"I just think we're doing people's heads in" laughs Sean Booth when asked how Autechre manages to atract a large crowd while their music gets darker and darker with every release. With a new Key Nell EP in Warp's digital pipelines and remixes for Edge of Motion underway, the dudls from Ae develop their unique industrial/electro style even further. "I think people have got it in themselves to apreciate anything. You just have to introduce it to them slowly."
Last time I spoke to you guys you were still very much into electro. Now Autechre has moved away completely from the revitalised breakdance-tunes.
Sean: "We still like electro but it's being caned a bit. Everyone is doing it, everyone is getting their 808's out."
Rob: "It's almost like they are afraid of expose their roots. Everyone is now saying their roots are electro. We don't want to say the same thing as everyone else. We're still into electro but we just don't talk about it. We knew an electrorevial would happen though."
What I find so fascinating about Autechre is, that you atract a bigger audiance each time you come over to Holland, but at the same time your music is getting more extreme and darker. Can you explain that?
Sean: "I just think we're doing people's heads in. Do you know what I mean? We like the idea of making something that is difficult to understand (populair). I think the people have got it in themselves to apreciate anything. You just have to introduce it to them slowly. That's what we are doing."
How is the last album selling?
Rob: "Dunno really."
Sean: "It must be doing allright because we haven't had to get jobs or anything. We're earning money of it. But I don't know any selling-numbers."
Rob: "that's about the limit of our awareness. As long as it enables us to keep doing what we're doing it."
Sean: "I suppose you could call us succesfull but our bankaccount doesn't reflect that very well. But it pays the rent and that's all that's important to us. As long as we can keep making the music on our terms. Nobody is telling us what to do."
How do you make your sounds sound so strange?
Sean: "We make our own sounds."
Rob: "Usually we fiddle around with the equipment and record long, long sessions. Just messing with stuff."
Sean: "We jam an awfully lot. We jam for an hour or so and record that on a DAT. Then we listen back to it and pull bits out of it. And sometimes we get one sound an mess around with it for ages until it sounds good."
Rob: "Sometimes we get bored with that too and just get a microphone out."
Sean: "And we recycle a lot."
Rob: "We go through our old disks for sounds and even sample our old tracks. Once you got the proper tools for manipulation you virtually can do anything with it. As long as you got a raw wave to start with. You can take it to whatever level of sound you want it."
Sean: "It's funny to see all these jungle-kids get into sampling technique. We've been sampling stuff since '91 and we've been using samplers inventive since then. Like pitching things down to have lower resolution so they sound dirtier. We did that before dirty dancemusic existed. There wasn't any dirty dancemusic, it didn't exist. Apart from the occasional hip hop tune, that is. Kid's are getting back into it now and that's interesting. But to us, sampling has become our second nature. That's how we make our sounds, mostly by using analogue- and occasional digital equipment and effects. Lots of spatial effects."
In an interview you said: we treat our samples in a mean way. We take them to the edge..
Sean: "We do actually. We're still using the same sampler and because we got bored doing the same thing. Now we force ourselves to do something new with it everytime."
Rob: "Beyond regulations."
Sean: "Yeah. Not that we're doing stuff that's totally experimental."
Rob: "We're just bored of what we used to do. You have to go further each time or there is not much point."
Sean: "Someone who visited India told me once that our album was the only thing that refrained him from going mad. Maybe that's because it's escapism music."
Rob: "There's enough to focus on without getting bored, I suppose."
SHEFFIELD FAMILY FEELINGS
You have been with Warp Records from the beginning. What is it with Warp that there's such a family-feeling?
Rob: "Trust really."
Sean: "Yep, that sums it up pretty much. The sort of trust you have with your mates. There's no point in them ripping us of and there's no point in us being funny with them."
Rob: "We didn't know them before this all happened. We have become friends and it's ... trusty."
Don't you feel the need to release records as Autechre on other labels, besides Skam?
Rob: "We get opportunities to do that because of compilations and remixes. But there's no real urge to get something out on a certain label. Then it's almost like a posession. It's nice to do a favour, that's the only occurance of puting stuff out with other people."
Sean: "Autechre and Warp are very closely aveliated. I can't really see Autechre moving to another label. If we ever split from Warp we probably will change our name. I wouldn't like to see us split though. They inspired us a lot, very very heavily. They showed us it was possible to put out something that was different."
Rob: "In the beginning it was freaky music, but clubmusic. Everyone got into it. All the other clubtracks were very obvious tracks but then a track like Testtone would come in, and we were amazed!"
Sean: "Warp was the first label for us that were presenting something that was dancemusic but was previously seen only as electronic music. And it was dancemusic, there was no question about that. Warp had a real basic attitude at the beginning. Three sounds and a kickdrum, that would be the tune."
Rob: "I got really into the fact that the records sounded so abstract but people would still accept it because it had certain formulaic elements for clubmusic."
Sean: "When everyone in the UK went hardcore and breakbeat, somewhere in '91 or '92 Warp was still releasing fucking weird records, like LFO. They never gave in. As long as you keep doing what you're doing, they thought. And as you know in England everything comes in circles."
BRAINS AS MACHINES
The current dancemusic doesn't inspire you, I read in earlier interviews. What does inspire you? both: "Everything."
Rob: "I can't pin it down."
Sean: "The last inspiration I could pinpoint would be Stanley Kubrik, again. Only because I watched The Shining three weeks ago. At the same night I saw 2001 A Space Odysee. We had a Kubrik-night."
"Fuck, everything influences us, you know what I mean? Your brain is possibly the best cross-referencing machine that has ever been created. Everything is related to everything else. You can't say that one thing is more important than another, cause it's all the same thing."
But often you only get to see these connections afterwards. That's my experience, anyway.
Sean: "Well, you can crop parallels between anything."
Rob: "That's one of the most quickest ways to learn. make cross-references."
Sean: "to try why something makes you feel the same way as something else.Try to find similarities in a literal sence. But words aren't enough really to describe things that influences us.There's no point really to explain. If you geniouly like our music then you know what influences us, you understand. That's enough."
Rob: "And if your suggestions were otherwise, we probably would be into that as well but then we just hadn't seen them before. There's nothing bether than somebody else being in the same stuff as you know."
Sean: "Then you start a conversation about something completely different and you'd still agree."
Like your relationship with Darrel Fitton, who introduced you to 'old' experimental music?
Sean: "Yeah Darrel is older than us. He's an old soulboy. He's a fucking trained musician. He knows what he is doing. He's got a different attitude towards music as we have. He comes from an earlier period of music, when you had bands like Tangerine Dream considered to be new and clever. We obviously came from dancemusic."
Rob: "We came through a very straight edge.... electro was kids. Kids didn't know anything about mindgames. I'm sure that Tangerine Dream were a bit more advanced in that."
Sean: "No it wasn't that at all! It was just the context in which music was presented. Tangerine Dreams' music was presented in a non-social context. It was completely isolationalists. While electro and it's derivates were totally social and as such had to reflect the situation, the social situation. So it wasn't quite that fucked up. It had reference-points to reality, peoples social lives: breakdancing and stuff. That's how I feel anyway. We were just into the sound of the music when electro came out. To be honest I didn't give a shit about breakdancing, but all my mates used to do it. I used to stay at the side with my tapes. That was all that I was interested in. The only reason I started doing it was because I had done one tape for a guy and that was wicked. I remember being introduced to another bunch of kids and they asked: 'so what do you do?' 'he does tapes' my friend replied. That was it then: I just did tapes."
You once said: everybody should have a DAT-machine.
Sean: "I don't think so anymore, actually. I changed my mind."