The unedited transcript of Matt Wand and Andrew Sharpley of Stock, Hausen & Walkman's Invisible Jukebox interview, tested by Tony Herrington
"20 Jazz Funk Greats" from 20 Jazz Funk Greats (Grey Area Of Mute)
Matt Wand: [After about five seconds] Throbbing Gristle. . . It's off 20 Jazz Funk Greats.
Very good. Which track?
MW: It's just called. . . "20 Jazz Funk Greats." This is from 1979.
Were you listening to this kind of stuff at the time?
MW: Yes. Unfortunately. No, not unfortunately. Throbbing Gristle were always a funny thing to see live. They were quite often on at the Factory. I don't know what you can say about that. A lot's been said. It has an extra track on the CD which was recorded live in Manchester, "Discipline".
MW: Oh, that's from the 12".
The packaging reminded me of. . .
MW: The packaging's great. But they give the game away on this one, don't they [ie the CD reissue], because they never had that picture on the original album, but it always looked like a Moors Murderer sort of thing, but they've made it a bit more obvious on this one with the dead corpse.
Andrew Sharpley: A dead corpse?
MW: Yes, a dead corpse. But Genesis looks absolutely great; his outfit is fantastic.
So you were living in Manchester at this time.
MW: Yes, and there was a lot going on, Rafters, The Factory. It was Simon Topping from A Certain Ratio who first said, 'Come down to the Factory, you'll have a laugh'. I think he took me to see Ultravox.
AS: And it was a laugh was it?
MW: Yeah. The early incarnation of Ultravox, with John Foxx, all that "Young Savage" stuff, was great. I think Wire were the second band I ever went to see. And I think Throbbing Gristle were the third band.
So are you originally from Manchester?
MW: You know that.
I don't know that.
MW: When did you move to Manchester, Tony?
About. . . 1986.
MW: Did you really? Oh God. Yes, I was just a teenage person living in Flixton, and we used to go down to the Factory [when it was housed in the PSV club in Hulme], get the bus out there, and then there were no buses, there was like a night bus once every two hours or something. So me and about six or seven other people that lived in Flixton would walk all the way home, which was about an hour and half walk, through Moss Side as well, which was hilarious, because most of the lower blocks of flats were brothels then, and there'd be these great, huge, black ladies at the doors going, 'Hey boys, you want some fun?' We were just like adolescents coming home form the gig, and we were like, 'Oh, no'. We never tried those delights.
I'm glad to hear it. [To Sharpley] Where were you in 79?
AS: Me? I was in school.
MW: I was in school too. Let's not get it wrong. I was in school.
So when did you first meet Mat?
AS: Rex Caswell was a friend of mine; he grew up in the same town as me, and he was in Manchester and I invited him down to London to play at this exhibition when I was art college. And he said, 'Can I invite my friend?'
MW: We were performing as a duo under the name 23 Women Artists at the time.
AS: I started going up to Manchester a lot playing with Those Who Celebrate, but me and him and Rex didn't really like it so we started doing things by ourselves.
MW: They were too anti-noisy electronics; they were going out of rock and into being like The Art Ensemble Of Chicago. Where as we were going: 'What's wrong with all these samplers and pedals and things and making a noise?' Me and Rex were doing a few things, and we did a duo thing in a wine bar in Stoke-On-Trent, which was me shouting down a microphone and ringing a big bell from what I remember [laughs] and him playing guitar.
How did that go down?
MW: Not as bad as I expected, because I knew the bar; I'd been in college in Stoke-On-Trent. I viewed it with a certain trepidation, but it was all right. We had a laugh anyway. So Rex was his mate and he said let's spend five days in a basement behind a curtain playing music for six hours a day, on the hottest week in like about ten years.
AS: It was my degree show, and there was music six hours a day and I couldn't do it, so I invited Rex and him down.
MW: Bruce McLean stole my tape recorder at that gig. No he didn't. Actually he recovered the money for my tape recorder which got stolen. But it's not really a very catchy album title, is it? Bruce McLean Persuaded Them To Give Me The Money For The Tape Recorder Which Was Stolen [laughs]. It doesn't work does it?
Did you enjoy hearing that?
AS: I thought it was To Rococo Rot.
MW: It sounded good. The first tracks on both sides are very Chris Carter, sort of Roland, early electronic things. Then "Hot On The Heels Of Love" is almost like gay disco, Giorgio Moroder style, that's very nice too. It's a really good album, it's the most accessible one. A lot of people think Heathen Earth is the best one.
AS: I'd never heard this stuff until he played it to me.
What did you think of it?
MW: Grey music, he called it.
Did you pick up on the cut-up techniques, the Burroughs connection?
