|| In An Imaginary Place Out In The Country
|| Cookie Scene
"In An Imaginary Place Out In The Country" is a 2002 interview by .... It originally appeared in the Japenese music magazine Cookie Scene.
Note: The original magazine was scanned to PDF. That PDF was sent to an online OCR tool to be converted to Japanese character text. The resulting text was translated on a basic level by Google Translate. That translation has been rewritten and interpreted into proper English by Valotonin.
Initially it was a drop of water. Small ripples flowed and gathered upon the surface and began to spread. Eventually Music Has the Right to Children was given to the world in 1998, released under both Warp and SKAM record labels.
The Boards of Canada and the impact of Music Has the Right to Children was strongly felt. The brothers engineering direct pluronic music, ambient atmospheres and utilizing aspects of Hip-Hop, but all genres of music where used to propagate their unique sound. Words begin to fade into the music and become one with the sound, but they maintain their sense of direction and flow, a sound full of immersive vitality. The beauty of their sound proceeded to propagate and quickly spread throughout the world. [Music Has the Right to Children] had become an exceptionally prominent seller on the Indie charts in the UK. Their signature identity, their je ne sais quoi and otherworldly sounds where immediately recognizable but they didn't show you the whole picture with ease. Giving few interviews and rarely seen in photographs, their style and their activities where constantly wrapped in a veil. Sometimes referred to as 'Scotland's greatest mystery'.
Their sound continues to impact the music scene in a variety of ways. The methodology, sound texture being a duality of sonic mastery. IDM and post-rock where being sold readily with coined nicknames such as 'Nupsychedelic', but still, Boards of Canada's sound is something that doesn't fade, it continues to grow into something beautiful over time. Their sound is unique.
Meeting and exceeding the high expectations of future releases that fans where left with after their 1998 release, Geogaddi (2002) saw the light of day. Sounds and phrases, everything is composed of great beauty. Great moments of euphoria are reached in the new release. Within lies a psychedelic world that only the brothers Sandison can create. In addition to this, the few that have seen them at a live setting have also told of the charming characteristics of their, often intimate, live performances. The perfect blend of both psychedelic video and sound entrances the listener with all senses.
I am overjoyed to be interviewing both Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin, the masters behind the music, listening intently as I am aware of some of our readers anticipation and interest in hearing their story. Although I am not aware of how familiar they will be to Cookie Scene readers, I find that their sound alone leads me to want to know the story beneath. I tell myself: 'Before beginning this interview, I will want to recap their history'. Geogaddi was distributed to the press upon its release. I find myself wondering 'Are their four, or perhaps even five members of the group to create such a diverse sound?' The answer to this is now apparent. In 1995 the band and a group of their lucky friends gathered in Hexagon Sun studios in the Pentland Hills, Scotland and held an ordinance for their new release. Hexagon Sun is often the venue of small scale, closed audiovisual events for members of the collective. Their early releases where on a self-produced label 'Music70'. The very first release had been layered with melancholic melodies and rough rhythm sections.
[Unintelligible section omitted]
Boards of Canada utilized Hexagon Sun visuals in live settings, often accompanied by depressive and subliminal texts, gradually increasing the degree of audiovisual perfectionism.
Mike and Marcus immigrated between Scotland and southern Canada as children. The original form of Boards of Canada was based around a 1950's microphone, making experimental sounds using borrowed drums, synths and tape machines. Also utilizing 8mm cine-film video. A great deal of their influence comes from the soundtracks of educational documentaries, movies and music. The name 'Boards of Canada' coming from a Canadian documentary service: 'The Film Boards of Canada'. In 1996, Christ who was originally the group's 3rd member and helped to compose certain tracks on the Twoism EP, left the group leaving Mike and Marcus to continue. This year in London, the brothers performed a live show at an intimate Lighthouse venue on the River Thames, complete with super 8mm video for the duration. I attended this event, the 'Warp Lighthouse Party' seeing other artists from WarpRecords perform along with the Boards of Canada. Tortoise and Autechure are other notable appearances.
