PLAID & BOB JAROC
Although Plaid existed as early as 1992, duo Ed Handley and Andy Turner spent a portion of their formative years with Ken Downie as part of the experimental post-techno outfit Black Dog.
The group recorded a batch of albums and EPs throughout the early and mid-'90s that were critically acclaimed for their highly influential take on the techno genre.
In 1995, Handley and Turner departed to form their own project - Plaid, upon which they were promptly snapped up by Warp Records. Four albums followed, displaying a penchant for highly melodic and experimental electronic music at the cusp of modern technology.
After a long lay-off, by their standards, Plaid has now returned with a brand new CD/DVD project - Greedy Baby, in tandem with visual artist, Bob Jaroc.
The wait has been worthwhile, as the end result is one of Plaid's most accessible and bizarrely dark albums to date; each song complemented by a selection of diverse videos that will hopefully herald a new era for electronic artists entering the audio-visual arena.
Barcode speaks to Plaid's Ed Handley, and Bob Jaroc, about, amongst other things, how the 4-year project finally came together...
Ed Handley (Plaid)
From where does your love of electronic music derive? Who were you listening to as a youth? Well we did the usual thing for people of our generation, which was you were either into heavy metal or you got into hip-hop and b-boying I suppose. And we [Andy Turner] both got into breaking and the associated music really, which at first was getting tapes of parties that had happened in New York, which would be people like Jazzy J and Chuck Chillout, all the usual DJs. Eventually people started releasing a bit more of it, so we used to go down to Groove Records and pick up the early hip hop releases, which were sort of early electro a lot of them.
Did you have any influences pre-mid-eighties, when the whole electronic scene exploded? They sort of entered as an influence from hip-hop really. The first time I heard Kraftwerk was when they’d been sampled or ripped off by everybody else. Obviously we’d been exposed to eighties electronic pop music, people like Depeche Mode and Heaven 17 and all that, but it was pretty uncool for us back then, we wanted something that was a bit more ghetto I suppose. But I’m sure it had its influence, I’m sure even Howard Jones had its influence (laughs).
Can you tell us a little about how you met your writing partner Andy Turner? Yeah, we went to school together and he was in the year above and we were both into breaking and both had rival crews. And then we formed the same crew and just got into music together really; he eventually started DJing and was the first person I knew that was buying Chicago and acid and Detroit – because that’s when it started coming out.
Then of course you recorded some influential post-techno albums with Ken Downie as Black Dog, I remember Bytes in particular. So why did you and Andy decide to strike out as Plaid after such initial acclaim? I think Bytes was one of the first that did this European take on Detroit techno I suppose, but it was getting difficult to work with Ken for a whole load of reasons – he didn’t wanna play live and things like that. You know how things are when you spend so much time with someone, sometimes it just gets really difficult, so because I’d been to school with Andy it just seemed natural that I’d stick with him and we decided to do our own thing.
What roles do Andy and yourself take on as members of Plaid, how do you interlock? Well, being computerised music you tend to work alone quite a lot of the time, unless you sort of jam together, which is possible but not really for the kind of music we make. So what we tend to do is work separately and fuse together at certain points, and a lot of the time someone takes the lead on a particular track or a particular piece of music.
Do you both have your own studios? We have one studio that has two little sections in it, and we tend to work there, so we’re basically together and in constant communication but not necessarily working on the same thing.
Do you use a mixture of software and hardware in the studio or are you entirely computer-based now? We sort of have phases really, I mean up until fairly recently we’ve been quite computer based because we just got really excited by the idea of doing everything inside the computer. But recently we’ve been digging out some other bits of hardware, just some synths and things, because it’s just a little bit more fun after a while to have different things work in different ways rather than everything being controlled from one workstation. It’s nice getting anomalies and errors that happen when going through cables.
Do you work on a MAC using Pro Tools or Logic? We mainly use Logic and we use a little bit of Max/MSP and a few other programs, but the main structure of the songwriting happens inside Logic.
And you mentioned some hardware you might use, are there any particular favourites that you use? Yeah, we’re fairly fond of FM sounds because of the bell-type and acoustic qualities, so we use an FS1R, which is a Yamaha module that came out a few years ago; a sort of super FM synth. We use the Nord Modular G2 Rack quite a lot, for more analogue sounds, and an MKS80 – an old Roland Super Jupiter synth.
