Home Page
cover of Graham Dunning
Graham Dunning

Graham Dunning


Graham Dunning is a London based sound artist who often employs various playback media in his work. He is best known for the Mechanical Techno project, which involves stacking modified vinyl records to create a uniquely wonky form of dance music. We discuss his development as an artist, involvement in the DIY music scene and collaboration with instrument builder Sam Underwood. Photo by Sophia Stefelle.

PodcastMechanical TechnoMammoth Beat OrganExperimental MusicDIYSound ArtImprovisationSam UnderwoodVinylTurntableinterview


Hello and welcome to the latest episode of the audio.com podcast series, where we speak to various artists, musicians and sound practitioners about their work. I’m Ilia Rogatchevski and my guest today is the London based sound artist Graham Dunning. Dunning has been active in music since the late 2000s, initially playing in various bands such as the noise rock duo Blood Moon before developing his experimental sound art practice. Graham has worked with live coding, field recordings and found objects, but a lot of his output can be characterised by its use and misuse of various playback media such as tape, dubplates, turntables and home-made electronics. He is perhaps best known for the Mechanical Techno project which involves stacking modified vinyl records on top of each other to create a visually alluring and a uniquely wonky form of dance music. Dunning frequently collaborates with other musicians who also work across various open ended genres: people like saxophonist Colin Webster, free improviser Cath Roberts, writer and musician Bobby Barry, and many others. The Mammoth Beat Organ, his project with instrument builder Sam Underwood, is, as the name suggests, a giant modular machine inspired by the mechanisms that powered the cotton mills of England’s industrialised north. Graham is also the founder of Fractal Meat Cuts, a tape label and long-running NTS radio show. He is currently undertaking a PhD at London Southbank University focusing on the extended turntable as a mechanical musical instrument within the free improvised music context. Our conversation took place at Dunning’s home in east London back in October 2023. We began by discussing Graham’s earliest musical experiences and sonic memories. GD: Our primary school had a huge assembly hall with a hard parquet wood floor and I remember one day, it must have been in a PE lesson – in my memory there must have been like a hundred people there but I think it must have actually just been our class which would have been 20-25 people – and we all had a tennis ball and you had to just bounce it once on the floor. I remember the sound of everybody bouncing this one tennis ball. It just made me laugh or smile or something, it just sounded so unusual. It’s quite a fuzzy memory - maybe we're all like repeatedly bouncing them as well. I guess it would have been quite a reverberant space. I was sort of in the front right of the room so everyone was like dispersed around the whole hall kind of behind me. So I couldn't actually see most people but then hearing all these dozens of tennis balls all bouncing slightly out of sync with each other, I remember being a really sort of ecstatic. IR: Sounds a bit like a Pan Sonic track or something like that. I've read a little bit about you, and we've known each other for quite a few years, and what I have come to understand is that you didn't really study music or art so I'm wondering how did you arrive to become an artist and an artist who works primarily with sound? GD: It's slightly false to say that I never studied music at all. I was always interested in music. I suppose the other early sonic memory that came to mind was I used to have a brown Fisher-Price cassette recorder designed for kids. It had huge big chunky buttons on it and I remember sitting next to my radiator in my room, banging on the radiator and singing this song that I'd made up over the top and recording it to tape. I think I was about four years old at the time - literally like bedroom music production from the age of four. And that's kind of carried on really. I was in bands and stuff when I was a teenager playing music and I was… well, before that I did Yamaha organ lessons which was something that my parents insisted on me and my sister doing when we pestered them to get a Casio keyboard for Christmas one year. and I hated it. I couldn't read music like I could work out one note at a time but I couldn't really sight read so I had to struggle to learn the whole song all the way through one note at a time I mean I could do it but I didn't really enjoy it and partly that was because I found the music a bit boring I was starting to listen to Nirvana and stuff like that so I was interested in music but not in formal music education I suppose in the music lessons I was allowed to go into the back room and use the music computer that they had which I can't remember what the program they had on it was but you had to input notes onto a scale and then it would via MIDI play them back through this electric piano MIDI keyboard thing it was a notation software rather than yeah but but I was kind of working out how to write beats and things and working out how to do snare rushes on it so we were kind of supported in that extracurricular musical way and then when I went to uni spent my first student loan on a PC with a sound card and got some crapped music software and learnt how to use like Fruity Loops and I used to use Vegas Video for mixing and sequencing external recordings and stuff like that so again kind of worked it out myself really and experimented