"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.