'The Ultimate Folk Music' - May 2001

The Ultimate Folk Music. A little interview with Sean from Autechre. 1st of May 2001 in Berlin at the WMF.

De:Bug: This looks really heavy.
Sean: What?
De:Bug: The huge bus.
Sean: Heavy, what do you mean.
De:Bug: Looks like real rock business. What are you doing on stage really.
Sean: Just doing tracks.
De:Bug: How much equipment do you use.
Sean: Not much. A couple of synthesizers, a couple of computers. It`s not for equipment, it`s for people. We got Team Doyobi, Rob Hall, supporting us. And Hacker is playing as well. He`s been coming with us for a couple of gigs. Florian Hacker form Mego. We are friends. The reason for the bus is, that it is consequtive dates. No possible way to do it otherwise. The transportation costs would be astronomical. That then becomes RockґnґRoll. What we`re doing ist still cheap.
De:Bug: Just looked impressive.
Sean: Itґs because basically we donґt want any local DJs playing. Sometimes you come up, and there is only one band on, and three other things, and it`s very difficult, cause the context you appear in is completely wrong. It`s good to travel with your mates. Have a crew of people around you that`s consistent.
De:Bug: The last time you played in Berlin was, what the people told me, very strange.
Sean: Yes it was at the Volksbьhne, of course it was strange. But the people who were putting it on didnґt really know what they are doing. They are idiots.
De:Bug: Yeah i know them.
Sean: You know that they are idiot`s then. Ok. We got fucked up, we didnґt get payed and stuff.
De:Bug: Really.
Sean: Yeah they fucked us over and then sent us nasty letters as well. It was really bad.
De:Bug: And they do it all with cultural money.
Sean: Exactly. When we first got there we were really happy to play there, cause it`s the Volksbьhne you know. But then... Apparently Kraftwerk were in the audience at that gig, wich is really funny.
De:Bug: At least something.
Sean: At least someone came. Obviously concert halls, if youґre that kind of person, if you like sitting down listening music, then it`s wicked, but a lot of people want to jump about, and that does not work.
De:Bug: How does it actually work live with the crowd. Hard to imagine Autechre in a club.
Sean: Well the same at it is for a DJ. You look, you make adjustments, you look, you make adjustments. You bring in things and take things out, regarding to what the response ist from the crowd.
De:Bug: Not that dance orientated maybe.
Sean: What do you mean. I donґt know. I donґt really think of it as being dance or not dance. I never really made any distinction in that respect. I donґt know what defines dance music. Is it regular rhythm?
De:Bug: Well usually for the people dance music is defined by...
Sean: Steady 4/4?
De:Bug: Linearity.
Sean: Yeah sure. But your definition of linearity comes into question then. Obviously you strike a point. You could say that that is dancemusic because it`s a loop. Because you supposedly dance in a loop. Is that right?
De:Bug: Well.
Sean: Some people do. I think what we`re doing is what we want to hear when we go to clubs. I think they are all good dance tracks. I donґt know if they fit into the genre of dancemusic.
De:Bug: And the perception of dancemusic of the people. Wich is to say do people dance to it.
Sean: It depends where you are. In Newcastle or Manchester it`s a rave. There is no point where the audience stops to look at the stage, they donґt bother, they just keep raving as if thereґs a DJ on. Thatґs what i grew up with. When we started doing gigs we didnґt have all our gear at the front of the stage with light and stuff, we were in the corner. We did not really want to be any different from DJs because what we are doing is not different really. Just changing patterns on the drummachine is no different from putting on records. You are always choosing from a set of available things to do. Weґve changed a bit though, cause we write our own sequencers now, so we are not restricted in a way that most people are when they are playing live.
De:Bug: What kind of software do you actually use when playing live?
Sean: Programs and sequencers weґve developed ourselves using development environments. It`s pretty simple.
De:Bug: Environments on what?
Sean: On a MacIntosh. Like Symbolic Composer, Max & Supercollider. There is loads. About thirty that are really worth persuing as individual things. Itґs not really good to combine more then three though. It`s mainly trying to make as many things for us available to manipulate live as we can, when we are implementing it in the program. Because obviously, most people when they build a sequencer program, they got 16 stabs. We donґt work like that at all.