a lot and I think having tinkered around on a few different things that's been really helpful in formulating a really DIY approach to production and music making really in that you know any sound source is as good as any other you don't have to use the proper tools in the way that you're supposed to use them you can use what you want to make something interesting and I think that's always been there in my approach to music making really I've been looking at your YouTube channel which goes back quite a few years I think the first video is from about 14 years ago oh yeah I might be mistaken but I think the first one it's called an extended turntable and I think you're basically putting a turntable through some guitar effects pedals but there are also other videos that you have on there that are a bit more kind of fluxes or fine art in inverted commas where one of them you have an exhibition where you're inviting the audience to smash unsold records from your old band with a hammer yeah another one where you're walking along a long railing in Manchester with a stick and I'm just interested to find out what your mindset was like at the time what these experiments were and yeah basically how you started your journey as an artist my sort of approach of creativity was as a DIY musician I guess and that came from being in bands but then also yeah this bedroom production thing and then making electronic music and in Manchester there's a quite a good I guess used to be called IDM which is an awful term intelligent dance music but this scene of I guess people who are doing kind of ambient music and breakcore and the sort of reflex walk records type of dance music there's a net label called hippocamp and there was a bunch of people who used to play computer music live or electronic music live and I kind of got in with that scene a little bit as well and then I was in various bands and it always felt to me like we were trying really hard with the DIY approach and never really getting that far this is living in Manchester and then we were kind of sending out loads of CDRs to loads of labels to try and get our self-recorded music published and never really got very far with that and then yeah I guess maybe about 2008-2009 my partner at the time started a second degree doing fine art at Salford and then so as a knock-on to that I was kind of exposed to a lot more stuff in the art world and also a lot of our mutual friends became skewed more towards artists than musicians I guess and I met a guy called Gary Fisher who's the first person who I knew who was like a sound artist really and I'd never really considered that as a thing before that time yeah I guess in Manchester as well like the scene is quite small so there's quite a lot of overlap between experimental music and noise music and sound art and things and so I'd seen like Lee Patterson perform live a few times and Ben William who also did quite a lot sound based performance and so like I was just kind of exposed to sound art as an idea really and seeing practitioners doing it and what was possible yeah it just sort of occurred to me that it gives you many more options then you're not necessarily either sending stuff off to Warp Records to try and get something released with them or trying to get signed to a big label with your electro clash band or whatever I was trying to do at the same time you didn't have to rely on other people in the same way you had more options of different outputs and things like that yeah it's interesting because I suppose that was when YouTube was just sort of taking off really it's so ubiquitous now but it felt like quite an exciting thing to do to like upload a video of your process and the kind of music that you're making and stuff and I guess I was like hungry for opportunities to make work for and playfulness and kind of I guess taking the DIY approach to being an artist as well my space was flourishing at that time and you could make connections with lots of people and even people who would have been out of your reach otherwise I remember I had this idea at one point where I was going to do a CD album of 99 songs which are all going to be 44 seconds long by lots of different artists and it never came to fruition but I was inviting lots of different people and like Boris the doom metal band from Japan replied and I think sent me a track and like that was just through my space it felt like you could just make these connections and do things yourself in that kind of way I mean partly because of my part of being at university I guess it is also thinking about like documentation and thinking about having sketchbooks and I guess I was kind of following along in her footsteps really as to how to approach being an artist at the time not knowing myself so part of that using YouTube and SoundCloud really at the time was just kind of documenting things and I guess just sort of trying things out it really felt like you can do anything that you want if you call yourself an artist I knew I wanted to do sound art but I didn't really know what that was going to look like and so I just wanted to experiment with materials and techniques and then see what I was interested in and what I wanted to carry on working with I mean I remember around the same time reading about Burroughs cut-up technique and Brian Gysin's iterative poetry and then so having a go at kind of writing some of that poetry and then recording it into a reel-to-reel tape and allowing that to feedback on itself or kind of ended up being this really chaotic kind of noisy piece where you couldn't really hear any of the words anyway but I was quite pleased with an unexpected