Posting it here, before it gets buried!
Free-lance writer and musician Alex C. caught up with Simon Posford
and Benji Vaughan, two of the most well-respected and cutting edge
producers in the world today, like you don’t know already, just a
few days before what is sure to be one of the best parties Twisted
Records have ever thrown. Taking a brisk drive through the scenic
English countryside with Benji on the way to Simon’s house, he
discusses everything from his history to his writing style. Over
tea, Simon and Benji both open up with great candor about a few
things you’d like to read, and laugh, about…
So Benji, there’s not much known about you to the average fan.
Could you tell us a little about your musical background?
Sure. Well, I started off in guitar bands when I was in school. By
the time I was 16, I had gotten into electronic stuff. When I was
about 14, acid house had started in England, which is what my big
brother was into. It was really starting to filter through when I
was 15, 16 when I first got into the music. Wasn’t really going to
raves though right away, but I did get my hands on a drum machine
and just started getting into programming stuff. By the time I was
18, I had ditched the guitars and bands thing and just set on
making electronic music, just needed to get the equipment. At the
time I was really into the Orb and Future Sound of London, that
kind of stuff. And also more like full on drum and bass early on,
though it wasn’t really drum and bass back then at raves. I didn’t
really like the music at raves, I just enjoyed going. Wouldn’t
really listen to it if I wasn’t at a rave. I’d just go and have fun
and then I’d get home and listen to Warp records, Aphex Twin, stuff
like that. Then went off to Goa and got into trance and came back
and bought an SL1 sampler with 16 seconds of memory. That was about
1995 I guess. ‘96 I bought the sampler and just took it from there.
Then I teamed up with a guy named Sean Williams who was in a band
called Process and we made a track together called Clarity from
Deep Fog. And that was my first release. Got together with Twisted
and since then, been doing stuff for Twisted, making house records,
producing some bands. Produced a band called The Egg, did their
album a couple of years ago, now about to do a rock band in the
States in June with Simon called the Disco Biscuits. And so about
four years ago me and Simon started making music together. That was
around the time I was making the first Prometheus album also and
things sort of kicked off when that album dropped and I’ve been
busy ever since.
And so how did you and Simon actually meet?
Umm, let’s see, don’t know if I should go into this in an
interview, but, well ok, I was a pot dealer, just something about
my electronic music making (laughs) and I was living in Bristol and
a friend rang me up who was dating him at the time. He lived
outside Bristol, in the countryside, and I got this call saying can
you sell some pot to Simon, cause he’s out of hash and I was more
than willing to oblige. So that’s how I met Si and at the time I
was just sort of getting the hang of making electronic stuff…
Was he known at the time?
Yeah, this was a year after he’d done his second album, so this
would have been around ‘99 I guess. I played him some music when I
was there and he said keep in touch, and then made Clarity From
Deep Fog a couple of months later that summer and took it to Simon
and Twisted took me on…
And the rest is history..
Yeah, I guess.
So how’s the response been to the new album, Corridor of Mirrors?
Great, better than the first album. It really seems to have
inspired people. The best thing I’ve heard so far is that it’s
different. ‘Cause I’m not that into trance any more. Don’t listen
to much of it at all. I kind of plow my own furrow with electronic
stuff. I have no idea when I put an album out if people will like
it or not, ‘cause I’m always aware that’s it’s not really the same
as anything out there, because I don’t really know what’s out
there. Just a shot in the dark really. But people seem to be into
it, so that’s good.
Are there any tracks that seem to be grabbing people more on the
No, not really, it’s really varied. Everyone seems to like a
different chunk of it. Some seem to like more of the weirder stuff.
Some of the people like more of the full on, up front dance tracks.
I get the impression that you spent quite a bit of time on Man Who
Swam Through a Speaker. Can you tell us how long you spent on it
before you were satisfied?
Well, I did the album really fast. There weren’t any tracks that I
spent more than three or four days on. Some of them were less. I
just thought, I’m going to get my second album done and do it real
quick, so it was all pretty fast. The whole thing was done in a few
months. I had a lot of other work outside of trance to do at the
time, so I had to squeeze it in between other sessions. So Man Who
Swam Through a Speaker took me maybe three days…
So what gave you the idea of remaking Beethoven?
It actually came about because I had been talking with a friend,
Raja Ram from Shpongle, who I also make some music with. We had
come up with this idea that’s we’re still toying with which is to
take a famous symphony and record it but also get the MIDI parts
and do a sort of twenty first century reproduction, as if we’re
producing a composer, and put it into a modern context. And so
that’s one of the things we were going to do, me, Simon and Raj -
we’re going to do it at some point in the next year- but out of
that idea came the idea of using Beethoven’s Ninth, and Raj thought
it was too full on and aggressive, and I thought yeah, it is really
full on and aggressive. It would make a really good trance tune.
