Lowculture Soundproof interviews Sean & Rob
Sean: That’s ultra-slim, that [referring to our minidisc recorder, the Sony MZ-R50. End corporate plug.].
Soundproof: Yeah, and it’s not even the most updated one.
Sean: That’ll come off [referring to our minidisc recorder, the Sony MZ-R50, and its flimsy battery compartment. End corporate bashing.].
Rob: Aye, it doesn’t matter.
Sean: In three months.
Rob: They just make it more and more wack each time. That’s the idea. The first ones are always the best.
Soundproof: The newest one’s actually half this size.
Rob: Yeah, but it’ll be more wack. The first one’s always the best one man.
Rob: Yeah, because it’s got robustness. Then they fill up with features. Features always mean more breakage possibilities.
Soundproof: Breakage and minidiscs. Why did you guys do a minidisc-only release?
Rob: We wanted to do the first independent minidisc. We’ve been pissing around with minidisc for ages. We thought that…
Sean: We had a right to do it.
Rob: We just wanted to do a minidisc like the ones we were making for ourselves, you know what I mean.
Sean: Yeah, because no one was fucking about with the fact that you can randomly access a loop or get it neat. But it turned out a lot of people got a bit weakened because they all bought the shit crap ones. They don’t do any of the nice cool shit that the minidisc is capable of. It’s just a laugh. Everyone like Mariah Carey puts minidiscs out. We wanted to do the first independent one.
Soundproof: Muslimgauze did one shortly after you.
Sean: He’s a good kid.
Rob: He’s a local.
Soundproof: Who, Muslimgauze?
Soundproof: He’s dead now unfortunately.
Rob: I’m sorry?
Rob: He died?
Rob: I didn’t realize.
Soundproof: Really? He died around January…I think of pneumonia.
Rob: This year?
Rob: Fuck me.
Soundproof: About ten months ago. They’re still releasing stuff, however, because he had a room full of DATs somewhere.
Rob: But I thought he had run the label and everything? So surely he was there to release it.
Soundproof: No. Staalplaat and Soleilmoon, they’ve got people who are doing that.
Rob: Oh right.
Soundproof: How sick are you guys of being asked about the "Autechre" pronunciation issue?
Sean: Not really. Rob: Its like water off a dog’s back.
Sean: You just know when somebody says it that there’s going to be another few questions like that coming up. Apart from that, you just turn into off mode. It’s just like playing a computer game from that point. It doesn’t make any difference.
Rob: There are genuine reasons why people want to know.
Sean: I’d rather have a conversation than be asked questions like that. I supposed I’d rather have a conversation than be asked questions full start. Do you know what I mean.
Soundproof: Yeah, well there's an idea for one direction in which we ought to go...
Sean: I don’t know. It’s one of them…
Rob: It’s the whole ballast isn’t it?
Sean: If a question doesn’t make you think…
Soundproof: On that note, i.e. thoughtless questions, who was it that coined the whole "Ae" abbreviation?
Rob: It’s just us.
Sean: It’s a tag.
Rob: It’s just the first and last letters. It’s a way of skipping to the end as fast as possible.
Sean: Signing letters and tagging. It’s crap.
Soundproof: Crap hobbies...I know both of you have some sort of architectural interest or something.
Rob: I used to work at an architect’s.
Soundproof: More hobbies: are either of you into math or fractal theory?
Sean: Yeah, totally.
Rob: We’re a bit into fractals…not really. You could probably tell from the EP7 artwork.
Soundproof: How was that shape created? The artwork on EP7.
Sean: We drew it in Freehand.
Rob: That’s something that was done on like a circuit board designer.
Soundproof: So there’s no mathematical basis to the illustration?
Sean: There is because the spirals that define the equal angles each time…
Rob: …Well you’ve got a range for starters, that’s all…
Sean: …I mean there’s a rule set…
Rob: …It’s not really hardcore…
Sean: …In it, you’d have a rule set for a fractal. I suppose you could say it divides in those angles. There’s competitive angles.
Rob: It’s not really like it’s supposed to be special…
Sean: …There’s quite a lot of randomness in there as well.
Rob: What I thought Sean was going to say was all this architecture and stuff…it’s all the same thing. It seems to be to us. It’s not like…you know…people used to say, "Is it beats or is it melodies?" And you’re like, "Is it images or sound?" It’s all the same thing really, math and music and graphics and structures. It’s just time and space, is all it is.
Soundproof: Do you find that as your work is progressing and reaching that "future point", that people are starting to understand your music less, or more specifically, the goals that you’re setting musically?
Rob: I don’t know.
Sean: We don’t set goals for music. I think we just make music because we want to hear sounds that we can’t hear otherwise. No, it’s more like we want to hear something that we can’t hear unless we make it. If we know it’s possible, then there’s some kind of consideration being made before we make it.
Rob: We’ll probably find out if it’s possible.
Soundproof: Do you still consider it music?
Sean: Yeah. It’s not like we’re on any kind of exploratory journey or anything. I think we’re just trying to do things that don’t exist.
