This page transcludes all the text from all of the interviews listed on the main interviews page for easier viewing and searching.
Music Has the Right to Children era
The Age of Aquarius
|| The Age of Aquarius
|| The Cosmic Crofter
"The Age of Aquarius" was the first published interview of Boards of Canada. It was conducted by The Cosmic Crofter and posted on his website EHX, home of the first official Boards of Canada page.
Boards of Canada - The Age of Aquarius
Edinburgh-based Boards of Canada are due to release their debut album "Music Has the Right to Children" for Warp, licensed from Skam in Manchester. The Crofter interviewed them about their past, present and future, and attempted to discover what now lies within their six-sided oyster ...
The duo originally began serious recording at the end of 80's, having spent their early youth playing around on "home hi-fi" and in conventional bands. Various other members have come and gone, but Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin have remained the core of the unit over the last 3 or 4 years. In December of 1997, two other members joined the Hexagon Sun bunker, resulting in the acquisition of some "useful technology". Just who these other members remains a secret, as they "are more interested in the psychological capabilities of sounds and images than their aesthetics. I can't talk about current or previous collaborators because Hexagon Sun doesn't do that".
Having always been interested in art in all its apparitions, the two have continually attempted to combine their beliefs, hopes and fears into an all-encompassing sensual experience, primarily in the fields of music, film, writing and more recently web design, "the official Turquoise Hexagon Sun website will up and running by Easter 1998 with a section on BoC as well as 'THS Scripture' buyable in dead tree format, Music70 BoCumentaries and 'Emephant Diagram', the number cruncher", I am assured that all will become clear.
In terms of other artistic formats, they are keen to point out that the visual and literary side is by no means a colorful backdrop ... "It's not secondary to the music, it's all the same thing. We use video on stage, but it's not for wallpaper, it's got things in it which could damage you". The two collaborate with other artists under the banner "Music70", a name which they have previously used for production copyright, and is now used as the collective term for themselves and like-minded friends, creating art for non-commercial and usually personal consumption.
To witness a BoC live performance confirms their agenda, "We're not interested in ambient filmmaking, we are interested in triggers, embedding and subliminals ... (during a live performance) we like people to pay attention to the messages on the screens". The duo are keen to get the extra-melody points across, but are also able to resign themselves to the fact that for the best part, most BoC followers are simply interested in the skin-deep appearance of the music, and thus the BoC existence has a definite duality. "We hope that the music stands up for itself. You could choose to listen to the melodies on the record and enjoy them purely as melodies, or you could read into the references a bit more and perhaps connect with that, or you could choose to come and see us live and see our thoughts abstracted out on video, and if it works the listener might go 'Yeah this is familiar but I don't know why'. We just see these as forms of communication which can be used to affect the listener in an attractive and maybe even addictive way".
The sharp and sometimes disturbing images can be thought provoking, although in some cases baffling. I challenge them on the point that, along with their sometimes obscure and almost pretentious song titles, they are out to deliberately perplex the perceiver. "There is a story behind every title we use. If a title seems made-up, it's either an equation, an acronym, or a hybrid. Some titles are personal stories, such as 'Everything You Do Is A Balloon', which was a realization made long ago in the forest".
So what could possibly be in a name? "Boards of Canada" is particularly good one, and I was once informed that it was chosen due to its particularly inert and almost meaningless nature. Digging deeper, their childhood exposure to the work of The National Filmboard of Canada reveals a more direct cull.
The influences that spark the creation of the song titles are just as varied as the influences which create the music they produce. Not confined to audio releases, they cite the many facets of the latter half of 20th Century culture, including film, TV and science journals. They claim that taking the positive aspects of a product does not always provide food for their thought, but rather the underlying meaning or cosmetic triviality, "... we are interested in everything that we can re-interpret. I don't want to give you list of names, but you know we could be just as easily captivated by a piece of T.V. theme music, or Eighties' pop, for instance. The enlightened parts in our music are relative to the banal or naive parts". When pushed for particularly prominent players ... "Hundertwasser, Svankmeyer, New Scientist, Robert Anton Wilson, Documentary films and articles, Jamie Nelson, The Archdrude... we are interested in everything!".
As previously stated, BoC's beginnings began, like every proper electronic experimentation combo should, mucking around with tape loops while still at school. Briefly tapping their cap to the "originators", they see thier humble beginnings as the first necessary steps to what they produce today. "... we used to chop up shortwave radio recordings on an ancient portable recorder, and make tunes out of them by punching-in and layering tracks in a crude way. I'm talking about 1981-1982. We still do that now except that we use better equipment. I think it's all been said before about Glass, Reich, Varese, Cage etc. being the originators of techno and ambient music. We prefer to think of anyone who has ever picked up an object and made a new noise with it as an originator".
BoC are the first to admit that the influences that fuel the creation of their tracks are by no means trivial, but prefer to cloak their personal beliefs in more universal and ubiquitous issues. "We read a lot, we pay close attention to what's going on, so you probably have to look at our work pretty closely to pick up on things, and we do try to compose strong emotional melodies ...", the emotion of which is something which I propose to be the serious side of their nature, "... yes we have a melancholy sound, and we do have strong opinions, but we only filter some of them into the music. I don't want to project a political side into the music because the music is in it's own area", states Mike.
The "melancholy" sound which has become a trademark and which may stick like mud over time, does not hamper BoC's enthusiasm for the perfect "song-structure". The roots of their musical career lie in the participation in "normal bands" using "live instruments", which, they claim, may have only increased their combined melodic ear. Marcus confirms the point, "I think you can trigger emotion much more easily with a melody than you can with a rhythm, although it can be done with a rhythm, listen to Jerry Goldsmith or the Incredible String Band ... I'm personally more interested in melody than sound, although the effectiveness of a Boards of Canada melody probably depends on it's context. And that'll be why we have a reputation for downgrading the sound. ". As with most serious electronic musicians of our time, and probably more believably BoC than others, they claim their current sound is underivative from current styles, "We don't usually listen to contemporary electronic music. Our collections might surprise you. Or alarm you maybe ...", such as? "You're looking for examples? Phil Harris, Devo, Claude Denjean, Walter/Wendy Carlos, Jesus Christ Superstar, DAF, Ween, TV themes, Tomita, MBV, Joni Mitchell ...".
Alarm us or not, the new BoC album to be released on Warp in April, only adds to BoC's mystique as renegades of "the intelligent twisted regions of electronic melody". Having been friends with the people at Warp for some time, they have developed a lasting raport that should hopefully see them good for years to come, "we all go round for tea scones regularly!". Now label buddies with their much loved Autechre et al, BoC see Warp as one of the few labels "bold enough to head away from the overtly 'techno' sound". They cite Skam as another more underground label which shares the same conviction, and funnily enough, these are the two labels which have hosted the BoC name so far. However, their association with Skam will not end with the signing to Warp, "Skam is a hive of new ideas, and there will be a lot of essential music coming from them this year, and we'll be in there, although you probably won't know it's us that you're listening to. The move to Warp was mainly out of respect for the label and it's artists, and friendship".
Boc's confidence can be attributed to the fact that they may now have reached Stage 1 of their long-term plan, and now use the Warp engine to thrust their more abstract and artistic ideas into the public domain. Their use of Super-8mm film and video images during their live performance will obviously be seen to increase and diversify from this point on. The artistic licence has finally been handed over. However, over their long career, the live shows have been few and far between, and one receives the vibe that the whole thing can be particularly tedious. One reason for this may be, from what I have so far gathered from BoC's character, that they are perfectionists in every sense, but still feel they have introduce another edge to the public rendition. Mike explains, "Every time we play live we do it a different way, technically. This is unintentional ... I like to play a familiar tune to the audience, but then make it do something totally new. We just haven't hit upon the best technical method for doing this yet, so for every gig we sit and go 'How are we gonna do it this time?'". Perhaps hitting on that "best technical method" is the reason we do not see BoC headlining many nights? "We do put a lot of work into every gig, and this slows things down. One gig takes a month of preparation, usually involving visuals and programming, and this can only be done when we're not writing. We'll be going out on tour at the end of the year".
Indeed, BoC have only ever played once in their home city, Edinburgh, which was last year when they and Think Tank supported Autechre. I was in attendance, and I put it to them that their sound and general presence was alien to the city as a whole. "We've only played in Edinburgh once so far, so I don't really know what the local Illuminati think of us. I think there is something simmering quietly now in the city, but we're based out in the country ... I'm not aware of an "Edinburgh sound", although there are quite a few threatening noises going on in there. Yeah we keep ourselves out of things a bit, I guess if we had more time we would be more involved. We make brief forays into Edinburgh clubland and then we retreat to cover. ".
So if they rarely venture out into the clubland of The Capital, what do BoC see as a great night out? "Somewhere in the hills, in a huge bonfire, with the beautiful Julian Cope ...".
|| Board Clever
|| Richard Hector-Jones
|| Jockey Slut
|| Vol. 2 No. 13 (April/May 1998)
by Richard Hector-Jones was an interview published in Jockey Slut
magazine Vol. 2 No. 13 (April/May 1998). It was published alongside the featured review of Music Has the Right to Children
. Given its early date, it may very well be the first Boards of Canada interview to be published in a print magazine.
Boards of Canada are breathing new life into the experimental end of electronic music. And you can whistle their tunes...
"Simplicity is very important to us," offers Michael Sandison one half of Scottish electronic pairing Boards Of Canada. "It's easier to affect people emotionally if you keep things simple. Obviously there's a lot of great music in the world that's complex but as far as we're concerned the important thing is that you can whistle our tunes."
Boards Of Canada are fixed on melody and emotion in music. It's a rare obsession in the world of British electronica but it gives their sound a uniqueness, a ghostly sense of yearning, and a depth of emotion that sets them far outside the pack. Music Has the Right to Children, their debut album, is the product of their fixation; a melancholy mix of rhythms and melodies revealing more shading and character with every listen.
"If it doesn't affect me emotionally it doesn't interest me", explains fellow Boarder Marcus Eoin. "I think a lot of it is trying to capture a nostalgic feeling buried somewhere in our minds. We are nostalgic people trying to get back moments from our pasts."
All of this might lead you to think that's it's an 'oh so serious' album which isn't true. It's simply refreshing to see such a human approach behind the employment of modern musical technology.
"Music for commercials, documentary soundtracks and children's TV themes," continues Michael. "The spaces in between the music you're supposed to listen to. That's where our interest lies. These melodies might only last a second at the end of a TV programme but they are quietly more important to the public psyche than most pop music."
The first record Boards Of Canada released was the self financed and limited hardly any Twoism EP. They sent the record to Autechre's Sean Booth who phoned back the very next day suggesting they mail a copy to Andy Maddock's Manchester based SKAM label. (Autechre release records on SKAM with various other bods under the Gescom guise). The result was Hi Scores, a 12" that brought the pair to a wider audience and paved the way for a follow up 7" Aquarius and now a full length album jointly put out by Warp and SKAM.
It would seem that, with the help of Boards of Canada, Britain's homegrown electronica music scene might finally step out from the shadow of the machine to explore the more emotional and human avenues.
Strange to think something so simple could be so exciting.
Jockey Slut 10th anniversary reprint
Detail of original 1998 article
A Bunker Full of Memories
A Bunker Full of Memories
|| In a Bunker Full of Memories
|| René Passet
is a 1999 interview by René Passet. It originally appeared in Forcefield
, an online music magazine.
A Bunker Full of Memories
'Strong emotional melodies'. That pretty much sums up the essence of what Boards of Canada is about. After various hard-to-get releases on cassettes, Skam Records (and it's enigmatic offshoot Mask) the Scottish duo has just released their debut album Music Has The Right To Children on Warp Records. The first of five on the Sheffield label!
Five albums. That might explain why Mike Sanderson and Marcus Eoin are extremely busy in their Hexagon Studio and reject most interview requests. So many tracks to finish, so little time. But Forcefield managed to enter the bunker which hosts the Hexagon Studio. Via E-mail. Here is what they said.
The name Boards of Canada is inspired by The National Filmboard of Canada
. Could you explain what was so special about the nature-documentaries and their soundtracks?
"Yes the NFB films were one of our influences when we were younger. I think most of their films have been socio-political, but there are animations and suchlike. The thing about the older films is that the quality of picture and soundtrack wasn't perfect, it was grainy and wobbly. We used to record compositions on cheap tapes which gave a similar rough quality, and we've always returned to that sound because it feels personal and nostalgic."
Where you living in Canada when you saw the documentaries?
"We saw a lot of those films here in the UK during the 1970's, but we both lived in Alberta briefly in the late 70's."
Apart from these soundtracks, you also namedrop Joni Mitchell
and the Incredible String Band
when it comes to instrumentation. What was so special about their musical aproach?
"Much of the music we like is not electronic, although we've probably been influenced by Devo
. We love acoustic music on old recordings because they tend to have natural qualities such as tape compression and distortion. But I think Joni Mitchell's voice is so beautiful it almost sounds synthesised, so maybe there's the connection. The Incredible String Band still sound unusual today, because they changed the arrangement for every song, and their own influences were far and wide apart, and they always wrote emotional melodies which were a bit unusual, you know, with melodies which took unexpected twists. A unique band."
What else do you consider important musical influences, past and present?
Could you tell me more about your so-called Psychedelic aproach, the alterations from start to finish in a track?
"We sometimes make a tune metamorphose as it plays. An example is "Nlogax
" from the "Hi Scores
" EP on Skam, which begins like an old electro or disco track but halfway through it suddenly becomes something nightmarish, like your brain is starting to malfunction in the middle of the tune. Psychedelics make music sound entirely different. Tiny details become massive, a five-minute track can feel like it's five hours long on psychedelics. You know when you're on a ride at a fairground, the pitch of the music rises and falls because of the Doppler-Effect
? That's another thing we love to do in our tracks, and it's a fairly psychedelic-sounding effect too."
How *DO* you write music? What's the starting point? A feeling, a sound or an idea? And who of you two makes the first sketches?
"It's a team effort. Usually the starting point is a melody. We write hundreds of little melodies, and the most attractive ones last in our minds. We go back to them and pick the ones that really stand out, then we start piecing together rhythms. Both of us write the tunes and rhythms. On the album "Music Has The Right To Children
" 50% was by Marcus, 50% by me (Mike, rp). Not one of the tracks was totally written by one person."
The album is joint release by Skam & Warp. Was this done to improve promotion & distribution?
"We began work on the album at the beginning of 1997 and it was meant to be for Skam, but in the summer Warp came to us and said "we'd like this album", so the labels decided to co-release it."
Skam gained respect amongst IDM-minded musiclovers in very little time. A new Skam record is considered something special nowadays. But they're always hard to find.
"Skam is truly underground, truly independent. I'm sure that if we asked Skam to release only one copy of a new release, they would do it."
But why make music that (almost) no one can get their hands on, like the two MASK ep's, which were released in issues of 100 and 200 copies?
"We've been making music since we were at school in the early 80's, and nobody will ever hear most of it, so it doesn't bother us to do a really limited release. Our friends and families hear all the music we write, and that's all that matters really. You wouldn't believe how much music we have on tape."
But why release records at all, if all that matters is that your friends and families hear all the music? You must feel some sort of proud when records are bought by musicfans and get good press reviews. Or don't you?
"Of course, it's lovely to hear that people we've never met are really enjoying our music, because it feels as though we must have something in common, I mean psychologically, with those listeners. So it is satisfying, and fascinating."
Do you feel any pressure, now that you have signed a contract with Warp?
"Yes, that's part of what you accept when you sign to a bigger label."
Warp has announced a second BoC-album
, to be released at the end of this year. In what ways will it differ from the first album?
"I won't give away our plans for the next one, but it will be different. It's going to be stranger, more concentrated, more melodic."
Melody is very important in most of your work. While many other electronic musicians focus more on rhythm. Is this perhaps one of the secrects of your succes?
"We're much more interested in melody than rhythm, and we appreciate the emotional power of a melody. Maybe that's too uncool for a lot of electronic artists."
Some people might argue that Boards of Canada make 'depressing' music.What would you like to comment on that? Are you pessimistic or optimistic towards life?
"We're very optimistic. We might sound melancholy, but that's just the way we write music."
What kind of special equipment
do you use? I understand some of your machines are quite big. And you have something what you call 'the SecretWeapon'.
"If I told you what the secret weapon is, it wouldn't be a secret anymore. We have more than one really. We use a mixture of old and new equipment. We don't have lots of synths, we use hi-fi gear and other tricks to achieve our sound."
You run a company called Music70
. What is the goal of this company?
"Music70 makes short films and creates images, paintings and other art. It's done purely for ourselves and our friends, and it has no commercial aims at all. Most Music70 work is like D.I.Y., but it's always emotional."
How is the planned full length Super-8 movie with soundtrack coming along?
"That film will start shooting in summer."
You use a bunker in the Pentland Hills as a studio. Does the atmosphere of the Hexagon Studio reflects in any way on your music?
"We don't have an urban lifestyle, so that might make us unusual in electronic music. The things we do with friends are more rural or organic, like outdoor gatherings and so on."
Some of the tracktitles are quite cryptic. Could you please explain some of them?
"Our titles are always cryptic references which the listener might understand or might not. Some of them are personal, so the listener is unlikely to know what it refers to. "Music Has The Right To Children" is a statement of our intention to affect the audience using sound. "The Color Of The Fire
" was a reference to a friend's psychedelic experience. "Kaini Industries
" is a company that was set up in Canada ( by coincidence in the month Mike was born), to create employment for a settlement of Cree Indians. "Olson
" is the surname of a family we know, and "Smokes Quantity
" is the nickname of a friend of ours."
"Sorry, I'm afraid not... It's an abbreviation/crossover of BOC Maxima
and Documa, an obscure reference to 80's video culture."
interview by René Passet, April 1998.
The album Music Has The Right To Children is out now on Warp/Skam, as is their remix of Mira Calix' Sandsings. WAP100 will contain an exclusive track by Boards of Canada, called Orange Romeda. Soon the Turquise Hexagon Sun website will open it's gates.
Check out EHX for a very informing interview Cosmic Crofter had with Boards of Canada. And for the Boards of Canada page.
reviews at Forcefield:
- Various - Skampler - CD - Silent/Skam
- Various Artists - Mask EP - 12" - Mask
- Boards of Canada - High Scores - 12" - Skam
Two Aesthetes of Electronic Music
Two Aesthetes of Electronic Music
|| Two Aesthetes of Electronic Music
|| Yves Leloup
|| Virgin Megaweb
|| June 1998
is a 1998 interview by Ariel Kyrou & Jean-Yves Leloup. It originally appeared in Virgin Megaweb magazine
Two Aesthetes of Electronic Music
Two aesthetes of electronic music caught between nostalgia for childhood and paranoia of the future.
At the heart of the Marais district of Paris, right next to the Picasso Museum, it would be easy to take Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison for a couple of British Students on a culture spree. The two "Boards of Canada" look more like travelling hippies than techno freaks, with their backpacks, soppy grins, and woolly hats. It's hard to imagine that standing there are the creators of an electronic album of pure crystal, released jointly by two labels that could not be further apart: Skam and Warp; respectively, the cutting-edge Manchester label, and the legendary nerve-centre of "Made in Sheffield" electronica. This album, "Music has the right to children", is much as its cover suggests. The image of a family or a group of friends, standing on the stones of a ruined castle. A naïve image like the world of "The Magic Roundabout" or "Animals of the World". Perfectly ordinary. Cheerful. Except that the image is flooded with a turquoise light, as though caught in the glare of a flying saucer that is coming in to land. And then there are those faces, smooth as pumice stone. Disturbing. The faces of zombified people. What are Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin hiding in this picture of troubled innocence? The two Scots, whose replies we have merged in this interview, seem to act as one; the first a little more talkative than the other, who has a very striking accent.
Your biography is written in such a way that it's not easy to tell who you are or what you have done. You're Scottish, aren't you?
"That's right, we live in Scotland, out in the country, a few miles from Edinburgh."
It seems that you've never been tied to any particular scene, or style of music. Are you quite isolated?
"Yes, in fact, it's only in the last couple of years that we've started getting in touch with other musicians, in particular, those of Skam Records and Warp. In fact, the group has been going for a long time, among friends. It goes back to the early 80's, while we were still at school."
So you really started making music as teenagers?
"Yeah! We were both about 10, something like that. We had started playing instruments even younger, and very soon we were playing around with recordings on cassettes and magnetic tapes, making audio collages. We began writing and playing music in a more serious way at some point around 1987, for about the last decade now in our own style."
Just the two of you?
"No, with other musicians within the framework of a much larger collective. But, a few years ago, after having played with guitars and acoustic drum kits, we returned to a more starkly electronic form."
So, really, when you began to play, it was more like a teenage game, experimenting with recordings of films and instruments. You weren't looking to make a career out of it?
"We played about with sounds we liked, wherever they came from. Our career has been a little tortuous. At first, we experimented without setting ourselves any questions, with whatever means were available to us, then we worked a lot with other musicians and with real instruments, which brought more complexity into our music. Five years ago, we sounded a lot more Gothic, much closer to experimental rock, with the occasional vocal. Though it was heading for electronic music; already we were sampling our own instruments. Then we went back to something closer to our original spirit: simple and instinctive, the only difference being that from then on, we could use all the wonders of digital technology, and so it was a lot easier to experiment and to get what we wanted."
Do you feel close to the generation that worked with home studios?
"Perhaps, in a way. Our original approach to recording with our old equiment was an inferior version of what others did later on with their home studios. But if we were close to the spirit of that generation, it was by luck, and only at times, since we always pushed ahead a little isolated, off in a corner, drawing inspiration from rock music as well as electronic music."
You have no connection to the Acid House generation?
"No. Really, at that time - the start of the 90's - we were recording music with vocals and guitars, greatly influenced by experimental atmospheric rock groups like "My Bloody Valentine". It was only before and after the acid house explosion, totally out of step with them, that we were perhaps close to the movement."
What made you finally go back to electronic music?
"It was more natural for us. We always worked hard, polishing off our tracks all the time, even those that had more of a "rock" feel to them. For a month or two we would come back to the tracks, changing a sound here, adding one there. We sampled ourselves all the time, heading for a sound that was almost entirely electronic, and it was easy to take that to its logical conclusion."
Being able to use sampling, courtesy of the new technologies that weren't available when you started up; was that one of the reasons for your return to an electronic sound?
"Yeah! The technology allowed us to simpify our way of working. With the sampler, you have total control over your music. You can take the sound of an instrument, and make it sound however you like, with the ability to go back again. For example, on our last album, there are some tracks where we have used a piano. Through sampling, we've transformed the sound of the piano in lots of different ways, to the point where it sounds like a very very old piano, or even to the point where no one listening to the album would think that there was a piano there. It's the same story with guitars. We played electronic and acoustic instruments on "Music has the right to children", but we completely reworked their sound electronically."
Why the melodies evocative of childhood on your album? Where did that come from?
"We're recalling the echo of the melodies that marked our own childhood, and these melodies mostly come from TV, especially from films and programmes for children. It's the world that characterised our generation. We're the same ages. We grew up watching the same TV programs, and for us they're a stronger influence than modern music, or any other music that we listened to back then. Like it or not, they're the tunes that keep going around in our heads."
Are you very nostalgic about your own childhoods?"
"Yeah. It's the same with groups like Autechre, where, beneath a surface that's very experimental, very mininal and industrial, you can pick out echoes of that nostalgia. I think they'd like to take that further; it's a natural creative process. We create things starting from these memories every bit as much as we do from our current wishes and moods. We reinterpret them constantly."
Do you use samples from TV programmes?
"We try to avoid it. We do it sometimes. But, on the whole, we make our own melodies and vocal samples using the people here. Even tunes that sound like samples are really made by us, but destroyed by the sampling process."
Sometimes, when listening to the album, there's an impression of hearing birdsong and other sounds of nature. Aren't those samples?
"It's a big influence - it's certainly true that nature influences us, especially when the studio windows are open! (laughs). There's this track on the album called "Rue The Whirl", where you can hear birds singing. What happened was that I was listening to the track, and, oddly, I could hear birds singing. Then I realized that the window was open in the studio, and since the birdsong went so well with the music, we recorded it to capture the feel of what we experienced listening with the window open."
Is it also perhaps because of the name of the group, which evokes lots of images?
"The name of the group comes from the soundtrack of one of the nature films that had such a big influence on our childhood. That's our nostalgic side. But there's also a more raucous side, harder, and darker. Our music is born from a strange union of the air of childhood and more troubled feelings, representing a more terrible reality which blends paradoxically with our childhood dreams."
Why? Because of ghosts?
"(laughs) No. It reflects the range of subjects that we feel strongly about, for example, psychedelic experiences (there are echoes of those in the album), good trips and bad trips. And also numerology, with its darker connotations. It's the grown-up face of our work, the pessimistic side. We move around in the space between two extremes, light and shadow."
Do you live in the country?
"Yes, we've not been there long. We set up our studio in the Pentland Hills. Now we can start to live for our music, instead of being distracted by having to do other jobs, as before."
What sort of jobs?
" Nothing to be ashamed off. Working in universities, for example, but we prefer not to talk about it."
Have you always had the name "Boards of Canada"?
"No; officially, only for four years. But the name existed for years before that, as the title of one of our tracks, before it became the name of the group."
At the start of the interview, you spoke about your friends and family around you, is it like a community of artists - students of the history of art?
"Some of our friends are students of the history of art, or they teach modern art. Some are artists, others are just enthousiastic friends. There are photographers, film-makers, artists, and musicians. And lots of friends we've kept in touch with from school. When we were at school, all our friends were in rock bands. We were the only ones making electronic music. Back then, we started making videos, films to go with our music. We made some for our friends, about expos and documentaries."
Do you make videos in the same way you make music. Is it high-tech?
"Absolutely. It's sort of "Do It Yourself Video", except that we use reasonably high-tech gear. We like to degrade photo and video images in the same way that we degrade sound, making the images harder, more primal, dirtier. We try to subvert the technology."
Do you ever think of making the music and images all in the one go? Do you think of your music in terms of images?
" Of course, but more in a natural intuitive way, rather than being deliberate about it. The most outstanding electronic musicians, like Aphex Twin, like their music to sound "cinematique", in other words, in terms of images. It's a way of working that is all the easier for musicians who don't specifically have the dancefloor in mind when they're making a track. If you can dance to one of our tracks, well and good, but it's not what we're aiming at. We give ourselves the greatest possible freedom to work in, with the goal of translating emotions rather than trying to make people dance. There are plenty of people who can do that better than we can. So what would be the point of setting ourselves up to make a worse job of it?"
There are some tracks on the album which would be ideal for the dancefloor.
"That's true. Yes, we do work with rhythms, but for us it's just as a vehicle for carrying strange and beautiful melodies. We try to vary the effects; that's particularly important for live performance. Also, we like rhythms that are strong, almost binary, because that really goes with our aim of creating dark, obsessive backdrops to go with our melodies."
You can see that sort of duality in tracks like "an eagle in your mind".
"Quite so. On the one hand, we have melodies and almost naïve vocals; on the other, a process of corruption of these melodies and vocals, by means of a certain ambience, or through transformations, as in the track you mentioned, or "sixtyten". We don't want to go in the direction of jungle beats, which, by their very ambitiousness and complexity, can really mess up the feel of the type of effect- the troubled emotions and ambiguity - that we are trying to achieve. The rhythm has to remain simple; it's a matter of balance."
In live performance, do you try to mix sound and images, as though they were responding to each other?
"No, not really. Certainly, we try to make the images fit the sounds. We try to make images that go with the sounds, within the bounds of what's technically possible. We've been very much influenced by a group called "Test Department", who played around a great deal with sound and images, and who had nothing to do with dance or pop music like most of the other artists of that period. They always followed their own path, without worrying about what was trendy. In 1998, the rhythm of the time was jungle. In 1988, it was acid. A group like Test Department, while they could make people dance, went against the rhythms of their day. They were really good, especially on stage, because there was no one else quite like them. They made industrial music, but they sometimes threw in some Celtic influences, or dance beats. They showed us that it was possible to survive, and to gain respect, while following your own path, without trying to imitate the style of others. It isn't so nowadays when the fashion is jungle, and you can't get by in the world of electronic music without making jungle music."
Are your concerts very well rehearsed, or is there still a place for improvisation, particularly, with images?
"It isn't really possible to improvise with images. It's something to strive for, but it would be really difficult. We'll start along this route with the help of computers, using captured video, in order to treat video clips as sources for sampled images. Today, on stage, you can't play around with video in the same way you would with vinyl records. All the same, there's still an element of chance involved. We wouldn't want a show to be perfect, because we don't like perfection. We want there to be an element of chaos in a show, or in our music; a raw edge; surprises. That makes it all more exciting."
Is your big studio in a small town?
"It's in the country, with other houses, several miles from Edinburgh. It's not really a big studio, but it is full of gear."
A sort of commune?
"No, just a bunch of pals, each with their family."
So it isn't a bunker as the biography claimed?
"That's just an exaggeration on the part of the record label."
In places like Glasgow or Edinburgh, is there an active artistic scene, in the arts, video, electronic music, of course, with young artists; festivals, etc. Are you involved in this?
"There are lots of great things going on, it's impossible to keep up with it all. There have never been so many places and initiatives for electronic music, and, on the larger scale, for all sorts of bold artistic enterprises. There have been video shows using the Internet, for example; live mixing of videos; and all sorts of bizarre goings-on that the general public can get involved in. There's also a very rich techno scene, which there wasn't before.
Do you know Soma Records?
"Yeah. Not personally, but we know of them."
So, all the voices you use are those of friends?
"Yes, mostly. Sometimes they come from old video tapes, but that's the exception. It's a bit of a mix: for example, we might use a video we taped ten years ago, that we listen to like that, and we take one word from it. We let ourselves rediscover things by chance."
You mentioned Chaos a moment ago. Are you interested in Chaos Theory - sciences that are a little offbeat?
"Yeah. Fractals. I don't know why, but strange sciences have always fascinated us."
Artificial life, etc.
"And numbers. Marcus studied Artificial Intelligence. That has influenced what we've done. With me, it's more numbers and their form. I've always been fascinated by the connection between music and numbers. Psychedelic experiences lead in this direction; they help us to see things in terms of numbers and their forms, of structures, as if the music was made out of crystals.
Does that influence you? Is it a part of your world?
"I can't really say that, hey, there it's robots who will influence us. No, strange sciences are part of our world, and you can find that in our works. Not science-fiction, but the sciences which have made the sci-fi visions of the past into a reality today. We grew up in the 70's, a time of great paranoia about science, a paranoia which comes across in the science fiction of that era, in books as well as in films. It's this paranoia, this pessimism, this fear of science, which can be found in our music along with other influences. When we were growing up in the 70's, the view of the future shown in TV and films was very dark, very powerful. That has changed, especially now with video games."
You also mentioned psychedelism.
"Yes, we immersed ourselves in the art and psychedelic music of the time. We often listen again to groups from the late 60's."
"Yes, that's exactly the sort of thing we mean: the Beach Boys of the "Good Vibrations" era, the Beatles of 1967. The Beatles really became enthralling to us through their psychedelism. Also, some inspired moments in films, not to mention the Incredible String Band."
How do you get in touch with Skam Records?
"We had made an album, an EP. We sent it around various people, one of whom was Sean Booth of Autechre. The very next day after he got it, Sean gave us a call, and said that we ought to do something with Skam. We had dealings with them for a couple of months. We gave them a track for a compilation album, and last year we started work on an album for Skam. Around September, we were also having friendly dealings with some folk at Warp. They told us that they would also like this album, but they didn't want to tread on Skam's toes, so that's why the album came out under two labels, Skam and Warp."
What about the Internet, do you use that?
"Yes, a lot; we spend quite some time on it. We've been using it for a while now. For the last few months, we've also been making use of it in the studio, to look for sounds and images. There's an important artistic site, a platform, which has got a page on us, but at the moment we're working on making our own site, which will be a little work in itself, a mini-opus of sounds, pictures, and experiences."
interview by Ariel Kyrou & Jean-Yves Leloup, June 1998.
Space Age Bachelor 1998 interview
|| Space Age Bachelor interview
|| Donald Anderson
|| Space Age Bachelor
|| 12 (Winter 1998)
: Boards of Canada
- Music Has the Right to Children Warp
label debut (North American release by Matador
) comes from two Scots. The group name refers to the strong influence of the 70s documentary movies from the Canadian National Film Board
. It seems quite strange to me the way that people expect/demand different levels of weirdness from various mediums. It has occurred to me that a lot of music in commercials is very strange, or documentaries, too, and people have no trouble listening to it. But if you present this music in a pop package, people are almost offended by its weirdness, its indulgence.
Marcus: "That's exactly it. That is such a good point to make because all along we've been more interested in the sort of music you find in that context rather than standard rock and pop. The reason some people might be into our music and other experimental artists' music, is because there's a space for it in the public psyche where the way has been paved by film and tv and so on, so why can't bands produce albums of equally original music?
Donald Anderson: Many of these movies were nature films.
Michael: "Yeah, Banff Springs. the cover for Music Has the Right to Children was taken there. It's funny all these places in Canada have stolen their names from places in Scotland like Banff, Airdrie, Strathmore, etc loads of them around Calgary alone. We're based near a Scottish wildlife reserve now, beside a wildlife sanctuary."
Donald Anderson: Particularly affected by it, cause my earliest memories are revisited in this music. One member is born in 1971, and the other is born in 1973. My two older brothers are born in 1970 and 1972 respectively. My family lived in Calgary around 1974, moved east, I was born in 1976, and then the family moved back to Calgary in 1978. But 1980 was my favorite shit. When I was six, I was nostalgic for when I was four.
Michael: "I suppose we're naturally like that. When I was a fetus I was nostalgic for when I was sperm."
Donald Anderson: Except we come from one sperm, not many sperm. and I wonder if just maybe our early paths ever crossed.
Michael: "It's a small world. I stayed in Braeside for a while and I remember a shoot out near the Trade Winds hotel, when I was told to get down on the floor of the car. I also remember getting ski masks to go trick or treating with my friends, and this old guy thought we were going to mug him."
Donald Anderson: I feel extra close to the final product, though it's easy for me to say that knowing they're from there. I wonder at what unconscious level this music might have affected me, if I didn't know that? Despite being the current toast of electronica, Music Has the Right to Children doesn't necessarily sound cutting edge.
Marcus: "I think the melodies could have been written anytime but the production couldn't have been done without samplers. It's maybe odd when you think about it because we work hard to downgrade the sound to make it seem dated and worn. But the chopped up vocals and beats can only be done with samplers. As musicians we're capable of producing a good album without all the technology so we approach writing from that angle, as though we want to record a traditional rock record with a band and vocals but then we introduce the technology as we go along to achieve all these impossible things that we'd like to hear an ordinary rock album doing."
Donald Anderson: It has a spooky, transcendental. The melodies are simple, yet irresistible. They sound familiar, yet distant. When I was born, what melodies did I hear in my head, what melodies have I forgotten already in that first second of life, tears drowning out the final notes of a booming womb symphony?
Michael: "I believe we're all born with the potential to generate all possible melodies. Babies respond to tunes as though they're recognizing something. Music is maths, no matter how messy or atonal it gets, it can always be described by numbers. And there have been all those experiments playing music to unborn babies where they react to it afterwards when they're older. It's in everybody of course so its a shame when someone claims not to be interested in music, because it's a waste of creative power. If you could combine the efforts of every human being to make a super composer, think of the melodies you'd unlock. I sometimes get sad about the future thinking about all the beautiful music which will be written in years to come, because we won't live long enough to witness it."
Donald Anderson: The implications of electronic music where any sound in the human head can potentially be harnessed by passing the limitations of physical instruments is enormous. It makes me feel so strange, parts of my body I didn't know i had, a funny feeling in my spine, a little tinglebetweenmytoes. [sic] Emotions, in general, I didn't know I had.
Michael: "Definitely. It offers you nearly infinite possible sounds, millions of ways of presenting a melody or a sound. By its very nature it can be the most experimental form of music. That doesn't mean that it always is, because we also believe that most electronic musicians become lazy. It's very easy to make mainstream work like dance music once you have a sampler and a sequencer. The technology lends itself to that style, that's where dance music came from. But it's more of a challenge to write original melodic music. It can bring rare emotions to the surface, especially if you have an ear for fine nuances. It doesn't have to sound electronic at all, and once you accept this you can go anywhere with it."
: There's something about "Rue the Whirl
" I can't explain. It does my head inside out and in.
Marcus: "That's a simple track. It has a predominate woodwind riff, ascending over and over, which puts you in a trance, but there are some evolving textures in there which may or may not be obvious at first, such as birds and water. It has similar hypnotizing effect to something like the melodies you hear from a rusty swing, needed to be oiled or machinery on a journey, or even a windscreen wiper, the noise it makes over and over. The surrounding environment is continuously moving. I think it works well because everybody wants to rue the whirl."
Donald Anderson: Um, one question I forgot to ask, what does it mean to 'rue the whirl.' I've never heard the expression, though admittedly there remains some gaps in my knowledge.
Children Have the Right to Film
|| Children Have the Right to Film
|| Daniel Chamberlin
"Children Have the Right to Film" is a 1999 interview by Daniel Chamberlin. It originally appeared in URB magazine.
Children Have the Right to Film
Scotland's Boards of Canada (Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin) make downtempo techno out of samples of smiling children and their tripping teachers, melodic lullabies, tones and rhythms as chilly and deep as a summer loch. Much of the atmosphere created in their music springs from an elaborate, far-from-kitschy use of sampled motifs from both television programs and the '70s-era documentaries produced by the National Film Board of Canada (hence the name). Not surprisingly, original video footage has accompanied some of their live sets alongside soundtracks from obscure children's programming.
How does your film collective, Music70, relate to Boards of Canada's music?
"Sandison: We started making short films as kids in the '80s, when we were also starting to play gigs and write our own music. So we wrote music for the films. We made abstract movies with our friends, so our music became pretty abstract too. Then it got to the point where we were making film music before the films had been created, so we'd get this gang of friends to make a movie around some recordings we'd done. Now our work is a hybrid of those things."
You've named yourself after a Canadian film documentary organization. What aspect of documentaries made such a noteworthy impression?
"Sandison: Documentary soundtracks have always influenced us to some extent, not the ethereal, meaningless [sounds] that you often hear, but the bizarre music that composers can get away with in that context. Public information films fascinate us. We've also been inspired by composers of feature film music like Walter [Wendy] Carlos. Certain soundtracks are very special, like the one for Picnic at Hanging Rock. We're also influenced by experimental filmmakers, particularly animators like Jan Svankmajer."
Do you plan on releasing any of your visual work outside of broadcast during live performances?
"Marcus Eoin: Yeah, that'll happen because much of our film work isn't appropriate for live situations. Now we're
working on films combining live action with music and animation - it's like anti-Disney!"
- Be Glad for the Song Has No End
- Picnic at Hanging Rock
- The New Numbers (unknown)
- Heavenly Creatures
- Dark Star
- The Elephant Man
- Dandelion Seed (unknown)
- A Man Escaped
- Revolution (unknown)
- Ice Core Drilling (unknown - thought to perhaps be an NFBC film)
- The Invention of Destruction (unknown)
- Zabriskie Point
- The Andromeda Strain
- Jesus Christ Superstar
- Diagram (unknown - may refer to Paul Glabicki's 1978 Diagram Film)
- Capricorn One
- The Wizard of Oz
interview by Daniel Chamberlin, February 1999.
Boards of The Underground
|| Boards of The Underground
|| Richard Southern
|| Jockey Slut
|| Vol. 3 No. 11 (Dec 2000)
"Boards of The Underground" is a 2000 interview by Richard Southern. It originally appeared in Jockey Slut magazine.
Boards of The Underground
They're the fire-starters, the rustic fire-starters, who've influenced everyone from Air to Radiohead. Boards of Canada invite Richard Southern to their secret den and share with him their bluffer's guide to making the perfect bonfire and why they have little time for Leo Di Caprio.
"One time we were out in the woods on a really wet day," remembers Boards of Canada's Marcus Eoin. "My friend bet me I couldn't start a fire using only one match. But I managed to get this meagre little flame going in this damp little patch of ground. Then when we were about a mile down the road, we looked back and it was like, 'whoosh!' - the whole wood was on fire!"
Everybody's favourite commune-dwelling creators of pastoral electronica, arsonists? Whatever next? Adverts for Shell oil?
"I love the countryside," Marcus protests, adding, "I hate the idea that animals or trees or anything might get hurt. I had dreams about it for months afterwards."
This isn't the only fire that Boards of Canada have unwittingly started. Just over two years ago, their debut album Music Has the Right to Children, a muted, un-ostentatious collection of haunting, home-made melodies initially just seemed like one of electric haven Warp's more consistent releases. Then, slowly, word of mouth began to crackle like sparking kindling. Here was a record not only spotters and electronic obsessives could love - a hazily nostalgic record which snuck its way into your head and set up a commune. The album's muttering voices seemed to speak in tongues; rumours of occult dabblings only added to the Boards of Canada enigma. Sales, while impressive for a leftfield release, were a meagre glow compared to the blaze Music Has the Right. caused amongst Boards of Canada's musical peers.
Suddenly, those slo-mo, slightly melancholy synth-loops were everywhere. On Super Furry Animals' Guerilla (see:: "Some Things Come from Nothing"), on Danmass' "Happy Here" on the Sunday Best compilation, on Air's Virgin Suicides; even on the ever trend-tailing Texas' new material. As if that wasn't enough, Boards' influence can also clearly be heard on new albums by both the barometer of all things buzzworthy, Madonna, and Radiohead, whose much puzzled-over Kid A sounds rather closer to Music Has the Right. than it does to the stadium-conquering OK Computer.
"We never expected to have anything like this kind of impact," confesses Michael Sandison in the rather sterile confines of Warp's new London offices. "We've had people ringing up wanting us to produce them and it's been like (mimes covering the receiver while gesticulating excitedly), 'Marcus, you'd never believe who's on the phone!"
The pair are sprawled relaxedly on the purple sofa, Michael long-haired, Marcus shaven-headed, hooded-topped and baggy-trousered, gear simultaneously eterna-hip and, as is the way with country folk, strangely practical.
"We don't mind influencing people like Super Furry Animals," continues Michael in his precise, (Miss Jean) Brodie-esque brogue. "We know they're really into music. But we've got fed up with the magpies. The people who just pay minions to keep their ear to the ground and check out what's hip."
"No. We think they're brilliant," Michael demurs. I think Kid A's the best thing they've ever done," adds Marcus in his thicker Scots slur.
So who are we talking about?
"Bigger people than that."
"Artists whose status is somewhere between Radiohead and God," answers Marcus, mystifyingly. They wont' be drawn any further.
Secretiveness is congenital to Boards of Canada. These, after all, are people who refuse to reveal the location of the commune they inhabit in the Pentland hills near Edinburgh, who won't give out their phone number or even, for the most part, give interviews. They've chosen Jockey Slut in favour of the covers of a number of major national publications, and, in person, these childhood friends radiate a warmth and amiability that'sanything but enigmatic. They finish each other's sentences, listen intently to questions and in contrast to most ego-blinkered musicians even ask questions themselves.
"It's one of the reasons we don't like playing live," says Marcus, still running with his theme. "You worry about who might be in the audience, scouting for ideas." He pauses. "Then again, last time we played live, it was a disaster." "The monitors exploded in the middle of the set," Mike explains, laughing. "People were cheering because they thought it was deliberate pyrotechnics!" Marcus adds. "Yeah, well, shame it was out of time," says Mike.
While an EP, In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country, is issued this month (a BoC
manifesto if ever there was one), the eagerly-anticipated second album is running more than a year behind schedule with no release date in sight. Hmm, three year gaps between records:: you're proper Warp artist now then? Slightly embarassed grins.
"When you've got Aphex on your label, everyone else seems easy."
So did the impact of the first album just make it hard to follow?
"No," says Marcus, thoughtfully, "I think we lost about a year just rebuilding our studio."
Less Stone Roses than My Bloody Valentine, then?
"Well, we haven't put sandbags around it yet!"
Equally, you don't need a City & Guilds engineering diploma to deduce that the densely atmospheric, otherworldly aspects of the Boards' music is painstakingly achieved. "We take such long, individual paths to get where we go, paths that nobody else could ever follow," says Mike.
"So it takes us ten times as long to finish things," says Marcus.
"Where some people will work on a track solidly for four days, we'll spend that long just on a hi-hat sound," Mike laughs.
"It'd be funny if it wasn't true," Marcus chuckles.
"Than again, if there was a way of doing it easily, by pushing a button, we'd do something else because it wouldn't be special anymore," says Michael.
"We like to make things hard for ourselves," shrugs Marcus.
Sequestered away in the Scottish hills, "getting it together in the country", is a way of life for Boards of Canada. Even taking into account childhood sojourns in Canada, they've never known anything different. Hardly listening to contemporary music, keeping away from the back-slapping musical backstage, rarely reading magazines, living in what was once a commune (Mike:: "People had kids, or went off travelling. It's down to a hardcore of four or five now") but is now effectively a hill-bound artists' colony - theirs is a deliberately rarefied world. "It's the only way to do it," says Mike. "Cut yourself off, pull the shutters down."
"The world's getting smaller and smaller now," continues Marcus. "We're all sharing the same clothes, the same magazines and the same ideas:: everyone's got the same reference points." He laughs. "It's globalisation, man!"
"It's never people who are part of the general flow who make amazing art, " says Mike.
"Everyone's collectively going down one particular branch of music. With the last album we were too affected by what was going on in that particular moment in history. But the new one is going to be in its own outlandish and unique universe. It's like we're inhabiting an alternative, parallel present where maybe someone in the past took a different branch to the way things actually went."
At times, the pair's penchant for privacy can border on the paranoid.
They're so concerned about hackers that they've both got completely separate computers for using the net.
"They can't jump through thin air," says Mike. "I'm really paranoid about security," adds Marcus. "We've got all these tapes and discs going back 15 years or so. I've got this really complicated solar alarm on my house so that it's impossible to switch it off without cutting five different wires in different places simultaneously."
Aware that their bunker mentality may be getting out of hand, the pair have made a conscious effort to get out more recently.
"You have to remember you've got a body with two legs," says Michael. Before mhtrtc took off, theirs was a more leisurely isolation, their music simply soundtracks for the Red Moon events they and their friends would organise in the hills near the commune:: "Just 50 people around a bonfire with a ghetto blaster."
These days, they still drive out into the country with their friends, set up camp and make bonfires. Bonfires, you will notice, figure large in the Boards of Canada world. You can almost hear the crackling twigs on many of their cuts.
As the title indicates, the new EP is typically BoC
. "Kid for Today" sounds like what it is - a Music Has the Right to Children contender, while "Amo Bishop Roden" and "Zoetrope" (named after Francis Ford Coppola's San Francisco studio) go deeper into the hazy territory between sleep waking.
"It's like when you glaze over when you're listening to something," says Marcus, "but you're still there at the same time."
"There's a sort of running theme of melancholy to it," says Mike, "but it's true, it's not a great leap from Music Has the Right to Children The nearest clue to where we're going is on the title track. But a lot of it will be even more outlandish than that. If you could call the last album electronica, you definitely couldn't call the new album that."
"We've split and gone in two directions," continues Marcus. "There are some things which are just acoustic instruments playing acoustic music, while we've also done some even more electronic tracks. Some of the best ones manage to achieve both at the same time."
Apart from this EP, the only Boards of Canada music that's emerged since their characteristically immaculate contribution to Warp's tenth anniversary album has been the music for, of all things, an advert for Telecom Italia. Not just any old advert, either, but one which also features Leonardo Di Caprio. Today Boards of Canada are full of surprises.
"It's not the first one we've done either," grins Mike. "We did one for Nissan last year. Then again, I drive a Nissan."
Always did, or do now?
"I'd have been more than happy to have been paid in cars, believe me!"
The explanation is that both adverts were done with filmmaker du jour Chris Cunningham, "because he asked us and we respect him". They're not saying, but rather than heralding that Shell advert, could it be that the Boards have their eye on Cunningham's future feature work? It isn't, after all, a big step from imaginary soundtracks to actual films, and it'd be hard to contemplate a more perfect union.
"We actually gave him an hour and a half's worth of music, of which he used one 20 second fragment. He was just really excited to have new Boards of Canada tracks that no one else has heard, that's why he likes working with us. But we trust him. We know he wouldn't do anything else with it."
Marcus grins:: "He also knows we'd break both his legs if he did.
And no, they didn't get to meet Leo. "He utters one word. God knows what he got paid. We wanted to record 'Leonardo Di Caprio is a wanker' and put it in the advert music backwards."
The future of music may be uncertain, but Boards of Canada seem very definite about their own future musical direction.
"We've got a better notion now than we ever did of what Boards of Canada is," says Mike. "Now we know that we're supposed to be doing really psychedelic, organic-sounding music. I think to some extent we've pandered to the electronic scene previously, putting elements in that we're not necessarily into."
Marcus continues:: "It's going to be simultaneously more listenable and more out there, psychedelic, gorgeous and strange."
THINGS BOARDS OF CANADA LIKE
- The wobble you get on an off-centre record ("We even decide if it's wobbling at 33 or 45 rpm!).
- The little bursts of music you get behind a logo.
- Things that are a little bit out of tune:: "Space Oddity" by David Bowie, "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys, "Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong, and "Tomorrow Never Knows" by the Beatles (Marcus:: "In modern music everything is perfect, rationalised, bland.").
- "The sounds between notes."
- Progressive rock (Mike:: "For at least trying to get somewhere no one's been").
- "Listening in increments."
- Devo, Twins Cocteau and Aphex, Nitzer Ebb, acid folkies, the Incredible String Band, the Wu-Tang Clan. "RZA," it seems, "listens like we do."
- A record Marcus found in America which features a Christian robot that sang songs if you pressed a button in his stomach ("The scary part is that it was very Old Testament, slitting the throats of first born and stuff").
- "Geno" by Dexy's Midnight Runners.
- "The sound when you're at a fairground and you're caught between two different sound systems and they combine to create something new and outlandish."
THINGS BOARDS OF CANADA DON'T LIKE
- Electronic gadgets that don't work (Marcus:: "It makes me sad to see things that have just been thrown away. I'll pick it up and take it back home and try and make it work. I've still got a brown valve television set from the '70s and it works better than my friends' wide screen TVs").
- Meat (in Marcus' case).
- Napster (Marcus:: "It's not the big rich artists who'll suffer, it's the smaller artists. Why should people buy their records when they can download them for free? The issue of choice is illusory. If lots of musicians go out of business, then there's only going to be a smaller number of extremely commercial crap artists to choose from."
BOARDS OF CANADA'S TIPS ON BONFIRES
- Marcus:: "For kindling the best way to ensure it catches is to get loads of pieces more or less the same length and lay them in a grid, then overlay them in a lattice."
