fifi and she ended up playing some stuff on their RinseFM show. I just kept sending stuff and they would play it on the show. After a few months of doing this they got in touch with me to see if I would be interested in doing an EP for them.”
A lot of the artists on LuckyMe’s roster tend to do some work with rappers/vocalists. You’ve obviously got HudMo doing his thing. Rustie’s on the new Danny Brown album. Obey City’s done some beats for Flatbush Zombies…the list goes on! With versatility being one of your strong suits, is this something you’ve got any interest in dabbling in? “That’s not necessarily what I’m aiming for personally, but it’s not something that I would rule out. If someone approached me and I liked what they had going on I would give it a shot. Why not? I like to try new things. Actually, for a long time when I lived in Brooklyn I was just making hip hop beats all the time and using acapellas on top, so you could say I’ve dabbled in that kind of stuff before.”
So other than the aforementioned, what else is on the horizon for you? We’d imagine you’d want to get out and play some of these tracks! Are you working on a live show? “Yes, I’d like to start playing a lot more gigs in the near future so I’m looking forward to that. As far as a live show, I have thought about it and I’m quite interested in the prospect of doing that. I wouldn’t want to half-ass it though. I will only do it if I can make it interesting and not just play a bunch of pre-programmed sequences otherwise I don’t think there’s much point. I do have some experience of performing live with a 909 and some synths years ago and it was a lot of fun so I would probably go that route again if I did. I’m already buying synths and studio hardware so it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch. I’d want to make sure it’s different every time by not preparing stuff ahead of time and just seeing what I come up with on the spot.”
If I may I’d like to end with some Truants classics! What is your drink of choice and when was the last time you danced? “My favorite drink is ginger beer. I love it! I sometimes make my own… I dance all the time, around the house and stuff. I dance for my cats, they’re a tough crowd though. It’s OK, it just makes me want to push myself harder and be the best dancer I can be!”
Stream: Imami – Madhouse (Apothecary Compositions)
Imami – Madhouse is out now on Apothecary Compositions.
Words by Matt Coombs, 30 November 2013. Leave a comment
Boya hasn’t put out much, but he’s caught the attention of some of the biggest names in electronic music right now, what with a feature on an Opal Tapes compilation and getting airplay from the mighty Ben UFO on the Hessle Rinse show. This week he put out an EP on Mister Saturday Night, and to coincide with that release he’s graced us with the latest entry to our Truancy Volume mix series. We sat down with him an a small cafe in Dublin’s Temple Bar and chatted about the intimate nature of making music and why he’s feeling very laidback about his career.
Stream: Boya – The Boya EP (Mister Saturday Night)
I was googling Boya and I came upon the following entries on Urban Dictionary: To spend time in doors, with out being outside for hours on end, smoking pot and playing video games, and in Arab language it means that a girl is acting like guys and dressing like them. “They wouldn’t be the inspiration for it, but they’re pretty good consequences.” Where did it come from? “I don’t really know. There’s a film called Boy A, it’s quite a strange film about John Venables, it’s like a fictionalised version of it, and I thought it was a nice little phrase. That was one thing, and I always liked the sound of the club night Hoya Hoya. I like ending on ‘ya’ for some reason. It’s not really from anything.”
So you’re from Cavan then? “Well I was born there. I moved to Dublin when I was six or seven.” So you’d think of yourself as a Dub then? “Yeah. I grew up in Rathgar and moved to Rathmines.” Was it in school that you got into music? “Yeah, it would have been in the last year, I was doing a bit of study and got really bored, and I downloaded Ableton and then just started messing around with it to kill time really, cause it was so boring that year. It sort of developed from there really. It basically out of being bored and 17 and having nothing else to do.” Were you already into dance music? “No, not at all. I played in bands before from the age of 12 to 16, towards maybe 17 or 18 I got interested in the Twisted Pepper and going out, a lot of that, stuff that was going on in London at the time, I got into it in a really mish-mash way, pick one thing off the internet and then moving on to another, so it’s not like I’m some dance music specialist. I would never pretend to know the canon or whatever.” What were the bands like? “Kind of more punky, we would have listened to a lot of Four Tet at the time. That kind of post-punk stuff. The only way it’s similar to the Boya stuff is that there’s a lot of live drumming, not very maybe together.”