Rob: That’s not like the whole thing. Obviously, you find yourself…I mean even us, we find ourselves repeating ourselves and sometimes we get into that.
Sean: It’s just our personality thing.
Rob: We used to get into people like Pink Floyd. The whole self-impersonation thing, it comes and goes.
Sean: You can’t help it. I suppose it’s just you trying to create a space to live in. There’s always going to be elements of you in it, unless you change. Things change and things stay the same. And the things that stay the same are there still. I think trying to conceptualize things just limits you.
Soundproof: I see a lot of parallels between what you guys have done sonically and the British design firm Tomato, in the sense that they in effect created the whole dirty-visuals aesthetic and everyone began to copy them. And now it’s like they refuse to do it.
Rob: Well it’s easy now isn’t it? I suppose I’ve got a grain of respect for them. They seem to put a lot of stuff down at least.
Sean: It’s well similar to the stuff we used to do with Letraset.
Rob: They’re using computers to do the kind of stuff we used to do manually.
Sean: The sort of thing you would do in art college. I mean you’d do that…
Rob: …The first destructive effort actually…
Sean: A lot of art students have done work like the Tomato stuff. It came through in a big way and I think it was because there were a lot of people who’d already thought about that kind of thing. And then it was there and it was totally moshed. They were using pretty good fonts for the job. But it’s not the best example. I mean, you’ve got like Neville Brody, who was doing typefaces that basically Tomato made a career out of…doing fonts that already existed. He totally fucks things up.
Rob: I didn’t think that Tomato were that internationally well respected, so it doesn’t bother me as much.
Sean: They’re kind of more trendy record cover types.
Rob: They’ve got that British fab. I think that someone like tDR…cause they’re always…I can imagine they’re always brought against one another…these design crews from England…especially when these foreign countries’ ideas are concerned. Yeah I think I do prefer a lot of other artists to Tomato. It’s almost like the most obvious thing to do if you’re in London about now, about then when they did it. And that’s why a lot of kids copied it as well because it seemed so simple. They were all just like, "Of course! I was going to do that."
Soundproof: So both you and Blur did your own cover art on your most recent releases. Who do you think better achieved success…
Sean: I like some of their art. I like some of their photographs at least. I just always thought it was photo clip stock or something like that. Anyone can do that.
Rob: I’m into like Pete Saville’s old work.
Rob: He’s cheesy, but good. It’s one of the more commercial good ones. At the moment more of the stuff we get into is like Zahahahardid and stuff like that.
Sean: Santiago Calatrava as well first.
Rob: Calatrava is like a massive influence.
Sean: People like Felix Candela from Mexico, are 70-year old architects. Are like Todd Docksteader, of like buildings.
Rob: Calatrava is to buildings what Docksteader is with sound. Like Gaudi, even Gaudi is amazing.
Soundproof: Are you guys excited about the Black Adder project, the updated movie that’s being made?
Rob: It sounds all right, I don’t know.
Sean: Movie? Who’s directing it?
Soundproof: All I know is it's Rowan Atkinson’s return to Black Adder.
Sean: Is it Richard Curtis writing it as well?
Soundproof: I dunno.
Sean: It might be good then. I mean, I don’t know. It’s hard to say.
Rob: Yeah, Rowan Atkinson’s generally all right; even when he’s being really normal.
Sean: As a kid I was more into Comic Strip though, just because of the bleakness of it.
Rob: Have you heard of the comedy group Comic Strip?
Sean: Yeah the group, Comic Strip Presents. Did you get any of that over here?
Rob: It’s really English.
Sean: Do you get Mr. Jolly Lives Next Door? You seen that? No. A Fistful of Traveler’s Checks?
Rob: We get a lot of stuff on American TV now and again. Do you like the Young Ones?
Rob: That’s a Comic Strip production.
Soundproof: Oh, I see. The production company.
Sean: Yeah, they’re just like a team. They shown one every weekend. They’ve got a backlog of all these old videos from the 80s that they did and it’s classic.
Soundproof: This is the second interview in recent history where the Young Ones have been referenced.
Rob: Well, they’re all right.
Sean: The Young Ones are amazing.
Rob: The people involved are really clever; like Peter Richardson, Alexei Sayle and basically every single person in the team is a total wicked idea man. There’s Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders; they’re quite normal. But when they all get together, they get quite fucked up really…for normal people in England.
Sean: They did Spinal Tap before Spinal Tap, you know what I mean? Their shit’s hot basically. They did one called Bad News, which was basically Spinal Tap. They’re just pioneers. They’re amazing. There’s a guy in England right now called Chris Morris, who’s leading it. He’s just kicking everybody’s ass all over town. Everyone’s ripping him off. It’s ridiculous; he’s so original. He probably our biggest comic influence of late anyway.
Rob: Just because he’s so akin to what we’re into. It’s not like we purport to new ideas. It’s like somebody’s speaks our sort of fucking language.
Sean: He’s a comedian who’s like us. Literally, people are going mad for him. He’s like the Chris Cunningham of comedy. Well you can’t really say that; but they’re pretty similar people.