Secret Thirteen Interview - AnD, Black Rain, Speedy J, JK Flesh & O/H



Last year, Secret Thirteen had the opportunity to review AnD’s highly inspired debut LP, “Cosmic Microwave Background”, released on Speedy J’s Electric Deluxe. We were amazed by the essence of techno its tracks were impregnated with, its harshness, its experimentalism, its intensity. Since then - and deservedly so - they’ve made a name for themselves within the techno scene. The number of AnD fans grows constantly and peers already know what this duo, consisting of Andrew Bowen and Dimitri Ploumpidis, are made of. Their superb aggressive live performances are something they will continue to be known for. Just listen to their set at Awakenings some days ago.

But we have something to celebrate again. Last June AnD had the chance to release two EPs with remixes of tracks from “Cosmic Microwave Background”. After such a killer record, the cast in charge of remixing this music couldn’t be just “anyone”. AnD RMX 01 & 02, as the EPs are entitled, have featured the best. The authors on the first are Speedy J and Lucy as Zeitgeber, David Foster (Huren or Teste) and Richard Oddie (Orphx) with their acclaimed new project O/H, and Sleeparchive. On the second it’s Justin Broadrick from Godflesh under his JK Flesh alias and Stuart Argabright’s Black Rain, who reconstruct AnD tracks in an impressive manner for a powerful finish.

Secret Thirteen has had the great honour to chat with some of the musicians involved in this brilliant project. They discussed some of the issues related to the idea behind the EPs, their respective compositional approaches, their thoughts on the music industry and other subjects. Here is the result:

Justinas Mikulskis: What was the main criteria for inviting artists to re-work your music? Were you all long-time musical friends or was this decision made by the label?

Black Rain: Ike Yard had met AnD in Manchester in 2012 and stayed in touch. In my opinion, it’s better to have remixes by people you know will come up with the good stuff. Sometimes they might be up-and-comers, sometimes it is not the situation to take a chance.

JM: From a realistic perspective it might seem that this was done to gain more attention, because each of the artists involved is well known in the electronic music scene. Why are there are no up-and-coming young artists?

AnD: The remix packages came because of the label’s idea to invite artists to rework the album, so in turn we made a list of artists that we love and respect. We were truly honored by the final results. There was no thinking about gaining attention, we love what all of the guys do in an artistic sense.

All the artists involved are well respected in their fields, but with regards to no new artists, O/H is a very new project from Rich Oddie and Dave Foster.

Speedy J: we went with people that the artist (AnD) and the label admire, and would be able to provide an interesting take on the originals. As a label the task is to find remixers who have a genuine connection with the original work, and vice versa. it should be a case of mutual interest and inspiration, and i think we succeeded in that.

JK Flesh: I have been remixing a variety of artists for over 24 years now, and I have learnt that my own personal vision is all that counts, ultimately. I simply remix an artist accommodating the way I wish to see this track, and if I have been chosen, then I can only imagine that the process of selection was informed by the artist who wants me to reimagine their music in my context. Remixing is entirely personal for me, music is entirely personal for me, and it has to be a natural process.

JM: You all have your unique approaches when it comes to sound architecture, but all of you also have a distinctive perspective on life, different influences, which affect your personal creations a lot. I am wondering if your goal was only to re-work these tracks by adding your signature flavor and preserving the original AnD mood? Or did you also include your own diverse influences thus creating even more emotionally and ideologically powerful recordings?

Black Rain: I would say both - adding signature flavor and included our own influences. All towards expanding the track.

Speedy J: In practice, the process of remixing is less complicated than the question implies. The artist send some sounds and parts to work with and you just mess around with them until you find something that sounds right. Sure, the aesthetics of the original recording is something that plays a part in where you depart from, but once you're on to something all that goes out of the window and you just try to find the ultimate form of what is happening in the studio at that moment. Remixing is just like playing with Lego.

O/H Rich: We tried to push AnD's original sounds towards rhythmic noise and then worked in the vocal, playing off ideas from the title.

O/H Dave: Damage is done…The lyrics are pretty direct in this one: “$MONEY$, P0WER”.

JM: Would you say it was a challenge to work with AnD’s recordings from the technical perspective? Did the process require any special preparation?

Black Rain: The Berlin production for Last Scattering with Nino of Shapednoise was one of Black Rain's first remixes, and this time engineered & recorded by Nino at his place. An important part of my process is to figure out “what world are we in ?”, “is this where we need to stay?”, what sound effects do we need, what should the sound pallette be.

Galactic was done in Tokyo with Shin, and we always prepare carefully for each production we set out on. Ideas are thrown back and forth.

Speedy J: No.

O/H Dave: I’d say we all work in a similar context technically. This wasn’t necessarily a technical exercise it was more the aesthetic statement.

JK Flesh: I consider AnD very advanced both technologically and technically, I totally admire that, but did not find that in any way intimidating, I find it challenging. I picked the song to remix myself, based purely on personal taste, and I could immediately hear a personal vision.

JM: After hearing your colleagues’ re-works were you fully satisfied with your own re-work?

Black Rain: I haven't heard any of the other remixes.