And samplers? We’ve sort of jettisoned the hardware ones, although we do have a thing called a VP9000, which is like a strange VariPhrase Roland sampler that has a very distinct sound. So we still use that for some things, but generally we’ll just use the EXS inside Logic.
What’s your take on this whole analogue vs digital debate, presuming you’re aware of it? I think in terms of sound generation it’s quite hard to tell the difference now, but ideally everybody would probably love a studio full of analogue gear, but it’s beyond most people’s budgets and most people means, and also space as well. And, I think digital can do things that analogue never could, obviously. I think the ideal is to use the best of both if you can afford it and you’ve got the space to use analogue for what it’s good for and to use digital
You are about to release a new audio-visual album with Bob Jaroc, Greedy Baby. Strange title? Where did that come from? Well it’s partly a reflection on how long it took to do the album and how much effort and money it took to actually make it in the end. The whole thing itself is a bit of a greedy baby. And also, just talking about us basically, and the kind of world we live in a bit at the moment. I’m sure it seems from one perspective that we’re all quite self centered and just like big children running around grabbing everything we can really. It’s fairly vague; it just seems like a slightly amusing and slightly sinister title at the same time (laughs).
I know that in the past you’ve used visuals in your live performances but why did you decide to take this audio-visual approach with a new album? Well it really comes from doing the live stuff with Bob Jaroc for a few years now, and we just thought it would be nice if it was recorded. It’s so transient when you play live as people get to see it - it’s in the flash of an eye and then it’s over. I think a lot of the things we were doing with Bob we were really happy with and he’d put a lot of time and effort into making quite a few pieces for us, so I think it was just the idea that these things look good and work well, and also we wanted to try some things in 5.1, because it just seems a natural way to go with electronic music.
Had you written parts of the album first before deciding to take a more visual approach? No, the main pieces on the album were all conceived as being audio-visual pieces and we literally just sat around and said they should be about this and that, which we don’t normally do – normally we just sit down and write and see what happens, but we had to have some conceptual start point so that Bob could work as well and we didn’t go off in totally different directions.
Had you been influenced by any other artists that have done similar projects? I haven’t really seen that much stuff, I’d seen a thing by Tipper and a thing by Orbital, and there was a DVD on Skam, which was a compilation of other people’s work. I think Super Furry Animals have done one, but there’s not all that much around – there’s lots of concert recordings but not so many pieces specifically written for 5.1 and video.
How did you come across Bob Jaroc? He was doing some work with a friend of ours called Leila who had a record out on Rephlex, and he was doing live video for Sonar one year, and we saw his stuff and thought it was different – it wasn’t loads of CG or the typical thing you would expect from a DJ as such.
On a purely musical level, how would you say Greedy Baby is different from other Plaid albums, and how did the visual aspect influence how you approached the recording of the tracks? I think it’s different in that it seems influenced by the video and we’ve had to hold back in some respects and allow some space for the video to be there. I think we can only take in so much as an audio-visual experience before it gets overwhelming and there’s too much going on. It’s different, not neceassrily in style, to our other stuff because I think our style evolves very slowly probably (laughs). Yeah, it’s different in that we’ve had to work very closely with Bob and think about syncs and narratives, and I’m sure it’s the same for Bob – I’m sure if he was just making a video piece he would approach it quite differently, but because we were chucking music at him and he was chucking video at us it was inevitable it would have an effect.
"I’m sure it seems from one perspective that we’re all quite self centered and just like big children running around grabbing everything we can really."
Strangely enough the album seems more melodic and accessible then the usual Plaid album, which was unexpected considering the nature of the project? It’s weird because you get completely different perspectives from different people. Some people say it’s the most experimental thing we've done, I mean it’s always hard to generalise but I think there are bits on it that probably are more experimental than we’ve ever been but there are also other bits that are very, almost poppy. There isn’t really an overall theme to the whole album as such; it’s more just a collection of things that we came up with over a four-year period.
I noticed that some of the bonus tracks on the DVD were really good, but why were these not included to the audio album? Because a lot of them exist on other releases - everything on the extras has been out in some form, but these are all now remixed in 5.1 and also have a video with them.