- Mike:: "You don't need matches or a lighter. If it's wet or windy they often won't work. But two twigs will. The trick is to tie string to either end of one twig, then you can rub them together faster than your hands ever could."
- Acid Memories (Music 70, 1989)
- Absurdly rare, cassette-only release from the barely teen Boards, then six-strong. Guitars meet electronics in embryonic but recognisably Boards-ian melodicism.
- Play by Numbers (Music 70, 1994)
- Five-track CD from what was now a trio, boasting a My Bloody Valentine influence in places, shifting further into electronics in others.
- Hooper Bay (Music 70, 1994)
- Closer still:: the use of kids' voices was a hint of what was to come. People pay small fortunes for copies.
- The last record as a trio when everything slipped into focus and pricked up record company ears.
- BOC Maxima (Music 70, 1996)
- Twenty tracks:: half of which would appear on later EPs and albums; the others remain an impossibly elusive prospect (50 copies only).
- Hi Scores EP (Skam, 1996)
- Essential for the Eno-esque "Everything You Do is a Balloon" and the spooky electro of "Nlogax".
- Korona (from Mask 100 compilation) (Skam, 1996)
- Darkness visible:: slurring synths and an uneasy, off-kilter rhythm.
- Untitled (from Mask 200 as Hell Interface) (Skam, 1997)
- Even darker, harder, faster side of the Boards. "Who are Hell Interface?" they ask.
- Michael Fakesch "Surfaise" (Boards of Canada remix) (Warp, 1997)
- Spacious, dissonant, slightly disembodied ambience.
- Mira Calix "Sandsings" (Boards of Canada remix) (Warp, 1997)
- Boards render Warp's press officer's warblings intelligble.
- Jack Dangers "Prime Audio Soup" (Boards of Canada remix) (Play it Again Sam, 1998)
- Respectful to the Meat Beat man, this is a curious, slightly gothy hybrid.
- "Aquarius" (seven-inch single) (Skam, 1998)
- A different version to the one on Music. Sesame Street meets Kraftwerk meets the between-scenes bits from Seinfeld.
- Music Has the Right to Children (Skam/Warp, 1998)
- Music has The Right to Children claimed not just children but grown adults of shock both sexes.
- Bubbah's Tum "Dirty Great Mable" (III, 1998)
- Unusually beat-heavy, balanced by their trademark use of kids' voices and big, spooky chords. Their final mix.
- "Orange Romeda" (from We Are Reasonable People compilation) (Warp, 1999)
- Very much in the Music. vein. Children's voices, bird's wing percussion and yearning, half-heard synth melodies.
- Peel Sessions (Strange Fruit, 1999)
- Reworks of "Aquarius" and "Olson", plus newie "Happy Cycling".
- In a Beatiful Place Out in the Country EP (Warp, 2000)
- OK, so it's an EP not an album, and it's not exactly a revolutionary departure, but when familiar ground is this gorgeous, who's complaining?
interview by Richard Southern, December 2000.
|| Big Country
|| Steve Nicholls
|| 47 (Mar 2001)
"Big Country" is a 2000 interview by Steve Nicholls. It originally appeared in XLR8R magazine, Issue 47, March 2001.
Music fans around the globe wait patiently for the second full-length release from mysterious Scottish duo Boards of Canada, who turned music on its head with their debut recording's gentle, psychedelic ambience. Fan to the core, England's Steve Nicholls fulfills a dream, travelling north to the group's Scottish hideaway to investigate the source of their sorcery.
I'll never forget the first time, over two years ago, I heard Boards Of Canada's debut album Music Has The Right To Children. Prior to its arrival I was expecting something kind of special, because of the quality of their previous single "Aquarius" and the "Hi Scores" EP, released on the UK guerrilla-tactics electronic label Skam. I clearly remember receiving the album, by then released jointly with Warp Records, and time stopped. I sat and listened to the whole album, overpowered by the myriad kaleidoscopic layers, messages, hallucinations and images it relayed. It was like the tantalisingly elusive parts of a beautiful dream that you struggle to grasp after waking.
Two years later and I finally get to interview Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison, Boards Of Canada. I say finally because I firmly believe that, in Music Has The Right To Children, they made one of the great records of the last decade, and with the advent of a new album in the next few months, there is a distinct possibility that they might repeat the feat. And it's not just me-Eoin and Sandison also freely admit that they are trying to make the perfect record.
"We are being pretty ambitious with what we are trying to do with it musically," says Sandison. "We want to do this one at our own pace and only deliver it when we think we've got something that is absolutely perfect, with no flaws. We want it to be so that every track on it is a really long lasting track that we personally love, and keep on loving, and play over and over again. It's a difficult thing to achieve, and the chances are that we're not going to do that because no one ever gets to that point. Sometimes I hear albums by bands that are so perfect that they could have, and in some case should have, retired, like My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. I would've been happy if they had never made another record after that."
"It's like that thing..." adds Eoin. "What do you do if you make the perfect album?"
"We always assume that the listener is the most intelligent person imaginable"
In some ways, for Boards Of Canada to have disappeared after releasing one album would have suited the image of mysteriousness that has sprung up around them. Partly due to the cut up and addled vocal samples that littered Music Has The Right To Children and instantly initiated talk of subliminal messages, and partly due to the unavoidable feeling that there was something very strange going in their music just beneath the surface, people were fascinated by what they were all about. But the fact that they live in Scotland has far more to do with their lack of involvement in the still remarkably London-centric UK music scene than any kind of Howard Hughes-type elusiveness.
On their new EP, "In A Beautiful Place In The Country," it is gratifying to hear that they have continued to strive for the perfect beat, because Boards Of Canada were an anomaly in the '90s electronica scene into which people tried to fit them, and it's still impossible to fit them into any kind of timeline of electronic music. They admit to liking late '80s and early '90s industrial electronic bands like Front 242, Consolidated and Meat Beat Manifesto, and then the Cocteau Twins and Siouxsie and the Banshees, but that's about as far as they go. As Eoin rightly says, "I don't really like singling people out as influences because it's too specific. I prefer to see all that as just branches coming off a completely chaotic, random tree, where some people are closer to each other than others."
Eoin's analogy with nature is one that constantly reappears when discussing Boards Of Canada's music. Much has been made of the strangely rural and organic sounds and images they create. In the countryside area surrounding Edinburgh, it is not uncommon to see a double rainbow appearing over the barrenly beautiful countryside, the image a visual analog to much of their music.
Eoin and Sandison fully admit that if they lived in a city it would be detrimental to their work, and you can see how a more structured environment would hem the natural ebb and flow of ideas and sounds that emerged from Music Has The Right To Children. On that album, sounds or loops or melodies would only be heard once in a track, and other tracks frequently only lasted for thirty tantalizing seconds, a simple melodic refrain, a ghostly beat, or a plaintive note, disappearing as quickly as it appeared, taking on the presence of a fleeting memory-a cloud that momentarily takes a recognizable shape, or a captured snowflake that melts on your hand.
"I think we are trying to do that more and more now," says Sandison. "I like to think that where we are going is trying to compose totally horizontally. The vertical way of composing is the lazy way, where you just build stuff up and build stuff up, and then just bring them in and out. I think the way we work is so much more orchestrated, so that you can hear something that just happens, and you want it to carry on because it's so tantalizing, and you want to hear it again and again. We both understand the principle that if you put something beautiful into a piece of music just once, it makes people put the record back on because they want to hear it again."
"Someone criticized me once," recalls Eoin, "and asked why we'd made 'Roygbiv' so short. For us, that is exactly how long it should be. It's like that famous bit at the end of 'Strawberry Fields' by The Beatles, where you get the little voice at the end that says something like 'I buried Paul,' and it happens once, and it's such a transitory thing that's mixed in one ear really far away, but people went on and on about it for decades."
"You know," Sandison says, "if a contemporary producer, with that kind of '90s or 2000 mentality did something like that, it would be going 'bang, bang, bang, I buried Paul' over and over again all the way through it, and you would never want to hear it again. I really like putting things into songs that don't initially jump out at you, and you're not quite sure that you've actually heard it, like putting things really far away in the mix, so people are like, 'Am I imagining that, or is it just on my copy?'"
It all adds fuel to the fire that there is something mysterious about their music. As sweet, and frankly, listenable as their melodic head music may be on the surface, you can't escape the feeling that still waters run deep, and that there are strong currents running beneath the surface. Indeed, although it's always asking for trouble by drawing the parallel, Boards Of Canada's work has far more in common with something like The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper than anything from the more recent past, as its unerring tunefulness and song craft masquerades and alludes to something far deeper.
Those allusions are there all the way through Music Has The Right To Children, particularly come the last track, "One Important Thought," which warns of the dangers of censorship, and leaves you wondering what you might have just listened to that could ever be censored, so sublime, relaxing and apparently innocent was the music. So you have to listen to it again with new ears. Although Eoin and Sandison are still struggling with the idea that a lot of people are going to hear this new record, unlike many an experimental producer, they want their music to be listenable, to be a pleasurable experience, but one in which, if you choose to delve deeper, the rewards are there to be had.
"We've had that a lot with the new EP," says Eoin. "People have said they liked it instantly, and that's kind of amusing because it's hitting the nail right on the head. For us the aim is to try and make something that you like instantly, but the important thing is actually the hidden mystery hypnotism that happens after ten listens."
"Its almost like bait," Sandison joins in. "You disguise a track as a nice big juicy worm, and then put a hook inside it! There is almost a critical point, a threshold, and if you get past that, then you are going to be completely immersed in what we are doing musically. We always assume that the listener is the most intelligent person imaginable. If you always think like that, you never insult the listener, and someone wanting to analyse what we do will always get something out of it."
As well as crediting the listener with intelligence, which, as Eoin later points out, so few electronic "dance" producers do, Boards Of Canada also credit us with an imagination. They leave space in their music for us to project our own ideas, images, and thoughts. Their messages are in there, but they are encrypted allusions hinting at what might lie within. It might explain why they are becoming so popular, because in a way each Boards' track becomes very personal to the individual listener, alluding to different things in different people's lives. I ask them about the often-mentioned nostalgia element in their music-people have constantly remarked how their music vaguely reminds them of something else, and how that differs from being retro.
"Retro is a consensus isn't it?" says Eoin. "Like the '70s where everyone shares that popular myth of what the '70s were like. Nostalgia is very personal, and music is very powerful at recalling images or feelings from your past."
"I do actually believe that there are powers in music that are almost supernatural. I think you actually manipulate people with music, and that is definitely what we are trying to do. People go on about hypnotizing people with music, or subliminal messages, and we have dabbled in that intentionally. Sometimes that's just a bit of a private joke, just to see what we can sneak into the tracks."
"If we were to explain all the tracks and their meanings, though," says Sandison, "I think it would ruin them for a lot of people. It's more like viewing something through the bottom of a murky glass, and that's the beauty of it."
"I do actually believe that there are powers in music that are almost supernatural. I think you actually manipulate people with music, and that is definitely what we are trying to do."
And happily, after finally meeting them, Boards Of Canada's music remains as much of an enigma as it always has, because some myths and mysteries you don't really want to be explained away. Later on, Sandison goes on to talk about their music as a spiral or a fractal that gets more detailed the further you go in, and how they have experimented musically by using Fibonacci's Golden Ratio, a fraction close to two thirds that strangely occurs again and again in nature, and has allegedly been used in works of art by Da Vinci, Mozart and many others over the centuries, to space moments in tracks, write melodies and tune frequencies. And all of a sudden a friend's blithe request prior to the interview, to "find out what their magic ingredient is" begins to ring almost eerily true.
Whatever that ingredient may be, at the start of the 21st century, where, culturally and in terms of music, we are being increasingly discouraged from thinking for ourselves, where our attention is directed more than ever, where the gaps for our own imagination grow ever smaller, Boards Of Canada are an anomaly of timeless artistry that should be cherished. As Sandison says: "The original reason we started was just to make a beautiful little string of tunes which you just love playing in your car, and you don't really care whether anyone else is going to hear it, but I really like the idea of planting bombs. I'm not a bomber, but I like the idea of planting bombs of some kind, of doing things that in five, ten, or twenty years time will be able to reveal something about our music, that will make people completely re-examine what we've done, and see it in a completely different light."
interview by Steve Nicholls, March 2001.
The Colour & The Fire
|| The Colour & The Fire
|| Steve Nicholls
"The Colour & The Fire" is a 2000 interview by Steve Nicholls. It originally appeared in HMV magazine, February 2002.
The Colour & The Fire
As a corollary to Brian Eno's famous rumination on Velvet Underground's first record ("I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band"), it might be time to draw a link between Boards of Canada's seminal 1998 debut Music Has The Right To Children and the reams of nurturing, organic electronic music that have since followed. After a brief survey of the current experimental electronic music scene, it's difficult to make the case that many more are as influential as Boards of Canada.
Perhaps more striking than the advent all this subterranean success is the way in which Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison have arrived there. Even within comparatively anonymous electronic music circles, Boards of Canada are commonly regarded as nothing short of an enigma, an inscrutable pair who rarely disperse release information, grant interviews or perform live. It is generally accepted that the duo record from a secluded studio nestled somewhere in Scotland's Pentland Hills; we also know that they tend to litter their fiery, kaliedoscopic records with oblique references to various mathematical phenomena, the Branch Dividians and (as their name implies) snippets from the curiously gauzy soundtracks that accompany National Film Board Of Canada documentaries circa 1970.
What follows is the unabridged transcript of a one-pass e-mail interview we recently conducted with Eoin and Sandison, where the refreshingly articulate pair gave us their thoughts on the state of electronic music, eBay bidders, their long-awaited Geogaddi and "cosseted suburban American internet music-pirating kids." Naturally, the honour was all ours:
Geogaddi was one of the most highly anticipated electronic records in recent memory. Be honest: were you aware of the pressure?
"Mike: We try not to pay attention to it. I think the best music we've made previously was written when there were no expectations on us. So now we just imagine nobody's going to hear it. The moment you start thinking about people waiting for your music, that's when you start damaging your creativity."
With Music Had The Right To Children, you had the luxury of plucking and/or reworking songs from previous, lesser-heard records. With Geogaddi, you were faced with the prospect of having to fashion a new record from scratch. Did this pose a problem at all?
"Mike: Not at all because we recorded a hell of a lot of tracks in that period. The only difficult part was selecting them down to the tracks that worked well together on the record."
From a stylistic standpoint, there has been a consistency to Boards of Canada's work over the years. The conscious inclusion of certain signature elements (samples of children's voices, specific analog synth sounds, etc.) on Geogaddi implies that you went into this record with the intent to further build on your own established identity as artists. Is that a fair assumption? Is this a difficult thing to do without seeming regressive?
"Marcus: I don't think it's as studied as that. We didn't consciously try to use signature sounds, because that's just the way we've always made our music. But I suppose maybe deep down we did want to reinforce the sound of the last album, because it has ended up sounding quite consistent with it. It kind of acts like a partner record to the last one before we do what we do next.
How do you respond to people who suggest that you didn't explore enough new territory with this record?
"Mike: Well that's up to them. It's not meant to be a record that everyone will like. We didn't feel any need to change after only one previous album. It's our sound!...We love our music and we only expect a few people to click with it like we do. We see Boards of Canada as being as much about what we don't do as what we do, if you see what I mean. We're used to recording a lot of different music that never gets released. I guess we wanted to make Geogaddi sound the way it does so that we can go off at tangents on future records whilst keeping that sound as the foundation."
geo- or ge-: Earth: geocentric. gaddi n : a cushion on a throne for a prince in India; I'm not close at all, am I?
"Marcus: Hehe, no. It can have several meanings. We have our own definite idea of it, a combination of words that describe an idea we had at the time of writing it, but we want listeners to make their own minds up."
The general consensus seems to be that Boards of Canada labour over their work. Is your creative process really as difficult as it seems to the outside world?
"Mike: Not especially. We write lots of tracks simultaneously, I mean hundreds, that's what uses up our time. We're a lot more prolific than we let on. In the time between the last two albums we sketched out something approaching four hundred tracks, that's enough to put together several records. Some of the tracks on Geogaddi took quite a while to put together, maybe a few months, but there were also one or two tracks recorded in a day."
Can you recall one standout moment during the process of recording this record that was completely fulfilling from a creative standpoint?
"Marcus: Yeah for me it would be the track Gyroscope. I dreamed the sound of it, and although I've recreated dreamt songs before, I managed to do that one so quickly that the end result was 99% like my dream. It spooks me to listen to it now".
"Mike: We played out an early version of the album to some friends at a beach bonfire back at the end of last year before it was cut. It was a great night and now when I listen to those tracks I think about that night. That's how music should be."
The pre-release security on Geogaddi was incredibly high. Have the Internet and its various file-sharing utilities taken the glory out of proper release days?
"Marcus: To an extent, yeah. There's been a lot of debate about whether the internet is helping bands like us or not. I think it's actually different depending on the style of music. In our case, I realize that bands who use a lot of electronics maybe attract a fairly web-literate audience so we're maybe more at risk of piracy than average rock bands. When our last EP was released, a journalist leaked it onto the internet many weeks before it's release date, and I think it does spoil the fun a bit. When I was a kid I used to get a buzz out of that 'day of release' thing, you know when you dive into the record shop at 9am to get an album. The world's gone a bit weird lately, everyone's attention span is so short, people don't seem to get excited about things as much anymore."
Like many of your contemporaries, you've gone to great lengths to maintain a certain degree of anonymity. Is music tangibly better when it's faceless?
"Mike: We don't crave publicity. I suppose it can go too far, you know, sometimes these faceless bands are only like that because they don't have personalities in the first place. I think in a lot of pop and rock there's nothing wrong with a bit of glamour and personality because it's all fun, and it inspires people. But I think that with largely instrumental electronic music like ours, it just seems to sound better when you're not thinking about the people behind it.
"For us the whole point of writing music is to get something infectious into the back of the listener's mind, something that feels so personal to you that you couldn't even possibly convey it in words to a close friend....There's a sort of knowing connection there between the listener and the musician that ordinary language would never be able to achieve. In a way it's like the closest you'll ever get to being psychic."
Your reticence to talk to media outlets has resulted in a lot of conjecture about your origin and day-to-day lives. What's the most popular misconception about Boards of Canada? Do you enjoy the mystery?
"Marcus: There are tons of misconceptions about us, but it just makes us laugh. Some of the most common ones are based on complete misunderstandings of what we're about, and people missing our sense of reference and irony. Another popular misconception, particularly amongst cosseted suburban American internet music-pirating kids, is that bands like us are making a lot of money. Those kids are probably getting more pocket money."
You've probably had this one many times, but I'd be remiss for not asking. Radiohead name-dropped you on numerous occasions during the Kid A/Amnesiac rigamarole. Were you honoured, irritated or somewhere in between?
"Mike: It's great... I'd have to admit that neither of us were fans of their early stuff, but their last couple of releases are great records. I think they come across as some of the most decent people in music. They got so much flak just for having the balls to do something different."
How different would your music really be if you were creating it from the belly of some urban, metropolitan area? Is isolation always good for the creative process?
"Marcus: We don't hate the city, just the homogenized culture you get in urban areas. I think for musicians, being isolated away from certain scenes can keep you focused doing your own thing."
The sounds on this record imply a particularly high level of craftsmanship. How long do you spend programming synths and toying with samples to achieve the BOC sound?
"Marcus: A long long time. Usually I start with a sound that is half way towards what I want it to be, and I can spend days tweaking it until it's right. A lot of the synthetic-sounding things you hear are actually recordings of us playing other instruments, pianos, flutes or twanging guitar strings or field sounds we get from walking around with portable tape recorders, like electronic beeps in shops, or vehicles, then they are mangled beyond recognition. We have an arsenal of old hi-fi tricks up our sleeves and we basically destroy the sounds until they're really lovely and fucked up. So we're using sounds that are totally our own thing."
Which do you hear quoted back to you more frequently: "Orange!" or "Yeeeeeah, that's right!" (Two vocal samples featured prominently in BOC's landmark track 'Aquarius.')
"Mike: 'Orange', definitely."
I realize you're not about to go in-depth about your setup, but in general terms: what does your working environment look like? Do you get these sounds with modern gear or older, analog equipment? How big a role do computers play?
"Mike: It's a mix of old and new technology. About half of our kit is old gnarly broken gear, and the other half is pretty new stuff. We have a lot of cheap instruments, it's like a junkshop. The best way I'd describe it is that our sound sources are almost always something like a real instrument or an analog synth, and our recording techniques and processes are a bit unorthodox. We don't like using digital things or computer effects so we get sounds by doing things like running whole parts through a really bad tape recorder or something like that. Like the intro on 'Julie and Candy' for example, we just played the melody on a couple of whistles and then we bounced it back and forward between the internal mics of two tape-decks until the sound started disappearing into hell. Like when you look at an image reflected within two mirrors forever, in the distance it gets darker and greener and murkier. We record a lot of live stuff, just for fun, most of what we record hasn't been released. We tend to break equipment frequently. We'd probably make professional studio engineers weep if they saw us working. And some of our electronic tracks are not sequenced, we just put them down as samples onto multi-track tape, because it can sound more real and characteristic. We use a hardware sequencer for arranging but it has incredible glitches at the end of every pattern of music, which is interesting up to a point. We usually only use computers for accurate sequencing now, you know, German timing."
Your music is often described as a playground for the drug-addled mind. Surely you're not thinking along these lines when you're creating it...
"Mike: No, not really. I like to think of the music as being the drug. People shouldn't have to take drugs to enjoy music."
There's a restraint to your compositions that is often absent from contemporary electronic music. Does that reflect your faith in the listener?
"Marcus: I think it's a lot to do with why we write our music. We're not trying to get people to dance or anything. I want it to be listened to, and part of that is respecting the listener's intelligence, to know that they will notice the little things you put in there, you don't have to surround ideas in explosions and neon lights."
Are you satisfied with the general state of electronic music at the moment? Doesn't it seem like there are a lot of artists running around in circles?
"Marcus: I've heard some incredible new music in the last couple of years, people really breaking the rules of what's gone before. It's in my nature to lean towards the artists who are mixing organic with electronic, I think that's where the most interesting music lies. But you're right about people going in circles, we get sent a lot of music to our postal box, and I try to listen to as much of it as possible. I've noticed that it falls into two camps, a small amount is really original stuff that's beautiful, like Aspera, and the Anticon stuff, but a lot of the other music going about is just samey laptop clicky tracks."
Imitation. The sincerest form of flattery or hard evidence of creative bankruptcy?
"Mike: I'd guess it's a bit of both, I mean all musicians have to start somewhere and usually they're inspired to write music because of someone else's music that they love."
Somebody somewhere once said that the best electronic music is music that you could never quite imagine on your own; yours seems to fall distinctly in that territory. Are you aware as to how strangely your music seems to co-exist with the subconscious?
"Mike: I don't know if we hear it quite the way the listener does. For us the whole point of writing music is to get something infectious into the back of the listener's mind, something that feels so personal to you that you couldn't even possibly convey it in words to a close friend. I find personally that I only really enjoy music if it has that effect on me, so it's a challenge for me to write tunes that do that for other people. If you listen to a tune by some musician and it really gets to you emotionally, it's as though for a few minutes you've tuned into the feelings that were in the musician's head. There's a sort of knowing connection there between the listener and the musician that ordinary language would never be able to achieve. In a way it's like the closest you'll ever get to being psychic."
(Early release) Twoism was going for 600 pounds on eBay! Discuss.
"Marcus: Some people have clearly got too much money on their hands."
And so where do you go from here? Another four years 'til the next one? Any North American shows lined up?
"Mike: The next album will be a lot sooner.There aren't any live dates planned at the moment, because we're already working on new records."
Interview by Mark Pytlik, February 2002.
The Secret Life of Boards of Canada
|| The Secret Life of Boards of Canada
|| John Mulvey
|| 23 February 2002
"The Secret Life of Boards of Canada" is a 2002 interview by John Mulvey. It originally appeared in NME magazine.
The Secret Life of Boards of Canada
From the Pentland Hills, just south of Edinburgh, it's possible to examine the world at a different angle. Nature becomes reduced to a pattern of hexagons. Melodies sound better in reverse. Bonfires make for better nights out than clubs. And the colour of the universe is, unequivocally, turquoise.
This is where Boards Of Canada, Britain's most exceptional and reclusive electronica group, see things from. Or, at least, how they may see things. In comparison, the Aphex Twin is an open book, as straightforward in art and life as Fran Healy. A trawl of the internet for facts about the Boards duo of Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin turns up a proliferation of witchy rumours but precious few hard facts. They record in a disused nuclear bunker, it's suggested. They belong to some defiantly obscure art-collective-cum-cult named Turquoise Hexagon Sun. They fill their music with backwards messages, alternately sinister and playful, that range from invocations to a "horned god" (one old side project was named Hell Interface) to samples of ELO's Jeff Lynne.
In the Boards of Canada section of the Warp Records website, alongside cover images and a few scant details about release dates, is a link to a Guardian news story which offers conclusive proof the average colour of the universe is "A greenish hue halfway between aquamarine and turquoise" when all visible light is mixed together.
All very intriguing, of course. But when BOC have made one of the most anxiously anticipated albums in years, hardly satisfying. To date, Sandison and Eoin have made a tremendous amount of music, most of which has neither ever been released or else is long unavailable; their 1996 debut EP for the Skam label, "Twoism", is currently available for a tidy £710 on eBay. For most people, their reputation rests on 'Music Has The Right To Children', the 1998 album that mixed spectral, quasi-ambient melodies and dulled hip-hop beats with the constant chatter of infants, hovering tantalisingly beyond comprehension. Deceptively simplistic, there was something about the way the melodies twisted backwards and forwards around each other, about the tangibly creepy atmosphere that pervaded it, that made for an extraordinary debut.
By the time 'In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country' an uncommonly beautiful EP, was released at the end of 2000, the band enjoyed a near-holy status among electronica fans - not to mention artists, plenty of whom had diligently adapted BOC's spooked, rustic kindergarten vibes for themselves. And when the long-promised second album, 'Geogaddi', unexpectedly appeared on release schedules a month ago, the grassroots hype became phenomenal.
Knowing that part of the band's allure is their inaccessibility, Warp embarked on a campaign to make hearing 'Geogaddi' as difficult as possible. Virtually no new music made it onto the internet: download apparently new tracks from Audiogalaxy and you're as likely to discover an ambient fake, four minutes of looped speech samples or an old Brian Eno tune. The track titles, meanwhile, could only be located on HMV's Japanese site. Eventually, 'Geogaddi' was premiered in six churches around the world - in London, New York, Edinburgh, Tokyo, Berlin and Paris. Slides of children playing, of sunsets where the sky is bent into a hexagon, were projected above the altars. Small turquoise hexagons took the place of hymn books.
And then there was the album: 66 minutes and six seconds of music that is both soothing and disorienting, lushly beautiful yet creaky and unnerving. One track, 'Opening The Mouth', sounds like a heavy-breathing call from a banshee. Another, the truly horrible 'The Devil Is In The Details', alternates between the instructions on a relaxation tape and a desperately crying child. There are ghostly organs and distant tablas, warnings of volcanic explosions, an ecstatic vocal about "1969 in the sunshine" and an overall feeling that this heady, saturated music is how My Bloody Valentine might've sounded had they released anything after 1991's 'Loveless'. Honestly, it's that good.
"We take that as a real compliment," accepts Sandison. "We love the sound of music that seems to be barely under control. We love music that's out of tune in a beautiful way, or dissonant, or damaged. We tried to make the record work as a giddy, swirling soundtrack. It's okay to be imperfect - in fact the imperfections are where the magic is. To us, perfect music sounds sterile and dead. The tunes we write are imperfect, the sounds are imperfect, even the artwork. I can't listen to perfect music, it bores me. We actually put a lot of effort into making things rough and difficult and noisy, even more so on this than on the last album. I think most bands get more polished and over-produced as they go along. But one of the ideas with 'Geogaddi' was to go the opposite way, to get it to sound as though it was recorded before the last one."
Early February 2002, and boards Of Canada have consented to a rare interview with NME, on the understanding it runs after the album's release. To preserve their privacy, it's to be conducted by email, but the resulting answers still shed a little light on the world of Sandison and Eoin, without ever completely dismantling their mystique.
To begin, their name derives from the National Film Board Of Canada, whose nature documentaries enraptured the Scottish-born pair when they spent some time living in Calgary as children. "My parents worked in the construction industry out there," writes Sandison. "My memory of Calgary is a picture of boxy 1970s office blocks dumped in the middle of nowhere against a permanent sunset."
They started making tapes around 1982 or '83, when they were still children. At their Hexagon Sun studio, there's an archive of 20 years of music. "We're a bit anal about this," admits Eoin, "and I guess one year we might hunt through it all and release some of it. Though we've actually already got the next album half-finished, which will surprise some people to hear. There's a lot of music." Though the paucity of their released might suggest otherwise, Sandison and Eoin are anything but lazy. "A typical day for us," writes Eoin, "is something like 15 hours thumping the shit out of drums and synthesizers and samplers, with frequent breaks for coffee or a beer." Expectations and pressures from the outside world hardly make an impact, either.
"We're too busy to give a shit," reckons Sandison. "Either working in our studio or being out in the fresh air with our friends somewhere. We put pressure on ourselves more than anything. Marcus and myself are pretty ruthless to one another, musically. That's the toughest criticism we get, which is another reason the album took a long time."
Why is it so much better to live in the country rather than the city?
"Mike: "I don't think it's easy to be truly independent as an artist at the same time as being part of an urban community. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it just doesn't suit us. Besides, when I'm faced with the choice of hanging out with my friends round a bonfire where we live, or being squashed in a London tube with some suit's elbow in my face, it's an easy choice to make."
What's the significance of hexagons to you?
"Marcus: "The hexagon theme represents that whole idea of being able to see reality for what it is, the raw maths or patterns that make everything. We've always been interested in science and maths. Sometimes music or art or drugs can pull back the curtain for you and reveal the Wizard of Oz, so to speak, busy pushing the levers and pressing buttons. That's what maths is, the wizard. It sounds like nonsense but I'm sure a lot of people know what I'm talking about."
The turquoise hexagon sun idea, the ring of people on the 'Geogaddi' cover, and that slightly eerie bucolic feel there is in a lot of your music, suggests something cultish, vaguely pagan.
"Mike: "That's probably just a reflection of the way we live our lives. We are a bit ritualistic, although not religious at all. We're not really conscious of it in our music but I can see that it is happening. We're interested in symbols. I don't know, we never just make a pleasant tune and leave it at that, it would be pointless. So I suppose there is an intention to let the more adult, disturbed, atrocious sides of our imaginations slip into view through the pretty tunes."
What's the fascination with children's voices? Is it to do with a nostalgia for childhood?
"Mike: "It's something that has a peculiar effect in music, it ought not to be there, especially in atonal, synthetic music. It's completely out of place, and yet in that context that you can really feel the sadness of a child's voice. Being a kid is such a transitory, fleeting part of your lifespan. If you have siblings, then if you think about it, you'll have known them as adults for a lot longer than you ever knew them as children. It's like a little kid lost, gone."
You've talked in the past about subliminal messages, hidden ideas, bombs planted in your tunes. What's the fascination, and what form do these take?
"Marcus: "If you're in a position where you're making recordings of music that thousands of people are going to listen to repeatedly, it gets you thinking, 'What can we do with this? We could experiment with this...' And so we do try to add elements that are more than just the music. Sometimes we just include voices to see if we can trigger ideas, and sometimes we even design tracks musically to follow rules that you just wouldn't pick up on consciously, but unconsciously, who knows? 'The Devil Is In The Details' has a riff that was designed to imitate a specific well-known equation, but in musical terms. Maybe it won't mean anything to anyone, but it's interesting just to try it. We do things like this sometimes."
One thing Boards Of Canada are emphatic about, for all the talk of bonfires and rural retreats, is that they're not hippies. We ask if they're a psychedelic band, and Marcus replies: "If you mean psychedelic in a scientific way, then, yeah, that's probably fair. But if you mean it in a lifestyle way, you know, hippy-large floppy hat, patchouli oil and colourful trousers way, then nothing could be further from who we are."
Further from what, though? Tempt BOC into the open for a few moments and still, you can only make out the faintest of outlines. And ask them, finally, how important mystery and a lack of information is to their music, and they'll prove it by sidestepping the question. "We just try to keep ourselves to ourselves," concludes Marcus Eoin. "The music is what is important." Of course.
interview by by John Mulvery, February 2002.
In An Imaginary Place Out In The Country
|| In An Imaginary Place Out In The Country
|| Cookie Scene
"In An Imaginary Place Out In The Country" is a 2002 interview by .... It originally appeared in the Japenese music magazine Cookie Scene.
Note: The original magazine was scanned to PDF. That PDF was sent to an online OCR tool to be converted to Japanese character text. The resulting text was translated on a basic level by Google Translate. That translation has been rewritten and interpreted into proper English by Valotonin.
Initially it was a drop of water. Small ripples flowed and gathered upon the surface and began to spread. Eventually Music Has the Right to Children was given to the world in 1998, released under both Warp and SKAM record labels.
The Boards of Canada and the impact of Music Has the Right to Children was strongly felt. The brothers engineering direct pluronic music, ambient atmospheres and utilizing aspects of Hip-Hop, but all genres of music where used to propagate their unique sound. Words begin to fade into the music and become one with the sound, but they maintain their sense of direction and flow, a sound full of immersive vitality. The beauty of their sound proceeded to propagate and quickly spread throughout the world. Music Has the Right to Children had become an exceptionally prominent seller on the Indie charts in the UK. Their signature identity, their je ne sais quoi and otherworldly sounds where immediately recognizable but they didn't show you the whole picture with ease. Giving few interviews and rarely seen in photographs, their style and their activities where constantly wrapped in a veil. Sometimes referred to as 'Scotland's greatest mystery'.
Their sound continues to impact the music scene in a variety of ways. The methodology, sound texture being a duality of sonic mastery. IDM and post-rock where being sold readily with coined nicknames such as 'Nupsychedelic', but still, Boards of Canada's sound is something that doesn't fade, it continues to grow into something beautiful over time. Their sound is unique.
Meeting and exceeding the high expectations of future releases that fans where left with after their 1998 release, Geogaddi (2002) saw the light of day. Sounds and phrases, everything is composed of great beauty. Great moments of euphoria are reached in the new release. Within lies a psychedelic world that only the brothers Sandison can create. In addition to this, the few that have seen them at a live setting have also told of the charming characteristics of their, often intimate, live performances. The perfect blend of both psychedelic video and sound entrances the listener with all senses.
I am overjoyed to be interviewing both Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin, the masters behind the music, listening intently as I am aware of some of our readers anticipation and interest in hearing their story. Although I am not aware of how familiar they will be to Cookie Scene readers, I find that their sound alone leads me to want to know the story beneath. I tell myself: 'Before beginning this interview, I will want to recap their history'. Geogaddi was distributed to the press upon its release. I find myself wondering 'Are their four, or perhaps even five members of the group to create such a diverse sound?' The answer to this is now apparent. In 1995 the band and a group of their lucky friends gathered in Hexagon Sun studios in the Pentland Hills, Scotland and held an ordinance for their new release. Hexagon Sun is often the venue of small scale, closed audiovisual events for members of the collective. Their early releases where on a self-produced label 'Music70'. The very first release had been layered with melancholic melodies and rough rhythm sections.
[Unintelligible section omitted]
Boards of Canada utilized Hexagon Sun visuals in live settings, often accompanied by depressive and subliminal texts, gradually increasing the degree of audiovisual perfectionism.
Mike and Marcus immigrated between Scotland and southern Canada as children. The original form of Boards of Canada was based around a 1950's microphone, making experimental sounds using borrowed drums, synths and tape machines. Also utilizing 8mm cine-film video. A great deal of their influence comes from the soundtracks of educational documentaries, movies and music. The name 'Boards of Canada' coming from a Canadian documentary service: 'The Film Boards of Canada'. In 1996, Christ who was originally the group's 3rd member and helped to compose certain tracks on the Twoism EP, left the group leaving Mike and Marcus to continue. This year in London, the brothers performed a live show at an intimate Lighthouse venue on the River Thames, complete with super 8mm video for the duration. I attended this event, the 'Warp Lighthouse Party' seeing other artists from WarpRecords perform along with the Boards of Canada. Tortoise and Autechure are other notable appearances.
Hell Interface is the Board's side project and focuses mainly on intricate remix work, often sublime.
On February 2nd 2002, their long silence was ended and their second warp LP, Geogaddi emerged from the caverns and Warp Records gave away several releases for the press. Boards of Canada's name began to be well known in Japan. Four years ago, in the United Kingdom, the brothers appeared on the long established 'John peel radio show'. Peel referred to the broadcasting of it as 'one of his best sessions'.
Hexagon Sun began a regular event and referred to said event only as 'Redmoon'. People sat around a large bonfire akin to an old nursery rhyme. In February, I continued to scan over the UK indie chart Top 200.
This interview will comprise of three parts.Part one will be applying their roots, they tell me that they where releasing records from childhood.
Is the production company 'Film Boards of Canada' attached to your work aesthetically? Have you taken well to this and can you tell me anything about the namesake of your group?
Marcus: Yes. It was mostly educational programs. I look for things like that, even now. It revolves mostly around journeys that traverse the wilderness and also the fact that it is a documentation of said journey. The similarities can be heard in our music as it could be interpreted as a sonic journey. We also include themes such as environmental issues, which flow into the subject of such videos. Music that tended to exist in these documentaries didn't exist anywhere else and I find it truly inspiring
For us Japanese, the series of words that 'Boards of Canada' is, isn't. We have but a small idea of the image, the phrase is only applicable or understandable to those who's native language is English.
As children, you moved between the north of the UK and the south of Canada. Do you think this has had a considerable influence on the music?
[ambiguous as to which of the brothers replied]
I feel that it had a great deal of influence yes. For example to the north, there is very sightly and beautiful nature and wildlife combined with sometimes brutal and barren landscapes. For children who live there, there is not much to do however. We where given little entertainment. Self sufficiency at the heart that is stirred up by the decision to try to create something was our real motivation
The band in its original form was born out of nature. Using a microphone and a few complimentary synthesizers. Was the potent music coming out of the United States at the time of your earlier experimental work a strong influence to you?
Marcus: We knew a handful of bands from that place and time. We always listened to the rough, loose kind of music. More so than music created by groups and bands purely to be listened to in and of itself at the time, we where influenced by an array of Canadian documentaries and their soundtracks during our time there
Mike: Our music emerged mostly from natural chance at that time. One month we where making a b-music production, another eight and we where making an amateur video production accompanied by our own music. This was fueled by the basic impulse to create simple videos for ourselves
What was the relationship between music and video for you at the time? And how do you perceive that now?
Marcus: I think there are various stages in relation to film and music in terms of our own productions. Many of our earlier home-made films where purely experimental. I feel it was in contrast to a lot of the music videos coming out that where typically a combination of both dancing and music, with little other visuals. There was also the commercial aspect of that.
Recently, one feels that the commercial music scene is coming back in a way, but there where always artists with a particular palette in terms of audiovisual creations. In many ways, the video is now viewed as one of the elements to music creation. In some cases, the videos where never intended to be reflective of the music, but where purposed for it in such a manor anyway.
Aphex Twin gathered a lot of attention for Warp Records
in the earlier part of the 90's, and I feel that Boards of Canada
's music is also a strong force within that label and drawing more and more attention to it. There is an emerging electronic scene in Japan now, and worldwide.
Marcus: Terms like 'Electronica' and 'IDM' are very new ones. There are many artists out there and for many of them, they are only influenced by the past four or five year's worth of music. On the other hand, in our case, we find ourselves influenced by an array of different music from different times. We also take inspiration from music of many different scenes. Even thinking of my favourite groups, they are generally unique, doing things with a sense of self sufficiency and independence.
[On the subject of Redmoon nights
. Ambiguous as to who was speaking]
It took place by a 16th century Monastery, mostly debris, with a partially Collapsed roof, a truly amazing place... Hidden in the forest, it became a feeling guarded by nature. Occasionally there are as many as a hundred people, this turned into fifty as the bonfire gradually turned to embers and with lights and candles, people came inside the monastery. A mysterious outdoor experience. A perfect place shrouded in western pine
Can you tell me as to which musical equipment you prefer to use, what is your favorite piece of musical hardware?
Marcus: We write songs in an entirely different way every time so sticking to the same equipment and instrumentation would damage that experience and ability to create a new atmosphere for every track. We like to create our own sounds, for example, by sampling the sound of a container of soup etc.
In making your work, who takes on the specific roles?
Marcus: Mike has become a source of inspiration for the core of the songs, he always has unique melodies and strange and wonderful ideas
Mike: Marcus' strengths are a great combination of musical experience. He is a great music producer and also the anti-producer in a way. A kind of guru in many ways.
If you had the ability to travel through time, to what time period would you see yourselves instinctively traveling?
[Ambiguous as to who responds]
Future advances in technology or astonishing progress for sciences and society is not the most impressive positive side to human development and the future
Mike: Specific events and movies gave particular impact in making Geogaddi
If big-budget films only had musical arrangements by Boards of Canada
... Do you make any movies? Who do you assign the acting roles to?
Marcus: I feel the answer to this question might be a little too revealing.
What impressions do you get from dreams, is your music ever inspired by images and sounds seen and heard in your sleep?
Marcus: As a child I would often dream and look forward to dreaming, it is true of today also. I remember one, this guy and his family together in Canada. They parked their car and visited the single story church next door, the family entered, I did not go with them. There was a nice green lawn and I had a walk around the building. I went around the back and fell onto orange barbed wire. The first King of the United Kingdom appeared. He placed his sword against my neck and dragged me up to the guillotine behind the building. At the same time as the guillotine, my body had morphed into a stone statue. I felt awful. Another dream I had had this early 80s ominous feel. I woke up in the middle of the night and rand down the stairs, I looked into the hallway below and saw red transparent organisms there. There was a guy with an ET feeling about him, red or orange light shone onto his body. I was screaming as I was being sucked into him, etc.
What sentiments do you find to be most beautiful and what are your concerns in and of this world?
Marcus: Environmental issues are something I hold close and have strong beliefs in. The freedom of self-determinism is also one that I feel more people should be aware of and advocating.
Regarding creatures of non-human origin on this Earth. There are separate reactions for instance that of the fish is one that is rather instinctive and they have little awareness of other species. When I listen to Geogaddi, I hear the entire seed of time including the human race, and within each species a boundary exists as akin to one I would imagine in a fictional world.
Mike: I think you are on to something there. I think we try to subtly imply that Geogaddi is the world. A warm mixture divided on the concept of chaos. As if you are viewing something in a state of furious drunkenness, with that particular gaze. Fish and Humans help to form the hexagonal mirror image of the world, as does the presence of birds and all wildlife. It all forms the aforementioned mixture of a chaotic but intricate world.
Do you think the meaning that people put into the album title Geogaddi affects the way a listener perceives the music?
Marcus: I think it really depends on the listener. Many listen and think consciously about its impact. Some will inevitably reach the same conclusions that we do. It is certainly ambiguous for a reason but that isn't to say that many won't come to the same conclusions
Will people's perceptions of your previous work affect the way they hear Geogaddi? On the subject of your previous work, there has even been a song called Turquoise Hexagon Sun. I don't want to call this your 'decisive album'. I think it is always important to have the frame of mind that your best work is yet to be made. In a way, this album serves as a way to purify the former idea of your music and the ruthless categorization that inevitably comes from it. You always defy the listener's expectations. I sometimes feel that your music's purpose is to program or control the listener through suggestive sounds. I feel that Geogaddi is completely different to your previous work Music Has the Right to Children and the EP released two years ago In a Beautiful Place out in the Country. From these phrases we gather a human, a natural, sentiment. I really feel the attitude of your new album is very different, utilizing twisted samples and distortion
Mike: Distant, yet direct. A twist. Distortion is also applied much more liberally throughout Geogaddi. We human beings live in harmony with one nature. I never intend to create an intrusive attitude towards the listener. We also include plenty of humor as and when we wish. There is plenty to find.
Is expressing humanity and nature in music incompatible with using electronic equipment to do so?
Mike: With our music we are looking to make a strong contradiction. I feel that natural and electronic are one, however. I often feel an inner conflict on the matter. In a sense, all things like electronics and technology are, after all, an extension of the 'natural'.
Marcus: We sometimes take inspiration from urban environments, too. We personally tend to avoid the subject in our music. There are little things though like reverberation that can only be created by sounds echoing through the streets of a city. We prefer to replace the cold atmosphere of modern electronics with the more traditional. We like to think of our sound as something warm and perhaps forceful. This is reflected very much in our video
And as we have been focusing on current activities, the last part of our interview will focus more on future activities. I have heard much talk of potential projects for the future. It was over three years since your last LP...
Mike: There are actually an awful lot of songs that where not used for Geogaddi. An awful lot that have not been used. We'll have fun creating the new album, our lifestyle warrants that. You might hear a few of the unused tracks making it to the production line in future.
What technology do you use on a daily basis and what is your view of technology generally?
Marcus: We live in the midst of raw nature, breathing the fullest fresh air. For thousands of years, humans used technology in order to better their own lives, but for the first time in history we are at an exceptional place where technology is effectively being made for itself. I think that what is most dangerous for modern society is that technology has lost sight of realistic goals. Millions of people are involved in the development of weapons in one hand, and on the other hand others are involved in the development of equipment to improve the lives of people who are most disadvantaged in society.
Boards of Canada's music, especially the newer, the sound leaves a strong impression. Many listeners also feel that they have to find a meaning 'between the lines' when reading the titles. Many also felt that there was something to hear in the silence during "Magic Window". Was the implementation of that 'gap of sound' "Magic Window" important to you?
Marcus: I like to treat it as a space. Its strange with an album focusing so heavily on the dynamics and intricacies of sound to suddenly be confronted with silence.
I also feel that there is something very unique about your usage of words.
" comes to mind and many other passages of music with semi-audible words that are almost on a subliminal level. Do you anticipate people trying to make any sense of these words and phrases as they are listening?
Mike: I don't think that combined vocal is required to create a good melody, they are mostly secondary to the music. It isn't always completely clear what is being sung. Some of the instruments are regarded as 'space' or 'silence' is an important factor in not over-saturating a track. With some artists, vocals and one instrument is all that is needed to entrance you such as with the Cocteau Twins. You don't always have to understand what is being talked about to find beauty in it. Vocals are an instrument in and of themselves.
Boards of Canada's purpose is to make music. What is your process? Do you build songs from interesting sounds that you have created in reverse sometimes?
Marcus: Sometimes occasionally you can decide the title and the theme before you make a song and try to create a sound that suits it. '"Gyroscope"' is an example of this and was formed as a result of a dream. The track directly reflected that of the sonic qualities of my dream, actually. A lot of the time we build tracks around an interesting sound or basis, it becomes the focal point and we build the track around it.
I recall after playing "1969" the sample that repeats "1969", in the sunshine...' will remain circulating around my head long after the song is over. I feel that many of your records reference the psychedelic movement of the 60s. Do you consider yourselves hippies? (laughs)
[Ambiguous as to who responds]
I think that artists feel a sense of intimacy in the country. At that time (60's) I think fields and nature represented a certain sense of freedom. I also feel that psychedelic and hippie music has its roots in country music and was effectively an adaptation of such. They where tributaries and offshoots of the main river that is country music. It eventually became a fashionable existence to identify as a 'hippie'. We empathize and relate to the fundamental ethics of that stream of music, though.
Do you think that aspects of your daily life reflect your ethics and roots as musicians?
There is a certain aspect of lesser known modern music that serves as an antidote to modern pop charts. It is easy to simply make laptop music but there are no true feelings that reside within it and it is often difficult to find any warmth in. We have a certain appreciation for bands that can utilize musical instruments live despite Boards of Canada relying more heavily on technology.
Many people compare you to certain groups such as Pink Floyd, Brian Eno, Autechure, Godspeed You Black Emperor! etc. How do you feel about this and how do you feel about these artists?
[Ambiguous as to who replies]
For Pink Floyd, they generally don't compare us. There isn't so much to hear in their early works. The same can be said about Brian Lee Residential. Some of his works we've certainly enjoyed though despite not listening to all of his works. We adore and are well connected with Autechure. It feels like a vast difference between our sounds though. I tend to focus on music to surpass limits of rhythm and electronic sounds, the core of our sound is generally a melody. With God Speed we have also listened to a small quantity of their work but by no means all of it and I would like to express the greatest respect for Darrel, also my friend. He is probably one of the nicest guys in the people who are doing electronic music.
Mike: SKAM, they are not affected by the commercial thing. A 'do-it-yourself' atmosphere that you have to stick to to a certain extent. Andy Maddox (head of SKAM records) is, while being a layed-back person, someone that would come up with ideas to realize that you want to do immediately. I think we just wanted to feel that we where running our own creation. Warp is more of a 'big label' type situation but I also feel that we are one large family in music.
Marcus: We are. We made a song that is sampled from the basic elements of a rather famous song, in order to avoid any legal trouble, we thought it would be best to release it under the pseudonym.
The John Peel Sessions where also a great release, we don't yet have any recordings other than that of seeing you perform in a live setting. Do you consider yourself to be more expressive through live works or do you tend towards the studio side of the situation?
Mike: Thank you! We spend several months preparing for a performance, mostly because of the visual side of things and using our 8mm film footage. Trying to accurately time psychedelic imagery with the music and we use some unusual effects
Do you see yourselves ever performing in Japan?
Marcus: Really, we have actually wanted to do so. Several times we where invited to play in japan, in fact. However, its not like we have a 'This year I want to do a gig' sentiment very often.
Mike: We've already begun working on the new album so we have plenty to keep ourselves busy with. After that, perhaps, we will complete a video and consider a live event.
Another Miracle of The Post-modern Sensibility
|| El Cielo Herido
|| David Broc
|| Mondo Sonoro
"Another Miracle of The Post-modern Sensibility" is a 2002 interview by David Broc. It originally appeared in the Spanish music magazine Mondosonoro.
Another Miracle of The Post-modern Sensibility
The one who is signing this article down there is aware of the fact that most part of the Mondosonoro readers, might have been somehow upset seeing BoC in front cover of this month magazine. Some of them, only by ignorance of their music. Others, because they know it too well. Some others, as amazed as they Might be, because they feel this mag have once again betrayed it's rock and roll spirit, choosing to explore a son of the modernity that they don't really understand , and , in consequence, despise. But truth is that in its long career , Mondosonoro, has never been an exclusive platform neither for rock nor for any other musical style, on the contrary.
Let just say that the presence of BoC in this month cover answers to the same criterion that has pushed us to choose Sigur Ros, Mogwai, Nine Inch Nails for our main pages: the search of tireless emotion, wild talent, and a perspective of the future of all the musical panorama. That's it.
