Posted on Jul 5th 2009 08:25 pm

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Rival Consoles first appeared two years ago with a first EP released on London-based Erased Tapes. Since, Ryan Lee West he has delivered two more EPs spanning quite a wide sound world, from Aphex-like abstract drum’n’bass to razor-sharp techno. His debut album, released on Erased Tapes once again, expands greatly on the latter by collecting eleven thumping techno cuts with enough edges to last a lifetime. We took this opportunity to talk to the man about how the album came together, how he uses beats against melody, what it feels like to have his album out in the open and which console is the one.

How did you come to make music, and what made you start Rival Consoles?
I have been making music since I was about fourteen. I’ve always been interested in the actual recording and producing aspect. Over time I got bored with working in a studio and just started making music at home with a few select pieces of kit. You can spend so much time with just one simple piece of software or hardware.

Rival Consoles started while I was at university and is pretty much an outlet for my musical ideas in a wider range of styles as opposed to Aparatec [ed. Ryan’s other project].

Your early EPs were somewhat different to what you’ve come out for IO. Were you still trying to find yourself, or was it just that you want to explore various sides of electronic music?
A bit of both actually – I do like to explore different styles and always will, but I do think that the style of music and production in IO is something that I have been building towards. In ten years time I guess I will leave behind a trail of different directions and ideas.

Your early EPs, especially Helvetica, seemed to be influenced by people like Aphex Twin or Squarepusher, especially in the way the rhythms were constructed.
Yeah I think rhythmically they fall under well-known names and ideas, although I’m actually more into melody and harmony, I usually use rhythms to counterpoint melody and harmony. Helvetica has huge leaps and gaps in the piano melody because I was interested how little could exist for a sense of melody to be apparent. The fragmented drums help create the illusion that there is more of a melody.

Where does the heavy techno of IO come from? What inspired you for this album?
Surprisingly, and this is going to sound very pretentious, but I was mostly influenced by what I wasn’t hearing. In trendy indie clubs and gigs I usually get pissed of with the diluted ideas and the fact that I hear so much music shying away from bold and defined ideas. With IO I tried to use ideas that were very upfront and defined. I like techno and acid. Especially older works because although they are often very tacky and cheap, they aren’t ambiguous; every note and beat is straight to the point.

The album feels very consistent sonically, as if it had all been recorded in a pretty short period of time, although first albums are often the fruit of sometimes years of work. Was it a longer process than what the final product leads to think?
Some tracks like Agenda have existed for over a year and in that time I’ve made amendments, the rest fall within a few months.

Now that the album is finished and soon to be out, how do you feel about it being heard?
Different all the time, sometimes I think great and sometimes I’m not sure, but I think you will always be humbled by other works of music, it’s best for it to be heard, especially live. I always think music in a club or venue shows best what works and what doesn’t.

1985, from the album, is being showcased on Tom Robinson’s BBC6 Music show. What was your reaction when you found out, and is it something important for you?
Yeah, that was a nice bit of news, though I’m often sceptical about who plays what and who likes what and why because a lot of politics come with it – I’m just happy for people to listen to it.

You’re responsible for remixing a track from the British Expeditionary Force album, and you’re also said to have remixed a track by Nico Muhly. How does working on remixes differs from working on your own material, and is this something you’d like to do more?
I think I will do more remixes, despite the fact I’m always making my own music because its good to do something where you aren’t exclusively thinking about your own needs and ideas. Plus I’m a great believer in working with a constraint, having to build a piece of music around a vocal or a piano melody is a good test.

So far, you’ve released most of your music on Erased Tapes. How did you get to work with them?
I sent Robert Raths, the founder of Erased Tapes, a classic ‘unsigned’ email saying ‘check out my music…’ and the rest is history, ha, but seriously I sent a classic email and he seemed genuinely interested, as was I in his approach to the music industry. I’m fortunate to work with someone who is super-passionate about art and conception, something that I fail to encounter again and again in the industry.