JM: Was there any kind of friendly competition going on between you guys? Or maybe you didn’t know which other artists are making re-works for AnD’s new EP until the final stages? It would be interesting to know the background of the process and to let people know how these things are happening these days.

Black Rain: After doing Dark Pool in NYC with Oliver Chapoy, multi tracking at his Studio, my hard drive crashed and I had not been doing music on my computer for awhile. So when these remixing opportunities came up I had to scramble to figure out how to get the best results.

In the past I have only remixed a few things: Beat Connection by LCD Soundsystem, TUSSLE. It's a mode I am not often in. Too busy !

Speedy J: As with anything I've ever recorded I was temporarily satisfied with the result when it was committed to mixdown. But as with everything else, I could hate it the next day and love it again after 5 years. Our remix was the first one finished so we didn't have the burden to live up to the other ones. In the case of this particular remix, it was done as Zeitgeber, together with Lucy. We recorded it in my studio in a session where we were both physically there. Many collaborations these days take place by sending files and emails back and forth but I believe in being in the studio with someone to feed of each others ideas and approaches.

O/H Dave: These are all current artists operating at the top of their powers.

JK Flesh: I had neither any idea as to who was remixing AnD, nor did I wish to know this at the creative stage, I never wish to be affected by prior information so as to preserve the purity of my approach to a remix. I heard the other remixes after the event, and as usual for me, felt every other remix was better than mine, haha! But that is an issue I’m generally always struck with, that my work is inferior. This keeps me creatively alive and inspired, my own personal failure is a reason for persevering.

JM: One of the leading aspects in each track are rhythms, which are more or less stone-cold, noisy and hypnotic. As I understand all of you choose them as the primary fundamental for the re-works?

Black Rain: Not necessarily. BR probably chose the tracks we had a feel for, and ones where we thought we could do something good with their 'whole package': atmospheres, beats, basses, drone tracks, noises.

JM: I also would like to know what repetitive rhythms mean to you and could you even imagine electronic music scene without them?

Black Rain: No. At the same time, beatless is fine too

Speedy J: Cold repetitive stuff is what computers do very well almost by themselves. Shaping the sound and overall aesthetics is where an artist can make a difference, and convey individual ideas.

JM: What does good rhythm mean to all of you? How would you define a good rhythm in your musical world?

AnD: Rhythm is always important in music it can put you into a trance like state through repetition, and without it you would lose all sense of groove and character to the intensity of music. A good rhythm in our world is simply something that makes you want to move.

O/H Rich: Rhythm is almost always my starting point.

O/H Dave: Rhythm of course adds the potency. A time-tested experience of transcendence. But the rhythms also evoke the assembly line and rigid automation. At this stage, the implications are much more dire than the classic “industrial” context.

JK Flesh: Rhythms, beats, etc., are fundamentally central to my creative drive: my first instrument was the drums, nearly every band I have been involved in or at the helm of, is driven by rhythm, my band Godflesh is driven entirely by rhythm, machine rhythm, and the purpose of the rock instrumentation in this band is literally to speak the beats, to emulate the rhythms with guitars and bass, with very little articulation, and without being ‘progressive’.

JM: When all is said and done, do you believe this EP will be relevant in the electronic music scene after, for example, 5 years? Why/why not? I’m asking this because these days electronic music tendencies seem so unstable and I was wondering if you believe in this EP’s timelessness? It may be hard to predict the future, but let’s try.

AnD: None of us can predict what will happen in the future, but in our opinion all of the artists involved in the remix packages were leading the way over 20yrs ago and still produce music that sounds futuristic today. There is so much new music being released now, but quality music is always quality music. All of the remixes have each artist’s unique sonic characteristics.

Black Rain: No problem making the future. Predicting the outcome - I don't have enough info to do that.

Speedy J: of course this will be a classic at every wedding for the next 500 years.

O/H Dave: Well, as soon as one proclaims their relevance the reality is far to the contrary and relegated to the realm of pastiche. Looking at artistic output that way only ensures it’s failure and mediocrity.

JK Flesh: Ultimately I live in the now with artistic creation, not what could or could not be in the future, if a creation appears timeless in somebody’s opinion, it won’t in others, that’s not for me to guess. Inspiration has to be natural for me, not so considered, I am not saying that is right or wrong, it’s simply what works for me, then what will be will be...

JM: Any last words you would like to share with our readers and with all those who are interested in supporting this EP by buying it? I personally would like to say “stop the fucking piracy at least for the first month after the release is out”.

Black Rain: “Stop the piracy with a loophole: *potify”, haha.

AnD: We would like to thank Electric Deluxe, Speedy J, Lucy, Sleeparchive, O/H, JK Flesh and Black Rain for the amazing reworks of our music! Also love music, buy vinyl x

Speedy J: as a label I don't care about piracy. I want the music that we love to be heard by as many people as possible. The more people like the music we put out, the better the label and artists will do. If anyone genuinely likes what we do they will find us, buy our vinyl or come to see the artists play live.

About Author

Armando Valdés, the man behind Secret Thirteen album reviews, is a translator, music journalist and a member of noise-ambient + spoken word band “Granny On Donkey”.

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