BoC keep that peculiar virtue of moving listeners with a eloquent equation that seems apparently vain. Wintery electronica, hip-hop rhythms, nostalgic melodies, disturbing atmospheres and Warp tradition compose their musical landscape. From that point, the scottish duo creates the sound of worryness: that hurted music that big cities seem to avoid. It's the soundtrack to disconcert, the distance and the grey halo that invade our cities, our lives. Boc' s music contains the truth no one wants to hear or to see, it's an involontary mirror and in its reflection lies the sadness, emotion and dreamyness of the works that, now and tomorrow, are meant to survive us.
In its apparent sonic abstraction, lies another miracle of the post-modern sensibility. It isn't shocking, then, when we see how Radiohead among other bands buried in a creative crisis have optimized their stylistic re-orientation after listening to MHTRTCH, the first LP of this enigmatic and disturbing duo.
Its impact has answered to all the qualities great art must be demanded for: search, adventure, essence and emotion. Geogaddi, second album from this scottish, promessed to be one of the major works in 2002. Not only because in their proposal the formentionned qualities co-exist, but also because we're talking about a dazzling exercise that rises above its context and looks for eternity.
Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison have invested 4 years in the making of this longly and anxiously waited album. A four year silence only "disturbed" by IABPOITC, an important and solid EP that helped to reduce the anxiety before the final album was released. Now, framed by the promotional excitement of every product that comes out, the two creators keep their fidelity to their nearly autist hermetism. Their refusals to telephonic interviews, obliged us to communicate with them via e-mail. That's not a problem: they seem much more comfortable with a keyboard than a phone.
"Sandison: we are guilty of that. We taped a lot of music in last years, but we took a break just until we believed we were satisfied with the definitive combination of the songs. It's important to achieve an balance between all the different sorts of tracks, specially because we hope people will listen to our album entirely in one time. We don't really see our songs like individual pieces of music but as a whole, that configures a big story. Therefore, the tracks on GEOGADDI are a group on themselves, a flavor, and we have taped enough music to put together a whole different album.
"Eoin: But it hasn't been that difficult. In fact, our major problem as a band is that we tend to tape too much music, even if we concentrate only on a small portion of what we've done , later. The only difficulty is to find the right conbination between the songs that fit together. For each song included in GEOGADDI there are twelve we've ignored for some reason.
Divided in two (in one hand a song with intro, developpement and release, in the old vein; and on the other hand, brief ambient interludes that give some strenght to the whole, and ocationnally seem to work independently), this record doesn't seem to give any freshness to the BOC sound on a first look. But the fact is that BoC do not intend to metamorphose its sound, like the circumstances and the times would require (what do you wanted, nu school breaks?). Precisely, the major point in this record is to be found on its internal way of function. Its search does not intend to break the laws of the moment , but the laws of its own sound. Geogaddi it's a valuable step forwad in the building of the BoC speech. It improves, strenghts and complements it. And this near and modest exploration can only be on the benefit of the music. The main victims of this quiet revolution are rhythms. And it is well worth to stop on this element, cause the beats on this record are among the most overwhelming works of this last months.
"Eoin: this time we decided to get some revolution and create some less conventional rhythms. We've always had that hip-hop sensibility haunting us, but on GEOGADDI, we tried to let things grow stylistically, and this affected rhythms too. In this album, there's a beat that really satisfies us, the one on "you could feel the sky", that sounds like someone stretching a rope over the surface of a wooden ship".
All this is backed- up by a change in the work mecanisms. It's in the weird perception that you have when you listen to their music that you stumble with elements and old looks. In its contruction process, the band faces the artesanal touch and the organic pulse of the avoiding patterns of computers and machinery.
"Sandison: well, yeah, we have been going back to our old, and a more simple way of work. After MHTRTC, we began to use more computer technology with the wrong intention of accelerating our composing process. But computers always end by bothering the possibilities that tecnichal production offers, that has the unpleasant effect of drying up progressively all your inspiration. So we react against that and now we're back in a more simple way of doing things, just like we worked in the beginning: only using a sampler, a sequencer and creating directly the melodies. This make it more intantaneous and fun for us.
With that word of order, they both absorb sounds and ideas in order to incorporate them into the rhythmic building. The melodies are more organic, and they configure an emotive, strange, confused and almost lisergic catalog.
"Eoin: we try to create melodies that cut to the chase, some of them based on homogene sounds or the repetition of riffs and motifs that appear suddenly and then are developped. You listen to the record and you keep some lovely moments in mind that are transitory, anyway; but later, and after further listenings, you can get surprised when you find something that you forgot since the first listen.
Work of redescovery and sensuous puzzle? Why worry when what we have here, right now, is a wild indictment in favor of the purest and desintoxicated of emotions . God only knows that for BoC the thing that matters is the capacity of comotion that the music can exercise on the listener.
"Sandison: i agree: Our music has more todo with emotion than intelligence. But we don't create the songs in order to make them emotionals in a deliberate way. The basic melodies of our songs are often written quickly and by instinct, so they are never conscious or deliberated.I always find a sound that i like, i improvise and experiment around it, and then a melody appears and i stick with it. After this process, we begin to use some compositional techniques more consciously.
Eoin and Sandison appear, album after album, like two nostalgic chronicists, like two creators faded by a unending sadness that lies underneath everyone of their pentagrams. Without knowing it, they maybe photograph the warmth of the fall, the starving quality of melancholy. And that is, probably one of the aspects that distinguish them of many others electronic referents that haven't made the choice of exploring the imperatives issues of the psyche. They make music infinitly more human and close than many rock, emocore, pop, folk and techno bands.
"Sandison: i suppose that the question is that we don't write consciously songs that make people sad. We simply write what we feel, and often music comes out that way. Many of the melodies have been written by me, and i have to say i usually tend towards sadness.
"Eoin: i think that the fact of sounding nostalgic and all that it's not somthing we go after, it just happens by the kind of person we are and the way we think. We have a private and amorphous idea in our minds of how the last BoC
album must sound like. It's like a goal that is clear in our minds and we always try to aproximate, but we never quite get there. That keep us alive "cause we know that's it's in our hands to talks through our ideas; we just know that if we keep working we will eventually reach that goal."
interview by by David Broc, March 2002.
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
EL CIELO HERIDO
CULPABLES, EN PARTE, DE LA RECONVERSIÓN MUSICAL DE RADIOHEAD, BOARDS OF CANADA SIGUEN ATACANDO EL VACÍO DESDE LA MODERNIDAD, DOS CONCEPTOS QUE A DÍA DE HOY ACOSTUMBRAN A IR DE LA MANO, PERO QUE EN LA PROPUESTA DEL DÚO BRITÁNICO HALLA SU DEFINITIVA CONTRAPOSICIÓN. “GEOGADDI” (WARP/SATÉLITE K, 02), SU NUEVO DISCO, ARAÑA LÁGRIMAS A LA CONTEMPORANEIDAD.
Quien abajo firma es consciente que la inmensa mayoría de lectores de Mondo Sonoro habrán fruncido el ceño al ver a Boards Of Canada en la portada de este número de marzo. Unos, por simple desconocimiento de su música. Otros, por conocerla demasiado bien. Y algunos más, estupefactos, por sentir que la revista ha vuelto a traicionar su espíritu rockero con un hijo directo de esa modernidad que tan poco entienden y, en consecuencia, estiman. Pero lo cierto es que en su ya dilatada carrera, Mondo Sonoro nunca ha ejercido de plataforma exclusiva del rock o cualquier otro estilo musical, más bien al contrario. Y lo mismo se le podría decir a ese otro público que, atónito, contempla como la revista que les produce urticaria (ya sabemos que nunca se es suficientemente cool) respalda a uno de sus referentes favoritos. Digamos que la presencia de Boards Of Canada en la portada de marzo responde al mismo criterio que ha empujado a la publicación a situar en sus páginas centrales a Sigur Rós, Mogwai, Nine Inch Nails o Doble V: la búsqueda de emoción infatigable, talento por domesticar y perspectiva de futuro en todos los terrenos franqueables del panorama musical.
- “Los ordenadores siempre te acaban entorpeciendo las posibilidades que ofrece la producción técnica, que tiene el desagradable efecto de secarte paulatinamente toda tu inspiración”
Y punto. Boards Of Canada conservan la extraña virtud de conmover a sus seguidores con una ecuación expresiva con pocas probabilidades de traspasar la epidermis. Electrónica invernal, ritmos hip hop, melodías nostálgicas, atmósferas perturbadoras y tradición Warp componen su herencia. A partir de ahí, el dúo inglés se inventa el sonido del desasosiego: esa música herida que las grandes urbes de nuestro día a día evitan sentir como propia. Banda sonora del desconcierto, la distancia y el aliento gris que invaden nuestras ciudades, nuestras vidas, la música de Boards Of Canada contiene la verdad que muchos se niegan a ver o escuchar, y en su función de espejo involuntario recae la tristeza, emoción y ensoñación de las obras que, ahora y mañana, están destinadas a sobrevivirnos. En su aparente abstracción sonora reside otro milagro de la sensibilidad post-moderna. No es contraproducente, pues, comprobar como Radiohead y otros referentes sumidos en crisis creativas han optimizado su reorientación estilística a través de “Music Has The Right To Children”, debut en formato largo (antes llegó un Ep homónimo publicado por Skam) de esta inquietante formación. Su impacto ha respondido a las coordenadas que todos le exigimos al arte: inquietud, aventura, esencia y emoción. “Geogaddi”, segundo disco del dúo británico (dos Ep´s y una peel session se añaden al cómputo global de su legado; todos ellos, salvo “Boards Of Canada”, publicados por Warp), supone, en ese sentido, una de las obras mayúsculas de 2002. No sólo porque en su propuesta cohabiten los aspectos anteriormente citados, sino también porque se trata de un ejercicio sublime que se eleva por encima de su contexto y aspira a la perdurabilidad total. Marcus Eoin y Michael Sandison han invertido cuatro años en la confección de este esperado y ansiado álbum. Un silencio alterado únicamente por “In A Beatiful Place Out In The Country”, un Ep sólido e importante que hizo las veces de aperitivo antes de la definitiva salida al mercado de su deseado regreso discográfico. Y ahora, enmarcados en la vorágine promocional de todo producto, los dos creadores mantienen su fidelidad al hermetismo casi autista. Su renuncia a la concesión de entrevistas telefónicas, nos obliga, así, a la comunicación vía e-mail. Ningún problema: ellos parece más cómodos con el teclado que con el teléfono.
(Sandison) “Somos culpables de ello. Grabamos mucha música a lo largo de los últimos años, pero nos tomamos un respiro hasta sentirnos satisfechos con la combinación definitiva de las canciones. Es importante conseguir un equilibrio entre los distintos tipos de canciones, especialmente porque nosotros esperamos que la gente se escuche el álbum de un tirón. Nosotros realmente no vemos las canciones de nuestros discos como piezas individuales, sino que todo compone una gran historia. Así que los temas en ´Geogaddi´ son en sí mismos un grupo, un sabor, y hemos grabado suficiente música como para editar otro disco”. (Eoin) “Pero no, no ha sido muy difícil. De hecho, nuestro mayor problema como banda es que tendemos a grabar demasiada música, aunque posteriormente sólo nos centremos en una pequeña proporción de lo que hemos hecho. La única dificultad reside en combinar canciones que se adapten entre sí. Por cada canción incluida en ´Geogaddi´ existen doce que hemos obviado por alguna razón determinada”.
- “Tenemos una privada y amorfa idea en nuestras mentes de cómo se supone que debe sonar el último disco de Boards Of Canada. Es como un objetivo que tenemos claro y al que siempre nos estamos aproximando, pero al que nunca acabamos de llegar”
Dividido en dos frentes (por un lado, canciones con introducción, nudo y desenlace, a la vieja usanza; por el otro, breves insertos ambientales que no sólo refuerzan el conjunto, sino que, en ocasiones, funcionan con autonomía propia), este disco no aporta cambios a primera vista dentro del discurso de Boards. Pero es que aquí no se persigue la metamorfosis que, cual impuesto revolucionario, exige la coyuntura y el devenir de la actualidad (¿qué querían: nu school breakz?). Precisamente, el máximo punto de apoyo de este trabajo cabe hallarlo en su funcionamiento interno. Su búsqueda no intenta trascender las leyes del momento, sino las leyes de su propio sonido. Es decir: “Geogaddi” es un valioso paso adelante en la edificación del discurso de Boards Of Canada. Lo mejora, solidifica, envalentona y complementa. Y a partir de ahí, éste se beneficia sobremanera de esa exploración cercana y modesta. Los principales afectados, los ritmos. Cabe detenerse en este elemento, porque un análisis voraz del mismo nos invita al regocijo mayúsculo: los beats de este disco contemplan uno de los trabajos más abrumadores de los últimos meses.
(Eoin) “Esta vez decidimos revolucionarnos un poco y hacer los ritmos menos convencionales. Nosotros siempre tenemos el sentimiento hip hop merodeando, pero en ´Geogaddi´ intentamos dejar que las cosas crecieran estilísticamente, y esto también afectaba a los ritmos. En el disco hay un beat realmente satisfactorio para nosotros, es el de ´You Could Feel The Sky´ (uno de los mejores momentos de todo el minutaje), que suena como si una cuerda fuese estirada sobre la cubierta de un barco de madera”. Todo ello, secundado por un cambio de registro en el método de trabajo. Es en la rara percepción que se tiene al escuchar su discurso que uno se tropieza con elementos y miradas añejas. En su proceso de autoconstrucción, la banda enfrenta el toque artesanal y la pulsación orgánica a los patrones esquivos del ordenador y las máquinas.
(Sandison) “Bueno, sí, nosotros últimamente hemos empezado a volver al antiguo, y también más simple, método de trabajo. Tras ´Music Has The Right To Children´ nos empeñamos en usar más tecnología de ordenador con la equivocada intención de acelerar nuestro proceso de composición. Pero con los ordenadores siempre te acaban entorpeciendo las posibilidades que ofrece la producción técnica, que tiene el desagradable efecto de secarte paulatinamente toda tu inspiración. Así que reaccionamos contra ello y ahora hemos vuelto a la forma más simple de hacer las cosas, tal y como trabajamos en nuestros inicios: simplemente usando un sampler, un secuenciador y yendo al grano con las melodías. Esto lo hace más instantáneo y divertido paranosotros”.
Con esa premisa, ambos absorben sonidos e ideas para llevar a cabo la integración de sus melodías en el armazón rítmico. Más orgánicas, insistimos, y retorcidas que en “Music Has The Right To Children” y su Ep “In a Beautiful Place Out In The Country”, éstas deparan un catálogo emotivo confuso, extrañísimo, casi lisérgico.
(Eoin) “Intentamos crear melodías que vayan al grano, algunas de ellas basadas en sonidos uniformes o en la repetición de riffs que aparecen súbitamente y luego se desarrollan. Tú escuchas el disco y te quedas con algunos momentos encantadores que, en todo caso, son transitorios; pero después de sucesivas escuchas te sorprendes nuevamente cuando encuentras algo que habías olvidado desde la primera escucha”. ¿Trabajo de redescubrimiento y puzzle sensitivo? Para qué preocuparse cuando lo que tenemos aquí, ahora mismo, en el aparato reproductor de cedés, es un salvaje alegato a favor de la emoción pura y desintoxicada. Otro antídoto desesperado contra la sobreestimación de la electrónica como fuente inagotable de lucidez lectiva y progreso creativo sin apego al dictado de la epidermis. Dios sabe que en Boards Of Canada lo único que cuenta es la capacidad de conmoción que su música ejerce en el oyente.
(Sandison) “Estoy de acuerdo: nuestra música tiene que ver más con la emoción que con la inteligencia. Pero no nos acercamos a las canciones con la intención de hacerlas emocionales de forma deliberada. Las melodías básicas de nuestras canciones acostumbran a escribirse de forma rápida e instintiva, así que nunca son conscientes o deliberadas. Yo siempre encuentro un sonido que me gusta, improviso y experimento a su alrededor, y entonces aparece una melodía y me quedo con ella. Después de este proceso es cuando empezamos a aplicar técnicas de composición conscientemente”.
Un punto vital, en todo caso, sobre el que adopta forma una propuesta descorazonadora. Eoin y Sandison se perfilan, disco a disco, como dos nostálgicos crónicos, como dos creadores marchitos por una tristeza incansable que se traduce, sin duda alguna, en cada uno de sus pentagramas. Sin quererlo, quizás, ambos fotografían la calidez del derrumbe, la hambruna de la melancolía. Y eso es, muy probablemente, uno de los aspectos que les distinguen de muchos otros referentes electrónicos que todavía no han optado por sacrificar los imperativos de la psique. Ellos fabrican música infinitamente más humana y cercana que muchas bandas de rock, emocore, pop, folk o techno.
(Sandison) “Supongo que la cuestión es que nosotros no escribimos a conciencia canciones que entristecen a la gente. Nosotros simplemente escribimos aquello que sentimos, y habitualmente la música surge de ese modo. Muchas de las melodías han sido escritas por mí, y sé que yo tengo cierta tendencia a la tristeza”. (Eoin) “Creo que el hecho de sonar nostálgicos y todo eso no es algo que persigamos, sino que ocurre por cómo somos como personas y cómo pensamos. Tenemos una privada y amorfa idea en nuestras mentes de cómo se supone que debe sonar el último disco de Boards Of Canada. Es como un objetivo que tenemos claro y al que siempre nos estamos aproximando, pero al que nunca acabamos de llegar. Eso nos mantiene porque sabemos que está en nuestras manos hablar a través de nuestras ideas; tan sólo tenemos claro que si seguimos trabajando llegaremos algún día a ese objetivo”.
Autor: David Broc
Play Twice Before Listening
|| Play Twice Before Listening
|| Koen Poolman
"Play Twice Before Listening" is a 2002 interview by Koen Poolman. It originally appeared in OOR magazine.
Play Twice Before Listening
Hi Michael & Marcus, Where are you? How are you doing?
"Marcus: We're at our studio right now, the whole place is
under snow at the moment. Everything's cool. Geogaddi
must be one of the most anticipated records of 2002. I
guess this weekend saw the first string of reviews in the
What's the best and the worst criticism you got so far?
"Marcus: We try not to look at reviews. It starts to
affect your work if you read the comments people make.
Even positive comments can be damaging, I mean it's a lot
easier for us to have fun writing music if we imagine
nobody is listening to it."
What's with the secrecy surrounding the release of the
album? a) we don't care about music business politics and
promotion schedules b) we tried to keep the music from
the net (and miraculously succeeded) c) we like a little
mystery d) all above is true
"Mike: a and b. Especially a. Music Has The Right To
Children was one of those seminal records that got better
and more personal every time you listened to it. Its
reputation seemed to grow every year. It's a modern
classic. Geogaddi won't get the time and space to grow in
people's subconsciousness, as MHTRTC did. People are
taking in the album from day one, swallowing every track,
hungry as they are."
"Mike: Thanks, yeah I think you're right, it's easier when
you appear out of nowhere with your first album. After
that, if people let their expectations grow too much,
then it's inevitable that any subsequent records won't
have the same effect, no matter what the music sounds
like. Our music is never intended to do its work on just
the first listen. Like Jack Dangers said, "play twice
How did you cope with this situation? Do you feel
comfortable with the idea that a lot more people are
gonna hear your music, giving it momentum, building up a
hype rather than letting it "capture a nostalgic feeling
buried somewhere in our mind", as one journalist so
"Mike: We'd much rather that people find our music by
themselves, you know, so that it's something that feels
like it belongs to them. If it was up to us there would
be no promotion for our music at all. MHTRTC was a
one-off moment of magic you can't possibly repeat -
because of the aforementioned situation. Wasn't it? Is it
fair to expect another album of such class? Best thing to
do in a situation like this is to disappear for good...
and let legend begin."
"Mike: Our best work is still ahead of us. We were writing
and recording our own music for about fifteen years
before 'Music Has The Right...', and we're never going to
stop creating music. We wouldn't have left it at just
that album, just because that's the first record that
became quite widely-known. The truth is that when we
released that record we had no idea it would develop the
kind of cult thing that it has."
You've been shying away from the media and are very
fastidious when it comes to playing live. How important
is Boards Of Canada, The Myth, to you?
"Marcus: We're not into milking the media and we're not
interested in trying to become famous. There are too many
artists out there who barely put any records out, yet
they're on television and in magazines all the time. If
that's what they want, that's fine, but I think that's
the mentality of someone who came to the music world
quite late in their life, but for us we've been doing
what we do for years already, and we'd be doing it anyway
even if nobody knew us. The music industry is full of
people who are famous for being famous. We just want to
create good music, and it doesn't matter to us to do all
the other nonsense.
There's a nostalgic feeling speaking through your music.
The ultimate conclusion would be: perceiving your music
as if it were nostalgia itself, originating from another
time and space. Something out there. Not of today's
"Mike: That's exactly why we try to create a sound that
isn't attached to the current time. I hope our music
could be enjoyed thirty years in the future without
sounding like it came from an identifiable trend or a
scene. We've always loved the sound of things that are a
little sad and broken-sounding. I think that because we
try to capture a damaged, eerie effect in our music, it
ends up sounding nostalgic to some listeners. But you
could be right because the intention is to make it sound
like it's something strangely familiar but perpendicular
to the real world, and in a way timeless."
You've recorded over 90 songs for Geogaddi. Only 22 - and
the silent Magic Window - made it onto the album. At
Camber Sands you played an utterly brilliant new track
that's not on the album.
"Marcus: It's about what fits in the context of the album.
When we play live we often play tracks that haven't been
released. Sometimes those tracks will be used later,
sometimes we will move on from that sound and leave the
How many hours of music went through the drain? Any
chance of a quick follow-up to Geogaddi or, at least, an
"Mike: Haha, yeah there will be another record very soon
after this one. As Marcus said, you make an album by
compiling what fits together, and we're already putting
together a different record."
How did you make the selection between the 'full
on' tracks and the strange intermezzos and miniature
melodies that slowly grow into little gems after a while?
Is there an overall theme/direction that connects the
tracks on the album?
"Mike: It's meant to play like the soundtrack for some
strange musical, or an imagined movie. The theme with
Geogaddi is a kind of confusion, as though you're going
through a kind of 'Alice in Wonderland' adventure, but
with a damaged mind. Those short tracks you mention, we
write far more of those than the so-called "full on"
tracks, and in a way, they are our own favorites."
These hidden treasures, little as they are, appear to be
even bigger in numbers than on Music Has The Right To
Children. Is seems like you're teasing us. It's hidden,
so find it! True?
"Mike: If we wanted, we could release 10 albums tomorrow
made up only with those short tracks. The ones on
Geogaddi are the ones that make most sense in the overall
At the time of the release of In A Beautiful Place Out In
The Country, November 2000, you were said to have
recorded 64 tracks from which 23 would be pared down to
an album. Fifteen months later there's an album of 23
tracks - selected out of 90-plus. How does Geogaddi
differ from the album you could have put together on and
a half year ago?
"Mike: If you mean how does it differ from what might have
been compiled into an album in 2000, I think it would
have been pretty different. We go through phases,
Geogaddi has a lot to do with what we were listening to
in the last year. If we'd made it in 2000 it might have
been more electronic, but over time we've tried to create
something more fuzzy and organic. Every time we make a
record we see it as an individual project, separate from
what went before and what will happen afterwards.
Likewise the next record will sound different."
The aim for Geogaddi is the perfect album, you once said.
How perfect is Geogaddi? Is the devil really in the
details? Is that why it took you another year to finish
"Marcus: The idea of the perfect album is this amorphous
thing that we're always aiming at. For us it can mean
something that's full of imperfection, because part of
our aim has always been to destroy the sound in a
beautiful way. It doesn't mean that we expect everyone
would like it. I'm not sure that we will ever get there,
to make the perfect record. But the whole point of making
music is at least to aim at your own idea of perfection."
Did In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country originate
from the same sessions as the tracks on Geogaddi? Those
were four 'full on'tracks. Put too many of these on an
album and it will become a collection of songs, not an
organic work of art as a whole, is that what you believe?
"Mike: That's partially true. For the album we hoped to
make something where all the tracks had a similar
undercurrent while being diverse. The songs on IABPOITC
could have ended up on Geogaddi, but at the time, we
realized they worked well together so they became their
Amo Bishop Roden was outstanding. Very minimal (Reich,
Glass, La Monte Young), very ambient. Zoetrope had a
similar vibe. It's a vibe that shines through on Geogaddi
(esp. in You Could Feel The Sky), but not as much as I
expected. It's not a big step from MHTRTC to Geogaddi
really. Or is it?
"Marcus: We don't try to plot a route with where we go
musically. It has more to do with our own moods at the
time of writing, and for example, what we have read or
watched as an influence. That EP had it's own little
theme. Because Geogaddi has a lot more tracks than an EP,
it's easier to draw a connection between it and our last
album, because we are the same band! Usually we're a lot
more minimal than the songs on Geogaddi, but this time we
wanted to do something with more facets, more detail and
a kind of concentrated recipe of chaotic little melodies.
It reflected a chaotic time in our personal lives. I
guess we'll probably go back in a more minimal direction
next. If you were to point out one difference, one
progression from MHTRTC, what would it be?"
"Mike: I would say 'Music Has The Right...' is a record
for outdoors on a cold, blue-skied day, while 'Geogaddi'
is a record for some sort of trial-by-fire, a
claustrophobic, twisting journey that takes you into some
pretty dark experiences before you reach the open air
again. It has a kind of narrative. That's why we ended it
with 'Corsair', it's like the light at the end of the
"It's darker than their previous work," Steve Beckett,
head of Warp Records, said about In A Beautiful Place,
back then. Does that count for Geogaddi as well?
"Marcus: Definitely, even more so. Our influences while
creating Geogaddi involved much darker material, so I
think this comes through in the album."
Minimal tracks like Amo Bishop Roden, Zoetrope and You
Could Feel The Sky, are they pointing out a new direction
for BOC, you think?
"Mike: Yeah it's possible. I think the best way to freshen
up what you're doing is to strip it down and go minimal,
so we'll see. Though our next EP could just as easily be
a collection of ROYGBIV-like songs. Every so often we
like to stop ourselves and change direction, it's
important to do that or you can become tired of your own
music. Every record is like a reaction to the last one,
so I guess at the moment we're feeling more like heading
in a minimal direction, simplifying the sound again."
Does it bother you that one half of the IDM population is
copying Autechre/Aphex and the other half is copying you,
stealing your voice and style?
"Marcus: I think it's flattering that we may be
influencing others to create music. But I think everyone
should find their own path. In a way, if people copy us
closely, it just keeps me on my toes."
How important is the folk influence that crops up in
every review, like "the production aesthetics of late 60s
and early 70s folk artists"?
"Mike: Very. There's a lot of acoustic instrumentation
used in Geogaddi, though not in obvious ways. We love
artists like Joni Mitchell and The Incredible Stringband.
There's a sort of purity of sound that they have, and I
guess we are striving for that ourselves"
A friend of mine (and Plaid's) draw my attention to the psychedelic folk of fellow Scotchmen The Incredible Stringband. Their late sixties albums The 5000 Spirits and The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, would that be the kind of stuff you're into? Ehm… the album covers of The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter and Music Has The Right To Children make a nice pair, that's for sure!
"Marcus: Definitely! We have all the Stringband records! In fact, they come from the same place where we live now. We see them from time to time. So I guess our rural sensibilities are similar. Personally, I think they are one of the most important and underrated bands in the past forty years of music. They influenced so many other artists yet they never get due credit."
Someone like David Tibet/Current 93 has been tracing the pagan roots of folk music for years. Taking influences on a spiritual rather than a musical level, is that an angle you can relate to?
"Mike: We are interested in pagan roots. We're very much into older cultures and lifestyles. People forget just how transitory this period of time in the modern world is. It's important to be able to consider other approaches to society and life than what's around you. Take a look at Julian Cope for example, he uses these influences to fuel his music in a wonderful unique way. It can influence your work in other ways too, not necessarily just in the sound of the music."
Hexagon Sun (studio). Chris H aka Christ (former bandmember). Redmoon nights. Hell Interface (sometimes used alias for BOC). The Devil Is In The Details. 66 minutes and 6 seconds. Artwork full of hexagrams. Supposedly subliminal messages… How evil is BOC?
"Marcus: As evil as Mickey Mouse."
What does the hexagram symbolize for you? (Depending on your beliefs it is: a powerful tool to invoke Satan, a stand-by for magicians, witches and alchemists, and a pagan symbol of sexual union and reproduction, esp. of the sexually oriented rites and ceremonies of Baalism.)"
"Mike: It's just a pattern. It captures some people's imaginations."
Are you putting a hex/curse on us?
"Marcus: Heh, only if you want it to happen."
My guess: it's about a deeply-rooted believe in Mother Earth, as displayed in the ancient traditions of paganism.
"Mike: You could say that. We're not Satanists, or Christians, or pagans. We're not religious at all. We just put symbols into our music sometimes, depending on what we're interested in at the time. We do care about people and the state of the world, and if we're spiritual at all it's purely in the sense of caring about art and inspiring people with ideas."
Call it folk, nostalgia, pagan - it all comes down to the rustic/rural settings of your music, doesn't it? The music being dreamt up and worked out In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country, the land we inherited from our ancestors and haven't yet ruined completely. Being isolated from The City, Modern Life and the delusion of Ongoing Progress. How does that show in your music, you think?
"Marcus: We're very much anti-globalization. One think that disturbs me is a trend today for technology to be created and used just for it's own sake. I recently heard a politician in the UK saying that population decline was a terrible thing and that if we don't build more houses then quality of life and the economy would suffer. It's such a naive and ignorant approach to the world. Where exactly do they stop? Once there is no land left, just industrial estates and housing? I think it's the saddest thing in the world that we have all the space and resources to give everyone a decent life, but it doesn't happen. George Bush is right in that there is an "axis of evil", but it lies at the door of big business and government. We try to support the idea of a less urbanized lifestyle in our music, but I don't want to preach to anyone."
For years - since Kraftwerk actually - electronic music has been associated with science fiction, futurism, cyberspace, technology, a world of robots and machinery. Your music seem to be a reaction to all that: it's not shaping the future, but recapturing the past - with a child-like innocence. Is that a correct interpretation? How important is the child-like innocence in this.
"Mike: I think you're quite right, and to us the association of electronic music with science fiction and futurism is a cliche. It's a really corny, dated, unsophisticated way of thinking. And yet most current electronic artists still seem to fall into that trap. It might have been original in the 1970's when Kraftwerk were at their peak, but not now. For us, the technological aspect of our music goes as far as the studio recording techniques we use, but we don't let the technology dictate the purpose of our art to us. Too many electronic bands get carried away with the influences of computers and the internet and other technology, and they end up using that as their sole inspiration because at the end of the day that's all they do. So they let their song-titles and themes be direct references to current technological buzzwords or fashions, and to us that's a total lack of imagination. They're geeks obsessed with equipment and computers and ultimately it's become fucking predictable and boring. They should go out and live. Or travel around or something, get some real ideas, and real emotions. I mean, we too are interested in technology and science, but our
music is influenced by much further-reaching ideas than that. And it's not just about recapturing the past. We've touched upon the theme of lost childhood a few times because it's something personal to me that gives me real inspiration through its sadness. I think sometimes the best way to get inspiration is to face up to the things that make you very sad in your life, and use them."
What makes the past more interesting than the future to you?
"Mike: The future is very interesting to us too, we're very forward-thinking. But as I said, it's become the accepted standard for electronic artists to be constantly projecting into the future, and as a band we love electronic music but we hate the cliches. As people we're both quite reflective, particularly myself, and sometimes I find that the most positive way to convey hope for the future is to delve into the past. It could just as easily be an exploration of a tragedy or it could be a reflection of some wonderful golden period from the past."
"1969 in the sunshine"(from: 1969). What memory is that? Woodstock? A yellowed picture of your parents? A collective memory that fits your music?
"Mike: In that song it refers to a specific period in the history of a religious group, and at the same time the period in general, the hopefulness of a forward-thinking generation that wasn't aware of what was coming in their collective future."
It's these references that give your music a context. Or is there more to it than just context… a message?
"Marcus: It's a bit of both. Some of our tracks are using messages to lend the sound of the tune a context, to make it easier for people to understand what frame of mind we intend the track to be taken in. It can mean the difference between someone understanding our sense of irony or not. We're very conscious of what we sound like, and we have a sense of humor that can be completely missed if you don't fully understand what we're about. At the same time, we're quite serious about a lot of issues, we're politically motivated, and we're genuinely interested in a lot of cultural and scientific subjects. We do a lot of research. So, some of our tracks are putting across a very specific message."
Music Is Math, you state. Is it true that you've been experimenting with the Fibonacci Sequence and the golden ratio (as they appear in nature) in your music? Did it get you anywhere?
"Marcus: It's true and we've experimented with a lot of other equations and phenomena. But it's not the primary purpose behind the band. Most of the time we're really just into making music the normal way."
What is The Smallest Weird Number?
Many plants show the Fibonacci Numbers in the arrangement of the leaves around their stem. It's these mysterious phenomenons, where nature and science meet, that seem to fascinate you more than anything. See: Gyroscope, Sunshine Recorder, Magic Window, I Saw Drones and the volcano and energy warnings on Geogaddi.
"Mike: Yeah the main thing is these titles are evocative and the idea is it helps put a picture in your mind to associate with the track. We don't want to go too far as it's important to leave a certain space there for the listener's imagination. On this album a lot of the tracks are referring to science and nature and maths, it's just what we were into at the time of writing it. When we work on music we often imagine a visual part, as though the track is meant to accompany a short film of some kind, so yeah I suppose each track has a theme that we want to convey in some vague way."
Would this be the kind of movies you're making with the Music 70 collective?
"Marcus: Yes the films we've done are mostly abstract, organic-looking things. Loops and collages of clips, made into patterns, which seem to be in the style of documentaries or information films, or nature films. We want our music to be provocative and inspiring so we try to put suggestions into the live visual show to reinforce this. We make them ourselves, we don't sample bits of other people's films, but we make them look like they came from something older."
I know there's some Super 8 footage shown at your live gigs. Are you involved with the visual part yourselves? Is this an integral part of your work?
"Marcus: Most of the films we use in our live gigs are made entirely by Mike and myself."
How many people are involved with Music 70?
"Marcus: It's a floating number of friends who are working on music or films or photography. There's only a handful of us, about a dozen. Mike and I have done other side projects in the past that are currently taking a back-seat while we concentrate on Boards of Canada, although in the future we intend to get into other things again, films and books."
Rumour has it that Warp bought the rights to the old Music 70 recordings. Is that true? Do you think they will do a 'Mbuki Mvuki/Trainer' in the near future?
What do think of Twoism being sold for up to 710 pounds on eBay? (Most offers coming from Edinburgh. It seems people want to cash in on their money before the old stuff is being re-released.)
"Mike: We heard about this. It's ridiculous. If people have that much money to spend on music it's up to them. There has been no decision about doing any re-releases yet, and if there was, nobody would know about it because we never tell anybody anything."
Any plans to come to Europe and Holland this Spring/Summer? Do you enjoy playing live? It seems such an awkward normal thing to do, so hopelessly un-mysterious, so not-BOC.
"Marcus: We'd like to play in Holland at some point if we get a chance, if anyone wants us to. There are no plans at the moment for a tour because we're working on another record, but we love visiting Europe and we'd love an excuse to experience Holland, so maybe it'll happen sometime soon."
Also not-very-BOC: the number of chill-out compilations that got Aquarius and other tracks from MHTRTC on them. What do you make of that? Do you consider your music as being chill-out music? What is the best situation to listen to your music?
"Marcus: It's silly. We don't pay any attention to that. These compilations just lump us together with all sorts of music that has no connection with what we do. I don't know what 'chill-out' is. We're not into scenes or any of that. There isn't one phrase to describe our music because it changes drastically from one track to the next."
I know Mogwai tried to invite you for their All Tomorrow's Parties and other shows, but you've never answered their letters. Nobody seems to really know you. Not Arab Strap's Aidan Moffat, who's a also from Glasgow and a big fan. Mira Calix seems to be the only artist at Warp you keep in touch with - and Autechre, I guess. How real is the image of recluse loners, hidden in the Pentland Hills?
"Mike: We don't keep in touch with anyone in the music world. It doesn't pay to be involved with people in the music industry. There's no specific preference or prejudice. We just keep everyone at the same distance."
Last question: what does Geogaddi mean in your twisted language? What does it stand for?
"Mike: It's a combination of different words, there are a few different meanings you can take from it. We have our own meaning and we want the listener to make up his or her own meaning. It's more personal that way."
Thanks a lot for your time! I hope it was worth it. Keep making such amazing records. Cheers, Koen Poolman/OOR
"BoC: Thanks Koen..."
interview by by Koen Poolman, March 2002.
|| Stoned Immaculate
|| Philip Sherburne
|| Alternative Press
|| Vol. 166 (May 2002)
by Philip Sherburne was an interview published in Alternative Press
magazine Vol. 166 (May 2002).
|| Country Comfort
|| Alexis Georgopoulos
|| June 2002
"Country Comfort" is a 2002 interview by Alexis Georgopoulos. It originally appeared in URB magazine.
Rural shut-ins Boards of Canada fit nightmares, rainbows and David Koresh into the melodic mathematics of their beautiful new album.
If Boards of Canada's songs could, they would come to life. Children would appear dressed in striped T-shirts and corduroys, shaggy hair framing their fresh faces, grass stains on their knees. The sun would beam down rippling rays of golden white and kaleidoscopic pastels. And honey laughter would careen off the sky's canopy, quivering with he rush of playground love and infinite possibility. Alas, lest you think this a spotless utopia, someone would be hidden in the bushes watching. And not with the best of intentions./boc-old/
Back after four years holed up in a remote bunker in rural Scotland, Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison are following up 2000's In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country EP with the psychedelic diorama that is Geogaddi. Like nearly all the releases that have preceded it, Geogaddi is less a collection of songs than a world unto itself, unfurling in sheaths of warbling analog synth melodies and tripped-out Sugar Hill-meets-Autechre beats. It's the aural equivalent of sitting on your analyst's couch, rummaging through a past you're still trying to make sense of. /boc-old/
Loathing publicity and its trappings, the reclusive duo decided on doing minimal promotion for Geogaddi. What follows is one of the very few interviews to follow the album's release.
I've always thought that hype does a disservice to the things it seeks to elevate in that it doesn't allow for personal discovery. Instead, it imposes heightened expectation and scrutiny.
"Eoin: Yeah, it seems impossible to get around this. A deliberate lack of promotion ccan accidentally become like a form of promotion in itself. We never had any concern about this sort of thing in the past because we've been used to having no more than four fans. When we did [Music Has the Right to Children] nobody had heard of us, and I wish we could do things with a blank slate like that every time. Expectations are higher now, but there's an even weirder phenomenon where some fans actually think they know how our new music is supposed to sound, [so] they scold us for getting it wrong! In the end, all that matters to us is the individual who is willing to give the music a fair go and ignore all the peripheral nonsense that we have no control over."
You have said that you're turned off by electronic musicians' celebration of the technological and urban. Still, even though you live in the country, it seems urbania hasn't left your songs altogether.
"Eoin: That's true, otherwise we'd just be making folk music with fiddles and accordions. Our primary instruments are the synth and sampler, and our primary inspiration comes from film and TV, so I suppose we've taken what we want from hi-tech culture, but the hi-tech doesn't govern what we do. Too many new electronic musicians are obsessed with hi-tech gear and software, and that's what they devote 99 percent of their time thinking and talking about. It's like a sculptor making something out of clay. He can buy the best clay and the best tools, but he needs to have some good ideas in his head in the first place."
Geogaddi continues your contrast of naïve, childlike sounds and imagery with unsettling, ominous atmospheres. What draws you to this juxtaposition?
"Sandison: It's just a contrast that we've liked using quite a bit on the last two albums because it makes people look inside themselves and dredge up murky memories or nightmares and so on. There's no specific agenda, we just try to provoke feelings and I suppose we're more interested in sad, reflective or disturbing ideas for some reason. But you need to contrast things like that with innocent, positive, happy-rainbow sounds."
Your titles often reference geometry, numbers. Are you trying to draw parallels between natural patterns and technological ones?
"Eoin: I think we're more into the idea that everything is mathematical at the root level. But anything beautiful in nature or even manmade is only so because it has reached some sort of mathematical completeness, a kind of working equation in the form of tones and rhythms. And the way that we recognize mathematical perfection in say, a melody, is to say, "Hey, I like this bit of this tune."
The In a Beautiful Place Out in the country EP features both an image of David Koresh and a reference to him in the lyrics. Geogaddi was sequenced to play at 66 minutes and 6 seconds, you have a song titled "The Devil is in the Details" and at the All Tomorrow Parties music festival, your films featured clips of people losing themselves in euphoric religious abandon. What gives with the cultish phenomena?
"Eoin: We're interested in all kinds of subjects, and I suppose we went through a patch of looking at cults and the mass mind control of religion and so on. We read a lot and pay attention to cultural events, but we view everything from a distance. We're up here in our observation point, gathering up data about all the weird shit that's happening in the world and spewing it out in some way in our music and visuals. The Davidians thing was about the shock of seeing the way the U.S. authorities handled it all."
Geogaddi's cover art is very reminiscent of children's educational filmstrips. Were you going for this specific aesthetic?
"Sandison: It's as ambiguous as the title. We wanted the title to have multiple meanings so you can choose your own. The cover image can be taken more than one way too, because it's a bit simplistic and childish like a school textbook or a children's educational TV program, but it also has a kind of ritualistic pagan flavor. I think we're always trying to trigger ambiguous memories of things we've experienced as kids. We want to see if anyone out there is tuned in to what we're thinking."
interview by by Alexis Georgopoulos, June 2002.
|| Northern Exposure
|| Ken Micallef
|| Vol. 4 Issue 7
"Northern Exposure" is a 2002 interview by Ken Micallef. It originally appeared in Remix Mag.
Although Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison - the duo known as Boards of Canada - allegedly live in a commune on the northern coast of Scotland, near Edinburgh (not the Great White North as their name suggests), their music is neither pastoral nor hippie-dippy-like. Instead, their odd combination of ambient electro and downtempo experimentalism is about as warm and fuzzy as a horror-porno B-movie soundtrack.
Boards of Canada's debut album, the oddly titled Music Has the Right to Children (Matador, 1998), was a mini-revolution in ambient electronic music, a travelogue of spiraling space loops and woozy melodies that introduced the post-Nevermind generation to the Brian Eno-esque joys of chilling out. BoC's sophomore effort, Geogaddi (Warp, 2002), is even more stripped-down and beautiful than its predecessor, featuring simple circular rhythms, eerie melodies and unusual samples that create an airless, ethereal ultraworld. An overwhelming feeling of darkened, almost dangerous sentimentality permeates Geogaddi's surreal atmosphere, like a child recalling a nightmare to another small friend. Perhaps this is music for the inner child who everyone has left behind.
Many of Geogaddi's songs use spoken-word samples to embellish their bizarre moods, such as the sexually heated female voice that repeatedly counts from one to 10 in "Gyroscope." Naked Gun actor Leslie Nielsen speaks of "when lava flows underwater" in "Dandelion," and from there, the album grows more involved and detailed, with all manner of deranged children and computer voices mumbling over hopscotch hip-hop and cranky trip-hop.
"We wanted the general sound to be simple melodies played on unrecognizable textures," says Eoin about Geogaddi.
"We want to evoke the feel of old TV recordings," adds Sandison. "We go to ridiculous lengths sometimes to make a piece of music sound dated and damaged." Although Sandison notes that they generally tried to accomplish this sound without simply sampling old TV recordings, a few notable exceptions made their way to the final recording. Trainspotters will enjoy ferreting out various actors' voices or bits of '70s television-show and commercial dialog, which, according to BoC, could originate anywhere from ill-fated actor Robert Blake's Baretta to The Rockford Files to the horror-movie schlockfest, Final Victim.
Eoin and Sandison learned to play various musical instruments when they were children. Sandison formed a band and began making experimental tracks with old synths, drums and tape decks in 1980, when he was only nine years old. Influenced by television documentaries and soundtracks, particularly those by the National Film Board of Canada, Sandison named his band Boards of Canada. When Eoin became the band's bassist in 1986, Boards of Canada were mixing real instruments with computer effects and found sounds from radio and television broadcasts. Sandison dabbled with Super 8 home-movie visuals for the band early on, and by the late '80s, BoC were making full-length films accompanied by their own soundtracks.
BoC's first official release was Twoism (1995) on their own Music 70 label, followed by the 1996 Hi Scores EP on the Skam label. Gigs at the UK's Phoenix Festival and opening for Autechre brought the group to the attention of Warp Records, which signed Boards of Canada in 1998. BoC's first Warp release, Music Has the Right to Children, was met with overwhelming critical and popular acclaim, scooping up several Top 20 spots in 1998 year-end polls in UK music publications such as DJ Magazine, Jockey Slut, Muzik, NME and The Wire.
Since releasing Music Has the Right to Children, Boards of Canada have remained conspicuously out of action. They performed only a small handful of live performances, including a John Peel Session for the BBC's Radio 1, and released the 4-track EP In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country in 2000. Eoin and Sandison spent most of the past four years recording Geogaddi, which, incidentally, is exactly 66 minutes and six seconds long. Like its predecessor, Geogaddi is garnering rave reviews from critics, showing skeptics that BoC's early success was not a fluke.
The incredibly elusive duo stepped away briefly from the soothing hum of the analog machines in their studio to give some insight into the thought process behind Boards of Canada's strange, beautiful music.
What role does reflection or memory play in your music?
"Eoin: I suppose it's a big part of what we're about, whether we like it or not. We need that element to give tracks some sort of emotional purpose, because it's always been a driving factor in what we love about our favorite music - the time period that you mentally associate with whatever you're listening to. Sometimes even new music that you've not heard before can still achieve that effect of throwing your mind back through time and triggering some sort of feeling. It's nice when you get a potent, sad vibe from a bit of music that ultimately has a positive, inspiring effect on you, like reminding you of an excellent summer or something."
There is not only an orchestral feeling to some tracks on Geogaddi but also a surreal, nightmarish quality. Do you consciously seek to evoke dynamic swings in emotion?
"Eoin: Yeah, the surreal element is deliberate. It's there on Music Has the Right to Children, too, particularly in the voices, but I think we went further this time because there was a vague plan to compile a record that had a sort of Through the Looking-Glass, mashed-up adventure feel about it."
Do specific childhood musical memories influence certain tracks?
"Sandison: Definitely. I once did a track that starts with a synth flourish that sounds like an amalgam of every ABC, Lorimar, Stephen J. Cannell musical ID I'd ever soaked up as a kid. Most of the musical memories we try to put back into our music come from TV rather than pop music, especially stuff from the '70s or early '80s, like John Carpenter soundtracks and cheap American matinee TV movies that are about a fat kid with magic powers or something."
"Gyroscope" has a vocal that sounds like a woman in a porno movie counting to 10. Do you ever sample pop-culture sources such as TV and movies?
"Sandison: That's not from a porno, although we've used porno speech a few times in the past, such as on "Sixtyniner." The voices are sometimes from old TV shows or tapes we've made. We have a lot of stuff we've collected, going back to the early '80s. But half of the time, it's things we've had friends record especially for us. We create tapes all the time. Practically everyone we know has been roped into recording something for us at some point. We don't sample music, just occasional bits of speech."
Does a vocal sample sometimes spark a track?
"Sandison: Sometimes it can. I think that's what I did with "The Color of the Fire" on our first album."
Some tracks have disembodied, even ominous-sounding vocal samples. Do the vocal samples act simply as texture, or are they meant to imply meaning?
"Eoin: Sometimes the whole point of the track is about what the voice is saying, so we create a song around it, like with "In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country." We often get friends to sing things for us with the intention of building a melody around it. It's different every time. Sometimes we deliberately disintegrate the vocal so your brain has to do a bit of work to reconstruct the phrase. Often, a tune can work beautifully with no voices on it at all, so you have to know when to say "hands off" and just leave them as they are."
You reside in a rural environment. What influence does nature play in your music, and did it play any role in the "geo-" prefix of the album title?
"Sandison: Usually, our titles are self-explanatory, but this record's title is a composite that has more than one meaning. We have a meaning we understand from it, but it's up to listeners to choose their own meaning. I suppose the nature thing has an indirect effect on us while we're writing, because we're out here in the country most of the time. We're both heavily interested in science, too, which crosses over into nature and probably comes through in the music."
Does "Music Is Math" have anything to do with the mathematics and geometry that run through nature and, consequently, art, music and architecture?
"Sandison: We've been interested in these things for a while, but on this album, we thought it'd be fun to put it in as a theme. The golden mean is nothing new in architecture and music. All through history, there have been guys like Mozart who got into the Masonic knowledge and were fascinated by this stuff. On Geogaddi, there's a vague theme of math and geometry and how they relate to religious iconography."
How has your gear changed since Music Has the Right to Children? Do you still rely more on tape and samplers than synths?
"Eoin: We use computers, too, but shortly after Music Has the Right to Children, we started trying to work differently. We were composing primarily on computers, but pretty soon, it just started to bog us down and take away the spontaneity. So, now, we use computers sparingly for arranging things. Our stand-alone samplers are our primary instruments. Lately, we've returned to a really simple, stripped-down approach: just getting a sound or melody in a sampler and jamming it down to tape quickly, because it captures the moment."
Do you play the bulk of the instruments yourself and then treat them in the mix?
"Eoin: We both play piano as our first instrument, and we both play guitar. Mike's a good drummer, and you can hear bits of that in there, too. We record a lot of stuff that doesn't make it onto BoC
records because, stylistically, it doesn't fit. Maybe one day, we'll put that stuff out somehow. We've got a pretty weird collection of instruments at our studio - quite a few cheap guitars and a lot of flutes, percussion and old foreign instruments. We don't have that much money, so we just pick things up in second-hand shops for pennies. Mike recently picked up an Aeolian harp for £30 that plays itself in the wind. Our studio looks like a junk shop. A lot of the time, we play things quickly on a "real" instrument, get it into the sampler, and then we just destroy the sound. There are a lot of tunes on our records where you think you're listening to a synthetic sound when it's actually an acoustic guitar or voice that we twisted into something unrecognizable. It's a nice idea taking slack organic sounds and regimenting them in an unnatural way with a sampler and a sequencer."
"Sandison: We made a lot of our percussion sounds by just wandering about with a portable DAT, denting things with drumsticks. On some tracks, we get people we know to record their voices making weird phonetic sounds. We chop it all up and use the plosive and fricative sounds for percussion and so on. All of the percussion on "An Eagle in Your Mind" was done with my girlfriend's voice."
How do you create your drum patterns?