MW: Yeah, and they were a good route into that sort of thing for a lot of people who weren't literary and didn't know that sort of thing was around. They were good at broadening the appeal of those sorts of things. I went to see that funny Final Academy thing with Cabaret Voltaire and all those people, and Mr Burroughs himself. It was so forced. Everyone was laughing at everything, and I was like, 'What the fuck's this? It's just some old codger reading some dodgy things from a book.' There was a really strange atmosphere, this kind of horrible deification.
He's got a good reading voice though.
MW: I don't think I appreciated that at the time. I was like, 'This is nonsense. Who is this old codger?' But it's true; you can't really read his books without reading them in his voice. It loses a lot, I suppose. It's very difficult not to.
AS: Once you've heard it you can hear the tone of voice behind the words. You can't say that about many writers.
MW: Richard Briers?
AS: He hasn't written a book has he?
MW: I'm sure he has. Hasn't he written My Life With Felicity Kendal?
AS: If Richard Briers has written a book, I'd read that. Have you read Tom Baker's
MW: No, but I did see him reading from his book in Waterstone's. We walked in and they had this cordoned off area and Tom Baker was there lapping it up, gibbering on about winking at a woman on a train and being jack the lad.
AS: More recently he's been in that hospital programme hasn't he, with Sue Johnson from Brookside. He looks very different now, he's got white hair. It's not on any more. He was chief surgeon. [As I struggle to cue up the next selection without them seeing what it is] I'm not going to look. I'm going to play the game.
MW: But there are no prizes. I think you should offer prizes. I think there should be some kind of incentive here.
MW: For people guessing the things. There are prizes on every other quiz show.
You mentioned this one earlier [in the pub, before the interview started], but I'll play it anyway.
GENERAL STRIKE "Danger In Paradise" from Danger In Paradise (Piano)
MW: [Again, after about five seconds] Oh, it's General Strike. Mr Beresford and Mr Toop. But don't ask me to identify the track. My favourite one is the one with the bath tub, "Sea Hunt", that's a really nice track, an underwater spy theme. [Listens for a while] So where's all the heavyweight avant garde music then?
We'll get to that. What do you think of this?
AS: I've never heard it before but I quite like it. What's the one afterwards, what's the third part of this?
MW: Well, the second part was that Nato album, which you've probably got.
AS: Deadly Weapons? And the third part was Danger In Paradise?
MW: No, this is Danger In Paradise
AS: The thing on Piano?
MW: Yes, this is a re-release. You've got a copy [laughs]. I can't believe it; he's got a copy of it. This was just out on cassette on Touch originally; I bought all the Touch cassettes. They were really well compiled things, and from that you got into things like this which they released as well. It was when Virgin Records used to stock weird shit and it was great. You go into Virgin and you'd find stuff like this on the back shelves. We talked to Steve [Beresford] about doing some kind of remix of this but we never found the time.
It sounds very contemporary.
MW: It doesn't sound any place really. It doesn't sound like now or then or anywhere. To me, a lot of it sounded like odd Joe Meek experiments; further on when it becomes completely bathroom reverb and microphones under the duvet.
AS: No. To me it sounds more like a 70s Soft Machine type of thing.
MW: Does it? I never really listened to a lot of Soft Machine.
AS: Neither did I, but you try to imagine what these things sound like [laughs].
MW: I know what you mean. That track does, but there's other stuff which is much more tremelo guitar, spy themes. There's a lot of different styles on it, which are all in vogue now: dub, the twangy guitar, Martin Denny type exotica.
AS: There are some really good arrangements on it.
MW: I know what you mean. It would have been ideal to do it now.
AS: It's very dry.
MW: I liked it more than a lot of things because it doesn't go away; you can always listen to it, always put it on. Mind you, I think it benefited from being on a crap cheap quality Touch cassette [laughs].
So were you picking up on all the stuff connected to this world, like This Heat, etc?
MW: Yeah, that 79 era, Pere Ubu, This Heat, Wire. Even though you still liked The Dickies and stupidity like that, for me, those fringe things were. . . just things you got into. It's a bit nostalgic this, isn't it, for things that are being played on CDs?
Well, let's face it, the old music's the best.
MW: [Laughs] Old music's the best?
It was a joke. I'll play something new now.
MW: Sorry, I thought it was a reactionary editor stance. [Referring back to GS record] But that's not really old is it? It's just unheard.
So you were listening to that rather than, say, Joy Division?
MW: I liked Joy Division's records, but I just saw them live too often, because they were always the stand-in band at the Factory and places like that. When Tony Wilson didn't have a support band, or a band didn't turn up, Joy Division or A Certain Ratio would be on. And they were so fucking bad live, it was depressing [laughs].