De:Bug: A lot of people are quite lucky to have something like a relooper patch...
Sean: Yeah. Thats not really fucking shit. Boring. I think it getґs to a point where everyone has the same tools. Everyone uses computers when doing music now. Thats become the norm.
De:Bug: With a certain kind of music everybody is using Max as well.
Sean: You could say. But that`s different. Youґre not so tied to it. It does not sound like anything. I would never be offended if everyone went out and bought Max. A few years ago i might have been if everyone went out and bought R8 Drummachine because we used them. You have to do so much work to get something out of it. And to get decent filters and sound you have to know what youґre doing. You canґt just plug it in and expect it to sound good. It`s not like reactor or something like that, where you got youґre guaranteed warm filtersounds, and thats their design. Thats all bullshit. I canґt bother with it. I`d rather do most of it myself. But yes, a lot of the people are using the same stuff. It`s just about working out ways of using it that people havenґt.
De:Bug: Would you say that software is still at the beginning, or that what it gives as tools is already so much, that you could go on with it an find new things for the next years? That they could stop development now?
Sean: If i didnґt earn another penny, i would not be upset about it, it`s true. Because i got everything i need, i feel, for a while. Got good relationships with the developers, so. I`ll allways be supported with updates, so I ainґt got any worries. As long as i keep contributing, it`s totally fine. It`s ideas for ideas, that`s how it all works.
De:Bug: Somebody has got to use these programs in ways that work their potential. What do you actually think software development for music is going to?
Sean: I think it`s going to be very open. I think iґll split. Itґs the same thing that has happened forever. You have little things that are implemented in academic programs, that later get taken up by more commercial companys in diluted ways. Just to represent that you can do that. Like Logic, where you know have this environment window where you can do all these "strange" things. Itґs quite obviously inspired by Max, there wasnґt any question about it. There have been things inbetween that were interesting, but by and large you are going to end up with two very different camps. The academic, open source sort of camp, and the commercial, leaching of the academic kind of camp, wich is allways interesting. You canґt tell whats going to happen in the next two days, so you wont be able to tell what is going to happen with software.
De:Bug: What would you like to happen.
Sean: Well. The obvious things. I donґt want my computer to crash as often as it does. Iґd quite like it if the batterys lasted longer and if they did not use toxic chemicals, if theyґd make powerbooks that didґt break, that have decent soundoutputs and soundcards, it`s hardware that could change. Software can be resolved, all you need to do is crack it and change what you want to change. The software part is just silly, cause it`s liquid, you canґt have an opinion on it. The hardware aspect is something where you are dealing with companys that are producing items and charging a lot of money for it, that could be better. I would quite like it if Macintosh made a pro-audio Mac, instead of all these pro-video Macs they are knocking out. Having a nice audiocard instead of having stupid API Video Card, wich is good if you are doing desktop movies, but absolutely useless for me. I donґt need lightning fast graphics. I need lightning fast sound.
De:Bug: And mabe an audio input. That was a silly one.
Sean: Yes, that cons. Whatever. Well i donґt really need the audio input. I donґt do a lot of realtime processing. You just put the file in.
De:Bug: Still itґs stupid.
Sean: Yes i agree, i agree, it would be really nice. Especially for live stuff. I`ve got loads of MSP stuff that i can plug into, but, notanymore. Got to play soundfiles of my own drive. Bla bla bla bla bla...
De:Bug: Where is Autechre going with this next album.
Sean: Nah. Nah nah.
De:Bug: Not a specific....
Sean: No. Not because we didnґt have anything specific in mind when we did the tracks. I donґt want to pretend now that weґve got something.
De:Bug: Not in a way of: we want this and that, but in a way of what you were working on.
