Very Very Much

December 25, 2010 at 11:59am

Zed Bias - Part 2 (of 2)

Dave Jones aka Zed Bias

Continued from Part 1

OK well that’s the downsides of the garage scene there, but what about the positives?

The club nights were amazing. Proper made clubland friendly again – in certain cases, of course; I can’t generalise because as with everything it varies so much from place to place.

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Zed Bias - Part 1 (of 2)

Dave Jones aka Zed Bias

I won’t do a long intro on this, because this time I can let the story, and the music, do the talking. Dave Jones – aka Zed Bias, Maddslinky, Phuturistix, ES Dubs, etc etc – is someone whose own journey through the music world is an excellent illustration of the inseparability of mainstream and underground, of the long and deep traditions that run through even the most ephemeral of club genres, and of the power of sheer tenacity combined with obsessive love of music.

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December 20, 2010 at 10:42pm

Kamal Joory - Part 2 (of 2)

Kamal Joory in London, 2009

© Brian David Stevens

Continued from Part 1

…And what about the fact you’ve done a lot of stuff with vocalists? That’s not really standard in dubstep, was it conscious on your part to give a particular appeal?

I am in some respects a bit of a weird music listener.

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Kamal Joory - Part 1 (of 2)

Kamal Joory in London, 2009

© Brian David Stevens

Kamal Joory is exactly the sort of artist I wish there were more of. I had known, and owned, the intricate electronica records he made as Geiom for some while

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November 13, 2010 at 12:31pm

Cristian Vogel - Part 2 (of 2)

Cristian Vogel in London 2010

© Brian David Stevens

Continued from Part 1

OK so – bar the occasional release for DJs via Snork, and the occasional gig, your involvement in techno is now via this live cut method. What about your other music? Are you doing any rock music like you have with your Night Of The Brain band, or any of the complete abstracted and freed-from-the-beat kind of sound that you were doing with the Trurl & Klaupacius album back in Brighton days?

Well, that yen that I have in dark days and off months to compose electro-acoustic music – and this is what I research, also, the technical aspects of creation and composition, the state of the art today, which is music that is still very far removed from the electronic soundtracks of the clubs, maybe not sonically, but is a different way of thinking – well, this research gets expressed in my work for contemporary dance with Gilles Jobin, we’ve made six pieces and we’re working on a seventh creation, so this is since 2003. And actually I’ve composed more music for those pieces than I’ve ever released [as records], the duration of music is actually more. It’s now the major part of my body of work, the work I’ve done for those dance pieces.

And that again is only heard in the moment, heard by the audience who are experiencing that performance, except when occasionally you put a video online…?

Yeah… but as a recorded and mediated dance performance, [the online video] is a recorded version and everyone knows that – nobody gets it muddled up like they do in the music industry. [laughs] You know that if you want the full experience you have to go and see the piece, and you know you get this direct connection, and yes, the audience is very respectful, they’re really quiet, they’re comfortable, they get a nice comfortable seat and they listen, they really listen; it’s a very luxurious position to be in for a composer. And they’ve got something to look at, so it’s a bit easier for them to spend an hour listening to some quite difficult music, because there’s this amazing thing going on in front of them, they’ve got this very visceral thing, bodies in front of you, sweat… it’s great.

That’s the thing, dance is [slightly suggestive look] really good. But I am ready to put the soundtracks out on CD. I’ve done one, I may do another because sometimes I feel that sometimes the long-term followers of my work may really enjoy hearing it and they may not get the chance because they’d need to travel to see the piece and might not be able to afford that, so I’d like to figure out how to… I’d probably like to release some more of those soundtracks – probably with Sub Rosa, they’re going to, well, they’ve agreed that they’re interested in releasing the Black Swan soundtrack. So yeah, that’s a big part of it all, that takes up half of my year in fact, the composing. The other projects we’ve been talking about, the gigs: that’s a very small amount of my attention and time, most of it is composing.

And this time and attention includes the research and reading you’ve talked about?


