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Autechre on music, technology and egg custard.In the midst of preparation for their first tour since 2002, and on the eve of the release of their eighth album, Untilted, Rob Brown from arch electro-experimentalists Autechre answers questions submitted to Collective by fans and sceptics alike…
Steve Shaw asks: Why have you decided to return to more repetitive rhythmic structures in Untilted? Did you have dancefloors more in mind for this album?
RB: It’s hard to know when someone calls your stuff repetitive, because you know that it’s not. Compared to the last album, Untilted is warmer. It’s fuller, we’ve got the production a lot better. It’s wider, it’s tougher and more sensitive all in one. Does that make sense? I’ve always been into emotional, hard music.
Evilfons asks: Did you start making music because you think everything else is crap, or not exactly what you want? Is it made out of some frustration?
RB: When we were listening to tunes we had an ear for what we were into. Then we started mixing up people’s music, like DJ mixes that were more customised than the norm. To the point where they were so customised that it was basically our drum patterns, our samples and our scratching and beats all over the top. To the point where were didn’t use anyone else’s material anymore and we realised we were making our own tracks. And I guess it was because we thought there was room for something that sounded like this. Maybe we were listening to Todd Terry and Mantronix, and Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, and loads of soul and stuff that was current, trying to find the best bits for us. It was quite rare to find them. So we were trying to put these bits together – not in a conscious way, but coming at it with no musical training. We just got some kind of results and those results stuck out like a sore thumb to us.
Jefferson Petrey asks: Many listeners I have spoken to have been divided about your most recent work. Half express profound inspiration about their experiences with the recent albums, and the other half seem to yearn for you to return to your earlier sound. Have you encountered this and what do you have to say in response?
RB: It’s funny because it’s one of the things we’ve often had levelled at us since Incunabula, our first album on Warp. The first album was more of a compilation of old material. So when we came out with Amber, which was genuinely the first album we put out on Warp, everyone was like, “Whoa you’ve gone all ambient, what’s happened?” Then two albums after that, when Chiastic Slide came out, they were like, “Oh this is really cold and computery, not warm and lush like Amber.” So basically we get this domino flip every time we release something. We just have to come to terms with it. People are polarised completely. Some people won’t accept the new album until they’ve come to like the last album, and some people say, “Draft was horrible, it was really cold and edgy.” And then a year later when you put a new album out they say, “Oh I hope it compares to Draft cos’ Draft was brilliant.” This time we’ve had a lot of warm responses from critics and the media, or whoever gets in first, I just think you can’t help but divide people.
Alex Maske asks: If you were non-musicians growing up, do you think that had a negative or positive effect on your role as musicians, or approach to composition/listening, now?
RB: It’s got us where we are now. We know things about music now. You find recurring themes and you go, “Why does this seem familiar?” Then you’ll do a bit of research and you’ll find you’ve stumbled across what most people consider a musical rule. When you’ve got no idea about these rules or musical dictates you’re pretty open to anything. My friend Darryl, who helped us start up, gave us the keys to his studio and his music shop, just so that we could use some gear that wasn’t rubbish. We were like, “This guy’s a nut. What does he want?” But it turned out he was a really musically well-trained classical kind of guy, really good on the keys, but at the same time he was like, “You can’t do that, that sounds weird.” And we were like, “This is brilliant, this is the best thing yet”. I guess it’s a good way of keeping things open, not knowing what keeps most people closed. But we do have taste. It’s all quality to us. We like to do things properly, but whether “properly” is the way that people have decided is a rule or not is irrelevant. We’ve been at this so long that we don’t want to skimp on quality, or taste or style. All these things come from a hip-hop, graffiti, BMX background where you’re showing off what you can do. Practising loads. I can appreciate that mentality. You know, when you see young kids skating, falling and getting up again and again in the most extreme environments - speed, concrete, sharp edges - I’ve always appreciated that they’re just trying to get it right. It might mean a few bumps into a few walls here and there, and musically we probably do that all the time. Some classical musician probably thinks, god what a racket – and then other people say, “Oh that’s totally Wagnerian.” It’s got us where we are now and we’re comfortable with the fact that sometimes we don’t know anything, and sometimes we’re exploring areas where other people won’t go because it doesn’t fit black and white textbook stuff.
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