Hell Interface is the Board's side project and focuses mainly on intricate remix work, often sublime.
On February 2nd 2002, their long silence was ended and their second warp LP, Geogaddi emerged from the caverns and Warp Records gave away several releases for the press. Boards of Canada's name began to be well known in Japan. Four years ago, in the United Kingdom, the brothers appeared on the long established 'John peel radio show'. Peel referred to the broadcasting of it as 'one of his best sessions'.
Hexagon Sun began a regular event and referred to said event only as 'Redmoon'. People sat around a large bonfire akin to an old nursery rhyme. In February, I continued to scan over the UK indie chart Top 200.
This interview will comprise of three parts.Part one will be applying their roots, they tell me that they where releasing records from childhood.
Is the production company 'Film Boards of Canada' attached to your work aesthetically? Have you taken well to this and can you tell me anything about the namesake of your group?
Marcus: Yes. It was mostly educational programs. I look for things like that, even now. It revolves mostly around journeys that traverse the wilderness and also the fact that it is a documentation of said journey. The similarities can be heard in our music as it could be interpreted as a sonic journey. We also include themes such as environmental issues, which flow into the subject of such videos. Music that tended to exist in these documentaries didn't exist anywhere else and I find it truly inspiring
For us Japanese, the series of words that 'Boards of Canada' is, isn't. We have but a small idea of the image, the phrase is only applicable or understandable to those who's native language is English.
As children, you moved between the north of the UK and the south of Canada. Do you think this has had a considerable influence on the music?
[ambiguous as to which of the brothers replied]
I feel that it had a great deal of influence yes. For example to the north, there is very sightly and beautiful nature and wildlife combined with sometimes brutal and barren landscapes. For children who live there, there is not much to do however. We where given little entertainment. Self sufficiency at the heart that is stirred up by the decision to try to create something was our real motivation
The band in its original form was born out of nature. Using a microphone and a few complimentary synthesizers. Was the potent music coming out of the United States at the time of your earlier experimental work a strong influence to you?
Marcus: We knew a handful of bands from that place and time. We always listened to the rough, loose kind of music. More so than music created by groups and bands purely to be listened to in and of itself at the time, we where influenced by an array of Canadian documentaries and their soundtracks during our time there
Mike: Our music emerged mostly from natural chance at that time. One month we where making a b-music production, another eight and we where making an amateur video production accompanied by our own music. This was fueled by the basic impulse to create simple videos for ourselves
What was the relationship between music and video for you at the time? And how do you perceive that now?
Marcus: I think there are various stages in relation to film and music in terms of our own productions. Many of our earlier home-made films where purely experimental. I feel it was in contrast to a lot of the music videos coming out that where typically a combination of both dancing and music, with little other visuals. There was also the commercial aspect of that.
Recently, one feels that the commercial music scene is coming back in a way, but there where always artists with a particular palette in terms of audiovisual creations. In many ways, the video is now viewed as one of the elements to music creation. In some cases, the videos where never intended to be reflective of the music, but where purposed for it in such a manor anyway.
Aphex Twin gathered a lot of attention for Warp Records
in the earlier part of the 90's, and I feel that Boards of Canada
's music is also a strong force within that label and drawing more and more attention to it. There is an emerging electronic scene in Japan now, and worldwide.
Marcus: Terms like 'Electronica' and 'IDM' are very new ones. There are many artists out there and for many of them, they are only influenced by the past four or five year's worth of music. On the other hand, in our case, we find ourselves influenced by an array of different music from different times. We also take inspiration from music of many different scenes. Even thinking of my favourite groups, they are generally unique, doing things with a sense of self sufficiency and independence.
[On the subject of Redmoon nights. Ambiguous as to who was speaking]
It took place by a 16th century Monastery, mostly debris, with a partially Collapsed roof, a truly amazing place... Hidden in the forest, it became a feeling guarded by nature. Occasionally there are as many as a hundred people, this turned into fifty as the bonfire gradually turned to embers and with lights and candles, people came inside the monastery. A mysterious outdoor experience. A perfect place shrouded in western pine
Can you tell me as to which musical equipment you prefer to use, what is your favorite piece of musical hardware?