BEAT JUNKIES "Scratch Monopoly Part II" from The Return Of The DJ Vol 1 (Bomb Hip-Hop)
MW: [After a few seconds] Hooray! Something we don't know.
It's American. A DJ crew.
MW: Mixmaster. . . Mike. No. [Listens]
They are probably the most extreme crew around: they use a ridiculous amount of cuts and edits in a track.
MW: X-ecutioners? [Pause] I bought that DJ Disk thing, and it's great, but. . . It's only the fact that it's done on turntables that makes it that good really. You could do the same thing with a sampler. . .
AS [interrupting]: You say it's new, but it's like old school HipHop, isn't it. I head it in 1980. I have compilations from when this stuff first came around and there's no real difference, it hasn't moved on.
MW: But there are some extremely abstract things, like that Invizbl Skratch Piklz 12" on Asphodel, which is almost getting into musique concrète.
AS: Just because it's abstract doesn't mean it's any good.
MW: Well it is quite good. There's hardly any rhythm to it at all. It's as if you were going to make a concrete thing with a sampler, but using turntables. You can't see them doing it obviously, so it's probably more exciting to see them achieve that effect live. But turntables, they're just samplers aren't they? But samplers. . .
AS: Here we go.
No, there must be stuff you can do with a turntable or splicing tape that you can't with a sampler.
AS [adopts dumb voice]: We don't use samplers no more.
OK, manipulating files in Cubase or ProTools, then.
MW: But they're all the same thing. It's sound and recording mediums. There's no difference really, between slowing down a record and slowing down a tape.
AS: Apart from the fact that that's done in real time.
MW: A sampler can be done in real time too. Hence real time playing with samplers live like what we do!
AS: Oh, I forgot. That's what we do, isn't it. Shit [laughs].
So when did you start doing it live in real time?
MW: Before we bought an Atari.
AS: Before we started recording it, because we didn't have any gear, so the only way of doing stuff was by hacking it together. For sure, listening to things like that, and hearing all the John Zorn stuff, and people using a lot of information in a very compressed space of time, yeah, it's like, we try and do this live before we start recording because recording is very pedestrian. But this stuff is quite crude. It's a very crude technique which people do over and over again until they refine it to what they regard as a level of skill, but still when you listen to it the end result is quite crude. There's a similarity there because I regard our live stuff as being very crude for instance. When you write stuff you can write second by second, frame by frame, like animation, but you're fighting raw material if you do things live like these people, they're cutting it up and they try and make some kind of, er. . .
MW: Gig. Show. Noise. Money.
AS: Other thing.
So what prompted you to start working with tapes and electronics?
AS: I regarded it as collage. He was doing collage films, and I was sort of playing with film and doing things.
What kind of equipment did you start out with?
MW: Tape switchboards.
AS: Hi-fi systems.
MW: Yeah, pause button edits, delay pedal samplers, guitar pedal samplers; which are just supposed to be delay lines but you can use them as samplers.
AS: It's the attitude behind the stuff. Like everyone has a turntable; it's a passive thing a turntable, for listening, then the HipHop people came along and used it for something that was the opposite, and I liked that. At the same time we started working together I found out about all these things that were staring to come through, like plunderphonics, Naked City, and Boredoms, all those things arrived in the same year, really, in England, even though they'd maybe been done two or three years beforehand.
MW: Negativland had been hanging around for so long, and it wasn't until they did Escape From Noise that anyone noticed, when they got a decent distribution deal; I think it was SST that did Escape From Noise, so suddenly it was in other countries, and people went: oh. What's this?
So what was the impetus to start making music?
MW: A reaction to instrumental improvising. . .
AS: And it was portable. He was making films which is a pedantic and long process, and it's difficult to show films, and I was making. . . I don't know what I was doing, and tape is. . . You could do the stuff with a minimal amount of equipment and get results quickly.
MW: If someone supplies you with a PA. I think you're gone off the rails a bit there, because you've only got to take your film reel to someone with a projector and they can show it.
AS: PAs are more common.
MW: It's a venue oriented thing; the venue supplies the service and you come and put the show on. . . I've forgotten the question actually.
AS: Why did we start getting excited by this sort of nonsense.
MW: Were we unemployed by any chance?
AS: [Laughs] Aha! I'm sure it was more than that.
DEREK BAILEY "George" from Playbacks (Bingo)
[The track opens with quiet guitar chords]
MW: Pat Metheny?
Try again. It's another new record.
AS: I haven't heard this bloke, but it's not someone that gets written about in The Wire a lot, is it? Loren Mazza-fucking-Connors.
It is, but it's not his record.
MW: John Fahey? [On the track, a voice begins reciting a text]
MW [surprised]: Oh, it's Derek.