"Sandison: It's a mixture of live performance and step sequencing. Sometimes, we make up sounds and then program them tightly in a really synthetic way. Other times, we want it to sound really rough, so we'll just jam on the drums live. For instance, "Dawn Chorus" is a single-take jammed beat that I played, while "1969" has a live beat all the way through mixed with other beat tracks."
What are your favorite instruments?
"Sandison: I have a lovely new Taylor Big Baby steel-string guitar. It didn't cost much, but it has a really great crystal sound with long sustain. And it's unvarnished, so it still smells like the workshop, like sawdust in the woodwork classroom. Our electronic gear is a mixture of old and newer stuff. We like early-'80s analog synths quite a bit, and we have some other things from that era that we're a bit protective of. We don't use any of the recent analog-modeling kit. I'm convinced I can hear the difference between modeled and real analog in music. We drop a lot of our music down onto a Tascam 4-track that has a great saturating effect on the sound. We have five or six samplers, but my favorite by far is still the Akai S1000. It's an old tank now, and the screen has faded so that I almost can't read it, but I know it inside out. It's the most spontaneous thing for making up little tunes. It adds something to the sound - maybe the lower bit depth has something to do with that.
But most of our sound is achieved through a bunch of tricks we've taught ourselves. We've been experimenting for years. One of our techniques is to use a lot of hi-fi gear and outboard stuff. We have a brilliant old Rotel hi-fi that we run sounds through to get the feel we want, and we use various Drawmer compressors and filters to give sounds a specific time and place. Sometimes we get a bit carried away with the science of it, like even specifying what year we're imitating by the type of filtering used on the drums or the synth parts. It's a bit of a joke between us to aim at a specific sound, like the subtle difference between the graininess on a synth in a PBS jingle and a bit of incidental music from a British public information film from the same year."
How has your recording process changed, and can you elaborate at all on your creation process?
"Sandison: Our songs almost always start with a melody. We usually make up little melodies, like sketches, and when you hit on something you really like, the rest falls into place around it."
Do you try to avoid blatant complexity in your compositions?
"Eoin: Certainly on Geogaddi that's what we were going for. In the past, we've taken a much more minimal approach to the texture, like single melody lines where you could clearly hear the instrument. I guess we're heading back toward that empty sound now after Geogaddi, but sometimes it's nice to make a track that just sounds like a weird cacophony of undefined instruments. Most of "Julie and Candy" was actually made up of recorders and flutes."
You don't seem to be too concerned about having all the latest technology.
"Sandison: Not really. If you let yourself get carried away with technology, then you end up spending all your time reading magazines and talking about high-tech gear but never actually writing any music. We'd much rather use what we've got and push it to do things it was never designed to do. But we do keep our ears to the ground, because there are certain instruments we've kind of invented in our minds and we're waiting for somebody to come along and make them. We read a comment recently where someone said they didn't like our use of digital plug-ins to make distorted sounds, which made us laugh because we don't use digital plug-ins. We use analog hi-fi units and overloaded tapes!"
Do you want your music to reflect a clean, futuristic ideal or more of a rough, nostalgic archetype?
"Sandison: A bit of both, really, although I think we lean towards the old rough sound. So many people in electronic music are making clean, futuristic sounds. There's nothing wrong with that. It obviously has its place, but then again, all you have to do to make clean, futuristic sounds with electronic gear is to switch it on. It's a lot more appealing to us to make dirty music."
Is your music new music or folk music?
"Eoin: I think it's obviously new music because it references older things, and those references only work in the context of it being understood as being new music, if you get my drift."
interview by by Ken Micallef, July 2002.
The Campfire Headphase era
The Downtempo Duo
|| The Downtempo Duo
|| Heiko Hoffmann
"The Downtempo Duo" is a 2005 interview by Heiko Hoffmann. It originally appeared on Pitchfork.com. 
The Downtempo Duo
With their Warp albums Music Has the Right to Children and Geogaddi, Boards of Canada have become one of the most well-loved and critically revered contemporary artists without releasing singles, videos, or even going on tour. At the same time their sound of electronic psychedelia has been copied so often as to make the duo wonder what to do next. In this interview, which took place at the Royal Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland, Mike and Marcus Sandison speak for the first time about their backgrounds, obsessive reactions to Geogaddi, and their upcoming new album The Campfire Headphase.
In the interviews you've given over the years and in the bios that your record label sends out it's never been mentioned when and how you got to know each other. So at what age did you guys meet?
"Mike: Oh. Mmh, just very, very young, actually. We lived in the same place near Inverness in Scotland, a very small coastal town in the middle of nowhere. Our parents were in the same gang of friends."
How old where you when you started making music?
"Mike: We were about 6 or 7 years old when we started to learn instruments and play together. We actually started to record our own music when we were about 10. If your parents have tape recorders, pianos and stuff like lying around in the house you are just going to play around with them."
Are you coming from musical families?
"Mike: Yeah. And of course it's a big help when your parents play instruments...[pauses]. Actually can I just stop the recorder there for a second?"
Recorder is switched off. Mike asks Marcus if it's ok to talk about it. Marcus says yes. Mike checks if the recorder is off and explains that they are in fact brothers, but have concealed that as they didn't want to provoke comparisons to Orbital, the electronic duo of brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll, when they started to release records in the mid-90s. Recorder is switched on again.
"Marcus: Obviously, certain people know us as real people. We haven't gone out of our way to conceal the fact we're brothers. It's not that big of a deal. If people don't ask about it then we don't bring it up. When we started releasing records we just wanted to avoid comparisons to Orbital...
Mike: Or even the Osmonds or the Jacksons [laughs].
Marcus: I never thought about it but Ween are brothers as well, aren't they?
Mike: No, they are not.
Marcus: I thought they were. Are they not?
Mike: No, they just pretend that they are. [Laughs]
Marcus: That's fantastic! [Laughs]
Mike: See, some people go out of their way to do things like that, while we are trying to avoid it."
So who had to adopt a new family name for the sake of Boards of Canada?
"Mike: We are both Sandisons. And Eoin is actually Marcus' middle name. So that's a pretty simple explanation."
When did you live in Canada?
"Mike: From 1979 to 1980. I was eight years old and Marcus was a bit younger. Our father worked in construction. He helped to build the Saddle Dome in Calgary. There was a lot of work at that time in Canada so that's why we moved there. We moved around quite a lot and then relocated to Scotland. We've been based around Edinburgh for the last 20 years, so this is home."
Why did the educational TV films from the National Film Board of Canada, that you named yourself after, have such a big impact on you and your music if you'd only been exposed to them for a year?"
"Marcus: We saw them in both Canada and Scotland. The films were on television in the UK for years. For a long time we weren't sure what [the NFBC] would think about a band being named after them. Only recently did we find out that they had used our music on some of their films. So we took that as approval.
Mike: They have a newsletter and even ran an article on us a couple of years ago. So that's a strange feedback loop.
Marcus: Back then television was a really big deal for us because we were so bored. We weren't old enough to go to the cinema and we were in a town where there was absolutely bugger all to do. So we just went out and vandalized property. [Laughs] Or sneak in video nasties from the local video store. Or got our friends together to make films. We had our crappy early-80s bikes and went out with my dad's super-8 camera making films."
And you really started recording music at the age of 10?
"Marcus: Yeah but I wouldn't describe it as Boards of Canada music at that time.
Mike: Obviously we didn't have a multitrack recorder, but we had two tape recoders. What you could do is record something on one tape recorder, play it back across two feet of air and while it was playing accompany it with something else on the guitar, the piano, the drums, whatever. We would do this, swap the cassettes over and do it again and again until the tapes started getting so distorted that you couldn't do it any longer. So it was really crude old-school multitrack recording. But it was a good way for us to learn how to compose our own stuff."
Was it always just the two of you playing together?
"Mike: Well, I went to high school before Marcus did, and I formed a band there with friends.
Marcus: Initially we were in different bands in high school.
Mike: But when we came home [from school] we were recording music together. At one point in the mid-80s Marcus was in a really trashy heavy metal band and I wasn't into their music at all. So I invited him to play with my band. We then started to play around with synths. We were the only group at our high school to use synths."
You only started sending demo tapes to record labels in the mid-90s. Why did take you such a long time to approach a label to release your music?
"Mike: We just didn't think that we were good enough. We kept changing what we were doing. The problem with us as a band is that we have a schizophrenic approach to music, which still haunts us. We had a kind of battle when we worked on this album [The Campfire Headphase]. A lot of what we did for this record was really electronic stuff and a lot of what we did was really guitar-y music. I mean much more guitar-y than what ended up on the record. But this problem-- how to fuse these two things-- always plagued us.
Marcus: For me, there's an era of music in the early 90s when people started to combine electronic music with guitar music, forcing them to come together, and I always hated this music."
Do you mean bands like EMF or Jesus Jones?
"Marcus: Exactly! I wasn't going to name names but, yes. For me it didn't really fit together. It was really rubbish.
Mike: Because we've always listened to huge amounts of different music we experiment with lots of things. So you play guitar one minute and then something extremely electronic the next minute. But if you're gonna be a band you can't really afford to do that. You have to stick with something. Nobody's gonna want to listen to a record where there's an electronic tune and, let's say, a banjo tune right after. You have to stay with a flavor.
Marcus: Some of the tracks that we worked on are so extreme in one direction that we just can't use them. They don't fit the BoC
thing at all. We can't release them under this project. We're already seeing from the reactions to this record that some people love it and are really happy that we've done something different. But there are some people having a problem with the guitars. So if we'd really gone full-on with that they would have just never believed that it's the same group. You would never know that it was us."
Don't you underestimate your audiences openness for change?
"Mike: Maybe. In the late-80s the three bands that were a huge influence on us were Front 242 to some extent, and-- to a large extent-- Nitzer Ebb and the Cocteau Twins. And they don't actually fit in the same category...
Marcus: ...but we would listen to them at the same time. Maybe it's a slightly gothic thing. You can imagine that there was already a seed planted there where that was going in two different directions. I actually rate bands like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson who are a hybrid of electronic and guitar music. I think they are brilliant but the kind of people who are into that kind of thing now are not as broad-minded as maybe people were 20 years ago. Now there's a feeling that if you are one of these kids wearing black eyeliner who's into Marilyn Manson you will never be open-minded enough to listen to electronic music. I think there's a narrowing of taste rather than an opening up of taste.
Mike: Or maybe it just seems like that from our point of view here in Scotland.
Marcus: We've actually been in touch with the Cocteau Twins. Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins is a fan of our music. He's been trying for about four years to persuade us do some work on his label Bella Union but we are contractually not allowed to do that. Plus we don't even have the time. But it's a shame because we are such huge fans of theirs."
It seems that on one hand you're afraid to alienate your audience but on the other you try to avoid being pigeonholed.
"Mike: Yeah. The new record is probably the slowest record that we've done. And it's got guitars on it as well. This is something that we've done slightly deliberately. We knew that we had to break away from this thing. It bothered us that if you go into the big stores our stuff is always sitting in the dance music section. We never made a dance record in our entire career but our stuff stilll gets thrown in there. Our drive with this record is to try and get us out of the dance section and into the main section with all the others bands, like ABBA and A-Ha. We're just a band. Not an IDM band, not an electronic band, and not a dance band."
But this will not happen. It's a losing battle.
"Mike: Maybe not now, but in five or 10 years-- if shops are still selling CDs. [Laughs]"
One reason why you feel quite a lot of pressure, surely is the fact that it takes you such a long time to put a record out. Your last album, Geogaddi, was released three and a half years ago.
"Mike: We've really experienced high expectation regarding the new record, partly because it took such a long time. And we think this works against us as well."
So what took you so long? When Geogaddi came out you were saying that the new album was already half finished.
"Mike: We both relocated and built new studios. That took us about a year. Then I became a father last year and that was another year lost. Personal things happen in everyone's lives and you find that it's very difficult to get on with work. That was part of the problem.
But it's correct that we had done a lot of work on this record by the time Geogaddi came out. We have this system of working where we never work in a linear fashion. We work parallel on lots and lots of music at once.
Marcus: Instead of starting on one song and working on it until its finished we have hundreds of songs on the go at one time and depending on our mood we try working on different ones. We both have pretty short attention spans.
Mike: We always have enough material for several other albums but what tends to happen is that our tastes move on and we kind of get fed up with what we're doing. We actually have a huge amount of music that people will probably never get to hear.
Marcus: It's just another manifestation of this schizophrenic problem, trying to do too many things at once.
Mike: We also started working on an acoustic version of Music Has the Right to Children years ago and it still exists.
Marcus: The reason why we haven't put something like this out is that it can seem like a retread of something you've already done."
Is The Campfire Headphase a direct reaction for you on Geogaddi?
"Mike: Yes, to some extent I think it is. The whole mood of this record is really uplifting and happy generally. It's really a case of saying: All the mystery and magic and all this kind of nonsense that built up around the last record got to a point where it was just silly. People were understanding things from our music that we didn't put in there and were saying there was an evil underrcurrent to everything. And we are not like that at all. It was a theme that we wanted to persue on that record but people have understood from that that we always put secret, dark, sinister, and satanic things in our music. And that became more important than the music itself.
Geogaddi was also the most abstract and surreal record we've done. A lot of the tracks don't really have much structure. Some songs are more soundscapes. With the new record we wanted to simplify the whole thing, [to make it] just about music.
Marcus: We realized that there are some people who would listen to our records but instead of listening to the music they would start looking for some hidden things immediately.
Mike: People will look for secret things now in this record even if there aren't any."
More than any of your records before this one reminds me most of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless.
"Mike: Well, that's a great compliment. Of course we are massive fans of My Bloody Valentine. Loveless is probably one of my top five favorite albums of all time. I think that, even if we don't sound like them, there's a connection in terms of the approach to the music. The idea of making music where it's really difficult to figure out which instruments you are listening to but you just don't care. At the same time we also tried to get away from the notion that our music is entirely contained within electronic boxes. It never has been and we are not big fans of laptop music. So this time we really wanted to try and break out. We're not trying to be an IDM band and we're not trying to be a Warp band or anything."
But Warp Records have changed a lot too, if you think about bands like Maximo Park, Broadcast etc.
"Marcus: Definately. And I think it would have been harder for us to release a record with guitar sounds if that hadn't been the case."
interview by Heiko Hoffmann, September 2005.
Part of the Fire
|| Part of the Fire
|| Frank Bedos
|| October 2005
"Part of the Fire" (in French) by Frank Bedos.
- Trax Magazine #88 (October 2005), pp 32-37  
|| Splendid Isolation
|| Neil Davenport
"Splendid Isolation" by Neil Davenport
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
Tune in to the other-worldly sound of Boards Of Canada
Musicians often boast they're removed from the hub and froth of media-piloted trends. Yet few do so with as much conviction as Scots duo Boards Of Canada. Located in the rural Scottich Highlands, brothers Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin (they are both called Sandison but Marcus uses his middle name) firmly believe that separation from civilisation is mandatory.
'We go into a "studio lockdown",' explains Marcus, 'where the only umbilical cord we have to current culture is satellite TV or the Internet. It's something that allows us to switch off for long periods and create an alternative universe where our music exists.'
The ends fully justify the means. Sicne breaking through in 1998 with their landmark full-length debut, Music Has The Right To Children, Boards Of Canada have taken analogue electronica on a solar expedition. Sparse yet eerily expansive keyboard signatures sound cut loose from the Earth's gravity, yet the effect is altogether more human and emotional than that description might suggest.
After 2002's dense and symmetrical samples on Geogaddi, new album The Campfire Headphase is a deliberate return to the weird evocations of grainy Super-8s and Sesame Street heard on Music Has The Right To Children. Even the sleeve looks similar.
'Yeah, exactly,' says Mike, 'we've come full circle. With Geogaddi it went pretty surreal and dark, and this record is like coming back into the fresh air again.'
Yet The Campfire Headphase isn't the sound of the duo standing thematically or musically still. 'In itself, the new album has a theme,' continues Mike. 'It's based on one man's head trip, a kind of vintage American road trip that's basically just a hallucination. We were going for that kind of dry, laid-back, wide-open sound.'
The American references are appropriate. As children, the brothres obsessed over American TV progreammes such as The Six Million Dollar Man and dystopian sci-fi films The Andromeda Strain, Logan's Run and Silent Running. Such wonky soundtracks helped map out the Boards' wobbly, fluttering sound.
Despite precocious geekiness, their formative years still included a conventional stint as a'proper' guitar band. And if Mike and Marcus are going 'full circle', it's fitting that they've dusted down their guitars for this album. 'It wasn't a big deal for us because we have a longer history as a guitar-based band,' says Mike. 'With each album it's a different facet of our sound.'
Yet the guitars are only incidental - it's still the Boards' inmistakable brand of analogue psychedelia and it still sounds stretched and warped, magical and otherworldly. How do they do it? 'We just don't like clean sounds,' says Mike. 'We'Ve always loved making electronic music that doesn't sound typically perfect. I've always felt that recorded music seems to have something special when it's worn and damaged.'
In 2005, no one comes close to replicating or bettering the Boards' imperfect purity. Electronica as a genre may have ceased to be exciting or beguiling years ago, but can The Campfire Headphase kick-start a fresh reappraisal? Don't expect to get any answers from Mike and Marcus. 'We avoid reading all reviews,' says Mike firmly, 'so we don't know what the world thinks of our music anyway.' Somehow, you kind of believe him.
Brothers' gonna work it out...
One the new album:
Mike: 'We'd been writing throughout 2003 but the serious work on the new record began mid-2004. We'd both been travelling quite a bit and I'd been sketching tracks out in New Zealand where I was living for a while. We wanted to make a really catchy, spaced-out record.'
Mike: We're not huge fans of electronica specifically. Technology has made it so easy for anyone to get into producing music, especially electronic music, that the whole electronica scene has been diluted. It's allowing a lot of mediocre music to be released.'
Marcus: 'It's a whole world of amazing patterns and coincidences. The more you apply maths to the world as we perceive it, the more fascinating it gets. And it has connections with the way the world is revealed when you strip half of your head away with psychedelics.'
On being 'telepathic':
Mike: 'We're pretty much both on the same wavelength al the time. We usually don't even have to use complete sentences to convey ideas to each other. We have a kind of shorthand musical language that would sound like total gobbledygook to anyone else.'
Cross Out the Inappropriate
|| Cross Out the Inappropiate
|| Kristoff Tilkin
"Cross Out the Inappropriate" (original text in Dutch) by Kristoff Tilkin
- Humo 3398, 18 Oct 2005, pp. 190-191
- ISSN: 0771-8179
BOARDS OF CANADA - cross out the inappropriate
'Today’s youth has no respect anymore for A) Music, B) Acne, and C) Yesterday’s youth'
With their new album Campfire
, Boards of Canada
– the Scottish electronic duo Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison – bid farewell to the cult status they achieved after Music Has The Right To Children
and foremost Geogaddi
. On Campfire
, we didn’t hear any layered, discomforting ambient littered with obscure references, but instead ten surprisingly straightforward sounding tracks full of weathered easy listening, and the melancholy of bruised Fisher Price-toys.
According to the legend, Eoin and Sandison are unworldly hermits living in a Scottish rural community, but the lads we drink cappuccino with right now in the incredibly hip student quarters of Glasgow are dead normal guys in their thirties who – just like us – grew up during the late seventies and early eighties. Read: too young for the first punk wave, drenched with dry new-wave melancholy, heavily brainwashed by trashy American televison series. If you’re still in doubt: Having watched all ‘The A-Team
’ episodes creates a bond.
Marcus Eoin (enthusiastic): "Did you hear that on Campfire
, I played a small part that resembles the jingle of Stephen J. Cannell Productions – you know, the producer of ‘The A-Team
Humo: "Oops, no."
Marcus: “The closing jingle of ‘The A-Team’? No? You see someone using a typewriter while there’s a ‘tum-tum-tum-tu-dum’ melody playing in the background. It took me a damn day to recreate it perfectly, that’s why I’m happy as a lark when someone tells me he did recognize it (laughs).”
Humo: The Campfire Headphase sounds like the tapes have leavened in a humid cellar for twenty years: dead-gorgeous but half vanished. And the cover looks like a used beer mat: the pictures are totally bleached."
Michael Sandison: "You hit the nail on the head. It had to look like the album had been lying on the dashboard of our car since 1980.”
Marcus: “We want to react against the sterile, soulless, gleaming junk that is dominating record stores.”
Michael: “I love to browse in my boxes with old cassettes. All those dirty cases I have written on with a marker, the noise between the tracks… absolutely charming!
“In the nineties, producers sometimes mixed the crackling of old vinyl LPs in their tracks to let them sound more authentically. We go much farther: we mutilate our sounds consciously. We don’t have to try really hard, though: a lot of our studio equipment is garbage anyway (laughs).”
“Did you ever hear ‘The Disintegration Loops’ from William Basinski? Basinski, an American producer, wanted to convert his twenty-year-old cassettes to a digital format, but because they had been at the bottom of a drawer for so long, fragments of the magnetic tape came off. But instead of stopping the process to save the tapes, he went on with it and got the dying sounds digitalized and on cd. The results are ancient soundscapes sounding fantastic as well as tragic: you can really hear them pass away. When I read that story, I thought: hey, that’s what we’ve been doing for years: writing tracks using sounds that soak off a feeling of melancholy."
“It bothers me that the kids of today have no respect for music anymore: they quickly listen to a few fragments on the internet and then they decide whether they’ll buy the cd or not. When Marcus and I were young, we treated all of our vinyls with equal respect: even when it was total garbage, we still tried to listen to it as much as possible, sometimes just to deny the fact that we had invested our hard-earned pocket money on a shitty record (laughs). And, more importantly: we went to clubs to see artists live at work, we watched and listened to music on TV and radio, together with our friends we all listened to crappy cassette decks… Music truly was our life, but nowadays it is for a lot of people no more than a leaking tap: everyone, in the office and in the living room, constantly hears sounds coming from their computers, but no-one takes the effort anymore to actually listen to it."
Marcus: “Music has become an occupation for autists: ‘Me and my iPod, and just leave me alone’ – that’s how an ordinary morning in a train is like.”
Humo: "Look at yourselves: you two are acting like a bunch of old nagging men."
Michael: (laughs loudly) “It it stronger than ourselves, but we have nostalgia to our early teen years, when discovering music was an almost mystical experience.”
Marcus: “Mid-seventies until the early eighties: those were the golden years.”
Humo: "Try to say that to someone older than forty: you’ll get a rant about ‘those shitty eighties’, that’s for sure."
Michael: “They are wrong. The nineties, those sucked (laughs). “The eighties were a magical period for us: we were enchanted by music for the first time, smoked our first cigarette, had our first girlfriend. As a young teenager, you’re a blank sheet of photo paper, ready to get exposed to flashes of light: everything that happens to you in these years has an everlasting impact on you life.”
Marcus: “And with our music, we try to translate that nostalgic feeling in sounds. We don’t – like heaps of rock-and electronic bands of today – revert to what is considered the archetypal music of the late seventies and early eighties: we put our experience of that age – with our films, our TV-shows and our music’ – into sounds.”
The fifth chord
Humo: Campfire is a great deal more accessible than its predecessor. Didn’t you finally want to – don’t laugh – get access to a wider public?"
Marcus: “Superstars at last (laughs)!”
Michael: “We’re still proud of Geogaddi
, but let’s get things straight: it was a record for the fans – guys of whom we knew they would have the patience to listen to it attentively anyway, and who would make it a sport to pick out the obscure winks to politics and Satanism. Campfire
is more of a warning directed to the fans: you better watch out, the next record could perhaps differ even more radically from our earlier work.
Boards of Canada
is a unique project that got a bit out of hand. We wanted to make only one record on which we would pour the dreams of our youth in sounds, but right now we are at album number four already and the end is still not in sight (laugh). But we did once and for all away with a few of our tics: those deformed, eerie voices, those complex and repetitive song structures, and so on. We wanted full-fledged songs, complete with intros, hinges, refrains and bridges. A bit like a rock band, actually. Campfire
, my dear, is officially our first pop record.”
Marcus: “In fact, Geogaddi
was also pop, albeit of the most hor-rib-ly difficult kind (laughs).”
Humo: "A lot of your colleagues would rather keep hanging around in the same strait instead of admitting that you can’t keep being innovative – moreover, it is no crime to make accessible music."
Marcus to Michael: “Oh no, I think he means we’re starting to look like Phil Collins
Michael: “I know what you mean: many of the artists that were exciting in the past – even Genesis
– changed after years in obese forty-year-olds, listening more to their accountant than to each other. But I’m already glad that you don’t insinuate that we’re holding a clearance sale. You wouldn’t be the first: one of your colleagues asked if maybe after Campfire
we would make - dammit – real pop music.”
Humo: "Don’t worry: I’m allergic to people who regard ‘pop’ as a filthy word".
Michael: “I’m pleased to hear that, because I don’t understand what some people have against pop music. Take something like Goldfrapp
: brilliant band, consisting for three quarters of bits of electronic music and poppy as hell. You can’t possibly be against such a thing, right?”
Marcus: “In the eighties and nineties there existed a strict separation between ‘pop’ – the fastfood from the hit lists – and ‘alternative’ – music for connoisseurs. This division has fortunately disappeared. For me, every artist that is good in what he is doing is ‘pop’ – anything between, let’s say, the Foo Fighters and Missy Elliot. So why wouldn’t Boards of Canada
be pop music?”
Michael: “With this difference: we let hear a shrill tone at the right moment – in our terminology: the magical fifth chord. If you do something the listener doesn’t expect on the crucial moment, his ear will pay extra attention there the next time he listens: this way, you keep music fascinating.”
Humo: I’m very disappointed that you guys are – unlike the myth about Boards of Canada – no unworldly druids stinking out of their mouths. You even look suspiciously ordinary.
Marcus (laughs): “You’re not the only one who is surprised at that: last years we have given interviews only sporadically, and mostly via e-mail, and since then we read everywhere that we are a bunch of paranoid hermits.”
Michael: “We have experienced that journalists make up a story themselves to accompany your music, if need be. In our case: that we live in a community far from the civilized world, renouncing every form of civilization and sacrificing humans. Why it took us so long to be aware of that, is because whe have better things to do than to sift out the professional press.”
Marcus: "English music press lives on music groups that don’t exactly make (cautious) special, particular music, but still they’re with their mug on the cover, week after week. We absolutely don’t want that."
Michael: “You hear it: the principal reason why we have been sitting here talking to you, is to set the record straight. Boards of Canada are two simple guys who, by chance, make intriguing music.”
Humo: "Keep up the good work! And thank you." Note: Thanks to hGc for the translation.
|| Above Board!
|| Gal Detourn
"Above Board!" is a 2005 interview by Gal Detourn. It originally appeared in Playlouder ltd.a.
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
Like Autechre, Warp's Boards of Canada have slowly built a reputation for quality and innovation within the electronica sphere, which, with their reluctance to become public personalities, has created an enigmatic persona. Hence, the minute details of their lives have not been documented. What we can tell you however, is that Marcus and Michael are brothers, they hail from Scotland, and their latest opus - 'The Campfire Headphase' - is one of the most beautiful, bittersweet slices of electronica you're likely to hear. Marcus and Michael have found an uncanny way of investing the most futuristic production techniques, with a warm glow of nostalgia. Here's how they see it...
Why are you reluctant to be interviewed?
"Marcus: "We've always preferred to let the music stand up for itself, I think it works better in an escapist kind of way when you don't spoil it by talking about it all the time. There are a lot of bands out there who are well-known for being well-known, you know what I mean? And we're not one of those."
The album seems too cohesive to have arrived by accident. What did you set out to achieve?
"Mike: "With every record we try to make it able to stand up on its own without relying on what's currently going on. We're making a unique mental and temporal bubble for our records to exist in. This time we set out to make something simple that had shades of a road movie soundtrack, like the musical score to a surreal journey across a late 70's North American desert highway. I think of it as a sort of skewed pop record."
How did you incorporate the guitar elements? Are they samples or did you play?
"Mike: "All the guitars and other instruments are played by us. We recorded days of ideas being jammed, then we went through and sampled out phrases. It's all been twisted out of shape. I don't know if I'd ever want to make a straightforward record where it's all regulation live instrumentation, like a traditional rock band. Our approach is to combine organic live elements, of instruments like guitar and drums, but to sample and abuse them to bring in an odd, synthetic side to the music. It's the clash of these things I find interesting."
Is the album less synthesised? Did you have to change your method of working?
"Marcus: "There's less use of synths on this record. We've leaned heavily towards a whole 'played, taped and sampled' backdrop this time. I guess sampling for us is different from a lot of other bands, because we routinely sample ourselves rather than other records, so most of the sound generation is coming from real instruments that we played ourselves, mostly recorded with microphones, and a lot of location recording. What you hear on the record is kind of a wall of sound created by sampling as many gnarled acoustic sources we could find."
It's been said that there's a vibe of hazy nostalgia that underpins your music. Where do you think that comes from?
"Marcus: "Maybe it's the fuel that we subconsciously use to make our songs, we've got a way of bringing these things out in tunes. We're always pushing a song to the point where it triggers a memory for us. It's a fine science. Something brand new can be artificially nostalgic sometimes, you can implant emotions into the listener that relate to something in their history that in reality never happened."
Is it more accurate to say that you're trying to soundtrack the future or the here and now?
"Mike: "That's a good question, because we sort of think we're soundtracking a future that belongs to a past era that took a different branch. We've taken a lot of inspiration from the 70's and early 80's idea of what the future would be. You know, great paranoia films like 'Soylent Green', 'Logan's Run', 'Silent Running' or the 'Andromeda Strain'. I think it would be fair to argue that the future we're now living in has turned out a lot more mundane than anyone expected. It used to be thought that in the year 2000 we'd all be going around in silver costumes, having sex with androids and so on, yet for most of us in 2005 we're not doing much different really from what we were doing in 1977. There's just the addition of mobile phones, the Internet, and different haircuts."
There's a genuine positivity on this album. Where do you think that comes from? Has the birth of Mike's child given you both a different view of the world maybe?
"Mike: "I guess this record is more positive than the last, at least on the surface. 'Geogaddi' was kind of exorcising demons, and even after we'd set out to do a record like that, smack in the middle of working on it, 9/11 happened. I remember there were a few of us in the studio that day, and we just ended up glued to the TV for the whole day. I think the months after that pushed us into making a darker record, as I'm sure it did with a lot of bands. A lot's happened since then, I have an amazing little daughter now who makes me laugh every day and gives me a greater sense of purpose on this planet than I ever had. But in a way, the world has actually become even darker over the past four years. There's some crazy underground shenanigans going on now. But instead of reflecting it in a dark record, we decided to make an escapist soundtrack. Like a kind of sanctuary; a day-glo vista you can visit by putting the record on."
But it's often tinged with melancholy. Can emotions that are too clear cut sound cheesy?
"Mike: "Absolutely yes, I don't really believe in music that swings too far to either side. You can't just reduce music down to 'happy' or 'sad', that's just dumbing it down. It's a pretty limited, binary way of looking at things. The truth is, it's obviously a huge, complex range of possibilities. When people try to be too emotive or happy with music, it just becomes saccharine and dishonest, like most of what's in the pop charts today. If you want something to be emotionally powerful, there has to be something bittersweet, something emotionally ambiguous, not just black or white. You can be a thousand times more powerful by being subtle and insidious."
Playlouder interviewed Autechre and they seemed like the kind of blokes you could have a pint and a laugh with. Nothing like their enigmatic 'Autechre' persona might suggest. Do people have similar misconceptions about you?
"Marcus: "They probably do. Bands like Autechre and ourselves are more interested in pushing music than pushing personalities, but the downside of that is these strange images invented by some overzealous fans and fairly inaccurate journalism."
Finally, does the fact that you're brothers aid the creative process?
"Mike: "Yeah of course. We have the advantage of not taking ages to explain ideas to each other. When you've written music with the same person for 20 years, you start getting a kind of shorthand dialogue together, so you can cut to the chase. It helps to keep you polar in your own ideas. I think a lot of bands suffer from having too many chefs, and the only way that works is if there's a megalomaniac in the band. With us, there's two megalomaniacs both with the same plan."
interview by by Gal Detourn, October 2005.
Sweet and Sour Melodies Wander Around
|| Sweet and Sour Melodies Wander Around between Positive and Celebrative Sounds and Swaying Sadness
|| Masaaki Hara
"Sweet and Sour Melodies Wander Around between Positive and Celebrative Sounds and Swaying Sadness" is a 2005 interview by Masaaki Hara. It originally appeared in Vibe-Net.
Sweet and Sour Melodies Wander Around between Positive and Celebrative Sounds and Swaying Sadness
Boards of Canada released their 3rd full album The Campfire Headphase. Containing a full of unchanged finest melancholy in this release, it is described by themselves as “a normal pop album that has been exposed under the sun for 20 years”. What’s the truth in it? I interviewed them about the background of the album including the production process.
What did you pay attention to when you made this album ‘Campfire Headphase’?
"Michael Sandison: It’s like a feeling of one note changing shape into another note in 2 different measures; non-repeated sense. Therefore, through the album, the textures are flowing and most of the songs have their climax or goals. That becomes the moving power of the songs."
In the Campfire Headphase
, there are some instruments playing including guitars, aren’t there?
"Marcus Eoin: Yeah, we used a lot of live musical instruments in this album. Guitars, drums, percussions, strings, etc… We processed those sounds and made them unique, antiquated but beautiful. We thought that the core concept of BoC
could have been adapted not only with electrically made sounds but also with other instruments. So this is a kind of destruction of sounds. The majority of the work we do is to bring the sensation of time and places to music; and we do not use the clean and perfect recorded sounds. Normally we record onto low quality cassette tapes to bring the quality down and then re-compose the music. We’re not interested in the clean and tight music although we could make them. We do much prefer to listen to acoustic guitar melodies from 30 years ago than terribly clean digital work stations."
Do any secrets exist in the titles like the previous releases?
"Marcus Eoin: Yeah, not as much as the one before. Titles always have the meanings of connections or codes. We used more distinct and bigger pictures, well, canvases, again this time. We want listeners to understand that. In this record, we intentionally did not fill up with mysterious vocal samples. We wanted you concentrate with the music itself. Sweet and sour melodies wander around between positive and celebrative sounds and swaying sadness."
How have the music making environments changed since your debut to now? And what hasn’t changed?
"Marcus Eoin: That’s a difficult question. If I have to say something, we turned our back to the horizontal grids, what they call sequencers. It feels to me limited. We used to make music only with cassette tape recorders in the past and there weren’t any restrictions in front of my eyes. There wasn’t the feeling of being “filled in” within the tight grids. Nowadays, most of the producers, including the orchestra composers, make music within the grids unconsciously and they have not realized that they’re limiting their creativities."
Do you not plan to play as a band again?
"Michael Sandison: We might do something in the future. We have been attracted to that direction for a number of years. There are merits and demerits though. However, Marcus and I want to control everything to excess, so when we make music, we sometimes want to make the sounds exactly same as the ones in our minds. It is hard to work together with other people when we make music with those extreme polarized visions. We want them to understand that’s how we create the best music which are personal and internal."
interview by Masaaki Hara, October 2005.
(translated by Naoko Ross)
Stirred Up The Ashes
|| Stirred Up The Ashes
|| Heiko Hoffmann
"Stirred Up The Ashes" is a 2005 interview by Heiko Hoffmann. It originally appeared in Earplug.
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
Stirred Up The Ashes
Groove magazine's Heiko Hoffmann speaks to Scottish electronic duo Boards of Canada, aka Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin, about how they stirred up the ashes of their own influence to create their new album, The Campfire Headphase.
On your last album, Geogaddi, you included some hidden messages to test your audience. Do you consider that experiment successful?
"Michael: It was too successful! We thought that putting these secret things in would be an interesting thing that one or two people would stumble on in listening to the record. We didn't realize that we would end up creating a cult."
You didn't realize that there was this thing called the Internet.
"Michael: Exactly (laughs). I think if the Internet hadn't existed, it probably would've been fine, because people would have mostly just listened to the music, and the odd person would have mentioned the secret bits maybe in an article. But because of the Internet, these things just spread. Part of it, for us, was done as an experiment, but part of it was just done as a kind of in-joke. It was just the two of us having fun. Even some of the sinister things were just done for fun or for textural reasons. Some things, like voices that if you reverse them you can hear such and such, are a nod to all the bands in the '70s that were doing this kind of thing. And that's all there was.
Marcus: For example, the decision to make the record 66.6 minutes long was made right at the last minute. We wanted to insert some silence at the end of the album so that there would be a gap before the CD would start again. When we were discussing the length of the silence [Warp Records owner] Steve Beckett actually suggested to take it to a total 66 minutes 6 seconds, because then everyone would think it's the devil who made the album. And we just laughed.
Michael: People found things in the record that aren't actually in it. I've seen people talking about some of the vocal lines in the album being palindromic - you know, if you play it forward, it says exactly the same thing backwards. I think we did this in one case, but some people claim that there are many more. Then there are people who said, if you slow down this song, after two-and-a-half minutes you hear a little sound that sounds like a cymbal, but if you slow it right down and reverse it, it actually turns out to be a child screaming. But that's just a cymbal."
On The Campfire Headphase, you avoided the use of your trademark children's voices.
"Marcus: That was a deliberate thing. We got fed up with people saying that we're a formulaic band that you could kind of describe in a couple of sentences.
Michael: There were people who thought that that's what our sound is: a synthesizer and children's voices. That's not really fair. We've also seen a lot of people cropping up imitating the sound that we were doing before, and the imitation was always quite bad.
Marcus: It's flattering when people say that they've been influenced by what we've done, but at the same time I hear tracks that people are doing right now who are doing the things that we did eight years ago. You get a hip-hop rhythm, a mono synth, and a child's voice saying something. At the time we were doing this, no one had done it, and it can leave you quite uncomfortable hearing this now. On this record, we wanted to prove to people that we are capable of more than just that.
Michael: I think it can become really dangerous for a band if you don't have a certain level of self-consciousness about these things. You always have to stay a few steps in front of your audience. We always have people putting fakes on the Internet before a new record is released, and the fakes are always really electronic with little kids' voices and things like that. Probably next time around all the fakes will include wobbly guitars like the ones we use on the new album (laughs).
Marcus: Meanwhile, we'll come out with a very electronic record."
interview by by Heiko Hoffmann, October 2005.
Two for the No-Show
|| Two for the No-Show
|| Will Hodgkinson
|| The Times
"Two for the No-Show" by Will Hodgkinson
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
Boards of Canada are so publicity shy they make Dylan look like Robbie. Will hodgkinson gets an exclusive, reclusive interview.
A fog of myth surrounds Boards of Canada. For the past decade the Scottish duo have been making beautiful instrumental music that has won them fans such as, Björk, Beck, Johnny Marr and Radiohead. Albums such as Music Has The Right To Children (1998) and Geogaddi (2002) are evocative, deliberately imperfect electronic portraits that are both elegant and threatening.
But Boards of Canada hardly ever play live, rarely grant interviews, and generally take at least three years to make a record. They don't like having their photograph taken. A visit to their website will reveal nothing more than the cover art for their latest album, The Campfire Headphase. The exist purely on the strength of their music.
A few facts emerged over the years. Marcus Eoin and Mike Sandison (left and right in our picture) met as children in the late Seventies, and were inspired by American television shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man and educational programmes from the film Board of Canada to start making music. After stints in school bands they began to work solely together, saving their pocket money to buy exotic musical instruments and spending all their free time in their self-built studio. It's only recently that they revealed that they are in fact brothers. They live in the countryside near Edinburgh, but not even their record company is quite sure where.
As I wait in the Edinburgh Film House café I'm almost expecting two versions of the Emperor from Star Wars to appear, beams shooting from their fingers. But two slightly scruffy, good-looking, resoundingly normal men in their mid-thirties walk in.
"We really don't care about image," says Marcus, pointing out the obvious. "We decided that if the music is good enough we'd just put the records out and not bother with anything else."
"Instrumental music is evocative. As soon as you attach a face to it, you tie it down," adds Mike.
Ever since they started experimenting with tape machines as children the two have been obsessed with creating the perfect sound, which explains why tit takes them so long to complete an album. Over the three-and-a-half years it took them to make The Campfire Headphase they recorded more than 400 tracks, working by themselves six or seven days a week. Don't they fear losing touch with reality?
"We aim to switch everthing off at six o'clock now," says Mike, who has been forced to change his working methods since he became a father in 2004. "For Geogaddi we worked until 4am every day and it was hellish, so we're trying to lighten up a bit for the good of our health and our family lives."
"The problem is that we're control freaks," adds Marcus. "People think of us as a couple Scottish stoners who sit around and bang out a record every few years when we can be bothered. The opposite is true."
They are, by their own admission, almost impossible to work with. Their record label, Warp, regularly receives requests from famous artists to have Boards of Canada provide remixes, to which they almost always give a civil refusal. "It got to the point where I told Warp to turn down all requests for remixes unless they were from God or Beck'" says Marcus. "Beck called a few months later."
The fact that their music is mostly electronic is largely a result of their inability to work collaboratibely. "When I was in school bands," says Mike, "I would create a minimalist electronic track, and then some guy would want to ruin it with a guitar solo."
"The only way we could be a traditional four-piece band," muses Marcus, "is if we cloned ourselves. Then the bassit wouldn't complain about only playing one note every eight bars."
It becomes apparent that Boards of Canada have a vision so singular that it puts them at odds with pretty much everything else going on in the modern world.
The Campfire Headphase has a timeless quality in its blend of melody and dissonnance, and despite being made mostly on traditional instruments it sounds so much more rich and imaginative than most contemporary pop music.
As they talk about their favourite films - the psychadelic surf movie Crystal Voyager, Antonioni's panoramic Zabriskie Point'' - Mike and Marcus come across as commited to their art and curious about life. "If all goes according to plan, everything we've done so far will be just one stage in our development," Mike says, "Boards of Canada is the tip of the iceberg."
Protect and Survive (interview)
|| Protect and Survive
|| Rob Young
|| The Wire
"Protect and Survive" by by Rob Young
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
In a rare face to face interview at their Scottish retreat, Boards of Canada breakin their self-imposed isolation to scotch the myths that have coalesced around them. With the release of their third album in seven years, they explain the reasons for the artificial ageing and geometric twists to which they subject their music, and reflect on being part of the 'analogue-to-digital' generation. Words: Rob Young. Photography: Leon Chew
The Bass Rock is barely visible in the late summer heat-mist, lying about three miles off the deserted coast near North Berwick. The crag rises 350 feet out of the turquoise sea, and faintly visible against its sheer cliff sides is a white lighthouse. A millenium and a half before the light was et on the rock at the beginning of the last century, a Lindisfarne monk, St Baldred of Bass, lived a hermit's existence alone on the island, shuttered in a rain-lashed cell to confront alone his god and, doubtless, his demons too. Today gannets are the island's sole visitors, as well as the occasional tourist boats ploughing through the surf to visity the martyr's chapel. As I crunch along the Ravensheugh Sands with Boards Of Canada's Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin, the guano-stained Rock takes on a mythical hue: the distance and the sea mist cause it to almost melt into thin air, the wraith of a giant white molar on the horizon. There's a Moby-Dick quality to it -- you could spend a lifetime staring at it but it would remain eternally out of reach.
"When I was a kid, about five or six years old," Mike Sandison is saying, " a relative of mine had one of those tacky ceramic owls on their mantelpiece, and it had multifaceted diamante eyes. I as totally obsessed with those sparkly glass eyes, for ages. I felt like looking into them was like looking sideways though everything, right through time. That's what we're trying to do with our music."
When you think about Boards Of Canada, the idea of hermits is never too far away. For the best part of a decade and a half now they have dwelt in what appears to be -- to a London/urban-centric media, anyway -- an isolated wilderness in Scotland (in fact, they've always lived within a half-hour's drive of the capital city Edinburgh, not in the Highlands, as is often reported). Their Interviews have invariably been conducted by email. Since their wistful, queasily nostalgia-soaked electronic music began to appear in the mid-90s, they have only done a handful of face to face interviews, none of those on home turf. Careful managers of their own public image, even today their homes and studio are out of bounds, but they do willingly and generously drive us all over the stretch of coast an countryside that's close to the place they call home. Until recently they live in the Pentland Hills, south west of Edinburgh; without much fanfare they have moved eastwards since then, into the flatter terrain of East Lothian. "We're not far away from where we were before," explains Sandison, "we relocated, but we're trying to let that slip by without anyone knowing about it, because we felt that if we made a big deal of it, it would start that whole thing again about the geography being more important than the music."
"I always got this feeling that people were saying, 'because they were surrounded by the Pentland Hills, this is why their music sounds this way'," sighs Eoin. "And I don't really like that, because it's almost like saying, 'you're just like anyone else, and it's just because you happen to be there'. That's unfair -- it's not giving you credit for actually just doing music the way you want it to be."
For better or worse, the Boards' 'secrecy' has endowed them with enigmatic status; the relative media silence has opened a space in which fans can speculate, mythmake, invent and interpret to their hearts' content -- much of which happens in chatrooms and message boards, thankfully well out of harm's way. But the pair certainly monitor these discussions and while they don't take part in them, they do seem somewhat confounded by the kind of rumours that have got out. As Eoin says, "if there's no apparent facts or information about you, then what happens is stuff just floods in to fill that gap, and very often it's basically a flood of bullshit that fills in your silhouette. And we've really suffered from that."
It's not as if these two aren't well travelled. Sandison once lived in London for a couple of years; they've lived in Edinburgh itself and, when they decide to take a break from their recording (and each other) to spend time with their partners, they're off travelling on the other side of the world -- Sandison mentions recent trips to France, Australia and New Zealand (where he's thinking of moving), while Eoin's considering a new life in Hong Kong with his Chinese girlfriend. Those are decisions still to be made, as their current live/work set-up is working well for them. "This whole project has come about with us living on the outskirts of Edinburgh," he says, "and for the last two decades we've been working on it from here, and we've had no reason to want to relocate to the city or to the south or anything, it's as simple as that. In fact, we actually find to some extend this so-called hermetic bubble that we live in is actually making it a lot easier for us to do our thing and not feel any urge to make it DJ friendly, or make it work for a certain social or club environment."
Meeting these two objects of so much speculation, it's refreshing to discover they'er not the dysfunctional electronic droids you might expect. They're actually a deal more open, articulate and opinionated than many other musicians of their generations, and don't appear terribly secretive. A kung fu manual is prominently stuffed in ther back seat pocket of Eoin's car, and Sandison rabbits away as we motor through the Scottish countryside, eulogising about being a parent and at one point asking his wife to text him a photo of his baby daughter at the dinner table so that he can show us.
They've broken cover to talk about The Campfire Headphase, the latest in their very occasional series of records, and only their third album since Music Has The Right To Children (1998) and Geogaddi (2002). As they're at pains to point out, the long gaps between releases aren't because they're lazy or aloof, it's because of the perfectionism of theircraft. Six months of 2005 alone were spent on post-producing the album to get idea-germs into a state they call finished. "There are textures in what we try to do," explains Eoin, "which borrow from certain sounds or eras - even in visual things that we do as well, artwork - to trigger somthing, almost a cascade. It's like a memory that someone has - even though it's artificial, they never even had the memory; it's just you're ageing a song. And then people feel, is that something familiar I knew from yers ago?"
There's always been a warm, woody hue to BOC's music, but the dominant flavour has been synthesized on Campfire, guitars have taken over: steel strings, rippling chords and plucked notes dappled with reverb. "Chromakey Dreamcoat" ends with a blend of hillbilly steel and keyboard swirls not unlike the original BBC Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy theme - a typically BOC reference to the organic science fiction of the 1970s they love so much. The duo's clunkily satisfying rhythms - often played on a kit by Sandison - and analogue drum machines still govern the downtempo flow, but it's geared down to a pace Sandison describes as "that 70s truckstop diner feel". "Satellite Anthem Icarus" is especially gorgeous, a scudding oceanic cruise, riding on the sound of waves crashing on a beach, a woman's muffled voice and electronic tropical peeps.
"On this album it's interesting," says Sandison, "because we are really overtly playing riffs on guitars, and although we've aged it and made it more like it's been recorded 25 years ago or something, with each track that we've used the guitars on, we've put things in it which are impossible on a 1970s record. Sometimes we'll construct an entire song out of samples that we'll make, so we'll maybe take instruments and play parts or play notes and we'll make entire spans of notes out of sounds we really like, and then play them in ways that the original instrument couldn't have played. You could take a span of lots of notes on the guitar, and then you would play chords on that guitar by hitting them all at once, in a way that a real guitar could never be played. And then of course we would do a lot of other things to the guitar to really tweak it and make it sound very, very gnarly and damaged."
The two of them spend most of their time together doing the spadework that yields the raw produce for their music, creating sounds with what they describe as a collection of 200 instruments - not only synths, but flutes, stringed instruments, guitars, exotic percussion - sampling them, twisting them like sugar candy, and the thing that makes them Boards Of Canada pieces more than anything else: artificially aging them. The songwriting is one thing, but the process of transforming the melodic ideas into the finished product is what takes time. Tunes can wait around several years in a demo state before undergoing the duo's deliberate degradation technique.
"One thing we tried to do," pursues Eoin, "and we're trying to do more of, is a sense that you're hearing a piece of music that comes through the wringer a bit - it's definitely not coming literally. It's not just a guy standing in front of you with the latest keyboard workstation. There's a sense that you're listening to sa tune, but how many times has that been copied from tape to tape to tape... by the time it's reached you it's crumbled, it's turned into powder.
"You hera about monks in the Middles ages using a pin to create a Bible or a piece of art, and they'll do it for 40 years in the dark underneath a monastery," he continues, " and they'll be blind by the time they've finished. And some people really appreciate art like that, because there's something really tragic about it. It's almost like it's more beautiful than any other art, because instead of it being someone comfortably painting something in a day, there's something absolutely tragic and destroyed about it. So I always think you can still go further up the run from 'beautiful music', and that's beautiful music that seems to come out of some tragedy or brokenness. It becomes even more beautiful, the shards if the sound coming through are even more vibrant and affecting."