The opening track, War Dialer, intially reminded me of Kraftwerk’s The Telephone Call, but a lot darker obviously – what’s the concept behind this track? It’s to do with privacy and it’s a recording that somehow Bob got a hold of – it’s a thing called a war dialer, which is basically a little black box that hackers used to use to try and find a modem. So it would randomly dial telephone numbers, but it wasn’t interested in voice on the line, if it recognised a voice it would stop the call. So it’s looking for some sort of modem or some way into someone’s computer. How it’s interesting from that point of view is because it’s like cold calling, which we get at the studio quite a lot, where it will be a robot kind of calling up and saying you’ve won a holiday in Florida, but it’s the random nature of it as well. The fact is there is nothing personal about it, it’s completely impersonal, you’re just chosen from a list of active numbers and it acts as a good introduction to the surround.
The real standout video is the beautifully illustrated cartoon Mexican superhero, Super Barrio? Did you have your own political message behind this? The message is pretty overt really; it’s pretty straight up (laughs). On a smaller level, the Mexicans are being fucked by the Americans basically, because Mexico is next door to America the effects of American foreign policy are very obvious there, y’know things like globalisation and trade tariffs, so Mexico is an interesting place to see what’s ultimately going to happen in the rest of the world. Also, because it makes a good story. Super Barrio is a real person that Bob got in touch with, he’s a sort of activist who set up a series of marches and defended tennants and workers rights to fight for better working conditions and pay, yeah it’s very obviously political.
There’s also the track, Crumax Rins, which pretty much documents CNN’s entire coverage of America’s illegal entry into Iraq in about 5 minutes, I was wondering if you have any trouble getting permission to use the footage? Well no, beautifully, because of capitalism, you can buy it (laughs). If you’ve got the right amount of money they’ll give it to you basically; I can’t remember how much it costs but it’s not particularly cheap. They didn’t seem to care too much, although I don’t think it reflects that badly on CNN, although in some ways it does because it sort of makes it apparent that the whole thing’s a bit like a sporting event. The thrill of invasion and the whole way it was presented was like “yes, let’s go, and let’s get into a bit of military hardware and statistics”. It’s pretty sick now; I think people are pretty disgusted by the whole thing, but it’s only now that you’re seeing the dead bodies. At the time we were seeing huge explosions and the idea of dead people wasn’t really there. It doesn’t necessarily contain a political message, but I think it implies one.
And many of the other videos incorporate dancing patterns or other visualizations to the music; did the music ever prompt or trigger the imagery in a sort of interactive sense? Yeah, very much so. Some tracks are just straight up syncs basically to the music, where events happen, lights change and colours change according to the audio. But also, vice versa; there was certain pieces that Bob had started work on where he’d give us bits and we would write music to what we were seeing, more as if it was a soundtrack, so it worked both ways. One of the reasons it took so long is because you’ve got this endless ping ponging, and at some point someone has to say, hold on this is finished – this is point where it doesn’t change anymore, but getting to that point took a long time, not because we laboured over everything for hours and hours, but just because we’d work on something and then basically have to leave it while Bob worked on it.
When you normally write music, do you have problems letting go of an album? In a way we’ve got better and in a way we’ve got worse. It used to be fairly quick for us to write tracks, but that’s taking longer because I think we tend to try and refine them a bit more than we’re used to. You could sort of go on writing a track forever, and it would constantly change and the start point would be nothing like the end point, but for a whole load of reasons you do have to finish at some point, which is normally when the record label is saying, ‘ok, that really is time now’ (laughs).
Are there any Plaid albums where you could say that you were comprehensively happy with it in the end? With Black Dog, I think Spanners we were really happy with. Bytes as well, but Bytes sort of happened all of a sudden, whereas with Spanners we had a bit of time to think about things. I think every album we’ve done we've been happy with at the time, but on reflection you can always hear things that you would change just because we’re changing, our taste is changing, y’know, sometimes you listen back to something and it’s embarrassing, either because it’s too naive or because it’s too pompous and grand, but there’s no way round that.
Would I be right in saying that it’s a fairly expensive business making an audio-visual release, and is that why so few electronic artists tend to represent their ideas in this way? It’s obviously a lot cheaper than it used to be, because you can literally just get two guys with laptops and then just do that. But it’s expensive filming and it’s expensive doing things like animation, you have to have a team of animators because for one person to do it would take too long.