Yes, but the guitars are being played by MazzaCane Connors and Jim O'Rourke.
AS: I've never heard John [sic] MazzaCane Connors, but he gets written about a lot in The Wire, and I asked a friend of mine what he was like, the guy from Rectangle, Quentin [Roullet], and he said, 'Oh, he's shit'. So when you played that, and you said it's new, I put two and two together: new, guitar player, shit.
I was playing it because of Derek. I was going to play this track [I cue up the John Oswald mix], but you'd have got it straight away. But what is this track?
MW: What is it? It's improvising.
AS: He's playing a piece.
MW: Oh, you mean it's a song? It's a tune?
MW: What you saying? What's the question?
AS: It's Derek Bailey playing a guitar.
It's a John Oswald piece, constructed from samples and loops of Derek's playing.
AS: Is it? Nice! [Laughs all round]
MW: That must be on a par with that Naked City track that he did, when he cut up Naked City and made it sound like. . . Naked City [laughs]. Actually that didn't sound like Derek, did it really, because he rarely sits there doing that [playing repetitive phrases] apart from maybe at a soundcheck. [Looks at CD] Oh, it's Playbacks. I wondered what that sounded like. [Reading through the list of contributors] John French? What's that like?
It's got some drums on it. [I skip back to the original selection]
AS [to Matt]: Just think, when you were 18, if you'd have seen him do this, you'd have said, 'Whose that old codger up on stage?'
MW: I did say that, when I first saw him.
How did you first meet Derek?
MW: We used to put improvised things on in Manchester, and we put him on with Barre Phillips, and we did a film with a kind of structured Improv live do-da sound thing and his girlfriend, Karen, is a film maker, and she went [adopts little old lady voice], 'Oh, look, it's very nice that, oh yes, blah blah blah'. Then we brought him up again and he did a solo night and then a night with all of the improvisors in Manchester, just playing 15 minutes with each, end to end. Then he asked me to play with Tony Oxley and Pat [Thomas] in Germany. . . Oh, and he asked us to do Company before. . . No, it was after that. Was it before or after? I can't remember.
AS: It was 1990, 1991. . .
How did you get into Improv?
MW: I knew nothing about it. He knew about it.
AS: I knew about it. The only access I had to music was through record libraries in London. And they had lots of Incus stuff in record libraries in Hackney. He lives in Hackney so he'd obviously taken them all down to the library [laughs]. That's where I heard it. I didn't realise it was improvised. But the thing I liked about it was that it seemed to be a music that wasn't cynical, the opposite of something that was just made to shift units, or to get people jumping up and down shouting out your name. It seemed to be much more curious than that. And it was funny. The first gig I ever saw was Phil Minton, and I just laughed, it was hilarious. I'd never seen anyone dancing like that before. It was great, it was really alive. And it seemed an obvious, simple way of playing with other people. We got interested, I think, because we were both ferreted away in rooms doing things on our own, and the fact that it was a dialogue with other people when you play live and you get a really quick response. . . It's one of the few musics in England where somebody does something and somebody responds.
MW: I'd only encountered these things accidentally; through a record with Phil Minton, actually, Phil Minton and er. . . what's-his-face who plays the sampler now? Big moustache. Bob Ostertag. Voice Of America. I bought that in Ray's Jazz in London for like, one pound. It was on sale because they just couldn't get shut of it. Fred Frith was on it as well. That was quite new for me: what's this? It's quite interesting. Then I bought a Phil Minton album, a solo voice thing. So it wasn't born from jumping up and down going, yeah, free improvisation. But it's always there, isn't it? It's in plenty of other things: This Heat stuff. And General Strike. . .
MW: And then you discover that they'd done Alterations and things that sounded a bit like you anyway. Not you. Us.
AS: I've never heard Alterations.
MW: I mean, it doesn't, but you can imagine our live things being a bit like that. Then years later, Derek does a thing with Steve Noble and Pat Thomas [on the Rectangle label] which sounds exactly like What's Up? [SH&W's first release, a cassette issued in 1990].
AS: Does it?
MW: No, actually it doesn't.
But the way Pat Thomas triggers samples on that record does form some kind of connection, given the context.
MW: Yeah. There are lots of things like that I suppose.
AS: Well, if you want to identify the world around you through its relationship to what you've done. .
MW: No. I'm identifying what I've done by its relationship with the world around me.
AS: Well, if you want to play games like that.
MW: It's not a game, it's a connection.
AS: Connections! That's a game.
What kind of response did you get from hardcore improvisors. AS [adopts stern, disapproving voice]: No! Didn't like! Why haven't you skill? Because you haven't got an instrument. And they still don't like it; they still look askance at it.