How did you first get in contact with Daire Carolan from First Second? “I actually don’t know. I presume he messaged me some day, on Soundcloud, Daire being Daire I think I’d bumped into him somewhere. I knew him from around and then he messaged me, one thing led to another and we did that EP. His whole thing has taken off, it’s a bit all over the place but it’s good.” I remember at the time I said it was like Black Dog/90s techno stuff, would that have been influential for you? “I actually really hate those tunes now. I have this problem that I have to delete stuff that I release, I reflect on it and I reflect on it in a bad way. A lot of the problems I have with listening back to stuff is that I’m still developing so much, it’s a craft, so I’ve only got to a certain point, and at that point I was only 18 and it’s not something that I want to be out there. But it was really good to do. It was a good point to get to, and it was good for motivation to get going.”
From there, your music has changed a bit, the sound is different. Has that just happened along the way? “I don’t know if this is true or not, but I started making stuff on a Toshiba and I switched because it broke and I bought a Mac, and after that everything started sounding much clearer, I’m not sure if that was because of the change, I certainly tried to change, it was very muddled, some of the sounds, sometimes that was intentional and sometimes it was out of ignorance, and not being able to use the program properly. A lot of the stuff I do wouldn’t be intentional, it’s very stream of consciousness, sitting in a bit of a trance, quite late at night.”
You haven’t put out much at all, but last year you had a track on an Opal Tapes compilation. How did you get in contact with Stephen [Bishop, aka Opal Tapes boss Basic House]? “I think it was through Soundcloud again, he emailed me about doing a tape, we were talking about it and it then it never happened, the only thing I ended up doing was the compilation. That’s happened to me a few times, I think I want to do something, I get four or five tracks together that I really like, and it doesn’t come together, or I get a bit frustrated with it. It does take me a long time to decide, okay, these are good, and I’m constantly changing my mind, which is a good thing, but I wouldn’t want to continue doing it forever.”
You’ve had a similar path to fellow Dub Gareth Smyth, aka Lumigraph – you both started with First Second, you’ve both done things with Opal Tapes and now you’re both on Mister Saturday Night. How did you get in contact with Mister Saturday Night? “That was the same again – it’s pretty boring! Justin Carter messaged me on Soundcloud – I put up these two long mixes of stuff I did in one sitting, and I think he liked one of them and he asked me to send more, and that begun a process of constantly sending him music. The whole thing went on for maybe a year and a half. I had been talking to Anthony Naples online, and I think he showed them the tracks, or they found them themselves, and Anthony had been emailing Gareth. The Mister Saturday Night thing was really weird, because I had watched a lot of those Mister Sunday videos on YouTube and I thought ‘oh this is a really cool thing in New York’, and then they messaged me and I was really taken aback by it. It was out of nowhere, which was nice. Then after that we just started this incredibly long process of finding out what I’d want to release, and what they would think would fit their label. I think it took particularly long because I’d send them two things and it wasn’t enough, and two weeks later I’d send them more stuff and it was completely different, so it kept going on like that.”