Given that, have you considered that you might take a step into academia at any point? After all when we met you were teaching music at Sussex…

A bit [laughs], I taught a bit. But yes, if I could find the right place for me, yes. At the moment I have asked around, and I’ve made some applications and it still just seems that there’s a very big division, the old low-art-high-art thing seems to be happening again, more so than ever actually. There was a call for work at the Sound Of Music Computing conference 2010, where papers get presented on the state of the art of sound, and there’s a call for propositions to be performed… And I know, I think you know too, that if I wanted to say, well here’s a piece, here’s a live improvisation to vinyl with loads of crazy beats and hi-hats and things, they’re going to reject that – even though it’s using the same technology and thinking they’re going to reject it because of the way it sounds, because rhythm is still something that belongs to the popular. So in my discussions with them, with guys in… well, maybe we shouldn’t name them in an article… but with this type of people – they’re basically engineers, and very stuck in academia, they don’t see me, they don’t respect autodidactic, self-taught composers very much, you have to have a degree or come from some type of academy to get into academia, this still seems to be, on the whole, that’s the way it is.

Which in a sense is understandable, it’s a natural self-preservation instinct on the part of the institutions.

Yes, you can understand it on that level of course, because I go in there and go, look guys, I have actually been doing fifteen years on the front line, where music meets people, and you guys wouldn’t even dare walk into one of these venues… [shakes head] …I mean I think in the States, there are some places emerging that are more reflective of the generation of creators for whom these boundaries don’t exist any more, I mean in the multimedia arts and suchlike.

Well, in this country we do now have the presence of people like Kode 9 – Steve Goodman – and Kodwo Eshun in academia, showing the rave generation, as it were, is maybe getting a foothold…

Yeah, it’s getting a foothold, exactly. But it hasn’t happened for me yet [laughs], I’m still out there, I haven’t found my place. But I think it’s completely brilliant that you’re putting in people who have real experience – technical skills and cutting edge ideas and they’re interested in teaching and finding out and they’ve got experience of where music actually exists – I think that’s the future of education, of course, all this stuff. You can’t expect to be taught by stuffy professors, when you’ve been to see incredible electronic music really loud over a soundsystem! But it is changing, slowly. Just now I’m too caught up with… well… It would be good to give me some stability financially, if I had a job… It would be good.

It seems like the way you’re talking, these ideas of entering a new phase, that maybe what you’re doing now needs to settle in before you decide what you’re going to do with it…?

Yeah. Let’s see. Let’s see what’ll… Well, I just don’t know.

Great, OK, we’re 50-odd minutes into the interview and we’ve roughly answered the first question of where you are now. Now what about the current state of the music that’s emerged from the rave and techno explosion that you described being a part of? You’ve talked about Germany, but do you have a sense of how things are elsewhere?

Ummm… in Spain it’s really bad. In Spain it’s become a soundtrack for drinking and taking drugs and pretty much nothing else. You’ll go to a club because someone in the bar says “hey let’s go to a club”, “yeah alright” and you go to Nitsa or wherever; I think about 80%, 90% of the people in the venue usually will not know the name of the DJ that’s playing, for example, and will not care about the style that they’re playing at all. Very little interest in the details – as long as it’s got ‘caña' as they say here, a pounding beat and stuff. So it seems to have become quite bad in Spain; I never play here, for example, don't get any bookings.

The UK, last time I went over, I don’t know, I couldn’t get that much of an impression but it didn’t seem that much different to me there; it was also a context for… well, it didn’t seem to be like when we used to go out and people were expecting different styles, different DJs, they were drinking water and it wasn’t so entirely mash-up all the time. But to be honest I’m not really in a position to get an idea of what’s going on; I don’t hear UK radio over here very much, so I can’t tell what’s happening there.

