“Lennox’s potato pie and chips with an Eccles cake for afters”
That is the curious yet satisfying sounding meal that Salford-based post-punk dark-electro duo Factory Acts suggest could represent their sound. Matt Davies from group clarifies that the Lennox Potato Pie is a delicacy from vocalist and synth player Susan O’Shea’s native Cork. This observation comes as a reply to one of the dafter questions that I decided to ask some of the artists performing at the upcoming Foundations Festival.
Foundations is a two day event taking place on the 25th and 26th of November at the lively and lovely Kings Arms pub in Salford. The festival aims to celebrate the grass roots independent music and arts scene as well as promoting creative collaboration and community networking. It is a joint venture between two locally based record labels AnalogueTrash and Valentine Records, and it features an eclectic line up of label artists from the area and also special guests from further afield.
In the interests of transparency here, I have to state that I also happen to be performing some songs at this festival myself. However, aside from my own sonic tinkering I am also involved in local radio, and I currently present a weekly music show on Salford City Radio. In this capacity, I am fortunate enough to get sent some sensational new music each month. Salford and Manchester are rightly celebrated for having a remarkable and world class musical heritage, and I would argue that what is going on at the moment in the underground scene is every bit as vital and exciting as the classic sounds of the past.
I do always feel that it is important to try and balance out the inevitable coverage of both retro nostalgia and mainstream gruel that the music industry can sometimes obsess over by championing inventive new artists and exciting underground scenes. This report features interviews with a few (mainly) local, but also national and international acts that are all coming along to perform at the festival in Salford.
As we know, music is a sublime means of exploring life and the world, experiencing different emotions, cultures and stories. It is a natural intoxicant, painkiller, life saver, it feeds connections, collaborations and it is so deep and rich that it is impossible to ever get to the bottom of it. But it is a living thing, and so listeners who only dance with ghosts of the past can risk miss out on all the hot blooded action going on right now. There is so much happening in 2016 in this region alone that it would take a book to even attempt to cover everything. This article will therefore mainly just focus on a few aspects of one of the many concurrent musical scenes in the area. I will also try and be a bit more concise from now on in, as there is a lot to cover and so far I have only really pontificated about pop philosophy and potato pies.
I sent a list of questions out to a selection of acts from the festival to get a taste of their world views. These questions varied from the standard to the abstract, via the political and geographical and I received some very stimulating responses. I only interviewed around half of the acts performing at the festival, as this article would be almost Biblical in length otherwise ! I apologise also to the acts I did interview that I often had to heavily edit their responses down for the brevity of the piece. Below are highlights from my interviews with Factory Acts, Hypnotique, Syd.31, Vieon, Psydoll, Reigns Of Monty Carlo, St Lucifer, ded.pixel and Needle Factory. I have also included music from each of the artists to soundtrack the voyage as we go. The full Foundations Festival line up and further information can be found below:
Ok, so let’s get back to Factory Acts...
FACTORY ACTS – “CAR CRASH” VIDEO
Factory Acts are a duo comprised of the aforementioned Susan O’Shea and Matt Davies. They evolved from a curious sounding ambient folk trio called Outlier which at one point featured Fiona Ledgard, now of the brilliant band ILL playing drums with pencils on a tin lid. Outlier gracefully dissolved and Factory Acts started to come together when the couple married at the legendary Salford Lads Club in 2011.They flipped a coin to decide who would do vocals, teasing “thankfully Susan won, despite Matt’s insistence that he could give Sting a run for his money”.
The band released their first single “Fantasy” and played their first proper gig at Antwerp Mansion in Rusholme, Manchester in April 2012. They elaborate that:
“We discovered that there is a thriving and still largely unnoticed underground music network in Salford and Manchester based around certain pubs and clubs and a dedicated group of local (and Doncaster-based) musicians, promoters and radio DJs We feel humbled and eternally grateful being amongst these folk. “
Interestingly they also tell me that:
“The People’s Republic of Cork is psychically twinned with Salford/Manchester in terms of its musical traditions and is celebrated in Susan’s love song to both homes – ‘City Song’.”
