Debug Magazine (Germany) Interview
Posted on 8th May 2008 in Press
# “Radio Scarecrow” incorporates production techniques like EVP and number stations. What is the idea behind it, did you just decide ‘oh, let’s do that’, or is there a underlying theme?
[Martin] I’ve been interested in EVP recordings for many years and Numbers Station still hold a lot of fascination to me, so I’ve been collecting and swapping recordings for around 10 years. When Radio Scarecrow started to manifest and it seemed like the ideal project to pour all this information and data into the music we where writing at the time ? it felt right. Plus I wanted to put some curses into the project because there’s a couple of people I’d like to see die in hotel fires and using Morse and number ciphers it allowed me to do that. Things happen naturally in Black Dog, there?s no stupid ?back-story? or PR stunts. If we?d had more time and space we would have also put some of our Satie pieces in as well. Things with us manifest by their own nature, we?ve learned to live that over the last four years
[Ken] The album is a soundtrack for a real person. the production technique was akin to knitting the web of wyrd, or splicing disparate strands of rope together, to lead us through the labyrinth. It’s up to the listener to discern “the idea” behind the album. Summing it all up here in 50 words, would be too cheap, and too easy. Like much of our stuff, you’re asked to arrive at your own conclusions.
# The album is meant to be listened to in the correct order as a whole. In a world with a seemingly decreasing attention span, doesn’t this seem to be a rather odd concept? ?Especially since the album as a format appears to be slowly dying, especially in dance music…
[Martin] Someone has to fight the fight and say no, plus everyone seems to be taking notice of other people who constantly refer to things/people/ideas as “a brand”, we don’t treat people like that, we know they have the intelligence to make their own minds up and not have things dictated to them by current trends. I don’t believe the format is dead, people have always cherry picked their favourite tracks and I don’t think the format is dead either, it may be for people who put filler on their albums or seem incapable of focusing but for us the format is very much alive.
[Ken] I don’t think bands putting out albums will ever die. it’s good that people can
choose to download just their favourite tracks, and put it on their phone, or whatever. but i think the format, in itself, is timeless. If we were authors.. would we parcel up each chapter into a book? Or sell each chapter individually? I know some authors have tried the first approach, but i think complete books always be with us. some people will always want the whole journey, and the story told from beginning to end.
# “Radio Scarecrow” is a fairly diverse piece of work. One the one hand you have rather old school-sounding techno songs, but then there are pretty straightforward bass-heavy tracks like “Siiiipher”. I suppose this is a part of the concept?
[Martin] There’s no concept or stupid PR story as I mentioned earlier, we are interested in lots of things and the music we output is because we have to, there are things I can’t express or explain that I can put into music, that?s how I work ? with my emotions, something?s I can?t explain and don?t really want to.
[Ken] An album that does only one thing, is like a bus that only goes to one place.
we like to put things into a bag, jiggle it about, and pull stuff out at random.
# tBd has been around for almost 20 years now. You recently released a retrospective, followed by new material on Soma. Comparing the early material with the new one, how has the sound changed? Has the work with Soma changed your sound, more “danceable” maybe (as compared to “Silenced”)?
[Martin] It wasn’t really a retrospective, more that the old work had be collected on two CDs and made available again at a good price – that was the aim. We’ll never do a “greatest hits” type of bullshit.
[Ken] I don’t feel Soma has changed our sound, we’ve been heading down this direction for 4 years now, I?ve never thought about our music in the terms of ?is this danceable?.
# Apparently, there is not much left of the Detroit-influences many tracks on “The Book of Dogma” had. How important is innovation for you guys?
[Martin] There’s plenty of Detroit and Sheffield influence on the album, it’s just not that obvious or that blatant, it’s done with intelligence and always has been, there’s no point is just copying the sound of Detroit, it?s more that we tip our hat to those we respect. Innovation is important but it isn’t the be all and end all, we make music – what happens, happens.
[Ken] That’s kind of two questions… or a statement, and a question. to answer the first, as Martin says, the influences are not painted on the door, but they’re there. And innovation… well…. thats a hard one. On the one hand, yes, of course it is important. but we (the techno scene) have seen no quantum leaps in it recently. At some level, it’s enough to put on a good party, keep it real, and be down with the community. innovation hurts. it’s painful, and people don’t want to be doing
it all the time. my overall take on it, is that it’s better to keep moving and trying new things, than banging out the familiar, time and time again.