result from just trying out these techniques which I'd read about basically the piece with the long railing called Long Railing it's in Francis Alice's video in the Whitworth Gallery I think in Manchester it was film footage of him kind of walking around London with a drumstick in his hand and sometimes using it on railings and sometimes on other things and just near the block of flats where we lived there's this particular route where I used to take the dog out for a walk and notice this really long railing that kind of wove in and out weirdly you know along the side of a dual carriageway and through some scrub sort of woodland and things and thought that that was sort of suggestive of a score or something and I imagined how some of the railings were different ages and how they would sound different and how some of it is closer and further away from the road so how the background sound would be different so yeah just decided I'm gonna make a piece out of that even though it's a bit similar to Francis Alice's piece anyway I felt like it's coming at it from a bit of a different angle and would come out with different results anyway so made a video of me kind of walking the length of this railing with a handheld sound recorder in my hand and quite soon after that then I did the first performance which I considered to be a sound art performance rather than a live electronic music performance and that was a duo with Gary Fisher there was also an exhibition which we had some work in in my piece and the work was the video with the long railing so I decided to try and incorporate that into the performance that I was doing so I found a place that would cut any sound onto a dub plate and then I could use that in the performance so I have the sound from the long railing video cut to vinyl and then played that in the performance with a bunch of other stuff with Gary and I still use that in live sets actually now it's a really nice thing to have from right at the very start of when I was calling myself an artist really in doing those experiments and then yeah so I think part of it was just working with what I had around me so I had a couple of really crappy turntables around that time I was thinking what's my practice going to be as a sound artist and I was exploring the materials and technology that I had around and that happened to include turntables and then decided to upload that to YouTube as well. So you started working with vinyl almost from a sampling direction how did that move into the more textural stuff that you do now? Like I had a bit of experience and practice at DJing and playing out at club nights and stuff so mixing and I remember picking up a couple of records which were really beautiful objects one blue and one green vinyl nursery rhyme records and again my partner at the time we were in a noise band Blood Moon and one of our tracks was kind of playing these nursery rhyme records backwards and slowly and through lots of reverb and stuff it seems very basic approach now when I think back but I was really excited about that at the time and I think part of it with records is that excitement of finding weird things on vinyl like nursery rhymes or you know test records or occasionally so something that I use quite often is you'll sometimes get like a white label where there's a few songs on one side and then on the other side it's just a sign tone I don't know if it's even a test tone it's just rather than not putting anything at all perhaps the machine preferred to have something to stamp or it gave a more realistic test pressing or something so those kind of unusual records are quite fun to play with I guess yeah my early turntable performances were about texture and noise and things the thing with sampling and I think from what I remember there are a couple of videos I put on YouTube one was I made a turntable with a different motor on it so it had really extreme pitch control so you could go all the way up to it was about 200 rpm and then down to maybe about 10 rpm or something like that so really slow and low sounds and you could get kind of really wild kind of fast high pitch noises from it as well and it would go forwards and backwards so one of them was a an attempt at demoing that and then the other was these modified records that I'd started to make so that was inspired by again Dean's research into sound art at the time Milan Nizek was the Fluxus artist from what was when he was working around that time still Czechoslovakia who did a lot of stuff with smashing up and burning destroying records and then created this album called Broken Music I think which came out in 1978 but I think was recorded a decade or so before that it was reissued a few years ago but couldn't get hold of a copy but it was on YouTube so you could listen to the whole thing and I'd seen pictures of some of the records but it just it didn't seem to quite match up to what I was listening to when I was hearing that album because it sounded very rhythmical and there were bits where it was silence and then sound and silence and sound and to me it sounded like a bit of the record that plays and a bit of the record that doesn't play thinking back to it now he definitely cut up records where they were like half of one record and half of another so I imagine it's probably a combination of the particular record players that he was using and if he had like a very quiet classical music record and a loud rock music record it would sound like silence and sound I think or it was hitting a silent part of the record and a noisy part but I'd had it in my head so there must be a way of making one record which has sound and