Sean Booth and Rob Brown originally came from Manchester but have resided in Sheffield for three years. They met one another almost ten years ago through a mutual friend after discovering that they had the same record collection, a shared interest in breakdancing and a past love of BMX biking. They bonded instantly. The two had always played around with sound, particularly Sean who inherited an old reel-to-reel from his Grandfather on which he tampered with television recordings. Their equipment consisted of a basic Casio sampler and a Roland 606. In their own words, "We were the Acorn computer generation".
Moving on from hip hop culture to early acid, they came to the same realisation that hip hop was missing the electronic sound. Armed with a new drum machine and an abundance of various sounds, they got to work immediately. A perfect team striving to give all the strange sounds in their heads some solid form. "We were the only two people that we'd met that filled in various gaps".
Soon after, they made a name for themselves by appearing on a local pirate radio station giving them complete creative freedom and a direct link to listeners. Alongside favourite tracks they would mingle in some of their own experiments. Confident with the comeback, 'Cavity Job', the first single, was released in 1991. Just a year after Warp received a demo, the Mancunian duo who can only describe the music that they make as 'Autechre' had secured themselves an interesting future, rightfully standing out.
Instinct, personal taste and a desire to express emotions uniquely are the driving force behind them. Despising the thought of being part of a trend, they do it to make themselves happy, producing tunes that they would like to hear. "You just make music for yourself and certainly don't tie it to any fashion thing".
Refreshingly eager to answer my question about inspirations they both started to speak at once. "Everything effects you, the weather, everything, you can't pinpoint a particular thing, it could be a Beatles record played to us by our parents, everything in your environment affects you."
Modest, but with more than enough to say for themselves we discuss other people embarking on similar projects with possible similar traits. "We honestly haven't got a clue about anybody else, we're probably a bit disillusioned with mediocrity, maybe that's a bit extreme, making music isn't even a statement against mediocrity, it's just that we've got to listen to something decent."
By the time 'Incunabula', Autechre's debut album came out in November 1993, they'd already ventured into live work. Bravely manipulating sound in front of an expectant audience. Performing in a non-presentational way, they go along with the feel of a particular crowd. "We want to have drive but also spin people out." You can blatantly see the energy it gives them just talking about it.
There's no loss of the Manc accent and the roots are undoubtedly strong, but unlike many other sounds that come from across the way, such as New Order, they don't see their music tinged with Northern bleakness. There are inflections of bleakness but they claim it's not cultural, "It's more how the city makes you feel. What you feel as a person comes out in what you do." Being a Lancashire lass myself, we unavoidably discuss early parties in the late eighties and adamantly agree that going out up North had a completely different feel to it, there was nothing like it.
"Sheffield's got this old funk vibe, everything's warm and still a bit gritty yet it's all straight and organised, If voodoo Ray was from here it would be it's classic track, warm but precise, lots of space but also tons of drive." They describe Sheffield as being more like a little London compared to Manchester, "In Manchester people pretend to hate your guts but really they're your best mate and in Sheffield people pretend to be your best mate but really hate your guts"(both laughing).
Vocals are virtually a non-entity on Autechre tracks, uninterested in other peoples words, they aim to create the same emotion with different sounds. The only vocals they would consider using would be The Cocteau Twins, mainly because you can't tell what she's saying, using three layers of her voice just to confuse people, "You know that there's a degree of soul and sentiment and communication, you're aware of that but can't interpret it." Emotion is what is lacking in music at the moment, according to Rob and Sean, "You have to be able to tell what's driven people to the finished product."
There isn't really a great deal of new music around that stimulates them in any way: "It's all too formularised, most drum and bass stuff is just electronic speed music." They do have good things to say, particularly about Gerald: "He's a genius, he makes things solid sound like they are liquid, he makes sounds like this" (Rob makes a shape with his hands) Sean shakes his head in agreement, knowing exactly what shape he means. Speaking to each other is not necessary when they are working together, relying much more on instinct and completely trusting each other. 50's & 60's music interest them more than new stuff, Miles Davis and even Celtic music, the range is immense.
Four albums later Rob and Sean are by no means finished yet. They can carry on growing because they realise there's still so much to uncover and mess around with. With a lot of their new stuff, even they don't fully understand where it comes from, making the whole thing appear quite magical.