# Based on the last question: Since you have been around for so long, are you keeping up with recent developments in electronic music, especially in the UK? “Floods” and the remixes for example are dipping a lot into the Dubstep-sound. Are you following these developments, or are you merely doing your thing, not thinking too much about whether it ‘fits’ or not.
[Martin] I follow good music, music I like, I’ve always been interested in all kinds of music but we don’t really trend hop as such, we make music of its time because that’s the time zone we are living in and we have lots of people around us who have a real ear to the ground. I don?t make music to see if it ?fits?, I?d gladly be the outsider until I die, and I?ve never felt the need to fit in.
[ken] I’m still ploughing my own field. it makes me happy that there are still good people about, all these years on. Electronic music has lasted much longer than
punk did as a phoenomena, and as a means for people to do it themselves from their bedrooms and attics, it’s unsurpassed. Just look at al the digital software
you can get these days. racks of synths and effects that we could only dream
about ‘back in the day’.
# What is your opinion of the electronic music scene in england/uk? Drum & Bass seems to be stagnating and IDM is often said to be past its prime, is there still a distinctive British sound as it used to be (e.g. back in the warehouse days).
[Martin] I?m not concerned with any scene, we do what we do and support those that support us, and I don?t have time to worry about other people problems/haircuts. I?m also not interested in the sound or times staying the same, 1992 has gone, get over it cos we have.
[Ken] I don’t have enough knowledge of it to form an opinion. I guess a lot of people are new to it, and they’ll be hearing it for the first time. it will always have a timeless quality to it, but there is the danger of it becoming trapped in a time bubble.
# I read that you enjoy Andy Stott, and I guess the rest of the Modern Love roster as well. Do you have any opinions on this revival of Dub techno?
[Martin] I like Andy and Mark’s (Claro) work, some of it is a bit too deep for my taste but I like what they are doing and they do good dubtechno, which is something a lot of people try to do but can’t get the vibe right. I also like the fact that they do it all in Reason, which seems to wind so many heads up but I love it. Many fail at making good dub techno because they don?t understand dub to start with.
[Ken] I have to say that i prefer an older warmer dub. but good luck to them for stepping out in a dubwise direction.
# Speaking of techno, do you (still) feel as a part of the techno scene? You obviously don’t share much with the minimal productions coming from Berlin, and not everything on “Radio Scarecrow” is entirely techno. What importance does techno have for you guys, a) in terms of production and b) in terms of playing to a crowd?
[Martin] The problem with the minimal scene is everyone is copying what’s in the top ten on Beatport, it’s pretty sad, 12 loops and tweaking a few EQ’s doesn’t make you an artist – they’ve learnt nothing for the loop techno that died a death in the 90’s. And most of the artists don?t even understand what minimal is, mention Stockhausen or Rob Hood and they wouldn?t have a clue
[Ken] We’re all electronic brothers and sisters. I don’t see any sense in dividing, and sub-dividing people down to the point of infinity. I guess we got on the train sooner than some people, but that gives us no special rights or privileges. Techno for me, is an attitude, a state of mind, and a means of expression.
# You mentioned in another interview that the “grimness of Sheffield” can be seen as an influence. Me personally, I used to live in Sheffield myself for a while, so I can see what you mean. So even after all this years, you’re still taking in the industrial vibe of Sheffield? To be honest, none of your albums sounds exactly ‘jolly’….
[Martin] Really, I know and feel there’s a lot of emotional joy in the work of The Black Dog, we are certainly not as trite as doing the obvious but inbetween all the layers there?s some real joy and I find the work of tBd past and present very rewarding. The industrial vibe of Sheffield is in my blood, like Detroit, this isn?t an easy place to live, there?s no nightlife, we are not very good at success and Sheffield crowds are the toughest and strangest crowds to please, but I love that about this place.
[Ken] Fuck jolly. have you seen the state of the world? it’s time for manning the barricades and grabbing our pitchforks.