Louder Than War’s Rosie Craig has been a fan of electronic trio LV’s work for some time now which made her setting up an interview with the guys who gave us the exceptional (and critically acclaimed) debut collaboration Routes a no-brainer. Read on to see what they had to say.
It would be ill-judged to overlook the mechanical workings of production trio LV if you have a craving for electronic music at the moment. For one thing, their influences come from all over. You can’t categorise an act with the hybridity of LV. Blending all of the best ingredients that have re-emerged in music culture in recent years but somehow sounding totally fresh and innovative, the London-based producers are undeniably good at what they do.
Their debut LP release on Keysound Recordings, Routes, was a collaboration with mercurial poet and lyricist Joshua Idehen (see above) and they’ve just released their highly anticipated second album, Sebenza, on the illustrious and very prominent Hyperdub imprint. Where their previous record was set to a London backdrop with nods to the Northern Line and bounced synthetic blips around an environment sonically resembling a skip full of scrap metal, Sebenza has taken things in a different direction. This is unsurprising considering they like to stay on the pulse and invent rather than regurgitate. The record is still very recognisable as an LV offering but involves a new aural palette. With vocal appearances from Okmalumkoolkat (Smiso Zwane) who previously featured on LV’s Boomslang EP (see below) as well as fellow South African MC’s Spoek Mathambo and Ruffest (duo) Sebenza moves in unique new territory and from a whole new angle.
In this exclusive interview Louder Than War speaks to Gerv, Will and Simon about the kit that gets them excited, psychoactive chilli vodka and how to make an album without ever meeting the vocalists.
Louder Than War: First off, for the production nerds out there, what’s your favourite piece of kit at the moment?
Will: I borrowed an MPC1000 off Charlie Dark recently for some live work. It’s brilliant. I’ve got a 2000xl but the 1000 has a few more features to play with and more importantly, an internal hard drive so I can save what I do. My 2000xl only takes external zip disks which I’ve given up on so this single change makes a huge difference. It’s also nice to get away from a computer screen and focus on a different way of working.
Simon: Probably still the Korg Delta I bought years ago, even though it’s never really worked properly. It has a joystick so you feel like you’re playing a video game where the only goal is to make crazy synth noises. Which is one of my favourite games to play.
Gerv: My favourite is probably Si’s Korg Delta synth. Either that or Will’s Microzwerg cos that thing is wild. Or my knackered Juno 106 – queen of the crackly subz.
Louder Than War: Is kit important or is it more about what you do with it?
Will:: It’s about both. If you’ve got no equipment you’re limited to singing to yourself and clapping. Equally you can have a huge studio at your disposal and still make an LMFAO tune. It’s about making the most of whatever you’ve got. Working with limitations can be liberating and inspiring. That’s one of the reasons I’m back on the MPC.
Simon: I’d say what you do with the equipment you have is ultimately more important. But the tools you have to create with can definitely have a big impact on the type of sound you can make. If you find the right bit of kit it can inspire what you to do. However, if you have no ideas then all the kit in the world won’t help you.
Gerv: We’ve accumulated quite a mongrel assortment of sound sources, some of them are in a sorry state but they still make sound so it’s all good. Getting a new toy can be quite inspiring sometimes but generally i think limitations are good, you get to know how to work what you have and sometimes boredom forces you to try different things with it or process it in different ways, and that’s sometimes when you get surprising results.
Louder Than War: ‘Routes’ was a critical album for 2010 and your EPs since then have seen your sound and direction already changing. Is that a fair point? If so what do you think has changed or developed in you and the way you hear and produce music?
Will: Well we haven’t released a whole heap of stuff in between the albums. Just a single version of “Primary Colours” and then the “Get a Grip” EP. I’d hope our music changes a bit with every release. I’m not interested in pursuing one single sound or producing variations on one template all the time. I don’t think there has been a conscious change in approach but new vocalists require new sounds and new responses.
Simon: We did also release a collaboration with Sebastian Rochford on Leaf recordings. That was a fun record to make.
Gerv: I’d say that’s fair. Hopefully we don’t make the same track over and over again. That’d be pretty dull. But then again it’s still us, so there’s obviously some common threads there too.
Louder Than War: Your sound is unique with lots of different elements to it. How do you describe it to people who ask what kind of music you make?
Gerv: Sometimes it’s quite fun trying to describe our music but it’s ultimately quite a self-defeating exercise so normally i resort to making grunts, booms, moans and woos and some swingy whispery rattly hissy clicky noises and they get the idea. Or they change the subject.
Louder Than War: Where does your South African connection come from?
Gerv: I was born there and all my family are from there.
Louder Than War: You first collaborated with Okmalumkoolkat on your Boomslang EP. Is it true only Gerv of all three of you has met him?
Gerv: That was the case at the time of working on the album but since then Si and Will had a dirty weekend with him in Amsterdam.
Will:: We also set up a little studio in a hotel room and did some recording together.
Simon: It was great to finally meet Okmalum! It was kind of surreal to have done so much work with someone and not met him but I think we got to know each other pretty well through the process. Now if we can just get a gig with Ruffest then all three of us will have met all the vocalists face to face”Â¦
Louder Than War: One might think there are difficulties to be faced with a collaboration between producers and MC’s that haven’t even been in the same room together. You’ve proved it can work though. How does it work?