Marcus: We write songs in an entirely different way every time so sticking to the same equipment and instrumentation would damage that experience and ability to create a new atmosphere for every track. We like to create our own sounds, for example, by sampling the sound of a container of soup etc.
In making your work, who takes on the specific roles?
Marcus: Mike has become a source of inspiration for the core of the songs, he always has unique melodies and strange and wonderful ideas
Mike: Marcus' strengths are a great combination of musical experience. He is a great music producer and also the anti-producer in a way. A kind of guru in many ways.
If you had the ability to travel through time, to what time period would you see yourselves instinctively traveling?
[Ambiguous as to who responds]
Future advances in technology or astonishing progress for sciences and society is not the most impressive positive side to human development and the future
Mike: Specific events and movies gave particular impact in making Geogaddi
If big-budget films only had musical arrangements by Boards of Canada
... Do you make any movies? Who do you assign the acting roles to?
Marcus: I feel the answer to this question might be a little too revealing.
What impressions do you get from dreams, is your music ever inspired by images and sounds seen and heard in your sleep?
Marcus: As a child I would often dream and look forward to dreaming, it is true of today also. I remember one, this guy and his family together in Canada. They parked their car and visited the single story church next door, the family entered, I did not go with them. There was a nice green lawn and I had a walk around the building. I went around the back and fell onto orange barbed wire. The first King of the United Kingdom appeared. He placed his sword against my neck and dragged me up to the guillotine behind the building. At the same time as the guillotine, my body had morphed into a stone statue. I felt awful. Another dream I had had this early 80s ominous feel. I woke up in the middle of the night and rand down the stairs, I looked into the hallway below and saw red transparent organisms there. There was a guy with an ET feeling about him, red or orange light shone onto his body. I was screaming as I was being sucked into him, etc.
What sentiments do you find to be most beautiful and what are your concerns in and of this world?
Marcus: Environmental issues are something I hold close and have strong beliefs in. The freedom of self-determinism is also one that I feel more people should be aware of and advocating.
Regarding creatures of non-human origin on this Earth. There are separate reactions for instance that of the fish is one that is rather instinctive and they have little awareness of other species. When I listen to Geogaddi, I hear the entire seed of time including the human race, and within each species a boundary exists as akin to one I would imagine in a fictional world.
Mike: I think you are on to something there. I think we try to subtly imply that Geogaddi is the world. A warm mixture divided on the concept of chaos. As if you are viewing something in a state of furious drunkenness, with that particular gaze. Fish and Humans help to form the hexagonal mirror image of the world, as does the presence of birds and all wildlife. It all forms the aforementioned mixture of a chaotic but intricate world.
Do you think the meaning that people put into the album title Geogaddi affects the way a listener perceives the music?
Marcus: I think it really depends on the listener. Many listen and think consciously about its impact. Some will inevitably reach the same conclusions that we do. It is certainly ambiguous for a reason but that isn't to say that many won't come to the same conclusions
Will people's perceptions of your previous work affect the way they hear Geogaddi? On the subject of your previous work, there has even been a song called Turquoise Hexagon Sun. I don't want to call this your 'decisive album'. I think it is always important to have the frame of mind that your best work is yet to be made. In a way, this album serves as a way to purify the former idea of your music and the ruthless categorization that inevitably comes from it. You always defy the listener's expectations. I sometimes feel that your music's purpose is to program or control the listener through suggestive sounds. I feel that Geogaddi is completely different to your previous work Music Has the Right to Children and the EP released two years ago In a Beautiful Place out in the Country. From these phrases we gather a human, a natural, sentiment. I really feel the attitude of your new album is very different, utilizing twisted samples and distortion
Mike: Distant, yet direct. A twist. Distortion is also applied much more liberally throughout Geogaddi. We human beings live in harmony with one nature. I never intend to create an intrusive attitude towards the listener. We also include plenty of humor as and when we wish. There is plenty to find.
Is expressing humanity and nature in music incompatible with using electronic equipment to do so?