The group are now on AnalogueTrash records, and they say of their band name:
“Although some are bound to think it is a crass exploitation of a little known Manchester record label who artistes included Thick Pigeon and Shark Vegas, our main references are the 19th Century Parliamentary labour laws put in place to prevent the exploitation of children, women and other mill-workers, and the treadmill of exploited performers churned out on the conveyor belt of so-called ‘talent shows’ which have contributed to the steady decline of people’s experience of music in the 21st century. “
Their influences include “each other, PJ Harvey, Bowie, New Order, Depeche Mode, The Sultans of Ping, Siouxsie, Hole, every musician that has passed through the ranks of The Fall and people brave enough to give it a go”.
When asked to what degree political views manifested in their work, Susan says that their work is “99%” political, telling me:
“When I’m piecing lyrics together they usually start from a point of annoyance, frustration or even anger. By the time I’m done the undercurrent of political sentiment (which is nearly always there) takes on a degree of ambivalence but it is never without resolution. “
Gender issues also feature strongly in their work:
“As someone wanting to play in a band since I was young but never really feeling confident enough to try it until recently, I think it’s really important that girls are given the opportunity to try out different instruments and music technology. Things are improving but that is really thanks to movements like Riot Grrrl and Ladyfest. For me Ladyfest is an opportunity for self-identifying women to showcase their music talents, combine with other arts and learn new skills. Manchester is one of the most active cities for Ladyfest and the crew this year put on a wonderful festival in the Northern Quarter, so gender issues can take centre stage. You can hear these kinds of political slants in our music if you choose to engage with it, or perhaps you will hear another story— We write a song because we feel it is the right one for us at that moment in time, because we have something to say, and if you don’t want to listen to the words we still might get you to dance, and that is a victory.”
Factory Acts, (who tell me that they would love to play an outdoor festival next) say that their live set at the King’s Arms “will involve a bit of improvisation, some new gadgetry and tunes, visuals, a flock of wings (we were going for seagulls but that’s proving tricky) and a multitude of prayers.” The band have a new EP on the way too, and to close the interview I asked them a random question about who their favourite metal band might be, purely because such trivia interests me :
“Well that’s tricky now because if we are going for classifications on taste rather that the purity of a homogeneous metal genre then I (Susan) might have to say Butthole Surfers, Primus or Therapy? Whereas Matt says ‘A gold bracelet called Lemmy’, that sounds like a pretty heavy metal band to me”.
Factory Act’s band page can be found here : https://en-gb.facebook.com/FactoryActs/
The next artist that I speak to is travelling to the area to take part in the festival. Susi O’Neill (aka Hypnotique) is one of the most fascinating and unique figures in British music. Susi has been a sometime collaborator of everyone from Gong and Bob Moog to Jean-Jacques Perrey and she has even performed a truly surreal cover version live on TV with Eamonn Holmes and Paul O’Grady. She is a leading exponent of the theremin and has also performed with or alongside Sleaford Mods (from her native Nottingham scene), Dawn Of The Replicants and (former Warp Records artist) John Callaghan.
Susi is also one of the members of the extraordinary industrial cabaret band Babyslave, along with former member of The Monochrome Set and The Brides of Christ, Charlie Blake and Valentine Record’s own David Fox. Babyslave are also performing at the festival and there will also be a chance to catch Susi’s 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival show, “Etherwave : Adventures With The Theremin”.
Etherwave : Adventures With The Theremin Promo Video
Susi tells me that the food and drink that might represent her sound could be “Roquefort blue cheese with absinthe”. A powerful, decadent and intoxicating comparison for sure.
Hypnotique is of course French for ‘hypnotic’ , which Susi thought would be “a marvellous stage name for a cabaret theremin player.” Describing her sound, she says it ranges “from the sublime (if your idea of heaven is Berlin bunkeresque storytelling, vaudeville grooves and the other worldly sounds of the theremin) to the apocalyptical.”
