Interview: Space Dimension Controller

We’ve been fans of Space Dimension Controller from the start, featuring him way back in the (relative) infancy of both our own blog and his career in early 2011. Since then he’s traversed worlds with his mind-expanding releases for R&S, focused on the floor with 12″s for Clone, and right now he’s preparing the release of an album he made when he was 18. Ninja Tune are about to drop Orange Melamine, and we got the chance to hang out and catch up with the man when he was in Dublin for the launch of District Magazine. We talked movies, nostalgia, artist’s block and the best way to avoid passing trends.

What have you been up to lately? “Not much, just the whole Ninja Tune stuff and all that, me being crap at responding to emails.” Are you doing many gigs in support of that? “No not yet. The first one is the launch, in the Pickle Factory in London, but I think we’ll start doing live Orange Melamine stuff later in the year.”

I notice you’ve quit Twitter. “Oh that was an accident! I had deleted it but with the intention of coming back, cause I like not having social media. I’ve got the artist page (on fb) and every now and then I come back and forth on Instagram, but I don’t have a personal Facebook page and I deleted my twitter but if you don’t reactivate it every 30 days it deletes itself, and I was on point with that and then I forgot one time.” So it’s not some grand statement or anything. “No, I didn’t do it on purpose. But I don’t miss it.”

Can you tell me about Orange Melamine? “I used to live with my grandparents and they had orange tiles in their kitchen, kind of plastic orange tiles, and melamine is the type of wood that was used for snake cages that my grandad built, it’s a plastic sort cover for wood. It’s all very nostalgic, old me.” What led to its resurgence? “I was going to release it myself, I sent it to my manager and he liked it, I never really planned on it. We got really far into the process of releasing it on my label and he ended up sending it to Ninja Tune and they were like, ‘we want to release this’.”

How much of it has been remastered for this release? “It’s been mastered by the mastering engineer, but everything – they’re old as fuck files, there’s no way I could go in – I still have everything, but it’s all come from the old computer I was using, so whenever I would open them now, all the plugins would be gone, everything that made it sound the way it did it would sound awful. So it’ll be fine for the live sets, since I’ve got all the parts, and I’ll do it in a different sort of way, but when it came to remixing it for the release, that’d be impossible.”

Are you happy with it as it is? “Completely! It’s not meant to sound hi-fi anyway. It’s a reflection of where you were at the time. That was the whole point, that it was all tapey, and fucked up.”

It’s interesting that it was chosen as the lead track, to me “Gullfire” is closest to what you went on to make. “No doubt, 100 percent. The rest is a lot different.” Kind of woozy and ambient, for want of a better word. “That might have even been the last one that I did make, maybe. I’ll need to go back into the files and see what the dates are. But I agree with you, that’s definitely the closest and the cleanest sounding one. It was still made in the exact same way but it was cleaner. Just the way it turned out. Might have been whatever tape I used, that’s what the beauty of it all was. The tape sounded completely different.

Los Locos is wild. “That’s the most mental one. No real reason behind that, just the way it turned out. That’s all Short Circuit 2.” Is it all film-inspired in the same way as your other stuff? “More so this one, really, cause it’s blatantly taking big samples from films, all the big intros.” That first track has that sample about aliens. “That’s Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, doing some interview, just talking about Ghostbusters, just talking about their beliefs. I just found it on the internet. It doesn’t have any link related to the name of the track, actually it does cause the name of the track is related to aliens.”

Is the orange thing the original artwork?
“No it’s not, that’s the guy that my manager has hired, he’s done a really good job. It was more the face shot I had a lot of input into that, the one with my eyes. They were talking about old videos that I had and what influenced the thing, it looks kind of like the banshee out of Darby O’Gill and the Little People, that’s what we were going for basically. I just basically said to him, do what you think of the music, to me. I’m not a graphic designer. I did the Love Quadrant artwork, and I did a few other ones, but when it comes to proper things like this I wouldn’t even fucking go near it. It’s just too complicated.”

I’m fascinated that you don’t listen to music. You said in one interview that you’ll just sit on your computer but do you sit in silence or do you have TV on? “I don’t really sit in the house to be honest, I kind of just walk about. When I was younger I stockpiled influences into my head, listened to loads and loads and loads, and then once I started gigging and stuff I never listened to music in the house, I just came back home to chill out. I have no music on my phone, I have nothing. I just look at other things. I live on my own and I hate being in the house on my own, but I’m having a friend of mine move in next week and I just got a new hifi so maybe I’ll start again. I just never really have listened to music apart from on planes. Even on planes now I just watch films. I like silence and looking at things. “

That does mean that you’re never going to be worried about pandering to current trends in DJ sets, because you don’t know what they are. “Exactly! I’m completely musically illiterate.”