The radio in Spain is much more varied, and is interested in things that have been as well as things that are happening; there’s often lots of radio where you’ll get things like yesterday, where I heard a show of an hour and a half on Radio Tres just going through the entire career of Jeff Beck. I was painting so I listened to it all, and it went through talking about all kinds of crazy stories and emotions – this guy’s thing was he couldn’t quite fit in, that was my conclusion – and yes, they do lots of this kind of stuff. But new music is just music, it doesn’t seem to have these revolutionary powers any more. In the UK there’s a lot more media, a lot more people writing and interested in detail and connecting the dots, so it seems to have a lot more importance and impact. But over here, for instance, drum & bass, jungle never happened in Spain, they just skipped it out [laughs], and I don’t think that dubstep is going to particularly make that much of an impact over here. So I just get these different perspectives – you get the perspective from afar, which is not necessarily better or worse, but just different.

Going back to what you said about the days of techno: people may not, as you say, have gone just for balls-out mindless hedonism, and they did care about the music… but drugs were important too, right?

Yeahhh… [laughs suspiciously] …I guess. But music WAS really important. You could go to a club straight and the hair on the back of your neck would stand up because the music WAS so brilliant or so completely new and out of this world. But I guess with four-on-the-floor kickdrums and all this stuff there’s just only so many years you can take before it simply becomes… droll.

Yet you never got tempted to fully embrace other dance music rhythms, like drum & bass? I remember having this discussion with you in 1995…

Woah! I had that DJ Hype tape, I used to listen to that all the time, I loved that, man! 2002 or something…

Well yes and before that I remember you getting well into a Grooverider tape when he was doing this concept of “hardstep”

I loved those tapes, I mean going back much earlier these type of rave tapes were my formative experiences, the rave sound and breakbeats, listening to them on tape… but I never ended up making anything like that if that’s what you mean.

Yes. It’s very interesting to look at you and Neil Landstrumm, who in early days used to produce together, who made similar sounds – he’s gone very much towards the rough-and-ready early rave sound, and you’ve gone in a far more refined direction…


Well, do you never get tempted to just do a tune that’s boshing and clashing, a great big rave beast of a tune?

Well, I think if it involves any kind of dumbing-down of my work, then I don’t see why I would need to do that at this point in my career. As I say, I have invested a lot of time in trying to progress… I can have fun, don’t get me wrong, I like having fun – but in my work, I don’t see how I would benefit, or anyone else would benefit from me doing something like that just for the sake of it.

It doesn’t have to be dumb, though! What if it were a conscious exploration of the legacy of that homemade quality and rough-and-ready innovation that inspired you in the first place?

Yeah, yeah I suppose. The thing is with Neil, he’s much more of a nostalgic romantic than I am. There was a lot of nostalgia in his music, even a while back in his techno, there was a lot of nostalgia for his experiences at Pure [legendary/notorious techno/rave club run by Twitch, now of Optimo], the sounds that he heard there. And when you listen to what he’s making now there’s even still a lot of that in there still, there’s the beeps and breaks – but if you listen to my stuff there’s no hint of that. Unless, as you say, maybe I were trying to make specific reference to a specific time… in fact, you know what, I might do that for someone if they were to ask me to do it. If it made sense. If I was going to do something for film, or had some other project it was for, I might do that.

So you’re saying you would require a conceptual framework to make a rave tune?

Yes. Yeah, to think about it, to remember those feelings – I can’t really remember much from that time [chuckles]

I just remembered, though, you do the Black E thing [Cristian’s live party techno project with Ben Mallott of the band Pest] – it’s not quite retro rave, but it’s pretty banging – where does that fit into all this?

Ahaaa! [laughs, surprised, as if he has only just remembered it too] Well I guess really that is actually exactly what you’ve just been describing, where I take the computer away, forget the computer, forget about researching into grain clouds and wavelength synthesis and stuff and just get the drum boxes out and bang it like we used to. I love doing that with Ben, he encourages me to get into it, he knows it’s good for me [laughs]. He’s always pushing for these little gigs even though they’re rough places, downstairs of pubs, playing on tables – he knows once the beat starts, once the drum starts I get my head down and have a great time! And afterwards I’ll feel slightly embarrassed that I’ve done that, slightly guilty and hope that no-one from home or from the dance world has seen me do that. No, not really – I do feel that it’s good. But I don’t know how often I should do that, how much is good for me – if I do it too often it might not work.