Will: It works because we all trust each other despite not having met. It’s nice to meet people but ultimately it’s not essential. I’ve always been excited by the vocals we get off the vocalists on the album so it’s not hard for me to work with them. Even in situations where we have been in the room with vocalists we tend to do the vast majority of the work when they have left. Mainly because it’s quite boring for them and because we don’t need back seat producers.
Simon: It’s a different way or doing things but it worked out fine for us. One of the main differences is that recording sessions for the MCs would be about laying down as many tracks as possible since we had time constraints. We had a lot of freedom to change up the tracks after the recording was done, which was something we enjoyed.
Gerv: Now I think about it, maybe we were quite lucky that things came together as they did.
Louder Than War: Having Gerv as the go-between must have been an important factor but were there problems you faced not having the MC’s with you in the studio and vice-verser?
Will: Not being able to control the recording quality was a frustration. But to be honest I like being able to work on performances without the pressure of the performer being there. It’s liberating and means you can try things or lose things that you might not if they were there.
Simon: I think that as much as the internet makes long distance collaborations easier these days, a face to face connection is always good. So Gerv being able to do that was great.
Gerv: Sometimes it was tricky getting in-progress stuff to Okmalumkoolkat because he didn’t have much access to internet at the time and he had to mission it into town to an internet cafe to download new stuff.
Louder Than War: How often were you together with Joshua Idehen when creating your fundamental “Routes” LP from 2010?
Gerv: Josh is here in LDN so it was easier to communicate with him… in some ways! We were together quite a lot through the whole album process but we managed to keep the actual recording sessions to a minimum. Josh is amazing, people should check out his band Benin City if they like what he did with us.
Louder Than War: That album was amazing and with ‘Sebenza’ you’ve truly smashed it again in my opinion – the South African element adding a really unique touch. Do you think that the world still has a lot to learn about South African music?
Will: I honestly don’t know. It’s possible that there are some under-represented parts of it. But I don’t think there is any more a “South African music” than there is a “British music” or an “American music”. It’s just a constantly changing and heterogenous set of musics. What will happen is that new things will be made and then exposed (like the Shangaan Electro stuff that started filtering into the UK through Honest John’s a few years back) but while that is music from South Africa it isn’t defined by that fact and doesn’t represent anything other than one thread in a large, ever-expanding tangle.
Simon: There’s such an incredible volume and diversity of music in South Africa that the world almost certainly has more to learn about it.
Gerv: Yes I’d say so, i keep finding things i like from South Africa. If people hear something they like i’d encourage them to keep clicking…
Louder Than War: If I asked you to name one other Hyperdub-released track that readers should listen to that isn’t by LV – what one would you hype?
Will: I wouldn’t like to pick a single track. What I like about Hyperdub is the range of sounds they release and the auteur characters they foster. The Laurel Halo, DVA, Cooly, Terror Danjah albums are just the tip of the iceberg.
Gerv: He’s become our mate but i’ve been a bit of a fanboy for ages, gotta say the new Scratcha DVA EP on Hyperdub is absolutely good, the track he did with our Cape Town homie Big Space is called ‘Long Street’ and it’s zhambeeeeeez, can’t wait to hear that one at the Hyperdub party at Fabric this weekend.
Simon: That’s like asking a parent which child is their favourite. Check out everything on Hyperdub!
Louder Than War: Finally, if ‘Sebenza’ was the soundtrack to a film, what would the film be about?
Will: It would be a film about the internet, downloaded as an mpeg and watched on a kindle.
Simon: It would be a thriller/comedy, maybe along the lines of Beverly Hills Cop but set in a Tron-like world. Or something”Â¦.
Gerv: The film would probably be about a line of artificial intelligence security code that consumes the firewall program it was written to support and then proceeds to go on some kind of gloriously self-defeating, anarchic, sexy, trolling spree across the digital wastelands of recently-forgotten social networks. Then it invents a new cyber-biological interface that allows it to adopt the body of a green mamba snake as a host organism. It replaces its eyes with uncut diamonds and it replaces its venom with psychoactive chilli vodka, cane rum and rubicon guava. It cynically seduces and breeds with a cheetah and a zebra and goat and a black-unicorn-man with wheels instead of hooves and then falls in love with its own reflection in an apple store window, before being turned into a lime-flavoured bubblegum tree by some kind of time-travelling sports-goth wizard, who then plays boring music from the actual future but it sounds alot like boring music from ages ago and everyone gets confused and bored, then the Ruffest guys arrive with their soundsystem-in-a-rubbish-bin and everyone has a party and lives forever in the warm neon shadow of a black sun. aWEH!
Louder Than War:That’s a movie I would watch! Just to compare, what would a ‘Routes’-soundtracked film be about?
Will: Probably a “Warriors” style piece about Josh trying to get down a particularly sinister vision of Mare Street.
Simon: A dystopian future London in which gangs of slam-poets roam the streets, throwing down at random.
Gerv: I just spent far too long thinking about this.
LV are playing at Fabric tonight – you should go if you’re anywhere near London. Details can be found on Fabric’s website here.