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04'06 FEATURES
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04'06 SHORT CUTS
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LUKE VIBERT


It has been sometimes since Luke Vibert released anything, so when the prospect of a new series of EPs for Rephlex and a new album for Warp came up, we jumped on the opportunity to talk with the man. We’d arranged to meet in Covent Garden, in the heart of London. With us, Luke recounts how he started playing electronic music, how Aphex Twin, now one of his very close friends, was a huge influence on his work and why he probably will never release an album with him. He also talks about his influences, from Prince to hip-hop, and gives here a unique insight into his friendship with Squarepusher and Mike Paradinas.

It’s been a while since your last album. What have you been up to since the last Wagon Christ album?
Yes, it’s been the longest gap between albums since I’ve started recording. I’ve been making music, but other things got in the way a lot, like family and things… well, not so much, it is more labels really. I finished the next Wagon Christ album last summer, nearly a year ago, and I said to Ninja Tune that it was ready, but they said they didn’t want to put out anything by me for about a year or so. First, we were going to put it out this summer, and then I sort of fucked up a bit and agreed to do the Warp record this summer, so Ninja has been put back until next April. The album will be two years old by the time it comes out. So I have made the music, it’s just that sometimes, labels don’t want to release it. Ninja had everyone making records this year, so when I said that I wanted to put my record out this year, they said: ‘you can if you want, but we won’t be able to support it and work very hard for it’.

It must be quite frustrating to sit on a record like this…
Well, it’s good because I can tweak little bits every two or three months, load it up and listen to it and tweak bits here and there, so in some ways it’s good. I’ve done loads of Rephlex stuff as well. Coming up, I’ve got the Amen Andrews, drum’n’bass stuff, Kerrier District, disco stuff… So I’ve been making loads of music really, it’s just that labels are a bit slow. Kerrier District is the area I grew up. It’s a bit like Metro area, not similar music, but Metro area is the surrounding area of New York I think, and Kerrier District is the equivalent for Cornwall. It’s just a stupid name I thought (laughs). The Kerrier District stuff is pretty cheesy disco. I don’t think many people will believe it’s me who’s made that stuff. It doesn’t sound anything like me. Just grooves, simple disco grooves. It sounds live, but it’s all programmed to sound like old disco.

Where do all these influences come from?
It’s just different moods. Maybe, I’ll be doing mostly drum’n’bass, and then I can’t stand doing drum’n’bass, so I have to do something different, so I’ll get to do disco for a bit, and after two or three months, I’ll be like, I can’t do anymore disco, so I’ll do some hip-hop. I just like doing something for a little bit. Sometimes, I’ll do one drum’n’bass track, then the next track is hip-hop. Sometimes every track is different. I just need to keep myself amused. I do get into periods when I do loads and loads of drum’n’bass or loads of hip-hop, but my record releases don’t reflect that. All I try to do is keep myself amused when I’m working, make it fun for myself. If something’s not fun, I’ll just stop, do something else, and get back to it when it seems more fun. It’s hard for remixes that way. It’s not fun, but you have to do it. It’s like an essay, you usually leave it to the last minute, and then you have to rush.

Do you ever sit down and say ‘I’m going to do a drum’n’bass or hip-hop track'?
Sometimes, but not usually. Usually I just start playing around and something comes from that, or I’ve got one sample, like, quite often, I’ll buy a CD, like today (Luke and I arranged to meet in Rough Trade in Covent Garden), one or two of these CDs will probably have some samples and I’ll be using that as a starting point. It’s a bit like jamming, that’s the first bit, then I’ll add something else, and something else, and go back and change the first thing. It’s really nice with new computer technology because you can have a hundred unfinished tracks at the same time and you keep going between them. With my old Atari set up, years ago, I had to start a track, then work on it and finish it. I couldn’t load up another one at the same time because all my settings would have to be changed. It’s really nice that all the settings are inside the computer. It’s really new for me. It’s only been two or three years since I’ve had a proper computer. And I can work anywhere. I’ve got it with me today, and I can work on the bus or something, not that I’d do it in London.