silence in a rhythmical way on the same record so the first kind of few ways of doing that were I kind of thought well maybe you can just fill in the grooves with something so that it's flat on that bit so I tried various different types of glues and paints and things like that and it all sounded like much noisier than what was in the grooves because the texture must have been just much too rough and then I was trying out like parcel tape and masking tape and different kinds of things that could stick to the surface and happened to have some overhead projector acetate transparencies and used one of those and it then worked perfectly so it was like silent for the quarter of the record that had acetate on it and then it played a clip of sound and then it was silent again so that's one of the other youtube videos is trying to demonstrate those and at the time I was like now I've got these modified records I could make a bunch of them and then potentially mix with them because they have rhythms I just need to be able to beat match across two and then I can make new kind of experimental rhythmical music with it but then I couldn't get them to stay in sync at all for long enough and like kind of realized now I think it's just because of how rubbish and cheap my belt drive turntables and that it might have been direct drive actually but they were definitely like the cheapest dj turntables that you could buy and had no torque whatsoever and I could never get them to stay in sync for more than a couple of cycles I've done it more recently now I've finally owned two 1210s for the first time in my life in the last couple of years so I've been able to do that and it does work to like mix them in and make kind of this weird rhythmical music but yeah it's funny that's something that I still use today in the mechanical techno project and yeah I find it a really interesting way of like sampling from records in a very physical way but in a kind of unpredictable way as well so so you're probably best known for your project mechanical techno do you want to briefly what that is it's a way of making rhythmical electronic music which is quite wonky and organic sounding and the way that I do it is by building a tower of vinyl records on a single turntable which kind of acts as a rotating sequencer it looks a bit like a wedding cake or someone described it as being like a musical kebab donna kebab but basically there are several layers several records stacked above each other by about 50 mil separating each one and each one can make sound in a different way but because they're all on one central axis turning at the same time they all turn at exactly the same you know angular speed so they stay in sync basically as long as things don't slide around too much they'll always be perfectly in sync with each other so there are a few different ways that those records can make sound so one of the ones that I've described already is the records with sticky back plastic nowadays rather than acetate but different parts of the record blanked out so that you just get a snippet of sound each cycle and then there are also some more physical things like I have records which have pegs sticking up from the records and then there's various things that you can do when the pegs rotate so it might be that it flicks against a contact mic each time it flicks the contact mic when it turns around that sends an electrical signal to a electronic drum synth and so when it flicks the contact mic you get a drum sound and then I can put different pegs in the record program different rhythmical patterns and effectively use it like a drum machine to play beats and things like that so I've got things that can do samples things that can do beats and then I also have an optical reflection sensor which was built for me by an artist called Tom Richards and that can send a gate signal so it's just an on-off electrical signal according to different stickers that are put on the records so again I can effectively program different rhythmical patterns I can send that signal to a sequencer that's going to play a synth so each time it sees a sticker go past it plays a note on a keyboard so I can play keyboards I can play drum sounds and I can play samples and then there are various other things that will all fit in with that system it's basically a modular system because I can build the tower in a different order in a different sequence or with different components and include different things so I have a synth which has light sensors on it so I can put different like a bike light that's rotating on top of the turntable each time it goes past the light sensor it makes a whew kind of sound and because it's on the turntable it locks in to groove with everything else and yeah like I can keep coming up with new ideas for different ways of making rhythmical patterns that I can then play with the rest of the stuff on the on the system. How much of that process of trial and error how much time do you spend on figuring out how exactly it's going to work? A lot of time I mean yeah it has the whole thing has been a process of trial and error really I've been asked in the past you know how did you come up with the idea for this project and I never really did come up with the idea for the project it's a series of evolutions really from one idea to the next so I mean even the idea of stacking the records up in a tower that came from some artists called Vinyl Terror and Horror who already did that with their abstract kind of noise music project I was kind of doing stuff with synths and with the drum triggers and things like that felt like I was confined by just using one record