Her motivation stems from:
“Change in society and the madness of those who oversee it are usually triggers for me to write a song – though typically my politics are with a soft ‘p’ and well hidden within lyrical riddles and metaphor. My collaborators often stir me out of a slumber to do something energetic and truly electronic that I would otherwise find hard to concoct in my ‘lofi’ studio (comprising mainly analogue synths and drum machines, theremin and various honky woodwind instruments and gongs).”
Her musical palette swings from everything from Messian and Renaissance choir music to techno and Throbbing Gristle. She has some other truly fascinating musical influences too, citing “Laurie Anderson, Momus, Broadcast. And for vocals: Gilli Smyth (the space whisperer from Gong), Lydia Lunch, Shirley Bassey (I wish).”
JOHN CALLAGHAN & HYPNOTIQUE – “YOU LACK DISCIPLINE” VIDEO
I ask Susi what is next for her projects and she certainly sounds busy:
“More dates for Adventures With The Theremin – at London’s ‘Hands Off’ Theremin Festival in November and Nottingham Concert Hall in January 2017. It’s available for touring – urban or rural, with educational workshop so hit me up if you want me come to your village hall or wherever. Also, Babyslave are the most active ‘hidden’ band I know – we will be working on a new album (or three) in 2017.
I’ve also been doing some electronic/improv gigs with a clan in North Essex called Rock Garden of Chandigarh, we’re doing some gigs and recording. I’m spending more time in Munich currently and hoping to get to work with the world’s only living Mixtur-Trautonmium player.”
BABYSLAVE – “MONEY” VIDEO
Hypnotique’s music continues to be profoundly elusive –
“my last commercial release was available on wax cylinder only. I’m not too concerned about commercialising or digitising my work since my former band (Dawn Of The Replicants) got dropped by Warner Brothers. To experience it, you have to see it – or just imagine it.”
To round off the interview with a random and inconsequential question, Susi told me that her favourite heavy metal band would be the Japanese infant rockers Babymetal.
The next act I speak to is Syd.31, “scorched earth” politically charged electro-punks. They say that their sound could be compared to a vegetarian vindaloo – “it is worldly, will melt your face off and is probably better enjoyed with several cold pints.”
Syd.31 – We Are The Freaks Video
The group are comprised of Magic (“an old school nickname or just simply Madge”) on vocals, Dani Graves (backing vocals and “live key stabber”), Charlotte on guitar and Kara Wolf on drums. They specialise in “stripped back, brutal, angry anthems”. Of the name origins, Magic says:
“The band is called Syd, after my dad (SiDneY) who had me very late in life and from his second marriage. He was born in 1931. Hence, ‘Syd.31’. He was a huge influence on me and when he passed away, it just seemed right to name this new project after him. I didn’t even have to think twice about that.”
Born in a mining area near Doncaster, Magic actually grew up in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. One of his biggest influences is not from music but “a journalist called Kaplan in an article called The Coming Anarchy from the early 90’s”. Unsurprisingly he pulls no punches when discussing politics:
“Politics is everything to me – politics is life and death. With the recent political murders of an MP, of foreign nationals, minorities and ex-service men starved into fatal comas, we are going to see how dangerous and important politics is… I’m actually scared for the future and I’m very angry too.”
Musical influences are, by way of contrast, more whatever makes him want to dance. “I’m a total music glutton. From classic rock (AC/DC) to contemporary drum ‘n bass (Noisa etc) with bucket loads of trance, punk, industrial and ultra-cheesy pop. Yes I do own Kylie Minogue albums”. Magic is also very fond of Manchester’s own music scene too:
“When I was in Zimbabwe, I used to listen to as much of the UK music I could, New Order, 808 State and all the acid house I could find…now I live in Manchester. It’s a dream come true for me. I just need to meet Peter Hook or New Order and then I can die happy.”
He then mentions another place that inspires him (which perhaps might also have had some influence on Syd.31’s tough, post-apocalyptic outfits):
“My other inspiration is a place in the middle of nowhere, called Golden Valley, just outside Kadoma in Zimbabwe. It’s basically just a Mad Max land for real. I spent my teenage years there and its’ bleakness still influences me – the rust, dust, diesel-stains and worn out faces. One of the world’s lowest life expectancy rates—”
The band’s future plans include an album launch party in March and another year of gigging hard to make themselves “better, bigger and more entertaining”. They are also on the lookout for management / promotion, saying “If you think you are the next Rob Gretton, then please get in touch”. When asked about what to expect of the band’s live set at Foundations festival, Magic says:
“Imagine a very angry Grace Jones fronting the best punk band in the UK. Plus bad jokes and far too much make-up.” .
