Engineers who spend all day at the faders are mad. Engineers who spend all day at the faders (in a basement) and then all their free time at the same faders are really mad. OK, it means you can make your own music. OK, it means you can use all the facilities of a top studio (say, Berwick Street, for example) and put out excellent techno records like 'Robot Criminal' by Flash Faction, 'Repoman' by Flash Faction, and 'Bad Moog Rising' by, er, Flash Faction. But you'd be mad, wouldn't you?
As a matter of fact, Flash Faction made all those records at Berwick Street. They also happen to work there. Well, three of them do. The other one is a DJ. Don't they ever leave technology alone?
"To a certain extent you have to use sequencers for the type of music we put together," says Matt Nelmes, one of those engineers. "But there are definitely ways of being able to control the computer rather than it controlling you..."
Interesting. A techno act, surrounded by technology, anxious to preserve many of the musicianly values all this automation was meant to destroy.
"I can't see how playing back tracks from DAT can ever be called live," continues Matt. "That's prerecorded work. Using sequencers still gives you quite a lot of control, even though they are controlling what the machines are doing. With DAT you can't do anything! The thing with dance bands is, when it comes to live performances they can't get anywhere near as much interaction, either with each other or with the audience, as say a guitar-based band."
Blasphemy! And I thought you were into synths and stuff...
"We are a bit of a bunch of vintage analogue freaks, 'though down here in Berwick Street we have the best of both worlds. There's stuff like the Wavestation SR, the JD990 - as well as things like the Polymoog, Bass Station, Pro1 and Juno 6. The wonderful thing about analogue gear is its realtime control of the sounds - somewhere many digital synths fall short."
The quartet do like to work intuitively, stacking up parts on the sequencer and then carefully blending the timbres.
"We do spend a long time programming patches. We find that because we're working in a studio, we can afford to spend time in achieving dynamic, sweeping sounds.
"We're a bunch of vintage analogue freaks"
We're very much into doing this with all of our analogue stuff. Firstly, we'll write the parts into the sequencer, so that as they're playing back we can work up the sounds. At the same time we can distort the sounds still further with our outboard gear - we like to distort into the desk."
On August 29th a double-A-sided single 'Road Hog/Experiments In Truth' is released on Third Mind. According to Richard Johnstone, 'Road Hog' is a very manic piece of techno, clocking in at an alarmingly high bpm, whilst the other side is bit more of a mellow soundscape.
There then follows another release in October on Andrew Weatherall's Sabres Of Paradise label called 'Swarm'.
Aside from all this, Flash Faction are starting a new label called Flashcom, whose headquarters at the moment are "based in a file in someone's bag," according to Richard. Something else is brewing, too - something called 'Smoke It', out on the 19th September. It's actually by Flash Faction, but in the time-honoured tradition of underground sonic anarchy, the boys are calling themselves something else on this occasion: United Fruitcake Outlet. See what I mean? Mad.
On The Re:Mix CD:
50 Flash Faction: Robot Criminal
This disk has been archived in full and disk images and further downloads are available at Archive.org - Re:Mix #3.
News by Phil Ward
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