And as it turned out it was a really good one to do in the
computer, cause it’s got quite punchy sections that are easy to
chop out and also I had some new software which made it easy to do…
So speaking of Raja, your collaboration with him is called
Cyberbabas. What is the dynamic between you two in the studio? Is
it similar to how he works with Simon on Shpongle? He’s called him
a sort of narcoleptic alchemist, referring to how he creates a
visual image that Simon translates into music, while falling asleep
Very much the same actually. Raj is just a ball of energy, like a
fireball that comes into the studio and spits out crazy ideas and
just inspires you to make music. He’s not hands on, he doesn’t work
the machines. He sits on the sofa on draws pictures, but at the
same time he’s riffing on ideas that are inspiring you to write, by
creating interesting images, like “Why don’t we try something that
sounds like the falling of a tower block, a rumbling explosion and
on top of that a sprinkling of angels?” And so you’re like,
OK…I’ll try and do that…
Definitely stretches the imagination…
Yeah, it does, and actually now we’re starting a new album. We’re
not going to call it Cyberbabas, we’re going to have a new name and
do it over the course of the next year.
We’ve done one track for it and initially we said we were going to
make the album quite chilled and then the first track turned into a
160 bpm trance tune, which is about the most full on thing I’ve
You’ve also worked with Joe Williams. Is there any more Junk on the
I don’t think so. Don’t really know what’s happened to Joe. We did
a lot of stuff that got some really good feedback on the mainstream
house circuit. I kind of lost interest in that scene, though. I got
into it for a while, it was interesting to learn how that sort of
music works, getting into the production of it. It’s not really my
thing now, just find it a bit too boring.
Can you tell us about the work you’ve done with Dermid Harrison-
Murray under the names Contraband, Havan and Sleaze?
Yeah, they were three different genres. I went through a period
where it seemed like I was using a different name every week
because I wanted to make so many different kinds of music. Havana
was a track that EMI commissioned me to do as a sort of commercial
house track, kind of a reggae thing. It was good money so we did
that. Then we did Contraband, which got me back into guitars and
songwriting and we did the songs for Twisted. Sleaze was like an
electro-y thing that we did after being asked by Jive records. But
now I’ve whittled stuff down and am working with a guy called
Rupert, who’s singing on the new Younger Brother album, and Younger
Brother’s much more like a band now. We’ve got guitarists, drums
and stuff. Kind of a cross between Pink Floyd and the Orb, I guess.
There’s been rumors of a downbeat album…
Well that keeps transfiguring into different things. I’ve written
twenty-five tracks which I’m sitting on at the moment. Every time I
get into it, I sort of go off in a new direction. At the moment,
I’m trying to go in a more commercial direction, not in a cheap way
mind you, with my mate Rupert, who’s got a really good voice. I’m
planning on doing four or five songs with him singing on it with
some instrumental downbeat parts. It’ll be done in the next year
and probably be out on Twisted.
That should be exciting. I’m always interested in the more offbeat
Twisted releases, Flexitones, Hi-Fi Companions…
Yeah, most of what Twisted does now is not trance. In the scheme of
what is considered trance now, I don’t think any of what Twisted
does is of that genre. We don’t make the same music as most trance
I think everyone recognizes that Twisted is at the top in terms of
quality and keeping people on their toes with interesting releases.
Do you think that puts pressure on you as an artist to conform to
such a high standard?
No, not really. The biggest pressure is making music that I think
is good. We’re a pretty close-knit group at Twisted and really
trust each other’s judgement and direction. Si Holtom, who is the
label’s manager, always supports what we do. But after doing it for
years you start to question why you’re doing stuff. Just banging
out endless trance tunes wouldn’t keep me very interested for long.
So why do you write music?
I’ve got no choice (laughs).
What would you be doing instead?
I’ve got no idea. Probably be, I don’t know, a writer I guess. I
have bad days where it’s not going well and I want to quit, but
it’s never realistic. Most of the time you feel like you don’t have
a choice. It’s what you are. You’re a musician. All I know is that
every day all I want to do is go into the studio. It’s been like
that for ten years, just go into the studio and work ten hours a
day and it never gets boring. There’s not many people who are like
that. There’s a lot of people who think they want to make music but
they just like the idea of it. They don’t actually like the reality
of it, just getting down and holding your art, learning the skills.
You’ve got to want to do it a lot. It’s not even a matter of
wanting to do it. That sounds kind of corny. You either are a
musician or you’re not. You can’t decide to do it out of any sort
of vanity because it won’t work. Well, it does in the trance scene,
but it all sounds rubbish.
So what do you think of the fact that anyone can have their own
studio? Is that a good thing?