His favourite metal bands would include Fear Factory, Iron Maiden and Strapping Young Lad.
Next I spoke to Vieon, aka the extremely talented and personable Matt Wild. With influences from 1970s synthpop pioneers such as Jarre, John Carpenter and Kraftwerk filtered through the cinematic soundscapes of 1980s electronic film scores, Vieon takes the sounds of the analogue past and dystopian future and blends them together with catchy synth hooks, bass grooves and epic solos to create some rich, evolving and emotive electronic music.
VIEON – “FLY BY LIGHT” SONG LINK
Matt tells me a bit about the genesis of the act:
“Vieon started as a personal project for me that developed as I first moved into creating my own music after spending much of my childhood learning how to play covers. The name is just some letters that I threw together! !”
His excellent recent LP “Fly By Light” is a concept album in every sense, telling a story of “love, adventure, loss and joyful reunion”. He is heavily inspired by classic sci-fi such as Blade Runner, Star Wars and The Terminator too (he would love to soundtrack such in future), and expands a bit about his philosophy:
“I’m a mechanical engineer professionally and a big believer in the ability of technology and ingenuity to improve lives and advance human progress. Hopefully that shines through a bit in our last EP. It may end up being more prominent in our future releases too, given recent developments in the UK—”
He takes inspiration from architecture and city life too:
“I find cities to be very inspirational – they are really exciting in a lot of ways and there is a certain visual aspect of skylines that is just beautiful. I also love that cities are almost living things in their own right, with their own waking, active and sleeping periods, but never stopping.”
Vieon are promising something very special for their live set at Foundations and Matt talks to me about future plans:
“We’re actually building the new stage setup at the moment, quite a sci-fi inspired design that will hopefully let the audience see more of what we’re doing onstage. We are also really excited to be playing Beat:Cancer in London on November 12th, and then of course Foundations is coming up as our big last show of the year. Beyond that, I’m currently working on some ideas for the next album, of which the concept is already pretty much in place. But that’s a secret !”
Lastly, Matt (whose random favourite metal bands include Wolfmother, Led Zeppelin & Deep Purple) says that his music could potentially taste like :
“Maybe a kebab. A lot of different ingredients and ways to make it (I’m thinking of the salad as sound effects… my head goes to a lot of strange places) but fundamentally hopefully pretty accessible. And delicious.”
Vieon Band page : https://www.facebook.com/VieonMusic/
Label link: https://www.analoguetrash.com/artists/vieon.html
Next I spoke to one of the international special guests that Salford will welcome to the Kings Arms, the excellent cult Japanese band PSYDOLL. Another sci-fi influenced band, Psydoll formed in Tokyo in 1997 and have spent the last 19 years recording, releasing their unique brand of “nightmarish cyberpunk” and performing live across the globe.
PSYDOLL – [A Ka I Tsu Ki] Video
The band tell me that their “sound-food” would be “beer, beer and beer” or alternatively “dark chocolate, Assam tea with milk and veggie burger”. They also have a very lively and entertaining origin story:
“We PSYDOLL are formed by two illegal robots in Tokyo, Japan. Female type psydoll (psycho-robot), Nekoi Psydoll is a vocalist with toy keytar, and Male type psydoll, Ucchi Psydoll is a guitarist. At one point Psydoll had a digital percussionist, he is also a psydoll, but he entered the human society. Psydoll continues to demonstrate the unique sound with live shows and with recorded songs that fulfils all your sci-fi manga fantasies.”
The group say that they take influence from everything from Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and King Crimson to Toya Willcox and Adam & The Ants. They also like P.i.L but note that:
“Some people in the UK mentioned that (Nekoi)should not mention about him, because John Lydon is in a commercial for margarine!”.