Will future projects incorporate audio-visuals or is Greedy Baby likely to be a one-off? I’m not sure if everything will, I think it’s still valid to release stereo albums as well. I think because we’ve done it and it’s worked out ok we’ll definitely do it again; we know a few of the pitfalls and we’ve got a lot more ideas for ways to develop it.
You have recently been doing some live shows, were these to especially to promote Greedy Baby? Sort of yeah. People tend to want you to play live when you’ve got something out, but we haven’t really been doing much in the way of 5.1. We did one at The Sage in Newcastle a couple of years ago, but generally we’re playing in clubs where they’re not really 5.1-configured, and it wouldn’t make sense because people are just dancing and moving around all the time.
I read that you did a few 5.1 shows in seated auditoriums? We did the first showings of this DVD in its early stages at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, which is on the South Bank - and is perfect because it’s seated and they can set up a good surround system. We did one at the IMAX as well, which is even more perfect because it’s like a big soundproof box with huge screens, which was amazing. But it’s quite difficult to get promoters to risk the expense of doing it.
Are you able to allow yourself much freedom to actually alter the audio or visual aspect of the live show in real time? To a degree, but the kind of music we make doesn’t lend itself too well to too much improvisation. There’s time when you just wish you’re making some crazy, improvised jazz fusion music or electronic avant-garde music because then you can improvise the whole time and it’s much more fun, but a lot of it, musically, is really mixing, and to a degree even with the video it’s mixing different elements and not creating and generating new elements there and then.
When I watched Kraftwerk live a couple of years ago, all four of them were standing there behind machines, twiddling knobs, but I couldn’t figure out what they were doing really? A lot of the time it’s showmanship, this idea that you’ve got to be seen to be doing something. But ultimately, a lot of electronic music stuff is presentation, I mean most people will be using Ableton Live now and aren’t actually generating the tracks on the fly, they’ve got all the elements there and they could probably press ‘go’ occasionally and it would be fine, but in order to be involved in the performance you sort of have to set yourself things to do (laughs).
It’s quite interesting, because for many highly technological electronic artists, particularly within the IDM genre, it must be difficult to effectively bring an improvised concept to a live audience. Say if you’re doing a straight up hard techno set, it’s in some ways easier to generate that, because form wise you haven’t got these choruses and big changes happening, you can basically keep it fairly consistent and you’ve got a framework to work in where you can really improvise. When you’ve got a song or track structures it is a lot harder because things have got to happen at a certain point and you ask yourself, is it worth me doing it manually? Why should I manually trigger this thing when actually the computer manages it perfectly well?
You can always throw in some samples? Yeah, I mean sometimes we take some drum pads and play along a little bit, I mean we’ve got big plans and big ideas for doing it. The dream would be to sort of play with some weird little robot orchestra where they’re all sort of doing things and it would be very visual and very exciting and it would be precision, which is what we want from electronic music - but it would still be physical, y’know? You’d have robots playing it – but we don’t have a quarter of a million pounds to spend on robots. But I think you can do amazing things with very little money, I mean if you watch Jamie Lidell play he’s very sort of live and free, so it is evolving.
Can I ask you what sort of music you’re listening to in your spare time? Erm, lots of things really, I’m quite inspired by a lot of the dub step and stuff from South London, because it’s a new sound and that’s sort of what you want electronic music. It’s nice because it’s very spacious and I’ve always been a little bit into dub and how it relates to hip-hop and drum’n’bass as well. Vexed and Digital Mystics are the two that cross over into the electronica world. I quite like bands such as Animal Collective as well, they’re using a lot of electronics but also a lot of acoustics and voice - but it doesn’t sound naff, it sounds quite gelled together. But I wouldn’t say I’m an avid collector and I don’t tend to listen to as much electronic music as my friends because I’m making music. Sometimes, I just rather listen to Bob Dylan or something (laughs).
I’ve noticed that what one would normally consider indie bands are slowly digressing into electronic music and producing more complex rhythms? Yeah, and that’s what I’ve always hoped for in a way, rather than just saying this is a drum machine and this is a synth, they’re actually using electronics for what it’s good for, which is the complexity of doing something that people can’t play - something that can’t be done by a performer.