What was it that brought you to this housier place? The first second one was 4/4, but it was very abstract, the phrases weren’t in a solid structure and the music was quite hazy, whereas this stuff is a lot more focused. “I think a lot of the tracks that I made up until last Christmas were like the First Second one, I think it was through Mister Saturday Night that it was like, okay, this is the label that I’m going to release on, it was for a record, also the stuff that i was listening to started to change. I got into that whole London scene in 2009/2010, Four Tet and Caribou. There Is Love In You and Swim are the two things that I really loved at that time, that’s the stuff that stayed with me. I can’t explain it, I think it’s like this. number one because, it was for Mister Saturday Night and they have to put out a record that people are going to listen to on a dancefloor, and it’ll work for people to play. It’s more that a lot of the stuff that I make only works in particular settings, I have to augment that a little. It’s more of a focus. A lot of the stuff that I have on my computer, you couldn’t play it in front of people. It’s like a little segment of time. That might be the way I was making things for one week, and then it changed. It’s not for functional reasons but it’s also for the label. over that year and a half they were emailing me like ‘oh this is good, we don’t really like this’, so the focus was from working with them.” Have you had a chance to meet them? “They came last January in the Bernard Shaw. We went for dinner, it’s funny meeting someone that you’ve emailed for so long. They’ve got really good music taste, obviously I’d say that, but they’ve managed to keep people interested in the label and the party, obviously it’s pretty trendy as well. I think I’m going to go over in March, I’ve been trying to go over for a year, but it’s really expensive, and it’s hard to know whether to go over for a holiday or to work. I’ll probably go over for two weeks and play.”
What’s your thing now, do you play live or DJ? “I just play records. I started playing live, which was weird. I started playing live, just pressing play on Ableton, it was a bit of a joke. Some of the funniest times I’ve had with Daire have been standing in the Twisted Pepper with my Toshiba breaking, and people looking around because it’s flicking in and out. It was a good way to start, because I had no experience apart from being in the band.” Especially if you were playing drums, so you’re literally in the background. “Yeah, although in the Twisted Pepper cafe there’s not that much pressure. But it also gave a bit of humour. I really can’t stand people who’ve got this frown on their face. That’s one of the things that I became a bit disillusioned with, the clubbing experience. Becoming so stuck in a small little part of music which is good for certain situations. I know everyone says this but I would try and listen to everything that I can. I would be turned off someone who wouldn’t be open to playing a set of different types of music. That’s why I love Floating Points so much. I know that can become a ‘thing’ but I don’t think you can encapsulate that in a little trend. Obviously then you can be too wide ranging, and nobody wants to listen to you. I really would be bored out of my mind going to a techno set and having 4/4 the whole time.”
And you taught yourself to DJ? “I bought Technics and then Serato, and then last year I sold my Serato to these Nigerian DJs. I needed money for the summer. Now it’s being used in some Nigerian night in town. I find playing with records a bit easier because you’re stuck with them. With Serato you could have 10,000 tunes. The only thing that I don’t like is that they’re made from oil. I’m a bit green [laughs]. I was talking to my friend about 3D printing. I like playing records though. A good example is that I like CDs in a car, I think vinyl works in a club. But I don’t really care, it’s just a personal preference. But if I go to see someone play I want to hear something I haven’t heard before, or that I don’t recognise or that’s put in a new context. That’s what keeps you interested. That’s what would have happened me when I was younger, they way that dubplate thing developed in London and people putting stuff on YouTube, and looking for stuff, I think that’s brilliant it’s the modern equivalent of what people did with tapes and recording radio.” I was just saying last night that the likes of NTS, Rinse and Subcity have really got me back into radio lately. “Four years ago radio for me was RTE One or Lyric fm that my parents would listen to, it was more of a novelty. I think they’ve really done well to bring that whole thing forward.” Twitter shout-outs and all that. Speaking of Rinse, you got a play last night from Ben UFO. Were you listening at the time? “Yes, I happened to be listening last night. I kind of recognised this tune coming in, I was like ‘Awh, yes!’ Sitting on my couch I brought my laptop up to my face. It’s a justification of all the hours you put in. Someone like him… I was looking at Don’t Be Afraid’s Twitter and they said that that whole show is the continuation of the spirit of Jon Peel’s show on BBC and I’d agree with that. I was really, really happy that he played it!”