Being fond of Lydon, as I can’t help but be, I told them that as far as I recalled he had actually taken part in the notorious condiment advert to self-fund P.i.L in some way. Fact checking this story again, apparently he used the money to buy back the rights to band’s catalogue from the restrictive record label contract they were under, which seems fairly admirable and self sufficient to me. Anyway, moving on—
Of their lyrical subject matters, PSYDOLL say:
“Some of our lyrics have mentioned radioactivity or dystopia, but they are being talked about as science fiction in the near future. Some might feel these are political themes, some might feel these are science fictional themes.”
When asked who might enjoy their music, they tell me:
“The people who are interested in unusual new kind of mutational sound might like listening to Psydoll. Some people might listen to Psydoll as a Japanese culture. Some might listen as a strange Symphonic Metal. Psydoll is both.”
To round up our little chat I asked them what question they would like to be asked about themselves , to which they replied:
“Q : Do Japanese Electrical bands like Psydoll use electricity by electric eels, so do you have a lot of electrical eels in a luggage?
A : NO!”
Psydoll’s favourite metal bands include Venom and Alice Cooper. Co-incidentally, my next interviewee, the ever charming, conversational and erudite Paul Millsopp from Reigns Of Monty Carlo is also a big fan of both. The one-man heavy metal machine turned occasional John Martyn style acoustic troubadour answers my questions below. Asked about how the project began, he says:
“I suppose I’ve been playing and writing music since my early teens in Northern Ireland. Although I mostly wrote solo, I was always playing in a band or duo with a very specific focus (usually rock or metal!) and this continued through my early years in Manchester. I was always a voracious devourer of as much music as I could listen to, genre be damned, and as my performing interests widened I thought it was probably time to take some of this more “eclectic” material public and see what other people thought, so the solo project “Reigns of Monty Carlo” was born.”
The project name came about from an intentional misspelling of one of the (authentically eccentric and misunderstood) arty soft rocker Chris De Burgh’s unintentionally hilarious Facebook posts, this one about the “rains of Monte Carlo”, which was misquoted as a band name to suggest a “declaration of love for the rains over the Principality”.
REIGNS OF MONTY CARLO – “A WAR BELOW” TRACK
I asked Paul next about how much geographical location influenced his work and what he thought of the Manchester music scene:
“I was going to be flippant and answer this with a “no”, but then I started thinking about how much of my creative energy is still rooted in that musical upbringing and my formative years playing gigs in Northern Ireland. There was a realisation that opportunities were limited in such a small country, so my musical future was definitely a consideration in choosing to come to Manchester. More recently, the incredible local scene has fuelled a lot of my Reigns material. Conversations are always the doorways to new ideas, and being in Manchester has certainly made a lot of interesting people more available to converse with! When I think of inspiration from locations, it will always be the peaceful and picturesque that first pop into my mind. The windswept coastal vistas of the northwest of Ireland will always have a special place in my heart!”
Regarding performing in Salford he says:
“It’s always nice to be able to perform in Salford, having lived and studied there for three years. My university days remain some of the best memories that I have, and it was a sad day indeed when the Castle Irwell Student Village finally disappeared in the summer. My first ever ‘gig’ in England was there, doing a little bit of karaoke in the Pav, and my first real gig was also in Salford playing in the Pintpot by the river. “
Of his motivation and working method, Paul opines :
“The main motivation to write comes from a desire to say something, I suppose. Now, I can’t sit here and say that I’m always aware of what my intended message is, but after a day of living in the ‘real’ world of deadlines, spreadsheets and mandatory corporate training I never seem to be stuck for an idea! I find creating music to be one of the most rewarding ways of spending time, and if there is a musical instrument in front of me it’s almost a compulsion to pick it up and see what sounds I can strangle out of it. The same goes for opening up a piece of music software. The most creative and incongruous tracks are sometimes produced by throwing yourself headlong into a mystery box of dials and parameters, after all—”
REIGNS OF MONTY CARLO – “TURN OF NIGHT” TRACK
Reigns of Monty Carlo will be kicking off the Foundations festival on the Saturday, and Paul says to expect a laid back, folky affair, which should be a good contrast to some of the more electronic acts on the bill. His own musical tastes are extremely diverse:
“I was very lucky to grow up in a house where music was always an important part of life. My father designed and built electric guitars in our garage and was a DJ on several pirate stations back in the day, so his collection of vinyl and instruments really put me on the path. Everything from Django through to Maiden via Tina Turner and the Pet Shop Boys was available to me, and I listened to all of it. I’m not sure how much of this is actively present in my music now, but the love started there.”