Are there any other projects you’re working on with Andy at the moment? What can we expect from Plaid next? Well, we’re working on a film soundtrack for a Japanese animation, which is going to come out in Japan next Christmas. And that’s something we’ve never done before and we feel very lucky to have got that. It’s Manga, but not really ultra-violent or typical Manga; it’s quite influenced by European, French animation. So there will probably be a soundtrack album coming out.
How did you get into visual work initially and then with Ed and Andy from Plaid? I come from a fine art background, so I did video installations and things like that in galleries. I went to university and did a fine arts course and before that I always into making pictures more so than making words, because I couldn’t spell for shit - and there wasn’t any rules at art college. I met Ed and Andy around 2001, and previous to that at Sonar I did one of my very first visual shows at a gig - and I'd known Ed for quite a while before that, and then both Ed and Andy looked at my style and went “yeah, that’s the sort of idiot we want travelling with us”.
Doing stuff like I do with Ed and Andy live is just a lot more satisfying, because doing something in a gallery is like hiding a fish behind a radiator and then kind of not knowing whether people are smelling it or not. But doing stuff live is like getting that fish and throwing it at them; you can see when it hits their head - they just go “fucking stupid fish!”
Were you already a big fan of electronic music before agreeing to take part in the project? Yeah, for sure, I was always a Black Dog fan. I remember being in university and listening to Black Dog and playing Castle Wolfenstein with a couple of mates, monkeying around until 4 in the morning and trawling through those corridors looking for those alsations.
What was that about? That was the very very first Wolfenstein game, like Doom, the creators of Quake? It was one of the very first first person shooters that spawned all the others.
Oh right, I wasn’t into video games so much - after my Commodore 64 exploits. (Hysterical laughing) Respect. I had a Commodore 64 as well. I wasn’t part of the Atari ST brigade, because it was always a little bit cooler – they all had those graphics demos of that pharoah’s head going off into the distance.
Do you remember the Vic 20 as well? Revenge Of The Mutant Camels, or something like that? Nah, nah, nah, I started off on the Spectrum 48k, that was my very first computer – playing Ant Attack.
Great game. I fucking loved it, Ant Attack I actually played quite recently again on an emulator and I thought, actually it was alright!
I was actually scared playing that game. (Laughs) I shouldn’t mention it; it will bring back nightmares to you.
So, tell me, what sort of equipment do you need to make these types of DVD video projects? Well, to get it together it’s the normal stuff that I guess everyone has. Computer wise it’s a G5 with two Genelec monitors, a Sony TV with Apple’s Final Cut and Photoshop. But the other stuff I use is a lot of Super 8 and a lot of analogue equipment in the making of it, so I do a lot of work that’s away from the computer – because if you spend too much time in front of a computer you turn kind of blue and your brain grows really big and you grow a hand out of your brain. So I have a massive collection of Super 8 cameras and I’m able to transfer the film in the studio instead of a really expensive production house.
On the DVD, I did a lot of work with shifting lenses and re-filming that, and filming some Super 8, projecting that through a lens, and then projecting that onto a wall, refracting that into a mirror – real sort of Wilf Lunn kind of stuff, he’s the crazy inventor with a long moustache.
For those who haven’t a clue, can you tell us something about how Greedy Baby, benefits from the 5.1 Surround experience? For Ed and Andy especially it’s a whole new palette of sounds to be able to mix in. That wider spectrum means that you can have sound that exists not just in front of you, but envelops you all the way round. The project being specifically written in 5.1 is quite important because normall when you get a blockbuster movie and you listen to it in surround sound in the cinema, they usually just put a fucking dog barking in the background, and the 5.1 mix is actually done after the stereo mix. With us, it was the other way round, the 5.1 mix was the first mix that got done, the audio was written in 5.1 and then the stereo mixes were derived from that. So it gives Ed and Andy a wider sonic stage, for want of a less pretentious word – if you tried to cram all the things that were in the 5.1 mix into the stereo mix it would sound like a very cluttered, meshy mix, but in the 5.1 there’s a lot more space to stick things.