From the start, circumstances forced them to invent their own universe. Both born around 1970, they've been friends since they were toddlers, when their parents relocated to Canada to take up jobs in the construction industry. There, they were exposed to public education films on nature, science and the Earth, often narrated by Leslie Nielsen, made by the National Film Board of Canada. When they were around 13 years of age and living back in a bleak harbour town in the north of Scotland, they began "bullying" their friends into making experimental films with a Super-8 camera. "We'd say, 'This is waht you're going to do, because the other options are playing the Space Invaders machine down at the chip shop or breakin windows on phone boxes'," sandison says. To fit their pocket money budgets, the films involved time lapse, stop motion and 'sound to light' techniques. "We'd seen a lot of Norman McLaren animations while growing up," explains Eoin. At the same time Sandison, later joined by Eoin, began making music in various indie rock configurations. From the early 90s, university studies and unrewarding jobs were interleaved with more esoteric activities in the company of a large group of friends, artists, photographers, graphic designers and musicians, collectively known as Hexagon Sun. Their parties outgrew their homes in the Pentland Hills, spilling out into the woods. "It totally enhanced the experience," recalls Eoin. "Once you take it to an isolated, outdoor location, away from organisation, there's a sense of freedom that kicks in. It's sexier and less inhibited than an indoor event. You can have 50 or 100 people hanging out around fires, some rare music echoing around... the sound of two melodies clashing over one another, or maybe a melody to your left but a voice talking to your right, off through the trees. Doppler-shifting and filtering because of the wind or the random shapes around you. It creates a giddy, surreal sound that doesn't normally exist on records." In these unique outdoor communions, al arge part of Boards of Canada's sound aesthetic was forged. In 1996, after privately circulating cassette compilations of tracks they had been recording, Sandison and Eoin sent tapes to other labels including Skam in Manchester. Autechre's Sean Booth picked up on it immediately, and Skam released several BOC tracks before Warp swung into action and issued Music Has The Right To Children in 1998, with the distinctive treated cover image of a family Polaroid holiday snapshot with all the faces wiped blank. Geogaddi, appearing four years later, was decked with hexagonal, kaleidoscopic prisms that became something of a calling card. "I guess you could get a better idea of what these things symbolise by reading Aldous Huxley's The Doors Of Perception," says Eoin when I ask him about the significance of those shapes. "Also, I've always had an interest in the yamabushi of ancient Japan, the 'mountain men'. They used symbols as a way of having a willpower that would always outlive any challenge. They used repetitive hand symbols or drawn characters to create a neutral place they could visit mentally whenever they faced hardship. For us, "Turquoise Hexagon Sun" always returns us to a zone where we can throw off the baggage and begin again."
Somewhere up in the Highlands, they tell me, lies a valley that's the last remaining site in the UK where radio signals, microwaves and mobile phone signals can't reach. An Eden such as this, free of the harmful of the harmful effects of technology and sheltered from penetration by foreign chatter, sounds like the kind of place Boards Of Canada's music could happily live. A place where you might be able to start to observe the world directly, anew, unmediated by outside influence. In such places you can build your ark, rescue yourself from being dragged along with the flood. Most of the music they love and admire is made by folk who have built their own bubble, where the music lives in its own epoch, its own specially crafted box. The "Victorian fairly lights" and "looking-glass world" of fellow Scots The Cocteau Twins are one; Devo, inventors of their own theatrical universe and whose early songs they admire because they sound like advertising jingles for washing powder, are another. They are currently enthusing about William Basinski's Disintergration Loops ("Funny enough, when we first heard that, we thought, 'We've got tapes like that ourselves' ") and Stevie Wonder's rapturous mid-70s funk - "that bit in "Living For The City" where there's the descending chords, and it'S all transposing all the way down, and it's just going chromatically all down the scale... I recognise something there where it feels like he's trying to translate something that is otherworldly, that's not about the mundane," explains Sandison.
"There's usually a visual element in the tracks we write," he continues, "and it probably comes from an obsession with film and TV. When yyou're a kid, a three second long animation with rainbows morphing into A-Bomb blasts can be massively affecting and influential. I think you see these things more vividly when you're younger, but as an adult your brain starts to filter out it considers irrevelant background noise. The downside is that you become desensitised to a lot of things and that leads you to not really feel much at all."
Boards Of Canada's music is awash with sadness at the loss of a child's vivid perception. It struggles constantly to regain that enhanced sensation of encountering the world afresh, while planting a nostalgia for the sounds and images of the particular time in which they grew up. They are addressing their own specific generation - you might call them the analogue-to-digital transfer generation - whose formative years straddled huge changes in geopolitics (the Cold War and its nuclea threat which hung over 80s teens had evaporated by the time they left college), domestic and ocomputer technology (typing in the 80s became word processing in the 90s), and the nature and role of the media. Hence their music's slathering with textual referents, deliberated sonic aides memoires that are almost recognisable but remain just out of memory's reach.
"We could only exist in the short pocket of time when music has made the transition form analogue to digital," agrees Sandison. "There's this little moment where there's enough nostalgia attached to the former recording media and the faults that it had, that certain people will get it, and understand what we're doing. If there's sadness in the way we use memory," he goes on, "it's because the time you're focusing on has gone forever. I guess it's a theme we play on a lot, that bittersweet thing where you face up to the fact that certain chapters of you life are just Polaroids now."
The faded turquoise and yellow packaging of The Campfire Headphase contains a gallery of Polaroid photos they've collected over the years, family snapshots digitally mildewed and rotted with similar artificial ageing techniques they use for their music. The idea, they tell me, is to create the feeling that you've just found all these pictues in someone else's old house and that the people shown in the pictures are al dead. As an aural analogy, they describe the degrading processo ntheir sound as introducing a "toxic, poisonous" element. Sandison articulates the fascination with the imperfect: "Even when we sound like we're being conventional, there's always something in it which is kind of dark, that's doing the bittersweet thing. Sometimes we deliberately construct songs to be pretty conventional sounding, and then we abuse them, we throw something in that's kind of a spike.
"If you ever see these American makeover programmes where they get ordinary looking people and they give them these regulation whiter-than-white teeth and veneers and all that, quite often I find the finished product really sinister, because they've got these really symmetrical faces, with perfect teeth and everything, make-up and the hair. If you actually compare the before-and-after pictures, the person you could imagine being friends with is the one with squint teeth and everything and the gnarly face. And it's the same sort of thing with music and other art. If there's something a bit rough about it, it feels more personal to you, like something that belonged to you on a cassette tape that you've been cherishing for years, rather than something digital and perfect and straight. The drop-outs, the flutter on the tape and everything, you get used to where it happens."
Eoin: "I think it's a reaction to mundanity. Britain, for example, is a safe place to live, and a lot of people in the rest of the world come here to live because it's better than were they are, the grass is green here than it is there. But when you've lived here for a long time, you can start to feel a crushing mundanity, you need strange things to bring you out of it, otherwise you start feeling like a corpse."
Sandison elaborates, "I think we try to make music that's more like normal music that's head through a damaged mind, so you're hearing it diagonally..."
Boards Of Canada's eccendtric orbits, their unstable tones and disorientating sonic additives are all carefully calculated effects. In conversation they'll often talk about chords coming in at weird angles and diagonals, zapping melodic expectations. As one of Geogaddi's song titles reminds us, "The Devil Is In The Details": their mastery of numbers and geometry has its own part to play in the Confucian confusion.
"You can use rules or set theory to dictate timings and note intervals", expands Sandison about their composition strategies. "For instance, you can imagine your melody to run vertically instead of horizontally, so that you're thinking of a vertical spiral, running on the spot. There's a thing you can calculate for plants called divergence, which is a ratio of complete turns of spiral leaf positions relative to the number of leaves in that spiral. In plants, this usually gives a Fibonacci number, which is pretty uncanny, but it's basically a natural law that's trying to create optimum distribution of leaf positions, to stop leaves from obsucring each other in sunlight. You can apply a similar idea to a vertical spiral of music, to calculate optimal temporal event positions in a pattern or texture. It doesn't always make for easy listening though," he adds, laughing.
Time to puncture a few myths about Boards Of Canada. "The kind of thing that gets up my nose is when people describe us as 'approaching New Age' or soemthing like that," moans Sandison. "To me that's completly missing the point. If we do something that remotely sounds a bit like that, it's because we're actually doing it deliberately, we're doing almost as a pisstake."
Google Boards Of Canada and you'll soon find fans with plenty of time on their hands, identifying all manner of psychedelic Easter eggs in the music: reversed samples and tapes, aural palindromes (sentences like "I've been gone about a week" that sound like the same when played forwards or in reverse) buried phrases that hint at paganism ("You Could eel The Sky" contains the words "a god with hooves"). Titles like "Music Is Math", "A Is To B As B Is To C", and "The Smallest Weird Number" (the number 70, which they adopted for the name of their own label/production company, Music70) imply numerological sorcery; musical structures arranged, tuned and sequenced at root level according to mathematical equations such as the Fibonacci sequence and Golden Ratio. Someone's even found that the toal playing time of Geogaddi is 66:06, and it's total hard drive space when ripped to MP3 is 666 megabytes, etc. All of which leads to speculation that they are involved in in some kind of cultish activity - a belief that gathered pace with the release of their 2000 EP In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country, which contained overt references to David Koresh's Branch Davidian community and its annihilation by the US military in 1993 during the Waco siege.
"Not in the slightest," counters Sandison when I ask him for a definitive answer on their 'cult' status.
"We're just purely coming at what we do from the angle at being interested in subjects. You get a lot of painters or film directors who are complete atheists who'll make films all about religion, or Christianity, not because they're obsessed with the subjects or they're actually evangelists, but just purely because it's something they're interested in for that project. It's exactly the same with us - we'll hit on some of these things, but at the end of the day we're just totally ordinary people that just happen to be making music."
And why the particular focus on Waco? "We take a great interest in the spectrum of everything, religions and cults, anything connected to that," says Eoin. Because they are a break from the norm. So when you see something like that, a group of people doing their own thing, going away and living together like that... it's the fascination with that, and a sense of injustice..."
"And the outrage at what happened," interjects Sandison.
"I'm not a religious person," Eoin continues, "but what I felt seeing what happened there was asense of outrage - they're devoutly religious people, but what happened to them - were they just singled out because of this, and attacked? The victor always writes history, and the only history we know of David Koresh and those people is what's been written about by reference to things like what the FBI were investigating afterwards."
"Which was why," Sandison swings back to the record in hand, "we thought we'd make a record that on the surface feels really sweet and very spacious and it'll be titled In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country, but what were these people doing in a beautiful place out in the country? They were getting shot and burned.. [Laughs] It's a typical thing that we would do..."
Eoin: "Even when you go away and have that existence, something still chases you there, still follows you home. And that's the impression I get off that story."
With every retreat form the world comes the need to protect and survive. Eoin once described a complicated solar alarm system he had installed in his house. Neighbourhood watch scheme broken down, has it? "No, it's just paranoia," he laughs. "No, when you've got things like master tapes going back to 1984, and irreplaceable musical equipment, honestly, you're gonna be paranoid. It's not really to do with past experiences, it's a kind of precautionary attitude, a Red Dawn attitude..."
And so we take our leave of these hermits, as they sit and wait for someone to put knobs back on digital TVs to change the colour and contrast (newer technologies not necessarily being better than old); leave them to their fervent belief that they can inoculate their music with the mould of hte past, warding off the viral spread of mediocrity.
"We're not even remotely religious people," repeats Sandison, "but I understand what that is about when you're trying to channel something that's more about the cogs behind the workings of the universe, and it feels like sometimes everything you're looking at is a simulation that's based on a much more geometric background. And a lot of the time, this machine that we are seeing, the world as it is, is so smooth and predictable, that even art has become really predictable. It's all following rues and patterns that have already been set by somebody who programmed it. But if you really stand back and look away from it, the potential's there for art and music to go into absolutely bizarre territories where everything is utterly fresh and weird and new. The challenge is to imagine: how about just stop where we are, and let's just for a minute try and backtrack a way up here, and imagine what would happened if, in 1982, music had taken this other branch on this side, and where would it be now, and what would it be sounding like now?" "The Campfire Headphase is released this month on Warp.'
The Last Secret of Pop
|| The Last Secret of Pop
|| Koen Poolman
"The Last Secret of Pop" (original text in Dutch) by Koen Poolman
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
Laptopmuzikanten hebben het maar makkelijk: ze weten precies wat ze willen en hoe ze het gaan doen. Mike en Marcus worden heen en weer geslingerd tussen gitaar en computer, tussen akoestische en elektronische muziek, tussen oud en nieuw, tussen folk en avant-garde. Op hun nieuwe cd The Campfire Headphase' versmelten melancholische gitaren met chroomkleurige beats en synths. 'We voelen duidelijk de behoefte om belde wegen in te slaan,' bekent Mike. 'Iedere dag ligt ons hart ergens anders.' Hun invloeden lopen uiteen van klassieke muziek tot hiphop en van psych-folk uit de jaren zestig en zeventig tot de rare maatsoorten van de native Americans, de indianen. Ze zijn allebei klassiek geschoold op de piano en spelen gitaar. Mike is de beste drummer van de twee, Marcus' eerste instrument in een band was basgitaar. Tijdens de twee uur dat we met hen spraken, tekenden we de volgende namen op: Julian Cope, Bob Dylan, Pixies, Cocteau Twins, Phil Spector, Wim Wenders, HR Giger, The Polyphonic Spree, Sufjan Stevens, The Incredible String Band, Butterscotch Rum, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, John Denver, Joy Division, The New Scientist (tijdschrift), Zabriskie Point, Jeroen Bosch, Aphex Twin, Autechre, My Bloody Valentine, Talk Talk, Stevie Wonder, Radiohead, Bibio, Fennesz, Alias, Boom Bip, cLOUDDEAD, Odd Nosdam, William Basinski's The Disintegration Loops I-IV, 'Maar,', voegde Mike er op een gegeven moment aan toen, 'ik kan hier een lijst van veertig namen geven en dan nog heb je niet één procent van de mensen die ons geïnspireerd hebben.' Waar ze beslist niet naar luisteren: folktronica, technopuristen en 'al die honderen Autechre-klonen zonder ideeën van zichzelf.'
Nog nooit spraken ze met een Nederlandse journalist. Ze spreken sowieso eigenlijk nooit. Optreden doen ze sinds hun entree in 1998 gemiddeld één keer per drie jaar. Hetzelfde tempo houden ze met hun albums aan. Ze wonen en werken teruggetrokken in de bossen van de Schotse Pentland Hills. Boards Of Canada: het laatste van de pop. Ze voegden weer en hoofdstuk aan hun mythe toe: The Campfire Headphase. Koen Poolman reisde af naar Schotland om zijn helden te ontmoeten.
door Koen Poolman
Laten we bij het eind beginnen: de Radiohead-vraag. Zonder Boards of Canada's Music Has The Right To Children (1998) had Kid A (2000) heel anders geklonken luidt de mare. Mike en Marcus aarzelen. 'Dat zou ik niet durven zeggen.' 'Dat is niet eerlijk ten opzichte van hen'. 'Alsof ze anders geen geweldige plaat hadden gemaakt.' 'Misschien hebben ze wel goed naar Aphex Twin en Autechre geluisterd.' Nee, dat succes willen ze niet claimen. Dat Thom Yorke een bewonderaar is van hun warme, broeierige elektronica, is genoeg. Kid A en Amnesiac vinden ze mooie platen. Ook U2 schijnt fan te zijn. Dat laat ze dan weer koud. De roem ze gestolen worden. Feit is dat Music Has The Right To Children en opvolger Geogaddi (2002) -- beide met 200.000 verkochte cd's Aphex Twin en Nightmares On Wax de bestsellers in de experimentele Warp-catalogus -- talloze bands en producers hebben geïnspireerd.
Het zijn van die platen die jarenlang meegaan en steeds beter worden. Ze logenstraffen het cliché van elektronische muziek als kille, cleane, mechanische, sciencefiction-achtige muziek voor de wereld van morgen. Hier is een groep die haar best doet haar geluid zo ouderwets, gamme en zelfs 'beschadigd' mogelijk te maken, die zich liever haar onbezorgde jeugd herinnert dan droomt van een leven tussen robots, die gitaren, fluiten, windorgels, drums, percussie, analoge synthesizers en aftandse taperecorders verkiest boven de nieuwste software, die voortdurend in folky sferen lijkten te verkeren, die verplicht tot luistere en die de perfectie afzweert. Menselijke muziek is niet ongenaakbaar. Geen kloppende pulse, maar een brok in de keel. Een lichte hapering. Een traan. En dan: een huivering. Je hoort dingen die je eerst niet hoorde. Stemmen, boodschappen, hallucinaties. Wie in de caleidoscopische wereld van Boards of Canada duikt, ontdekt sporen van occultisme, religieuze cults, spionagenetten, numerologie, mathematische concepten... Ze zitten verstopt in titels, artwork, samples, de lengte van de tracks, her aantal tracks, in talloze achterwaarts afgespeelde stemmen, zelfs in heuse audio palindromen: zinnetjes die voor- en achterwaarts afgespeeld identiek zijn. "The Devil Is In The Details" heette een van de nummers van Geogaddi. De cd telde 23 tracks (een mystiek getal voor occultisten), duurde 66 minuten en 6 seconden en was 666 Mb groot. Bijrollen: David Koresh, leider van de Branch Davidians-sekte in Waco, en Pan, de 'god with hooves', heidense god der weiden en bossen. Eerst zie je ze niet, dan lijken ze opeens overal te zitten. De magie van Boards of Canada - opererend vanuit een afgelegen woongemeenschap in de bossen van de Schotse Pentland Hills, onder Edinburgh, waar ze hun eigen studio hebben - kreeg langzaam een zwart randje. En al die jaren weigerden ze naar buiten te treden. Ze deden slechts een handvol interviews over de e-mail en stonden, na hun stille entree met Music Has The Right To Children, drie keer op een podium. Een enigma.
Nu hebben ze dan eindelijk ingestemd met een face to face interview. Eén per land, twee uur lang. Ze hebben een hoop uit te leggen. Over hun nieuwe album The Campfire Headphase bijvoorbeeld, maar ook over de wilde verhalen die het mysterie Boards of Canada zijn gaan omgeven. Ze willen bewijzen dat ze 'ordinary blokes' zijn en geen 'magiërs die mensenoffers brengen op een bergtop.' De mythe heeft een loopje met ze genomen, beseft Mike. 'Als je zolang uit de media wegblijft, gaan de mensen vanzelf de gaten in je verhaal opvullen.' Mike is Michael Sandison, 34 jaar, vader van een dochtertje van één. Hij oogt vermoeid. Lijdt aan slapeloosheld en depressies. Draagt een zwarte een zwarte trui, spijkerboek en gympen. Baardje van een week. Onopvallend. Marcus Eoin (32) is knapper, sportiever ook. Hij blijkt een fervent snowboarder. Getrimd baardje, het haar met gel in model gehouden. De ring om zijn vinger zegt dat hij vorig jaar getrouwd is. Op zijn T-shirt prijken de namen van weirdo-rappers Boom Bip en Dose One. Mike is een vlotte prater. Marcus is iets bedachtzamer, geeft uitleg bij Mike's verhaal. 'Het grootste misverstand,' gaat Mike verder waar hij begonnen is, 'is onze humor. Veel mensen missen onze ironie. Ze nemen alles wat wij doen veel te letterlijk.' Ze zijn, zegt hij bijna veronschuldigend, gewoon geïnteresseerd in oude culturen, religieuze uitspattingen, wetenschappelijke vraagstukken, alles wat afwijkt van de norm. Meer moeten we er niet achter zoeken. En nee, ze zijn beslist geen 'failed techno band', zoals ze wel eens lezen op internetfora van IDM-diehards. Ze hebben nooit intelligent dance music willen maken. 'Eigenlijk zijn we nooit geïnteresseerd geweest in dancemuziek, techno, of wat dan ook. Die wereld staat heel ver van de onze af. Van kinds of aan hebben we ieder instrument opgepakt dat voor het grijpen lag en er een hoop herrie meegemaakt. Wij zijn geen technokids.'
Enter: The Campfire Headphase. Weer zo'n ongepoetste juweel met intieme synths, beats en, voor het eerst, gitaarloops die, goed tegen het licht gehouden, langzaam begint te glinsteren, Met het licht reflecteert ook het beeld van een klassieke roadtrip door het oude Amerika, kriskras door de tijd. Titels als "Dayvan Cowboy, "'84 Pontiac Dream" en "Ataronchronon" (een oude indianenstam) verraden iets van de bedoeling. 'De basis,' legt Mike uit, 'is een fantasie, een mind trip. Je zit ergens in een kamp in het bos, spaced out rond het kampvuur. Het is donker, je bent alleen, je sluit de ogen en je fantaseert over het Amerika van de achttiende eeuw. Je verliest je tijdsbesef. Uren worden dagen, weken. Er gebeuren vreemde dingen, onverklaarbare dingen, sprongen in de tijd, transformaties, een beetje surrealistisch, zonder dat je het als zodanig ervaart.
Twoism (1995, reissue 2002) In eigen beheer uitgebracht debuut (oplage: 200). Acht nummers vol vreemde, dromerige, ambienteske, iet valse elektronica. Alsof het gat van de lp net naast het midden zat. Invloeden van Aphex Twin en Autechre zijn nog duidelijk hoorbaar. Via die laatsten belandde de lp bij het Skam-label uit Manchester. Zeven jaar later werd de lp, die inmiddels 500 euro op eBay opbracht, heruitgebracht, als enige van alle eigenbeheer-lp's en cassettes tot nu toe. Het duo speelt met het idee om ook Boc Maxima (1996) nog eens fatsoenlijk uit te brengen. Tot nut toe blijft de kluis met Music 70-demo's hermetisch gesloten. Hi Scores (1996) Mini-lp voor Skam. De eerste zes nummers die normaal verkrijgbaar waren. Dromerige elektronica, abstracte Autechre-beats en electro. Classics: "Everything You Do Is A Balloon", waarvan de melodie in een droom to Marcus kwam, en Turquoise Hexagon Sun (later ook op MHTRTC).
Music Has The Right To Children (1998) Debuut voor Warp. Bij verschijnen nauwelijks opgemerkt, nu een klassieker bunnen de elektronische muziek en het vertrekpunt voor subgenres als indietronica en folktronica. De plaat met de kinderstemmetjes. Ze praten en tellen wat op en af, voor- en achteruit. Mellow beats, nostalgische synths, psychedelische en intieme, soms folky sferen, hemelse melodieën. De mooiste: "Roygbiv" (2:28) en "Olson" (1:24), van die typische BOC-miniatuurtjes die de gaten tussen de 'echte' nummers vullen en eigenlijk hun voorkeur genieten. Het zijn synthesizermelodieën die je aan het eind van een tv-serie zou kunnen horen, als de titelrol in beeld verschijnt. Chill-out-hit: "Aquarius". Zilj: 'Een plaat voor in de openlucht, op een koude, zonnige dag.'
In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country (2000) 'Come and live with us... in a religious community in a beautiful place out in the country.' Een uitnodiging van DAvid Koresh en zijn Branch Davidians-sekte in Waco. Naast de titeltrack verwijst ook "Amo Bishop Roden" naar de sekte; het is de naam van een afvallig sektelid. Haar beeltenis prijkt op de achterkant van de cd, Koresh's oog priemt binnenin. Classic: "Kid For Today". Maar de hele EP (4 tracks, 24 minuten) is briljant.
Geogaddi (2002) Inktzwarte plaat. Duister, sinister, bijna duivels. Maar toch ook weer heel melodieus en organisch. Barstensvol geheime boodschappen, verwijzingen, mathematische concepten en getallensymboliek. "Music Is Math" vergondigen ze aan het begin. In "1969" duiken de Branch Davidians weer op. Het nummer duurt 4:19. Op 19 april 1993 voltrok zich de slachtpartij in Waco. Achter elk detail schuilt een betekenis, zo lijkt het. Wie zijn platen graag achterstevoren draait, heeft aan Geogaddi een goede. "You Could Feel the Sky" hoor je ineens 'a god with hooves'; in "A Is To B As B Is To C" openbaren zich zowaar audio palindromen: 'all you love we' wordt 'we love you all' en 'I've been gone about a week' blijft exact hetzelfde! Vreemde, verontrustende plaat, "Gyroscope" kwam tot Marcus in een nachtmerrie, en dat is het: een nachtmerrie. Zij: 'Een claustrofobische trip door een wereld vol duisternis en paranoia met aan het eind een sprankje hoop.' Een journalist: 'Muziek als een spiraal of een fractal die gedetailleerder wordt naarmate je er dieper ingaat.' Het is de cd die de Schotten voor het eerst brede erkenning oplevert en ook in OOR tot een van de beste tien cd's van dat jaar gekozen wordt. Hitje: 1969.
The Campfire Headphase (2005) De nieuwe. Hij stelt niet teleur. 'een echte Boards Of Canada-plaat' vinden ze zelf, met elementen van Twoism en MHTRTC en subtiel ingebrachte gitaarloops. Gedroomde roadtrip door het oude Amerika. Van minder donker dan Geogaddi. De good trip na de bad trip. Nog nooit klonken ze zo opgewekt als in Peacock Tail, hun 'Stevie Wonder-nummer' (Marcus). Pas op voor de slottrits: een zware depressie ligt op de loer.
Het is een droom, je ben écht die cowboy. Totdat de muziek ineens overgaat, zoals in "'84 Pontiac Dream". Je ontwaakt, je hoort stemmem om je heen, de regen komt met bakken uit de hemel, je zit ergens in Central Park in de verte hoor je iemand op een akoestische gitaar spelen en je weet bij God niet hoe je hier gekomen bent.' Marcus: 'Complete chaos, een wereld zonder logica, dat idee. Ken je de film Zabrieskie Point? Voor mij heeft deze plaat dezelfde sfeer. Het is een krankzinnige roadmovie. Er gebeurt van alles wat niet logisch is, je probeert er een lijn in te ontdekken, een verklaring te vinden, maar aan het eind van de film weet je nog steeds niet wat je er nu eigenlijk gebeurd is.' Mike: 'De centrale vraag is: hoeveel van deze voltrok zich in een hallucinatie? Wie wel eens een psychedelische ervaring heeft gehad, weet dat zoiets niet letterlijk na te vertellen is, het verandert ieder moment.' "Sherbet Head", zo'n miniatuurtje waarvan Boards of Canada er meer heeft, en vaak hele mooie, verwoordt de psychedelische ervaring misschien nog wel het best: een hoofd vol sorbetijs. Daas, wauws. Een beetje duizelig. Lichte tinteling. Was de inktzwarte voorganger Geogaddi een bad trip, The Campfire Headphase is zijn tegenhanger; de good trip.
Geogaddi eindigde met "Corsair", 'het licht aan het einde van de tunnel'; aan het einde van de good trip wacht een downer. De laatste drie tracks gaan diep, héél diep. Marcus: 'Daardoor blijft het langer hangen.' Mike: 'Ik zou nooit iets kunnen maken dat helemaal optimistisch is.' Vooral het afsluitende Farewell Fire, een pastorale orgeldrone, grijpt naar de keel. Ze willen niet zeggen voor wie het geschreven is, maar het kan alleen maar een dierbare geweest zijn die os overleden. Mike vertelt: "Farewell Fire" is Marcus op keyboards, meer niet. Hij heeft het in één nachtelijke sessie gemaakt. Er zitten momenten in dat het hapert en het echt voelt als iemand die van verdriet niet meer in staat is om goed te spelen. Dat kun je met geprogrammeerde muziek nooit bereiken. Ook al is het een elektronisch stuk, het klinkt heel menselijk, hartverscheurend. Het moment dat het even stopt, is alsof er naar adem gehapt moet worden, als een stem die even zwijgt.' Marcus: 'Veel mensen die elektronische muziek maken gaan ervan uit dat die steriel en mechanisch moet zijn... en futuristisch [cynisch lachje]. Dat is heel eenvoudig, het enige wat je hoeft te doen is de apparatuur aan te zetten. De kunst is om die synthetische klanken een emotie mee te geven, alsof het een stem is.' Een synthlijn, licht Mike toe, wordt geschreven alsof het een zanglijn is, een zanglijn die bijna vals is. 'De beste zangers hebben een beperkte stem. Zo'n stem als van Bob Dylan, zo nasaal, beven, nooit helemaal zuiver, is verre van compleet, maar zit barstensvol karakter. Als je een sessiezanger zou vragen een van zijn songs te zingen, dan zou het technisch perfect zijn, maar zielloos, zonder leven. Dat is precies wat wij onszelf steeds voorhouden: het mag niet perfect zijn. We stoppen er met opzet fouten en beschadigde geluiden in om de muziek te laten ademen.'
Wie voor het eerst een plaat van Boards of Canada hoort, zal zich verbazen over het 'zingende' geluid op de achtergrond, alsof de opnameband niet helemaal strak liep. Dat is precies wat er aan de hand is. Het duo zweert bij het geluid van oude cassettebandjes die niet meer zo goed afspelen, waarvan het geluid af en toe wegvalt, of is afgevlakt, die to langzaam gaan, of juist net iets te snel. Het geeft de opname een magisch tintje, vinden ze. Het voert hen terug naar de tijd dat ze zelf nog bandjes draaiden, naar hun verloren jeugd. Debuut-lp Twoism (1995) klonk als een mispersing, alsof het gat niet precies in het midden zat. "Slow This Bird Down", op de nieuwe cd, heeft dit ook. De 'zingende gitaar' in "Chromakey Dreamcoat" is opgenomen op het strand met de verrotste taperecorder die Marcus kon vinden. Hij heeft ook een digitale. Gebruikt ie zelden. De moldie van "Julie And Candy" (op Geogaddi) werd opgenomen met een paar fluiten en vervolgens eindeloos heen en weer gestuurd tussen de ingebouwde microfoons van twee tapedecks totdat er niets meer dan een luide, mistige galm, een soort misthoorn, overbleef. Veel, bijna alles, wat je op hun platen hoort, komt van een fluit, een gitaar, een piano, een percussie-instrument, een windorgel of een ander exotisch instrument, maar de geluiden worden dermate lang 'behandeld' dat ze zelden als dusdanig herkenbaar zijn. Het lijken allemaal synthesizergeluiden. Hoe langer je een geluid bewerkt, hoe synthetischer het klinkt, legt Marcus uit. Hun synthesizers zijn trouwens ook vintage: oude analoge modellen met knarsende en krakende geluiden.
Noem hun werkwijze nooit nostalgisch; Marcus heeft er een hekel aan. Retro, nog zo'n woord. Te gemakkelijk, vindt hij. 'Wij refereren aan iets uit het verleden, iets tragisch of iets moois dat verloren is gegaan, we proberen dat terug te halen, maar daar stoppen we niet, we proberen het verder te brengen, ons voor te stellen wat ervan geworden zou zijn als het nog steeds zou bestaan. We kopiëren het verleden niet, we herschrijven het, we negeren de loop die de geschiedenis heeft genomen. We gaan terug naar een bepaald moment in tijd en plaats en slaan dan een alternatieve weg in. We zeggen tegen elkaar: Make it 1978 and then take it somewhere. Hoe had de muziek van nu geklonken als we toen met z'n allen die andere weg waren ingeslagen? Een soort parallelle wereld.' Mike: 'Alsof de nineties nooit hebben plaatsgevonden, zoiets. Waar zouden de wereld en de muziek zijn als we die tijd hadden overslagen?' De nineties, voor de goed orde, staan met hun schreeuwerige MTV-cultuur, hun ongebreidelde hedonisme en alsmaar verdergaande globalisatie voor alles wat fout is volgens het teruggetrokken levende duo. Ze geloven heilig in een 'sideways culture'. Marcus: 'De meeste mensen nemen de wereld zoals zij is, ze staan nooit stil bij de vraag hoe de wereld er had kunnen uitzien als we niet met z'n allen door een tunnel waren gegaan. Als je kijkt naar de huidige staat van de muziek en je beschouwt de wortels van die muziek, dan wordt die weg automatisch gezien als de enige die de muziek had kunnen afleggen. Niemand realiseert zich dat die aanname bepalend is voor wat ze doen. Ze volgen gewoon dat pad. Zie het als een gang ledereen staat middenin de gang, de uitgang lonkt. Ze beschouwen de situatie en wéten: we móeten aan het eind van de gang zien te komen. Wat wij proberen te doen is ons voor te stellen dat er naast die gang nóg een gang is en dat je die gang wellicht via een geheime doorgang kunt bereiken.'
Mike toont zich een groot bewonderaar van [wikipedia:Jeroen Bosch|Jeroen Bosch] (1450-1516), de diepreligieuze schilder wiens werk stilistisch noch thematisch aansloot bij stromingen uit zijn tijd. In tegenstelling tot het serene werk van zijn tijdgenoten ging het fantastische werk van Bosch over angst, afschuw en rampspoed. 'Zijn werk zat vol vreemde, spookachtige elementen,' doceert hij, 'elementen waarvoor geen verklaring was. Het waren fantasieën. Zijn werk was surrealistisch voordat het surrealisme was uitgevonden. Zijn verbeelding was de doorgang naar een andere wereld. Er zitten elementen in zijn werk die er niet zouden moeten zitten, inconsequenties, en juist die maken zijn werk zo sterk, zo aangrijpend.' Hij trekt een parallel met Music Has The Right To Children, waarop naïeve kinderstemmetjes botsen met atonale geluiden, chroomkleurige beats en dissonante melodieën. 'Die kinderstemmetjes brengen je van je stuk, ze horen niet thuis in zulke duistere muziek. Je wéét het gewoon niet. Maar het grijpt je wel aan.' 'Als je schilderijen zou maken van wat er volgens ons op onze platen gebeurt,' zegt Mike, en hij verontschuldigt zich bij voorbaat voor de pretentie die in deze uitspraak besloten ligt, 'dan zouden dat hele surrealistische werken worden. Er zou niks van kloppen. En toch zou je het niet hoeven uitleggen.' Marcus: 'Als je het moet uitleggen, is het geen kunst meer.'
Tuig een plaat op met verborgen boodschappen over God en Satan en stervelingen die geloven dat zij afgezant van een van beiden zijn, en je eindigt met een altaar. Zo noemt Marcus het vorige album Geogaddi, een altaar. Hij zegt het lichtelijk smalend. Op Internet circuleren de wildste theorieën en analyses over de inmiddels drie jaaroude plaat. Over David Koresh en zijn Branch Davidians, aan wie het nummer "1969" en de ep In a Beautiful Place out in the Country zouden zijn gewijd (klopt). Over de adaptatie van de gulden snede en bijzondere cijferreeksen zoals de Fibonacci-reeks in notenschema's en songstructuren (klopt). Over links naar het werk van Berthol Brecht (onzin). Over samples van uitzendingen van spionagediensten in de Koude Oorlog (klopt). Over satanisme (onzin). Over audio palindromen ('de techniek staat voor niks').
Orbital? De makers van Chime, Belfast en Halcyon + On + On waren ook broers. Op het donkere podium droegen ze van die karakteristieke mijnwerkerslampjes, waarmee ze hun sequencers en samplers uitlichtten. Hun eerste platen waren oké, vinden Mike en Marcus, maar om nu ais tweed Orbital door het leven te moeten gaan... nee. Dus verzwegen ze toen ze bij Warp tekenden hun familieband. Tien jaar lang verstopte Marcus zich achter zijn tweede voornaam, Eoin. Mike: 'Op alle Orbital-platen stond: written by Hartnoll & Hartnoll. Dat vonden we zo suf.' Ze wilden anoniem door het leven gaan en geen verhalen over 'de muzikale familie Sandison'. Ze hebben nog twee broers; die maken ook muziek. De één woont in Australië, de ander in Londen. Mike en Marcus wonen in een kleineleefgemeenschap in de Schotse Pentland Hills, onder Edinburgh. Hun kinderjaren brachten ze door in Londen en Calgary. Daar zagen ze op tv de natuurdocumentaires van The National Film Board of Canada. Vandaar. Overigens dreigt ook Mike te gaan uitvliegen. Zijn vriendin had een baan bij een designbureau in Auckland, Nieuw-Zeeland en wil graag terug. Mike twijfelt. Boards Of Canada zou een breedbandband moeten worden, terwijl het jammen zo essentieel is voor hun muziek. Er loopt altijd een taperecorder mee in de studio. Maar voor alles is een oplossing, zegt Marcus stellig. 'Ik zeg altijd: laat je niet door mij weerhouden, doe het! We doen dit al zolang als ik me kan herinneren [Mike sinds 1980, Marcus sinds 1986] en het is nooit een reden geweest om onze dromen niet na te jagen. Als ik zou denken dat ik ergens anders een gelukkiger leven kan opbouwen, dan zou ik me niet laten weehouden door de muziek. Daarom heb ik tegen Mike gezegd: ik wil er niet tussenkomen. Als jij het echt wilt, dan beschouw ik het niet als het einde, nee, dan beschouw ik het als een nieuwe uitdaging.' Uitdagingen genoeg, voorlopig. Ze hebben plannen voor soloprojecten. Ze zijn in onderhandeling over een soundtrack van een grote film. Ze zijn alweer aan een nieuwe Boards Of Canada-plaat begonnen (ze hebben nog een contract voor drie albums bij Warp). Mike: 'De volgende plaat zal voor iedereen als een shock komen. Dit verwacht niemand van ons.' En er zijn zowaar plannen voor wat liveshows met band in het voorjaar. Maar dat gerucht ging drie jaar geleden ook. Sindsdien zwegen ze.
Over de albumtitel, die zoiets als De Woeste Aarde zou betekenen (stilzwijgen). Dat laatste laten ze graag open. Er moet nog wel iets te raden overblijven. Al die 'dingetjes', zoals Mike ze noemt, plaatsen de instrumentale muziek in een context, ze brengen een lijn aan, een concept, zo je wilt. 'Zolang je bij concept maar niet denkt aan een plaat over de regels van het schaakspel.' Op Geogaddi waren de 'dingetjes' ontsproten uit de donkerste krochten van hun ziel, op al hun andere platen kun je ze herleiden tot een verlangen naar hun jeugd - het Leitmotiv in dit verhaal. De verloren jeugd, de tijd dat gevoel dat iedere adolescent langzaam kwijtraakt. 'Als ik depressief ben, en ik heb een lange geschiedenis van depressies,' bekent Mike, 'dan zoek ik altijd troost in mijn kinderjaren. Die weemoed is altijd aanwezig in onze muziek.' Eén ding wil hij nog over Geogaddi kwijt: 'Het was een project, It's its own thing. Een claustrofobische trip door een wereld vol paranoia en duisternis. Veel mensen verwarren de plaat met de mens. Wij zijn geen doemdenkers.' 'Vergeet niet,' zegt hij even later, 'dat we in de studio zaten toen 9/11 gebeurde. De laatste vijf maanden van Geogaddi vielen samen met de nasleep van 9/11. Het was een angstige tijd, het voelde alsof we terugkeerden naar de Koude Oorlog. Opeens bekroop me weer de angst die ik als kind al gevoeld had voor de atoombom. Ik denk dat iedereen van onze generatie dat gevoel wel kent. We ontkwamen er niet aan, het drukte ons gemoed. De toon werd steeds beklemmender. De sfeer, de samples, het heeft er allemaal mee te maken.' 'Bovendien,' gaat hij verder, 'ging ik zelf door een moeilijke periode. Het was een klotejaar.'
'Nu, vier jaar later,' neemt Marcus het over, 'lijkt die dreiging van 9/11 permanent geworden. De wereld lijkt permanent veranderd, blijvend onveiliger. Meer chaos en duisternis en paranoia. Als je dat dag in dag uit ervaart, ga je je vanzelf afvragen: hoe kunnen we hieraan ontsnappen? Hoe kunnen we die realiteit vergeten?' Mike: 'In plaats van mee te gaan in de psychose kun je ook een uitvlucht zoeken.' Toeval of niet, in dezelfde periode luisterde hij graag naar de eerste plaat van positivo's The Polyphonic Spree. 'Ik dacht: ik wil ook weer iets hoopvols maken' En zo werd het idee voor The Campfire Headphase Geboren: ze zouden teruggaan naar de tijd dat hun muziek nog simpel escapisme was. Terug naar Twoism, het debuut met zijn gekke zingende geluid. 'Twoism is waarschijnlijk de minst politieke plaat die we gemaakt hebben. Het is muziek om bij weg te dromen. Ook al is je leven klote en haat je je werk, als je de plaat opzet en je laat meevoeren door de melodieën, vergeet je al je ellende. Dat hebben we nu ook wee proberen te creëren: een luchtbel waarin je kunt opstijgen en wegzweven. Weg van alles. De nieuwe plaat heeft geen geheime agenda. Het enige wat hij zegt is: fuck all this stuff, zet het nieuws uit, zeg die klotebaan op, maak dat je wegkomt uit de stad, neem de tijd om eens terug te denken aan gelukkiger tijden. ledereen heeft wel een jaar in zijn hoofd, de beste zomer van zijn leven. Dat is ons doel: we bieden je een venster naar de beste zomer van je leven.' Marcus: 'Zie het als een hulpmiddel. Een tijdmachine. Een privétijdmachine. Onze muziek werkt niet in de openbare ruimte, zij spreekt tot één luisteraar tegelijk. Het is muziek om in je eentje naar te luisteren. Om in weg te kruipen. We bieden je een veilige haven.' Mike: 'A place to go.' Dan realiseert Mike ineens iets: 'Nu ik er zo over nadenk, dit is iets wat wij als vanzelfsprekend beschouwen, zozeer zelfs dat we ons niet kunnen voorstellen dat er mensen zijn die iets anders zouden willen bereiken met hun muziek. Maar veel mensen die urban muziek maken, of dat nu r&b of iets anders is, die denken precies het tegenovergestelde. Ze zeggen bijna: wat we ook doen, het moet wel van deze wereld zijn, het moet het hier en nu representeren, het mag niet te veel afwijken. Het moet geschikt zijn om in Gap gedraaid te worden. Muziek is voor mij een escape from Gap. Als ik een kledingwinkel binnenloop, denk ik al gauw: fucking hell, ik zou wel iemand iets kunnen aandoen, ik moet hier zo snel mogelijk weer weg terug naar mijn fantasiewereld.'
Terug naar de bossen van de Pentland Hills. Terug naar zijn vriendin en zijn dochtertje. En terug naar zijn broer. Want na enig aandringen willen ze het wel toegeven: Mike Sandison en Marcus Eoin zijn broers. Eoin - speek uit: lan - is Marcus' tweede voornaam. Ze hebben het tien jaar lang geheimgehouden. Het doet er niet toe, vinden ze. Het verhaal is de muziek, niet de mensen. De mythe vervaagt, de muziek blijft. Niemand kent ze, niemand heeft ze ooit zien optreden, niemand heeft ooit een advertentie of een videoclip of een tv-optreden van ze gezien (die bestaan niet), niemand weet wat ze precies denken, maar 200.000 eenzame zielen herkennen hun stille verdriet. Hun verlangen baarde de mooiste muziek van de laatste tien jaar. Vraag het maar aan Thom Yorke.
Wide Use of Guitars
|| Wide Use of Guitars
|| Fabio Cagnetti
"Wide Use of Guitars
" is a 2005 interview by Fabio Cagnetti. It originally appeared on Losingtoday.com.
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
The first thing which stroke me while listening to “The Campfire Headphase” was the wide use of guitars. What brought you to this choice?
"Marcus – Using guitars wasn't new to us. We've used all kinds of real instruments since the beginning of the band in the early 1980s. And even since we became more electronic as a band ourselves, we've always listened to guitar music, especially going back to 60s and 70s styles of music, which is what we're hinting at on this record. On the previous Boards of Canada records, there are guitars, but they're so processed that you could easily miss them, thinking they were synths. With the new album, we deliberately went for a lo-fi guitar sound on a few of the tracks because we were going for a sun-bleached, Californian summer kind of sound, it's almost reminiscent of a Joni Mitchell sound in places."
Did you actually play the guitars or sample them? Do you usually play all the instruments which appear on your works? I think so, as I can't remember of any guest musicians on them.
"Mike – Yeah of course we play it all ourselves. We've been playing guitars, drums, piano and a few other things since we were little kids. On our records it's maybe an unconventional use of guitars, because although we play all the parts ourselves, they're also sampled. On this record we recorded deliberately naïve-sounding guitar phrases into the sampler then we manipulated them from there, it's a variation on the technique we've had with simple childish melodies played on keyboards on our past records. The drums and percussion on this album sound a bit different for us because this time it's almost totally live drums played by me, so the whole record has more of a ‘real band' kind of sound, that's what we were going for."
Why did you not use any intelligible vocal samples, this time?
"Marcus – We just didn't need to, for what we wanted to do on this record. It's important to not rely on signature techniques, and I think if we did another record with overt vocal samples on it right now, our style would become a bit predictable. I don't think we've abandoned vocal sounds altogether, it's more like we're taking a break from it right now."
The overall sound of the album seems to me less playful and more introspective than usual; I've always thought as your previous albums as the expression of your inner child, driven to its full potential by incredibly skilled adults. This time it feels like if the inner child has aged into early manhood…
"Marcus – On our last two albums we were deliberately writing melodies that sounded a bit basic and musically simplistic, because sometimes those kinds of melodies can become really iconic, almost like well-known nursery rhymes or something like that. We're really into that kind of thing where you're listening to something and you're not able to conceive of an intelligent author behind it. It gives you a real sense of detachment from the origin of the music, because it's less transparent, it's easy to imagine there was no human involvement at all. On the new album we're still generally doing things this way, but we decided to include some tracks that are obviously a bit more sophisticated in their musicality. The side-effect of doing this is that those tracks sound a bit more musically intelligent, and maybe more mature in a way. But I also reckon that it's just down to the lack of vocals and speech on this record. If you were to take all the vocals off our previous records, they'd probably seem less 'child-like' too. I think synthesizers can have the effect of making music more playful too, so with there being less synth on this album I guess it's going to sound a bit more serious."
Looks like nostalgia is as strong as usual as a source of inspiration. Can you tell us a bit about your obsession for the ‘70s, and especially for the movies and TV of that period?
"Mike – We grew up watching a lot of American film and TV, and amongst that there were a lot of educational programmes and animations. Back at that time, in the late seventies, there was a common style of soundtrack and voiceover for those TV shows that heavily used synthesizers, and played introspective, melancholy melodies. I think it left an impression on us as kids, that we carried to the present day in our own music. We also took a lot of influence from the 'paranoia' movies of the 1970s, things that were in the realm of science fiction or things that were morbid in some way. The Cold War was still a big thing back then and it seemed to seep through in TV and movie culture in various cryptic ways, from dark science fiction movies like Silent Running, Logan's Run, The Andromeda Strain and Soylent Green, right through to all the Argento and Fulci movies and their abstract, synthetic soundtracks. There was a constant picture of the future that was some kind of Armageddon but at the same time it was often depicted disguised as a Utopia, for instance in Logan's Run. And the soundtracks and visuals reflected that bitter-sweet idea. I think there was something deep, and darkly emotional about those films that still acts like a fuel for us today."
The album title suggests a deeper communion with nature: do you see these songs, to a certain extent, as analog-digital campfire songs?
"Mike – We're not really trying to make a 'nature' record. Even on the most organic-sounding tracks that we do we've always got some kind of queasy, synthetic undercurrent going on. And that's the thing with this record, it's like a futuristic western or something. There are elements in some of the tracks that hint at traditional American folk-rock or some vintage road-movie soundtrack, but there's always something subtle and surreal going on in the tracks to remind you that you're hearing something that has been tainted or spiked in some way by unfathomable futuristic technology. It's maybe like campfire music played by android cowboys."
And how much are you directly influenced by the landscape surrounding you? Do you believe in sound geomancy (i.e. do you think natural landscapes have their own sound and one of the duties of the artist, who is more sensitive than other people, is to translate and explicit this hidden sound in order to make it enjoyable by other people)?
"Mike – I think if that happens at all in our music then it's happening subconsciously. I guess there's an open-country environment that we come from and it's conducive to a kind of anachronistic approach to music, I mean it lets your mind wander easily, even back and forward through time. One of the things we were doing on this record in particular was to create instrument sounds that were very anechoic and outdoors-sounding, so we used barely any reflection effects on the album. And we often stick low-level sounds into the backgrounds of our tracks, it can be anything from traffic moving to birds chirping, and that's done in an almost subliminal way. So I suppose those things may be an attempt to reflect certain environments we've been working in, but it's not a big conscious effort."
Do you have an interest in environmental issues? And if so, would you ever consider taking an explicit position over such issues, e.g. releasing a protest song or making any strong statement on your website, or do you prefer staying away from the whole matter?
"Marcus – Actually we hold fairly radical views about environmental and political issues. We just avoid being public about it within the context of the band. I think the moment a musician shows that they care, the moment they try to make a difference by using their success to communicate alternative political or environmental ideas to their audience, the mainstream press assassinate the band. I've seen it happen so many times, that I've learned I have to choose to either make music, or become an activist. The media doesn't really allow artists to do both."
Many clues suggest a less cerebral (and more emotional) approach has been used. Does this mean “the devil is no more in the details”, i.e. you have abandoned the plethora of easter eggs and hidden references which was present on “Geogaddi”?
"Mike – Well that was part of the theme on ‘Geogaddi' and we wanted to do something different right now. Especially on a record that immediately follows it. We've always been into music for the melodic, emotional aspects more than anything else, and it's important that the focus stays on that. So yeah, on this record there's much more of an emphasis on hopeful-sounding melodies and fuzzy, tactile sounds because that just reflects the summer period when we were working on it."
When that album was out, did you expect so many people would have tried to decode all of its hidden elements?
"Mike – I think we knew that once people found one or two elements like that on ‘Geogaddi', they'd go looking for more, but we didn't anticipate just how far it would go."
Is it just a case that the artwork for “The Campfire Headphase” recall so much “Music Has the Right to Children”'s?
"Marcus –It's deliberately reminiscent of ‘Music Has the Right to Children'. Musically it's like an echo of that record, all bleached-out blue skies and so on. In some ways it sounds older than ‘Music Has the Right…' because of the choice of instruments and the sheer amount of damage we've done to the sound."
Do you still have an interest in performing live? Do you think you will ever make a real tour? I am very interested in this because you're among the few living artists I would bloody want to see perform live without ever being able to, and I have the bootleg of your 2001 performance at ATP festival and it's *so* stunning.
"Mike – Thanks very much, well, we're hoping to get out there in the near future.."
I think your songs have a strong cinematic feel, and you were making movies since childhood. So, why did you never actually make a DVD or even a single video for any of your songs? Shall we expect anything as such to be released, sooner or later?
"Marcus – The main reason we haven't put out a video so far is just a lack of budget. Up until recently we've not had the money to get our film work properly produced or distributed or to have a video made for one of our songs. We're maybe going to release a track with a video this year though. We have to work on visual projects between albums because when you spend as much time as we do on crafting the sound of a record, it's hard to take on and complete a big parallel project like a film."
You are considered among the world's greatest remixers and with a reason, standing the very unique and brilliant feel you manage to give to other people's songs, bringing them to a second life. Which way do you approach to them? And which is your favourite remix? I'm particularly fond of the work you did on cLOUDDEAD's “Dead Dogs Two”. Last but not least, is there any particular artist/song you would like to work with/on?
"Marcus – We usually try to make a very different sounding track, and we usually start by throwing away most of the musical parts of a song that we're given. In the case of vocal remixes it's easier, because we just throw away all of the backing track and only use their vocal. This is how we see remixing, taking something that is already familiar and complete, and shifting it sideways until it's a totally different song. I think the cLOUDDEAD mix is probably my favourite. If I had to choose someone to work on, that would be difficult, I think most of my choices would be dead people!..."