How different are your live sets now to then? I mean, these days you are working with computers, and one of you lives in Paris [Sharpley] and the other in Manchester.
AS: We still don't really know what's going to happen. That's the only reason, I think, we both still do it. He'll come along with a whole load of new ideas that I've never heard before, and the first time I'll have heard them will be in the concert, and I really like that. That's the reason to continue doing these things, because you're put on the spot.
MW: And there are other people doing that who wouldn't be classed as improvisors; the things that Speedy and Andy do [DJ Speedranch and V/VM's Andy MacGregor], even though you'd class it as DJing, Andy's got his laptop and his effects units and his pedals, and they've got no plan at all, they're just wading into it. But they wouldn't talk about it in those terms at all. They'd just say, it's either havin' it, or it's not [laughs].
AS: Or it's had it.
UNCREDITED MUSICIANS "Gigantor" from Defenders Of Justice: Sci-fi's Greatest Hits Vol 4 (TVT)
[The track begins with a spurt of 50s sci-fi electronics]
MW: Oh, I recognise that. [A chorus begins singing the Gigantor theme] This is just TV theme tunes. Or has it been doctored with? [Listens] No, it hasn't. It's the theme tune to Gigantor strangely. The best track on here is "Go-Go Gophers". [Looks at CD sleeve. Surprised] Oh, no it's not. I've got that track on something. . . It's basically the same album but packaged differently. That's outrageous. It's not got "Go-Go Gophers" on it. What a waste of time!
Do you buy much of this kind of stuff?
MW [laughing]: If it's cheap.
AS: I went into an advertising agency in Paris, and they had a sound library, and they had things like this. They had 10,000 CDs. They had ten CD box sets of just explosions. It's crazy. They had the whole Wall Of Sound library there.
MW: Have you seen the Lucas Films? Do you remember when we were in Leipzig with those CD-ROM kids in that college, and they had the Lucas Films? Lucas Films do background sounds for films and they're like 50 CD box sets. I think they had the smallest one, which was like 30 CDs. At Lucas Films they do like 300 CDs, and it's proper Lucas Films recordings, you know, of two minutes of background on Venus or somewhere. And they cost a fortune.
AS: Well this guy had the biggest one. He's got a whole wall of the Wall Of Sound library. It's nuts.
At George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch, there is a sound design department, and they invite people like Pauline Oliveros to come and lecture to the technicians on sound and recording.
MW: Oh really? Not to record there?
No, just to lecture, I think.
MW: What a gig! How do we get that gig?
[To Sharpley]: What were you doing at the ad agency? Pilfering sounds?
AS: No, I was there to get work.
MW: He lives in Paris, it's expensive. He's got a terrible horse habit to keep up [laughs]. He's got a stable and everything.
AS: This guy is putting out a CD of remixes of Peugeot adverts, and from the French equivalent of British Gas. Someone turned up at a gig and invited me to see him.
MW: So he gets the really good 500 quid a day job while I sit at home boxing records.
AS: No, it's not like that. I haven't got a job, it's just a one-off remix thing. He's going to get about five people to remix adverts.
MW: So he's not going to give you a job at all? That's shocking.
AS: He might do, later. It's a slow process in the world of. . . scraping the rent together.
MW: Until you've actually done an advert you're not considered fit to do one.
Do you listen to stuff like that much?
AS: I don't. He might. Sometimes things leap out. You hear a record and think, I'll use that, sure.
MW: You can't get away from it though. 40 per cent of the things released on CD seem to be old Italian soundtracks rediscovered.
AS: Maybe it's because the people who runs these labels are all into the Internet and they become obsessed with archiving.
MW: Well, I don't want to get into that because I've got a little project under my cap which isn't the same thing, but it's similar.
MW: I can't say. I daren't say.
AS: You're archiving are you?
MW: I'm archiving something, but I can't say what. It will be out on Hot Air. . .
AS: Oh yeah?
HENRI CHOPIN "Les Pirouettes Vocales Pour Les Pirouettements Vocaux" from Les Mirifiques Tundras & Compagnie (Alga Marghen)
MW [immediately]: Henri Chopin.
AS: Nice guy.
MW: Very nice guy. What made you play that? Why?
AS: We're putting out a single with him this month.
MW: That's a put up job, isn't it? Is this someone's particular favourite? I mean, I think it's great.
One reason was the label.
MW: Is it Alga Marghen?
MW: Which is a good label for archiving stuff.
And the fact that there seems to be more and more of these kind of labels conducting what are almost archaeology projects, digging ever deeper into the esoteric reaches of electronic music, composition, whatever. . .
AS: This isn't a branch of electric composition; it gets hawked in with that, but really it's Lettrist poetry, isn't it?