What are your influences? Obviously there’s a strong hip-hop influence in your work…
Yeah, it feels like my base, just because it’s been the style that I’ve liked for the longest, knowing that it was a style… when I was young, I just liked pop, you know, I’d listen to the radio, I’d liked some records in the chart. Prince I liked a lot, a few things like that. But hip-hop was the first thing I really liked, so it’s my biggest influence in a way. Biggest after Prince, because I’ve like him for so long that he’s probably my biggest influence. Same with Grant (Wilson-Claridge, co-founder of Rephlex with Richard D. James). That’s how we met and we got together at school. We were in the Prince fan club. We went to the same school, but we didn’t know each other, so we’d arranged to meet in some room somewhere…

Would you say that hip-hop influences you in all your work?
Yes. It’s hard to quantify how your influences go into your work. I think in a way that really bad stuff influences me more than stuff I like. I always know what I don’t want to do. Sometimes I’ll make something and then I’ll go ‘oh no, I don’t like that’ and I change it. I don’t really know what I want until I play around and I find something that I don’t want, and then I’ll change it and it’ll be like ‘oh yeah, I like that’. Sometimes I’ll have big ideas, but usually, it’s just playing around searching for something that sounds good.

You were one of the very first one to heavily mix hip-hop and electronic together. What do you think of the work of people like Prefuse 73 or the Anticon crew?
I think it wicked. I kind or wish I was young and starting now in a way, because there was not much things to listen to when I started, which was good in a way, but me and Aphex and a couple of friends who haven’t gone on to be successful, we used to make our own music in Cornwall because it was all sort of boring. There was nothing we could really listen to except Radio 1. There were no clubs in Cornwall until 1991, and that was the ones we started because it was just so quiet and boring down there. So I think it was good for us definitely, for the kind of music we’d make, because we just had to discover it I suppose, but I always feel a bit jealous of the kids today, or even kids who’ll grow up in twenty or fifty years time, because the later you grow up the more stuff you have to listen to, especially with dance music. It was so new when we were making it. It was really nice in a way not to have any rules, just play around. Now, it’s nicer in other ways just because you can draw on so many more influences. Prefuse, his stuff sounds so cool. The production of it, whether you like the music or not, the beats… it’s all nicely produced, and no one could have done that ten years ago. Sometimes I wish my first record could have sounded like that, because mine sounded shit…

How would you say the scene has changed or evolved since you released your first record?
There’s so many little bits of it, so many little scenes nowadays. I like not to think about it at all really. I just do what I do. It’s hard to think how fractured and big it’s become. I still sort of feel the same as I did ten years ago when there was acid house and drum’n’bass. There are so many different genres within genres now I can’t keep up really. I think the electronic scene is pretty healthy though. It’s nice that bands are starting to form with electronics. I always felt a bit guilty and sorry for bands really, because I come from a band background, playing drums, bass, guitar, singing… I felt a bit guilty that I helped destroying bands because there weren’t any bands for such a long time in England. There was Oasis, Blur, The Verve… not many at all. I don’t worry about electronic music because I know it’s here forever, but I worried more about bands. If you’ve got a really good band, it’s so much more interesting than one guy with a computer. You can have some amazing stuff with one guy and a computer and other people playing live stuff.