Do you have any other particular project under your belt?
"Marcus – We've already started work on our next album."
interview by by Fabio Cagnetti, November 2005.
It's our take on a pop record
|| It's our take on a pop record
|| Brian Murnin
|| Clash Magazine
|| Issue 11
"It's our take on a pop record" is a 2005 interview by Brian Murnin. It originally appeared in Clash Magazine.
It's our take on a pop record
For those new to their tale, it's difficult to imagine just how strange, how mysterious and inscrutable Boards of Canada were.
The vastly influential pairing seemed to emerge from the ether, with fans unsure of their real names, location or tastes. With the release of 'The Campfire Headphase' in 2005, though, the duo suddenly became willing to step outside of the shadows.
Granting a handful of interviews, Boards of Canada opened up about their method, their background and - tantalisingly - their future. Never before seen online, here's a classic Clash interview with two seminal voices in electronic music.
Boards of Canada don’t give many interviews, the vast majority are by e-mail, and to the select few who do get to meet them, their studio, their homes and many key details of their lives and work are strictly out of bounds. In the gaps where the fiercely private band leave the silence, grow the myths that have made the enigma that is Boards of Canada.
In magazines and on forums, media and fans alike have speculated for years about who Boards of Canada really are. If you believe what’s written they’re two reportedly unapproachable and reclusive producers permanently locked in an isolated Scottish highland studio bunker, studying their meticulous musical science and obsessing nature whilst laying mathematical secrets and cult-like messages in their magical music. They are the victims of what they call “the flood of bullshit that fills in your silhouette.”
For those that don’t know them, here is a brief history. And while we’re at it, let’s dispel a few myths.
Known originally as Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin, Boards of Canada, it has recently transpired, are actually brothers. Both are members of the Sandison family, with Marcus initially carrying his middle name as a surname. They don’t see this slight deception as a big deal, as Marcus explains: “ We didn’t go out our way to conceal the fact we are brothers. If people don’t ask about it we don’t bring it up. When we started releasing records we just wanted to avoid comparisons with Orbital...” “ Or even the Osmonds or the Jacksons,” Mike laughs.
Mike and Marcus were born early in the 1970s to musical parents in a small coastal town just outside Inverness in Scotland. Between 1979 and 1980 they relocated to Canada to follow the construction work income that dictated their father’s movements, before relocating back to Scotland a few years later. For the last 20 years they have lived within half an hour’s drive to Edinburgh.
“We’re not trying to accurately pastiche the past, it’s about inventing a past that didn’t really happen.”
Yes, their studio is slightly rural and they dio value the isolation and creativity that being alone and close to nature brings. Mike explains why this is. “Working from a rural studio is probably an advantage because we can create a lot of ad noise and nobody complains and it’s a great place to switch off. When we walk out the doors we don’t see hundreds of pedestrians with the mental interference of their individual lives and fashions, instead there’s just a couple of horses. It’s imagine you’re wherever you want to be, and that helps to stay focussed on specific musical ideas that work outside current sounds and trends.”
Growing up with recording equipment and instruments littering their homes, naturally the boys experimented, and by the age of 10 started to record music. Using the two tape recorders they’d play sounds on one and record on the other across two feet of air before swapping tapes to repeat the process and learn to layer sound. Mike, the eldest by around 2 years, was first to go to high school and start experimenting with live drums and guitar in various bands. When Marcus started a particularly bad trash metal band they decided to join forces as they were both far more interested in synths and programming.
In the early 1990s, after leaving school and their respective bands behind,m their university years led to the creation of a collective of friends knows as Hexagon Sun. Musicians, graphic designers, photographers and artists would gather for woodland parties where music, chat and laughter would be enjoyed round a campfire in the outdoor air. These select gatherings exist to this day.
After years of limited, self-circulated tape and CD releases, in 1996 Boards of Canada grew the confidence to send their compositions to those they respected. Sean Booth from Autechre was the first to pick up on them and the hugely respected Skam records put out the first serious Boards of Canada releases, the ‘Hi Scores’ and ‘Aquarius’ EPs. Warp Records soon noticed the synergies in the sound of band and label and they had the power to take Boards of Canada to the next level so partnered Skam for the next stage. 1998’s resultant debut album, ‘Music Has The Right To Children’, redefined the electronica landscape.
This album is still to many, BoC’s masterpiece. It firmly established certain sounds as their signature and techniques as their trademarks. Samples of radio and film speech, sporadically narrating distant messages and interjecting with child-like vocal samples were placed alongside strings submerged under layers of atmospherics, creating a sound and feeling as nostalgic and warmly familiar as looking at a treasured Polaroid of a distant time past. Live instruments and samples were put through the wringer again and again in a reverse processing cycle learned over years and far removed from popular production techniques to achieve this feeling. Untreated sound was dirtied, dragged through a muddy mix of analogue effects, synthetic textures and distortion to warp the linear and blur the clean. Little vignettes, fragments of speech and sound, intended to catch a feeling or define an instant and recorded to last only a minute or so were everywhere in their music also. These smaller pieces make up some of Mike and Marcus’s favorite parts of the Boards of Canada jigsaw.
2002’s ‘Geogaddi’, their second long player, involved the creation of 400 such song fragments and 64 complete songs, with 23 selected, one of which was silence, as Boards of Canada tried not to let the new weight of expectation deviate them from their earlier, less scrutinised path. If anything, ‘Geogaddi’ was more stripped down than its predecessor; eerier and darker but still aged under the same smoky hue.
‘Geodaddi’ exercises similar basic principals to ‘MHTRTC’ but launched the suggestion of subliminal trickery in their music, through the use of mathematics like Fibonacci in song structure and the placement of hidden symbols and phrases woven into the tapestry of their songs. Boards of Canada have admitted to this to an extent, saying that what they’ve been watching, listening to, or learning about at any given time has appeared in some way in all of their music but in ‘Geogaddi’ the messages were a particular theme.
At this time they also stated that the next album was well on the way to being ready. But a three-year wait followed until the last month when ‘The Campfire Headphase’ finally appeared on Warp.
According to them it’s simply been another three-year treatment and aging process. Oak smoking boats and immersing guitar melodies under swathes of static recorded and reverberated over and over to create the perfect atmosphere. Mike explains, “Some of what we do takes much more than two or three listens before we realise we’re addicted to even a simple chord progression or melody. And part of the way we get our music to work is by living with our own tracks for a while before releasing them.” Their aim with this third album is to dominate our emotive headspace once again with an album sounding older than ever, more beautiful than ever and more strangely reminiscent of far-off places and past feelings.
In comparing the new album to their pervious work, Mike says, “This record is more visual than ‘Geodaddi’, which means much more abstract. It’s our take on a pop record, pop music that has been melted on a hot dashboard in the sun. The melodies are hopeful on the surface, with an undercurrent of sickness or giddiness.” Marcus adds, “I think more than ever we tried to get the music to simulate a visual event, for instance ‘Satellite Anthem Icarus’ has a kind if super-slow-motion swelling sound that’s reminiscent of slow-mo action shots from old oceanographical
As they made this album BoC said their aim was to take the playing of traditional instrument sounds far into unconventional places. Marcus says, “On some of the trcks we’d set up a straightforward backing, maybe a simple guitar riff, and we'd change what the original melody was doing, to give it a kind of uneasy undercurrent. We sneak synthetic melodies in on top, sometimes you’ll hear twisty things like reversed instruments join in, playing in the relative minor. We set things up one way and then try to make you hear the melody in a completely different way.
I ask Mike if they employ any particular or new techniques in creating these hopeful moods and textures with sick and giddy undertones. “We spent a lot of time destroying the sounds, throwing parts onto overloaded tape or amping them up and re-recording them back in through low-quality mics,” he says. “And we put a lot of work into incidental sounds and events that flit in and out of the music, things like multi-coloured glissandos or synthetic bird like sounds that tweet in one ear and out the other.”
Symbolism, however, is not such a strong part of this album. “We moved away from the burying hidden messages in the music because that was the theme on ‘Geodaddi’. But of course there are little elements of what has been influencing us lately hidden in there somewhere,” Mike intimates. “But the fun is finding them! This record and its influences are mostly about the music. We’ve tried to hint at the kind of guitar sounds you’d hear on an old Joni album or something from that era. The guitar-based music we listen to is usually from artists who have been totally entrenched in guitar song-writing from the word go, people like John Frusciante . We also took some rough ideas from low-budget 70’s western films. We’re really into Peckinpah’s movie.”
“It’s our take on a pop record, pop music that has been melted on a hot dashboard in the sun.”
On songs like the amazing ‘Chromakey Dreamcoat’, which wobbles like tape being slowed by hand over its beautiful string plucks or the start of ‘Peacock Tail’ through ‘Dayvan Cowboy’, the most uplifting section of the album, the use of guitars is more evident than ever. “It suited the sound we were going for on this record,” Marcus says. “They’re all fairly futuristic sounding tracks but they have a 70’s acoustic flavor. “ Mike adds. “We’d known for quite a while, since ‘Geodaddi’, that we wanted to make a guitar record next. In the end what we’ve actually made is really more of a weird crossbreed.”
Boards of Canada - Dayvan Cowboy
‘The Campfire Headphase’ is Boards of Canada at their absolute best, reminiscent of the finest moments of their debut, soaked in nostalgia and poignance with sounds eroded for what feels like an eternity. “We like playing around with memory triggers in music, usually in the melody parts. We come up with little phrases or ornaments that are reminiscent of something. A large part of what it’s about is the quality of the sound itself, corroding the sound. We’re not trying to accurately pastiche the past, it's about inventing a past that didn’t really happen, like finding your own 8-track demo tape that has been lying in a box for years.” I ask them if they feel their music looks forward or back to which they reply, “We feel it does both.”
So how do they feel about the enigma that is created around their music? Marcus answers quickly, “I think it’s funny really. It was always going to happen. We do put a lot of details in there that you might not expect people to pick up on. But the listeners always get it. There are some occasions when it would probably be best to just kick back and feel the music instead if analysing it.” One particular perception they did like is fondly remembered by Mike: “I remember a nice comment someone made when they reasoned that we didn’t use a singer because no words could do the music any justice. I like that, because I’ve always felt that in music words are a really low-res way of conveying ideas. What I mean is, music is a much higher-resolution medium to convey feelings than words could ever be.”
interview by by Brian Murnin, Nov 2005.
|| Emotional Abuse
|| Erin Hutton
|| December 2015
|| Vol 7 #12
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
Dec 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Erin Hutton
Perfection is a nebulous concept, one that varies dramatically depending on who or what is directing the point of comparison. In terms of music production, perfection is now generally sought after through true-to-life analog emulations and pristine digital recordings. But that ideal doesn't appeal to Scottish duo Boards of Canada, which seeks the opposite in its music. Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin's idea of audio perfection exists in a surreal wash of imperfection — sound and instrumentation crippled and maimed to reveal a vintage beauty inspired by the sights and sounds of the past.
Indeed, late-'70s television and film have historically played a large role in the Boards of Canada sound — specifically, the 16mm educational films produced by the National Film Board of Canada (hence the pair's name). Sandison and Eoin also draw from the vast well of early-'80s American TV dramas and weekend matinees, as well as the closing sequences from the Lorimar (Dallas, Eight Is Enough) and Stephen J. Cannell (The Rockford Files, The A-Team) production companies, for inspiration. Although Sandison and Eoin had been dabbling in recording since the early '80s (when they weren't yet teens), they began synthesizing their influences into proper recorded form in 1995 with the glorified demo Twoism (Music70; rereleased by Warp, 2002). Warp released the heralded Music Has the Right to Children in 1998 and the stellar follow-up, Geogaddi, in 2002. Now, BOC is back with The Campfire Headphase (Warp, 2005), and the group's '70s and '80s cinematic inspiration has given way to re-creation.
“We usually imagine our music to have a visual element while we're writing it, so we were picturing this character losing his mind at the campfire and compressing weeks of events into a few hours, in that time-stretching way that acid fucks with your perception,” Sandison says. “We wanted to simultaneously shift and reduce the sound palette, too, making it more like a conventional band gone over the edge. It's taking away the reliance on samples, vocals or cryptic references and adding more organic instrumentation. That's not to say we left all that behind for good; it was just the feel we had for this particular collection of songs.”
The songs on The Campfire Headphase take on the traditional Boards of Canada ethos of warbling half-consciousness not unlike, say, drifting about in a ketamine-induced haze. That sense coupled with the effect of timeworn tape is accompanied by warm analog tones, interesting synthetic flourishes (often detectable only with headphones) and surreal organic melodies. Sandison and Eoin layered everything from drums and guitars to flutes, whistles and various old analog synths and keyboards into the music — though, if they had their druthers, you wouldn't know it. Admittedly, Boards of Canada takes great pains to mangle any recognizable sound.
“There's a track called ‘'84 Pontiac Dream,’ which has this totally schmaltzy '80s hotel vibe, all gold door handles and sports-car-commercial glitz, until it snaps out of the dream at the end and breaks down to a raw guitar weave in the rain,” Sandison says. “I've always been into the way that TV and film-score music from that era was pretty heavily synthesized yet still employed traditional instrumentation. You listen to it now, and it's never perfect, because the tapes that exist now have been played so many times, they have become warped and distorted with age. So for us a lot of the time, we're not trying to capture how perfect something might have been at its inception, but more how it would sound now after years of use. Of course, you can't instantly make a song into something chronologically aged, so that's where a lot of our work goes, into finding ways of artificially imprinting an aged, nostalgic feel.”
In keeping with the in-and-out-of-consciousness, dreamlike quality of their music, Sandison and Eoin don't write and record in any sort of linear fashion. Rather, at any given time, they have various song ideas gestating in their two primary studios. With three kits, Sandison's studio is set up for drums, and Eoin's live area caters to piano and vocals. Whether they're working separately or together, getting ideas down is generally a result of recording extended jams to tape on anything from a Tascam MSR-16 reel-to-reel to an old Revox recorder to a Grundig machine to an ordinary cassette.
“We love these low-quality tape machines,” Eoin says. “The great thing with machines such as the Grundig is that it's tragically bad. Whatever you record into it just doesn't come out unscathed. There's a ‘magic eye’ valve display on it, and when you hit the tape deck with the right volume, enough to fill out the magic eye, it's at that exact sweet spot that it is saturating the tape. So if you then sample back the playback, it's got a thousand years' grain on it.”
Because Sandison and Eoin make a point of always recording whatever they happen to be doing, they then must go back and search for usable bits, which can sometimes be just seconds of material. “The trouble is that we like to experiment too much trying out styles, instruments and sound treatments,” Eoin admits. “It can get to the point where you're 90 percent experimenting and 10 percent getting actual songs finished for a record. I guess a lot of musicians are like that; if they could be left to just play around, they might not complete something because they're having too much of a laugh in the studio. I think you're more likely to come up with something strange and new when left to your own devices, but you're more likely to get a record done when you're paying by the hour in a commercial studio. So it's probably best to try to combine the two approaches.”
Further adding to the studio delay — BOC started sketches for the album as far back as 2002 but didn't begin studio work in earnest until 2004 — is that Sandison and Eoin mix as they go rather than waiting until the end of the recording process. Although it may take more time at the onset, it encourages a certain amount of discipline. “When you're finely tuning sound textures as part of the core of a song, you can't leave it to later and hope something works; you have to hear it while you write,” Sandison says. “The main thing I find us doing in the mix is removing stuff, like when you've played something a lot and you suddenly realize that something doesn't need to be loud or even there at all. There's at least one track on the record where the core idea that the song was built around has been removed at the end in the mix, almost like making a plaster-cast mold. I tend to focus on EQ in the mix, but I rarely enhance anything. If I hear something that I think is a problem, my instinct is usually to make space around that thing to let it breathe. So, often, I find myself dialing the filters down on adjacent parts to push them into the background, out of focus, and leave the important thing intact.”
Experimentation in the studio might not make for the fastest production, but it does yield some interesting sounds and methods. In addition to shifting sound back and forth from tape to tape for added distress, BOC might boost a flat sound by putting it through a guitar amp, miking it with one or two mics and rerecording the overloaded result. But, of course, that just scratches the experimental surface.
“One thing I particularly like to use is amplitude modulation combined with microtuned pitches,” Eoin reveals. “There are a lot of ways to do this — using compressors and filters and pitch modulators — but we do it differently every time. We even resample parts using cheap ghettoblasters or cassette decks with internal microphones. Sometimes, I might employ a series of ring modulators with very slow frequencies and modulate those frequencies with an LFO so that layers of the sound overlap each other randomly. Sometimes, I'll hit a sound with way too much compression — when you get that fine line where it's just kicking in, but it's right on the threshold of the sound so that the compressor ends up spreading what I call ‘powder’ over the part so it sounds like it's crumbling.”
With so many heavily distorted noises and layers of sound manipulated to create specific effects, it's interesting that Boards of Canada avoids using effects units during the entire process. Instead, BOC prefers to get creative with EQ, monitoring, miking or other techniques. “I know this sounds contradictory, but that's a big part of the thing,” Sandison says. “We try to push it, to see how far we can change sounds without resorting to using effects units at all. For example, we would never just put down a wind instrument clean. We'd usually do something long-winded like laying down six roughly identical takes together onto mono tape so they clash and chorus microtonally over one another, then overload them to hell and back, then sample it off the tape and shift it by an octave or something like that.”
Although traditional effects aren't generally in the formula — Boards of Canada does employ homemade items such as Eoin's DIY Leslie effect, created by mounting a mic inside a rotating ice-cream tub — they do occasionally have their place. “One of the things we're often aiming at is an anechoic sound that gives the impression of being outdoors, so we use little or no reflection effects unless it's for something specific,” Sandison says. “So if you want an outdoorsy but echoey sound, you should just make the low frequencies echo; that way, it resembles real outdoor environments.”
Given BOC's apparent allegiance to all things vintage, it should be no surprise that the duo eschews the use of software — including plug-ins, instruments or synths — aside from the occasional convolution reverb and Apple Logic Pro for arrangement duties. “[Soft synths] don't have the natural discrepancies that we like in real analog gear,” Sandison says. “Half of our synths have their guts hanging out. We can tweak the sounds by doing things like pouring coffee on them. Marcus will say, ‘It's too in tune, needs more coffee,’ so we pour a bit more coffee on the exposed innards. I don't think most software synths come with a ‘coffee’ setting — I'm just joking, by the way. Don't try pouring liquids on electrical devices, kids.”
It's that sort of devilish humor and twinkle-in-the-eye cleverness that informs the entire Boards of Canada experience, from the guys' inventive recording experiments to the resulting musical creations that are never what they seem. “We like to create full-sounding parts that appear to be from another record,” Sandison says. “So, sometimes, we go to great lengths working on complete pieces of vintage-sounding music with the sole intention of ripping a two-second chunk out of it to give the impression of it being a sample of something old. It takes ages, but it's a good trick. So we sample them as though they really are someone else's old record — we abuse the sound to make it really rough, maybe sampling it in at 8-bit, 22kHz or whatever. If it sounds like samples from old sources, it means we're doing our job properly, because that's the whole point.”
Around The Campfire
|| Around The Campfire
|| Paul Clarke
|| DJ Mag
|| 2005 (14-10 -> 27-10)
|| volume 04 #1
"Around The Campfire" by Paul Clarke
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
As Boards Of Canada release their new long-player, the plot thickens………..
It’s easy to imagine Boards Of Canada as electronic music’s own equivalent of ‘Brigadoon’. Or it would be were not the Gene Kelly musical not insufferably twee and full of elaborate tap-dancing routines – neither of which applies to the spectral sound world so lovingly crafted by Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin.
But in other ways the comparisons between the story of a mysterious Scottish village and Boards Of Canada hold firm. Both, after all, only appear at sporadic intervals and seem curiously out of time, shrouded in the ambience of the Scottish highlands from which they materialise.
Although we have proof of Boards Of Canada’s existence in records like ‘Music Has The Right To Children’ and their latest long-player ‘The Campfire Headphase’ these have become like mythical artefacts in themselves, electronic enigmas which fans dissect with almost scholarly obsession – their aura only heightened by their creators’ self-imposed isolation. Plus, on the rare occasions when they do break their silence, the mysteries only seem to thicken like the sea mist around the ‘artistic commune’ outside Edinburgh where the pair have spun their eerie instrumental fables for over a decade.
‘I’m very grateful to be living in a situation where I can easily choose to cut myself off from the world while I’m writing music,’ says Marcus
. ‘I don’t think it’s so much about a ‘rural’ environment as it is simply about having an observing distance from contemporary culture. ‘Where we’re based, we’re so geographically isolated that we’re more or less able to imagine that we’re in a different decade – let alone a different country – and that makes it easy to generate the self-contained bubble in which our work exists.’
‘We got into creating music when we were very young, years before anyone heard any of our work,’ Mike elaborates. ‘We got into it because we love music, not because we want to be in the press. In fact, it’s all the industry bullshit that makes us stay away in the first place.
‘But our reticence has backfired on us on occasions because if we stay quiet it creates a vacuum where speculation and bullshit can thrive.’}}
Of course such speculation is encouraged – whether intentionally or not – not just by the Boards’ suspicion of the press but by the many layers of meaning, almost arcane references and microscopic attention to detail woven into their records.
There are numerous internet messageboards dedicated to interpreting the ‘subliminal’ messages fans claim to have heard in the dislocated child’s voices and old TV samples which have become Boards Of Canada’s sound signature – such as the allusions to the Branch Davidians on 2000’s ‘In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country’ EP.
‘The theme of that EP was the idea that you can try to have an idealistic way of life out in the country, but only on the condition that the authorities approve it,’ explains Marcus
, in reference to the ‘doomsday’ cult led by David Koresh, who died alongside around 80 others in a fire after federal authorities attempted to storm their Texas compound in 1993. ‘The Branch Davidians were just an illustration for a bigger issue. Disregarding the fact that David Koresh’s beliefs were maybe crazy, that whole incident was a brutal reminder that we’re all basically toeing the line.’
‘"The Devil Is In The Details"’ you might say – to use a track title from ‘Geogaddi’, Boards Of Canada’s 2002 album which had an overall running time of 66 minutes and 6 seconds as well as what some saw as a horned figure on the cover. Coincidence or conspiracy?
‘We are interested in pushing music as an artform that can be suggestive, or even subversive sometimes,’ says Marcus
. ‘We’re always getting into different subjects because we read a lot, so it’s likely these things will fuel us for a while. We didn’t expect people to pick up on every single obscure detail that we put into our records, but they generally do. Sometimes we have a laugh at it all – especially when they start finding things that aren’t even there.’
‘The Campfire Headphase’ will undoubtedly spark such intrigue again. There are slight shifts in sound here – such as a greater use of guitars inspired by their love of country musicians like John Denver – but the overall darkly supernatural atmosphere is the same one that has engulfed all their records since their first Warp release ‘Music Has A Right To Children’ in 1998. And the development of their fragile beats and haunting melodies can be traced much further back than even their first official EP release ‘Hi Scores’ on Skam in 1996. It goes back to the days when the pair and various friends would create music for bonfire parties on deserted beaches, emulating the sound of My Bloody Valentine, synth-pop artists like Devo and even psychedelic folk groups like The Incredible String Band on the old analogue equipment they still love today. Warp re-released their early ‘Twoism’ collection in 2002 but the Boards are still sitting on vast amounts of music which was originally distributed on a few hundred cassette tapes. Mike talks about the possibility of bringing them to light one day, but for now the closest anyone outside their inner sanctum is going to get is listening to ‘The Campfire Headphase.’
‘We distilled things a bit with this record,’ he explains. ‘Instead of concentrating on abstract tracks we decided it would be nice to make a record that had an underlying pop structure. Each record we do has a vague theme, with ‘Music Has the Right…
” it was public information films, with “Geogaddi
” it was a kind of psychotic look at mathematical patterns in art, and “The Campfire Headphase
” is pretty much an imaginary road trip in a rusty pick-up heading west through the brain. So we’re re-setting the clock now to a point where it’s all about structured tracks with simple, instantly gratifying melodies again.’
Sensations of childhood
And – as with so many Boards Of Canada records – that journey takes us back into the past rather than the sterile future envisaged in so much electronica. Specifically to the sensations of childhood which have always been an overarching influence on their oeuvre. Their name is a tribute to the National Film Board of Canada who produced many of the public information films the pair watched as kids and their music also has the same feelings of wonder and dread that comes from trying to make sense of the world at an early age. It’s made with childlike intuition rather than adult calculation, with sounds writhing under the surface like vague recollections of formative experiences – such as Mike’s earliest memory of ‘freaking out in a swimming pool when I was four years old because a woman told me that little men in boats were going to come out of the drains.’
‘This feeling seems to be so important to me in all of our music,’ he says now. ‘Like anything, it’s down to personal experiences that mould what you do in later life. I just can’t see the point in making music that doesn’t somehow hint at something tragic. I lost something back in time and I’m trying to get back to it. ’
Peering Out from Behind the Curtain
|| Peering Out from Behind the Curtain
|| Steve Marchese
|| Manual 09
"Peering Out from Behind the Curtain" was an interview by Steve Marchese that appeared in RE:UP magazine, Manual 09, around January 2006. Photos within the article are credited to Peter Iain Campbell.
"Peering Out from Behind the Curtain" by Steve Marchese
RE:UP Manual 09 (~Jan 2006), pp. 28-31,86
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
Edinburgh has a hangover. The normal din of this bustling university city remains eerily suppressed by a combination of the preceding night's partying and a cold front quickly descending from the North. The streets are empty save some churchgoers and a stray dog. An old man in a faded suit hands lunch menus to nobody. The museum set up as a meeting point with Boards of Canada--brothers Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin-- is still closed and won't open to the public for at least another hour. I am sitting in the middle of an unfamiliar place, waiting to meet two virtually faceless musicians with whom I have yet to directly speak. Could this scene be completly engineered or am I thinking too much into it? Yet for some reason, I know there couldn't be a more perfect start to a day highlighted by a sit-down with Boards of Canada.
The development of mystery and rumor is certainly nothing new to contemporary music. Stories of Paul McCartney's death surfaced after the Beatles released their thirteenth record. In 1989, nearly 15 years after the formation of Judas Priest, the metal band was put on trial (and eventually exonerated) after a double suicide allegedly caused by hidden messages like "try suicide" and "do it, do it" on the record Stained Cross. And although testaments to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon functioning as a second, synchronizing soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz started surfacing online in 1994, rumors of this pairing can be traced all the way back to 1979.
What Differentiates Boards of Canada from the rest of this smallish pantheon of mythologized artists, however, is the speed by which the duo have been able to invent and disseminate such intrigue. Much of it has to do with a pious and enthusiastic fan base, but in just a short time (over the release of only 3 full-length LPs) rumors--and some truths--have spread far and wide about the duo's religious proclivities, their use of embedded messages in tracks (sometimes known as backmasking) and secret tracks made anonymously for major pop stars.
Most of the speculation gained momentum due to the pair's reluctance to do face-to-face interviews. But now that they've surfaced in promotion of their new LP, The Campfire Headphase, it seems a lot of the conjecture has been systematically addressed in intervies online and recent features in European magazines The Wire and Groove. Even a fleeting peek behind the curtain shows them not to be the circuit-obsessed techno Bedouins protrayed by the media- but rather, a pair of well-adjusted, hugely likeable brothers who do not only finish each other's sentences, but who have also applied an admirable do-it-yourself philosophy to their unique pursuit of artistic perfection.
"There's never been a coordinated plan to engineer a blockade around who and what we are," says Mike Sandison, easing back into a chair at the coffee house where we finally decided to meet. "We wanted to make music that stood out on its own as an entity inside its own bubble. In the early stages we kind of felt like if we were going to out in magazines an start posing for photographs we'd spoil that."
And while the pair have managed to maintain an easy pastoral obscurity that is suprisingly only 40 minutes outside of Edinburgh by car, their music has gained increasing popularity worldwide- making it more difficult to stay hidden in the periphery of the limelight. "One of the worst things we've found is that by being kind of absent, people have a tendency to fill in the gaps." says Marcus Eoin Sandison (Eoin being his middle name, the two have recently revealed that they are in fact brothers). "When there's a hole, people will just make things up, it isn't so much that we're trying to be secretive. We just don't feel an eed to sell ourselves. As far as we're concerned it's not part of what we do. People write about us like we're these mountain hermits who just won't talk to anybody and we [wonder]; Where did that come from? We never said that to anyone."
People think of us as being one way," continues Mike. "We'd like to go out on tour in spandex and breathe fire but we just can't do that because we're supposed to be something else entirely," he jokes, duckin out of the sunlight that just surfaced through the quickly dissolving clouds. However, with a long day of interviews ahead it seems Sandison won't be able to get out of the light just yet. With the release of The Campfire Headphase, Boards of Canada have agreed to be willing participants in their largest press push in quite some time, prompting many to wonder, why now? "Isolation can get negative at times," continues Mike, "because you start to feel like you're being arrogant or that we're doing it because we hate people os much. But it's not like that at all, It's more about the fact that we don't want to ruin the art by making our lives more important than the music. Because our lives are just like that of any other artist: we're just trying to create something special."
In a way it seems like the self-sequestered twosome have enthusiastically embraced the chance to finally speak out, exploding from topic to topic like barges of fireworks wired together with small lengths of fuse. In mood, tone and content, a conversation with Boards of Canada barely echoes the consistency that governs their recordings. Instead it jumps from random subjects like Ted Nugent, Noriega (the dictator, not the MC), and an internet free lifestyle to Jerry Lewis films and trans-Atlantic politics with an effortless flow that defies the misinformed online reports of a disdain aimed at journalists. What captures my attention almost immediately is not how articulate the two are--I expected that considering the intricate language and presentation of their music--but how approachable and open they seem to almost any inquiry. A list of talking points I had prepared the night before is totally disregarded as the conversation steers itself amost invisibly toward one of the biggest questions that will be asked all day: Why haven't they played live in over 3 years?
Opening up a long stretch of conversation on the subject, Mike takes the lead "We've been under a lot of pressure to play of course," he confirms. "One of the things that comes through from the big boss man Warp Records is offers from festivals. Usually our respons to that is that we would be more comfortable playing a small venue that would suit what we do. Our live show as it was had ah eavy reliance on visuals--we were using video projections and monitors--and secretly over the last 3 years since we last played a gig we've started to develop a different show. We expanded the band and have friends who are part of the potential group if we go out on the road again. And we do intend to go out and play again but at the moment what we want to do is at odds with the offers coming in to play alongside bands like Foo Fighters and people like that."
Marcus, the quieter but by no means less passionate of the two, finishes Mike's thought and addresses more specifically what it is about Boards of Canada's sound that makes the prospect of a live show do tricky. "You've got to know the limitations of the music that you make. I always think of our music as being a lot more like headphone music, a brain music that you can drift into," he says. "So the idea of playing on a stage where you may be coming on just before a massive set by The Chemical Brothers doesn't sound like it would work. Earlier on though, when we were in transition from working with Skam to working with Warp, we did a couple of gigs that were label showcases with Warp artists. We have massive respect for guys like Squarepusher and Aphex Twin but we found ourselves doing shows with these guys and they were so full-on electronic and really full of energy. It wasn't really what we wanted to do at the time."
Finishing Marcus' thought, Mike chimes in for one last comment, the thought of which will certainly become fan-boy fodder for neo-prog and electronica lovers the world over. "It might have suited us better to be put on a bill beside Tortoise or somebody like that. And you never know, we still could end up doing it one day."
Talk of the new record conveniently follows, revolving around the idea for Boards of Canada that is perhaps their most important reord to date. In so many ways The Campfire Headphase marks a musical evolution for the brothers, but what makes it a truly compellin listen is its adherence to the band's emerging modus opreandi: To move forward--both technologically and philosophically--while maintaining a strong connection to the past. This time, in palce of the numerological Easter eggs and hidden Branch Daviddian references, Boards of Canada have enmeshed their music within the trappings of live instrumentation, placing them squarely in the middle of an intersection with infinite roads trailing outward. "A little part [of using the guitars] on the new album is to open up the scope for what we want to do in the future," comments Mike. "There's kind of a destiny for where the music is going to go but we haven't managed to do it yet. Maybe the new record will kind of open the door for future options."
"It doesn't necessarily mean the next album will be a Deep Purple record," adds Marcus jokingly. The brothers have an unexpectedly wry sense of humor that comes as a pleasant surprise given the melancholy and often ominous tones of their music. "We could go and make a record that's really electronic but we know now that we've got a platform to go in any direction we want. We're trying to make sure that people don't define us purely as an electronic band."
Being defined by labels or pidgeonholed to a particular scene or genre are two things that both Sandison brothers agree are detrimental to their music making. "We don't buy into anything," declares Marcus. "When there's something that we're really into we still try to have some objectivity about it."
"We're sort of cultural nomads," supports Mike. "I don't see us in part of a group - social or musical." Their publicly released records all bear an undeniable trademark of textured ambience and reworked hip-hop breaks and-like it or not-the winning combination has led to considerable praise by electronic music fans. But privately, hidden away in their private studio (which is rumored to house hundreds of rare and irreplaceable instruments), are thousands of tracks of organic, acoustic and experimental music that they hope to one day release under various pseudonyms. It's just one of a number of examples during the conversation that show both brother's love of simple, organic instrumentation.
Mike elaborates, "People may be surprised to hear that of the demos that get sent to us, we truly love the ones that are really homemade, sort of crap and unfinished. The ones that are rough around the edges. The demos that are really slick electronica-type things are the ones that get listened to once and put on the shelves."
"The thing with electronic music these days," says Marcus, "is that so much of it nowadays can be really good but it's so studio-based. So the moment you try and take it out, it's either played back form the laptop or a mess for someone who isn't able to play it live. The laptop performance thing has never been something that's appealed to us."
Continuing on the live element, Mike tells a story that will certainly add to an increase in message board chatter, "I think it's commetable that people are creating software to do that because at least it's better than someone turning up to a show and pressing play on a .wav file. We know a guy who is a very high profile electronic producer in Britain - very famous in some electronic circles - and he played a show in Glasgow one time and he told us that he had just played a cassette and stood on stage pretending to press buttons. And he thought it was funny. We were laughing but also horrified at the same time."
The mixture of humor, honesty, passion and creativity is something revealed only by meeting these two self-confessed reclusive artists in person. Instead, all most of us have to objectively evaluate about Boards of Canada is their music. It's a scenario the brothers have worked very hard to cultivate. Most importantly, however, and perhaps the chief reason they've surfaced for this brief set of interviews--besides dispelling myths of course--is to reveal that they are musicians with purpose and that music is but one way for them to achieve that purpose. "If you had to vaguely approximate a purpose behind our music," summarizes Marcus, "for me it would be like we are soundtracking the alternative place you might be right now. You wouldn't be dead but you'd just be in a different world; everything would be quite alien, so you'd wonder what would the music be like. What would you be hearing?" He continues, "I think perhaps the theme of what we're doing is instead of looking forward we are looking backward to the positivity that you might have had as a child. And we want to take it as a fuel and be inspired by it. I think of myself as the kind of person that even when I'm 80 I'll still be listening to weird music and playing computer games. I don't want to be the kind of person that gives up on youth." It's a sentiment shared by both brothers and, I'm sure, by most of the enthusiastic fans who hope to be listening to the "weird" music of Boards of Canada far into their eighties as well.
Boards of Canada on...
Marcus: You have to allow some spiritual element when making music. But we don't mean that in any kind of mumbo jumbo faux religious way, because some people have misquoted us and made us sound like a couple of magicians or something. A lot of musicians don't seem to have that spiritual element because they are just working when they make music. Like they have another agenda and are doing it for other reasons. But the most interesting musicians seem to be the ones that are tying to go somewhere else with their music. A bit like he whole escapist or science fiction fantasy thing, it's the ones that look at music and think: how could things be different?
Mike: When you are signed to a label like Warp, you know that there's an audience of people out there buying [your music]. You can try to ignore it and try to imagine there's no one listening but there is always a feeling in the back of your mind that you have certain things to live up to regarding production standards. You wouldn't be able to get away with putting out an album with an 18-minute long ambient track in the middle of all pop and soul tracks. That's the kind of thing we do on our old tapes. We wouldn't have gotten shit aobut it and we would have just done it. It wouldn't have mattered. But now we have these considerations because we're putting out records that force use to think aobut the average person who buys them.
Marcus: At the particular age we were at when we lived in Canada you are more likely to notice the differences between where you come from and where you're visiting. The things that out like TV and music, the way people dress are the things that you carry with you when you leave that place. I thik it's been imprinted on us. For us, it was a very specific time--1979 to 1980 North American media culture--that left like a ghostly shadow that sort of stuck to us. We came away form there with a memory of the palce that was nostalgic to the extent that we've been trying to get back there ever since. Not geographically, but more like a feeling. By making music that makes you travel to that place.
Mike: Now I find that a lot of the depression about losing my childhood has gone by the wayside because I'm able to go back there with my little daughter. Kids do a lot of interesting things that you kind of vaguely remember doing yourself but have shutoff as an adult. You start to realize that life doesn't have to be about being completly conscious of the universe's problems. It can be really fulfilling if you just concentrate on a little microscopic version of life that a child sees. As a parent you have no choice but to occasionally lose yourself in a child's world like The Jungle Book of something. It's a bit like what we do with our music. It's like saying to yourself that just for this hour I'm gonna switch off all the crap in the world and lose myself in an alternative world. Like a good book or something. It's kind of how we see what we do with our records. Although it's becoming increasingly difficult the older we get. It's much harder to not put our political beliefs into the music.
Marcus: I know it sounds strange to say it but I've always thought of Stevie Wonder as an electronic artist. A lot of his bass line were done on synths. He's done project albums like The Secret Life of Plants that are all synthesizers, all done with keyboards. You wouldn't describe him as rock and it's too lazy to describe him as R&B or soul. To me, it's electronic but it's absolutely organic. Here you have incredible singing, incredible tunes, and amazing use of keyboards. Sometimes I step back and think aobut the sound of Stevie in the '70s and it shoes just how different electronic music can be.
Mike: We were already huge fans of Beck's music and friends with the guys form Anticon. Dose and I are big penpals. I think Beck's producers asked the Anticon guys if they had a contact for us and the next thing we know we get a letter asking us to do [this remix of] Beck's. We said that we'd love to hear the track first and see what it's like and I said to Marcus at one stage that if this track is really slow and empty we'll do it.
Marcus: I actually told Warp six months earlier to don't call us about remixes unless it's Beck or God.
Scans of the magazine article were provided by Twoism user nlogax.
The Golden Apples Of The Sun
|| The Golden Apples Of The Sun
|| Kazumichi Sato/Hidetsugu Ito
|| Cookie Scene
"The Golden Apples Of The Sun" is a 2006 interview by Kazumichi Sato/Hidetsugu Ito It originally appeared in the Japanese music magazine Cookie Scene.
The Golden Apples Of The Sun
Tomorrow's Harvest era
The Charms of the Sphinx
|| The Charms of the Sphinx
|| Michael Döringer & Thaddeus Herrmann
"The Charms of the Sphinx" is a 2016 interview by Michael Döringer & Thaddeus Herrmann. It originally appeared online at De:Bug 
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
Exclusive interview in all of its unabridged glory (English)
Board of Canada are masters of the big guessing game: What is all this dark beauty about? In an exclusive interview with the Berlin based monthly magazine DE:BUG, Marcus and Mike Sandison shed some light on how their new album “Tomorrow's Harvest” came about, how they explain their influence and how they see the world they live in. But they leave us with many more questions: Is there a really mystery or just the allurement of a Sphinx without a secret?
The following interview will appear in an edited, translated version in DE:BUG 174, July/August 2013, hitting the newsstands in Germany, Austria and Switzerland on June 28th.
Interview: Michael Döringer & Thaddeus Herrmann
You’ve just returned from the future, bringing in the harvest. You know what we don’t know: What will we be feeding on from tomorrow onwards?
"Marcus: Breakfast, hopefully."
What took you so long? And how new is the new record, anyway? Was getting Tomorrow's Harvest
together a concentrated effort, a focused process, or are you recording all the time anytime and suddenly realised that there were no more loose ends that needed tying up?
"Mike: It was more the latter. We’re always working on new material, all the time, and we had quite a singular vision for what this record should be. But back around 2006 we had taken some time out to concentrate on other projects for a while too, non-musical things. Later we built new expanded studio spaces, and so the process of wrapping up this record was interrupted from time to time."
The album makes one bold statement after the other. Both sonically and from a visual point of view. Starting with the latter: The city’s silhouette on the horizon, captured on 8mm, colorful yet strangely distant, something we urge to explore and are afraid of at the same time. Musically, the album to me represents the same abeyance, and I do not mean that in a negative way. The tracks seem deeply rooted between darkness and some kind of abstract warmth, hard to grasp, yet strangely familiar. In a nutshell: utopia or dystopia?
"Marcus: It’s about finding something beautiful in desolation, something draws us to the atmosphere of destroyed, abandoned places. It’s a bitter-sweet thing that we’ve always tried to achieve in our music. It seems too obvious to make music that is just purely dark, that just seems too easy and naïve. We always try very hard to create something that balances between dark and light. If you can achieve that ambiguity in music, it makes the listener do some work, emotionally. It allows you to put something subversive inside the music, that doesn’t necessarily just declare itself outright."
Why is this the right path?
"Mike: I think people are naturally attracted to dystopian imagery, especially post-human imagery, and it might be to do with a subconscious awareness that our day-to-day life is become more and more crowded and busy and unnatural."
Going back through your back catalogue, Tomorrow's Harvest
to me seems to be both a 101 to BoC and an extremely well defined exploration of certain musical areas you’ve been working on before.
"Marcus: We didn’t consciously go back into early territory with this record, but I think we might have used instruments and tools on this record that are familiar from our very early material, especially with the synths and arpeggios and so on. What you get to hear on our releases is only a small fraction of what we write, because we tend to lock each album down to a theme and stick with that until it’s finished. We’re always writing and recording material that doesn’t end up on any records."
To be more precise: The album to me sounds more like Hi Scores
than The Campfire Headphase
. It has the heavy loops, all the mysterious sample arrangements and the dedicated electronic approach. How strong was your urge to change the sound compared to your last album? I’m asking because on previous records you were experimenting with unusual approaches. Like “An Eagle In Your Mind
”, where you said the percussion was completely done with the voice of Mike
"Marcus: For every album we usually settle on a deliberate restricted palette for the overall sound. It helps to keep the project tied together and consistent within itself. The moment we finished the last record, the idea for Tomorrow's Harvest
was already forming. Like any musician, I think there’s always a hunger to surprise yourself or take some sort of 90-degree turn with each new project. I don’t think it’s necessarily a return to an older sound, although the synths and self-sampling on this record are more or less core things that we’ve always returned to over the past twenty years or so because they offer endless new possibilities in the sound."
If this impression makes any sense to you: Were there technical aspects as well? Did your recording technique change? If so, how?
"Mike: The way we make tracks always changes between albums, but in the case of the new record it was changing from track to track. Towards the end of working on the record the material was sounding different from the earliest tracks, so it was challenging to contain everything under one album theme."
"Marcus: I hope that it works to make the listener pause and consider where we are right now, where we’re going… I guess it’s essentially a political album, but we shouldn’t spell it all out, it’s important that the listener finds their own thing in there."
It seems you moved away a little bit from your general interest in damaged, imperfect sounds – many of your new tracks sound more ‘polished’, sharp and perfect than almost everything you’ve done before. Like the fantastic “Cold Earth
” or “Come To Dust
"Mike: In the studio we still spend a huge amount of time destroying the sounds in our music, though on this record we wanted to use older electronic instruments in the kind of well-produced, precisely orchestrated ways that film composers did back in the late seventies and eighties."
You once said your records sound like phases you’re going through and depend on what you’re listening at that time – what music has influenced you in the last years and especially during the making of this record? I would be surprised if you didn’t follow what’s been released in the last years. The new album sounds almost ‘contemporary’ in some respects.
"Marcus: Actually we haven’t really been listening to much contemporary music recently although we do keep an ear to the ground for anything really special or weird that comes along. Mike tends to deliberately avoid listening to other artists’ music when he’s writing, and much of what I’ve liked over the past few years is just isolated tracks by underground artists, or film soundtracks."
Could you give us some names? Which movies and soundtrack composers should we regard as related to Tomorrow's Harvest
"Mike: If we’re talking about contemporary composers there are too many to mention really. I’d say maybe Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek. Also Mark Isham, Thomas Newman, Clint Mansell.
Any other new influences that poured into the album?
"Marcus: Much of the energy for the album comes from written word, thinkers like James Howard Kunstler and Dmitry Orlov. These writers are like modern day prophets, and it’s a much more fertile source of inspiration than just listening to other people’s music."
"Mike: There’s no specific intention to confine the album’s narrative to the US, but I suppose there is recognizable familiarity within certain imagery and places with existing survivalist culture, and with 70s and 80s cinema that we hoped to evoke."
Let’s talk more about the events leading to the release of the album. We’ve had random 12″s with not so random numbers, a billboard in Shibuya, covert hints to the listening session in an abandoned amusement park in the middle of the desert. All painstakingly dissected by your fans, re-assembled on message boards, looking for clues. Meanwhile, you decline to meet journalists in person, chose e-mail over phoners. It’s like Detroit Techno revisited. Let the music do the talking. The face in the crowd is more important than anything else. Coming back to my point: How involved were you in planning these events?
"Marcus: We were involved with the art direction and we helped devise some of the ideas but we had a really great team of people helping us to make it all happen. We really wanted to bring back a feeling of anticipation for new music that has largely been lost in recent years, mainly because of the internet. As with movies these days, everybody already knows absolutely everything that happens in a film before it even hits theatres. It kills the magic. So we were trying to figure out how to get younger listeners to experience some kind of buzz for the record in the way we used to as kids, which is really difficult to do these days because kids can have everything they want, almost at the press of a button."
You must be pretty proud of your loyal fans, spreading the word.
"Mike: Our listeners seem to be really cool, savvy types of people. They didn’t let us down."
Are you following what is written online about you, especially in these fan forums? The people there are mad for you. In that regard, you’re one of the world’s biggest pop groups.
"Mike: We get indirect feedback from our record company, and other people around us, but we really try hard not to read things about our work because it can be quite a damaging thing. Even positive comments can give you a false sense of what’s good about your work, so it’s really better to try to ignore it."
Where have you been living over the years? Since when are you back in Scotland, if that’s true so, and why?
"Marcus: We’re primarily based in Scotland, where we have a great studio, though we have done some writing and recording whilst living overseas, in the past few years. Some of the core ideas on this album were put down in New Zealand."
What impact has your surrounding on your music? I know you once were really sick of that connection, like everyone could do certain music if he was in a particular place. And I’m still curious about how you’d assess the time you spent in Canada as kids today – I feel like that period was the crucial element that formed your artistic personality. What if you had not been there at that time?
"Marcus: I wouldn’t really put any particular importance on our time in Canada because we moved around a lot when we were kids. I think from travelling a lot I’ve been left with a personal association between the west and the past, and that’s a strong source of inspiration for me in the music."
Can you explain to yourself why your music had and still has such a strong impact and influence on some people? Not only musically, but also emotionally, both to mere listeners and musicians.
"Mike: It’s very difficult to answer that one as we’re on the inside of this music. I can tell you, from the very beginning we’ve just been trying to make something that we would have loved somebody else to come along and do, but nobody else was coming along and doing it, so we had to make it ourselves. It always felt to us like some kind of a dead zone in music, like an obvious space to us, but somehow nobody was there. So it was like “okay, that’s where we belong”."
And what would that zone be that you filled up, from your perspective? The need for more personally informed, dreamy electronica, that didn’t chiefly strive for futuristic sounds and super complex beats and rhythms? Was there a lack of human element in mid-90s electronic music?
"Marcus: In the early nineties mainstream electronic music had mostly become really terrible dance music. We’ve never been into dance music. We were big fans of all the great industrial bands in the eighties, so when dance music came along it was almost as though all that great dark stuff in the eighties had never happened. In the early days of the band our music was much more influenced by what you might call new wave or post-punk and industrial. We’d begun making very experimental music ourselves in the mid eighties, and then by the start of the nineties we were making melodic ambient electronic music, and it felt to us that almost nobody else out there at the time was interested in melody. I think that is why we gravitated towards the artists on Warp
. It felt to us that there was actually a strong connection between artists who wanted to make really extreme noise-based music and those who wanted to make extremely minimal, melodic ambient music. Anything as long as you’re not just somewhere in the middle."
Simon Reynolds strongly relies on you as the forefathers or originators of certain musical and theoretical concepts of the last ten years, like Hauntology or Hypnagogic Pop. You’re actually the starting point for one aspect of his Retromania concept – making music sound old, worn out, triggering memories etc. Those were things you did and talked about almost 20 years ago and have become the principles of many young producers. What are you thinking about that today?
"Mike: That’s still absolutely a driving force in our work. It’s something we love doing, we can never run out of inspiration in this direction, because if you only pay attention to current music then you can’t help sounding pinned down to the fashion of today. But when you allow yourself to explore music from various eras in the past, you can find starting points that were never fully explored, like tangents that didn’t actually occur in the real history of music, and that’s really exciting to me. Especially in the face of so much current music that is becoming indistinguishable because all the producers are basically using the same tools."
Talking about the past: Are you still in touch with any of your old friends from school, the notorious Hexagon Sun Collective
? What happened to all of them?
"Marcus: Yes of course. Everyone grows up of course and in some cases they start families or have careers of their own, but yeah we’re still all very much in touch."
Coming back to the topics of Tomorrow's Harvest
: if it is a reflection or statement on the sad state of nature & environment – is it just something you’re ‘interested in’, like religion & cults on former records? Or is it something more important, also in your private lives, that you’re worried about?
"Mike: It’s not really an environmental thing, it’s much more to do with people and the direction our civilization is taking us in. We’re not literally talking about plants when we use the term “seeds”, so you have to think sideways about the song titles. We’re living in a time of very dramatic change in terms of population numbers and insidious political events and in some ways it now feels that some sort of crash on the horizon is not just inevitable but in fact necessary."
That said, you’re rather pessimistic about the future of mankind? The crash is necessary because people, governments and industry are just not able to change their direction and thinking?
"Mike: Yes that’s part of it, humans are essentially selfish. So I feel that real radical change is more likely to come from external events rather than from within."
One of you once said: “I like the idea of doing things that in five, ten, or twenty years time will be able to reveal something about our music, that will make people completely re-examine what we’ve done, and see it in a completely different light.” So you’ve inspired many people with your ideas – would that fit your statement above?
