Interview: Surgeon

It is almost an unworkable mission to write a befitting preamble to a conversation with Surgeon  that encompasses everything the frontiersman of techno has done in his career. It is not because we do not want to write a circumstantial opening statement, but rather  because there is an inordinate deal of to his back catalogue and musical passage we could rave on about for days. Starting out from his original home in Birmingham in the early nineties, Anthony Child has constantly kept himself in harness; a few projects being the releases of his six full-length outings and his collaborative work with Karl O’Connor as British Murder Boys, to the birth of Dynamic Tension Records and co-running the House Of God events for two decades. Child’s output has been as strong as ever: this year alone saw the reformation of the British Murder Boys for a one-off gig in Tokyo, the twenty year anniversary of the House Of God parties, the emergence of his alliance with Blawan under their Trade moniker, an album of mesmerising experimental ambient on NNA Tapes and a monthly show on the London radio station Rinse FM. We briefly caught up with Tony over e-mail to speak about his reunion with Regis at the start of the year and its location, why it is that Coil stands out to him and a handful of other topics.

Stream: British Murder Boys – Where Pail Limbs Lie (Liberation Technologies)

Hello Tony, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. How have you been? “I am very well thank you. Recently I’ve been on islands in the south of Japan and playing gigs in Poland, Italy, France and Germany.”

British Murder Boys reformed in April for an one-off performance. Could you tell us a little bit about how it went? “Karl and I had the chance to do a very special performance in Tokyo. We have worked with that venue before, so we knew that every small detail would be perfect. It was an intensely ritualistic performance using sight, sound and smell which had a huge psychological impact on us and those who were witness to it.” Other than working together with Karl, you’ve banded together with a handful of people to make music. Do collaborations bring out something in you that you normally don’t engage with? “I’m very careful about who I work with, I have to have a good personal connection with them; it’s quite an intimate thing. I’d describe it more as a conversation, rather than compromise. Of course that produces different results than working alone.”

Other than picking Tokyo for the BMB performance, I noticed you’ve been visiting Japan quite a lot. Could you tell us a little bit more about your relationship with the country? “I have regularly visited Japan since 1996 and I am fascinated by so many aspects of the country and culture. Performing there is always amazing, there is so much love from the crowd there.” Has what you’ve found yourself listening to dramatically changed in connection with where you’re living or visiting? “Yes, I have been spending extended periods of time in Maui (Hawaiʻi, red.) and my state of mind is very different while I am there. It is really impossible to listen to techno there, even to preview promos I am sent. I cannot connect to techno at all while I am there. It is actually a good break from it and I have a feel a fresh connection to it when I return home.”

It is fairly difficult to escape structure in terms of electronic music. Where do you stand on the dichotomy between structure and content? Do you think that it needs to be collapsed or not? “Brion Gysin’s cut-up technique was one thing that really altered my universe when I discovered it at an early age: a giant shift in consciousness. I do not abandon structure, rather I enjoy stretching and bending it. With techno I see the structure as being the functional aspect, the propulsion system.” Following Gysin’s influence on your work, are there any other artistic forms that influenced the way you think about creativity? “I also enjoy Cindy Sherman’s photography, especially her ‘Untitled Film Stills’. It is the sense of the depth of story going on behind the still picture that attracts me to them.”

Stream: Surgeon – Muggerscum Out (Soma Quality Recordings)

You’ve said that people will always come back to techno, as heavy electronic music is incredibly effective. Does techno’s appeal come directly from concrete situations or is it something more universal? “I guess it all depends how you dress it up, what surface image you give it. For me it goes much deeper than any of that.” How would you pinpoint its effectiveness? “Techno is a very versatile form, it can be bent and stretched a great deal and still remain techno. It is very effective functional music that people connect with in the club environment in a very deep way. Something that goes much much deeper than any fashion or even language. I see this every weekend.”

How did your regular show on Rinse come about and have you done radio in the past? “I have not done any radio in the past and was asked to do a one-off guest show for Rinse FM in April. That was a fun new experience; it just really came at the right time. That went well so after another guest show I was asked to make it a monthly show. It was something new for me, and going outside of my comfort zone.” One standout aspect of the shows is that you play a lot of new music, much of it yet to be released. Is this something that you do with radio and the platform that it provides for spreading new sounds, or is it more of an extension of your DJing in clubs? “I play almost all new music on the show because I find so much that I really like at the moment. That is a fundamental part of DJing for me: discovering music, being excited about it and wanting to share that music with other people. Quite a lot of the music I play on the Rinse shows is also the new music I am playing in my DJ sets, but the musical scope of the radio shows is much wider. Also, I mix the tracks in a very straightforward end-to-end way on the radio show, no layering or extra percussion like in my club DJ sets. I am presenting the music, rather than moving a dance floor.”

Stream: Trade – SHEWORKS005 Preview (Works The Long Nights)

Speaking of DJing, you are renowned for your creative approach to digital DJing. How do you think that your habits developed and evolved through your career? “Technically, the way I DJ is really just a means to an end. I do not have a fetish about the tools I use to do that. It is the results I am interested in. Recently, I have become a lot more focused on the precise way that the music controls the energy in the room, bringing it up, down, making people wait. Tension, pause, frustration, release.”

Coil means a lot of different things to different people: you draw a lot of inspiration from them and I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about your admiration for them? What do you make of Drew McDowall’s work with Tres Warren as Compound Eye? “In the mid 80’s I played some of my abstract tape music to Justin (who went on to run Cold Spring Records). He said, “It sounds like Coil” (who I had not heard) so I went out and bought their current LP at the time, Horse Rotorvator. I immediately connected with their music and followed them since then. For me, they have always projected something very deep and spiritual though their music. Thanks for mentioning Compound Eye, I had not heard of them and will check them out.”

And finally, when was the last time you danced? “I am dancing right now. Dancing and falling.”

Stream: Surgeon – Rinse FM Broadcast (9th October 2013)

On November 16th, The Hydra, Bugged Out & Bleed join forces to present a label showcase from Works The Long Nights with label founders Karenn (comprised of Blawan & Pariah) playing a scintillating live set as well as being joined by special guest Surgeon, the ever-prolific Midland and Sunil Sharpe.  For more information on the event and information on how to get tickets, see here

Photo by: Satoru Fueki.

Soraya Brouwer

LONDON VIA AMSTERDAM - Soundcloud & Instagram