Samengevat: Autechre's music comes out especially well during night-time radio sessions or when travelling by train, everything that takes you mentally into a twilight zone. No further comments, or attempt at interpretation. Listen to them, cherish them, only lend them to your best friends...
When I interview Sean Booth, member of the techno B-boy duo Autechre, by phone on a grey Tuesday evening, the first thing I hear is the sound of a bottle being broken, the voice of my discussion partner comes later. 'Great Sound', I comfort him. Since their debut album 'Incunabula' yours truly has been an unconditional fan. Autechre's music is of an undefi(n)able beauty, and has it's roots deep in the electro and hiphop of the early eighties. That immediately creates a bond.
Autechre's fascination for abstract sound is why they repeatedly find themselves on the borderline between experimentation and dance. In between the electronic genres (ambient, trip hop, industrial, jungle) of the present, their sideways reference to funky and minimalistic roots, still produces an up to date sound. The fact that Sean Booth and Rob Brown are also really terrific blokes, without a sign of arrogance or intellectual pretence, is what makes them in our eyes stand out even more compared to the competition.
To do nothing
Since our previous meeting at the Amsterdam Triple-X festival last year, you'd expect something to have happened. But, summing up, Sean is of the opinion that they really have done 'nothing' since then. However, this doing 'nothing' consists of making two albums, a series of singles, and a couple of remixes. Subsequently they went on 'doing nothing' on location in Japan, Australia and in Europe (Switzerland and Austria). Touring and writing music - that reeks of being a professional musician. It so happens that making music has always been their greatest hobby, so...
wj: Really nothing else, Sean?
Sean: We moved from Manchster to Sheffield ...
wj: Sheffield? You don't mean that dull civilian hole in the west (sic) of England where half the music industry lives together within a 500 meter radius? Sheffield, the damned anti-Manchester...
Sean: Anti Manchester? (Sean exclaims, sounding surprised) We've not noticed anything like that up till now. Nobody has tried to knife us in the back yet. Maybe we integrated rather quickly due to our highstanding contribution to music.. *laughs*
To say nothing
wj: Can your music still be classified as dance? I mean: you don't make straight-up-and-down techno to be flung on the dance floor, but apparently experimental and subtle listening music.
Sean: Thanks. We've always had the opininion that there are two sides to dance music. It's a pity that the world still only digs one side of it. A lot of people need a metronome, it's a matter of what you are used to. We do not condemn 4/4 techno. It may sound easy, but it's extremely difficult do to it well.
wj: What's your opinion on trance or the more repetitive styles?
Sean: I know PWOG, I think they're very good. But if we were to do something like that, it wouldn't come out of the heart. It would sound cheap. The music we make comes for 100 percent from within. For some reason they never turn out to be straightforward dance tracks. Don't ask me why, that's just the way it is.
wj: Maybe you're not the outgoing type?
Sean: Right. We've grown up with club music. But we never listened to it in a club setting. We mainly listened to that music at home, or on our walkman. That may be the single most important reason why we never make music that's geared to the dance experience.
To think nothing
wj: Do you aim to break with certain conventions, and is that why you are a band that breaks boundaries?
Sean: It's not all that much of a conceptual thing. Look, we are very much interested in the concept of rhythm. However, we think that you can also move internally, not just externally. As far as genres are concerned: as long as the two of us know about which music we're talking then there's no problem. But as soon as you stick a certain name on it, like 'electronic music', you run into problems. I mean: all music is in a sense 'electronic'. Even a recording that consists completely out of natural sounds can be regarded as electronic. When somebody concentrates on the sound itself, instead of the melody or the song, then almost automatically he gets shoved into the experimental or electronic niche.
wj: You are still wary of any kind of definition?
Sean: Yes, we've even stopped explaining what we do to other people. It may sound like the oldest cliche in the world, but now I only ever give people the advice ... 'LISTEN TO OUR MUSIC' Everything is in there. We've always been interested in things you cannot describe using words. Our music is the logical progression of that. That is why it sounds the ways it sounds...
wj: Last year, you'd just done the live-mix of a Caspar Brotzmann concert. Have you done similar things since then?
Sean: Yes. We're doing a concert together with Zoviet:France soon. We wrote exclusive material together with them. We were going to work together with Coil, but that's been put off for now, as John Balance is kicking off.
wj: Is the industrial side of Autechre coming to the front more? Your latest record 'Anvil Vapre' leans towards it.
Sean: We have always been industrial. Listening to Coil as 15-year olds, their music drove us wild. It is only now that we have achieved a certain standard ourselves that we can phone them and ask 'would you like to record a track together with us?'
wj: Does the industrial generation perhaps show a more open attitude towards the outside world?
Sean: Maybe so. But Coil had already been engaged more commercially for a while. And for Zoviet:France it was more of a question of doing something else for a change. They're fed up with repeatedly being referred to in interviews by present day electronic bands for something they did 15 years ago, btw. They show an interest in the new electronic music, and the fact that they are willing to work with people like us shows that they're not snobs. They could say 'We were there first. Who are these kids? But they treat us quite normally.
wj: How do we picture the 'new' music?
Sean: Difficult to explain. It is clear that the dark implications of the eighties are not carried on by the dance music of the nineties. And that the industrial sounds are, but with different instruments.