Well, in itself, it’s neither a good or bad thing. It’s like asking
is a telephone a good or bad. Depends if you’re calling up a friend
to say hi, or stalking someone. If you’re a stalker, it’s a bad
thing. For years, when I was starting out, to have the equipment to
make decent music, you needed to be either really dedicated and
talented to get the money together to get the equipment or studio
time, or you needed to be rich, which on the one side is good, but
never if it’s only the people who can afford to buy the equipment
making music. I hear a lot of great electronic music, but you have
to wade through a lot of real, you know. It’s real easy now to
download a kick drum and put a simple bassline in and then just go
through presets on synths you’ve downloaded and cracked and it will
sound like 99% of trance out there and you’ll think, “Wow, I’m
making trance music”
And you’ll get paid to travel the world and play festivals…
Yeah, and some label out there -there’s so many out there- will
release it. They won’t give you any money for it and they’ll never
pay you any royalties but you’ll have a release. But it doesn’t
mean anything. And you take most trance tunes with a dk-a dk-a dk-a
bass and a kind of dk-dk-dk kick drum underneath it and then you
take great trance tunes, like some of X-Dream’s stuff which is
essentially doing the same thing and listen to the difference.
Technology will never be able to close that gap. You’ll never be
able to make that tune that sounds like X-Dream’s “Freak” or “Panic
in Paradise” with better technology. You’ll only make it if you’ve
got a vision of an emotion or sound you want to get across and no
technology will give you that. You’ll only be clicking through
presets on your fifty soft synths and six hundred plug-ins
desperately hoping that something interesting appears. You have to
know what you want to make. You have to use your machine to make
it. You can’t let the machine guide you with its presets, which is
mostly what I hear. It’s copying stuff. It’s pointless.
Amen. It can be so tempting to just dial in a preset nowadays.
Yeah, I just think you’ve got to build your own process, find a few
things that you can learn to use well. I don’t really use many soft
synths any more. I use to use them more, but now I’ve gone back to
using my analog stuff. I find when I’m clicking through presets on
soft synths suddenly my life seems rather pointless. (laughs) And
when I’m sitting on an analog synth, it all seems to make sense again.
So how do you go about creating a track? Do you have a system or
Well, no not really, I have some processes that I know work, that I
can use time and time again to make a sound and it will always be
different. I’ve got lots of filter boxes, outboard gear, that sort
of thing, that I like to use. But the way I make a tune is always
different. I always used to get a kick drum out and then put a
bassline in, for a trance tune anyway, and then go from there. I
don’t do that so much now. I like to wait and then make the
bassline. Now I’ll sit with a kick drum and percussion for quite a
long time getting something that sounds fat, with just the drums
going, so that when you make the bass, you can be slightly more
subtle with it. The urge isn’t there to just go DK-A DK-A DK-A with
the bass ‘cause you’ve got these drums that on their own, seem to
kick you along. So when you put the bass in, you just have to put
some fat note in and it works. I find now it’s quicker to make
tunes because I don’t put so much in them. I just leave more space
in the tracks so they get made faster. I put more effects and
atmospheres in than I used to and just a few noises.
You guys seem to be pretty fond of the Eventide.
Yeah, the Eventide has really changed my way of working. In a
strange way, it brought me back to using my analog synths because a
lot of what makes soft syths apparently seem so good is that you’ll
have your signal go through all these effects, so you get a lot of
crazy noises. You take an analog synth that just goes “boink” and
it seems a bit dull. But when you mix an analog synth with an
Eventide, the amount of cool stuff you can make is just infinite
and there’s nothing out there that sounds like it. I use my
Eventide relentlessly on everything I do.
Speaking of production, how do I learn to use compression?
That was something that took me a while to get my head around, what
you’re trying to do with it, why you’d want to use it. It’s one of
the most important things to learn though, in sound engineering. On
house tracks, electro tracks about fifty percent, sometimes all of
it’s just compressed to death…
Care to tell us a little about your rig?
Well, I’m on an ancient system. I’m still on OS 9 on a G4. But it
doesn’t bother me..
Yeah, I don’t think it detracts from the music
Right, you don’t have to be on the best system…
Yeah, Logic 7 with hardly any plugins, Reaktor, Waves…
Cool, well, that’s about all I’ve got for you. Anything you’d like
No, I think that’s it.
Great, thanks for your time, Benji.
No problem, man. By the way, you’ve got something on your face.
No, too high.
Did I get it?
No, more left.
Come on, here?
Yeah, that’s it.
Hi Simon, thanks for the tea.
So there’s a new Shpongle in the works. Are you starting this album
totally from scratch or did you have a feeling early on the journey
was not complete?
Nope, totally from scratch. And so far it sounds crap (laughs) but
it’ll sound very good once we finish it.