MW: Most of the stuff they put out is geared towards voices and sound poetry. Walter Marchette and people like that.
They have just issued a David Behrman CD
MW: Wave Train.
AS: He's a great old guy, 78, I think, and he lives in a tower block on the 11th floor in this area of Paris that is very like Salford. Some people broke into his flat, and they nicked all his gear, like his CD player and his TV and his record player. They left the tape recorder that he does all his work on because it's so old and cranky, and they left all these master tapes and all this original artwork that he's got from the Lettrist people in the 50s, and just took the crap consumer shit that they could probably sell for 20 quid. He couldn't do anything. He just sat there and watched them do it. He was just happy that they didn't take anything of any value to him.
What do you think of the kind of institutionalised approach to electronic music, such as GRM and IRCAM in Paris?
MW: The institutions are just government funded things. What do you want? Another swimming pool or another sound research centre? I think they're probably better abroad. I tried to do an MA at York. I went down, spoke to this guy, he was very friendly, showed me all these things, and they had ridiculously arcane things. He had this machine in the corner and he was really proud of it. He said, 'That's doing some timestretching', and it was going to be sat there for two days timestretching this stuff, and it was something you could do on a laptop in about two minutes. But he talked about the course in an interesting way, but when I said I was going to apply to do it he asked me what musical qualifications I had and what grade piano. I said I didn't have any; I've done this and I've done that, but it was completely irrelevant.
AS: I did a gig last week and somebody came up to me in the interval and said, 'Ah, you use a computer. I'm just about to get a computer, what do you think of the G3?'
What did you say?
AS: That seems a very peculiar reaction after you've just been playing music for an hour.
So do you think people now get too obsessed with the way music is produced?
AS: Yes, that's the point I was making. But in concerts it's quite dull to see people looking into a computer. It's more interesting to see fingers move and sound being produced.
So how do you get round that, seeing as you now work with computers? How do you liven up the performance?
AS: I don't think we're really performers. Or if we are, we haven't yet performed.
MW: We had a year of doing structured songs, trying to make it sound a bit like what we were doing on the albums. We did a Christmas show at The Spitz [in East London] and we had Father Christmases all over the place and polar bears on crutches. But that's a performance, it's not us performing. We were still doing exactly the same thing basically. We always try to wear nice T-shirts.
BJORK "Alarm Call (Bjeck Mix)" (One Little Indian)
You have to get this one before the singing starts, because it will be too obvious then.
MW: Where's the hard stuff?
There isn't any. I'm making it easy for you.
MW [to Sharpley]: Is this one of yours? [Listens] It's not the new collaboration between Ananda Shankar and Aphex Twin is it? The tune sounds really familiar. Is it a remix? [Bjork starts singing] Oh right, there you go [laughs]. So whose doing that? Funkstorung?
No. It's an American, but he's not really known for this kind of thing.
MW: Oh, really? Is that all you're going to give us, 'an American'? New York or West Coast?
AS: It's a terrible arrangement of what is quite a good song. Who is it?
AS: Well there you go. Wouldn't have guessed that.
MW: All on his own, do you think, with his guitar? Do you think he did that?
[The next track is played. A Matmos remix]
MW: God, it's complete deja vu. They're both Dummy Run remixes by other people.
MW: They're fine to do because it's what we do anyway, it's just a more restricted version, because, a, they're for big companies so you can't use any old sample that you want, not that we ever do, and b, there's a very short time scale which involves them hassling you for about two months trying to arrange the contract, and as soon as they've arranged how much they want to pay you, then they want it in a week or so.
AS: Anything that someone phones up and asks you to do is potentially interesting and potentially dull. The fact that someone asks you to do a remix is good, or if they ask you to do a film soundtrack; you take each thing on its merit. We're doing this thing, it's not quite music anyway, a lot of it, it's much closer to collage process , and if you make things out of premade material like samples and stuff, and to an extent the machines you're using are premade material, they work in a certain way, then when these other things come in it's part of the same thing; it's dragging the world into what you do. I like doing remixes because there's an element of invading someone else's world. The CDs we put out are distributed through a network that is completely separate to the EMIs and the Warners. So if Pulp ask us to do a remix, it's funny, because you go in and it makes you more aggressive
MW: Also, you can find it in Woolworths afterwards.
Y SHEEP Sampling Concerto No 1: "The Vanishing Sun" Op 138 (Mood)
[The CD is wrapped in a white sheepskin glove] I'm not going to play this next one. I'm just going to show it to you
MW: Really? [Laughs. I hand him the glove] Oh, I've seen it before. I saw it in Japan. But I can't remember who it was. I think we may have met him actually. What's his name?
Mood Man is the producer.
