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Music Has the Right to Children era

The Age of Aquarius

title The Age of Aquarius
author The Cosmic Crofter
publication EHX
date 1998/03/25

"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

title Board Clever
author Richard Hector-Jones
publication Jockey Slut
date 1998/04
issue Vol. 2 No. 13 (April/May 1998)
Board Clever 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.

Board Clever

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.

Richard Hector-Jones

A Bunker Full of Memories

title In a Bunker Full of Memories
author René Passet
publication Forcefield
date 1998/04/14
A Bunker Full of Memories 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?

"Devo, Walter/Wendy Carlos, DAF, television themes, corporate jingles from TV and film, Jeff Wayne, Julian Cope, My Bloody Valentine, 80's pop music."

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."

Is Bocuma perhaps named after Bochum Welt? It sounds very 'Bochummy' :)

"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

author Yves Leloup
publication Virgin Megaweb
date 1998/06
Two Aesthetes of Electronic Music 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."

"Good Vibrations"?

"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

author Donald Anderson
publication Space Age Bachelor
date 1998
issue 12 (Winter 1998)
pages 3

Donald Anderson: 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."

Donald Anderson: 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

title Children Have the Right to Film
author Daniel Chamberlin
publication URB
date 1999/02

"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!"
  1. Be Glad for the Song Has No End
  2. Picnic at Hanging Rock
  3. The New Numbers (unknown)
  4. Heavenly Creatures
  5. Dark Star
  6. The Elephant Man
  7. Dandelion Seed (unknown)
  9. A Man Escaped
  10. Revolution (unknown)
  1. Papillon
  2. Ice Core Drilling (unknown - thought to perhaps be an NFBC film)
  3. The Invention of Destruction (unknown)
  4. Zabriskie Point
  5. Alice
  6. The Andromeda Strain
  7. Jesus Christ Superstar
  8. Diagram (unknown - may refer to Paul Glabicki's 1978 Diagram Film)
  9. Capricorn One
  10. The Wizard of Oz

interview by Daniel Chamberlin, February 1999.

Boards of The Underground

title Boards of The Underground
author Richard Southern
publication Jockey Slut
date 2000/12
issue Vol. 3 No. 11 (Dec 2000)
pages 30-34

"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."

Like Radiohead?

"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."


  • 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").
  • Kung-fu.
  • "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."


  • 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."


  • 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.
  • Twoism (Music 70, 1995)
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

title Big Country
author Steve Nicholls
publication XLR8R
date 2001-03
issue 47 (Mar 2001)

"Big Country" is a 2000 interview by Steve Nicholls. It originally appeared in XLR8R magazine, Issue 47, March 2001.

Big Country

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.

Geogaddi era

The Colour & The Fire

title The Colour & The Fire
author Steve Nicholls
date 2002/02

"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 by Mark Pytlik, February 2002.

The Most Mysterious & Revered Men in Electronica

title The Secret Life of Boards of Canada
author John Mulvey
publication NME
date 2002/02/23
issue 23 February 2002
pages 24,53

"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." </div>

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.

Another Miracle of The Post-modern Sensibility

title El Cielo Herido
author David Broc
publication Mondo Sonoro
date 2002/03
issue #83

"The Wounded Sky (El Cielo Herido)" is a 2002 interview by David Broc. It originally appeared in the Spanish music magazine Mondosonoro.


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.



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

Fotografia: Archivo

Play Twice Before Listening

author Koen Poolman
date 2002/03

"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 youdoing?

"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

before listening".

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 accurately wrote.

"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 world.

"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 Cambersands 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

track behind."

How many hours of music went through the drain? Any chance of a quick follow-up to Geogaddi or, at least, an EP then?

"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 intermezzo's 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 adamaged 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 the album?

"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

own EP."

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-globalisation. 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 naïve 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 urbanised 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?

"Mike: Seventy."

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: The Gyroscope, Sunshine Recorder, Magic Window, I Saw Drones and the vulcano 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?

"Mike: Maybe."

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 rereleased.)

"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

title Stoned Immaculate
author Philip Sherburne
publication Alternative Press
date 2002/05
issue Vol. 166 (May 2002)
Stoned Immaculate by Philip Sherburne was an interview published in Alternative Press magazine Vol. 166 (May 2002).

Country Comfort

title Country Comfort
author Alexis Georgopoulos
publication URB
date 2002-06
issue June 2002
pages 86-87

"Country Comfort" is a 2002 interview by Alexis Georgopoulos. It originally appeared in URB magazine.

Country Comfort

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

title Northern Exposure
author Ken Micallef
publication Remix
date 2002/07
issue Vol. 4 Issue 7
pages 22

"Northern Exposure" is a 2002 interview by Ken Micallef. It originally appeared in Remix Mag.

Northern Exposure

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

title The Downtempo Duo
author Heiko Hoffmann
publication Pitchfork
date 2005/09/26

"The Downtempo Duo" is a 2005 interview by Heiko Hoffmann. It originally appeared on

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 by Heiko Hoffmann, September 2005.

Part of the Fire

"Part of the Fire" (in French) by ...

  • ISSN: 1284-862X
  • Trax Magazine #88 (October 2005), pp 32-37 [49] [50]

Splendid Isolation

title Splendid Isolation
author Neil Davenport
publication Metro
date 2005/10/12
issue 12.10.2005

"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.' On electronica: 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.'

On maths: 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.'

Neil Davenport


Cross Out the Inappropriate

"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.”
Stinking druids 

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!

title Above Board!
author Gal Detourn
publication Playlouder
date 2005/10/20

"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.

Above Board!

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" 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

author Heiko Hoffmann
publication Earplug
date 2005/10/26
issue 54

"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

title Two for the No-Show
author Will Hodgkinson
publication The Times
date 2005/10/28

"Two for the No-Show" by Will Hodgkinson

  • The Times, 28 Oct 2005

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)

title Protect and Survive
author Rob Young
publication The Wire
date 2005/10
issue 260
pages 40-47

"Protect and Survive" by by Rob Young

  • ISSN: 0952-0686

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

title The Last Secret of Pop
author Koen Poolman
publication OOR
date 2005/11
issue #10 (Nov 2005)

"The Last Secret of Pop" (original text in Dutch) by Koen Poolman

  • ISSN 0921-1616

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

author Fabio Cagnetti
date 2005/11/14

"Wide Use of Guitars " is a 2005 interview by Fabio Cagnetti. It originally appeared on

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

title It's our take on a pop record
author Brian Murnin
publication Clash Magazine
date 2005/11
issue 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 documentaries.”

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

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.”

Peering Out from Behind the Curtain

title Peering Out from Behind the Curtain
author Steve Marchese
publication RE:UP
date 2006/01
issue 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...

  • Spirituality

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?

  • Fan expectations

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.

  • Living in Canada

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.

  • Fatherhood

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.

  • Stevie Wonder

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.

  • Remixing Beck

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.

Around The Campfire

title Around The Campfire
author Paul Clarke
publication DJ Mag
date 2005

"Around The Campfire" by Paul Clarke

  • DJ Mag, 2005

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.’}}

Subliminal Messages

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. ’