Ah now, talking of what the rest of the dance world think of you… you used to have some pretty strong alliances as it were, musical friendships maybe, with some big names – people like Blake Baxter or Andrew Weatherall, who was a great admirer of all your albums… Do you still maintain long-term connections with people who might be seen as part of the dance music establishment in that way?

Ahh, not really so much these actually days. I do feel quite like a maverick out in the desert. But I do think of the personalities of the people involved who I’m friends with, who I toured with along the way, I think a lot of them are probably out in some other part of the desert, you know? That’s how I think of them… Apart from Jamie who seems to have headed towards the limelight, most of the other people from the underground seem to have pretty much stayed there, going in and out of focus, I don’t know where they are or what they’re at and probably they don’t know what I’m at. I don’t see them in magazines very much.

But it’ll come back, people come back around in life a lot, when things are coming together, when sounds are developing that people can meet up around, when something exciting is happening, sometimes I’ll see people I haven’t seen for eight years or something… sit down, have a drink, catch up. But no, I don’t keep that much in contact with people from music, I don’t follow the scene that much, you know that. That’s pretty implicit in everything I’ve said. I mean, I’ll check out things I see you’re into, or other people I talk to on the web, I’ll dip in to see what’s happening, but really if I play music at home it’s because I’m in a listening mode, not raving mode.

But do have a raving mode? Do you go clubbing for pleasure?

Not really [laughs]. What kind of pleasure would that be? Not really. Sometimes. If I’m with friends, maybe. I don’t go out specifically to “go out”. I go to concerts.

And what’s your chosen listening now? Last time we spoke at length, you were listening to a lot of And You Shall Know Us By The Trail Of Dead…

Yeah… yeah… That’s one of the few bands, the few musicians where… it’s kind of random with Trail Of Dead, in that I feel like a fan with them. I mean, it’s important to be a fan. And I respect them in this way. They came over to Barcelona and I was just this super fan, I asked the promoter if I could do the warm-up DJing and they said yeah, and I was just shaking and playing records really quietly because I didn’t want to spoil the vibe before they played, I was really being like that… And I went backstage and it was great to meet them all, and we went drinking and they ran up a 350 Euro bill and left and I paid that for them, and I loved it, it was one of the best nights out ever!

Rock’n’roll! Like, actually rock’n’roll.

Yeah that’s it… So it’s important to have a relationship to music like that, and they express things that I like. But other than that I’m listening to Glenn Branca, I’m listening to some King Midas Sound a bit, listening to Pierre Schaffer, listening to Hieroglyphic Being for more techno-styled stuff a lot, I’m listening to Coroner a lot which is a Swiss heavy band from the eighties – Marky who did the Sleep Debt number one release, he used to play drums in that band – I’m listening to a lot of Chicago music, still really into that, things like HiM, Pele and suchlike, I’m listening to some jazz probably… and a bit of Ragga Twins, heh. That’s me for my rave nostalgia, I’ll just stick a bit of Ragga Twins on if I want – I don’t need to write a song about it.

And are you interested in any cultural commentary at the moment? This is the point of the veryverymuch site, collecting together people I know or who influence me, and trying to find the intersection of their thoughts… But who do you listen to in that way?

Um… well, I have friends obviously, friends that I pay attention to who show me new things… and then in Switzerland there are some publications there [he’s rummaging around trying to find one] – magazines, actual magazines, crazy old-school style, the kind of magazines that publish really long involved articles in dual languages about sound art… There’s one in particular I’ve got right here, called Art Press. They just seem to have a lot more of these kind of publications over in French-speaking places, in Switzerland and France, magazines that you can actually learn more from and have a more pleasant experience than reading on the web – there’s a lot of reading on the web that happens, isn’t there? I pay a lot of attention to everything that goes on at my website, at – the Erutufon site – I’m very often there, and very often get follow-up on things that get discussed on the forum. There are a lot of people that have been there for a very long time, and over the years it’s consistently led to some interesting music or thoughts or books…

I seem to remember you once saying that running that forum was something you felt you could do in place of running a club, or that it served a similar function to a club in bringing odd people together… is that right?

