One of the most distinguished musicians of the UK electronic scene and newcomer on Ghost Box explains to ough! how he makes the music of the future out of sounds from the past.
Until recently, very few things were known for Head Technician, the person behind Pye Corner Audio Transcription Services. At some point he started doing gigs and this aura of mystery somewhat dissipated. As he mentions in his blog he’s been “magnetically aligning ferrous particles since 1970”. He, essentially, creates epic cosmic textures that frequently flirt with hauntology, krautrock and all these schools of electronic music that bring existential shivers on the unsuspected listener. His sounds even drew the attention of the acclaimed comic book author Warren Ellis. Lately he works on a new album set to be released on Ghost Box, something that doesn’t really come by as a surprise. In the meantime, while waiting impatiently for his next sonic adventure, his three digital-released Black Milk Tapes give us a thrilling first taste on what to expect in the future.
I get the sense that Pye Corner Audio is not just a name for a band or musician but a project. Is that so? And who is behind it?
No, it's just me, the Head Technician. But you can call me Martin.
Does it follow any particular concept?
I suppose it's really about a fairly minimal aesthetic. The pursuit of an idea of a British electronic music that could have existed had the American house music explosion not had such a big influence. Although I am a fan, I think it's an interesting line to follow. A kind of alternate history.
When did you start making music?
Well, I started messing around with a cassette multitrack machine around 1992. I would layer guitar feedback with BBC sound effects and film dialogue. I think I still have some of the master cassettes, but nothing to play them back on..
Would you label your music hauntology?
Not as such, although I guess they share certain aspects. That feeling of a forgotten or falsely recalled past. I try to imagine the time and place that the music occupies.
What are your main influences?
Early Human League, John Carpenter, Kraftwerk, Harmonia, Carl Craig, Drexciya etc.
Where do you find inspiration for the sounds you are making?
I generally try to visualise where I'm trying to get to before I start anything. Song titles and artwork often exist before I fire up the machines.
How did you meet the Ghost Box people? Do you plan any future releases there?
The lovely Joe Stannard invited me to play the 'Belbury Youth Club at the Outer Church' night down in Brighton last April. We all got on really well, and they asked me to do the 'Study Series' single that night! I'm currently working on an album for them.
How would you describe Ghost Box?
They are a shadowy secret society to be respected and feared! I think they have successfully tapped into the idea of an imagined or half remembered recent past that is very evocative to people of a certain vintage. Sometimes I feel as if they could only exist in Britain, but I'm not always so sure. I love the way their aesthetic carries right through from the visual aspect to the musical output. I'll happily admit that this visual aspect has been of great influence to me.
Were you always involved in electronic music?
In my former life as a recording engineer, I was involved in all kinds of music. However, I find that for me, the quickest route from brain to 'tape' is via my machines.
What is your top5 of your favorite albums of all time?
The Rolling Stones - Their Satanic Majesties Request
The Pretty Things - S.F. Sorrow
Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin I
Harmonia - Muzik von Harmonia
Talk to me about the Black Mill Tapes. What is it about? And how the three releases are different from one another?
Well, that's a can of worms you're opening there! On the face of it, the Black Mill Tapes are a collection of found recordings. Deemed to be from the late 1970's to mid 1980's, they were lovingly restored and archived by the Head Technician. Or they can be enjoyed as a set of tracks conceived partly as an exercise in paring back a cluttered work(and head) space to the bare minimum of equipment required. Volume 2 was recorded using just the one sound source (a rather shabby Japanese mono-synth of no great pedigree). This limitation was relaxed slightly for Volume 3.
What’s the best thing you’ve heard/seen/read recently? (film, record, tv series, books etc)
I really enjoyed 'Attack the Block' and am currently addicted to 'Borgen' (Danish political drama). The Kuedo LP has been on constant rotation of late, along with the Ekoclef tape and Andy Stott's 'Passed Me By'.
Recently Warren Ellis mentioned you on his blog. How do you feel about it? Are you a fan of his work?
Warren has been a supporter from day one. I had no great expectations for the music at that time, or any idea where it could go next. I was astounded that people got into it from the beginning. People like Warren Ellis and Jon Brooks of The Advisory Circle have been a great help and inspiration to me.Warren recently coined the phrase 'British Cosmic music'. I rather like that!
Do you think that the internet helps independent artist to circulate their music around the globe more easily than before? And does that prospect have any limitations?
I think it helps build a grass roots following, but it is as hard as it has always been to break out of that sphere. The likes of Bandcamp and Twitter have been essential in allowing me to get the music heard and talked about.
What does the future hold for electronic music in your opinion?
The further splintering of scenes into micro genres will continue apace. Eventually every single artist will exist solely within it's own pico genre.
Forthcoming gig at AV12 festival in Newcastle on 24th March. Currently working on that LP for Ghost Box, and a couple of remixes. There should be some physical releases coming up quite soon too!
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