Unsung is a funny way to describe it or me. I made a decision to figure out and find out how to make a record. Records have been a part of my life all of my life, so it was a natural progression for me. There were parties that were thrown by high schoolers and I was aware of Juan Atkins and his music with Cybotron. I did not know his music was made in Detroit. Mike Huckaby and I went to Cooley High School and we talked about music and records. At one of these parties we ran into a friend named Eric Simms who knew Eddie Fowlkes and Derrick May, who introduced me to them. By this time the Electrifying Mojo was on the radio and he had played some mixes and had some contests for people to submit mixes to be played. I submitted a mix and he played it on his show. From there I wanted to figure out how to make records. Charles King, a neighborhood friend, had a Korg poly 800 and let me borrow it and I fooled around with it. I made some things and put them on a tape and gave them to Derrick to see what he thought about them. I talked to Eddie and he gave me good advice. I met Juan much later...
Sonar 123 is such a seminal track, can you give us a bit of history on that? Wasn't it part of a release on Juan's label before hitting the UK?
The bleep thing had done been on some tracks out of London at that time. I did like them but I did not know who did them or that it was a part of something else. The same friend who had the poly 800 had moved on to a Casio CZ 5000 and let me use it. I never figured it out but I could make a few sound patches with it. With a borrowed Aleesis 8 track sequencer I made the Sonar 123 track. By this time, Derrick and Juan had set up studios on the corner of Gratiot and Riopelle and I was hanging out down there and they were touring Europe. Juan had the record and eventually put it out through Europe. He liscensed it to Peacefrog and they had put it out.
Do you remember your meeting with Mark Pritchard here in the UK?
I remember meeting Mark the first time I was in the UK. He was a cool guy and very knowledgeable. He knew me and my works, and his musical arsenal was incredibly well stocked.
It was at Bath's Hub Club...I remember taking you to the stores because the airline lost your clothes and we had to get you kitted out with new threads!! Did you have mutual appreciation for Mark (and Tom's) music?
I was not aware of all of the stuff they did, just hints of it. When I saw Mark's arsenal, I was overwhelmed. I had only seen that much equipment in advertisements or store displays. I liked the beat oriented stuff they did more than the ambient things they did. The ambient stuff is music for flowers to me, and flowers do not buy records, oh, and I have yet been able to find clothes in Europe.
Rush Hour have recently put together a retrospective compilation of the Frictional catalogue. How did the Rush Hour album come about, and what are your plans for the future?
I had always wanted to do an album, but I did not what it to be a retrospective album. I wanted to do an album of new material. I wanted to try to do an album of new original material for EFA, I only had one and half tracks at that time na dhten they went out of business. I sought out Rush Hour as I knew about some of the records they put out. My future plans are to continue doing tracks for my label Frictional.
Steve Hillage (System 7 & Derrick May - Altitude)
So how did your collaborations come about with Derrick May?
We met Derrick at 10 Records in 1990 and got on really well. Among other things he was impressed that I was a friend of Manuel Gottsching and he was intrigued by some of my guitar sounds. We initially worked with him in 1990 in London, but we’ve also subsequently been out to Detroit. We still see Derrick every so often, mostly at festivals and dance events when we’re playing on the same bill, mostly in Japan. We’ve discussed doing some more stuff together.
From Gong to System 7, did you see a natural progression from your early musical works to the ambient/electronica sounds of System 7 and beyond?
Completely – it’s been a natural logical progression. We were hearing things in the ‘70s that if we’d had then the sort of computer audio, sampling and midi devices we have now we would have been making stuff like System 7 then. We’ve now been doing System 7 for 20 years, which is much longer than we were doing the psychedelic rock band thing and our love for electronic dance music is undiminished.
Your label, A-Wave, has just reissued the System 7/Derrick May work on the digital platforms, and there's a new Carl Craig mix of System 7 floating around. What's in the pipeline for you at the moment, and can we expect any further material/collaborations soon?
