Deep Wounds and Divine States _ Interview with Voidloss
Choosing the righteous path is never straightforward. Outsider status may have protected Voidloss from trend, but its also given him space to produce the type of pure music that pushes techno forward.
With his reluctance to over promote and a general anti-commercial attitude, we’re probably luckier than we realise to get an interview AND be entrusted with his live PA for our show on Fnoob which will be broadcast on Wednesday 5th Sept @ 2200GMT.
Steve is very genuine, quite opinionated and despite of his talent and achievements – a very humble man.
He’s been a great friend to us here on the site, so it was really cool to get a proper chat down with him at last.
So we’re very honoured to be entrusted with your PA Steve. Will you tell us a bit about it? What’s the process of choosing the music for it? There’s not too many examples of you live online – so is that intentional?
Well, my live PA’s are to be experienced live, so I don’t like recording them too much because the context is lost outside the event where it is performed. Also I tune the sound to the PA I am using that night, which may not always translate well to home listening.
What to say?
Well the PA is performed live using Ableton and a lot of audio parts, effects etc. Some of the stuff is live versions of tracks that have been released and some of it is improvised. There’s even some of it made purely for live pa only. This was recorded at a gig in London
When / how did you actually start producing? What did you start off messing about with? Was it back in the rave days?
Right, well I’ve always made music. I played in bands as a drummer and got myself an Amiga based sampler and we incorporated that into our sets. Around that time I was getting into trackers like Octamed. Eventually I got involved with midi and synths and by the time the band split, two of us decided to form an industrial act. That became a EBM and then dance/rave act, until finally we went our separate ways. I got distracted by DJing for a while in the free party years, but yeah, I’ve always had a thing for electronic music since I was a kid listening to breakdance tapes that were just recordings of 808 beats.
You always come over as being a very thoughtful and intelligent chap whenever we’ve chatted in person or otherwise. Your bio, music, guises and professions suggest that you had to be a bit of a chameleon to become a techno survivor. Was there ever a plan, or did you simply fall on your feet?
Erm, no real plan as such; beyond the need to move forward.
Life is short, I want to try everything, I don’t like doing the same thing for too long, as soon as something gets repetitive in artistic terms, I think it fails to be art and becomes more akin to manufacture. I’m just a ponce-y artiste I guess. I never fell on my feet though.
One thing that I wanted to ask you about was that free release for Cicuta at the start of 2012. You were telling me before about heading over to Spain and your links with people there – did that happen because of that?
In a way. The Cicuta boys hooked up with me via some other friends in Spain and I liked the way they approached me and what they were doing. So I said yes to the EP. It ended up being sorta old-skool musically, for some reason.
I find it interesting as George Lanham’s Pareto Park is etching its way along the same track, with some really nice music atm. Do you think that’s going to be something more & more artists do over time? Is that the way things are going? You were also involved with the 1st TrusT release of course..
Yeah George seems like a cool guy. I don’t know if it is the way things are going, but I like to work this way, in more personal terms where there is mutual respect. For such a small scene it makes sense to me to work this way, the relationships are important. I’m not really interested in dealing with commercial labels and so on as a way to forward my “career”.
Yeah, TrusT is a great project. I love Dom. His energy and attitude is very open, full of love for the music and dealing with him on a personal level is always a pleasure. This is how things should be.
Part of the challenge with “selling” music is that someone has to buy it. Equally, part of the problem with the free stuff is that you have to get people to download it. Is getting the exposure for free stuff a bit of a challenge? How can you raise the profile of the free releases?
Well, I go with Bukowski. Who said “If you’re going to try, go all the way, otherwise don’t even start”. Free releases should be approached entirely professionally. Proper art. Good production values, mastering and careful promotion. I believe you get out what you put in. If you don’t put any effort to your releases free or otherwise, why expect anyone to put effort into getting it?
Is encouraging free releases counterproductive in the long run?
I’m really not sure what to think there. I’m considering turning Singularity into a free label. As long as the music is good and the overall quality bar is set to a good level then it really is up to the individual. I like the idea of turning my label free as then the pirates are essentially defeated.
Is part of your support of that ethic down to your background in the underground party scene in London?
Yeah I guess so, getting involved in the free party scene those years ago was as much don to the culture and the people as it was the music. I like DIY culture, counter culture, working together with mutual respect, and working outside established systems. Yeah, it is all a part of that. Techno feels to me, at heart, to be something outside of established norms, and I like to treat it as something extra-ordinary. It is probably why I push against commercialisation within the scene.
