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Stirred Up The Ashes

title Stirred Up The Ashes
author Heiko Hoffmann
publication Earplug
date 2005/10/26
issue 54

Original text[edit]

"Stirred Up The Ashes" was an interview by Heiko Hoffmann originally published on the twice-monthly email magazine Earplug[1] Issue 54[2]

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[edit]

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.

Highlights and Notes[edit]

  • This publication is from the same Hoffmann interview as seen in the Pitchfork publication, Groove publication and the After Hours publication.
  • The majority of its content corresponds to the Groove publication, however unique to this publication is the final question/answer(s) on the topic of "trademark children's voices"
  • Also unique to this publication is that it is the (assumed) original English verbatim, i.e., direct English transcription, unlike the Groove (translated in German) and After Hours (translated in Japanese) publications.