Of his musical themes and sound, he states that:
“I have certainly noticed a harder edge to some of the tracks that are being lined up for my 5th album which are focusing on class divides and entitlement. I do try to have a positive attitude to all things in life, but sometimes you’ve got to admit how broken something is before you can attempt to fix it. (Musically) I have always considered the Reigns project to be a bit of a lawless wasteland, where any unconnected lead guitar riff can search for fellowship with a comedy muted trumpet counterpart and make sweet love over a John Carpenter-esque bass arp!”
Paul self-deprecatingly suggests that his music could taste like “Burger and chips. It’s accessible, always an option but will ultimately kill you.” One question that he really couldn’t wait to get stuck into is about his favourite metal music, the man is a true connoisseur:
“Ah, now here’s a question I can really get my teeth into. If inhabitants of this realm range from Dio to Thin Lizzy then I know I am a fan. The first point when talking about metal is that it is sometimes necessary to separate art from artist. There are acts that I am enthralled by, where the sheer power of their material is like a hammerblow to my heart, but whose beauty and power is set against an untenable collection of political or social viewpoints which are entirely unacceptable in my eyes. The obvious points of reference here are some of the more radical members of the Black Metal scene, but even some very high-profile American metallers have been in trouble in this area in recent years. I think it is very important to be able to appreciate art created by unsavoury individuals as long as the art itself is not pandering or attempting to proselytise. “.
REIGNS OF MONTY CARLO ARTIST PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/reignsofmontycarlo/
After chatting to Paul, I also caught up with his Valentine Records label-mates, the electro-rockers and self-styled purveyors of “blackmetalgaydisco”, St Lucifer. They have recently performed with the likes of Subway Sect, released a sold out 7″ single (“Van Der Lubbe Was Innocent”) on Valentine Records and have (apparently) blown up a record store, their debut album is out shortly.
ST LUCIFER – TRASHORAMA VIDEO
The band, who are interestingly all born in different decades are: “Alex (vocals/the scary-looking one) – Dave (guitar/noise/the ‘beatnik’ one) – John (bass/the beardy-techy one) and Charlie (drums/the cool-weird one). We all met ‘around’ the Soundwaves Here We Come record shops empire in Afflecks Palace and Stretford Mall.”
The food that represents the group’s sound is hilariously described by Charlie as :
“Some kind of black soup with glitter in it. And a sparkler.”
(Alex says that they could also taste like “Smorgasbord. Or possibly Borscht.” , Dave – “Geek Pie (look it up)” and John “Poutine, it sounds wrong but it just works…”)
They have a rich variety of influences including David Bowie, Sex Pistols, Killing Joke, Irvine Welsh, Erasure, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Vivienne Westwood and Tony Wilson. Places that inspire them include Berlin and Charlie from the band says “anywhere weird/underground in the 1970s, mainly London and New York, but wherever it is, it’s probably made of concrete and everyone’s wearing flares”.
When asked about what to expect from their Salford live show, the band say:
“[Charlie] We’re going to do a really lively set for Foundations Festival (even more lively than we normally are) and possibly having some other musicians join us on stage. I’ll wear a really flamboyant outfit as well, you know, just for a change.
[Alex] The usual energetic, visceral stuff. It’s my favourite part of being in the band going out there, jumping around, making a racket and pointing at the audience.
[Dave] I hate playing live and I don’t like people in general. I’m therefore going to phone in my performance from a different city (joking aside, there actually is an event as part of Foundations where someone is LITERALLY doing that).
[John] I went to Salford University so have many memories (some quite hazy) of Salford, especially The Crescent and its amazing (sadly now deceased) dog.”