Carl’s new System 7 mix is for our new single PositiveNoise, which is taken from our new album UP. The original version is a collaboration between System 7 and A Guy Called Gerald. Gerald now lives in Berlin and we’ve been spending quite a lot of time out there – it’s a place we like very much. There’s plenty of stuff bubbling around for future projects but at this precise moment we’re doing lots of live shows and DJ dates to promote the album.
Stefan Robbers (Florence - A Touch Of Heaven)
The Netherlands seems to be the secret weapon on the Back In The Box compilation, with two releases on your own Eevo Lute label and a Djax track. Where was the influence coming from in the Dutch scene? Were you looking to Detroit, and did the UK acts of the day have any influence on you?
I can't speak for others but for me, Detroit and Chicago were my inspiration. UK electronic music was there of course but did not interest me so much, I mostly looked for the places where it started, curious about the reasons why this new music was coming from these places.
Your output in the 90s was very influential through the Florence material through the the Terrace stuff, Con Man, REC etc. As with many producers of this era, many had different aliases for different sounds, do you think producers of today are lacking ambition? There seems to be a shortage of artists who produce music across the board and under different names…
I don't know. Over the years, even now, I find that people develop their music, sometimes it takes a while. But it still happens that I come across music that, when looking into the artist, has it 's origin with a producer that has been around for a long time and is involved in different area's of music. As for young producers, we should give them time....
Eevo Lute was and is a special label in the history of electronic. Can you give us a little bit of history on the label, and what your current plans are for both the label, and your own music.
This year Eevo Lute celebrates it's 20th anniversary. It had a sabbatical in the 2000's and reappeared as a digital label at the end of 2006. It was renamed into EevoNext Recordings then and is now run by me and Estroe together. We have a few re-releases ready to go over the next months, and September will see the rebirth of the 'Agenda' tradition, a yearly compilation presenting current and new artists on the label. Starting in October, we will start a small tour with current and older artists, no schedule yet but we hope to visit as many countries as possible with this. As Terrace I release an album, 'Face infinity' in January this year. Later this year I will release an EP and I'm also working on some other labels with similar output.
Matt Cogger (Neuropolitique - Mind You Don't Trip)
Can you tell us how "Mind You Don't Trip" came about. You recorded this in Detroit with the assistance of Anthony 'Shake' Shakir, right?
Playtime Presents "Mind You Don't Trip" to give it it's full title, came about from going through Juan's record collection looking for the most odd and irrelevant records to take samples from. The main hook came from Holst's ‘The Planets’. The phrase was slowed down by about 300% to get it into a loop that would run over sixteenths. There was also a clarinet solo from a Walt Disney Children's 7 inch that sounded catchy but was a bit too twee in other respects. Fortunately, it was a 7inch with no small spindle hole (it required an adaptor to play) so I forced the vinyl up to the spindle so that it played completely warped. After a few more samples were amassed I recorded several drum patterns on the 909 and the 808 making sure there were enough to cover any bridge or breakdown sections. I then added the bassline and that's when Shake came in at a fulcrum moment and turned everything up to roughen the sound. I mixed it live with 12 or so tracks on the fly.
You also had releases out on landmark labels such as ART, Buzz and New Electronica. How did these come about, and did you feel especially linked to the other UK producers of that time (Aphex Twin, Black Dog, Stasis etc.)?
There were only a few of us making this kind of stuff then in the UK so one kind of knew everyone else anyway and sooner or later someone would say, "will you do something for me?" I didn't really feel aligned with anyone else, no.
Looking at your discography, it appears that you dropped out of music production at the end of the 90s, what have you been up to since, and have you any plans for new music?
Since then I ran a drinking club in Soho and was a tour manager for quite a few bands.
I've produced some new stuff but I'm not sure about it where it sits. Everything now sounds so samey. Maybe it's game-over.
Interviews by Nick Harris
Global Communication - Back In The Box