Can you give us any hints of what to expect? Ambient, uptempo? A
little of both?
More of the same really, I never really know what it’s going to
turn out like until it’s done. Can’t really give you any hints
‘cause I don’t know myself.
Alright, and so what about Metal Sharon? Spill the beans, man.
Just spoke to Merv last night actually. We’re probably going to
continue work again in July.
We’re both kind of busy at the moment with the Brixton show coming
up on May 25th and so after that, we’ll probably get on with it.
So you’ve been getting quite a few more gigs in the states, on the
west coast mostly. Why do you think that is? More fans? or is it
just easier now in terms of booking electronic musicians?
I think it’s easier now. Probably more of a receptive crowd maybe
because there’s so many styles of music now that we can kind of do
anything and people will be a little bit receptive.
Which act do you think has been catching on the most?
At the moment, it’s still Shpongle because we have more albums and
probably have done more gigs, so Shpongle is still the bigger act,
So what about psytrance?
Psytrance seems to be splitting up as a scene. There’s what I call
the pop euro-trance side, the sort of Skazi, Infected Mushroom, GMS
side and then there’s the more psychedelic, twisted side, which is
less commercial and probably won’t do as well, see as big crowds,
but is more in keeping with what I got into it for. Psychedelic is
music for the mind, it’s not just to get the crowd whooping, lowest
common denominator, the biggest cheers.
Do you think vocals have a place in trance then?
For me, I can have vocals in trance, sure, if it’s weird, but I
don’t really want to hear lyrics in trance. Vocally, sort of
throaty, growly sounds are very good, but someone singing about
“playing the game” or something is really not for me. It’s a great
pop song really, but that’s not why I came into trance, to write
pop music. I wanted something sort of psychedelic and different.
Something weird, really. That stuff’s just not weird enough for me.
It’s very good, it’s very well produced, some of the acts doing
it…and very popular. It IS pop trance.
So no substance then?
Well, it’s got substance. I listen to all kinds of pop music. I
have some dark pockets of bad taste in my music collection, but
that doesn’t mean I want to hear it on drugs. When I got into
trance, maybe not so much now, but back then, there were a lot of
people on a lot of acid at these parties and people’s heads were in
a very delicate state and it’s a very dangerous thing to be messing
around with people’s heads like that. I know I wouldn’t want to
hear pop music in that state.
Yeah, that would be kind of an assault. I can dig it.
So last year you broke into the top 100 dj list. Do you want to see
yourself moving up on that list in coming years?
Well, I’m under no illusions. That list means absolutely nothing.
It has nothing to do with the top, with your skill as a DJ or your
popularity as a DJ. All it should be is the top spammers list. Like
we send out emails to the Twisted mailing list, and other people
sent out emails to other, bigger mailing lists. The fact that I was
above Fat Boy Slim, for example, just shows what a sham it is. Fat
Boy Slim is a hugely popular DJ playing to hundreds of thousands,
millions of people around the world, and I’m clearly not, and
there’s another psy act above me, Wrecked Machines, who’s clearly
not as big as Fat Boy Slim. So I know that list means nothing, but
on the other hand, it’s nice to get a little bit of recognition in
the mainstream press since the mainstream has largely ignored our
scene forever until now, where we’ve got pop trance. I think it’s
probably been too weird for them in the past. Now, this pop trance -
It’s soup. It sounds like what the super clubs were playing ten
years ago. So it’s sort of appropriate I guess, and suddenly we’re
on that list.
Without sacrificing your standards as a musician either…
Yes, but It doesn’t mean anything, that list. Sure, I’d like to see
myself number one on the list. All it would mean is that my mailing
list is bigger than everyone else’s. I don’t think it would have
anything to do with my skills as a DJ.
Your “mailing list.”
And ironically, you’ve said in the past that you don’t even really
consider yourself a DJ, that you have to mix vinyl or something to
be a DJ.
Yeah, I’m a musician more than a DJ. I haven’t really done DJ sets
for a while. But if I’d like to do a live show like a live Shpongle
with seven band members, with all the equipment, the sound checks
and rehearsals, promoters can’t really afford that, so in that
respect, I’ve kind of been forced to DJ, but I don’t consider
myself a DJ, a player of someone else’s tunes. It’s much more
important for me to be making my own music.
Speaking of Shpongle live, do you think that’s ever going to happen
It may happen again. It is very difficult and hard work, and we’ve
certainly had offers. We did one in Israel, which Ari from Alien
Project put together and I just hated it so much and Raj hated it
so much. The sound was terrible, everything about it was terrible.
The rack of equipment we needed that they supplied was plugged in
on one end and the other end was just a tangled sea of spaghetti.