We were talking about Basic House earlier, he put one of your tracks in his Blowing Up The Workshop mix. “That’s one that I’ve come back to, I’m going to edit it. I like the start of it, I think it could be made into a good tune.” Would it fit on Opal Tapes? “I was interested in doing it but he releases so much, and if I was going to send him something it would have to be really good, and I’m not sure I have anything that he’d like. I love the new Oneohtrix Point Never album, I’ve done some ambient tracks that would be more on the melodic end of things, less texturey. I’ll have a few of those in the mix for you. If I’m doing a mix I really like making tracks for it. I’ve done a few edits. It’ll mostly be my own stuff, maybe Gareth and Morgan’s stuff, but it’ll be mostly mine. [To be honest] I don’t like the internet for music. It’s been so beneficial for me, but I find it almost cringey, almost like showing a video to your class.” Have you ever heard of the bad ears? It’s when I play a song for someone and all I can hear is everything that could conceivably be bad about it. And all of a sudden I’m really self-conscious about you not liking a song that I like, so if it’s something that you’ve made yourself it must be completely amplified. “That’s perfect. Making a piece of music is such a private experience up to a point, and then it’s almost like an invasion of your privacy. And I love it, on one level, but then in another way you do become very self-conscious of it. Then again I’m not some cowering shadow in a darkened room in Rathmines! I think it’s good to reflect on it as well, but too much reflection, I’ve listened to the Mister Saturday Night stuff too much, you shouldn’t listen to your stuff too much, it can have a bad effect. I’m fond of the tracks, I’m proud of them, but I’ve listened to them too many times.”
Did you know there’s a graphic designer called Boya? “There’s also an Israeli youth association. I was a bit worried about was the grime MC from London, Boya Dee, he’s written in The Guardian. The name, it’s just so inconsequential. In a year or two if I thought it was silly I’d change it. I’ve no connection to a brand or anything.” You seem pretty laidback about everything. “I have to be. If I tried to control this and make it contrived I’d have to stop. Also it’s not that big, it’s not Miley Cyrus, like a worldwide brand. I’m just this guy who’s putting music out on a label. I think that’s a healthy attitude to have. I’m confident in what I do but I’m not interested in coming across as it’s a brand or this is a permanent fixture. It’s a very simple thing if you think about it. The ‘Valve’ track was made in my bed, I missed a lecture in college and I finished the track. To put it in context, you know those guys that run Numero Group and Test Pressing. There’s this scene of people who are diggers and make edits, there’s a real humility to it because they’re sampling. I really like their humility towards music, you’re in such a privileged position to be able to make music and put it on the internet, and have people follow it. I really like that unassuming take on things. It definitely comes from the idea of the guy who looks through a load of records and is a real nerd about it, and the influences come through in the music he or she makes, and then you do have a sense of humility around it. You’re indebted to a lot of people. I really like that Personal Space compilation on Numero Group, all these old private recordings in the 70s and 80s, kind of electronic soul. I really like that idea of it being a really personal thing. It’s more honest to be like ‘I just made this music, I’m putting it out there’.”
What’s your drink of choice? “Peppermint tea.” And when was the last time you danced? “I danced in my house to this Leon Lowman record that’s out on Music From Memory, it’s a reissue. And I dance like a dad when I listened to it.”