You’ve recently released a split EP with Ólafur Arnalds, for the occasion in his techno guise. How did the project come up, and were your three tracks, which are on the album, done originally for this?
Milo and ARP were done some time back and we knew they should be released on an album. I make a lot of music. So Robert and me have to work out what we are going to do with it (if anything). The EP was a good test and kind of a taster for the album.

Besides recording as Rival Consoles, you also release music as Aparatec, which was described by one reviewer as ‘Kraftwerk meets Jacques Lu Cont’. Can you tell us more about it, and what you’re planning with this project?
I have a lot of stuff that could be potentially released with the Aparatec project, which is very low-fidelity but without resorting to that 8-bit genre which has just passed us by. I’m constantly making music and it’s hard to go back to stuff. I think Rival Consoles will open up some interesting doors which people aren’t expecting in the future so there is little need to resort to Aparatec any time soon.

Your biography says that you have repeatedly performed at Tate Britain. What was the occasion, and what kind of set did you work on?
The first occasion was to sonically accompany Derek Jarman’s short films, which was very weird as I felt pressured for my work to compliment the films. I ended up doing a lot of avant-garde electro-acoustic material live – using custom-built music tools I have built in MAX/MSP, which was fun! Although I couldn’t help thinking how I was disgracing the building and its history. But being a fan of Cage and Duchamp, I usually give up caring about things like that and just aim to have fun.

You are doing a handful of shows for the album release. Will you be performing live, and if yes, what can people expect? Will you be touring later on in the year?
Live music is something I’m still exploring. I’ve started using my own visuals which I’m generating using Jitter, as well as playing in parts live. I don’t want to make the gig overly technical though. I like to mix between two channels so I can cut new arrangements live in a classic turntable way. The later part of this year should become very busy with some visits to European cities that will lead into the next year. 2010 is going to be busy with festivals and loads of club shows and new music.

You describe Rival Consoles as ‘a musical project where I take ideas which are cheap and processed, and combine them with rich, unpredictable patterns’. What do you mean by that?
Electronically produced sounds usually sound plastic to me, which is a result of their timbre amongst other things. Rather than spending time recreating rich timbres and sounds I’m interested in making plastic sounds more expressive. Expression in electronic music is probably the hardest goal, and for many the ultimate goal. With IO I let the sounds be plastic but tried to organise and layer them in a way that suggested the computer was trying to be expressive.

Do you already have an idea of what you want to do with Rival Consoles after the album?
I already have a lot of material for the next album, but I will spend a while just listening and establishing a large body of work which I can then sort through later.

List five records, films, books or works of art that really matter to you, and tell us why they do.
I’m a big fan of bold, classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey which as everyone knows has some of the most elegantly constructed music and film sequences.
Gyorgy Ligeti’s Requiem in that film is one of my favourite pieces.

The Dreamers lingered with me for weeks which if you don’t know is an incredible film, the best I’ve seen in recent years.

My favourite film regarding music is Once Upon A Time In The West. All the themes sound effortless and simple – yet they are so potent and expressive.

The last book I read worth talking about is The God Delusion, which was a painfully funny, scary and sad read. I’m a big fan of [Richard] Dawkins’ wit and courage.

Finally an album that was important to me when I was growing up is NIN’s The Downward Spiral.  The production, ideas and purpose all came together on this record. I particularly love how it is often very reduced, yet it always appears rich. It shows great attention to detail by Trent and Flood.

What is next in your diary?
For the next few months everything will revolve around IO and making new music. You can expect new recordings to be released sooner rather than later. But for now I really enjoy playing IO live as it’s designed for a club sound system.

And finally, PS3, Xbox or Wee?
I have been asked this a few times now and really the Rival Consoles thing, if anything, has more of a connection with my school days when everyone was moaning about Nintendo 64 vs. Playstation – and I was in favour of the 64.

Icon: arrow Rival Consoles (MySpace) | Erased Tapes

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