And they said here’s your equipment. We couldn’t tell what was
plugged into what. We couldn’t get around the back of the rack. So
unprofessional, such bad sound in a venue that stank of piss. Not
the kind of way I want to present Shpongle at all. Ari assured us
this was going to be the best gig in Israel and…
Doesn’t say much for the gigs in Israel…
No it certainly didn’t and after that Raj said I never want to do
Shpongle live again and I totally understood.
And so what happened with Brixton?
Well that was Raj again who said I hate Brixton academy. The sound
is bad, and the sound often is quite bad in Brixton. It’s a big,
big venue and very echoey, suited more for rock bands than tight,
fast electronic music. But we may well do it. We’re talking about
the Royal Festival Hall, next year possibly.
Then this would probably be right after you complete the new album…
Looking forward to the cd. For me, the artwork is a big part of why
I buy cds. With that said, have you ever thought of working with
Alex Grey? Seems like it would be a great match.
We were looking at him for the last Shpongle album, in fact. And it
never happened, I don’t remember quite why. Something to do with
the label and political reasons I guess. We were definitely
considering him and were quite up for it. We’re big fans of his as
well. I went to his Chapel of the Sacred Mirrors, which was amazing
and we interviewed each other, which was very bizarre. He’s
obviously very educated, eloquent and very intellectual and wanted
to talk about the esoteric, the psychedelic experience and how it
affected me and I wanted to talk about what the worst smell in the
world was and things like that. (laughs)
So who would you like to collaborate with or remix that people
wouldn’t really expect? I know you’ve mentioned Bjork a while back.
Yes, that still applies.
Has there been any contact?
No, not really. Who else? Loads of people, I guess. At the moment
I’m listening to Rodrigo and Gabriela, these flamenco guitarists
and they are super hot. I’d love to do some stuff with them, even
just get a guitar lesson. Radiohead, love to do a tune with them.
It’s very interesting for me to work with people who’ve got a sound
very different from mine, anyone who can supply a sound that I
can’t get from my computer and the instruments in my studio.
Would you consider doing anything else like the remix you did of
Annodalleb? That one threw me for a loop.
Yeah, sure, why not?
So how did that happen?
We have a mutual friend who fixed it up in LA.
And Youth? You two go back a long way, but I haven’t seen any
collaborations. Anything planned?
He’s always busy producing pop bands, I guess. The beginning of May
we’re going to his studio in Spain to do Hallucinogen in Dub
rehearsals. It was supposed to be a week to get a few bits of the
album done, but with his committments to other big bands, he’s
shaved it down to three days now, which isn’t really enough.
Bummer, good luck with that. I have no good segway here,
so…What’s your take on shared samples? There seems to be more and
more releases emerging with the same samples as on Shpongle albums.
How do you feel about that?
If they’ve heard the Shpongle, why would they do that? I don’t want
to use a sample that someone else has used. Really I’m not so keen
on using sample cds for that reason because everyone has access to
them and everyone seems to use the same three samples cds at the
moment. So I think if you get to a sample first and use it first,
then great, well done. I’m not going to use the same sample. But if
I’ve used a sample, then I don’t understand why anyone would want
to use the same sample unless they haven’t heard the track. If you
haven’t heard the track, then it’s inevitable that people are going
to use the same samples. It’s just a matter of who uses it best.
But you know, sometimes you’re in the studio and you’ve got two
days left to finish a tune and you need a vocal, and you reach for
Understandable. So what does the future hold for Twisted? Any plans
for including any other genres, like progressive?
Maybe, anything we like really. That’s really the only criteria,
whether it’s Si H liking some of the trancy stuff or stuff that I
like. I’m still looking for something really original and different.
Does there have to be an electronic element?
No, not at all. Just something that has its own character and soul,
not trying to copy anything else, especially someone on the label.
Anything unique and with character is what we’re looking for.
A tough task.
But it’s possible. Benji has that. Ott has that. I have it, so it’s
Is it true you did a house track with Ott called Hot4u? Say it
Yeah, that was awful. Purely dreadful. It was me reading a book by
the KLF, called “The Manual. How to have a Number One Hit.”
And it’s a brilliant book, funny and incisive. Slightly cynical but
with that added weight of truth behind it. Just a really good read
and you can’t help but get caught up in the excitement and
inspiration of the book and want to try and make a cheesy tune and
so we did.
Well, that’s interesting. I’ll have to pick that up.
No, the tune’s awful.
No, I mean the book.
Oh, well the book’s brilliant. The sort of advice like, if you’re
in a band quit, if you’ve got instruments, sell them.
Yeah, but also sort of true.
Speaking of the KLF, are any of them still around?