MW: Oh, it's Mood Man is it, right, he's funny. We went to dinner with Yamatsuka Eye and him. He's one of the Asteroid Desert Songs, the ADS, people.
AS: Are you sure it was Mood Man?
MW: Yes, yes.
The CD is credited to Y Sheep.
AS [examining the inside of the glove]: He's sewn a lining into these you see.
MW [looking at the elaborate fold out inner sleeve]: Oh, it's very well done. I'm very impressed. It's really nice.
AS: We sewed all ours ourselves [referring to Hair Balls, the SH&W CD which also came packaged inside a fur glove]. He's got someone else to do it obviously on a machine.
MW: Or in a factory even.
The question is about packaging, obviously.
AS: This sort of packaging is wholly unnecessary and detracts from the musical content [laughs all round].
MW: We saw them [Asteroid Desert Songs] in a magazine which did a feature on us, and they are pure HipHop. It was great because they have all these cars which are fur-lined, hot rods, and they do CDs which are just about bass, a 303 going boom, that kind of ridiculous car-shaking bass. Then they listed their favourite records, and it was all Miami Bass, then right in the middle was The Hafler Trio, Mastery Of Money, because the beginning of that has these ridiculous subsonic tones, and because they're Japanese it's like, 'That's bass!', where you wouldn't get that from an American.
So why do you go in for such elaborate or unusual packaging?
AS: If you're sending these things out into the world, you may as well take care of them. This year I'm putting out a record that comes with a free bottle of wine for each copy. All the sounds on the record are the sounds of the wine being made. This might be retentive, but I like it, and I like the fact that it's an object that you can give to people, like Hair Balls.
MW: Are you sure it's not a bottle of wine that comes with a free CD?
Does it matter?
MW: It does matter; distribution-wise it matters a lot. Do you buy it in Threshers or in HMV?
AS: Last year somebody faxed me an interview from Japan and one of the questions was: 'We have noticed on your records there is fur and there is cats. Why do you have girls' tastes?' I left that question blank.
MW: Was it a girl who asked the question?
AS: It wasn't.
FENNESZ "Untitled" from Picknick Mit Hermann! (Rhiz)
MW: Sounds like Arto Lindsay [listens]
It's off an Austrian compilation.
MW: Oh, is it Fennesz? Is it from "Plays", his 7"? Is it a new thing? [Looks at CD] Oh, it's on that. This has got a really good version of the "Pushbike Song". Have you heard that? It's really good, completely hilarious. Christian Fennesz is really nice as well. I've got this. I've only listened to this album once, I can't believe it.
AS: The rhythms aren't very interesting, are they? I really like the production, the sound of it, but they don't do anything with it, it just sits there.
MW: This isn't a good example of Fennesz's stuff. His other stuff is totally computer, really; he's sourcing from guitars, but. . . Computer music is great fun to do, but everyone can have access to a computer now, software is floating around on blobbies, so you can't just get away with process, there has to be some other input. Maybe when Farmers Manual and those sorts of people first started it was just an exciting process, so they just bunged it out in an enthusiastic way, whereas now it bears looking at. People keep saying to me it's all going to sound the same because everyone will have computers and the same software. . .
AS [interrupting]: Like the way everyone has pencils, and they all write the same and draw the same?
MW: Well that's what I said, but different systems and computers aren't compatible anyway. The combinations of things that can go in computers is always going to be different, so just as a starting point it can't ever be the same. The good Farmers Manual things are when the structure has come out of it, because the computers are fucked up and created structures that you wouldn't come up with any other way; total accidental things. There's a big scope for computers to fuck up and cause accidents.
Why did you start working with computers?
MW: Portability, because as SH&W we always wanted to turn up at gigs with just a Walkman in each pocket. I mean this is my computer here [he picks up a small, slim case]. You can't get much more portable than that. I was always envious of Phil Minton because he doesn't even have to take a microphone with him. This is the nearest I can get. It's just sheer jealousy.
Does the way you work now, working at computer terminals separately in two cities, grate with the old methods of improvising as a group?
AS: We still do that. He generates a lot of raw material on his computer and gives me it on CD-Rs, then I use that. In a way we work more closely now at a distance than in the past.
MW: When he lived in Exeter when we did Organ Transplants, even though everything was started by an individual, the end process involved a lot of work on things that were almost there, dismissing them, rearranging them, chopping and adding, As soon as he moved to Manchester and lived next door to me, it never happened!
Do you work differently with just two rather than three or four?
AS: The first CD was pretty much an editing job my me, him and Dan [Weaver]. Hair Balls was three people producing raw material and then getting together at the end to edit it. Now there are two people; it's the same process but more focused.
MW: It's a similar process to live but much more deliberate.