on one turntable and then I saw them play live and and just realized that this lends itself so perfectly to adding more rhythms to the turntable as it's already playing so the idea from the tower came from there. I guess because it's modular it means that whenever I come up with a new idea or ideas develop they can kind of slot in with what's already there so it is all about trial and error really and I guess the most basic part of where it started was I used to do workshops where people were invited to destroy records in different ways and play them on a turntable and one of the things that I did on that day was I had a Yamaha Analog Synth CS5 which has a trigger input which I'd never plugged anything into really before and I thought I'd just see what happened if I put the audio from this smashed up record into there and see kind of what came out so the audio because it had all these different textures and things on the record it was quite noisy with lots of kind of spikes in the audio but it was also rhythmical because it's on that kind of cycle and it's playing in the same groove over and over again and so when I put this like rhythmical spiky audio sound into the synth trigger it was triggering like the envelopes cut off and so the synth sound which was just sort of droning in the background from the synthesizer then suddenly had this like rhythmical character coming from the filter changing up and down it sounded like an acid bass line basically and it blew me away that just from this random crackling noise I could make this like really groovy sort of electronic sound and just thought well it just needs a bass drum on it now and then I've basically made some acid techno and then had to figure out a way to make a 4-4 beat come out of this at the same time. The first one that I did was just a record with four drawing pins glued onto it and that was just flicking this trigger each time it comes around and again those types of records then I've like evolved into different more usable ways of making them so I went through a phase of making them out of records but with nuts and bolts screwed into them so that was really good because I could make different patterns and they're quite rugged. I used to do it with two records stuck together to make it a bit stronger and thicker and then I realized that well it means that I have to make a new record every time I want a new rhythm so I thought I wonder if there's a way that I can make the same thing, a record with pegs sticking out of it, but one that I can program on the fly kind of thing so I at one point learned how to do laser cutting and then with that you can take material usually MDF or birch plywood and you can cut it very precisely according to a vector made in a computer program so I yeah on the computer draw a 12 inch circle put a load of holes around the edge of it and then printed it with the laser cutter and with four millimeter holes then I could get some like electrical banana plugs they just fit in as pegs that you can put in and take out and it means that I can program any rhythm that I want to with one of these discs. Again I couldn't possibly have come up with that idea if I hadn't already had the other iterations of doing it with nuts and bolts and prior to that doing it by gluing drawing pins to a record and I think yeah that's the way that I generally work is that I need to be testing things out and seeing what works and what doesn't and often the things that don't work if it fails in a spectacular way that often produces more interesting results that I can then fold in again so I guess it does take a long time but that's also really fun and I kind of like my favorite time that I spend being creative is when I'm kind of pottering about at the studio with no agenda and just like uh trying things out and seeing what happens. Just coming back to YouTube quickly when you mentioned that it's a bit like a sketchbook that's something that I was actually going to mention and I feel like Instagram serves that purpose for you now and one of the things that I enjoy seeing a new post from you with a reel with some sort of strange optical disc that you're testing out and or something with a bit of copper on there or whatever so I feel like for you it's very important to document the process as much as it is to perform the final product so to speak. I mean it's partly just the social media dopamine hit of people liking your stuff isn't it but yeah I think so and it's funny like 2015 I completely out of the blue accidentally had a viral video with called mechanical techno demonstration almost six million views I think yeah yeah it's not quite nudged over there yet which is annoying but um yeah completely unexpected like basically the I'd been on a residency which is the I think the one time that I've successfully had Arts Council funding for this one month residency at a makerspace in London which is no longer there called Machines Room and I'd got to the last day of the residency and realized that there's some money left over from the budget so I was like well I'll use that to pay someone to do some nice quality video and try and you know get something tangible to share to show what I've done on the project basically yeah and we made this video that was kind of a rip-off of Look Around You the BBC sort of spoof kids science program and we wanted to do it in a similar sort of way and like what I thought was quite fun about it was like I'm fully aware of how ridiculous this project is really and and it's the longest way around to making electronic music which all of it you could do very easily in a computer but I think like by making a video