"Mike: Yeah I’d say quite honestly if we were able to inspire one person to go out and make their own mark in some way, whether through art or politics, it would make it all worthwhile. On the one hand you can argue that it’s only music and of course that’s right, it’s trivial in the context of history, but all art inspires and moves somebody somewhere, and that’s like a kind of energy passing down through a chain of generations, and it’s all you can ask for as a musician."
There’s no way to not call it a comeback. Question is: Is this record a new beginning or maybe the end? How does it feel for you?
"Marcus: It feels like neither of those things from our perspective because we’ve always been working! We’d be making music anyway even if nobody was listening, and we’ve no intention of stopping, so this is just a continuation."
And finally, the most important thing: Please name your 3 favourite number stations and tell us why you like them.
"Mike: Do people really have favourite number stations?"
Brothers Who Make Electronica by Hand
|| Brothers Who Make Electronica by Hand
|| Jon Pareles
|| The NY Times
"Brothers Who Make Electronica by Hand" is a 2013 interview by Jon Pareles. It originally appeared online in The NY Times. 
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
Boards of Canada thrive on making themselves scarce. A duo of brothers from rural Scotland, Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin, the group has been releasing electronic music since the mid-1990s — music that eludes most standard pop notions of electronica and has built a fiercely dedicated following among fellow musicians and producers.
It’s usually amorphous, not crisp; it doesn’t aim for the dance floor. Bits of melody or rhythm, or stray human voices, surface, only to dissolve into disorienting ambiences; even brief tracks are eventful. They work on their own time frame; the new Boards of Canada album, “Tomorrow's Harvest” (Warp), is their first release since 2006, and it’s rich in moody suspense, with even fewer bucolic moments than past releases.
The brothers stay largely private; they have not performed since 2001. The following exchange — their only United States interview for this album — took place via e-mail, and has been slightly edited.
Six and a half years — what took you so long?
"MIKE SANDISON We spent some time overseas and then we were busy expanding our studio space back here in Scotland. A couple of years ago we decided to start collating and cataloging all our early recordings, just for ourselves really, to know that we could tidy it all up and hand it on to our kids someday, but there are literally thousands of tracks going way back into the ’80s. It’s a huge task, and this just seemed to eat up time. We’ve been working on new music all the time throughout this, so we have a lot of material to wade through."
Did listening to your earlier recordings feed into the newer music?
"SANDISON We kept surprising ourselves, finding old things we’d completely forgotten about. We have cases full of tapes. The thing I notice about the really early stuff is how empty and abstract a lot of it is, so that reminded me of my love for a kind of “distance” in the music."
Did you go into making “Tomorrow's Harvest
” with a plan? Some of the early reactions have called it less ingratiating than previous albums, more challenging.
"MARCUS EOIN I like the description “less ingratiating.” There’s a definite theme on the record. Without blowing it all for the listeners, there’s a core to it about an apparently irreversible vector we’re already on as a species. The world population has doubled in my lifetime. If you really let that fact sink in, you start to realize why it is that in so much of popular culture, in books and movies and TV, we’re fantasizing about a depopulated world in one way or another. In terms of the actual textures and melodies on this album, we wanted to loosely evoke some familiar things from older movies that have touched on these ideas."
Older movies? Which ones?
"SANDISON I wouldn’t want to pin it down to any specific films, we’d have to list about 50 of them, to be fair. We approached this with the intention to evoke certain styles from memory rather than directly studying something in particular. For example, in the mid-’80s there was a fashion for inappropriately positive or uplifting synthesizer music in grim sci-fi and horror films, so that was certainly something we were going for."
"SANDISON We usually get the titles down at the same time as writing the tracks. A title can be like a vessel. What’s unusual for us on this record is that we knew the album title as far back as 2006, so it was difficult sometimes keeping that to ourselves for so long. There’s a kind of chronology and narrative in the track titles, they’re really chapters in a document of an event. We want the listener to piece it together rather than us just explaining it verbally."
Could you offer some step-by-step details about the making of one track?
"SANDISON One technique we like is to create entirely new instruments by sampling ourselves performing on real instruments and then destroying the sounds. So we’ll maybe spend days just playing various things, wind instruments, strings, guitars, bass, synths, for hours into the samplers and then feeding those sounds through stacks of destructive hardware and resampling them to make unrecognizable new sounds. This is all before we even begin writing any tunes. So in the case of “New Seeds
,” for example, some of the core tracks are real live percussion and bass, and then for layers of subsequent takes we captured ourselves jamming on these self-sampled sounds, to get a really slack, krautrock-y backbone. With that track we went back over it a few times overdubbing more hand-played parts, which gives it a really nice untidy energy. There’s a point where the melody blossoms into something new, like a clearing in the clouds, and the timing of that moment just happened naturally while we were jamming it down."
Is there a particular sound or timbre on the album that you are happiest with, and how did you make it?
"EOIN If I had to pick something in particular, maybe the texture of the strings in “Semena Mertvykh
.” It was performed into a dissected VHS deck with the motor running super slowly, so you can hear all the pockmarks, the dropouts on the tape. It’s mono, too, which gives it something special. More people should record in mono these days."
To me, much of your music lingers in boundary zones between melody and loop, between explicit beat and implied pulse, between pitch and noise. Do those distinctions matter to you?
"SANDISON I don’t think we use those distinctions at all. You can pick out a melody from the squeaking rusty chains of a swing. I once zoned out to a melody I could hear in the TGV [high-speed train] from Paris to Geneva, and it turned out to be harmonics coming from the rails vibrating under the train. If you’re willing to spend a long time experimenting with sound sources, you start to find yourself curating little moments, sometimes happy accidents."
Boards of Canada
favors very analog sounds that are combined and manipulated digitally. Is this a strategy with a message? What are your thoughts on the way we now spend so much of our lives experiencing digital and quantized content?
"EOIN I think the digital world suffers from being just so literal, so deliberate and sober. As with digital photography, people have gotten used to applying simulated filters onto their pictures just to inject a bit of romance into the thing, because the raw pictures are so flat. But in the analog realm these beautiful things just happen by themselves without your conscious effort. You could say the wobbles and flutters in our music are equivalent to something like weeds overgrowing an old building. Nobody puts the weeds there, but nature comes along and makes the scene very tragic and beautiful."
Just about every recording musician now feels compelled to create a public persona and image, a bid for celebrity. You’ve rejected that mode of careerism. Why? And does the music reflect that?
"EOIN I don’t think we have those sorts of personalities, we don’t need that kind of attention. I think a lot of showy artists have a kind of high-maintenance neediness in their personalities as people, and the music they make becomes a bit subordinate to that, arbitrary even. We’re fairly self-sufficient and normal people, but O.K., we’re obsessive about music itself."
Your most dedicated fans — and possibly your typical fans — analyze your every release down to submicroscopic levels. How does that affect your music making?
"EOIN We really have to ignore that when we’re purely in music-making mode, because it’s important to keep in touch with your gut instincts with melodies and sounds. So we do seal ourselves away from it much of the time. I think we let that awareness creep in when we start weaving themes and messages into the music. I suppose we’re relying on people to be extremely analytical of the music, in order to get out of it all the work we’ve put in."
The album is just over an hour long. Can you estimate how much was recorded? What’s on the cutting room floor?
"EOIN Hundreds of tracks. But that’s pretty normal for us. During the time we were recording this record there were lots of finished tracks that didn’t quite fit the plan we had for it, so yeah, a few albums’ worth."
How, in an ideal world, would you like your album to be listened to?
"SANDISON I think it works best in a solitary setting. The word I hear a lot is “oneiric,” and that’s a nice way to put it. So yeah, headphones, on your own."
We've Become a Lot More Nihilstic over the Years
|| We've Become a Lot More Nihilistic over the Years
|| Louis Pattison
|| The Guardian
"We've Become a Lot More Nihilistic over the Years" is a 2013 interview by Louis Pattison. It originally appeared online at The Guardian. 
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
Few groups of recent times have been quite so mythologised as Boards Of Canada. Whether it's down to their veiled musical references to numerology and occultism, or their impressively low public profile – few interviews, even fewer live shows – but you could say that these two brothers have become something of a cult themselves, with an online fanbase that picks over everything Boards with forensic vigour.
Hailing from rural Scotland, Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin started making music together as children, influenced by sci-fi cinema and the documentaries of the National Film Board of Canada. Their music – which first properly crystallised on their debut album, 1998's Music Has The Right To Children – is a spectral, nostalgic electronica into which is encoded a wealth of half-submerged samples and subliminal messages, from robotic voices and the sound of children at play to references to the Branch Davidian cult that perished at Waco, Texas.
The new album Tomorrow's Harvest was announced back in April in a manner designed to stoke their mystique – a 12-inch record that popped up in the racks of the New York record shop Other Music, blank but for a shimmering melody and a robotic voice intoning a string of numbers: a cipher for the fans to crack. The record itself, their first in eight years, strikes a darker note than 2005's sun-dappled The Campfire Headphase, its pulsing synthesisers and woozy drones implying a creeping, radioactive menace.
Having agreed to a rare interview with the Guardian, the duo insist that it is conducted via email and they are not altogether keen to unpick the themes of Tomorrow's Harvest. "I think it would kind of neuter it if we completely spell it out," writes Sandison. But their answers provide plenty for Boards of Canada cult members to pore over in the months to come ...
"Marcus Eoin: "We took some time out, and spent some time travelling. Then we expanded our studio space a great deal, and these things take time. But we're always working, all the time, whatever else is going on. So we'd begun sketching out things for this record straight after the last one, and got heavily into tying it all up last year.""
Where are you both based at present? Are your surroundings urban, or rural?
"Eoin: "We're based in Scotland, although some of the early sketches on this record were done in New Zealand. We have a main studio that is literally on a farm surrounded by deer and rabbits. We definitely prefer working away from the city because there's a timeless thing in our environment. In an urban setting you can't really escape being reminded of the current year, and music fashions and so on.""
Is creating music a long and drawn-out process for you? How did making this album compare to previous ones?
"Mike Sandison: "It's different with every track. We often jam something down quickly and you tend to find those things are the ones with a great instant melody. The challenge with this record was crafting the tunes into a specific style and time period we want to reference. In fact it's not just the time period – we analyse the specific medium we're going for too. In this case there's a deliberate VHS video-nasty element throughout the record and to get there it wasn't just a case of processing sounds through old media, which is a given with us anyway, but we even went to the extent of timing changes in the music and the composition of the pieces, in really specific ways to give an impression of something familiar from soundtrack work that was around 30 years ago."
In what ways?
"Sandison: "For example, I guess the timing of the whole intro section to the album, the neutral tension in the high strings hanging right at the start of the record, or that short glimmer of hope that takes over in New Seeds near the end of the track. Those things hopefully imply a visual element. Some tracks deliberately finish earlier than you want them to, like actual cues in older soundtracks where they've been ripped out of much longer original masters that nobody ever gets to hear. Another example would maybe be at the end of the whole album, you've reached some sort of sanctuary and then the whole thing is stolen away from you again with the final track. That last track has a deliberate feeling of complete futility that I find kind of funny. That's where the obsessive, scientific work comes in, and yeah, it takes us ages.""
Could you elaborate on the "deliberate VHS video nasty element" a little? A few people have noticed the arpeggiated synth bits have a sort of John Carpenter feel ...
"Sandison: "There are quite a few influences on this record. Carpenter is kind of an easy reference point for most people though I'd say the main ones would be Fabio Frizzi, John Harrison and Mark Isham. We're very much into grim 70s and 80s movie soundtracks so there are maybe nods to composers such as Stefano Mainetti, Riz Ortolani, Paul Giovanni, Wendy Carlos, even Michael Nyman.""
One of the early hallmarks of Boards Of Canada
's music was the way that through artificially degrading or treating sounds, it employed a sense of nostalgia in a way that was by turn dreamy or creepy. Now it feels as if you can hear this sense in a raft of music, from Ariel Pink and chillwave to Broadcast's later work and the hauntology-inspired groups such as those found on Ghostbox. Can you hear your influence on other groups?
"Sandison: "I don't think we hear our own music the way other people hear it, so it's difficult to say whether we hear our sound in other people's work. I've definitely noticed some newer electronic artists latching on to specific techniques or styles from the past. Some of them are great.""
What do you look for in terms of musical equipment? In places, the percussion sounds like drum machines, but in other places it feels like you're using live drums…
"Sandison: "We're definitely vintage hardware freaks. We've always used older gear. Everything we use is decrepit. Our studio is full of wooden things covered with red LEDs. We'll go to great lengths to get hold of a specific instrument just to get a particular sound. For example, there's a sound in Cold Earth
that is something like only one second of audio. It comes from an obscure old effect unit that cost us a lot of time and road miles to source, and it ended up being one second of audio on the record. As for our percussion, it's never just a drum machine or a sample, we put a lot of real live drumming or percussion in there, woven into the rhythm tracks, and it brings a bit of chaos into the sound that you just can't achieve any other way."
Do you have roles in the studio? Is it possible to divide the workload in any definable way?
"Sandison: "We throw tracks back and forward at each other. Sometimes we jam the core idea down as a take, or one of us will start something and hand it over, and vice-versa. There isn't really one method or any particular strength for either of us because it changes from track to track. We both write melodies but at the same time we're both technicians in some way, so the process is quite unpredictable and messy.""
"Sandison: "Yes, it's loaded with patterns and messages. There are various tricks embedded throughout the whole body of this album, so it'll be interesting to see whether people pick up on these things. Some things are just simple structural things. For instance, Come To Dust
, the second-to-last track, is a musical reprise of Reach for the Dead
, which comes in as the second track. There's a palindromic structure centred around the track Collapse
in the middle. There's actually more use of subliminals on this record than on any previous album we've done, so we're interested to see what people will pick up on.""
There was a lot of speculation that the six-digit codes on the Records Store Day vinyl were a reference to number stations, short-wave radio broadcasts that are thought to be connected to international espionage. The cover appears to be a photo of the San Francisco skyline, shot from the vantage point of Alameda Naval Air Station, a now defunct military base operational during the cold war. Is this coincidence, or does it point to something thematic/conceptual about the record?
"Eoin: "Yeah, definitely – of course that's an ingredient of the theme on this record. In fact if you look again at the San Francisco skyline on the cover it's actually a ghost of the city. You're looking straight through it.""
A spot of web sleuthing reveals that Tomorrow's Harvest
is the name of an online clothing and supplies store that seems to cater for crisis scenarios – frozen and sealed food supplies, gas masks, solar power. I gather that you're both fathers. Could we maybe read Tomorrow's Harvest
as a sort of anxiety or fear for one's offspring in an unstable or uncertain world?
"Sandison: "Being a father fills you with a healthy understanding of your own mortality, and on a bigger scale that responsibility highlights the fragility of our society, or the problems with it. We've become a lot more nihilistic over the years. In a way we're really celebrating an idea of collapse rather than resisting it. It's probably quite a bleak album, depending on your perspective.""
You mentioned earlier that you were "prepar[ing] the audience for the tone and the message in this album" – is it fair to say that the tone of this album is post-apocalyptic?
"Sandison: "It's not post-apocalyptic so much as it is about an inevitable stage that lies in front of us. But it's better if listeners find the narrative themselves, in the titles and the sounds.""
In the context of history, we live in an age of unparalleled science and rationality. But despite this, religion and ideas of mysticism – along with other fringe concerns such as conspiracy, etc – continue to thrive. I gather that you're rationalists, atheists, etc – but the idea of the mystic obviously has an appeal to you ...
"Eoin: "There's a lot to play with there, for an artist. It affects people even if they don't consider themselves to be religious. Nobody really wants to accept that we're just a colony of organisms hurtling through a void on a ball of rock. I'd guess that's it, that the most rational individual doesn't really want to have his beliefs completely confirmed. It's in human nature to pursue spiritual or fantastic things, for whatever reason, that's why we like art and escapism, isn't it? Humans like to feel there's a purpose, even if there isn't one!""
Ok, so random question: three books that you'd recommend?
"Sandison: "This changes from month to month. Right now, maybe Why The West Rules – For Now: The Patterns Of History And What They Reveal About The Future by Ian Morris, You Are Not A Gadget by Jaron Lanier, and Musicophilia: Tales Of Music And The Brain by Oliver Sacks.""
I've read the Jaron Lanier book that you mention, which I thought was fascinating – I think one of the bits that's stuck with me, and would also seem to be relevant to the way you work, is his concept of design "lock-in", where keeping up with new technology actually ends up shepherding the creation process along quite restrictive lines.
"Sandison: "I absolutely agree with that. Modern technology often gives an illusion of empowerment while in reality it's increasingly all about removal of liberty, and homogenising the user base.""
And finally ... will there be live shows taking place around the record? Do Boards Of Canada
still exist as a live entity?
"Eoin: We've been busy in our rehearsal space lately, so never say never."
Band of Brothers
|| Band of Brothers
|| Gijsbert Kamer
"Band of Brothers" is a 2013 interview by Gijsbert Kamer. It originally appeared online at Volkskrant. 
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
Het electroduo Boards Of Canada maakt al meer dan vijftien jaar muziek en doet dat minstens zo goed als Daft Punk. Toch weten we na al die jaren nauwelijks iets van de twee. V brengt daar verandering in.
Geheimzinnig is het woord dat je het eerst te binnen schiet als je aan Boards Of Canada denkt. Alles aan de band is vaag en niets is wat het lijkt. Zeker is alleen dat Boards Of Canada de mooiste elektronische muziek maakt die er bestaat, en dat al meer dan vijftien jaar. Hun in 1998 op het invloedrijke Warp-label verschenen albumdebuut Music Has The Right To Children zette de toon voor een met lange tussenpozen verschenen reeks van tot nu toe vier albums en een tweetal EP's. Het in juni verschenen Tomorrow's Harvest is opnieuw van een ongekende schoonheid, die zich net als op de vorige albums langzaam prijsgeeft, maar dan ook voorgoed verslavend werkt.
Veel is er eigenlijk niet veranderd. Boards Of Canada maakt nog altijd instrumentale muziek. Vervaardigd met analoge synthesizers en zelf opgenomen samples van akoestische instrumenten en stemmen. De stukken muziek zijn soms abstract, dan weer zeer melodieus en bezwerend en altijd gelaagd. Alle platen roepen gevoelens van nostalgie op, alsof je door een doos met oude Polaroidfoto's vlooit.
De muziek klinkt nogal eens alsof je een oud kapotgedraaid cassettebandje opzet en er geluiden te horen zijn die veroorzaakt zijn door slijtage, wat een aparte sfeer geeft. De muziek is soms sinister, dan weer dreigend maar op een vreemde manier altijd warm en troostrijk.
Maar waar komt het allemaal vandaan? Wie zijn Boards Of Canada eigenlijk en waarom weten we na al die jaren nauwelijks iets van ze?
Zeker is dat Boards Of Canada wordt gevormd door twee broers, Marcus en Michael Sandison. Maar het duurde zelfs even voordat hun familieband werd onthuld. Bang om met het uit twee broers bestaande danceduo Orbital te worden vergeleken, veinsden Marcus en Michael dat ze vrienden waren. Michael gebruikte de familienaam Sandison en Marcus noemde zich naar zijn tweede roepnaam Eoin.
De broers groeiden op in Schotland en woonden meer dan dertig jaar geleden, toen ze een jaar of 10 waren, een jaar in Canada. Interviews geven ze zelden, het enige wat ze bij het verschijnen van hun nieuwe plaat toestonden, was per land een emailinterview beantwoorden.
De Volkskrant leverde de lijst met vragen vlak na de release van Tomorrow's Harvest, begin juni, in. Een release die ook met grote geheimzinnigheid gepaard ging. Acht jaar na het voorlaatste album The Campfire Headphase en zeven jaar na de EP Trans Canada Highway dook er tijdens Record Store Day in de New Yorkse winkel Other Music ineens een plaat op van Boards Of Canada met daarop niet veel meer dan een elektronisch uitgesproken reeks cijfers, die zouden een code bevatten die uitsluitsel moest geven over de release van een heel nieuw Boards Of Canada-album.
Die plaat werd al even geheimzinnig gepresenteerd in een gesloten, desolaat ogend vakantiepark in de Californische Mojavewoestijn. Een plek die past bij de hoesfotografie die de schimmige contouren van San Francisco laat zien.
Tomorrow's Harvest is opnieuw een prachtig album, dat lijkt opgezet als een soundtrack bij een niet erg vrolijke film. De plaat kent een aantal wonderschone momenten, zoals in New Seeds waarin het synthesizerthema na vier minuten wordt onderbroken en er een kippenvelmoment ontstaat als er een ander thema wordt ingezet. Alsof er een oester openbreekt en er een parel begint te blinken.
Net als de vorige platen is ook Tomorrow's Harvest het resultaat van het laag over laag aanbrengen van opgenomen en gesampelde geluiden afkomstig uit een enorm arsenaal aan akoestische instrumenten en analoge synthesizers, opgeslagen in hun eigen Schotse studio.
Meer dan drie weken duurde het voordat Michael en Marcus Sandison schriftelijk antwoord gaven. Soms heel uitgebreid, soms heel kort. 'That's completely nuts' was het antwoord op de vraag wat ze ervan vonden dat de Record Store Dayplaat op eBay voor $5.700 is verhandeld.
Hier een enigszins ingekorte weergave van de correspondentie.
Er zit acht jaar tussen jullie vorige album en Tomorrow's Harvest. Wanneer begonnen jullie eraan en wat was het idee erachter?
"Michael: 'We begonnen met het maken van schetsen, meteen na de release van de EP Trans Canada Highway
in 2006. We woonden vervolgens een paar jaar in de VS en begonnen twee jaar geleden pas echt. In de tussentijd hielden we ons bezig met de opvoeding van onze kinderen, maar buiten Boards Of Canada
deden we geen ander werk.' 'We zijn beiden erg geïnteresseerd in politiek en wat er verder in de wereld gaande is. Al sinds 2005 wilden we iets doen met het gegeven van de overpopulatie in de wereld en de toch wel donkere kant waar onze maatschappij steeds meer naar afglijdt.' "
Jullie muziek is altijd beïnvloed door filmsoundtracks uit de jaren zeventig en tachtig. Zijn er nieuwe invloeden bijgekomen?
"Michael: 'Ik probeer me van alle hedendaagse muziek af te sluiten wanneer ik aan een nieuw album werk, maar voor deze plaat wilden we een specifiek kleurenpalet samenstellen waarvoor we bewust teruggrepen naar soundtracks uit de vroege jaren tachtig. Films van David Cronenberg en John Carpenter, maar we grepen ook terug naar sciencefiction, krautrock en progrockmuziek uit de jaren zeventig. Marcus: 'We luisteren eigenlijk zelden voor ons plezier naar andere elektronische muziek.' "
De sfeer op de nieuwe plaat is donkerder dan voorheen. Post-apocalyptisch wordt die in veel recensies genoemd. Zijn jullie het daarmee eens?
"Michael: 'We proberen het allemaal ambigu te houden, maar de thematiek is inderdaad donker geaard. Het zijn nu eenmaal geen fraaie tijden, daar willen we iets van laten doorklinken. Maar altijd proberen we de donkere kanten te verluchtigen en andersom een luchtiger ingezet nummer een donker randje te geven. We proberen al onze muziek zowel licht als donker te laten zijn. Dan is de zeggingskracht groter.' "
Het nummer Collapse
halverwege het album lijkt een keerpunt. De nummers erna lijken duidelijker gekleurd en minder schimmig.
"Marcus: 'Dat klopt. Het nummer markeert bewust een keerpunt. Je zou het ook als spiegelmoment kunnen zien. Het een na laatste nummer kent eenzelfde melodie als het tweede nummer, bijvoorbeeld. De tweede helft zouden we als minder menselijk willen typeren."
"Michael: 'De laatste paar nummers verwijzen thematisch naar een soort wederopstanding. Niet dat het goed afloopt, integendeel. We hanteren een pessimistisch wereldbeeld. De mensheid maakt er een rommeltje van, maar er mag nog wel ruimte zijn voor hoop.' "
Vlak na het verschijnen van het album kwam er de wereldwijde afluisterkwestie rond klokkenluider Edward Snowden. Het lijkt wel alsof jullie op dergelijke gebeurtenissen anticipeerden op Tomorrow's Harvest
"Marcus: 'De reactie op de zaak Snowden verbaasde ons. De Amerikaanse regering heeft internet en de netwerken zelf gebouwd, en als je weet dat telefoontjes standaard werden afgeluisterd voordat internet ontstond, waarom zou diezelfde regering dan niet hetzelfde doen met zaken en data die door internet wereldkundig worden gemaakt?'"
In 2011 nam Solange Knowles een vocale versie van jullie nummer Left Side Drive
op, wat was jullie betrokkenheid daarbij?
"Michael: 'Solange benaderde onze platenmaatschappij en wij gaven haar onze toestemming. Ik realiseer me dat het raar werd gevonden: iemand uit de r&b die een Boards Of Canadat
rack inzingt, maar wij vonden het mooi wat ze deed. Het klinkt voor mij als een onbekend thema van een James Bondfilm of zoiets.' "
"Michael: 'We maken nog steeds veel van die melodische nummers, maar ze pasten wat minder goed op de albums. Wellicht een andere keer.'"
"Marcus: 'Het interesseert ons nog altijd hoor, het componeren van sterke melodieën. Sterker nog, ik denk dat we een van de weinige bands binnen de elektronische muziek zijn die zo veel nadruk leggen op de melodie. Maar op de nieuwe plaat hanteren we meer het oude idee van soundtracks. Korte fragmenten, en melodielijnen die abrupt worden afgebroken.' "
Vroeger hebben jullie nog wel eens opgetreden, maar al jaren niet meer. Bestaat er een kans dat Boards Of Canada
weer het podium op gaat?
"Michael: We willen wel weer liveshows gaan geven als we er echt iets speciaals van kunnen maken. We zijn er al een beetje mee aan de slag gegaan en hopen dat er snel iets bijzonders uitkomt.' "
De plaat Tomorrow's Harvest verscheen begin juni met grote geheimzinnigheid. Tijdens Record Store Day in de New Yorkse winkel Other Music dook er ineens een album op van Boards Of Canada met daarop niet veel meer dan een elektronisch uitgesproken reeks cijfers, die zouden een code bevatten die uitsluitsel moest geven over de release van een heel nieuw Boards Of Canada-album. Het album verscheen acht jaar na het voorlaatste album The Campfire Headphase en zeven jaar na de EP Trans Canada Highway.
There is an eight year span between your last album and Tomorrow's Harvest
. When did you start working on it and what was the idea behind it?
"Michael: "We began by making sketches, right after the release of the Trans Canada Highway
EP in 2006. We then lived in the US for a couple of years and really began working on it two years ago. In the meantime we spent time raising our children, but we didn't do any work outside of Boards Of Canada
." "We're both very interested in politics and other global affairs. Since 2005 we wanted to do something with the fact of overpopulation in the world and also the darker side that our society is progressively sliding into. "
Your music has always been influenced by movie soundtracks from the seventies and eighties. Have there been any new influences?"
"Michael: "I try to shut myself off from contemporary music when I'm working on a new album, but for this record we wanted to create a specific color palette for which we kept returning to soundtracks of the early eighties. Movies by David Cronenberg and John Carpenter, but we also relied on science fiction, krautrock and progrock from the seventies." Marcus: "Actually we barely listen to other electronic music for fun." "
The atmosphere on the new record is darker than before. A lot of reviews use the word post-apocalyptic. Do you agree with that?
"Michael: "We try to keep everything ambiguous, but the themes are indeed darker. These simply aren't pretty times, we want to resonate that. But we always try to alleviate the dark sides and conversely give a lighter song a dark edge. We try to let all our music be both light and dark. That augments the expressiveness." "
The track Collapse
halfway on the album seems to be a turning point. The songs that come afterward seem to be more expressly colored and less vague.
"Marcus: "That's right. The track intentionally marks a turning point. You could also consider it to be a mirroring moment. The second to last track has a similar melody as the second track, for example. The second part we would like to classify as less human."
"Michael: "The last couple of tracks thematically refer to a kind of resurrection. Not that there is a happy ending, on the contrary. We maintain a pessimistic view of the world. Mankind messes up, but there can still be room for hope." "
Right after the release of the album there was the mass surveillance issue around Edward Snowden. It's as if you anticipated on such events on Tomorrow's Harvest
"Marcus: "The reaction on the Snowden case surprised us. The American government built the internet and the networks themselves, and if you're aware that telephone calls were monitored by default before the inception of the Internet, why wouldn't that same government not do the same with affairs and data that are published through the internet?" "
In 2011 Solange Knowles recorded a vocal version of your song, what was your involvement in this?
"Michael: "Solange approached our record label and we gave her our permission. I realize that this was considered to be unusual: someone from the R&B scene who sings over a Boards Of Canada
track, but we liked what she did. To me it sounds like an unknown theme(song) from a James Bond movie or something like that." "
"Michael: "We still make a lot of those melodic tracks, but didn't fit as well on those albums. Maybe another time." "
Marcus: "It still interests us, composing strong melodies. In fact, I think we're one of the few bands in electronic music who emphasizes the melody so strongly. But on the new record we are rather using the old idea of soundtracks. Small fragments, and melodies that are cut off abruptly."
"In the past you occasionally performed live, but you haven't done this for years. Is there a possibility that Boards Of Canada
will be on stage again?"
"Michael: "We want to perform live again if we can make it into something really special. We've already started working on this a little and we hope that this will soon result in something special.""
L'Assenza Di Domani
|| L'Assenza Di Domani
|| Damir Ivic
|| Il Mucchio
|| July 2013
|| Jul + Aug 2013
"L'Assenza Di Domani" is a 2013 interview by Damir Ivic. It originally appeared in Il Mucchio magazine Jul + Aug 2013. 
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
Da un lato è bello il mistero. Un mistero fatto di assenze, di interviste rarissime ed esibizioni live ancora più rare. Dall’altro, qualche anno fa, ci era capitato di passare quasi un intero pomeriggio con Marcus e Mike Sandison, scoprendo due persone cordiali e gradevolissime.
Stavolta l’unico modo per raggiungerli è la mail. Ma traspaiono lo stesso attitudini, idee, modi di fare e di ragionare; e una linearità di pensiero che veramente si fa beffe delle inutili complicazioni o delle fastidiose superficialità di tutto ciò che è (troppo) contemporaneo.
Si parla molto e soprattutto del loro ultimo lavoro appena uscito, Tomorrow's Harvest, perché gli spunti decisamente non mancano.
Insomma, direi che la faccenda del “Cosa diavolo avete fatto in tutti questi anni passati dall’ultimo disco?” sarà ormai diventato un tormentone insopportabile. Ovvio, la tentazione di farvi anche io questa domanda non posso non averla, però fatemi chiedere: ma invece, cos’è che in tutti questi anni avreste voluto fare e non siete riusciti a fare?
"MARCUS: Mmmmh. Dormire, direi."
All’epoca dell’uscita di Campfire Headphase
ci incontrammo: sì, sono uno di quei pallosissimi tipi che fa quella pallosissima supposta professione dello scrivere di musica. Per l’uscita di quell’album lì, accettaste infatti - cosa più unica che rara per voi - di fare delle interviste faccia a faccia, non solo via mail. Intuisco che vi abbiamo divertito ed entusiasmato tantissimo, se ora siete tornati alla policy del solo-via-mail...
"MARCUS: Ahah, no dai, non è questo. È che molto semplicemente scegliendo la modalità via mail non siamo obbligati a passare giorni e giorni ascoltandoci ripetere sempre gli stessi concetti."
Una cosa che invece vi diverte sempre tanto è snobbare le offerte che vi arrivano, immagino in quantità copiosa, per esibirbi dal vivo.
"MIKE: Vero, di offerte ne arrivano parecchie. Soprattutto da parte dei festival. Però ecco, diciamo che se decidessimo di esibirci dal vivo vorremmo che fosse qualcosa di veramente speciale. Se proprio decidessimo di farlo. In effetti ti confessiamo che ultimamente abbiamo ripreso a pensarla come un’ipotesi fattibile, sì, e abbiamo iniziato a lavorarci sopra."
Se vi guardate indietro, ci sono degli elementi di Campfire Headphase
che oggi non vi soddisfano più? Ve lo chiedo perché mi pare che Tomorrow's Harvest
sia una decisa svolta, come atmosfere e come scelta dei suoni, rispetto al suo predecessore.
"MARCUS: In verità ogni volta che lavoriamo ad un disco nuovo tendiamo a far sì che venga fuori diverso, come suoni ed atmosfere, rispetto a quello precedente... o almeno questo è quello che proviamo a fare. È una scelta ben precisa. Vogliamo comunque dare un’idea di cambiamento, vogliamo far sentire con chiarezza che si tratta di un nuovo capitolo. Detto questo, ancora oggi credo che dentro Campfire Headphase
ci siano delle tracce riuscitissime, fra le cose migliori che abbiamo mai fatto. Fare un disco nuovo diverso da quello precedente non significa disconoscere il predecessore, no?"
Allora, prendiamo una traccia da ‘Tomorrow's Harvest
come White Cyclosa
: c’è veramente tanto di Carpenter, è davvero - come dire? - paranaoia urbana retrofuturistica (...ok, ok, scusateci, noi giornalisti musicali siamo brutte persone e parliamo tutti un po’ così).
A sentire pezzi così, il claim che potrebbe riassumere l’album potrebbe essere “Il mondo è impazzito!”. Ma la malinconia che permea la gran parte del disco invece farebbe optare per un più mesto “Il mondo si è intristito”. Ha senso? Quale dei due claim possibili è meno scemo ed insensato?
"MIKE: In realtà credo che potrebbero proprio andare bene tutt’e due. Ma se devo
dirti un buon modo per descrivere la nostra musica, un modo tra l’altro sempre valido di qualsiasi album si tratti, ti direi una cosa tipo: “Musica da ascoltare in cuffia che ti permette di estraniarti per un attimo dal mondo e quindi di osservarlo sotto una luce diversa”. Non so, rende un po’ l’idea? Tornando poi nello specifico a Tomorrow's Harvest
, da un lato è vero che c’è anche un sottotesto politico in questo disco; dall’altro tuttavia non siamo mai stati interessati a quel tipo di retorica piuttosto teatrale e chiassosa che un artista tende sempre a mettere nei suoi lavori quando vuole permearli di significati e messaggi politici. Noi abbiamo voluto agire in altro modo. Abbiamo lavorato per dare vita ad un’atmosfera cinematica che fosse cupa, tetra."
In tutta onestà, e non sto (solo) parlando di musica: ha senso essere nostalgici? Vivevamo meglio negli anni 90, per dire, rispetto ad oggi?
"MIKE: Il mondo è qualcosa in continua evoluzione, inoltre credo sia molto facile guardare al passato come qualcosa di più bello rispetto al presente... qualsiasi sia il presente che tu stia vivendo. È vero, non te lo nascondo, mi capita più di una volta di avere l’impressione di vivere oggi in un mondo che è più scuro e più complicato rispetto a quello di qualche anno fa. Ma questo credo derivi semplicemente dal fatto che quando sei più giovane non ti curi molto di quello che succede nel mondo, sei tutto focalizzato sulla tua vita, sui tuoi obiettivi. Diventando più vecchi, diventa allora quasi fisiologico farsi più disillusi, più scettici."
Ma voi altri siete ancora beatamente confinati nella campagna, da bravi gentiluomini britannici d’altri tempi?
"MARCUS: Oh sì, lo siamo. Anche se tendiamo a non avere vestiti in tweed e teste di cervo impagliate a decorarci le pareti. "
suona in tutto e per tutto come un disco tipicamente Boards Of Canada
, al di là delle differenze che possono esserci tra un vostro album e l’altro. Ok. Ma prima o durante l’averci lavorato sopra, c’è stato qualche ascolto che vi ha in qualche modo influenzato o addirittura indirizzato?
"MIKE: Quando lavoriamo ad un disco, per scelta decidiamo di non ascoltare nessun tipo di musica contemporanea, in giro in quel momento.‘ Il motivo è molto preciso: vogliam evitare che anche inconsapevolmente nelle tracce del disco entrino degli elementi ‘che possano in qualche modo datare la musica; Durante la lavorazione di Tomorrow's Harvest
ti posso dire che abbiamo ascoltato molte colonne cinematografiche anni 70 e anni 80, possibilmente di film piuttosto deprimenti. Come nomi di compositori, potrei fartene molti di italiani: Fabio Frizzi, Stefano Mainetti, Riz Ortolani. Di stranieri, i primi da citare credo siano John Harrison, Mark Isham, Paul Giovanni, Wendy Carlos.
Ma potrebbe avere un suo senso anche mettere in questa lista uno come Michael Nyman."
Stiamo tra l’altro parlando di un disco piuttosto lungo e con molte molte tracce, diciassette. Un disco, poi, senza cadute di tono. Quanto materiale avete scartato, prima di completare la tracklist definitiva?
"MIKE: Non poco. Forse da farci addirittura un altro album o due, anche se si tratta di tutta roba non finalizzata, che ha bisogno di lavoro sopra. Questo per noi è assolutamente normale, sai: stessa cosa è successa con i dischi precedenti. Magari parte di questo materiale inutilizzato troverà modo di vedere la luce prima o poi. Non lo escludiamo."
Non ho resistito alla tentazione di dare un occhio al forum di We Are The Music Makers
, uno dei bastioni dell’IDM e della vostra fan base più intransigente. Uno dei più divertenti commentava acidamente la comparsa su “Rolling Stone” americano di un articolo - peraltro effettivamente scritto in modo pessimo ed idiota - su di voi: “Non avrei mai pensato che i Boards Of Canada
sarebbero diventati così mainstream da poter finire su ‘Rolling Stone’. Un nuovo punto basso, se volete sapere la mia opinione”. Insomma: finire sui media mainstream può farvi del male? E ha senso essere così gelosi della musica e dei gruppi che si amano?
"MARCUS: Mettiamola così: tanto noi non diventeremo mai i Genesis o gli U2 o qualcosa del genere. Mai. Detto questo, posso anche capire lo spirito con cui certe cose vengono scritte o pensate, ma in generale credo che odiare qualcosa solo perché questa stessa cosa è amata da altri è un modo abbastanza insano di affrontare la vita..."
Ok, già che abbiamo sfiorato la galassia fan gelosi&maniaci magari un po’ nerd diamo il via al classicone - per loro - “quale strumentazione avete usato per comporre il disco, quale no e perché”.
"MIKE: Un paio di vecchi synth, che amavamo tantissimo, sono morti durante la registrazione. A quel punto abbiamo optato per ciò che qualsiasi persona dotata di acume, intelletto e ragionevolezza avrebbe fatto: li abbiamo rimpiazzati con dei synth ancora più vecchi e ancora più malmessi. Furbi, vero? In generale, sugli strumenti abbiamo fatto una specifica ricerca su quelli che venivano usati di solito per le colonne sonore dei film anni 80... e diciamo che c’abbiamo dato dentro con l'impegno. C’abbiamo perso la testa, ecco, abbiamo esagerato un filino, diventando forse perfino un po’ troppo maniacali. Al di là di questo, come sequencer abbiamo voluto affidarci solo ad hardware e non a software: non puoi capire che sollievo liberarsi dalla schiavitù delle griglie da seguire su un monitor che ti dicono cosa devi fare e quando lo devi fare."
In definitiva, Tomorrow's Harvest
è un buon disco? E se lo è, perché? Mi rendo conto che sembra una domanda scema. Ma forse non lo è. Forse.
"MARCUS: Una cosa è sicura: è venuto fuori esattamente come volevamo venisse fuori. Se poi questo significa che sia un buon disco o meno, non sta a noi dirlo. Ma abbiamo iniziato a lavorarci sopra avendo bene in testa una direzione, e quella direzione è stata mantenuta e il risultato finale la rispecchia interamente. Questo sì."
On one hand, mystery is fascinating. A mystery made of absences, rare interviews and even rarer live performances.
On the other hand, a few years ago, we happened to spend almost an entire afternoon with Marcus and Mike Sandison, discovering two friendly and very pleasant guys.
This time, however, the only possible way to reach them was by e-mail, but the same attitudes, ideas, ways of doing and thinking shine through, together with a linearity of thought that mocks of unnecessary complications and annoying superficialities of anything that is (too) contemporary.
There is a lot of talk around the band, especially about their latest album, "Tomorrow's Harvest", which surely doesn't lack in sparks and ideas.
So, I guess that the "what the hell you been doing all these years since the last album?" matter has probably become an unbearable torment for you. Of course, I am tempted to pose the question too, but let me ask instead, is there something you would have wanted to do during these years, and did not manage to?
"MARCUS: Hmmmm. Sleeping, I'd say."
We met at the time of The Campfire Headphase
release: yes, I'm one of those boring guys who does that boring so-called profession of writing about music. On the occasion of that album's release, in fact, you accepted - something rare and unique for you – some face-to-face interviews, not only via mail. I assume we journalists did amuse and impress you quite positively, since now you switched back to the strictly-email policy...
"MARCUS: Haha, no, come on, it's not about that. It's simply that thanks to emails we're not forced to to hear ourselves repeating the same things over and over again."
One thing you seem to love is declining offers for live gigs - which I guess are quite a number.
"MIKE: True, we actually do receive a lot of offers. Especially from festivals. But well, let's say that if we would ever decide to do a live performance, we want it to be something really special. If we'd ever decide to do it. In fact I must confess that lately we have started to think of it as a possible hypothesis... yes, we started working on it."
If you look back, is there something from Campfire Headphase
that does not satisfy you anymore today? I ask this because it seems to me that "Tomorrow's Harvest" is a significant step forward from its precedessor, especially concerning moods and sounds.
"MARCUS: Honestly, every time we work on a new album we tend to make it sound differently from the previous one, as for sounds and moods... or at least this is our aim. It is a very precise choice. We still want to suggest an idea of change, we want to hear clearly that it is all about a new chapter. This said, I still believe that Campfire Headphase
contains many good tracks, among the best things we have ever done. Making a new album which sounds different from the previous one doesn't mean disowning the predecessor, right?"
So, let's pick a track from ""Tomorrow's Harvest
"", say White Cyclosa
: there is really much of Carpenter, it really sounds like - how can I say? – urban, retro-futuristic paranonia (... ok, ok, sorry: we music journalists are bad people and we tend to speak like that).
Basing on tracks like that, we could synthesize the album with the line "World has gone mad." But, the subtle melancholy pervading most of the album would instead lead us to something more regretful like "World has saddened". Does this make sense to you? Which of the two lines sounds less stupid and foolish to you?
"MIKE: I actually think that both might be ok. But if you ask me about a good line to describe our music, a line which by the way could fit any of our albums, I'd say something like: "Music to listen to using headphones allowing you to abstract yourself from the world for a moment, then coming back to observe it under a different light". Does it convey the idea? Speaking about "Tomorrow's Harvest
" in particular, on one hand it is true that there is also a political subtext in this record; however, on the other hand we have never been interested in that kind of dramatic and rowdy rhetoric that sometimes artists tend to put in their work, trying to fill it with political meanings and messages. We wanted to act differently. We have worked in order to create a kinematic, dark and gloomy mood."
To be completely honest, not (only) talking about music itself: does it make sense to you, to be nostalgic? Do you feel we lived better, say, in the 90's, than today?
"MIKE: World is constantly changing, also I think it is very easy to think back to the past as something more beautiful than present times... whatever present you're living in. It is true, I won't lie: I often feel living in a world which is darker and more complicated than a few years ago. But I believe this comes simply from the fact that when you're younger you do not care much about what happens in the world, you're all focused on your life, on your goals. The more you get old, the more you become almost physiologically disillusioned and skeptical."
Are you guys still blissfully retired in the countryside, like proper good ole British gentlemen?
"MARCUS: Oh yes, we are. Although we tend not to dress in tweed and to hang stuffed deer heads on the walls."
" sounds like a typical Boards Of Canada
album, aside from the differences existing among your albums. Is there something you've listened to before or during the studio work, that has somehow influenced or even addressed you towards something specific?
"MIKE: While working on a new album we always deliberately decide not to listen to any kind of contemporary music. The reason is quite clear: we want to prevent elements that could somehow put a datestamp on our music from penetrating the tracks of the album; during the studio work for "Tomorrow's Harvest
" we have listened to many soundtracks from the 70s and the 80s, possibly the more depressing ones. I could name many Italian composers: Fabio Frizzi, Stefano Mainetti, Riz Ortolani. As for foreigners instead, the first ones to mention would be John Harrison, Mark Isham, Paul John, Wendy Carlos. Also Michael Nyman might also be included here."
By the way, we're talking about a rather long album with many, many tracks: seventeen. Also, an album with no "lows". How much material did you leave out before reaching the final tracklist?
"MIKE: Quite much. Perhaps enough to make another album or even two, even if we're talking of raw stuff that still needs much work on. This is absolutely normal for us, you know, the same happened with the previous albums. Maybe part of this unused material will somehow see the light someday. We can't exclude that."
I couldn't help being tempted to take a look at We Are The Music Makers forum
, one of the fortresses of IDM, that also gathers your more intransigent fans. Among the nicer ones, one acidly commented the article about you on the American version of "Rolling Stone" – which by the way, was actually idiotic and poorly written: "I never thought that Boards Of Canada
would become so mainstream to end up on 'Rolling Stone'. A new low in their career, if you ask me.” So, does it bother you to be featured on mainstream media such as that? And: does it makes sense, as a fan, to be so jealous of the music and the bands you love most?
"MARCUS: Let's say that we'll never be like Genesis or U2 or something like that. Never. This said, I can also understand the spirit and the aim with which certain things are written or thought, but I generally believe that hating something just because also other people love it as well is a fairly insane way to deal with life..."
Ok, now that we landed on the ground of "jealous & maniacs & maybe a little nerdy fans", let's start with one of their classics: "what equipment did you use to compose the album, what you did not, and why."
"MIKE: A couple of old synths, that we really loved so much, died during the recording. At that point we opted for what any insightful and smart person would have done: we replaced them with older, even more shabby synths. Smart move, isn't it? Speaking in general, we actually did a deep research on the audio equipments that were commonly used for movie soundtracks during the 80s... and le'ts say we really worked hard on this. We've lost our heads on this matter, perhaps we've exaggerated a bit, maybe we took this a bit too maniacally. But aside from this, for the sequencers we decided to rely only on hardware, withouth softwares: you can't imagine what a relief it was to get rid of all those grids on screen teling you what to do and when to do it."
Finally: is "Tomorrow's Harvest
" a good album? And if yes, why? I admit that sounds like a stupid question. But maybe it is not. Maybe.
"MARCUS: One thing's sure: it sounds exactly as we wanted it to sound. Whether this means that it is a good album or not, we're not supposed to decide it. But we started to work on it with a clear direction, that direction was kept all along the work, and the final result completely reflects it. We can say that."
Les Champs de la Machine
|| Les Champs de la Machine
|| Sylvain Collin
|| Magic RPM
|| July 2013
"Les Champs de la Machine" is a 2013 interview by Sylvain Collin. It originally appeared in Magic RPM. 
This is an original text copied verbatim from the original source. Do not edit this text to correct errors or misspellings. Aside from added wikilinks, this text is exactly as it originally appeared.
Boards Of Canada
Dossier coordonné par Jean-François Le Puil
Article et Interview Sylvain Collin
Photographies Iain Campbell
Les Moissons du Ciel
La nostalgie comme arme de destruction massive : Boards Of Canada est allé chercher dans le passé un moyen (imaginaire) d’anéantir l’idéologie du progrès technologique que l’on nous vend au quotidien. La fratrie est revenue du voyage avec Tomorrow's Harvest, véritable petit chef-d’oeuvre de la musique électronique. Élaboré pendant plusieurs années, cet album exhorte l’auditeur à fantasmer une fin du monde différente : une apocalypse ironique et onirique. Un dialogue fantastique et jubilatoire entre George Orwell et George A. Romero mis en son avec une précision et une minutie exemplaires.
P28 Les Moissons du Ciel
Boards Of Canada à la lumière du jour d'après.
P34 LA GALAXIE S’ANIME
Dès collègues de tous bords incitent le duo à s’ouvrir.
P37 LA MUSIQUE DES RÊVES
Clap clap de fin en compagnie de Michel Gondry
Marcus Eoin et Mike Sandison auront beau le nier, ils sont très soucieux de la manière dont le public perçoit leur musique. Il n'y a absolument rien de méprisable à cela, bien au contraire. S'il avait pu, Stanley Kubrick aurait repeint lui-même les salles de cinéma qu'il n’estimait pas assez obscures pour projeter ses ﬁlms. Pour Boards Of Canada, c'est un peu la même chose. Bon, d'accord, ils ne viendront pas régler eux-mêmes l’équaliseur de votre chaîne hi-ﬁ ou changer la disposition de vos enceintes audiophiles, mais ils prennent soin de tous les détails, de l'enregistrement jusqu'à la promotion. Ainsi, c'est seulement lors de la sortie du LP précédent, The Campfire Headphase (2005), que le duo révèle du bout des lèvres être en réalité une fratrie. Pourquoi cacher un élément biographique a priori anodin ? Principalement pour éviter les comparaisons avec Paul et Phil Hartnoll d’Orbital, rétorquent-ils à l'époque. Curieux. Sans doute ont-ils aussi voulu échapper à toute une série de questions intimidantes sur leur enfance, leur famille, etc. À ce titre, il est particulièrement édiﬁant de relire les papiers écrits aux débuts des Beach Boys, de The Jesus And Mary Chain ou d'Oasis. En revanche, ce n'est pas difficile à imaginer, mais les Sandison s'entendent beaucoup mieux que les frères Wilson, Reid ou Gallagher. Gamins, ils jouent déjà de la musique ensemble. Vers dix ou douze ans, ils bricolent sur un magnétophone multi-pistes. Plus tard, Marcus monte un groupe de métal au lycée. Mike ne goûte pas autant ce genre de musique, mais les deux frangins continuent de composer conjointement à l'aide de leurs synthés. Le début des années 90 est le prologue de l'aventure de Boards Of Canada. Un cadre sonore se dessine lentement et des compositions prennent forme. Beaucoup de musique s'accumule sur les bandes. Assez pour sortir quelques disques, mais Mike et Marcus ne sont pas assez bons. Du moins, c'est leur avis, car pour avoir entendu quelques-uns de leurs vieux morceaux, des cassettes qu'ils distribuaient à leurs amis jusqu'à Boc Maxima (1996), cette première mouture de Music Has the Right to Children (1998), ils n'avaient pas grand chose à envier aux cadors de l’IDM de l'époque : Aphex Twin, The Orb, The Future Sound Of London, Autechre et Orbital, donc. Depuis sa première publication, Boards Of Canada prend le temps de dégrossir, de polir, de peauﬁner et de fignoler jusqu'à parvenir au disque précis qu'il a en tête. Mike confie même être capable de dépenser du temps et de l'argent pour récupérer du matériel audio qui ne servira que pour une toute petite seconde de musique. Voilà probablement pourquoi Tomorrow's Harvest mit sept longues années à aboutir.