As far as future plans for the band go:
“We’re putting stuff out on CD, vinyl and (mono)cassette as well as downloads. We’re going to be playing Foundations Festival in Salford in November and we’re supporting Chaos 8 in Newcastle in December ahead of something even more special just before Christmas. There are plenty of other performance-based ideas bubbling under too. There’s some massive news we’ll be announcing straight after the album as well. We’re saying nothing more on this subject. (We think that’s called ‘vaguebooking’).”
As far as their taste in metal goes (and no, there is still absolutely no point to this question aside from to satisfy my own curiosity !), Charlie says that he frankly prefers Brian Eno, whilst the rest of the band variously elect Motorhead, Rotting Christ (I can’t quite believe that the startlingly monikered cult Greek metallers have been namechecked in the last two articles I have written !) and Baroness.
The penultimate act I spoke to in this exploration was ded.pixel. Crawling from the suburbs of North Manchester this duo (Rhys Pixel (formerly of Modulate) and Ashleigh Talbot) constantly push the boundaries with their mix of electro, post rock, ambient and classical minimal composition. Their recent projects have included re-workings of music from the film Koyaanisqatsi.
Their music apparently “tastes” something like : “Romanesco Broccoli, it has a natural connection to complex shapes and mathematics.”
DED.PIXEL – “BEYOND THE PALE”
I asked Rhys to explain a little bit about the project:
“(The members are) Myself and Ashleigh Talbot, formerly of Manchester Prog Rockers Voidstalker had known each other for a few years. The ded.pixel project itself had been something I had been working on slowly over the last decade whilst being a member of the Manchester electronic outfit Modulate. And at the time of the first release Ashleigh was looking for a new band and i was looking for a bassist. You could say things have snowballed since then!”
He continues that:
“The ded.pixel name came from a pretty mundane place, there was a dead pixel on the screen of my monitor in around 2004. It was one of those things that no matter how you tried to avoid it, it would always be in the periphery of your vision and I felt that was much like the music I was trying to create. And so the name stuck. Our sound is very much a blend of post rock and soundtrack elements with a synth driven core. Sometimes I feel like its post rock for people who hate the vague self-indulgence of the genre. Other times I feel like it is electronic music for people who appreciate that not all electronic music is dance music.”
Of the band’s driving inspirations, he includes :“minimalist and abstract art, brutalist architecture, non-euclidian geometry, growing up through the cold war and REALLY bad 1970’s sci-fi”. He also loves the work of Coil, Jarre and 65daysofstatic and the band Tool, saying that “their use of symbolism, mixed metre time signatures and mathematical precision is breath taking! To me they are a metal heads coil.” . The last being in answer to my metal band question...
Rhys also feels that:
“It is hard to not infuse a little socio-political commentary as we live in a very unsettling time. We have a left and right wing that seem so indistinct from each other the second one gets into power that it borders on being Orwellian which fascinates and irritates at the same time. The alienation I feel in modern England is a strong influence. Underneath that I would say the constant stripping of any character from our cities, the gentrification, the tower blocks no one can afford to live in. I feel like a man seeing the music and culture I grew up with being sold brick by brick by people too old and too ignorant to see what they are giving away.”
With regard to what you can expect from the Salford live festival set, he tells me:
“You can expect a tight, energetic performance from myself and Ashleigh. Strong melodies and emotionally complex sounds, theres and almost joyful sombreness to our work along with thematic nods to Huxley, Ballard, and Orwell. Foundations is going to be our last show for the foreseeable future while we concentrate on writing the follow up to “form.follows.function”. The album, entitled “distantcollapseofawesterngiant” is slowly taking shape, we are roughly halfway through writing the demos for the album which we plan to then take into a studio and record sometime mid next year.”
ded.pixel band page: https://en-gb.facebook.com/thisisdedpxl/
The final act I spoke to in this whistle stop tour of artists performing this month in Salford is Freddy from Needle Factory. A very curious and multi-faceted project which appears to take in everything from abrasive noise experiments to ambient, industrial, super catchy electro-pop and video art.