You've mentioned the people involved on this next one already, but I'll play it anyway.
BOB OSTERTAG "Oxblood" from Verbatim (Rasatscan)
MW: [Listens] Can you turn it up a bit? [Listens some more. Long pause]
MW: I think he's using a Remix 88 or a Remix 16, that kind of reversing back and forth of a sample; unless it is a computer. The background could be done live. . . Are there live players on it?
There were once.
MW: Is it Bob Ostertag doing something? Is it the end of the process of Say No More?
Yes, it's Verbatim.
MW: I heard the first part, where all the players gave him tapes and he chopped it up. The second part was they all learned to do that live.
AS: And this is the third part?
Yes, it's those live recordings put back into the computer and processed again.
AS: I think he's using the granular synthesis programme. It's free.
You mentioned Voice Of America earlier.
MW: He was just using synthesizers then, tape recorders, because he was using that Vietnamese boy riot. . . He was still on the same sort of kick for his source material, wasn't he? Revolution stuff.
He does have a political dimension to his work, like Negativland and maybe even John Oswald, with all the issues about sampling and copyright.
MW: There's not a political dimension with regard to the way he makes the work. His political dimension is to do with the material he uses. Has Oswald got a political dimension? It was pure accident that he got prosecuted.
AS: I can't see one, apart from being anti-copyright. It's funny, he did a talk at a concert in Italy, and he was asked a question like this, and he said [he adopts a sneering, nasal North American accent], 'I call it, copywrong'. . . His voice isn't really like that.
MW: The great thing is no one has picked on us. Look at Don Joyce, he looks like such a bitter, broken person because of it. What I don't like about Negativland is their ridiculously idealistic stance. It took years and years for musicians to get copyright on music. I mean it's got completely out of hand, but to dismantle it would be impossible.
AS: Bob Ostertag and John Oswald are different, they are like sound essayists. They've got ideas about how to use sound and process, and attitudes towards material. Bob Ostertag used to be a journalist, and John Oswald to me acts like a journalist: he tends to overwrite everything he does. They want to contextualise sound and study it; they are a bit like media studies teachers. Now I want to play something. I just bought it. I haven't heard it yet. You have to tell me what it is, OK? You might have heard it. [Sharpley cues up the next selection]
APHEX TWIN "WindowLicker" (Warp)
MW [after a few seconds]: I can imagine who it is, but I'm not certain yet. [Dreamy girl chorus comes in] Serge Gainsbourg [laughs].
AS: You know it don't you?
MW: I think I do.
AS: Tell me.
MW: Not yet.
AS: This is someone who was quoted in an interview I read today saying that he wants to destroy copyright, even though it's fantastic, because copyright, the copyright on his music, means he never has to work again. He wants to destroy copyright and put all his music onto four-hour long DAT tapes on the Internet.
MW: It's not Chuck D and his MP3 extravaganza? No, it's not Chuck D obviously [laughs]. . . Aphex Tweak [sic].
MW: That's what I thought, but I couldn't imagine you would be playing it. Is it "Windowlicker"? I'm sure I've heard a much more mutated version of this.
AS: Sorry about that. It could have been good.
MW: It could have been, but you never know with records these days. . . Are you sure it wasn't Serge Gainsbourg?
JOHN THE POSTMAN "Mahatma Ghandi's Heartbreakers" from John The Postman's Puerile (Overground)
OK, my turn again. This is back to Manchester, but it's more about. . . I'm not sure what it's about: stupidity in music or something.
MW: You're giving us too many clues. [The track starts]
AS: Blue Aeroplanes. That was a joke. It's not Edward Barton is it?
MW: Something on Twisted Nerve?
MW: Crispy Ambulance. Er. . . Royal Family And The Poor. I've never heard them, I'm just guessing [laughs]. I think I might have seen them live once.
It's from that era: late 70s.
AS: Qaungo Quango.
MW: Durutti Column [laughs]. Is this a bad moment for them? Is this untypical? It's freeform. Those Who Celebrate! John Dowie.
I'll play another track, but it will be totally obvious. [The voice of Mark E Smith blurts out of the speakers]
MW: Oh, that's unfair. I thought it would be too obvious to say The Fall.
It's not The Fall, though.
MW: Oh. [Smith sings: "Rich foreign stars die in front of their videos when they hear the name: Puerile! The Postman. . ."] John The Postman. [Laughs] Is it an album? Has this been released on CD? I don't believe it! John The Postman used to come to all improvising gigs. He was one of the only ones you could rely on to come to everything.
It's that completely perverse, amateur, no technique, DIY thing, which you've still got today, with people like Richard Youngs. Sorry about that.
MW: No, that was good. That's funny. That is funny.
What other local celebrities did you get at your gigs then?