Meat Beat Manifesto: An Unexpected Rhythm
A lyric via MC Young Cassius on Meat Beat Manifesto’s 2008 album Autoimmune is a fitting slogan for the group’s main man Jack Dangers: “… as heavy as motherfuckin’ Buicks.” For over two decades, Dangers (née Corrigan) has pioneered, employed, expanded and mastered so many so-called electronica and sample-based styles, and “heavy” is the only way to describe him.
Heavy as in massive discography (remix work, production, albums), as in slurping walls of synthetic and electroacoustic textures, as in hybrid drum machines meet drum kits meet field recordings to produce the “Big Beat” that inspired Chemical Brothers before they block-rocked anything. Heavy as in a person whose history-book-mélange of genres influenced this journalist to dive into Lee Perry, Miles Davis’ electric years and research the real “industrial music” (Throbbing Gristle, Einstüzende Neubauten).
And heavy as in bass frequencies which, particularly on MBM’s latest Answers Come In Dreams (aka A.C.I.D.), rattle windows and eardrums (check your encyclopedia and the page marked “Dangers was here first” before you call it Dubstep).
For anyone hunkered down in a basement studio, poring over a monitor filled with software while LED screens and blinking lights keep you company, Dangers’ oeuvre is your blueprint. Via phone, Dangers and I spoke about his new records, music technology, his fourth dimensional vision with video editing, why hip-hop is lost without sampling—and I think I did a great job not acting like an idiot while speaking to one of my long-time heroes.
(Okay, there was a little weirdness where I explained my background in music technology and production, then compared interviews to “speed dating” where the first couple of questions determine if we have a future together for the next 50 minutes.)
SLUG: …so the point of that was please feel free to geek out about music gear. And if I don’t understand it, I will look up the software and figure out how to explain it.
Jack Dangers: That’s cool. Tech stuff is all right then, is it?
SLUG: Yeah, yeah. First I want to ask about the new LP versus the new EP because they seem a bit different in nature. Did you purposely distinguish between the two?
Dangers: Yeah. It was more of a time issue, actually. The EP was the last thing to be done. There was a good three, four month period in-between finishing the music on the CD-album and then working on the EP because I was working on videos for the tracks. So there was that time period, and that probably just made me jump in and do something different. Working with some new equipment, that’s probably why they sound different.
SLUG: What kind of equipment?
Dangers: I’ve been using a [Elektron] Machinedrum.
SLUG: Okay. I was going to ask you about that because I read that you recently got one, and I love that machine.
Dangers: It’s a brilliant piece of gear. My god, yeah. It’s just…neat.
SLUG: From videos I watch, it seems like it’s “Autechre In a Box.”
Dangers: Yeah, it can be “Anything In a Box.” It’s ingenious. It’s a design classic, if you ask me.
SLUG: So it’s not a lot of scrolling through parameters?
Dangers: Well, it can be, but it’s good to sort of get outside the computer for sequencing. Because, yeah I’ve got a lot of outboard gear and old synths and stuff, some old analog sequencers, but nothing [like] what the Machinedrum can do. It’s a very powerful box, and it sounds amazing, the actual sound quality of this thing is quite up there with all my other favorite gear. I use Apogee and Logic, and again the sound (of the Machinedrum) is just as good, if not better. That’s amazing, you know, for that to be in a little box like that, and to work with those all together is perfect—inspiring, all over again.
SLUG: I was going to ask about that. It does get hard to have the same tool set and stay inspired, and it’s nice when those new little things come along and help you go forward. You have something new to exhaust the limits of—and it’s, like, you already exhausted the limits of the old stuff and you think, “I have great ideas, but I need something new to help mine those out of me.”
Dangers: Yeah, like the audio state of [my] things, it’s been improving, sound quality-wise, through the years. But it’s still the same process. I’ve been using computer programs for sequencing since the ‘80s, now. Logic, I’ve been using it since it came out (before Apple took it over). And you know that’s a really powerful tool as well. Every time they bring a new version of that out, it does new things—things that I’ve always wanted it to do.