Yeah… yeah… I guess so, and when we have these meet-ups that happen occasionally, which are generally at clubs, then you get the full effect! And then I’m also part of this Kyma community, which is the system that I use to programme my music. I organised a symposium this year, and that’s completely tangential, a totally other universe to the techno forum, but it’s quite a mixed bag of musicians and composers – some people come from the techno scene, some from proper art composition, some from the commercial world, from soundtracks and what have you, so it’s quite an interesting community that one.

Well the history of synthesisers has always fostered quite maverick thinkers hasn’t it? From Walter/Wendy Carlos to Ray Kurzweil…

…to Carla Scaletti who’s the inventor of Kyma; she’s an amazing person, I got to meet her this year, and Kurt Hebel, they invented the system that I use, so that was also a massive fan thing – almost as big as the Trail Of Dead thing, only they don’t drink and all the rest, it was just me trying not to drink, I had to be quite polite. So yes, meeting mavericks like them, I don’t feel that far out in the desert when I see that you can be maverick and a really interesting thinker and be almost isolated from all the rest of the community around you, yet your ideas continue to be really really important. If you create and build things and connect things with your creation – in their case a synthesiser, or a language built to synthesise sound – that’s just awesome, I’m so into that, I’m so much more into them than most musicians, even though no-one ever mentions them or writes articles about them anywhere. Just being able to talk to them…

I remember I was chatting to them, and Carla – and she’s one of possibly the only women involved in DSP [digital signal processing] design, which is one of the things I like about the system, it has a different way of thinking – she was telling me that they got an invitation to northern India somewhere, to this castle up in the mountains, it was one of these James Bond type things, great minds all coming to this castle up in the mountains, philosophers and so on, and they got one of these invitations… imagine it! I didn’t press her about it, I would love to know more, but it’s the kind of thing they’re dealing with. But yes, they invented this system in ‘84, this system I’m using now, they launched it in ‘84, ‘85, something like that – it’s not a new thing, and there’s a lot to it.

So you say Scaletti and her contribution to this system have a different way of thinking – how would you characterise that difference?

Um… she… er, well when she came in to do her talk at the symposium, she didn’t talk about music or synthesis or anything for an hour. She talked about ancient Greece and two different mindsets that were prevalent in Greek thinking, different ways of thinking, and then went from there through to examples of certain types of autistic abilities which were representative of other sorts of ways of thinking, and on and on for ages through these different models of what thinking is, to come to the conclusion that recombinance is what makes us human, and that she’s into recombinant creation philosophy. Which is very much the basis for what’s happening now, it’s about being able to do context-free grammar, ideas with creation work, how you can interchange and change and become and multiply multiple concepts to combine much bigger and more complex concepts – this is what she’s into. And in music, it’s expressed in her music – she’s a composer – and in each version of this system.

So I see it as very contemporary the way she’s thinking and talking, because I work in Processing, for example, which is a visual-orientated software language and I programme in that to do visuals, I don’t know if you saw the installation I did recently, it’s online if you want to check it out. But I needed to do that because I want to go there and combine it with the other types of thinking I’m doing at the moment, not because I want to be a visual artist suddenly, but yeah it’s this type of thinking that she encourages. It’s hard to understand, and harder to communicate, I find it hard to express, other than through the work itself.

Well this idea of recombinance is interesting, it speaks to ideas of collage and bricolage, these things that were very important in what was called “postmodernism” in the mid-late 20th century, but got a bad name because they became associated with cheap media tricks, it belonged to marketing and to bullshitters – but it is interesting to know that this type of theory is now being approached on a very very technical and genuinely experimental level, rather than as purely cultural theory, which is based on a lot of articles of faith…

Definitely. Especially in the creation of an expert creative system, if you build something that is able itself to create – if it’s applied there, and then you put it out in the world, what it’s creating is an exact situation of that thinking. It’s a physical interpretation of it, you know – it then happens. You’re putting out there a system that in itself, although you have to get really into the building blocks of it, it encourages you to think and create is based on the foundational principle which is that recombinance is the driving human force in creativity. So you just start to create with it, and you start to make these combinations happen, and it multiplies them – which is what the power of it is, to be able to multiply and become a huge network.