Dans les musiques électroniques, les dates de péremption des disques se révèlent parfois courtes : les jours peuvent valoir des semaines et les années des siècles. Boards Of Canada est assurément une denrée musicale non périssable. Si le temps ne semble pas avoir de prise sur leur musique, ça n'est pas uniquement parce que les deux frangins sont fanatiques d'équipements vintage. Certes, les vieilles machines confèrent une certaine patine à leur son, mais la situation géographique de leur résidence et de leur studio y contribue tout autant. C'est sûr, dans la campagne écossaise où sont reclus les deux compositeurs, le temps passe moins vite. Beaucoup moins vite. Si vivre ainsi isolés leur permet de développer un imaginaire différent, cela peut être aussi le chemin le plus direct vers le ressentiment antisocial et la paranoïa. Comment trouver le juste équilibre ? "Ah ah, mais nous ne sommes quand même pas des ermites !", nous précise Mike Sandison par email, une façon de communiquer privilégiée par le groupe à l'heure de promouvoir Tomorrow's Harvest dans le monde.
"Quand nous parlons d’isolement, c’est d’un point de vue artistique, pas social. Nous ne ressentons pas le besoin de traîner dans un contexte urbain, de nous tenir au courant de tout ce qui se fait en musique, de ce qui est populaire, etc. Ce genre de choses - la mode, la culture urbaine - relève du bruit pour nous, comme des interférences radio. Et cela devient une grosse source de distraction lorsque nous essayons de créer notre propre musique. Je trouve qu’une bonne partie de la musique actuelle sonne comme si elle était composée par des artistes qui regardent chacun par-dessus l'épaule de l’autre. Je préférais l’époque pré-Internet quand les genres musicaux étaient clairement différenciés parce que ça permettait aux groupes et aux styles de musique en général d’évoluer indépendamment et de se développer pleinement, de façon concentrée et exclusive. L’Internet et la vie urbaine hyperconnectée a détruit cette pureté d’action."
Vous avez dit rétrograde ? Les cités modernes émettent donc des ondes négatives qui nuisent à la créativité. Pour surenchérir, comme il l’avouait récemment (par mail) au Guardian en faisant référence au livre You Are Not A Gadget (2010) de l’essayiste américain Jaron Lanier, Mike considère que "la technologie contemporaine nous donne souvent l’illusion du pouvoir alors qu’en réalité elle ne cesse de nous retirer notre liberté et homogénéise le comportement des utilisateurs." Ce constat morose mais ﬁnalement pertinent sur la société a tendance à se propager depuis quelque temps. Il rappelle la vison des films d’anticipation post-atomique des années 70 - Soylent Green (1973), Logan’s Run (1976), Silent Running (1972), Phase IV (1974), etc. - et des séries B paranoïaques du début des années 80 (notamment les ﬁlms de zombie italiens). Assez peu perspicaces voire franchement fantaisistes sur le plan de la prospective, ces ﬁlms sont beaucoup plus intéressants sur ce qu’ils révèlent de nos angoisses sociales ou écologiques et de nos phobies collectives. Derrière l’apparence d’un cliché Instagram, la pochette de Tomorrow's Harvest est au diapason : la silhouette des immeubles de San Francisco brise la ligne d’un horizon désolé et disparaît comme phagocytée par une lueur incandescente. On contemple alors une cité agonisante, puis un mirage ; la rémanence d’un futur utopique oublié... Une fois le disque posé sur la platine, cette atmosphère est presque palpable. Mike en rajoute une couche, toujours auprès du Guardian:
""Nous sommes devenus beaucoup plus nihilistes au ﬁl du temps. Dans un sens, nous célébrons l’idée d’effondrement (ndlr: cf le titre Collapse
au milieu du disque) plus que nous tentons d’y résister: C’est probablement un album déprimant mais ça reste une question de point de vue. Il ne s’agit pas tant d’une œuvre post-apocalyptique, il y est plutôt question d’une étape qui nous attend tous, inexorablement." "
Voilà pour le décor. Certes, en fonction de ses expériences cinématographiques, de ses lectures ou du rapport que chacun entretient avec la musique de Boards Of Canada, l’album n’évoquera probablement pas les mêmes images. Le canevas dramatique élaboré ici par le duo écossais est d’une précision telle que les collages aléatoires et abstraits de ﬁlms Super 8 qui font office de vidéos promotionnelles ne sont pas aussi pertinents. Non, même si on y retrouve une certaine douceur sonore familière, Tomorrow's Harvest n’est vraiment pas un album d’electro ambient progressive ou un kaléidoscope sonore acidulé. Il a été conçu comme une bande originale de ﬁlm et se doit d’être écouté ainsi. Malheureusement, aujourd’hui, plus personne n’est capable de tourner le long-métrage idoine et c’est sans doute aussi pour cela que la nostalgie opère dès les premières notes. Les frères Sandison reconnaissent d’ailleurs volontiers avoir beaucoup étudié les compositeurs des séries B des années 70 et 80 : Mark Isham, Fabio Frizzi (compositeur de Zombi 2 en 1979, fausse suite italienne des ﬁlms de George A. Romero), Stefano Mainetti (Zombi 3, 1988), Wendy Carlos (The Shining en 1980, Tron en 1982) ou encore John Harrison. Ce demier semble trouver une place particulière dans leur panthéon. Le motif sonore décliné sur White Cyclosa, un extrait de Tomorrow's Harvest, ressemble ainsi étrangement à l’introduction que Harrison joue sur The Dead Suite, un extrait de la BOF de Day Of The Dead (1985), le ﬁlm de George A. Romero. Certes, la tonalité générale de Tomorrow's Harvest n’est pas aussi oppressante et nihiliste qu’un ﬁlm de morts-vivants. Les atmosphères sont plus nuancées et les sentiments qui s’en dégagent plus variés mais pas moins intenses. C’est en tout cas l’un des hommages les plus sincères et émouvants rendus par la musique électronique au cinéma de genre. Laissons maintenant Marcus et Mike étayer la belle affaire à leur manière.
Quel est votre plus intense souvenir (musical ou extra-musical) de ces sept dernières années ? La reconnaissance artistique vous a-t-elle manqué pendant tout ce temps ?
"Mike Sandison : Les naissances de mes enfants restent les souvenirs les plus intenses de ces dernières années. La paternité amène à être plus attentif aux problèmes de notre planète sur le long terme. Sur un plan plus personnel, elle donne probablement une plus grande confiance en soi, de l’estime, ce qui aide à moins tenir compte des avis et de l’approbation extérieurs. Du coup, je dirais que je me soucie encore moins d’une quelconque reconnaissance artistique. J’ai appris à agir davantage avec mon instinct, mes tripes, et à composer la musique que je veux vraiment entendre."
Le petit jeu pour la promo de Tomorrow's Harvest
, qui consistait a rechercher des indices cachés sur différents supports et continents, était amusant. Mais ne craigniez-vous pas que cela incite votre public ä rechercher des sens cachés (et souvent détraqués) dans votre musique ? Ou cela fait-il partie de l’expérience musicale pour vous ?
"Marcus Eoin : Ça peut effectivement faire partie de l’expérience musicale mais il ne faut que cela paraisse forcé ou artiﬁciel. La musique doit évidemment se suffire à elle-même. En l’occurrence, nous pensions que ce procédé pouvait accompagner de manière pertinente l’atmosphère générale du disque. Ça nous a aussi donné l’opportunité de nous évader hors des limites du format audio et de créer un jeu qui implique l’auditeur."
On sait que vous appréciez les ﬁlms d’anticipation paranoïaques ou post-apocalyptiques allant de la fin des années 60 au début des années 80. Les disques électroniques instrumentaux sont souvent comparés à de la musique de ﬁlm, et si la comparaison est souvent poussive ou paresseuse, elle semble réellement pertinente dans le cas de Tomorrow's Harvest
"MS : Oui, bien sûr, c’est exactement ce que nous voulions faire. Nous avons toujours collectionné ces films-là ainsi que leur bande-son, c’est donc quelque chose qui a inﬂuencé notre musique depuis le tout début. Et ça s'est fait de manière plus délibérée sur ce disque. Nous espérons que quiconque aime ce genre de cinéma sera suffisamment inspiré par Tomorrow's Harvest
pour y appliquer ses propres interprétations visuelles."
The Campfire Headphase
était construit comme une collection de pop songs alors que Geogaddi
(2002) était un disque d’ambient beaucoup plus abstrait. La structure générale du nouvel album est réellement plus élaborée.
"MS : En fait, nous avons décidé très tôt que nous voulions lui donner la forme d’une musique de film mais réaliser un tel disque sans que cela ne sonne trop tartignole est un véritable challenge. Alors quand nous avons commencé à y travailler, nous avons écouté beaucoup de bandes originales, celles des années 80 notamment, en nous focalisant sur certains points précis, en étudiant les pratiques du genre en matière d'agencement et de timing. Les idées que nous avons retenues nous ont alors donné un cadre, une structure qu'il s'agissait ensuite d'étoffer. Nous savions par exemple exactement comment la suite devait commencer et comment elle allait finir."
Pouvez-vous nous citer une bande originale de film en particulier?
"MS : Non, il n'y a pas eu un thème ou une BOF en particulier qui nous a inspirés. Comme je le disais, nous avons surtout façonné les éléments sonores et visuels de Tomorrow's Harvest
en fonction de nos souvenirs de certains films de cette époque, généralement sombres et pessimistes. Il y a beaucoup de longs-métrages à petit budget basés sur le "survivalisme", l'horreur, la conspiration politique, la science incontrôlée, etc. Dans ces oeuvres est communément employée une musique électronique qui oscille entre des répétitions sinistres, une ambiance synthétique et parfois même des sonorités tribales. Étrangement, le cinéma d'horreur et de science-fiction des années 80 est également souvent traversé d'une bonne humeur assez saugrenue. Voilà le type d'atmosphère que nous avons essayé de recréer. "
La production et les arrangements de Tomorrow's Harvest
sont réellement impressionnants. Tous vos disques possèdent ce côté rétro et chaleureux mais en comparaison ce quatrième effort sonne beaucoup plus hi-fi. Avez-vous changé quelque chose dans votre manière d'enregistrer et cela faisait-il partie du processus d'écriture ?
"ME : Vu que nous concevions ce disque comme une bande originale du passé, nous savions que la production allait être un exercice très délicat et que tout devait être parfaitement arrangé, bien plus que sur nos LP précédents où nous sommes allés jusqu'à dégueulasser délibérément certains éléments pour obtenir un son lo-fi. Nous avons bien sûr utilisé beaucoup de matériel vintage pour cet album mais si tu réécoutes attentivement les musiques dont nous nous sommes inspirés, en dehors du fait qu'elles sont souvent composées avec des synthés analogiques et d'autres instruments électroniques rudimentaires de l'époque, tu t'aperçois que les arrangements sont très précis et que la production est toujours de très haut niveau. "
"MS : C'est peut-être une digression dans le contexte de Boards Of Canada
mais pas pour nous en tant qu'individus. Nous jouons de la guitare depuis que nous sommes gamins - Marcus particulièrement est un excellent guitariste - mais nous ne souhaitons pas vraiment mettre cela en avant sur nos albums, simplement parce que nous pensons que ça ne s'accorderait pas avec le reste. Ce que nous avons fait sur The Campfire Headphase
, c'est injecter des boucles de guitare naïves dans le sampler pour ensuite, autour de cela, composer nos chansons comme nous avons l'habitude de le faire. "
Le matériau de Tomorrow's Harvest
est-il entièrement nouveau ou avez-vous (ré)utilisé d’anciens éléments ?
"ME : Nous écrivons et enregistrons de la musique en permanence et cet album est constitué uniquement de nouveaux morceaux. Nous n’avons pas de méthode stricte de travail, mais généralement, nous créons d’abord plusieurs ébauches indépendantes les unes des autres, puis nous choisissons celles qui nous plaisent le plus et les développons chacune en parallèle."
Certains de vos fans pensent qu’il y a un lien entre Tomorrow's Harvest
et Deadly Harvest (1977), un obscur film d’anticipation canadien. Est-ce le cas ?
"ME : Honnêtement, non. Nous ne nous sommes pas inspirés de ce ﬁlm mais je reconnais qu’il y a des ressemblances indéniables entre les deux œuvres. Les références aux "graines" sur l’album ne sont pas à prendre au pied de la lettre."
Comment faut-il l’entendre alors ?
"ME : Il y a des indices dans les titres des morceaux mais si nous expliquons tout ça n’a plus aucun intérêt !"
Faites-vous attention a la manière dont le public perçoit votre musique ? Vous dites que vous jouez beaucoup de guitare mais que cette musique n’a pas sa place dans le contexte de Boards Of Canada
. Pourquoi ne pas créer un autre groupe ou sortir des disques solo ?
"ME : Nous ne faisons pas attention à la façon dont le public nous perçoit, nous faisons simplement les disques que nous aimons. D’un autre côté, nous sommes évidemment conscients que nos centres d’intérêts musicaux vont au-delà du terrain de jeu habituel de Boards Of Canada
. Et oui, nous écrivons et enregistrons beaucoup de musique qui n’a pas sa place sur un album de BoC et peut-être explorerons-nous cela dans le futur."
Comment cette musique sonne-t-elle ?
"MS : C’est beaucoup moins synthétique. je ne peux pas vous donner une idée précise du style parce que ça part un peu dans tous les sens. Certains morceaux sont très expérimentaux. Nous enregistrons avec des amis et utilisons tout ce qui nous tombe sous la main en studio - guitares, batteries, des instruments à cordes et d’autres tout aussi classiques. Dans un sens, ça ressemble beaucoup plus au travail d’un groupe traditionnel."
"ME : Eh bien, elle existe. C’est assez naze mais c’est ce qui fait son charme. je ne suis pas sûr que nous la sortirons un jour."
LA GALAXIE S’ANIME
Tenant son rang depuis quinze ans face aux autres artistes du label Warp, Boards Of Canada est apprécié et chéri par les amateurs de rock, pop, metal ou hip hop. Si la musique de Mike Sandison et Marcus Eoin envoûte, c'est souvent leur approche radicale de la production qui fascine leurs homologues musiciens. Certains d'entres eux ont tenu à leur poser une question ou deux. Un exercice contre nature pour le duo autarcique qui a tout de même joué le jeu sans mal.
COORDINATION JEAN-FRANÇOIS LE PUIL
TRADUCTION SYLVAIN COLLIN
D'après ce que j'ai compris, vous venez de finir le nouvel album de Boards Of Canada
et le monde enfler s'en réjouit ! Je n'ai pas encore eu la chance de l'entendre mais je me demande si vous avez appréhendé celui-là différemment. Comment faites-vous pour conserver une certaine fraîcheur dans le processus de création depuis deux décennies ?
"Mike Sandison : Élaborer des nouveaux morceaux nous procure toujours autant de plaisir et chacun essaie en permanence de surpasser l'autre avec ses ébauches respectives. Nous nous y reprenons à plusieurs fois car nous sommes très critiques l'un envers et l'autres (vraiment, c'est souvent assez brutal même). Et quand nous trouvons une idée brute qui nous plaît à tous les deux, c'est celle-ci que nous développons. Je crois que nous avons réussi à rester concentrer sur Tomorrow's Harvest
car nous avions dès le départ une idée très structurée du résultat auquel nous voulions parvenir, y compris la tonalité générale de l'album. C'était comme remplir un espace vierge dont nous visualisions clairement les contours. "
GHOST BOX RECORDS
(BELBURY POLY, THE FOCUS GROUP, ETC.)
En tant qu'artistes, on nous interroge souvent sur la nostalgie et la mémoire, et selon nous, la notion de "passé dans le présent" telle qu'on la trouve chez vous a été un modèle bien plus important que la réinterprétation de la musique de notre enfance. À nos yeux, Boards Of Canada
évoque un monde où le temps n'existe pas et où les sonorités contemporaines ne paraissent ni plus ni moins importantes que les références du passé. C'est sans doute ce qui fait que vos disques durent, ce qui leur donne cet aspect intemporel qui va au-delà de la nostalgie. Est-ce quelque chose que vous reconnaissez vous-mêmes dans votre travail et dans quelle mesure cela est-il intentionnel ?
"MS : Je crois que vous avez très bien résumé les choses. Notre but n'a jamais été de singer le passé, je ne vois d'ailleurs pas l'intérêt d'une telle démarche. Nous essayons plutôt d'utiliser les éléments stylistiques du passé comme des points de départ à partir desquels nous imaginons une direction nouvelle. Que serait devenu ce style s'il avait été développé davantage ? C'est comme imaginer une réalité parallèle où la musique aurait pris une route différente. Partant de là, on doit effectivement entendre à la fois des éléments anachroniques et contempo-rains qui se côtoient dans notre musique. "
Quel est le meilleur accord?
"MS : B9, parce qu'il n'est en rien malveillant. "
Si vous pouviez réaliser une action pour modifier l'écologie de la planète au bénéfice de l'existence humaine, quelle serait-elle ?
"MS : Réduire le nombre d'êtres humains. "
Pouvez-vous conseiller un lieu précis en Écosse à visiter avec un casque audio et quel serait le disque à écouter ?
"Marcus Eoin : Le Devil's Staircase dans la vallée de Glencoe avec la musique du film Highlander (1986) pour aider à visualiser Christophe Lambert qui décapite des mecs. "
Votre musique électronique est la plus humaine que j'ai jamais entendue, et pourtant, il y a un paquet de nombres à l'intérieur et de calculs mathématiques qui s'y opèrent. Les sentiments et la mémoire des émotions se heurtent au matériel électronique et aux séquences. Y a-t-il un lien spécifique entre l'homme et la machine, les nombres et les émotions, que vous essayez d'explorer ?
"MS : Nous ne nous inspirons pas uniquement de la musique mais aussi de la science. Il n'y a pas de grande séparation entre la structure et les mathématiques qui se cachent derrière la musique et les émotions qu'elle procure. La plupart du temps, nous jouons avec ces mécanismes par le biais d'une écriture mélodique à l'ancienne. Parfois, en revanche, nous concevons de manière obsessionnelle certains motifs musicaux qui s'assimilent alors plus à des expériences psychologiques miniatures. Une bonne partie de notre musique est peut-être aussi sujette à un effet du type "la vallée dérangeante" (ndlr. réaction psychologique de l'homme qui ressent un malaise face à des robots androïdes trop similaires à lui, théorisée par le Japonais Masahiro Mori), lorsque nous mélangeons de manière perturbante des sonorités humaines et non-humaines. "
Où est le centre ?
"ME : Le plus éloigné possible des extrémités ? "
(RÉALISATEUR DES VIDÉOS DE “Tomorrow's Harvest")
Quel est votre album favori de Stevie Wonder ?
"ME : Argh, c'est comme choisir son James Bond préféré... C'est un crève-coeur pour moi de ne pas citer Talking Book (1972) ou Songs In The Key Of Life (1976) mais je placerais tout de même Innervisions (1973) en premier. Tout le travail de Stevie Wonder m'a toujours énormément influencé mais ce disque en particulier est le sommet du raffinement dans sa production. C'est tellement organique et analogique, avec un son énorme qui n'oublie pas de laisser un bel espace pour respirer. Innervisions recèle de changements de tons qui, utilisés par n'importe quel autre musicien, auraient sonné de façon balourde, mais lui parvient à les rendre tout ce qu'il y a de plus naturel. "
Quelle serait selon vous l'onomatopée associée à l'éclosion d'une pivoine filmée en accéléré ?
"MS : Je crois qu'on a samplé ce son sur Magic Window (ndlr. morceau final et silencieux de Geogaddi
Quelles sont les différences entre vos séances de travail individuelle et collective ? La manière dont vous travaillez l'un avec l'autre a-t-elle une influence sur la tonalité de votre musique et cet aspect-là de votre relation a-t-il évolué au fil des années ?
"ME : Travailler ensemble nous pousse à trancher dans le vif et à finir le boulot. Nous devenons particulièrement impitoyables sur ce que l'on fait lorsque nous nous y mettons tous les deux. Du coup, je crois que les morceaux réalisés à deux sont aussi les plus simples et les plus épurés alors que ceux sur lesquels on a travaillé chacun de notre côté ont tendance à être plus complexes. C'est plus facile d'ajouter encore et encore des éléments à un titre sur lequel tu travailles seul. Au bout du compte, une chanson finit toujours entre les mains de l'autre, qui l'écoutera d'une oreille fraîche, la peaufinera ou bien la rejettera. Nous sommes d'une franchise radicale entre nous. "
Pensez-vous que la nature a un tempo ? Essayez-vous d'accorder votre musique sur ce tempo ?
"MS : Si c'est le cas, ce n'est pas conscient. Il y a quelques années, nous avions eu cette idée : diviser la journée en deux, puis encore en deux, et ainsi de suite jusqu'à parvenir à un tempo et enfin des fréquences qui soient en harmonie avec la durée d'une journée. Nous avions appelé cela "les harmoniques du jour" (ndlr. day harmonics en VO). Je réalise aujourd'hui que c'est un concept qui se rapproche de l'harmonie des sphères (ndlr. théorie philosophique basée sur l'idée que l'univers est régi par des rapports numériques harmonieux). "
Vous intéressez-vous au metal et à ses dérivés ? Faisant moi-même partie d'un groupe metal, Boards Of Canada
compte parmi mes influences. Et je connais beaucoup de personnes liées au metal qui sont aussi de très grands fans de votre musique. Étiez-vous au courant et appréciez-vous ce style ? Je suis pratiquement sûr d'avoir déjà lu que vous écoutiez des groupes comme Nine Inch Nails, mais je peux me tromper !
"ME : C'est une excellente question, Justin. Les gens nous replacent souvent dans le contexte de la dance music mais ils sont à côté de la plaque. Mike et moi n'avons jamais été amateurs de dance music. Notre éducation musicale s'est faite pendant les années 8à en écoutant des groupes post-punk et de la musique industrielle et cela a probablement été notre plus grosse influence. J'ai moi-même joué dans une formation industrielle/trash metal lorsque j'étais ado. Alors oui, bien sûr, nous sommes toujours de grands amateurs de ce genre aujourd'hui. J'ai écouté beaucoup d'artistes issus de la scène dark ambient récemment, je ressens beaucoup d'affinités avec ces gars-là."
Entendez-vous de la musique dans vos rêves ? Si oui, est-elle originale ou s'agit-il d'une version déformée de la musique d'autres artistes ?
"MS : j'entends effectivement parfois de la musique dans mes rêves et je rentre alors en studio pour tenter de la reproduire. Je me souviens avoir rêvé d'une merveilleuse nouvelle chanson de Cocteau Twins une fois. Ce n'était pas une vraie chanson de Cocteau Twins évidemment, mais j'ai adoré ce que j'ai entendu en rêve. j'ai été agacé quand son souvenir s'est rapidement dissipé au réveil. "
Y a-t-il un instrument qui vous a constamment inspirés au fil du temps et quelle relation entretenez-vous avec lui ?
"MS : Bonne question. Probablement le sampler Akai. Je reviens sans cesse vers mes vieux échantillonneurs Akai. Nous les utilisons davantage comme des synthétiseurs que comme des samplers en enregistrant nos propres parties instrumentales dedans et en les manipulant ensuite. Ce n'est pas vraiment un instrument dans le sens où il n'a pas de son propre, c'est plus un outil. J'aime beaucoup ces vieux machins, les souvenirs qu'ils drainent et les efforts de mémoire qu'ils demandent. Et puis ils ressemblent à des appareils qu'on utilisait dans les hôpitaux soviétiques, ça encourage à faire de la musique déprimante. "
LA MUSIQUE DES REVES
Cinéaste d’origine versaillaise pas forcément prophète en son pays, Michel Gondry, batteur en son temps du groupe Oui Oui, connait la musique. Auteur de clips pour Björk, Daft Punk ou The White Stripes, il a utilisé trois titres de Boards Of Canada dans la bande originale de The We And The I (2012). Le cinéaste explique pourquoi les disques de Mike Sandison et Marcus Eoin l’inspirent autant dans son travail.
"En fait, j'étais en train de conduire en voiture avec Bjôrk dans Los Angeles et nous écoutions Discovery (2001), le deuxième album de Daft Punk qui venait de sortir, et elle m'a dit : "Si ça te plaît tu devrais écouter Boards Of Canada
." Alors j'ai suivi son conseil. Même si personnellement je ne voyais pas bien en quoi ça ressemblait à Daft Punk, le côté abstrait et imagé de Boards Of Canada
m'a plu tout de suite. C'est une musique assez ouverte et donc très utile pour moi quand je suis en train d'écrire car les idées me viennent plus vite que si j'écoute quelque chose de plus narratif. Elle m'aide à atteindre l'ambiance adéquate en période d'écriture au même titre que la musique contemporaine de Morton Feldman (ndlr. compositeur américain décédé en 1987) ou la musique classique de Glenn Gould (ndlr. pianiste canadien décédé en 1982). S'isoler du monde extérieur pour mieux atteindre l'état recherché. "
Écoutiez-vous Boards Of Canada
pendant l'écriture de The We And The I, fiction particulière dans une filmographie déjà assez singulière ?
"Je ne m'en rappelle plus. En tout cas, il était devenu évident pour moi d'utiliser leur musique dans l'un de mes films. De toute façon, je n'en suis pas au point d'utiliser systématiquement à l'écran la musique que j'écoute quand j'écris une scène. "
Mais la bande-son de The We And The I est plutôt un best of d'un certain rap de la seconde moitié des années 80 (Young MC, Slick Rick, Run DMC...). Percevez-vous Boards Of Canada
comme du hip hop écossais ?
"Le film s'ouvre sur des séquences avec en fond sonore ce genre de hip hop bon enfant et narratif, plein d'humour. C'est cool, fun et extraverti parce que c'est ainsi que les ados du film s'imaginent. Mais au fur et à mesure, derrière les apparences, se révèle quelque chose de plus intérieur, plus profond, moins facilement définissable, et Boards Of Canada
contribue, sans contredire ce qui précède, à faire passer cette idée, avec une musique qui me permettait une continuité organique pour rentrer dans l'intimité des personnages. "
Boards Of Canada
reste un groupe peu accessible : a-t-il été simple d'obtenir les droits de ces trois titres en particulier ou bien aviez-vous demandé un panel plus large quitte à n'en retenir qu'une partie au montage ?
"J'ai demandé ces trois titres (ndlr. Over The Horizon Radar, Ready Lets Go et Satellite Anthem Icarus) et ce que nous avons proposé a dû convenir puisque je n'en ai plus entendu parler autrement que pour nous autoriser à les utiliser. S'il y avait eu un souci, l'équipe du film m'aurait suggéré de changer de musique. j'ai donc pu utiliser celle de Boards Of Canada
comme je l'entendais. "
Qu'avez-vous pensé du nouvel album Tomorrow's Harvest
(ndlr. l'interview a été réalisée quelques jours avant sa sortie) ?
"Je l'ai reçu tout récemment et me suis donc mis à l'écouter aussitôt. Il s'inscrit dans la continuité des précédents et c'est rassurant. Boards Of Canada
ne se réinvente pas, mais chaque piste, au sens propre, explore différentes directions tout en faisant écho à ce qui avait déjà pu être fait précédemment, au point de réutiliser certains de leurs sons pour que chaque titre prolonge en quelque sorte un titre antérieur, comme un work in progress permanent, presque infini. J'aime cette idée d'auto-flash-back pour qui connaît déjà la musique de Boards Of Canada
Vous évoquiez Björk, dont le troisième album Homogenic (1997) était produit par Mark Bell de LFO, pionnier d'un certain son Warp dont Boards Of Canada
serait le dernier représentant. Quels artistes, liés à Warp ou pas, rapprocheriez-vous de Boards Of Canada
"Je me sens mal placé pour répondre à cette question, d'abord parce que la musique vient souvent à moi plus volontiers que je ne cherche à découvrir des nouveautés, et d'autre part, je connais assez mal le catalogue du label Warp. Certaines tentatives folk ou psychédéliques des Chemical Brothers en leur temps avaient à voir avec Boards Of Canada
. Sinon, je ne vois pas, désolé, mais il y en a sûrement. "
La bande originale de L'Écume Des Jours, votre dernier long-métrage, est signée Étienne Charry, chanteur du groupe Oui Oui dont vous étiez le batteur. Et vous avez sélectionné vous-même les titres de le BO de The We And The I. Après avoir fait vos preuves comme cinéaste dans les années 2000, au-delà de votre statut de réalisateur de clips, vous intéresseriez-vous enfin à nouveau à la musique ?
"Mais je ne me suis jamais désintéressé de la musique ! J'ai tout simplement plus de contrôle dans tout ce que je fais, y compris la musique, même si j'ai déjà eu la chance de collaborer avec les compositeurs Graeme Revell (ndlr. Human Nature, 2001), Jon Brion (ndlr. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, 2004), Jean-Michel Bernard (ndlr. La Science Des Rêves en 2006 et Be Kind Rewind en 2008) ou James Newton Howard (ndlr. The Green Hornet, 2011). J'ai acquis une certaine liberté en matière de production et le domaine musical en fait partie. Au point de pouvoir, si ça me semble justifié, réutiliser la musique de Boards Of Canada
pour l'un de mes prochains films comme je pourrais le faire avec celle d'un compositeur. "
La charte visuelle de Boards Of Canada
, franchement minimale, laisse libre cours à l'imaginaire de ses auditeurs. Comment un cinéaste, a fortiori réalisateur de clips, peut-il préserver cela?
"Je sais qu'il y a une contradiction dans mon travail de réalisateur de clips : je propose ma vision d'une chanson à l'écran alors que celle-ci, si elle est réussie, se suffit à elle-même et n'a pas besoin qu'on y associe des images. j'en viens parfois à regretter certains de mes choix. J'avais par exemple tourné un clip pour Massive Attack (ndlr. Protection, considéré comme une référence du genre au milieu des années 1990), et quelque temps plus tard, j'ai eu une idée qui aurait été plus adaptée. En guise d'excuse, je me dis que je n'illustre pas tous les titres d'un même album, et que si ce n'est pas moi qui m'y colle, quelqu'un d'autre s'en chargera. D'une certaine façon, ça ressemble à l'adaptation d'un livre au cinéma. Parce que j'ai découvert la musique de Boards Of Canada
en même temps que ses pochettes, je la ressens dans différentes nuances de bleu ou orangées sans être totalement synesthète pour ce qui est des couleurs. Un morceau de Boards Of Canada
recycle la voix américaine du commandant Cousteau dans Le Monde Du Silence (1956), le film de Louis Malle et Jacques-Yves Cousteau, or j'ai grandi avec les films documentaires de Cousteau: c'est très fort pour moi. Mais si une musique me captive, je ne réfléchis pas à comment c'est fait, aux façons de brancher les guitares ou de modifier les potentiomètres, je suis plutôt transporté au point d'envisager des images. Même le nom de Boards Of Canada
me renvoie à ce côté visuel puisque je suis fan du cinéaste d'animation canadien Norman McLaren (ndlr. figure marquante de l'Office national du film du Canada, ou National Film Board Of Canada en VO). En fait, le son du groupe me fait penser aux textures de la pellicule 16 millimètres... Mais c'est aussi lié aux pochettes. Adolescent, j'écoutais le deuxième album de Police, Reggatta De Blanc (1979), celui où il y a la chanson Walking On The Moon dessus, et faute d'avoir accès aux clips qui illustraient les extraits du disque, la pochette, avec les visages des trois membres du groupe en bleu et argent, a influencé visuellement ce que j'écoutais. Bon, c'était du temps du vinyle, l'effet était décuplé par l'objet.
Y a-t-il un ou des artistes dont vous souhaiteriez réaliser un clip ?
"Il y aurait bien eu Michel Jackson qui n'avait probablement jamais dû entendre parler de moi. j'ai toujours préféré sa musique à celle de Prince, contrairement aux canons critiques des années 80. je me suis toujours méfié de ce qui était cool. Lors de mes longs séjours américains, je combats le mal du pays en écoutant une certaine variété française qui me rappelle mon enfance, France Gall ou Julien Clerc. Mais je réaliserais avec plaisir un clip de Boards Of Canada
si jamais on me le demandait.
NB. En attendant de découvrir Is The Man Who Is Ta!! Happy?, son documentaire animé sur (et avec) le linguiste et philosophe américain Noam Chomsky, les films de Michel Gondry sont disponibles en DVD tout comme une sélection de ses vidéo-clips, The Work Of Director Michel Gondry (2003).
Boards Of Canada
File compiled by Jean-François Le Puil
Article and Interview Sylvain Collin
Photographs Iain Campbell
HARVEST FROM HEAVEN
Nostalgia as a weapon of mass destruction: Boards Of Canada look into the past via an (imaginary) means in order to destroy the ideology of technological progress that we are sold on a daily basis. The brothers are back from their travels with Tomorrow's Harvest, true little masterpiece of electronic music. Developed over several years, this album urges the listener to fantasize a quite different conclusion to the end of the world: an ironic and dreamlike apocalypse. A fantastic and exhilarating dialogue between George Orwell and George A. Romero played with exemplary accuracy and thoroughness.
P28 HARVEST FROM HEAVEN
Boards Of Canada in the light of The Day After Tomorrow.
P34 THE GALAXY COMES TO LIFE
Co-musicians from all walks of life encourage the duo to open up.
P37 THE MUSIC OF DREAMS
Cut! Thats’s a rap! with Michel Gondry
Marcus Eoin and Mike Sandison will try to deny it, but they are very concerned about how the public perceives their music. There is absolutely nothing contemptible in that, quite the contrary. If he could have, Stanley Kubrick himself would have painted the theaters where his films were playing if he felt that they weren’t dark enough. For Boards Of Canada, it's a bit the same. Well, okay, they won’t come and set the equalizer on your stereo for you or change the layout of your audiophile speakers, but they will take care of all the details; from recording to promotion. So it’s only with the release of the LP, The Campfire Headphase (2005), that the duo reveal that they are actually brothers. Why hide such a bland biographical fact? Mainly to avoid comparisons with Paul and Phil Hartnoll of Orbital, they argued at the time. Curious. No doubt they also wanted to avoid a series of questions about their childhood, family, etc. As such, it is particularly instructive to read the articles written at the time about the Beach Boys, The Jesus And Mary Chain and Oasis. However, it’s not so hard to imagine that the Sandisons get along a lot better than the brothers Wilson, Reid or Gallagher. As kids, they already played music together. When they were ten or twelve years old, they tinkered with multi-track VHS. Later, Marcus joined a metal band in secondary school. But that wasn’t Mike’s style, even then, the two brothers continued to fiddle with their synths together. The early 90s is the prologue to the story of Boards Of Canada. A musical framework slowly takes shape and compositions are born. The tracks they made during that period would be enough to fill a few albums, but Mike and Marcus just weren’t good enough, at least, that was their opinion. Having heard some of their old songs; cassettes they distributed to their friends up until the release of Boc Maxima (1996); the first version of Music Has the Right to Children (1998), it’s clear they had what it takes to make the heavyweights of the IDM era (Aphex Twin, The Orb, The Future Sound Of London, Orbital and Autechre) green with envy. Ever since their first release, Boards Of Canada took time out to trim down, polish, refine and tweak to achieve the style they had in mind. Mike once said he could easily spend time and money to recover the right audio material just for a few seconds of music. This is probably why, Tomorrow's Harvest took seven long years to reap.
In electronic music, the expiry dates can be short: the days can be worth a few weeks, the years a century. Boards Of Canada’s is the sort that doesn’t ever seem to go out of date. If it seems that time has no hold over their music, it could be that the two brothers are fond of vintage equipment. Certainly, their old equipment give a certain patina to their sound, but their choice of abode and studio location must play a part, too. Of course, in the Scottish countryside where the reclusive composers live time passes slower. Much slower. If living in such isolation allow them to develop a different world, it’s also a direct route to feelings of resentment and antisocial paranoia. How to find the right balance? "Aha, but we’re not really hermits", Mike makes clear, email being the preferred means of communication favored by the group at the time of promotion of Tomorrow's Harvest in the world.
"When we speak of isolation, it is from an artistic point of view, not a social one. We don’t feel the need to hang out in an urban context, to keep abreast of what is happening in music, what's popular, etc. That sort of thing: fashion, urban culture - is just background noise for us; radio interference, it becomes a big distraction when we try to create our own music, a good deal of modern music sounds like it was composed by artists who are constantly trying to look over each other’s shoulders. I prefer the pre-Internet era when musical styles were clearly defined. That way different groups and styles of music could evolve independently and develop fully, in a concentrated and exclusive way. The internet and an hyper-connected urban life destroys that kind of purity."
“Retro” you can say that again! So then, urban modernity creates negative vibes that affect creativity. On top of that, as he confessed recently by email to the Guardian, in reference to the book You Are Not A Gadget (2010) by the American author Jaron Lanier, Mike believes that “modern technology often gives an illusion of empowerment while in reality it's increasingly all about removal of liberty, and homogenising the user base." This morose yet relevant observation of society has been growing for some time. It recalls the post-apocalyptic films of the 70s - Soylent Green (1973), Logan's Run (1976), Silent Running (1972), Phase IV (1974), etc. - paranoid low budget series of the early '80s (Italian zombie films notably). A fairly uninsightful and downright fanciful forecast, these films are much more interesting in that they reveal our social and ecological anxieties; our collective phobias. Despite the appearance of a clichéd Instagram, the cover of Tomorrow's Harvest just… fits: the San Francisco skyline breaks the line of a desolate horizon and disappears as if engulfed by an incandescent glow. We look upon a city as if in agony, then as a mirage, the persistent memory of a forgotten utopian future ... When the needle hits the vinyl, the atmosphere is almost palpable. Mike lays it on thick in the Guardian interview again "We've become a lot more nihilistic over the years. In a way we're really celebrating an idea of collapse (the track Collapse is in the middle of the album) rather than resisting it. It's probably quite a bleak album, depending on your perspective. It's not post-apocalyptic so much as it is about an inevitable stage that lies in front of us." So much for setting the scene. Certainly, based on one’s personal film experience, or the rapport that each of us has with the music of Boards Of Canada, the album probably won’t evoke the same images. The precise dramatic outline drafted here by the Scottish duo, show that the random and abstract Super8 collages that once served as promotional videos are now an irrelevance. Even if we find a few smooth, familiar sounds, Tomorrow's Harvest is not really an album of progressive ambient electro or an acidic sound kaleidoscope. It was conceived as a soundtrack and must be taken as such. Unfortunately, today, no one is around to make the ideal film for it and this is probably also why nostalgia operates from the very first notes. The Sandison brothers also tip their hats to low budget series composers from the 70s and 80s : Mark Isham, Fabio Frizzi (the composer for Zombi 2 in 1979, a fake Italian Romero sequel), Stefano Mainetti (Zombie 3, 1988) Wendy Carlos (The Shining in 1980, Tron 1982) or John Harrison. The latter seems to find a special place in their repertoire. The sinking feeling of White Cyclosa (track 3 of Tomorrow's Harvest) strangely resembles the introduction that Harrison plays for The Dead Suite, from the soundtrack of Romero’s Day Of The Dead (1985), whilst not being as oppressive and nihilistic as a zombie film. The atmospheres are more subtly layered and the emotions that emerge more diverse, but no less intense. This is certainly one of the more sincere and moving tributes given to this genre of cinema from the electronic music genre. Now let’s allow Marcus and Mike show off their wares in their own way.
What is your strongest memory (musical or non-musical) of the past seven years? Have you been missing the recognition all this time?
"Mike Sandison : The births of my children have been the most intense memories of recent years. Being a dad makes you more aware of our planet’s long term problems. On a more personal level, this probably gives me greater self-confidence and esteem, which helps make up for any external approval. Anyway, I would say that I still couldn’t care less for artistic recognition. I’ve learned to go with my gut, my instinct, to compose music that I really want to hear"
The treasure hunt for the promotion of Tomorrow's Harvest
, searching for hidden clues on a variety of media and over different continents was fun. Aren’t you afraid it will make your fans search for hidden meanings (wild ones often) in your music? Or is that part of the musical experience for you?
"Marcus Eoin: It may actually be part of the musical experience but you’ve got to avoid making it seem forced or artificial. The music has to be enough in itself. In this case, we thought that this method would go well with the general atmosphere of the album. It also gave us the opportunity to get away from the boundaries of the audio format and create a game that involves the listener."
We know that you enjoy paranoid or post-apocalyptic movies from the late 60s to the early 80s. Instrumental electronic records are often compared to film music, and even if it’s a lazy or easy comparison to make it really seems relevant in the case of Tomorrow's Harvest
"MS:. Yes, of course, is exactly what we wanted do. We have always collected these sort of films and soundtracks, so this is something that has influenced our music from the very beginning. And it became more intentional on this album. We hope that anyone who likes this kind of cinema will be inspired enough by Tomorrow's Harvest
to make their own visual interpretations."
The Campfire Headphase
was built as a collection of pop songs while Geogaddi
(2002) was much more abstract and ambient. The general structure of the new album is actually a lot more elaborate than that.
"MS:. Actually, we decided early on that we wanted to give it a soundtrack feel, but to make this type of album is a real challenge without it sounding too cheesy. So when we started working, we listened to a lot of soundtracks, including some from the 80s, by focusing on specific issues, studying the practices in terms of layout and timing. The ideas we learned gave us a framework, a structure to expand upon. We knew exactly how it should begin and how it would end."
Could you give us a soundtrack in particular?
"MS: No, there’s no theme or soundtrack in particular that inspired us. As I said, we mainly shaped the sound and visuals of Tomorrow's Harvest
based on our memories of some of the films of that time, generally dark and pessimistic. There are a lot of budget films based on survivalism, horror, political conspiracy, uncontrolled science, etc. Electronic music is regularly used in these works ranging from dark loops, synthetic atmospheres and sometimes even tribal sounds. Strangely, the horror and sci-fi movies of the 80s are often filled with a sort of cheerful dark humour. That's the kind of atmosphere that we tried to recreate. "
The production and arrangements of Tomorrow's Harvest
are really impressive. All your albums have this retro warmth, in comparison the latest release sounds much more hi-fi. Have you changed something in your recording methods and how it was this part of the writing process?
"ME: Because we designed this record as a soundtrack from the past, we knew that the production would be a very difficult exercise and everything had to be perfectly arranged, much more than on our previous LPs, where we went out of our way to fuck up elements to get that grainy sound. We certainly used a lot of vintage gear for this album but if you play back the music that inspired us carefully, apart from the fact that they are often made with analog synthesizers and other rudimentary electronic instruments of the time, you realize that the arrangements are very accurate and that the production is still very high. "
"MS: This may be a digression in the context of Boards Of Canada
, but not for us as individuals. We’ve been playing guitar since we were kids - especially Marcus, he’s an excellent guitarist - but we didn’t really want to put this to the forefront in our albums, mainly because we think it would not be consistent with the rest. What we did on The Campfire Headphase
is injecting naive guitar loops in the sampler and write our songs around it like we usually do. "
"ME: We write and record music all the time and this album consists solely of new songs. We do not have a strict way of working, but generally, we first create several drafts independent of each other, then we choose the ones we like the most and develop each in parallel."
Some of your fans think that there is a link between Tomorrow's Harvest
and Deadly Harvest (1977), an obscure Canadian sci-fi film. Is this the case?
"ME: Honestly, no. We were not inspired by this film, but I recognize that there are undeniable similarities between the two works. References to the "seeds" on the album are not to be taken literally"
How should we take them then?
"ME: There are clues in the song titles, but then if we explain it all it would no longer be interesting!"
Do you pay attention to how the public perceives your music? You say you play a lot of guitar music but that this has no place in the context of Boards Of Canada
. Why not start a traditional band or even release solo albums?
"ME: We don’t really pay attention to how the public perceives us, we only make music we love. On the other hand, we are obviously aware that our centres of musical interests go beyond the usual Boards Of Canada
sandbox. And yes, we write and record a lot of music that has no place on a BoC album and perhaps we will explore this in the future."
What does this music sound like?
"ME: It’s much less synthetic. I can’t give you a good idea of the style because it’s a bit all over the place. Some pieces are very experimental. We record with friends and use whatever comes to hand in the studio - guitars, drums, stringed instruments and other classical means. In a sense, it looks much more like the work of a traditional band."
"ME: Well, it exists. It's pretty lame, but that's what gives it it’s charm. I'm not sure that we’ll ever release it."
Talk To The Hand, Chokri
|| Talk To The Hand, Chokri
|| Kristoff Tilkin
"Talk To The Hand, Chokri" is a July, 2013 interview by Kristoff Tilkin. It originally appeared in Humo. 
A train of images rages through 'Tomorrow's Harvest, the first record by Boards Of Canada in eight years. Once again it's a delightful grainy small film where bright white sunlight shines over blocks of houses in decay. The wind rattles doors and windows, with whirling red dust all around. But the shadows tend to enlarge with every song and ominous clouds loom at the horizon. Good poetry doesn't require a manual but for the sake of learning and entertainment we listen to the verses of Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin.
Well, maybe not really: eight years ago we were invited to talk about their previous record 'The Campfire Headphase' with a good cappuccino, this time we had to take pleasure with an interview through email. Strange, because in 2005 they claimed to be fed up with being portrayed as alienated weirdos. "The main reason why we are talking with you right here is to set the record straight. Boards Of Canada are two very regular guys who happen to make enthralling music, not paranoid hermits or heroes of abnegation who cut off all ties with civilization". Maybe they changed their minds, or maybe being mysterious is just much more fun?
"Marcus Eoin: "Don't break your head over it too much, we've been doing quite some face to face interviews over the years, but you can't believe how many poor and superficial questions we had to answers that way. By doing this over email it appears to be easier to get the true interesting stuff""
HUMO: "There's a gap of eight long years between the 'The Campfire Headphase
' and 'Tomorrow's Harvest
', long enough to build houses and raise families. Is it true you've been mainly dealing with pacifiers and trowels?"
"Mike Sandison: "We did some travelling for a while and have been working on some personal projects, after that we made our EP 'Trans Canada Highway
'. Right after that - it was already the end of 2006 - we started writing the songs for 'Tomorrow's Harvest
', but we didn't get much further than just make sketches: we suddenly realized our studio was way too small, and that we should optimize it. Once you start with rebuilding you never know where it's gonna end, so it took us a lot of time. At the same time we indeed started raising kids, it took a long while before we actually started to write songs. I'm shocked every time someone tells us our previous record is eight years old, it feels like a lot less than that, cause we've been very busy with things that's not of any business of the outside world.""
HUMO: "'Tomorrow's Harvest
' sounds pretty dark, it's easy to picture scenes from the outstanding zombie series 'The Walking Dead', almost like post-apocalyptic poetry"
"Sandison: "I'm not going to deny that we found some of the tone of the record in obscure cinema of the late seventies and early eighties, but other than that i'll have to disappoint you: the theme we had in our heads was everything but apocalyptic. More in the line of 'how are we going to adjust ourselves in a world that soon will change very drastically?'. It just seems so inevitable. Without explaining too much - I rather let the listener figure it out - there's a chronology in the song titles and in the atmosphere of the songs, they're chapters in a longer story"."
In The Guardian, Sandison admits that fatherhood has made him conscious of the fragility of existence, and that it has changed his view on the world very radically. "We've become a lot more nihilistic over the years. In a way we're really celebrating an idea of collapse rather than resisting it. It's probably quite a bleak album, depending on your perspective."
HUMO: "Over the years I heard BOC
influences in Tycho, Bibio, Ariel Pink, Lorn, Washed Out but also young fellow countrymen such as Ssaliva and Internal Sun. Who manages to influence you nowadays?"
"Sandison: "We don't care about musical trends, we like to listen to older music and love to dig into old weird stuff that's been used in commercials or movies. Not that we close ourselves off entirely, when something new comes along we're all over it. Like some time ago with coL (alias for Colin Lipe, worked together with Ariel Pink), American music with a unique sound.""
HUMO: "Your songs always sounded a bit vintage, as if they've been lying around an old factory for a long time. Nowadays you can create that effect easily with musical technology. You always seem to make beautiful nostalgic moving Super 8-movies but the Instagram generation is catching up"
"Eoin: "It's not something you do by simply pressing a button... Instagram is very nowadays, it's a trend and only has a connection with the past if you actually know that past: for young kids it's something modern. All those image and sound manipulations are extremely artificial, and they're being used very randomly. You can't just apply them onto anything and expect emotional depth.""
HUMO: "Somebody played me the opening track 'Gemini
', I immediately knew it was you guys, it still sounds so familiar. Is your approach still the same?"
"Sandison: "More or less yes. But we've been doing it like in the early days more often, when we used to write music while playing around on old synths and drumcomputers. We've been picking up new technology over the years of course, but we never used it maniacally. Vintage material is our thing, and it's the only way to sound different than the majority of modern music. On Tomorrow's Harvest
there's one song that dates back to our very early days, but we're not telling which one, try to guess"."
HUMO: "'Music was our life' said Mike eight years ago about the way he listened to music as a young kid. Unfortunately for a lot of people it's like a leaky faucet, everybody at home and at work constantly hears music but nobody takes the time to actually listen. The CEO of the site Spotify even sells his streaming service as something that's as easy as streaming water. And that's without being ironic."
"Eoin: "Apparently it only gotten worse during these last eight years. You know what I regret? All these young kids have similar massive mp3 collections on their computers, which means they all have the same dull musical taste, it all sounds the same. There are no more tribal clashes, while that used to be very enjoyable for everyone who listened to like rock music: the mods vs the rockers etc"
"But the worst thing has to be that the music completely devalued, almost certainly for young people. I've heard young people claim that all music should be free, and artists should make it only cause they love making it. Money's just an extra. Not that I don't understand it, cause theoretically it doesn't even sound bad, but just think about it, if The Beatles had to do an extra job in a grocery job you think they had the time or energy to make revolutionary records like Revolver?""
HUMO: "I recently talked to the guys from Daft Punk
, same generation as you, getting close to becoming 40, who have been listening to music all these lives; and they can feel a bit paralyzed by the weight of the history of music resting on their shoulders"
"Sandison: "Not us. Music is an almost endless series of possible combinations of notes, melodies, chords, textures, rhythms and so on. In the short period of time people are composing music we only tried a few, I'm very curious to find out where we'll find ourselves in the future""
- ↑ http://pitchfork.com/features/interview/6151-boards-of-canada/
- ↑ http://de-bug.de/musik/interview-boards-of-canada-the-charms-of-the-sphinx/
- ↑ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/arts/music/tomorrows-harvest-by-boards-of-canada.html
- ↑ https://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/jun/06/boards-of-canada-become-more-nihilistic
- ↑ http://www.twoism.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=11145
- ↑ http://www.twoism.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=11103
- ↑ http://www.twoism.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=11104
- ↑ http://www.twoism.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=11216