So really, I’m taking that for granted really. You work in similar ways and you need something to get you out of that area, and video does that for me as well. That’s such a different thing compared to audio, the way you have to compartmentalize everything. And they’re never connected, audio and video. It’s two different streams until you do the final mix.
SLUG: I imagine that when you’re doing a visual and stripping the audio out – then putting in new audio to re-appropriate the context. I imagine that this can lead you down a different avenue.
Dangers: Yeah, it’s as if you’re doing a transition between two sections in song, or even two songs as a DJ set. It’s a completely different thing to do a video transition. A different world altogether. You try different things. It’s been good to jump out of the music and back into the video world.
SLUG: Along the lines of video and your shows, I saw Meat Beat Manifesto in 2005 when you came to Salt Lake, and I could see Ben Stokes [MBM member, video guy] doing it all live. Knowing the massive amount of visuals you use, is that him improvising or a set thing every night?
Dangers: Yeah, there’s certain rules and guidelines to go by or else, you know, it’s going to turn into a mess…
SLUG: A good mess!
Dangers: …but we’re both sort of equally playing live, and we both share the video chores. Although on this (the videos for this album), I’ve been mainly doing it all; but it will be the two of us working together when we go out on tour again. I know it’s hard to tell who’s doing what onstage. I know that people usually think that he’s doing all the video…
SLUG: No, I could see hand all hands moving, and edits popping up, and I could tell that everyone is sharing the duties—except for [MBM live drummer] Lynn [Farmer]. He’s on the drums, and he’s keeping the time.
Dangers: Yeah. I’ve always been into film as much as I have music, but I never did it as much. I’d always worked with mainly Ben—for fifteen years, now. It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve sort of taken everything on, and I’ve been doing all the video. Actually, it’s what I’m doing now. I’m working on the live video as we speak, more or less.
SLUG: And with your new music, I read that you’re also going to have videos for all the songs on the EP?
Dangers: The album, mainly. I did one for the EP and put it up on Youtube and Vimeo.
SLUG: Yeah, I got it when I downloaded the EP from iTunes.
Dangers: So we’re doing different versions of the music and then the video, and trying to work out a way so Ableton Live can actually pump the video out at the same time. I think we’re going to have to use Max (MSP) through Live…
SLUG: The Jitter part of it?
Dangers: Yeah, we use that for the live video sampling for a master video out. And it would be great if that could be all handled by Live, and then we could improvise and loop things all in real-time.
SLUG: I read, years ago, your hesitation about using Live. Is that something you use in the studio, or is it more of an onstage tool?
Dangers: It’s definitely more of a live thing for me, though it does handle video well: the time-stretching and loops, running loops and then bringing them into Final Cut (Pro). It’s good for things like that. And, yeah, it’s always the thing we use live to generate all the music. But I’m just a Logic person when I’m in the studio—I think it sounds better.
SLUG: I know that you use Native Instruments [virtual] synths. Is that what you use inside of Logic, or are you using Logic’s synths as well?
Dangers: Mainly I use [Logic’s] bass stuff. I like to go off their Massive—I like to open up a patch in that. You can definitely get some good stuff out of that. But for the lead and ambient stuff I definitely use the old analog equipment more.
SLUG: Is the use of virtual synthesizers more of a speed issue? I mean, I know it’s hard to record old analog synths and get them to sit right, or reduce the hiss. Or maybe the hiss is essential and you spend time trying to get that sound in the virtual realm.
Dangers: [With virtual synths] you’ve got more control in a live situation. You know, with ways you would have to record outboard gear in a certain way, filter it out afterwards, and have take it along with you so it’s running live. But with a Native Instruments soft synth, you can do it all live, in real-time, change it on the fly. I tend not to use the same sounds or go into the area of same sounds – which I hear a lot, especially in Dubstep. Everyone seems to be using the same…
SLUG: I wasn’t going to bring up the D Word.
Dangers: Yeah, yeah. It’s any two words put together, two words that have been around for a while.
SLUG: It actually took me a few months to figure out why people were suddenly using that word. I thought Dubstep was the faster stuff, not the 70 BPM tracks. When I heard what it is, I said that’s just Meat Beat Manifesto.
Dangers: [Those ideas] have always been in Drum ‘n’ Bass: it’s always the half-time, filtered beats. You know Scorn has been doing that forever…
SLUG: And Photek back in the mid ‘90s…
Dangers: Yeah, yeah. So it’s always been there, lurking in the background. It takes, I don’t know, a couple clubs in London to come up with a name, and “here you go, enjoy”.
SLUG: Here you go! I want to ask you about that too. In an interview years ago (Grooves 12, 2003), you talked about how the Mick Harris (of Scorn) sound is untouchable, but I think you nailed it.
SLUG: You have those sub-frequencies, but then all of your MBM sounds flitting around in the background. I think you nailed that bowel-churning bass.
Dangers: Right. I think getting that is 20% musical ability and awareness and 80% just being a depressed, morose person. I think that Mick must be like that, as well. You’ve got to be sort of in the gloom, a little bit. A little bit put off.
SLUG: I know that he fishes, a lot. Being alone on a lake all day is pretty introverted.
Dangers: Yeah. Coming from that part of the world, as well (Harris lives in Birmingham), with the white skies and white spidery tweedlin’, fletching across the landscapes. It can get a little too much.
SLUG: I’ve never read why you relocated from the UK to the US.
Dangers: That was probably one of the reasons. Everybody in Britain, they put up with it, but they don’t like the weather there. It’s bloody depressing. Although I didn’t mind it: I would hardly leave the studio. I’ve said this before many times, that I could be anywhere and I would be doing the same music. It doesn’t matter if it’s sunny outside or raining all the time. It’s what happens inside, I suppose.
SLUG: And you live in Mill Valley, California, or your studio is just there? I haven’t been clear on that.
Dangers: Yeah, the studio’s at my house in Mill Valley. I moved over around ’93. It’s just over the Golden Gate Bridge, so it’s close enough to the city but far enough away to feel like you’re, more or less, in the country. We live on Mount Tam(alpais). I actually just got back from [Dangers’ hometown] Swindon, and it’s exactly what I just said. Well it wasn’t actually raining, but it’s definitely nice to come back. I’m used to that rainy weather this time of year, but I come back to California and it’s blue skies in November. It’s amazing.
SLUG: I lived up near Sacramento for a little while, and it is amazing to only get rain in January. And those rolling hills look the same year-round.
Dangers: It’s an amazing place. You can go to Tahoe—not that I do any of this stuff, but you can go to Tahoe, then a few hours later you’re at the beach. You’d have to go – I don’t know where you’d have to go to get that in Europe. Probably Italy.
SLUG: Being so close to San Francisco, have you ever felt connected to, say, the kid606 / Tigerbeat6 crew?
Dangers: Nah, not really. I never really felt connected to any groups, anywhere, really. Well, maybe the first time our records came out on Waxtrax! [circa 1989], I felt like maybe there was some brotherly love going on. But that was short-lived because we were only on there about a year and a half.
SLUG: And then the dreaded search for a new label begins.
Dangers: We were licensed to different labels all around the world—and over here, late ‘80s early ‘90s, with what was called industrial music, we got caught up in that.
SLUG: You’re bringing up all the words I was trying to avoid.
Dangers: Yeah, industrial. To me, [industrial music] is Throbbing Gristle, that’s how I first heard of it; I bought the Fetish box set when it came out [in 1981]. John Peel used to play Throbbing Gristle. He was the only source who would play that. They were definitely ignored—I never read any good reviews of them around that time period. The whole music press hated them.
SLUG: The press from that era now talks about them as being such an influence. But I can’t find anything positive written about them around that time.
Dangers: Each member had their own thing, and you can hear that on the records. I just liked the experimentation of what they were doing. But I was always more into Cabaret Voltaire at that time. They were more cohesive. They had rhythms, which you could dance to if you wanted. This is all music I like to listen to, something with an unexpected rhythm.
SLUG: I think that is a perfect summation of your work, actually.
Dangers: Yeah. When the snare and the bass drum hit on the four every time, it gets really…boring. That seems to be the main thing happening in commercial dance music, these days.
SLUG: Have you ever picked up power tools and tried to jam out something out in the classic industrial style? Like Einstüzende Neubauten?
Dangers: Well, there was, yeah, a time back in ’83, ’84. I was in a group and we were doing that.
SLUG: In Perennial Divide?
Dangers: It was actually called Richard A. Jubilation.
SLUG: Ah, okay.
Dangers: Someone actually sent me a link to a performance from ’84 – and it’s out there, somewhere, on the Internet. We were definitely copying Test Department and Einstüzende Neubauten. But after that, not really, and coming over here in the late ‘80s the industrial scene definitely seemed to me like it had already happened. And there was this goth image to it, which didn’t have anything to do with the music circle. So it was all a bit confusing.
SLUG: I associate “industrial” with being broke: you can’t afford instruments so you use whatever you can find on the street.
Dangers: Or just making sheer noise. Einstüzende Neubauten is a good example of that. But during that same period, The Beatnigs [who became Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy] were grinding metal onstage, and Adrian Sherwood was producing them. And then I went on to work with Michael Franti [then a member of DHOH] a few years later after that. So all that, during that time period, I definitely felt like we were connected to things, but not since I moved here: I don’t really have anything to do with anyone around here.
SLUG: What about the Trent Reznor and his Nothing Records connection. Was that more of a mail-order, phone calls deal?
Dangers: Yeah, I was never really hanging out with Trent. I don’t know if that was the perception. He’s probably more socially retarded than me—he just keeps to himself—But [he’s] a really nice guy who put all our records out.
SLUG: And it’s funny because around that time I got into Squarepusher and Autechre because he distributed their albums…
Dangers: Yeah, I told him about those bands.
SLUG: That’s cool. Thank you, then.
Dangers: Here’s Squarepusher, check this out. And Luke Vibert, and he went and licensed them and put them out.
SLUG: That’s cool. He had a Nothing Records streaming radio station around 1999. And that’s how I got into all of those people.
Dangers: Yeah, he could have just spent all his money on other stuff and not bothered doing that. So I give him credit for putting those records out. And Coil: I remember seeing them in his studio in New Orleans, you know, working on all his gear and his big desk. I didn’t get to do that, actually. D’oh.
SLUG: You have your own big desk, though.
Dangers: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Everybody’s got a big desk now.
SLUG: A big one and the little one they take on the road.
Dangers: It’s just virtual.
SLUG: You have a history of collaborations, and other people are credited as being Meat Beat Manifesto. How do collaborations work for you? I mean, it all goes through you at the end, right? Are you all jamming and such?
Dangers: Erm, a bit of all that, actually. On this one, not so much. That was more on the last album [Autoimmune] because I had Lynn playing drums on a bunch of tracks. This one it’s more stuff I’ve programmed and drum sounds I’ve come up with, just to make it sparse. Mainly, just me: no arguments with myself.
SLUG: Well there are plenty of internal arguments.
Dangers: If I turn up late, I can’t have a go at me. Though I always do. It’s like me arguing with me. Then I storm out. “I’m never going to work with you again.”
SLUG: I want to ask about the time period between the Satyricon (1992) and Subliminal Sandwich (1996). There was a four-year gap there. What other projects were you working on during that time?
Dangers: I was working on EBN (Emergency Broadcast Network). I produced their one and only album. That took a good four or five months. The rest of the time was renegotiating our crappy record deal, which he had at the time with Play It Again Sam. Otherwise, we would have had records out in ’94, ’95. It was just you know…bullshit record label business crap. It was that and nothing else, really.
SLUG: Well you came out with a really substantial double-disc that was, I don’t know, a shift in mood.
Dangers: Yeah, definitely moving over here was inspiring. I had always lived in Swindon, and just moving out of there was inspiring.
SLUG: But it made your music…darker. Not dark, but more textural.
Dangers: It should be more happy and sunnier, but it reverted to being more morose. I don’t know.
SLUG: I guess you have to react to wherever you are.
Dangers: I’m a bit of a paranoid android.
SLUG: And then you have another significant shift two years later with Actual Sounds + Voices, my favorite album, actually. Because of the free-jazzier sounds on there, I got into Bitches Brew.
Dangers: Oh really? Wow, cool!
SLUG: Yeah, definitely. And Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi because I read “saxophone: Bennie Maupin” in the liner notes and wanted to know more. At the time, I didn’t know much about free jazz or the “electric jazz” of the early ‘70s. Why and how did your collaboration with Bennie Maupin come about?
Dangers: Just through listening to his work and the people he played with – that’s what made me pick up the bass clarinet. I was playing the soprano saxophone back in the ‘80s. I never had any lessons or anything like that, but I was playing along the lines of Cabaret Voltaire where you play clarinet and “treat” it [with effects]. I thought yeah, I can do that.
And that progressed to the bass clarinet – Bennie played both of those. And that went on to me playing bass flute. [Dr.] Patrick Gleeson, who did all the electronic stuff on Herbie Hancock’s Sextant and a bunch of other records in the ‘70s, he was still living in the Bay Area at that time. Somebody knew him and we just sort of hooked up. He was still in contact with Bennie.
We had a studio in San Francisco rented for a whole week and we recorded stuff every day. They [Gleeson, Maupin] were there for two days. Patrick was on the ARP 2600, which he did so well on Sextant. Do you know Sextant?
Dangers: That was my favorite jazz album out of all of that period. And Miles Davis’ On the Corner, as well.
SLUG: The newish box set of that is terrific. Just hours and hours of jamming.
Dangers: Yeah, the whole thing was jams, free jams—whatever you want to call it. It just didn’t have any real rules. That was a precursor to punk rock, if you ask me: just in a different way and with different instruments, but the sensibility was the same. And even more so, it went into hip-hop, which I was into quite a lot in the late ‘80s and ‘90s until they stopped sampling things – which is what it is now. It’s all, you know, Autotune. You’re not allowed to sample unless you want to pay $100,000 in publishing. All that. But when people like A Tribe Called Quest and The Pharcyde—J. Dilla—started heavily using jazz, that was another inspiring time, as well. Like when Midnight Marauders came out. I think that’s the greatest hip-hop album, ever.
SLUG: That is the great thing about hip-hop around that time. Like Wu-Tang: you could research the samples and find “oh, that is by a guy named Thelonious Monk” and then go down that trail.
Dangers: Or [drummer] Bob James. These lost little nuggets which were actually really good songs, like “Nautilus” [sampled by Eric B. & Rakim, Run DMC, etc.] Those would be completely lost if it hadn’t been sampled. I wasn’t into the first round of hip-hop or electro—people like Man Parrish—but I came around as soon as people started sampling. Because it just sounded…weird. And that’s all gone, well unless you go underground.
SLUG: Yeah, you have Madlib, but that’s not really underground. The past several years, the new stuff I like sounds like it’s coming or going to outer space. This duo called Lazer Sword. I mean they’re not sampling, but they’re not churning out easy dance crap, necessarily.
Dangers: I haven’t heard of them.
SLUG: They’re just up there in your (Bay) area. They used that Hyphy MC, Turf Talk, who was on DJ Shadow’s last album, on a track that…again, it sounds like outer space, like Flying Lotus.
Dangers: Oh yeah.
SLUG: To me, the sound is the experience of playing a side-scrolling arcade game. I don’t know if that makes any sense.
Dangers: Yeah, that’s sort of like J. Dilla with his synth style.
SLUG: You sample like Dilla.
Dangers: That Singers Unlimited [Dilla samples this for the Slum Village classic, “Players”], I’ve always heavily sampled them, but transformed it into different things by using Vocoders. I’ve been doing that for ages, now. And they sampled that track by Singers, “Clair”. It sounds like he’s saying “player,” but it’s actually just “Clair.”
SLUG: What is your idea of a good crate-digging day? I mean, where do you go?
Dangers: Video-wise, probably from my video collection that I have stored away. 25 years of stuff I’ve recorded off of TV, and stuff in Britain in the ‘80s. I’ve got a lot of things. I always go on Youtube to see if anyone’s posted the obscure live gig by Zapp.” I used those (audio) samples on Storm the Studio, and I’m using the video samples now. That’s probably something special just because it’s very hard material to come by. But with Youtube and eBay, those old days of scouring records and record shops for certain things, you can easily find them on eBay. Some of them, you might have to pay more than if you found it in a record shop but…
SLUG: But you don’t have to leave the house.
Dangers: Yeah, I used to spend so much time doing that. And with Youtube, you can find anything. Say I’m looking for some weird falling space star, you know, there it is. Some NASA animation that you can grab and completely change into something different, then animate it yourself. You know, using programs like [Adobe] After Effects and editing in Final Cut you can nab things—it’s just like sampling. And it’s the same thing as turning on a synthesizer, making a new sound. It all depends how obvious you want to do it: if you want to take a Michael Jackson sample and you want it to be known, or you send it through a Vocoder and change it into something else.
SLUG: And then you think, “Maybe I should have just vocoded my own voice.”
Dangers: Yeah, well I’m always doing that, anyway. The left side of the channel is always me, and it all depends on what the other thing is. It could be anything. It could be a whale, or a cymbal mixed with a whale. And you can really, drastically change it by playing chords on the keyboard.
SLUG: That leads me to my concern with options in music. I remember in the ‘80s how I felt crippled over the price of synthesizers and samplers after I read that Art of Noise used a $60,000 Fairlight to make their stuff. But now I can pretty much do all that on my phone. Now, the amount of options is what cripples me. What sort of directions do you use to tell you where you’re going and when to stop?
Dangers: Yeah, working with video is a good way of doing that because you have to leave space. I was doing a track on the CD called “Please”—I’m doing a video for it now —and the main vocal sample in it is a woman saying “please.” And when you hear it you might not know what it’s from, but when you see the image, which is from Videodrome, it’s Debbie Harry on the screen saying “please.” So if you’re working on music, knowing that you’re going to be putting
in, it makes you make space for what you’re thinking of doing or where you’re going. And the thing of bouncing back and forth when you’re doing a video: you always end up going back into the audio again to change certain things. That’s been really…inspiring, say the last year or so, getting more into the video side of things while I’m actually making the music.
SLUG: People like to label your music experimental. Do you think that’s a fitting term for your work?
Dangers: Well to begin with, the term was mainly applied to electronic music, what people were doing in the ‘50s with musique concrète: they were experimenting. It was experiments, and that does sort of go up to the present day. We’re all using programs in a completely different way, in a way they’ve never been used before. Something like Max, you know, it’s such an open platform. You can do whatever your mind can come up with.
SLUG: Moving beyond the preset, that’s what that program is about.
Dangers: And with, say, video: there are so many facets as to what video is. If you add two DVJ’s, you still need the mixer, but you’re not going to have audio. It sort of depends on what you want to do with it. You can apply audio, but you’re not going to be able to do much with it. It’s just like having two turntables and a mixer. But if you have a video sampler as well which will cut – in and out – the audio and the visual, independently.
We use that a lot, live, and I’ve included that in some of the new videos I’ve done. Even that was a process to get it to work right, because there’s no program out there where you can run the video you’re working on and record it at the same time, you know, like you can with audio? It’s always in past tense.
And they’re never connected: the audio is never connected, physically, with the visual. It’s two formats and two files, and only at the end when you mix them together that they exist in one lump. Music is such a different process than that. There are not a lot of people doing as much equally with music as video.
SLUG: Where they’re generating it on the fly…
Dangers: Yeah, because they’re two completely different worlds.
SLUG: Yeah, when the laptop movement cropped up, it was “I’m working on my laptop, and here are my visuals.” And what do those have to do with anything? Here’s a field…
Dangers: Ben’s been working DJ Shadow and Z-Trip works with some video guy, but it’s never one person doing it (all). The closest probably would be Matt Black from Coldcut because he’s proficiently technical at both. So they’ve been mixing it together for a while, now.