Chung-Han Yao – Untitled
Pharoah Sanders – Morning Prayer
Leon Lowman – Liquid Diamonds
Bullion – Collision
Sade – Paradise (Apiento Edit)
Pharaohs – Island Time
Maxmillion Dunbar – Ice Room Graffiti
Joe – Slope
Jahiliyya Fields- Aeon Anon
Young Marco – Nonono
Dreams Unlimited – Deep In You (L.T.J. Club Mix)
Newworldaquarium - Trespassers
Seaboard Coastliners – Dance Dance All Night Long
Ströer – Don’t Stay for Breakfast
Erkki Kurenniemi – Sähkösoittimen Ääniä # 1
Kassem Mosse – Staat Aus Glas
Boya – Knees
Elgato – Music (Body Mix)
Boya – Dawn Corner
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 29 November 2013. 1 comment
Despite joking with his friends that his music alias RVDS could be an abbreviation for a number of things such as “Rich Violet Detroit Sound” or “Rude Visions Destroys Science”, it’s relatively easy to see where producer Richard von Der Schulenburg got his inspiration from. Based in Hamburg, Schulenburg has been a resident DJ at the city’s finest club – the Golden Pudel - for oven seven years and has tightly woven himself, alongside other luminaries, into the influential house scene in Hamburg. In the time since commencing his residency at Pudel, Schulenberg started his own label ‘It’s in 2008, roping in talents such as Felix Kubin and A Different Jimi, among a small selection of others, but mainly using it as an outlet for his own fragile ideas and creations. Fellow Hamburg resident and Dial head honcho Lawrence describes him as “an excellent producer playing the keys of deepness all night and day,” a comment which has since seen them team up with fellow Dial member Christian Naujoks for a musical project titled Skywalking. Despite none of their recordings being online yet, the project has been mentioned in interviews as a Krautrock-Jazz-Space band that acts as a ‘musical conversation’ between all three artists. In more recent times Schulenburg released his second full length album Moments and also found his way onto the popular Acid Test series alongside Joey Anderson, having remixed Tin Man’s brilliant “Finger Paint”. With RVDS being such an integral part of the Golden Pudel family and the Hamburg scene, it’s no surprise that his newest release finds him debuting on another of the city’s main attractions; the record shop and label Smallville.
Titled Moon On Milky Way, the release features three tracks that take Schulenburg’s soft touched house approach to even gentler levels. This is immediately observable with opening track “Monday Rain”, which prolongs a simple acid tinged melody for the duration of the track with minor alterations. All this against a background of barely audible rain patter, and it’s very easy to describe the track as therapeutic even. Title track “Moon On Milky Way” and “Winter Moonness” follow a similar approach but on a more traditional four by four beat and are the type of tracks where you can press play, gird yourself in for seven minutes and magically zone out from their effervescent but simplistic appeal. A milestone in the sweetest of analogue house music, dedicated to the moon.
Stream: RVDS – Moon On Milky Way (Smallville Records)
Words by Riccardo Villella, 27 November 2013. Leave a comment
Akkord. Δkkord. Whichever. The shadowy Manchester duo surfaced early last year, dropping a well regarded, self-titled EP on their own label. Having provided a mix for the esteemed Electronic Explorations blog early on, they subsequently featured on the weighty EE compilation the following summer. It was appropriate, then, that they would join the ranks at Houndstooth, fabric’s in-house label, run by EE’s Mr Rob Booth. First came the Navigate EP back in May, and now, at the year’s end, we’re treated to an album from these dark characters. While the revelation that the men behind the masks were in fact Mancunians Indigo and Synkro was less exciting than one might have hoped (just imagine the possibilities), it in no way took away from the power of the pair’s music. If you’ve been following their releases, and either listened to their RA podcast or watched their Boiler Room appearance, the sound of the album won’t come as much of a shock: dark, atmospheric workouts and percussive jams, imbued with an air of mysticism and wonder.
“Torr Vale” recalls Closer-era Plastikman (“Ask Yourself” was featured in that RA podcast), a cavernous drone preparing listeners for an hour of ominous portent. Despite the sci-fi movie feelings one feels the title in fact refers to a cotton mill in Derbyshire, UK. It now sits disused, reputedly in a lamentable state of repairs, this ode therefore harking towards an imagined incantation in a former site of industry. “Smoke Circle”, conversely, invokes feelings of dark nights spent around the fires of ancient shamans – forget the club, or even the rave, this is desert trance. Rattling tribal drums collide with throbbing bass and hissing white noise, while the groan of a spiritual leader sits quietly enough to attack your subconscious.”3dOS” is where things really get heavy, messing with your mind as it moves through drum patterns and flows like a time capsule of every rhythm that’s ever moved you.