So it really is a kind of concrete philosophy?

Yes. Yes, it’s philosophy being applied. So that’s why I’m involved in Kyma and I’m completely dedicated to it.

I’m just wondering if there’s a parallel here with what Herbert and Matmos have done with sampling – they’re very into the idea that you can create a complex grammar of sampling and build complex ideas from very small sounds sampled from the real world.

Yeah, well in a system like Kyma, in my music, I could do that if I wanted, I could create a language of sampling, I could explore that into something – if I wanted to go back to the old school, I could build up my palette of samples, but then where it gets interesting is the language structure you create to express those samples. Herbert was doing a lot of live-sampling wasn’t he, is that what you mean?

Well yes, that, and the fact that he’s saying that each of these sampled sounds contains vast amounts of information about the time and place and exact situation in which it was recorded – so by recombining those you are able to put those complex bits of audio information up against one another and by doing that, learn more about them.

OK, when you reach this plateau of thinking in this certain way, which takes a while because it’s very against the nature that’s been dominant for a long time… This is what Carla is saying, that of these two ancient Greek ways of thinking, one has become very dominant in the development of computer science – that things have knobs on the screen, they look like old-fashioned compressors, the GUIs resemble the things they’re supposed to be – so it’s all about trying to copy and resemble and build models of things that have already existed… and then the other way is to completely free yourself of all that and no longer need these representations.

So to give you an example of when you think more and more in the other way and you finally [clicks finger] snap and see everything in this multiplicity of depths, if you like, which is what you said about sampling – that it contains all this information behind the simple fact of it resembling something – well, last year I was very much into just looking at samples and trying to access this information, and I began to research into spectral composition, which is composition based on spectral analysis of audio. And when you do spectral analysis of audio, you break down a sample into the descriptions – in terms of phase, frequency and amplitude – of how to rebuild that sample using sine waves, which are the simplest possible building blocks of sound, every sound is a combination of sine waves.

So when you do a spectral analysis, you can study the information in the frequency domain, because when it’s sample that you just play it exists in the time domain, but when you look at it as a big matrix of numbers they call it the frequency domain, and you can look at it and do different analysis – and there’s lots of research in spectral composition of how the nature of different instruments themselves, say African instruments, if you do a spectral analysis of them… you can start with a simple instrument or a single rhythm, and with the spectra, you can build a meta-structure or a micro-structure, because it’s no longer dependent on time, and from that single analysis you could make a whole piece of music, make it half an hour long if you’re really into it, just by extracting certain aspects or certain elements from the data you’ve analysed… you might look for patterns in it and extract those, or – and this is what I’ve been doing – choose to resynthesise, when it comes to rebuilding that sound or the manipulated description of that sound, resynthesise it using African instruments instead of sine waves, like the timbres of African instruments, or perhaps voices or whatever else I want to use, but resynthesise the original sounds in another way, and then generate your major structures in this way… that’s the kind of thing I do in composition.

OK, wow, that’s enough to make my head spin… but it sounds, I think, a lot like what our mutual friend Matt Yee-King does in his academic studies – it’s been a while since I chatted with him in depth but I remember him talking about the possibilities of sound for information storage or transmission…

Oh yeah! I’m sure he was, sure he would be now, I haven’t spoken to him for ages too, but yeah compositionally it’s really interesting, because the choice of what you analyse to create these sounds and structures is crucial to everything. In Black Swan the whole opening piece is structured entirely from spectral analysis of very old recordings, or rather one very old recording of Japanese folk music – a field recording recorded with a handheld microphone somewhere in an old town square with people singing this music. And I just was constantly freaking out when I started resynthesising from this and started getting these moods and timbres that although they were abstract resembled some kind of feeling of Japan, of the East, of a particular thing that represents that to our ears – and as you begin to get glimpses of how sounds store that information… well, it’s an entirely awesome thing to be able to continue working in that way. That’s this recombinance thing.