that amplifies that but also I mean it was like literally a practical demonstration of this is how it works and I've managed to get this thing to work anyway yeah and it completely blew up it did take a few years before it got to a million but it definitely had this huge spike like basically it was picked up by Create Digital Music which reports on electronic music like technology basically an independent blog and from there then it got picked up by like loads of other places Vice in America you know shared something similar and it was interesting to see how that happens I've never experienced that before from that like I was really lucky then to get loads of bookings for gigs and stuff and I think just generally having my name out there like that really helped to have something that was quite coherent and like made sense of what could be quite a complicated project otherwise Michael Forrest who did the video with me did a really amazing job of editing it and making it work really well with the pacing and stuff like that as well I guess the other thing is like I never set out to be a YouTuber and I'm less worried about it now but had a bit of a wobble a couple of years ago thinking like is that a path that I want to go down do I want to start thinking about making content rather than writing music or making actual projects then I realized I needed to take a step back from it really because I don't want to spend all my time presenting to camera and you know thinking about what lighting I'm going to use and things like that like all my videos apart from that one are really like quite rough and ready and I quite like that because that fits my approach to making as well so so so so so so so that path towards being a content creator threatens to eclipse all the other things that you do and maybe we can move on to those so you mentioned the viral video and it's done in a very sort of look around you kind of style and another project that you have is the Mammoth Beat Organ with Sam Underwood and you've also made a very sort of instructional video it's called How They Make It the Mammoth Beat Organ do you want to talk about what the Mammoth Beat Organ is? Me and Sam decided a few years ago that we would like to work together we've known each other for maybe 15 years or more we met through a project called Sonic Weekend which was run by Anne Shenton from Add N2X and Mark from the label White Label Music and so they would invite a bunch of mostly electronic musicians to get together in like either a youth hostel or a community hall in the Lake District or something and just all stay there for a weekend with a producer who's paid and get together in little groups and record different tracks and stuff and so we yeah we kind of got on and we knew that we wanted to work together on something Sam's an instrument maker and sound artist he's done a lot of installations and designing instruments partly for himself to play and partly for commissions for other people and also a noise musician electronic musician and stuff as well with his own kind of output and that and so we decided we want to work together and we wanted to make something that would be something we could play gigs with potentially something that we could have as an installation somewhere like something that was visually interesting and potentially quite impressive and kind of in scale and scope and also we wanted to make something that would be an ongoing project so it'd be modular so that we could design something and then keep working on it together over time and we applied for some funding to make a mechanical musical instrument and we got the agreement of Supersonic Festival in Birmingham to host our first performance and in fact that's the second time that I've ever been successful with Arts Council funding although Sam did the application for that and yeah so we were funded to make this instrument and the original idea was that it was going to be mechanical instrument and sort of based on the cotton mills in Lancashire which would have a huge steam engine steam turbine which would then via a massive flywheel run big beams in the ceiling and then there would be dozens or hundreds of looms and each loom would have a hanging belt off this rotating beam in the ceiling and they'd all run off this one machine basically so yeah we're both I guess fascinated with machines and mechanisms and stuff and it seemed like that could work really well with a system that you're going to expand because all you need to do if you've already got one unit which is running off this beam is get another belt and you can make another unit that does something else that runs off the same beam basically yeah so the Mammoth Beat Organ is quite a large mechanical musical instrument which is automatic but playable and programmable and all of its sonic output is acoustic as well so it does run on one central driveshaft one beam and that's actually a roller from an industrial conveyor belt we originally tried to build it out of some rollers out of the back of a hearse but that didn't work so we ended up finding this thing and it runs on a treadmill motor from a treadmill that we sort of dismantled which means that you can change the speed of it quite easily and it also means it's got quite high power quite good torque and then so there's a beam in the center and there are several units and each unit has a bike wheel on it and you push the unit up against the beam so that the bike wheel makes contact with the rotating beam and then the bike wheel turns the mechanisms that are inside that unit there are a few different units one of them it's like a programmable drum machine