Stream: Akkord – Hex_ad (Houndstooth)
Similarly unsettling is “Hex_ad”, which may well be the best 3/4 techno jam we’ve ever encountered. Just when you think you’ve got a straight-up banger, they switch it on you like that. After the dnb-meets-dark ambience of “Channel Drift” – which was released on tape as one of the various forms of promo undertaken ahead of the album’s release – we have “Navigate”, which sounds just as good here as it did in single format, and in countless mixes over the past six months. The clanks and moans of “Undertow”, meanwhile, close things out in sinister fashion, the hum of abandoned electronics and outlying winds offering no comfort or solace. If previous albums on Houndstooth such as from Special Request and Snow Ghosts were concerned with a folkloric past, urban or pastoral, then Akkord’s self-titled LP is most certainly focused on the future darkness that may await. It is indeed a triumph, a dark listening experience that should be shared and treasured.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 25 November 2013. Leave a comment
Last year Dutch producer Torus was responsible for the inaugural release on Sonic Router Records, the imprint borne out of the highly respected blog of the same name. A year later they teamed up to drop Yard Sale, a free release that was also available, like its predecessor, on cassette. Ahead of his first vinyl release, the limited marbled 7″ Feeel record, we caught up with Torus and talked YouTube sessions, other dimensions and the difference between a #sadboy and an #emotionalboy.
Stream: Torus – Feeel (Sonic Router Records)
So how are you? “I’m good man, Noisey NL just called me one of six most promising yung producers of NL which is sick, because we have a lot of yung producers. Who else is on the list? “I don’t know all of them but two friends of mine, Know V.A. and BOEBOE, are on it as well.” That’s good to hear. Feeel is about to come out soon, how are you feeeling about it? “I’m feeeling pretty good about it. Most of the songs were already finished like a year ago, so there was a pretty long time between finishing it and releasing it. But I still feeel all of the songs, which gives me confidence.” That’s pretty important. “Yeah, like if I still like these tracks after a year, [that] must be a good thing.” Definitely. Have you seen the 7″? Yea man I got like eight sitting on my desk right now.” Nice, I can’t wait to see it. “Yeaaa man, they look fuckin amazing. So hyped about that. My first vinyl.” Moving on from tapes at last. “Haha, yea. It’s a big step.” Next time you get a 10″ and so on. “Maybe, yea. Or I’ll try and see if there’s a way to do 8″, and add 1″ per release. Once I hit 12″ I’ll drop my debut album.”
Stream: Torus – Torus EP Preview (Sonic Router Records)
This is your third release for Sonic Router, and your first was also the label’s first – how did you first get in touch with Oli? “Basically, I was done making microwave beat shit and throwing them on Soundcloud and not looking back at it ever again, so I decided to start making an EP. I was going to self-release it, so I was contacting blogs about it, including Sonic Router. Then Oli told me that he wanted to start a label, and this was the kind of stuff he wanted to start it with, hah.” So it was mutually beneficial. “Yea, proper exposure for me and cool music for him.” And whose idea was it to start off with a tape? “Damn, I can’t really remember. I think it was my idea, I know I wanted to release something on tape for a long time already. Maybe Oli had been thinking about it before that though. I guess it just made sense for a first release too.” It was a bit different at the time. “Yeah, I guess I liked that. There were a couple of guys working with it already though like Leaving, so I guess it was just weird enough, because they sold out.” That’s always a good sign. Then this year, exactly a year later, you guys put out the Yard Sale – for free, but with the tape option too. “It was a free thing because it was mostly cuts from Feeel, but I still felt like it deserved a physical thing. So I hand-recorded like 30 tapes and stamped them and screen-printed the covers and made a mini poster.” That’s a lot of work. “It really was a lot of work. But I really liked to do it. Same with the whole Feeel thing actually. I made all the visual things, only this time we let other people do the physical work, so that’s how I found the time to do a video I guess.”