Well, taking that idea back to techno and dance music, that sort of gels with the whole Afrofuturist set of ideas, things that Underground Resistance, and The Bomb Squad, and Kodwo Eshun talk about – about rhythms and sounds carrying a culture, not some mysterious metaphysical essence, but aspects of the culture actually existing as sound.

Yes totally, and there are a couple of composers working with that, specifically with spectral analysis – I’m not very good with references, I couldn’t give you the names and pieces offhand, but there are a couple. It’s very interesting, though, that somehow timbres, scales and rhythms from different cultures, in the nature of the sounds themselves after you’ve analysed them seem to contain something of the place that they’ve come from.

Amazing, and it will be fascinating to see if, as this advances, whether it’s possible to map out in numbers the way that cultures change, as represented by the sounds they make.

Yeah there’s definitely a few research papers on this, research into where this information is contained – especially with rhythms, rhythms are really interesting, African rhythms contain so much. I read this one paper from a cardiological group – they were heart scientists – who wanted to map every single African rhythm against different kinds of heartbeats in different states, and they came up with all kinds of points of congruence there, the result got a bit technical towards the end but yeah it was pretty wicked… But are we getting off track here? Are there any questions you haven’t got round to asking yet?

Haha no, I’ve long run out of questions as such, I’m just after knowing what you’re thinking about at the moment really. One thing springs to mind, regarding what you just said though: do you think, that your long involvement in club genres, which are very fluid and fast-moving in their cultural shifts, gives you particular insight into how culture and creativity emerges from its context, and how sounds contain something of the society they emerge from?


Hahaha, “yeah”?

Yeah. Yeah, I do. [chuckles] Totally. This is perhaps why I haven’t been able to shake it off, why I haven’t been able to leave. Because of all the particular musical contexts I’ve been in – and I’ve been in theatre, done some film, art gallery stuff, live performance, DJing and everything – of all of them, where culture is really happening, where it’s directly related to the music and the way that music is modifying itself within a community, is in the electronic music scene, in the club scene or whatever. And that’s it. Everything else is theory and research. The the concert hall situation, the more formal things, they’re very staid and stagnant. I mean even with the dance stuff, the contemporary dance, the pieces themselves, there’s some really amazing stuff, they’re exploring a whole other universe related to body and to sexuality often, and abstraction and physical abstraction, and certain pieces are really making you think and really stimulating and very now, right? Yet the audiences are still middle-class, standard theatre-going public. They come early, I don’t see anyone falling around drunk at the theatre so much, they’re definitely not there, or not visibly, to have these extreme experiences like people that go out at the weekend. People who go out at the weekend want to have this living life and burning life, in this kind of Kerouac tradition almost, just living anything to the maximum that you can… while holding down your job and not overdosing or anything… just trying to get as much of the vivid experience as they can – this is very much live and kicking in the club scene and the band scene, and we need that. We do.

Well yes… and that’s a nice positive note to leave it on, I think, Cris…

What, people rolling around drunk in the opera?

Beautiful, yeah! But really, everything we’ve talked about leaves us with a huge open area of possibilities where these cultures can combine.

Yes, yes of course. It’s the meeting point that is what we have to negotiate, and work out where it’s going to happen, where we’re all going to meet. Because when I was at university writing about high art and low art and Adorno and all this kind of thing, even Cage – John Cage disliked pop music very much, and yet is ideas became highly influential on pop or alternative or rock musicians – these theoreticians still couldn’t deal with this cultural split, so there’s still this meeting point coming, I think, and we still need to negotiate that in some way. There’s still quite a marked difference – going out clubbing, is that still a low experience or low culture? It’s difficult to tell where it sits now. We need to work this out.



Three pieces of Cristian’s music were used on the soundtrack to Enter the Void. He says: “I haven’t seen the film, so don’t know how they were used. One was ‘Cancion Sintetica’ from Specific Momentific as we discussed and the other two were short sound design pieces, one is used on a girl on girl action / DMT rebirth sequence, and the other I don’t know where.”

