Interviews

Ekoplekz Breaks His Back Catalogue Down Shares New Cassette

“The smooth, chocolatey warmth of high-end reel-to-reel tape is as much anethema to me as Pro Tools,” Nick Edwards once wrote in a Guardian essay about his raw Ekoplekz recordings. “Instead, I encourage tape hiss and electrical hum like a research chemist encourages mould cultures. Exploring the aesthetics of imperfection, those things that were once unavoidable and unsatisfactory, now creates pathways to the unexpected and the uncanny. Neither lo-fi nor hi-fi, it exists in some sideways dimension.”

Ekoplekz

Welcome to the terror dome, then: Cassettera, the Ekoplekz portion of a special holiday drop that also includes a limited Claude Speeed tape. In the following exclusive, Edwards shares a selection from the Planet Mu production, right alongside the reasons why he’s struggling to make sense of it all these days….

Your upcoming cassette is your fifth album for Planet Mu. How would you describe the records you’ve already done for them?
Well, Planet Mu were interested in signing me practically from the beginning—around 2011. There was a certain ‘pop’ sensibility in the music I was making then, even though it was very lo-fi and experimental, and they saw potential there. But at the time I wasn’t quite ready to make that leap to a big label so most of the material from that period was released by a smaller label called Mordant Music.

Also, I was a bit irritated that some people thought my music had a ‘pop’ element. I wanted to be seen as a serious experimental artist so after that my music got deliberately less accessible. I released some very uncompromising albums on Punch Drunk and Editions Mego which took my sound into much more difficult territory. I’m still pleased with that work, but after a while I guess I lightened-up a bit and went back to Planet Mu to see if they were still interested, which they were. So after about a year of recording and development I had quite a substantial amount of new material in a more accessible style, which became Unfidelity (2014) and Four Track Mind (2014).

They can be seen as two sides of the same coin. The tracks on Unfidelity were chosen by Mike Paradinas as the best selection to introduce my music to a wider audience. I think he did a good job; I was surprised how good those tracks sounded together in that sequence. It actually made me see my work in a different light. I would never have thought to put those particular tracks together in that order. Whereas Four Track Mind was like the ‘evil twin’; it was more the way I saw my music. The track “Ariel Grey” was written specifically to be an album opener, so I got my own way there! That album was released as a strictly limited numbered edition with less distribution or promotion… for hardcore fans only!

People have labeled Reflekionz your most accessible LP. What do you think?
I never really stop working on music, so there is never a clear boundary between what came before and after. I’m not always conscious at the time that the music is developing in any given way. It’s only when you take a step back and try to assess the material that you begin to see how its progressing.

With Reflekzionz, the selection was very much down to Mike again, although the general feel of ’90s electronica was something we both gradually noticed and it seemed like an interesting path to follow. sS that became the theme to work with, though never in a calculated way. I just allowed that influence to seep out a bit more which is why the album sounds like a hazy false memory rather than an overt homage. There are a lot of melodic synths drifting around in there, similar to that period of Artificial Intelligence-era Warp Records, and a lot less of the post-punk angular sounds which might be why a few listeners found it quite soothing.

Bioprodukt, on the other hand, has been called your most challenging record since signing to Planet Mu.
I wouldn’t say it was particularly challenging. In fact, the opening track, “Elevation,” is probably one of the most bouncy, uplifting things I’ve ever done! There was a return to some of the more scratchy guitar work of earlier records, but compared to, say, Intrusive Incidentalz or Plekzationz (from the pre-Mu years) it sounds like a pop record! Also the drum sounds are a lot cleaner and more upfront than ever before. I certainly wasn’t intending to challenge anything. I was just trying to make a contemporary electronic dance record with a bit of nostalgic flavouring that listeners of a similar persuasion could kick back and enjoy listening to. I guess it all came out wrong (again!).

And now your next record’s a cassette-only release….
A lot of my core audience are the sort of people who like cassettes and I was conscious of the fact that I hadn’t released any new Ekoplekz tapes for several years. So I initially suggested to Mike that perhaps we could release Bioprodukt across all three formats. But it soon became clear that there was enough material for two separate albums, so the plan changed and the tape became a collection of moodier tracks that didn’t quite fit on the main album. The artwork is a monochrome version of the original Bioprodukt sleeve to reflect the darker, greyscale vibe of the music. That was my idea along with the somewhat off-hand, dismissive title, which I just like the sound of. But in fact this material is probably nearer to how the main album would’ve sounded if I’d been left to my own devices!