NEEDLE FACTORY – “MAJIKAL”
Freddy sent some very concise answers back to my questions, so I thought it would be fun to include my full questionnaire for you to see in it’s entirety in this section, and I will present it as a short Q & A :
What inspired the name of the project?
“I think somewhere in my mind was a mix of Manchester’s industrial landscape and the famous Factory Records. ‘Needle’ because they are at once both delicate and dangerous objects.”
What motivates you to create music and who are your influences?
“Motivations and influences change a lot but Throbbing Gristle and the early Krautrock bands were and still are massively significant for me. Recently been listening to Eno again.”
To what degree would you say that your political views manifest in your work?
“If any politics exist in my work they are the politics of sexuality or mental health.”
Would you say that your geographical location influences your music in any way ? Which other places inspire you?
“Definitely. l work from a former Cotton Mill in Salford (Islington Mill). The spectral landscape of the North has always been part of my life. The music l make is often called ‘industrial’ but that’s just a consequence of my experiences. My first jobs were in factories which have now either been gentrified or closed down.”
What activity could people most likely use your music for ?
“It’s music to listen to in the dark.”
What can we expect from your upcoming live set at the Foundations Festival in Salford ? Do you have any fond memories of Salford and the surrounding areas?
“My live set up consists of two (twin) sewing machines that are amped up through a series of effect pedals and fed back through synth circuits. The sounds l make are trying evoke the defunct sounds of cotton mills but with added narrative and atmosphere .
l have fond memories of Salford and the Kings Arms. I studied for my Visual Arts degree in Salford so it’s always been a part of my consciousness. Working here now, seeing the city in the mornings, the skyline of apartments of a city in perpetual change… It’s all very J G Ballard.”
What question would you most like to be asked in relation to your work ? What is the answer?
“l suppose this would be ‘why machines and why so discordant?’ The answer is: the piano is a machine and our lives are discordant”
What next for the project – future shows, releases, ventures etc?
“I’m planning shows in London and a few arts festivals. There will be a vinyl release of the new album ‘My Demon Sister’ once l have the funds for that which I’m trying to generate by selling limited edition artifacts/merch”
Random extra question 1 : Who is your favourite metal band?
“Black Sabbath, the first AND last metal band.”
Random extra question 2 : What food might be most representative of your sound?
“Jalapenos... You taste them and hate them, then you think about them, then you need them.”
Freddy has also recently made a Needle Factory short experimental film called “My Demon Sister” which you can see below:
NEEDLE FACTORY – “MY DEMON SISTER” SHORT FILM
Needle Factory‘s official sites are here : www.needlefactory.info
So there you have a brief tour of just a tiny cross section of interesting upcoming artists currently working and performing in the Salford and Manchester area or visiting the area to perform. I will give the final words of the piece to Mark and Adrian from AnalogueTrash Records to describe their own ethos as a label and also their philosophy for curating the festival:
“Like many of the best ideas, AnalogueTrash the record label started as late night musing about the amount of great bands we knew that weren’t getting nearly the attention the deserved. A few brief conversations later and we’d signed some artists and agreed to release some music. It was a bit of a rollercoaster from there on in, terrifying and brilliant in equal measure. We work with electronic artists from right across that musical spectrum, but more specifically, artists that don’t neatly fit anywhere in terms of musical ‘scene’ and have something unique about them. The label is more one big family than a traditional business, and we believe that nurturing a culture of collaboration, mutual support and opportunity is the best way to achieve success for everyone involved. The traditional music industry doesn’t really work for the little guy, and we wanted to do something different. FOUNDATIONS is very much an extension of those ideals, but the family’s been extended to include Valentine Records – another great local label and team that I feel really gets what we’re about and shares the same ethos and ideals. With the current music industry very much focussed on the ‘next big thing’ and the culture of the celebrity, it’s all too easy to overlook what’s happening on a grass roots level and we want to celebrate and showcase that, as well as bringing together our diverse rosters of artists and our extended family together to create something special.”
Foundations Festival runs at the Kings Arms in Salford On 25th and 26th November from 5pm onwards on each day, full information can be found at the official site: