"We do exactly what we want to do in the studio," says Curve's Dean Garcia. 'I've got everything there and I can work on something that I feel is good - and know that Toni, Alan, Flood or whoever will be able to respond and make it work."
'Toni' is Dean's partner Toni Halliday, 'Alan' is engineer Alan Moulder, and Flood is... well, Flood's another engineer who happened to co-produce U2's last album, that's all. Along with Steve Osborne, they all made Curve's last album Cuckoo. But Curve are always in the studio, doing exactly what they want, because they've got a basement in North London with all their own gear in it.
Based around a Fostex one-inch 24-track and Allen & Heath desk, the room is well documented inside the cover of Cuckoo. Here they chum out their knuckle-whitening forge of guitars and mechanical noise, with few concessions to recording etiquette. Infestations of cheap effects pedals across the floor prove the point.
Suffering from neither technophobia nor technocracy, Dean tweaks his Akai S1100 samplers, Moog and Odyssey synths with the same abandon as the Fender, Charvel, Hofner and Gibson guitars and the Musicman and Ashbury basses. Spontaneity and improvisation thrive.
"I don't have to write in a particular way for Toni to sing," says Dean. "It's a very anonymous way of writing - it doesn't have any boundaries to it.
"A lot of things I've done in the past had a particular style which you had to stay within. Curve isn't like that. It's perfect. By keeping it open you're constantly hitting on new things - be it a feel, an atmosphere or a way of doing something. Then it develops and one thing leads to another..."
One thing it led to was a deal with Dave Stewart's Anxious label. Four EPs followed, then a debut album Doppelganger in March 1992. Guitars dominate, but there is an electronic heart to the music.
"We always work together, with some kind of pulsebeat. When we wrote the Blindfold EP we were just using a little [Roland] Juno 106 keyboard. I was using bass notes - single notes - and Toni was singing melodies on top. She had all these lyrics, and then she'd do something with the melody which would make me go up or down or whatever, and we just structured it like that. It was all really instant.
"It's still very instant - we work in the same way and we always record at home. To us it would be horrible to have 'x'-amount of time to write the track, go into the studio and record it, and not be able to record anything else. It would be hideous.
"We basically release demos, 'cos I think you can destroy the initial thing that you had by trying to re-create it. It works because of what went down at the time and how you achieved it. Trying to recreate it just becomes like painting by numbers. You can't replace a certain moment in time.
"That's why I use a Portastudio at home as a scrapbook. I know that I can work in a more insular way, without any pressure at all, but I also know that I'm not going to be able to get it back. So I take the Portastudio across to the studio and just transfer across. Anything that's really hissy I try to get sorted. The point is that the actual feel of the track is very much there.
"The only time I can fully appreciate redoing something is when we play live, because it takes on an entirely different aspect again. But as for something so microscopic as the studio can be, it's better to keep what you originally put down."
"We've sampled other people's kick drums and things like that, but as for taking other people's hooks, choruses, and atmospheres... I think it's cheap"
For Dean, sampling is another way of capturing a moment - but definitely not a short-cut to the finished song.
"Taking the main hooks or main riffs from popular songs is a complete waste of time, as far I'm concerned. I just can't see the sense in it. But, for example, taping the sound of this Mini going by and sticking it in a sampler, time-stretching it and making it sound like a bass drum or something, is excellent. I really like the manipulative aspect of a sampler - the fact that you can take anything and make it really different to what it originally was.
"We've taken other people's kick drums and things like that, but as for taking other people's hooks, choruses and atmospheres... I think it's cheap.
"The only one I thought worked really well was the Massive Attack sample on 'Safe From Harm'. They sampled this really obscure Billy Cobham record from years ago, with Jan Hammer and Tommy Bolan and all these great players on it. They lifted the whole thing, made it completely obvious and credited him. The original was a great record - great bassline, great drums, really muso but it moved you. Anyway, what they did with the section they sampled was really the right thing to do."
The electronic element in Curve's music has also brought them up against the business of remixing - and Aphex Twin Richard James has already obliged. But Dean sees no reason why this sort of thing should be the preserve of the dance posse.
"Initially we were wary of remixes. We said we'd only ever be interested in remixes that were done by other artists. We're not really interested in an Andy Weatherall remix, or whoever's in vogue at the time, we'd much prefer a Kevin Shields [My Bloody Valentine] remix, or a Jesus & Mary Chain remix. "For 'Missing Link' we approached Trent Reznor [Nine Inch Nails] because Flood was working with him, and it was really great. His version is in half time. You know how it's really full-on, 158 bpm - he just cut it in half so it's much more funky, and it's got a real good sex to it.
"With remixes, we're interested in other people's personalities, not in just tinkering with the elements that we know are on there. We're interested in what it does to them. If they take something from it, just one thing even, and put their stamp on it, that's great. We're not interested in what we already know is possible from a remix.
"What's really great about re-mixes is you get an Aphex Twin record with Curve written on it, or a Future Sound Of London record with Curve written on it, and the collaboration is more to do with the communication of inspiration and ideas between each other. I think that's really important."
All in all, Dean sees himself as something of a backroom boy, sorting out the music, liaising with the crew, that sort of thing. Usually, this keeps him out of view.
"Toni is very much the focal point of Curve. It doesn't bother me to be in any of the pictures, really. Toni can deal with that a lot better than I can. I'd be much happier to be completely and utterly anonymous."
No chance, Dean. Not with The Mix around.
Interview by Andy Cowan
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