Stream: Torus – Shallow Depth
You’re really embedded in Sonic Router, having put out three releases now. Do you see yourself staying there for a while? “I actually don’t know, man. I’m always open for other things if I fuck with it. But I guess there’ll always be a special bond with Sonic Router. I also know there are a bunch of things I make Oli doesn’t fuck with so that could always happen somewhere else.” So there’s room for exploration there. “Yes, for sure.”
I really thought the Yard Sale stuff was darker than other stuff you’ve put out – but you say it came from the same time as Feeel? It’s definitely darker than the Torus EP. “Yea man, that’s true. Torus EP was really laidback, and when I was making Feeel it was really a time of experimenting with my sound and with vibes. Like you could see Feeel EP as a progression from really laidback stuff to darker stuff, and most of the Yard Sale stuff came from the part that I was working with that last part of Feeel. I guess I made ‘2mrrw’ right after I finished Feeel at first, then I made ‘Tribes’ so Feeel was reinvented or something. And ‘Shallow Depth’ was around ‘Elsewhere’.”
What’s the process like for you when you’re making tracks? “Hmm, it’s really different every time. Sometimes I have an idea in mind for a long time, and then I sit behind my Macbook and I just make it. But sometimes I just sit behind my Macbook and I hear something I like and I just open Ableton. Or sometimes I just open Ableton and just fuck around and see what happens. I could be starting with a rap beat, but end up making a really ambient song, straight up ambient, because I only like the melody. Just delete everything except the melodies, and start layering, add fx, overcompress everything, add textures. It could really be anything. I guess it’s good not to have one pattern if you’re trying to be open to new things, and I guess there’s already kind of a pattern in your mind based on the things you like or don’t like.”
You say you make rap beats, have you ever worked with a rapper? “Sometimes I work with friends of mine just for fun, to step away from the deep layered thought-through vibes.” More raw, natural stuff? “Yea, more raw and more space for someone to go over it. But I did some things with Lofty305 from Metro Zu some weeks back that are probably coming out on his album. For me if it happens it’s cool because I make this stuff anyways, but if it doesn’t it’s okay because I got something else I’ve been working on too.”
You’re studying in Rotterdam right? “Yep. I’m doing Graphic Design at the Willem De Kooning Academy of Art.” Is there more of a ‘scene’ (for want of a better word) for music there than in your home? “Well, the thing about Holland is is that its so small that it doesn’t really matter. But I feel like the most things happen in Amsterdam for the ‘scene’. Rotterdam is more house and techno focused (they got Clone records). But at the same time they have Buma Rotterdam Beats Festival. So everywhere there’s places for it, but most of it happens in Amsterdam.” Do you go down to Amsterdam much? “Yea, I play there pretty often. I actually got my Feeel release party happening over there. It’s at this club close by Amsterdam central station called Bitterzoet on November 21. It’s gonna be really cool. I got all my producer friends to do a b2b2b2b.”
You said in the Nikola Zecevic documentary that you’re also into photography, graphic design, and fashion – how does this tie into your music? “Hmm, I guess that I’m just always open to every way of creative expression so with that mind-state I can keep from limiting myself and keep experimenting, whether its sound or image, and obviously I make all my own artwork.” There’s something very elegant about the font for Feeel. Did you choose that? “Yes I did! And thank you. It’s a stretched version of Times Bold.” Hah, yeah the kerning seemed a bit wide. In a good way though. “Yea, that too. It makes it look even more stretched. Maybe it’s a thing, with length comes elegance.”