Can you tell us about “Seconds Too Soon”? Is it inspired by / a nod to Cabaret Voltaire?
Yes, well spotted! That one started as a basic rhythm track, using samples from the same drum machine that the Cabs used on the track “Seconds Too Late” back in 1980. Rather than sampling the original recording, I replicated it by loading the individual sounds (which I found on the net) into my Volca Sampler and programming it. Then of course i started messing about with it and it became something else, but the title remains a little nod to the initial inspiration.

How does living in Bristol impact and influence your work? What’s it like there now? Do you interact with other producers?
Being born and raised in Bristol, I guess I have a bit of that ‘bass culture’ mindset…. I’ve witnessed musical styles like dub, hip-hop, jungle, and dubstep evolve in unique,localized ways since my youth. But I’m getting on a bit now—I’m 48!—and to be honest, I’ve become a bit of a stay-at-home hermit in recent times. I wouldn’t say I had any connections within the current musical scene. My clubbing days are definitely over. I sometimes go to gigs, but usually stand alone in a dark corner with only a beer for company. I gave up smoking years ago and the smell of skunk everywhere gets on my nerves. I’d rather be in my studio just jamming away to myself. I still think I have lots more musical adventures ahead but its become a somewhat solitary pastime.

You’re super prolific as a producer. What’s your secret?
In terms of actual man hours spent working on music, I probably don’t spend that much more time than any other music-obsessed bedroom producer. But the fact that I only work with hardware and tape recorders means I’m not endlessly fiddling about tweaking and perfecting things. It all gets recorded quickly while the picture is right. It’s like being one of those artists who paint landscapes with watercolours. You have to get the painting done quickly before the light changes!

What are you plans for 2018?
The short answer is I have none. Of course I’ll still be pottering about making music in my spare time but having effectively released two albums this year, I think it’ll probably be best if I keep a low profile for a while. As far as I can see the market is already saturated and it’s hard enough to shift records or get any media attention in the current climate. We all hear about the resurgence of vinyl sales, but its mainly classic rock and pop records that shift units. Marginal electronic music made by middle-aged white men isn’t really what most people want to hear or read about. Streaming is the big thing now but artists at my level have such minuscule playcounts its not even worth mentioning.

I know I’ve been pretty lucky to even get to the level I’m at now, but increasingly I find myself questioning the wisdom of trying to compete in the current market. My inclination is to get back where I started, on the DIY underground scene, just releasing homemade CDs or tapes in very limited numbers and selling direct to a small but committed audience. Kind of survivalist guerilla tactics. As the last track on Cassettera says, ‘The Outlook Is Bleak’, and I don’t really see that changing anytime soon.

Source: Self-Titled Mag

Interview Ben Flannigan of Black Map

In a recent interview with Ghost Cult Magazine, Ben Flannigan, bassist, and vocalist for Black Map caught us up on the bands’ exciting year so far in 2017. With a charting single from an impressive album In Droves (eOne), festival appearances, and touring partners, the band is riding high. We interviewed Ben right after he got off stage at the 2017 Rock Allegiance fest and chatted about the past, present and their bright future. Videography and photos by Omar Cordy/OJC Photography.

Source: Ghost Cult Magazine

Alastair Greene Interview

After spending the past seven years as the guitarist for the Alan Parsons Project, blues rock guitarist Alastair Greene is ready to take his solo career full time. Greene just released Dream Train last month, which has been very well received. Blues Rock Review caught up with Greene to discuss the recent change in his career, the new album, and more.

You spent the previous seven years with the Alan Parsons Project. Why was now the right time to devote 100% to your solo career?

Mainly because I feel that my new record, Dream Train is an incredibly strong record and I want to give it the attention it deserves. I also felt that staying with Alan was just prolonging the inevitable, which was recommitting to my solo career. I spent seven years getting to see the world with a Rock and Roll legend and playing some bonafide hits songs, and that was an amazing opportunity that I never took for granted. I sang a couple of the hits and played some very iconic guitar solos from the Alan Parsons Project records which was awesome. I’ll always be grateful that Alan gave me the chance to experience that part of the Rock and Roll dream that so many of us guitar players have when we’re just picking up the instrument. Playing hit songs for thousands of fans all over the world was fantastic, but the time has come for me to focus on my music.

Alastair Greene performing with Alan Parsons.

How do you feel Dream Train is different than your previous albums?

I’d like think that I’ve gotten better songwriting and singing departments. So, I feel those two aspects are definitely stronger on this release. I think my guitar playing has also gotten better as far as execution goes in addition to conjuring more melodic guitar solos. This was also the first time I had worked with a “Producer” so to speak. On previous records whoever was engineering (Robinson Eikenberry or Sean McCue) would serve as a co-producer. David Z mixed my last record (Trouble At Your Door) so he was the perfect candidate to produce this one.
Songwriting-wise I went a few places that were different for me. Also, I used some different guitars and amps and experimented with gear a little more than I had in the past.