What are your favourite films? “The first film would be Léon. Since I was a kid, just fucking loved it. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, that’d be up there as well. I would put Interstellar in there now, I just loved that. But it’s too recent. I don’t want to put that in there, even though I would actually consider it one of my favourite films. But maybe that’s because it’s a recent thing. What else. Garden State.” That’s really not cool to say nowadays! “I know! I fucking loved that film when it came out, and I still do like it. But I think I like it nowadays because of the nostalgic appeal. But I fucking loved that film when it came out, I don’t care if it’s not cool [laughs].” You’re a brave man. “Who cares? Why is it not cool?” People just hate Zach Braff and they hate that twee kind of thing and they hate The Shins… I was going to guess Blade Runner. “That’s too obvious. Everyone loves Blade Runner. But I’m talking about things that make me feel warm inside. Blade Runner is amazing, and I would put it up there with my favourite films, but it doesn’t make me feel like I’m being hugged by the screen. Indiana Jones and Star Wars obviously do that as well. That’s just for everyone, everyone loves those.”

I was going to ask about your Boiler Room set at AVA in Belfast last year. “Ayla”, hearing that nowadays… “I was 10 whenever Kevin & Perry Go Large came out, so I grew up hearing that stuff as well, so I just wanted to play it. That whole set was pretty much improvised. Any Boiler Room set I’ve ever done has just been… I’ve had a vague idea in my head, but it was pretty much just, ‘this could work or it could not’. There was a Robocop tune in it as well. It’s called “Show Me Your Spine”, by PTP, that industrial band. It’s the track that’s played in the nightclub scene, where he pulls the guy out by his hair.” I’ve never actually seen Robocop. “Aww fuck you then. Actually add Robocop. I can’t believe I completely forgot. That would be in top films as well… You’ve never seen Robocop? How old are you?! It’s one of the first films I remember watching.”

Do you feel yourself part of an Irish scene? “Not really. I’ve always felt a bit removed. Cause I don’t really make “dance” music. I started off making ambient music and weird stuff, so I’ve never felt part of a group — maybe for a little while with R&S, it sort of felt we had a wee family thing going on, but then I just ended up breaking away from that again. Just because of the stuff I play in my DJ sets, I’m never going to fit with anyone else. I’ll end up getting carried away with 80s and annoying other people [laughs].” You’re not sorry about that? Or are you happy to stay… “On my own? Oh completely. I like that. I always weird people if I’m with other people, so why bother.”

How did your relationship with Clone come about? “It was back in the Myspace days actually. From before The Love Quadrant came out. I had added Clone and I was messaging them on Myspace, sending them some stuff, and they were like keep sending us stuff, blah blah blah, and then The Love Quadrant came out. Then obviously their interest got bigger, and then it just came about after that. Journey To The Core Of The Unknown Sphere came out in May 2010 I think, six months after Love Quadrant.” So long-running conversations led to the Correlations releases? There was a bit of a gap… “That was just because of all the R&S [releases]. I still play the odd Clone gig every now and then.”

Is there any reason you kept to a series? “No not really, it’s just me making music without any kind of story for once. Just making music. I just thought it’d be cool to make a series. Keeping it simple. It’s kind of contradictory, that third Correlation, those four tracks were towards another album. And all of those tracks have a story behind them. But because I completely changed the idea of what I wanted to do for the next album, I made that into that, and gave it to Clone.

You always have really good titles — how much time do you put into them? “None at all really, it just comes from whatever story I have in my head. Even though the other ones don’t have a story, I’ll think of a tiny thing to get me started and that’s where the title will come from.”

Tying in with what you said about changing direction, you told RA before that you were going to expand on the Mikrosector world on the next album. Has that changed or have you left that behind, what’s happening there? “I have a vague idea of what I’m going to do — it’s just me getting back into the flow of things. I haven’t really made much in a while, I just need to motivate myself again. I get myself into my own head, ruts and stuff. As cheesy as it sounds, I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to my own head.”

How long did you live in Ohio? “Not that long — four or five months, but there was enough emotional shit that happened to inspire me to start making tunes. I was 16.” Was this when you left school? “I’d already left school illegally before that.” And you were in a metal band? “Oh yeah ages ago, that was way before. When I was like 13, 14. I was the lead guitarist. I was pretty good! You can hear a bit of the guitar solos on welcome to Welcome To Mikrosector-50. I haven’t played since I recorded that album. But yeah, I think that’s where all the noodliness comes from, with all the synths and stuff, cause I was like, Megadeth [motions complicated guitar playing]. All that shit.”

To finish, you did an interview with The Quietus and there was a comment underneath that read “I for one would love to see an SDC space opera, with lines delivered by spangled punters hauled off the dancefloor at random.” Do you ever see a space opera happening? “That’s still in my head. I still would love to do that. But to be honest, I’m just not really getting as much fun and love out of making music any more, and I’m trying to work towards doing something else. Still music wise, but maybe animation or film. I’ve always wanted to do films, because I have all these stories, and I would end up doing the soundtrack for them anyway. But if I was able to do one, if I was able to make a film, it would bring the love back for making music. I’ve just been a bit stuck lately. But it’ll definitely come back. I’ve had this before, but this is the longest period it’s been. And it’s annoying. But it’ll come back.”

Is music your day job? “Yeah. I can’t do anything else, I’ve got no qualifications! If I stop this I’d be fucked. That’s a good ending I think.”

Aidan Hanratty
Aidan Hanratty

Dublin ... @adnhnrt | @Bandcloud

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