With the artwork, and part of the video, some of it seems kind of retro, almost Windows 95 – is that deliberate? “Well I guess, yea. I like how everything looks really digital, and if I would spend all this time to make it look really realistic it wouldn’t make sense any more. The whole idea was to take organic stuff and take them out of their context and place them in a non-organic environment. And the more it looked like that the more the image looks digital and non-organic I guess.” I was looking up the word torus and i came across 3d imaging – and that stuff always makes me think of Homer Simpson going into the third dimension. Speaking of taking things out of their environment. “Hah! Yea man that’s it.”
I’ve noticed some Soundcloud tags like “emo” and “I want to cry”, are you a #sadboy at heart? “Wait did I tag that? [Laughs] I think Oli did. But I think I did tag my stuff as emo, for fun. But yea, I’m not really a sadboy at heart. Maybe more of an emotional boy for sure. #emotionalboy. I can listen to Drake’s sad songs all day.” Oh yeah, two Drake tracks in your mix! Who did that cover of “I’m On One”? “It’s Bei Maejor. He does a lot of R&B piano acoustic covers, so sick.” When I got the mix I sent Oli like three or four emails in a row, it was an emotional experience for sure. As he said, you really nailed a vibe. “Yea man, I don’t like to make a mix and just put all the recent hits in 30 minutes or some shit. Everyone else is already doing that. I kinda approach a mix almost like it’s a song. Like the first song, adding things together in a way I like to listen to it. With the Tim Hecker song and some cassette recs.” It’s such a Truants mix though, with the Drake stuff, and starting with the Mariah track – just like our Club Full of Truants mix did. It’s like you knew! “Damn, you’re right. I actually didn’t know, that’s so cool.”
I wanted to ask about a sample you used – the Spirit of Truth angry reverend guy. How did you come across that? “A while back I was staying in Brighton with a friend of mine Perry that produces under the name Warm Thighs. I was there because I was playing a show with him and Shlohmo and Salva for Donky Pitch, which was amazing by the way. But he showed me this vid, that’s basically what we were watching the whole weekend, such an amazing video. And when I was making Feeel a couple of months later, I just really felt like adding his vox to the track “Chopsticks”. It adds a lot to the transition, I guess.” It’s a bit wild. Certainly the angriest thing I’ve heard from you. “It is really angry, isn’t it? But it’s not that angry at the same time because you know it’s kind of a joke if you’ve seen the video. But in terms of the sound only, it is angry. Everyone should see the video though. I think they’re on crack or something. The camera guy as well.” Have you ever seen the worst rap battle? “YES. I always wanted to use that sample instead of Spirit of Truth. C im da bess mane, I deed it.“
Stream: Rick Ross – U.O.E.N.O. (Torus Rick Ross’ Regret Remix)
You said you were playing in Brighton – you DJ more than play live right? “I do, but that’s because I always get asked to play at clubs. That was live though at Brighton.” What’s your live show like? “Since I don’t do it that much I don’t have one specific way to do it. The last time I played live I had My Macbook with Ableton, my MPD and a Mic thru the sp-404 for fx. So I have some songs of mine chopped up and some of them just whole but with certain parts left out, that I can fill in myself with for example my computer keyboard to play synth solos, and I use the mic to add the vocals and control the fx on the sp404. With my MPD I mix everything and trigger one shots and other fx.” And when you DJ – what’s your vibe? “I guess when I DJ it depends on what the vibe is in the club too and what kinda party it is. But most of the time I really get in a party vibe. But at the same time I just play what I wanna play so it’s like a party curated by Torus.”
When was the last time you danced? “What do you mean? Like dancing in general? Man, I dance all the time. Last time I danced was probably right before this interview while I was making a bacon and egg sandwich. I think I was dancing to this.” And what’s your drink of choice? “I guess Capri Sun Safari Fruits” You love Capri Sun! “Capri Sun is just dat drank.” You should watch this. “Haha, everyone sends me that video!”
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 20 November 2013. Leave a comment