SLUG: On the Stones Throw tour, DJ J. Rocc did some video DJ stuff, like taking EPMD and stuttering the video, doing scratch video.
Dangers: There’s only a certain amount of things you can do with that, though. It’s like the early ‘80s of just putting a needle on a record and going wiki wiki wiki wack. It’s a realm which has still yet to be explored.
SLUG: I remember a review by either you or Ben of the video version of the video Kaoss Pad.
Dangers: That was Ben.
SLUG: It didn’t quite seem what anyone, at that point, really hoped it could do.
Dangers: I’ve always been into film, and I’ve got this big collection. I’ve used audio samples from films all the way through the past 25 years. It’s only during the last five years that I’ve actually turned around and done more video than music—well at the moment I’m doing that, but that process took me years to wrap my musical brain around.
SLUG: I’m just staring at the wall thinking about it now, actually.
Dangers: Yeah and you can go on Youtube and see DJ so-and-so, DJ-what’s-his-name doing something with video and it’s just like that, the needle on the record thing, just going backwards and forwards. And if you haven’t got a video mixer whole only purpose is to turn the signal on and off—well and that’s a thousand bucks there…
SLUG: So the point is to take the linearity out of it, as well?
Dangers: Yeah. But just the programs, like After Effects, that’s a thousand bucks; Final Cut is a thousand bucks. And if you don’t know how to use those programs, you’re going to be stuck in music-brain-land. But you’re not going to just jump in and buy them, so it’s usually people either just interested in the visual or the music side. Rare, to be doing both, but I think I’m actually doing it, full on, right now.
SLUG: Sorry to step back, but we talked about concrète and early electronic music for a bit. Did the early synthesizer guys, such as Morton Subotnik, inspire you or did that come along later?
Dangers: I sort of discovered it in the ‘90s, actually. Going through records over here (in the US). I couldn’t say I’d heard of him while I was living in England. And that obviously opens up a whole new world.
SLUG: Oh yes.
Dangers: It was mainly through John Cage and a couple of solely electronic music records he did. Sort of discovering them, and putting on this stuff, “Oh, that’s electronic music, okay. It’s this abstract stuff that sounds like bands I like because they were inspired by him, originally.” The whole thing about music is this perpetual thing, going around in circles, and you find out about whatever because of a band you like, sometimes.
SLUG: My introduction into it all was that way, definitely. Art of Noise and the first couple of Depeche Mode records: they let me know that you can be a whole band plus make a whole set of sounds that don’t exist in nature, or what have you.
Dangers: Mine, it was through John Peel. He seems to inspire everyone who was over there. I heard everything on his show for the first time: first dub stuff, first punk, first electronic music, everything. Cabaret Voltaire sessions. Everything was via him, originally. This was in like ’78. [Kraftwerk’s] Trans Europe Express was the first, true thing that got me listening to electronic music. “I’ve never heard anything like this.”
And that was on a radio program with Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy, picking his all time top ten—that was his number one song of all time. And then I bumped into the Human League on the radio with the Holiday ’80 EP’s. And I liked that so I bought the album that came out before that, which was Reproduction. Certainly one of the best electronic albums of that period.
(We spoke at length about punk and new wave, the commerciality of punk and how Starship helped destroy new wave, how Talking Heads and XTC were initially thought of as punk, but were just doing “their own thing”, then they were the hot “alternative” commodity.)
SLUG: I know this is a weird question, but here goes. You’re on Metropolis now, a label that has a history of that industrial Goth image. But looking at their current roster, they have Gary Numan, Alphaville, Bauhaus, Clan of Xymox, and you. I figured out that they are just really big fans of bands—historically important bands…
Dangers: I didn’t even know they were all on there… I’ve never really been that connected to any label. But you know they’re good enough that they want to put the thing out. They’re willing to give us tour support, and if you didn’t have that it wouldn’t be happening. I put it out on my own record label and it goes straight to iTunes, and I wouldn’t have the promotion behind it. And, probably, it would have a good chance of just getting lost. But like I said, they’re willing to put out the records, and put us on the road. And that can only be a good thing.
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