with four pairs of beaters on it and they can each have different interchangeable cams with different rhythm patterns on each one there's one that has four step sequences that are made by sliding some pegs in and out of a rotating disc each one of those opens a tap basically into which we blow air and then you can put different organ pipes or swanly whistles or accordion reeds on the top of those blowers and that will play whatever pipe is on top of it in a sequence determined by what the sequences are doing there's a big hurdy-gurdy thing there's a turntable which you can put different things onto we recently also built a set of bellows so for for a while we did a few gigs where sam had to generate all the air by using some blacksmith's bellows and peddling with his feet to get the organ pipes to sound but now we've got a set of bellows which run off the central beam as well yeah and we've been working on that since i think the first gig was 2018 so yeah it's basically a big fairground organ with all its insides on the outside so you can play around with it while it's working so so so so what i find really interesting about your work is that transparency of process the way that you're building the records up layer by layer the way that you're literally adding a drum machine module to the belt drive of the mammoth beat organ i feel like that's very unique to you i'm not sure that there are many other artists that are so focused on showing their process the process of making music as they're making it it's funny i don't know if that's ever been like that much of a conscious decision but that's just what i've ended up doing but i suppose part of the enjoyment i get out of art and music but then i think like the world around me as well is just understanding how things work and yeah whether it's you know might see something like a type of door handle that i've not seen before and try and understand how the mechanism works or something like that or like i don't know i think i'm curious about those kind of technical things and like systems and how things join together and i guess that's the kind of thing that i find interesting so that's what i want to bring out into the work it's almost like an engineering mindset i think so yeah and i haven't ever studied any kind of engineering or but my granddad was an engineer and i do remember as a kid i had loads of lego and he taught me how all the gears worked like gear ratios and how a belt drive you can reverse direction by putting a twist in the belt and things like that and how worm gears worked and i don't know whether it was him explaining to me which made me interested or if i was interested already i'm not really sure anyway like i do worry sometimes whether having everything so exposed and demystified you know like maybe people like being mystified and maybe it takes some of the magic away to have everything made so clear and transparent all the time but then i kind of think well there are lots of other people who do that if that's the enjoyment that you get from music is being mystified and seeing things that you don't understand then you can get that lots of other places already so i don't feel like i should be being more mystical or anything like that and also i think like i'm sure there are people in the audience don't really know what's going on but can see that it's fun and see that they're enjoying it anyway so like to me it all seems really obvious but that's because i've spent hours and hours in the studio working out how all these things work but i think part of it also is like it's a different type of performance and for me like i've never been particularly comfortable as a performer i've never wanted to be like a superstar dj with their hands in the air you know waiting for the drop and doing big gestures on the cutoff fader or whatever you know and i've although i was in kind of punk bands and stuff i used to have to force myself to look at a point on the back wall so that it didn't look like i was avoiding eye contact with the audience while i was playing and things and that's a good technique and you know like what i do when i'm live coding or when i'm doing the mammoth beat organ or mechanical techno is i'm too focused on what i'm doing you know there isn't a moment at which i can just stand back and put my hands in the air and receive the glowing praise of the audience because all the time i'm busy either thinking about what's next or trying to solve a problem or in the case of the mammoth beat organ trying not to get my fingers mangled by the large cogs that are turning around and things like that and i think that there are often moments in any of those performances actually where something does go slightly wrong and in live coding it only takes a spelling mistake and your code won't execute properly or it only takes in the mechanical techno setup a loose wire which can get tangled around one of the physical mechanisms and then the whole thing can grind to a halt and i think people can see that there's real jeopardy in the performance there's real risk of it all crumbling and going wrong and can see the expression on my face when i've done something wrong and i'm kind of grimacing or like uh swearing under my breath or something and i think despite it not being a very um outwardly focused performance that i'm you know focusing on my role as the operator of the machine people can see that i'm putting a lot of energy and effort and thought into doing that and i think that comes across as a an interesting performance to watch even if you don't really understand what's happening i think you

Featured in

Listen Next

Other Creators