Sean: Itґs just like that: Look at this, this is what we did. Thatґs all what weґre saying really. Just check this out. This is what we did this year. There is no specific reason that it exists, other then that thats what we wanted to hear on the days that we made those tracks. I`d be lying if i said anything else, It would be bullshit. Iґd just be saying it to impress cause it sounds good. I am not like that. I dont see the point in it. We exist, we do what we do, and we talk about it. But the music, actually describe it, trying to define where itґs coming from. There is no point. I had no concious thoughts when I was doing it. Not litererally. Not in terms of: oh yeah, I tried to do this with it, and that with it. It would not even make sense if I would be trying to describe it. Rob would understand. I donґt know..
. I read a lot of interesting books this year. A lot of theory. Philosophy i suppose.
De:Bug: What kind of philosophy.
Sean: People like Virillio and Baudrillard. Derrida as well. I read a lot of Derrida. Derrida is most interesting.
De:Bug: Derrida is quite endless.
Sean: Yes there is no real point in it either. I quite like that. He is not really trying to define or persue anything specific. It just kind of breaks whats available. It is quite like the way that humans think anyway.
De:Bug: People are always trying to pin him down.
Sean: I`ve got books that relate Derridas work to other philosophy, whole books that are struggling, really fucking trying. Little passages of Derrida with massive quotes from other philosophers trying to strike a card. But Derrida is just flipping what everybody else is doing. He is going, no, thats shit, no, no no, thats wrong, but this is pretentially right but hey, mabe itґs not and mabe I am full of shit. And he deconstructs himself as well. Endlessly. I really like the fact that it is just endless bits. It does not matter how far you go into something. It just goes on and you still have the same amount of information. Itґs just really lush I just really get into stuff like that. I donґt know weather itґs got anything to do with what we are doing, I donґt think it got necessarily, cause I think that a lot of the things you find in Derrida is things you find anyway when you are working, especially with electronic music, cause you constantly, and this is the difference between live and recording, in a recording situation you really are constantly feeding from what youґve done. And it really is a reflective process. Itґs completely about what necessary changes you have to make to what youґve just done to make it work. I think a lot of what Derrida says about society is quite similar to the way I see music. It`s hard to pin down though. It`s pretty rewarding. But apart from that I havenґt really done anything new this year, apart from moving to the countryside. Wich has been wicked. There is no hassle.
De:Bug: Countryside like in: a house of your own where no other house is insight?
Sean: Yeah, that kind of thing. With a studio next to the house not in it. So it`s kind of right there but not in it. I can really kick it whenever I like. It does not matter who is in the house. Rob moved to London. And Chantal and I to the country side. A really lush place. Itґs actually amazing.
De:Bug: Must be quite a drag touring when you know you could stay home and do what you like.
Sean: Yeah, but I really enjoy doing this as well. I think you have to have a balance. If you have a day job it`s good to live in the city and go out partying at weekends. For me itґs different. It would not make a point having to meet loads of other musicians for the rest of the year when I am not around touring. In a city where thats what everybody ever talks about anyway. Where I live noone gives a fucking shit about what we do. They don`t mind that we do it. They know that we do it. In the village. But it is a totally different attitude. They are not fucking obsessed with the detail. Like Sheffield. There is no other way to exist. You all go to the same places as you all know each other. Everybody is doing the same thing, or thinking the same thing.
De:Bug: I was actually quite surprised you got in here in time. Cause it is riot day today.
Sean: Yeah I know. Itґs going to kick off. I am really fucking scared. Itґs mayday.
De:Bug: Scared of what?
Sean: Well not really scared. Just scared of whatґs going to happen. There is going to be riots. The police presence in Frankfurt yesterday was really fucking on top. So many police it was silly.
De:Bug: They moved some 9000 police men to Berlin for these days. For a couple of broken windows and a couple of burnt down cars.
Sean: 9000 police. Fucking mad. I quite like Berlin. Itґs a shame that the few times we played here we played at such stiff places.
De:Bug: Can be nice.
Sean: But itґs not nice. I just want the people to get into it. I just want to party really. When we started doing this shit we had our own partys. In our houses. Put massive speakers up and gear in the corner. No one would really know what was records and what wasnґt and it didnґt really matter anyway and there was only about a hundred people there.
De:Bug: Thatґs about 10 years ago.
Sean: Yeah. And we were having loads of mushrooms out of a pot in a stove. Just buy a lot of mushrooms and get completely fucked. Just fucking moving around and messing with gear. At the time we thought it was a bit folky making music in your own house. Just for a few people who were there. It was allways like these stages in folk music. It is quite funny with computers now. It is really getting like that. Really getting that available. Like people all over the place could make music in their own rooms. I fucking love that I think itґs amazing. It was the party aspect and the invisibility aspect, the fact that people didnґt really know what was made on the spot and messed about with. I think thats a good thing. When we were starting in Sheffield doing live things, we did not have a lot of live gear. So we did not have an hour of a set. We were mixing it in. So people would not really know. We could do live remixes of tracks, changing things. Do covers, trying to get the gear to sound like what was before. With techno records thats well easy. Remixing on the spot.
De:Bug: Thats become difficult now.
Sean: Yeah. Different. Obviously what weґd like to to is talk to the local people at clubs and tell them. Allright, there is no running order, you just open the doors and we deal with that. But you canґt. Even now.
De:Bug: You are actually more promoted like a concert. So people turn up early.
Sean: We`ll work it out. I am prepared to wait. Next time we tour in europe hopefully we have a sound system with us. Thats what we did in the UK last time. We had a bit of money to spend and we spent it on sound. Same sound for every night. The best 3 or 4 thousand pounds I`ve ever spent. I like the consistency of it. You donґt have to battle to make it sound allright. You have enough variation with the crowd and the room. Obviously when you turn up with your own rig, you can run the running order as well. You donґt really have to do it in restricted places anymore.
De:Bug: How do you cope with the phenomenon "Autechre".
Sean: I donґt really understand it to be honest. It`s not something that I can identify with easily.
De:Bug: Even the label and the distributers are quite strange about it. Allright they first said, we only do one Interview in germany, and if you do a cover page, you get it. And you say. Well, ok, it`s Autechre, but we have not even heard their new record.
Sean: Really, is that the kind of shit you are getting? I mean I`ve told Warp that I donґt want to do that many interviews because I donґt have enough time. I am supposed to be programming now. All my mates have gone out shopping and I sit here with my computer. Weґve literally been doing interviews every day. I donґt want to do interviews every afternoon. I wake up, do my interviews, sit at the computer for five minutes to check my email, then I have to do soundcheck, then eat, then play, then sleep. Itґs ground hog day, I tell you. Thats the reason we donґt want to do more interviews. It`s just bullshit. I canґt be bothered to do them. Especially for america. They are fucking going insane. Itґs like trying to get us to do 10 interviews every afternoon. Five each. One after another. I ainґt got time. All we tell the licensees is: look, find all those that are the best ones and do them. I got better things to do then to justify what I do all of the time. I never have time to do what I do. I am just thinking about saying no more. I donґt know if there is a point in doing interviews anymore.
De:Bug: There usually is, otherwise youґd just fall under the "very unaproachable, very strange etc." banner.
Sean: I donґt give a fucking shit about how mad people think we are. I am not mad at all. I just want to have my one space and donґt worry about all the stupid pressures that people think they have to impose on us. Half of the journalists tell me our album is softer, half of them its harder, i donґt know what to think anymore. Itґs just there. There does not seem to be any general consensus. It is not really journalistic music. There is no big arrow saying: hey look this is the musical trick in our track. There is no point where all is revealed, or where everybody focusses on. Itґs about subjectivity.
De:Bug: Thats not really the problem. The only difficulty in not doing interviews is the sort of effect it has on other people doing music. They might be thinking: these people are so crazy I want to be that way as well. The only thing it actually transports for me, not doing interviews, is the idea of a musician as a genius.
Sean: Oh no. Thats ridiculous. There is no fucking genius in music. There is no fucking genius at all. Genius is just a fucking stupid word that people flow around pretending to know what it means.
De:Bug: Thats the thing that happend to Aphex Twin.
Sean: But he is everywhere. He does loads of press.
De:Bug: For a time he didn't.
Sean: It getґs boring. And I talked with Aphex about that. Compared to what you could do, no matter what that is if it is what you love doing, and it is your fucking head and you are really getting into it. An interview? What`s that. Somebody asking questions. And you feel like you know yourself so fucking well when you do this shit. I donґt know. Interviews never seem to get anywhere near to what you think you are. You can never just say it. All youґve got is what youґve done. And that really does represent for me what Rob and I really are and what we really want. Some music. We push it through. And it`s weired you have to justify it. It`s boring.
De:Bug: I`ll excuse for that.
Sean: No no, itґs not boring now, not really. This is a conversation. You donґt have a list of questions. Itґs not like: So, what new software did you make this year. And you are like: well it doesnґt really have a name. It just gets so awkward. I donґt really care about the image part of it, as long as you know that you can still sell records. The fame bit of it is just really ugly. I canґt be bothered with it. It is just totally wrong. Not at all. Besides we are two people and that kind of dynamism, accusations of genius, very very rarely get leveled at two people. Nobody calls them a genious if they are in a band. Unless they are John Lennon. Or if they kill themselves. There is more dead geniuses then living ones.
De:Bug: People who donґt talk are dead somehow.
Sean: Yeah, it is a lot easier to be called a genius if you never get the opportunity to fuck up. I see what youґre saying. This dark game of image manipulation is something I am quite into. Like subverting it, not into the normal rules. It seems like this old mentality. The best way to be commercial and get a way with it is taking the piss out of other commercial things. Do something commercial, but just do with enough pisstake in it to be accepted by the people who donґt like commercial things. And therefore cover all bases. Like the old Beck trick. Like really fucking clever, but a really 90s marketing idea as well. You ask youself, havenґt they thought of anything since that.
De:Bug: What do you think about "marketing" ideas like this one thing that happend to youґre album long before it was out. Somebody posting your album tracks with the right names with completely false tracks of other people on Napster.
Sean: Wonder who that was?
De:Bug: You know the guy?
Sean: No, not personally. After Warp accepted the album I had a list of tracktitles that i posted on the net to a little newsgroup, an Autechre discussion list, to see what happens. And thats what happened. I`ve got so many of our livesets that I have napstered. I think that Napster is actually quite good. I am quite into it. I never bother to record anything that we do. And it is just wicked to just go on there and get all of our livesets. All the kids with minidiscs and stuff have archived them and put them up there. I fucking appreciate it. I donґt have any problem with it, itґs quite a good thing. I mean if they are selling them to each other, that stinks cause I am not into people making money off it. But if they are just trading and stuff itґs fucking well, itґs what I did when I was at school and did not have enough money to buy records. I just had tapes. What I`ve done is that I retitled some of the livesets with tracknames of our album and left them on Napster for a couple of months. But nobody downloaded them. I was quite disappointed. But the files were so massive. All really highbitrate as well. It is quite amusing that somebody else did it as well. And they were quite well known tracks wasnґt it? I quite like that. Itґs probably someone I know.
De:Bug: Yeah. Seems like the one who did it said that he explicitly choose tracks that sound close to Autechre, and that people liking Autechre should know. But nobody seemed to identified them.
Sean: So a lot of people think they have the album when they havnґt got it at all. Thats quite clever. Who did it then. Probably the label. I can imagine Warp doing something like that, they are pretty sneaky.
De:Bug: They said they didnґt. They wanted to do something similar though.
Sean: Same thing for me. But it did not work. With Napster you really got to be online all of the time to have people downloading stuff from you. And I could not be bothered to find somebody who is, cause then it would have been theyґre totally responsiblitiy, wich would not have been nice. Loads of musicians use Napster to hype their own stuff anyway. Fucking mad. Its like: Oh well, I`ve got these slightly less good remixes of my stuff so I put them on Napster first so that people think they have my new single before I release my actual new single wich is better cause itґs got more edits in it and a few more DSP eccentries, bonus bits, itґs like this old hiphop thing of buying a remix 12" with a couple of extra little edits in it. Got too much to do though. Too much music to make.
De:Bug: How much music do you actually produce.?
Sean: Donґt know. In a good week probably about an hours worth. And that can be various lengths. The thing is with a lot of generative and computer stuff you are making programs, but you are not actually bothered to record the tracks. The programms are always going to spit out different versions of the tracks. I mean there are some that are consistently running from start to finish as well. Coded routine that works. But a lot of the tracks are really long cause there is no real end to it. Its an algorithmic process and you donґt have to have an end to it. I might fill a DAT with a track an listen to it while doing other things. I am totally recursive as well. Involved with Autechre. I donґt really listen as much to other peoples stuff as much as I used to. Quite into listening to our own stuff.
De:Bug: Itґs something that I have been waiting for years, that somebody comes out with programs as a music format.
Sean: Weґve already released one on the fals label, but only a little one. With music that performs a little visual process as well. Generative, always slightly different. I`ve sent quite a lot of these things out to people, but the problem is with copyright law as it stands, it does not support stuff like that. Itґs a great idea. Iґd love to give people a CD with the programs and say: There you go, thats the new Autechre album. But everytime the program runs it makes a different track, wich then has a different copyright, and the person who runs the program could put his copyright to it. You could release the tracks as your tracks. There is nothing for me to prevent that. De:Bug: On the other hand itґs a good idea that there is at least a resistance against the copyrighting of software.
Sean: Yeah and you canґt put a copyright to everything a special software makes. And it would be really stupid to do that. I mean these programs are just a patch. And whoґd copyright a patch. Youґd have to be a real moneygrabbing bastard to do that.
De:Bug: People are making money with less ideas.
Sean: Obviously i`d fucking love to release something like that, but it is just really difficult to earn any money with it. But I like using them for live. Thats applications and I can change the input live. And it doesnґt really matter if everything changes because thats the whole point of livesets. And then there is now debate about who performed it, because we performed it.
De:Bug: And you can get it from Napster.
Sean: Yes, I can download it later. Canґt wait to get home and look what has been uploaded. Audio Galaxy is getting pretty healthy as well. It is probably better for weired music, cause as soon as the news came out about Napster all the weirder stuff came up on Audio Galaxy. Less Berlinda Carlisle and more Stockhausen. It was good. Napster can really hurt small musicians though. People who havnґt got an established profile. Weґre quite lucky really. Weґve been around for 10 years, and if we have a new album out, people will go out and get it, it does not really matter if itґs on napster or not. People who are just starting out have a hard time though. And it is the same thing as what you were saying about people not doing press. I don`t want to go through life thinking that we set examples for people, cause thats not what we are going to do, we just do our own thing, but in the end, after 10 years in the business, people are going to look to you to see what your attitudes are. I do try to be sound as much as possible, and try to just say what I think. I could have changed my mind in 10 years, but I am quite prepared to accept myself as I have been changed so I don`t think Iґve got a reason to think that whatever I said is ever going to worry me. Not saying anything is bit like not doing anymore records, when you earned shitloads of money already. There is something weired about that. Saying I earned enough money so I am not releasing any more, or saying Iґve earned enough so I am releasing all my stuff on Napster now, blabla, kicking off like that, is preventing other musicians of getting where they want to be. Just a tactical manouvre. People who say such things are not people who really believe in it, but people who want to prevent other peoples success. Very simple. I think though, to be honest, the world would be a better place if every kid was given a laptop when they were born. Or at least given the rights to them. I think that would be wicked, cause then we`d have the ultimate folkmusic. Itґs silly: peoples idea of folkmusic seems to be that it`s cheap. And weґre already there. The lowest common denominator. Folk has always been economically defined. What we consider to be folkmusic is what became rock when it was mushed with rhythm and blues, wich is basically what most people did when they were in a garage band, itґs like the whole thing with indie, indie music, the cheapest thing to buy in the 80s was probably a guitar and a little fuzzbox, so they made guitar and fuzzbox music, wich has nothing to do with independent anymore, and there is very little independent music that uses guitars anymore cause it just costs more then computers, end of story. Computers are just the cheapest way for people to make music now and it is going to kick off, it is going to fucking kick off. Next 10 years is going to be insane. The next few years there is going to be a really major upsurge cause now it is not only kids that are into electronic music or dance music that are using computers it`s everyone. Anyone who is into music is getting one.