What was that like? Will you give us an idea of the best of times & the worst of times?
Best of times……
Finding a large multi-storey building in London that was empty and disused. Filling the building with sound systems, putting on a 2 day rave with 5-6-7 thousand people over the course, being part of a collective and doing it all together. Not getting arrested and playing great music you bought just a few days ago. Celebrating the madness and the success with your tribe, doing something culturally important and yet outside the norms. Partying harder than anyone. Being part of a scene famous throughout the world.
Nearly getting arrested on a weekly basis. Risking everything; your freedom, your sound system and your relationship for people who only care about themselves and getting fucked up. Dealing with gangs who want to rob the people at your party and rob you. Dangerous violence. Drug addicts. Ego addicts. Putting away a massive sound system after 2 days of partying. Seeing your scene fragment, splinter and fall apart because of the drugs, money, egos and apathy.
It is hard to explain what an amazing experience it all was. Truly amazing, but also very stressful.
Did it all end amicably? I’d imagine that it all went a bit sour at the end as from the outside it looked to be the perfect breeding ground for chaos?
I’m lucky to have some genuine, lasting, lifetime relationships out of it. Not many people can say they have friends who would truly put their lives on the line for them. So yeah for me, I think intended amicably. I got out when things were just starting to fall apart. Unfortunately it only took a few bad, and I mean bad, eggs to destroy what we had. It is a shame, as we had something powerful. It wasn’t chaos that was the problem. In the end it was the same problems that effects everything. Greed and ego. Our sub culture ended up mirroring the worst of mainstream culture.
How did your Dirty Bass stuff fit into that scene back then – was it accepted?
Dirty bass started during my time in the free parties. Towards the end. Yeah it went down really well, it was an odd time for me, I was playing underground parties rather than putting them on, but I was also doing big commercial gigs as my release hit both camps. So yeah it was accepted, I still get asked to come back to the free party, rave scene and do Dirty Bass DJ sets or PA’s.
I remember you saying that you were repulsed by the whole “Big DJ” thing, which came into contact with as an observer, which came about as a result of the initial Dirty Bass success. Did that make you want to become the antithesis? Certainly the music became consistently different after that. Where did starting up Singularity with Villain begin?
Yeah, a lot of the big names I was playing with they were hooked on the buzz a crowd gets you, that massive ego boost and high. I was used to dealing with drug addicts and I saw similar behaviour. Ego addicts.
It turned me off because it wasn’t about the music. It isn’t just the DJ or artist who makes the party; the crowd are crust as important. With a good crowd on the right vibe, anyone can rock them really. It’s a very symbiotic organic thing. So I quickly realised that the commercial side of things just wasn’t interesting to me. I didn’t want to be involved in the games you need to play at that level, so, as The Prodigy said, I took my music back underground.
Singularity just happened really, I wanted to make a statement, a definite moment where I was saying, I’m going a different way now. I had a great relationship with Chris Villain, who thinks the way I do, so we made the move and the label began.
And when/ how did that evolve into the mastering side of things start?
Well, I guess I just became obsessed with sound and production. I worked hard to improve and over time I got more interested in the finer and finer points. Eventually I got interested in mastering, so it has been a process of constant evolution really. I’ve only really focused on it the last 2 years as something I could consider a “Job” because I got good at it. It takes a long time, mastering is all about experience with music really
I love that line from As Good as it Gets – How do you write women so well?, Nicholson responds, I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability. How do you get through mastering stuff that’s not your cup of tea?
Ah yeah that`s a super line.
Well, to be honest, when I have my mastering head on, I`m not listening to the music, I`m listening to the sounds, their relationships or the dynamics. Whether or not I like the music doesn`t come into it. Sometimes the music can be a little grating I guess, but I have a maximum amount of tracks I will work on per day, so it never really becomes a drudgery.
People sometimes ask me, can you master so and so music, house, or rock or whatever.
It is an odd question.
If you understand mastering then the techniques and skills involved don`t changed massively from genre to genre. It is all about getting the sound in balance mostly, and knowing good balance is knowing good balance regardless of whether it is rock or house or orchestral.
Is it diverting time from your own music when you have paying jobs queuing up? How do you balance that? Is having a critical ear a help or a hindrance when it comes to yourself?
I balance my time so I have enough to work on my music, but really, my time, in musical terms, at the moment is spent experimenting mostly and developing a new sound for my album. I`ve never knocked out the releases. I will only take on EP requests etc.. If I have the time.