You were talking about your connection with Richard D James earlier. Why do you think there was such a concentration of people in Cornwall who started playing a kind of music that no one else was playing?
I don’t know. I’m sure there were people doing similar things everywhere else… We were quite influenced by Aphex. He was like, THE man, in Cornwall. I started making electronic music in 1989 when I went to Sixth Form College with my friend Jeremy Simmonds, and I hadn’t heard of Richard then. We were in a band before that, a bit like the Stone Roses, Madchester kind of bollocks. We had this guy who was about thirty when we were twenty. He was the singer. He sung Beatles kind of things, and we would just make them funky. Then we got bored of carrying around the drum kit and stuff and just started making stuff in Jeremy’s bedroom because he’d just got a four-track recorder. Then we started hearing Aphex’s stuff shortly after, like 1990. It wasn’t Aphex Twin then, it was just Richard. People used to pass his tapes around saying: ‘listen to this, it’s fucking mad’ and we’d listen and it was like, 'Jesus!'… it was so advanced at the time. It was probably stuff that was like Selected Ambient Works Vol. 1. They all sounded a bit mellow and funky at the time. He was a really big influence. We were just starting to do stuff in our bedrooms, and his stuff sounded like he’d been working in his bedroom all his life. Also, he was the first person I knew who’d released music he’d made in his bedroom. That was really mind blowing for me. It seems such a small thing now, but at the time I didn’t think you could release music you’d made in your bedroom. I thought you’d make music in your bedroom and that would just be a demo, and then you’d go to a big studio, work with fucking horrible engineers, all that classic image. It was amazing to be there at the time. I don’t think it’s got anything to do with Cornwall, except that it was quiet and boring, and we didn’t have any scene shoved down our throat like you get in London. In Cornwall there was nothing. You’d have to do it yourself. We didn’t have enough money to come up to London, so we just stayed there. I wouldn’t move back there, it’s a nice place, but… Richard still feels Cornish. I asked him the other day: ‘do you feel Cornish?’ and he was like, ‘yeah, of course’.

Would you be tempted to work with him?
We do work loads. Nearly every time I see him, we make music together. We just have no interest in releasing anything, and it’s not really good for releasing because we just jam and play around with all his gear. He’s got the most amazing studio, so we play around. Some stuff we play sounds quite interesting, but it always goes on for about half an hour. Every so often, we’ll be like, let’s edit some of these tracks, make them into proper tracks that people can listen to, but you can’t really do it. Just the way we play around. We never sat down and said 'let’s do something'. We just play around. Same with Squarepusher. We’ve done tracks with Tom, I’ve done tracks with Mike Paradinas, everyone’s done tracks together, but usually they’re not as good, or at least as focused as our own stuff. They’re messy and big… Someday , I’d like to shove them out on the internet, but I wouldn’t want to make money out of them, you know, like ‘this is Aphex Twin and Luke Vibert’, because they’re just not that good. If I was to release a track with Richard, it’d have to be better than something I can do, or better than something he could do, or maybe not better but something unique. Since 1992 that we’ve been working together, I’ve got about three data tapes full of tracks we’ve done, but usually they’re about half an hour long and messy…

So no projects like the Mike & Rich album then?
It’s a great album. That’s exactly what I meant. I think if they hadn’t done that record, I would have been more into releasing stuff that I’ve done with Mike and Richard, but that record is so good that unless I was making something that was that good or better, I wouldn’t want to release it. I love that record. I think it’s a classic example of why it’s good when people work together. Mike couldn’t have done that record, Richard couldn’t have done that record. Only Mike & Rich could have done that record.

Have you ever been tempted to work with rappers?
Yeah, I have done. I’ve only ever released two 12” with rappers, on Big Dada (the first two releases from the Ninja Tune sister label), with two British guys (Alpha Prhyme and Asylum). It was alright, it was fun. I’ve done loads of other stuff that I haven’t released. The only thing I know is that I think I’m going to release a whole album that I’ve done with this MC called Blu Rum 13, who works with Vadim and a few other people. We did a whole record, but it’s quite old now, we still haven’t released it. It’s like my Ninja record. We kind of tweak it every so often, change little bits. I’d love to work with a famous MC as well, that’d be really cool. With some American guy like Q-Tip or something, it’d be wicked. It cost loads of money though. I did use to want a remix when I was on Virgin. I remember asking if I could get a DJ to remix one of my tracks, and they called him and it was $20,000 to do the mix. Most of these guys are like that… ‘sure, I’d like to work with you, and that’ll be $100,000’. You have to find nice people who don’t have record deals and work with them. I think the record with Blu Rum will come out at some point though.

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