I think they got a bit disillusioned with the music business. I
think Bill Drummond was doing something like letting people arrange
their own funerals online. And then Jimmy Cauty, who’s an amazing
artist as well as a musician, does his own kind of guerilla art. Is
that a cheesy term? He’d probably hate that. I think he’s just
released a line of stamps. His last exhibit I saw was these
fantastic canvasses. He finished them then decided he didn’t like
them, scraped all the paint off into milk bottles and then the milk
bottles were the exhibit.
I hope he had a photo of what it looked like originally.
I think so, yes. I think you got a photo if you saw it as well.
So what would you be doing if you couldn’t make music?
Probably be dead, probably commit suicide I think. (laughs) No,
probably be a writer, I suppose.
Cool, so can we get Benji in here, so we can talk about Younger
Sure. Benji! Come on, you’re on…
Everyone’s eagerly awaiting the new Younger Brother. From the
samples you’ve released it sounds different in that it’s more live
band friendly. Was this album easily translated for live performance?
BV- We can’t even answer that yet. We’ll tell you in a month.
SP- Yeah, we’re still working on it. Bouncing all the audio down
from the computer and then in May we go in with the band to
rehearse. Haven’t met the band yet, cause we did all the live stuff
ourselves in the studio apart from the singing.
Who plays what actually?
SP- We all do bits of everything.
BV- We both play guitar, bass, keyboards. Si does all the drumming.
SP- I think I did the bass as well, but that’s just ‘cause
whoever picks up the bass did it.
BV-Whoever has an idea…
SP-puts it in.
And where did you find Ruu?
SP-Mate of Benji’s
BV-I’ve known him for years. Went to school with him. He’s been a
singer for ages. We lost contact for a while, and he had some big
time record deal. He was managed by this guy, Jeff Travis, who runs
a lot of big artists. So he went off and tried that path, and it
didn’t work out. He got shafted and it turned really sour, typical.
SP- He worked with Leftfield, didn’t he?
BV-Yeah, he left Dreamworks when they went bankrupt and fell out
with his manager. The last thing that he did before he left was
singing on the new Leftfield album. He worked with them for about a
SP-So he’s had huge deals and basically just been falling down the
corporate ladder and landed in our lap.
Probably a reason for that then…
BV- Well yeah, I’ve been telling him for years, don’t be messing
with that lot. Stick with us and you’ll do fine.
SP-That’s what happens when you end up with those corporate
sausages. It always backfires in the end and you can end up wasting
BV- Years and years he was trapped in a deal with Dreamworks. They
paid him a lot of money and asked him to do just terrible stuff…
SP- Which is what we did, but without the money (laughs)
What was he doing exactly?
BV-Well, you know, he’s big into things like Radiohead and
alternative indy stuff. Jeff Buckley, that sort of thing. And they
took him on and wanted him to be doing R&B for the American market.
Here they had this young, good looking guy with a sweet voice and
they thought they could have a white R Kelly and it was just horrible.
So will he be sticking around for a while? Any chance of him
releasing an album on Twisted?
SP-Hope so. Would be nice.
BV-Would be great.
SP-If Benji and I produce it.
BV-We could do a great album with Ruu, if this album goes well,
gets some good sales going…Weirdly enough, Twisted’s been
approached by Leftfield’s manager, which is kind of odd considering…
SP-How the mighty have fallen (laughs)
BV-That would be great. And here’s a weird fact for the fans out
there. I don’t know if you know a band called Keen. Have you heard
BV-Well, they’re huge. They’re huge and pretty shitty. Coldplay are
second rate Radiohead and Keen are second rate Coldplay, so you can
see what I’m getting at.
SP-The singer famously went into rehab because he smoked one joint,
BV-(laughs) But their debut sold six million, and Twisted got sent
that as a demo and got turned down, so Si’s kicking himself, cause
SP-We could have buried them and saved us all a lot of…
BV-(laughs) So yeah, anyway, if Rupert wanted to do an album with
SP-If he’s learned his lesson…
So how did you guys hook up with Storm Thorgerson, the artist who
did Pink Floyd? That’ll be awesome, seeing his work on the album…
BV- Yeah, we’re super chuffed about that.
SP- Well, he was a hero of ours. We were sending out all these
emails out to people to do artwork and they were asking what our
influences were. And we were like, Storm Thorgerson, do something
like Storm Thorgerson, do something like him, and then we thought
fuck it, why don’t we just go with Storm Thorgerson? So we called
him up and he answered the phone. Simple as that.
Had he heard of you?
SP-No. But he has now.
BV-He has now and he started work on it this week. He comes to you
with all these ideas on paper…
SP-He presented five ideas and they were all fantastic, instead of
our usual artwork artwork experience, which is one idea.
BV-And we’re like, it’s ok…
SP-Can you do this? No. Can you do this? No.