That’s immediately obvious on the opening track, War Dialer? Yeah, we use in the live show and on the DVD, as well as being a piece in its own right the reason why it’s at the front is because it’s almost like a schematic diagram for watching the rest of the DVD. It’s like going “look at the picture, listen to the sound, the sound comes from over there and that piece of image is moving”.
I love the creepy atmospheric music that complements the voices, makes you feel a bit paranoid. Well the whole thing was derived from a war dialer, which is like a hacking utility. It’s a machine looking for another machine, and the people that are caught up in that whole process, and that’s pretty dark in itself. The whole tone of the DVD is not that optimistic, there are moments of blaaaaahhh! It’s a lot darker than previous Plaid releases.
Was it a complex procedure exchanging audio and visual data between yourself and Ed and Andy, what problems did you run into? Well I live in Brighton and they live in London, so we’d spend two week periods – usually around the shows that we did throughout the process – just living together and working. And when we were away we’d just communicate through an FTP site, Ed or Andy would change a mix and then stick it onto the FTP site, and then that morning I’d download it and replace the version that I did have on the video and say “Fuck! I spent three days syncing to that snare, and that fucking snare’s moved!!” So, in terms of that, that was the major problem – but it would always be a positive thing, because you working on it to make it better.
It sounds very complex. Some of the pieces would come over as separate tracks, so one piece would be split up into 18 different tracks with all the components of the piece – then it would be much easier to get those important sync points, because it’s much easier to sync to a hi-hat if it’s on it’s own rather than being buried in a 5.1 mix somewhere. The Launch Of Big Face was especially done like that, because the sound actually generated the video, so that was done using that method.
"If you spend too much time in front of a computer you turn kind of blue and your brain grows really big and you grow a hand out of your brain."
Were there any visuals that stick out as being particularly difficult to complete? Well no, it was just the filming. The filming of I Citizen The Loathsome was difficult simply because I had to go out at 4 or 5 in the morning on Sundays and Mondays when noone’s around. It was just me with a massive old 1940s tripod with a motor on it and a DV camera – and that was it, just me and the night, and all the freaks are around at night.
There were various couples fucking, junkies shooting up, I was followed once – it was in Brighton and London and also we did quite a few shoots out in housing estates in the middle of nowhere. Andy would drop me off and pick me up after a couple of hours of wandering around a weird housing estate on my own. It was quite tough, but that’s an element of my work that I really like - challenging myself physically.
Something like Super Positions was psychologically difficult, because it’s like a flashing strobe in front of your head – so watching eight minutes of it is punishing enough, but actually working of it – I kind of turned into a shell of a human being.
Out of all the pieces on Greedy Baby, which is your favourite? My favourite at the moment is Assault On Precinct Zero, because it’s like looking at some family photos or something. It reminds me of being on the road in the America, where we had a lovely time. It’s the cheesy electronic music band on tour - but it reminds me of many good memories and incidents of horror and fun.
You’ve been on the road with Plaid showcasing the project for around 4 years? Yeah, pretty much – I mean there’s new work that’s appeared for the live show, because making things for the DVD and making things for the live show is a very different energy - because obviously in a live show people wanna dance with their eyes closed or wanna look at that girl or boy’s bum, or wanna get a beer – so the DVD is a very different kettle of fish, because someone’s gonna sit down and watch it on a bus with their video iPod to get away from the freaky teenager with a knife that’s carving his name into the bus seat.
Or happy slappers? Well thankfully I haven’t met any happy slappers who wanna slap me cos I’m quite a large man – and usually I’m looking pretty grumpy cos I’m tired from doing some show that finishes at 6 in the morning.
You can stick that ski mask on that you’ve been wearing? (Laughs) Totally. I mean I did carry that around for shows but I’m always too embarrassed to wear it, which shows something about my personality – I’m actually too embarrassed to wear something that hides my identity. It was it even scarier filming that last shot for I Citizen The Loathsome, where I actually appear in it. I could just imagine a police van coming past at that time, and there’s this guy with a combat jacket and a red ski mask, they’re just gonna get the tasers out, and I’ll be going, “I’m a bloody poncy artist, I’m a hippy artist, sorry!!”, and they’re like “fuck you sonny, get the baton out", Smack!