What was the inspiration for the title track?

The song “Dream Train” was written in about 10 minutes, both the music and the lyrics. It was the first time a song has come to me that quickly. It really felt like it was a gift from somewhere else. The song essentially is about stating my purpose in life and embracing it. That could of course be a universal theme, but I wrote it as a personal declaration to the world that playing guitar and making music are why I’m here.

David Z produced the album and has worked with some heavy hitters in blues rock. What was it like working with him on the album?

David was really easy to work with. I had demoed most of the songs and we talking about all of them before hand. I wrote about 16 songs and we figured out which ones we thought were the strongest and made a list of what we wanted to record. We already knew what we were after sonically and what we were going to do as far as tracking. He also mixed most of the record and he’s got some old school sensibility as well as new school ideas which is a good mix for my music. He had some cool ideas as far as guitar tones, dynamics, and vocal delivery. For the most part I did what I would normally do but having him to bounce things off of was great, as was getting his opinion when I felt stuck about how to approach something.

The album has one cover, “Nome Zayne,” which was written by Billy Gibbons but unreleased. How did you come across this song?

David had a few demos that Billy had recorded and he sent them to me and said, if I liked any of them, to pick one out and he’d ask Billy if we could record it. I thought “Nome Zayne” was really cool and picked that one. Billy gave us his blessing to record the song and we went for it. It’s a fun song and very unlike anything I would write but it fits in really well with the rest of the record.

The album has several guests including Walter Trout, Mike Zito, etc. How did the guest appearances come about?

Alastair Greene

Fortunately for me I’ve gotten to meet and become friends with some of my heroes and inspirations. I’m a big fan of Walter Trout, obviously, and he was aware of me and that I’d been touring with Alan and doing my own thing through Facebook. So, the first time I met him he was walking off stage at a festival and he came right up to me and said “Hey, you’re Alastair Greene!” That was pretty awesome. I sat in with him a couple years later at a festival, and so when it was time to do this record, I figured I had nothing to lose by asking him to play on a track. When he said “Yes” I was thrilled to say the least. I’ve known about Mike Zito for a long time. He’s been at it for years and works his ass off. He did some records for the label I was on previously and so we had a connection there. We’d touched base occasionally here and there and finally got to play together at the Big Blues Bender a couple years ago. It was really easy playing with Mike since we have some influences in common, so he was an obvious choice to play on the guitar trade off solo on the song “Down To Memphis.” I’ve know Dennis Gruenling for a few years and he is at the top of the heap as far as harmonica players go, so I asked him to contribute a solo, which came out amazing. Mike Finnigan is a legendary figure and lives down in Los Angeles. I don’t know him that well but David had worked with him in the past and I really wanted Hammond organ on a few songs, so he was my first choice. Debbie Davies recently moved back to the area where I live here in Southern California. I’ve been a fan of hers for ages and I asked her to be a guest on a show I was putting on at the end of 2016. We hit it off and have been playing some shows together recently. This was right when we were finishing the record up, so we got her in the studio right before we started mixing and she delivered an amazing funktified solo on the song “Grateful Swagger.” She’s badass!

You recently had the opportunity to play the Big Blues Bender in Las Vegas, which featured a who’s who of the blues and blues rock world. What was that experience like?

The Bender is a lot of fun and also a bit overwhelming. There are so many bands playing all the time on various stages. My band got added last minute in 2016 and we had a great time. I volunteered my guitar services to Jimmy Carpenter who leads this killer backing band called The Bender Brass, and they back up tons of artists at the festival. I figured that would be a good way to play with a bunch of killer musicians, and once a mercenary always a mercenary I suppose. One of the many 2016 highlights was playing with Blues legend Bobby Rush. That was unbelievable. The 2016 festival went so well that Jimmy asked me back again this year (2017) to be part of The Bender Brass. This year I got to play with s ton of great musicians including the legendary Jimmy Hall, who is a force of nature on stage. He’s awe inspiring. I also got to sit in with Walter again during one of his sets and I also got to play “Whipping Post” at an Allman Brother tribute show with an all-star cast of contemporary Blues musicians. It’s a big challenge backing so many artists from all over the Blues spectrum because I need to learn a lot of different artists material and really do them justice. This year I backed a really diverse group of artists including Sari Schorr, Billy Price, and Nick Schnebelen. It’s a WAY different mindset than leading a band. I’ve played in countless bands over the years in addition to my own, and have played lots of different styles of music. There is definitely a part of my musical mindset that enjoys being out of my element a bit and having to step up my game for whatever the occasion may be. Being true to the musical moment that I find myself in, has been, and continues to be my top priority.

Interview by Pete Francis

Source: Blues Rock Review