BV-So we had these five drawings for about a week, and we were
trying to make a decision, which was super hard. And so we made a
decision Monday and went with a design that’s going to look
SP-We hope. Who wants toast?
BV-I’ll have a piece.
I’ll have some, thanks.
BV-Yeah, I really hope we have something from it for the gig. It
would be great for the image to be displayed. ‘Cause we’re going to
have an enormous screen behind us. To have that image appear behind
us at some point on stage would be great. I’ve got a friend
who’s a 3-D animator…Can I give any hint away about the cover?
BV-I will. It has a pair of scissors on it. And my friend is going
to make some 3-D animated models of the scissors. It would be great
in the gig for the audience to have hundreds of these scissors
marching at them, things like that, on this giant screen.
Very reminiscent of The Wall
BV-Possibly too much so, but it would look pretty cool.
SP-Yeah (laughs), sounds just like the Wall, but instead of
hammers, we’re using scissors.
BV-(laughs) Yeah, it would be even fiercer.
So, Si, I’d like to ask you something I’ve asked Benji already. Do
you think it’s a good thing that anyone can afford their own studio?
SP-Yeah, I do. It’s great. In a way, it’s like punk all over again.
Anyone can make music. The downside of that is of course, anyone
does make music. And so you get a lot of bad music being made. But
it’s certainly a good thing that people can express their
creativity. It shouldn’t be exclusive to the rich.
Any words of advice to aspiring producers?
SP-Yeah, it’s fantastic that you can make your own music, just
don’t make me listen to it. (laughs) OK, words of advice…Give up
everything else in your life. Just have the dedication and
concentration on your music and then you might be able to get
somewhere with it. But without that 200% deidication, it’s very
unlikely that someone can make a career out of it.
And so a lot of musicians make music and then release it right
away. Others wait, like Phutureprimitive, until it’s good and then
SP-And some wait a long time to release it and then it still sucks
(laughs). No, I’m not talking about Rain, Phutureprimitve. I
remember talking to Rain years ago on ICQ and he didn’t release
anything for a long time. Now he’s playing all around the world,
releasing great albums. So of course I would prefer that people
wait until they’re really good before releasing. If everyone
releases something and it’s shit, it floods the market with shit
and devalues the whole market.
BV-It’s good that lots of people make music. What I think’s bad is
having lots of labels. If you’ve only got a few labels that keep
the standard up because they have so much choice, then people know
where to come to find that music. I think Twisted has held out, but
you see quite a few labels that have been around a while who can’t
get access to the tracks because the artist is going to all these
other labels and so the quality all starts to fall. If you’ve got
five hundred trance labels in the world…
SP-But ten good acts…
BV-Yeah, exactly and so what’s on the others? Does it mean anything
any more to have a record out? Are they paying their artist? Are
they going to support and push those artists properly? Chances are
they’re not. They’re just going to put out compilations so the guys
that are on them can get DJ gigs. And they’re not going to look
after us, give us advances.They’re not going to think about a
career for these people.
So you’re saying these labels should be much more responsible.
BV-As a label, your responsibility is to your artist, not to
yourself and trying to get yourself gigs. If you want to get
yourself gigs, do it, but don’t use other people to do it.
SP-And what labels do that?
BV-I’m not going to say…
SP-(laughs) Come on! We want specifics!
BV-(laughs) No, I’m not going to mention…
SP-You’ve gone red!
So do you see any hope in live performance for trance?
BV- For straight up trance? You need a band or something to do it
SP-Trance isn’t live music. That’s the bottom line. We want it
quantized, super rigid, played by machines.
So do you think you can do that with Ableton Live, for example,
playing with loops, clips, effects, trying to create something?
SP-To a certain extent, yeah. Not many people do. Ableton, that
particular software, is more suited to breaks and music where you
can warp breakbeats and drop them in and out.
BV-It’s not really loop based trance, it’s more like long evolving
passages which isn’t that great for Ableton. If you’re making
minimal techno and you’re dropping in noises here and there, I’m
sure it’s great.
SP-The best sort of live trance is someone like Eat Static where
they have sixteen tracks, -like we used to do, what we’ll be doing
at Brixton- that Merv arranges on the desk, doing mutes, bringing
stuff in and out, with Joie playing stuff as well.
Speaking of Eat Static, just heard the samples of the new album,
SP-Really? Is it any good?
I like it.
SP-When I spoke to Merv last night, the way he was describing it
sounded very good. He said it was a big reaction to the current
trance trend. He said trance nowadays sounds like rave music from
the early nineties.
Pacifiers and glowsticks, eh?
SP-Exactly. It’s that scene now. I was playing Belgrade and someone
had a whistle all through my set. Every exhale he had went through
his whistle. I wanted to turn the music down and say someone please
punch that guy with the whistle.(laughs)
So if I could ask you some production questions, how deep have you
dove into the whole softsynth/plugin pool? How much of your
production is still analog?