Having a critical ear is both a help and a hindrance for sure. The rejection ratio of my own music gets more and more brutal all the time. It is quite rare a tune makes it through to a final stage at the moment, I`m very critical of what I am doing, incredibly so at the moment as I am looking to move somewhere new, again, musically. Plus I think everything I make needs to either make people cry, or die from ecstatic pleasure, nothing is ever good enough.
Terrible behaviour really.
So you’ve been working on that new Voidloss album for a while then – how is that going? Is there a deadline? Are the Bosses shouting yet? I’ve seen the metal covers that you have made for it. Looks really cool..
Yeah, the metal covers are for the album, which are made from plate steel with plasma cut V`s. They’re rusted to a point, then fixed and lacquered. Each one is totally unique. That will be out………. ??
I had planned on having the album done by the time the covers were manufactured, and I failed miserably. So I have lovely covers, but now I need music as good as the packaging. It is going very slowly, and I hope to have it done and out by the end of autumn, but I¬m not going to rush, I think I am just now finding a sound that I think I can move forward with, but I`m going to be recording vocals, I have a lot more field recording to do, and I think I might buy an electric guitar to do some guitar bits and bobs too.
The Boss that is me is shouting at me all the time, but the artiste in me is constantly berating me for doing anything less than the most honest, heartfelt, gut wrenchingly melancholy music known to man.
In regards to the next few Singularity EP`s, I`ll keep my hand hidden, but there’s some known artists and some unknown / new guys coming up.. So lots of interesting and different techno. Outsider techno.
Who are you rating at the moment in terms of Techno / general production? You must get to analyse a lot of tracks in your professional capacity, so are there any newcomers who impress you? Anyone with the potential to become part of the old guard?
Become part of the old guard? No, I mean, no one will ever be say, Jeff Mills, because he was there at the beginning, he has history. In terms of people who I dig who I think are taking the music forward in a unique and artistic way. Generally those are the type of people I try to approach for Singularity.
I love the music of Villain. I think his album was stunning. It was utterly unique and I just wish more people would cotton on to what he is doing. It`s truly unique techno. Autologic is new to the label and I think his sound is super – grimey, grungey and very industrial; but still techno. Blind Summit makes amazing music. Systemic too. I don`t really rate many of the more established names because most of them are doing very similar work. It all sounds quite homogenised. I still think Surgeon remains on the forward edge of the blade. Blawan is cool, although I prefer his more dubsteppy stuff than his techno. Stanislav Tolkachev makes truly amazing stuff; very alien and uncomfortable.
For an idea of my tastes just keep an eye on the label really. I have a lot of new artists coming up with some established, but all of them doing something unique. Basically anyone on the label I stand behind 100%. I don`t sign them up for their name or their place within the scene.
Is Techno fairly safe now that minimal is dead? Is there a new enemy at the gates?
For me, techno is almost becoming a dirty word. The go to bed relationship that happened between techno and minimal meant that techno became very palatable, easy to digest, and commercially successful. For the most part this easy listening sound has become dominant. Unfortunately a lot of guys have jumped on this rather than pursuing their own uniqueness. For me techno was always so diverse and undefinable. Now it is easy to define and not diverse enough.
Of course there is always an underground and always people who want to pursue more artistic ideals, but a lot of the newer guys coming up just want success yesterday; and by any means. They aren`t thinking about anything more than getting releases out on the right labels to get “successful”. To some extent I try to fight it in my own way by encouraging people to find themselves in their music and to find satisfaction in creation.
So is there a new enemy at the gates? It’s the same one I think. Greed, ego and money.
I love that quote from you: “I can love you like Buddha or hate you like Stalin”. What gives you pleasure in life? And what takes it away?
Haha – Stalin, yeah!
Lots of stuff really. I`m really into art, literature, music – so I read a lot of books. I go to art exhibitions and concerts. I enjoy good company, architecture and the countryside. Exploring life gives me pleasure.
What takes away my pleasure? I guess seeing the state of world politics. The way law is changing and not for the betterment of mankind. Seeing people lose their uniqueness and get all their input externally. Being fed culture via consumerism. Paying the rent. Tourists walking too slowly in Central London. I like a good moan, but that`s just a British thing.
That’s not just a British thing Steve – It’s universal!
Yeah, it`s cathartic.
Voidloss is on Fnoob @ 2200 GMT – Wednesday 5th September 2012.
Join the event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/414611978596146/
Will be available on our soundcloud directly after broadcast.
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