Did you have many computer glitches or crashes on the road? Yeah, the 5.1 shows are pretty involved in terms of what we have to take with us, the live show we take a little bit less equipment because you have to remain nimble when you’re doing live shows. The big thing that gets me is bloody bass, I usually judge the sub bass on how many bits of foam I have to stack up under my hard drives, it just wobbles the hard drive and because they’re spitting out data – and video data is higher band than audio date – it totally fucks it up and it just starts dropping frames, stalling or crashing.
And also the battle to actually get decent video projectors at screens or shows, even though we’ve been doing this type of AV show since 2001, still getting a decent projector and screens and convincing the lighting engineer that we want no light whatsoever on the stage, cos time and time again I have a thirty second window to run up to the lighting desk and go “touch the lights again yeah, and I’m cutting your hands off!” So lighting engineers who think they know best, I’d say they’re a technical glitch. It’s all about the audio and the video, it’s not important what we look like or what we’re doing.
Are there a lot more live 5.1 Surround Shows planned to support the release? Not that many. We’re sort of winding down for the summer. Technology has moved forward a little bit in terms of video presentation of live shows, so I’ve just got a couple of new things from Korg that I’m really interested in practising, because it means that I can actually mix on stage a lot more like Ed and Andy mix.
How do you see the audio and visual technologies complementing eachother and developing in the future? The video stuff is kind of catching up with the audio. I’m always jealous that Ed and Andy can have a 24-channel desk if they want it, with different bits of audio – and we’re starting to be able to approach making video in that way without sacrificing image quality. Before, when I worked with VJ applications I noticed a massive decline in the quality of video, and because I work with film, the grain structure and the colour structure totally disappears when you feed it through some sort of VJ application and looks as dull as dishwater. But very recently there have been some products that I’ve been really interested in getting my hands on, to enable me to work in a much more improvised rather than linear way.
I think we’ll see more video and audio artists perform as collectives. Promoters are going to have to start putting their hands in the pockets and getting decent screens and video projectors, otherwise they’ll have me shouting at them again.
I guess the problem is that you’re working to a very high technical standard only to be let down at the very end because audience venues are behind the times? Yeah, we’ve got a massive technical rider for our shows in terms of this is what we want to play in, but noone ever fucking reads it until the day before, and then you turn up at the show and you have a video projector that your mum has at home and an old bed sheet for a screen. And someone says “Oh! this was fine for Plastikman or Hexstatic”. But because it’s in the contract we can just turn round and say, “look, get us a better video projector and screen, or we don’t do the show”. And then, at the end of the show, once they’ve got the decent projector they understand, but you almost have to do show people what at an AV show is all about.
So you’re leading the way really? Leading the way in shouting at promoters, and I think everyone that works in video needs to get a lot more aggro with people. In history, the video people are always the last in line to get thought about – and I think that’s shit because everyone’s working towards the same goal to put a decent show on. I think video people need to form some sort of like union, and work out a little more instead of spending all that time at home in front of their computers; they need to get bigger muscles with tattoos.
Is there anyone you’d specifically like to work with within the electronic genre? I don’t know if you’ve every heard of a guy called Okra – he used to be on Toytronic, it’s a brand of melodic electronic music I really like. Ed and Andy and myself want to take the live show one step further, we used to have a robot arm that was on stage – so we wanna get back into the robotic side of it again. I also want to make a totally self-financed film about a guy who sells soundtracks in Brighton. There’s a really sweet guy who’s been selling soundtracks to films for 50 years or something, and I want to make a little 10-minute short about him.
What’s the entire experience been like for you, because the making of the Greedy Baby DVD has been quite a lengthy 4-year journey? Well, it was self financed. It’s been a completely solitary experience. I think it’s been a lesson in stubborness, and we had to be quite delusional because everyone at Warp said, “we’re not sure we want to release something like this, we’re not sure there’s a market for it”.
You weren’t given an advance? No, more money’s been put in via us selling synths and old Super 8 projectors and picking something up at a car boot sale and selling it on eBay. So there are probably quite a few people that ended up buying film projectors that actually financed this project. I mean Warp are wickedly behind it now, I take my hat off to them. It would have been done quicker if we had assistance, but I don’t think it would have been done any better.
Plaid & Bob Jaroc interview, Barcode 2006 ©
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