SP-Half and half?
SP-We often start with a lot of analog sounds…
BV-Whatever’s best. There’s no format, really.
Do you have a preference?
SP-Definitely hardware, analog. Starting with the control surface,
it’s hands on. A hardware synth is fun to play. A synth with
latency through a computer is no fun to play, obviously, when
you’re tweaking knobs with a mouse. It’s no fun at all and doesn’t
stimulate creativity. Whereas a big synth with loads of knobs on it
with a great keyboard, you can sit there for hours and play. Or a
BV-If you switch on a 101 with a little two bar sequence going, and
you put it in the computer and record, you can make a track in
twenty minutes ‘cause you’ll make enough sounds that you can layer
and relayer everything. You’ll have 75% of the raw material for a
SP-I can switch on my 101, put a little sequence in and just play
on the filter for hours. Probably amuse myself for days. (laughs)
Cool, so is religion a good thing?
BV-That’s hard to say. It’s neither a good thing nor bad thing.
It’s just there. But it depends on your description of religion.
Tell me your description and I’ll tell you if it’s good or bad…
SP-OK. A set of beliefs and dogmas…
BV-No, that’s not good. Belief is fine, but that’s different than a
SP-It’s the same thing isn’t it?
BV-No, you don’t necessarily have to be dogmatic in your beliefs.
It’s things that you can’t
intellectually and rationally answer that you put into the realm of
belief. Belief can be really bad. You’ll often hear people confuse…
SP-Tell me an example of when belief can be a good thing then…
BV-Love. There’s no intellectual way of knowing that it’s there,
but you believe it’s there and that it binds humanity or can. Love
of humanity, love of the planet…
SP-Now that’s love. You love the planet. It’s not belief.
BV-Well, it’s a belief in love. You can’t know you’ve experienced
it, but you have a sense of belief, that you understand it. But to
dogmatically say, “I know what love is and your understanding
doesn’t agree with mine” is wrong.
SP-But that’s what belief is. You just chose a good belief, ‘cause
it’s love.What about hate? What’s the difference between hate and
love? It’s still a belief, a fixed thing. That’s why it’s
bad…Belief, in itself, is bad.
BV-Well you can’t say belief is good or bad, depends what you’re
believing in. Most things in the world we don’t know, so we believe
things. We’ve got intuition, senses…But if you try to live
according to what you intellectually knew was right…
SP-That’s not the point. Not believing is the way ahead, because
you’re continually searching for answers, whether it’s love or
whatever. Religion is a fixed set of beliefs. OK, my mind is made
up, I don’t have to think about it any more, look, it’s all written
in a book…
BV-Well, if that’s how you’re defining religion, then I’d say yeah,
SP-Well, I’m extending it beyond religion, to maybe all beliefs.
All fixed beliefs. Should you not live in a state of continually
questioning and searching?
BV-Well, I believe in lots of stuff. For example, I believe, for
instance, the world has a dimension that we aren’t fully aware of,
the sort of spiritual dimension of the earth. It’s just something
I’ve sensed all my life, in the psychedelic state, and so forth.
But I don’t know for sure. It’s not dogmatic, it’s just a gut
feeling. It’s a belief, not a dogmatic belief. Religion is the same
SP-But doesn’t religion encourage thinking like “This is my belief,
and yours is wrong”?
BV-Well, no, I don’t think so. Buddhism, for example, encourages an
enormous amount of questioning that makes you aware of a lot of
things that you wouldn’t normally be aware of if you hadn’t taken
that philosophical path. Buddhism asks a lot of questions through
opening doors in your consciousness, helping you to understand your
place in the world. Like science, you’ve got to have the same sort
SP-But you don’t because religion is based on faith. There’s no
BV-Not all of it. There’s no faith in Buddhism. The concept of
faith is purely judeo-christian. There’s no faith in Hinduism…
SP-But in Hinduism, they believe in gods. That’s faith, you don’t
question it. You ignore the overwhelming evidence that perhaps
there are no gods.
BV-A religion doesn’t have to rest on faith. It can rest on
SP-Then it’s a science…
BV-Buddhists think it is a science because there is no god in
Buddhism. How can you have faith if there’s no god? In Hinduism,
they’re perceived as archetypes that existed once on earth and
yogis describe it as mostly an analogy. And you don’t have to
firmly believe in it…
So is religion divisive?
BV-Yeah, very. But is love divisive?
SP-No, it’s uniting. Love people, love the planet…
BV-I suppose the way most people define love is divisive…
Great, thanks guys. Anything you’d like to add?
SP- No, suppose not.
BV- No, I think that’s about it.