The live-cutting project didn’t advance quickly enough to perform at Sónar. He says “We haven’t been able to perform it yet, but we did a couple of rehearsals, which generated 4 one off vinyls. They are really cool as art objects, Jack the Cutter managed to cut 23 minutes with good volume on each side!” These four vinyls were auctioned to raise money for the Haiti disaster fund.

The plan to do more 12” edits of his live performances like those released on Snork is currently in hiatus: “I think my interest in that little techno output has trickled out for me now, I’m back to just pure live audio-visual performance for my more visceral material” - and he points to his blog entry on said audio-visual work.

Cristian's audio-visual work

Cristian took part in a further Kyma conference recently at which he was able to meet fellow Kyma enthusiast John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin; you can see more about this on his Tumblr blog too. Otherwise: “Audiovisual (programming in Processing and Kyma) realtime music performance and computer music composition work for contemporary dance and theatre are pretty much my main ambitions for 2011, to develop and improve. The album release of score for Black Swan from 2009, on Sub Rosa, is still in the pipeline, but they are taking ages. Maybe it’s out before the end of the year. I am toying with the idea of recording again, music destined to be released as an album, and if so, it will be download only and completely independent – I still can’t find any labels who get my work.”


Cristian Vogel - Part 1 (of 2)

Cristian Vogel in London 2010

© Brian David Stevens

I met Cristian Vogel at university some time around 1993. My friends and I used to go to his Acid Box club nights, which played the most uncompromising techno of any in Brighton, usually in a brilliantly back-to-basics setup with relentless strobe light and fog machine providing the only visual element.

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September 30, 2010 at 1:09am

Tony Thorpe - Part 2 (of 2)

Tony Thorpe

© Brian David Stevens

Continued from Part 1

And when that change was happening, how did you feel about the change in atmosphere in the raves?

Right, right, yep, now we can start talking.

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September 29, 2010 at 10:56am

Tony Thorpe - Part 1 (of 2)

© Brian David Stevens

This is a greatly extended version of an interview that originally appeared in Woofah magazine, with some snippets up here. Since I conducted this interview I’ve been lucky enough to work more with Tony Thorpe, including one of his recent tracks on my Adventures In Dubstep And Beyond mixed compilation for Ministry Of Sound, and getting him onto a discussion panel for the Are We Here? arts festival in November, which celebrates and examines the contribution of the much-under-appreciated London suburb of Croydon to the cultural fabric. This latter I’m greatly looking forward to - as you can see, Tony has a good deal to say…


Tony Thorpe was, literally, a very bad influence on me. I’m not really one for epiphanies, but one of the clearest moments of musical realisation I remember in my life came in 1990 at the age of sixteen, just after going to my first rave club. The club experience itself and the music played there was great, exciting, disorienting, all the rest of it – but it was as we carried on at some friends’ house afterwards that I first heard the KLF vs The Moody Boys version of ‘What Time Is Love’. Its combination of a complete re-wiring of the instantly recognisable riffs of the original with sonar bleeps, soundscapes, synthesiser sounds the likes of which I’d never heard before and what I would later discover was a sample of Misty In Roots: “When we tread this land we walk for one reason, to try to help another man think for himself. The music of our heart is roots music, music which recalls history because without the knowledge of history you can’t determine your own destiny. Music about the present because if you’re not conscious of your present, you’re like a cabbage in this society.” It tore the top of my head off and made soup with the contents.

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April 29, 2010 at 1:03am

Link or you’ll miss it III

Well a delayed link roundup this week, as I continue to learn exactly how much time babies extract from a routine no matter how much time you try to allocate to them, especially once the health scares kick in.  All fine now, though.

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April 19, 2010 at 11:05am

Link or you’ll miss it II

This week I have been busy dealing with DMZ/Digital Mystikz’s Mala. I am midway through transcribing a pretty inspiring interview I did with him for FACT, which will be done and online hopefully early this week.

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