Mike: With our music we are looking to make a strong contradiction. I feel that natural and electronic are one, however. I often feel an inner conflict on the matter. In a sense, all things like electronics and technology are, after all, an extension of the 'natural'.
Marcus: We sometimes take inspiration from urban environments, too. We personally tend to avoid the subject in our music. There are little things though like reverberation that can only be created by sounds echoing through the streets of a city. We prefer to replace the cold atmosphere of modern electronics with the more traditional. We like to think of our sound as something warm and perhaps forceful. This is reflected very much in our video
And as we have been focusing on current activities, the last part of our interview will focus more on future activities. I have heard much talk of potential projects for the future. It was over three years since your last LP...
Mike: There are actually an awful lot of songs that where not used for Geogaddi. An awful lot that have not been used. We'll have fun creating the new album, our lifestyle warrants that. You might hear a few of the unused tracks making it to the production line in future.
What technology do you use on a daily basis and what is your view of technology generally?
Marcus: We live in the midst of raw nature, breathing the fullest fresh air. For thousands of years, humans used technology in order to better their own lives, but for the first time in history we are at an exceptional place where technology is effectively being made for itself. I think that what is most dangerous for modern society is that technology has lost sight of realistic goals. Millions of people are involved in the development of weapons in one hand, and on the other hand others are involved in the development of equipment to improve the lives of people who are most disadvantaged in society.
Boards of Canada's music, especially the newer, the sound leaves a strong impression. Many listeners also feel that they have to find a meaning 'between the lines' when reading the titles. Many also felt that there was something to hear in the silence during '"Magic Window"'. Was the implementation of that 'gap of sound' ["Magic Window"] important to you?
Marcus: I like to treat it as a space. Its strange with an album focusing so heavily on the dynamics and intricacies of sound to suddenly be confronted with silence.
I also feel that there is something very unique about your usage of words.
" comes to mind and many other passages of music with semi-audible words that are almost on a subliminal level. Do you anticipate people trying to make any sense of these words and phrases as they are listening?
Mike: I don't think that combined vocal is required to create a good melody, they are mostly secondary to the music. It isn't always completely clear what is being sung. Some of the instruments are regarded as 'space' or 'silence' is an important factor in not over-saturating a track. With some artists, vocals and one instrument is all that is needed to entrance you such as with the Cocteau Twins. You don't always have to understand what is being talked about to find beauty in it. Vocals are an instrument in and of themselves.
Boards of Canada's purpose is to make music. What is your process? Do you build songs from interesting sounds that you have created in reverse sometimes?
Marcus: Sometimes occasionally you can decide the title and the theme before you make a song and try to create a sound that suits it. '"Gyroscope"' is an example of this and was formed as a result of a dream. The track directly reflected that of the sonic qualities of my dream, actually. A lot of the time we build tracks around an interesting sound or basis, it becomes the focal point and we build the track around it.
I recall after playing '"1969"' the sample that repeats
", in the sunshine...' will remain circulating around my head long after the song is over. I feel that many of your records reference the psychedelic movement of the 60s. Do you consider yourselves hippies? (laughs)
[Ambiguous as to who responds]
I think that artists feel a sense of intimacy in the country. At that time (60's) I think fields and nature represented a certain sense of freedom. I also feel that psychedelic and hippie music has its roots in country music and was effectively an adaptation of such. They where tributaries and offshoots of the main river that is country music. It eventually became a fashionable existence to identify as a 'hippie'. We empathize and relate to the fundamental ethics of that stream of music, though.
Do you think that aspects of your daily life reflect your ethics and roots as musicians?
There is a certain aspect of lesser known modern music that serves as an antidote to modern pop charts. It is easy to simply make laptop music but there are no true feelings that reside within it and it is often difficult to find any warmth in. We have a certain appreciation for bands that can utilize musical instruments live despite Boards of Canada relying more heavily on technology.
Many people compare you to certain groups such as Pink Floyd, Brian Eno, Autechure, Godspeed You Black Emperor! etc. How do you feel about this and how do you feel about these artists?
[Ambiguous as to who replies]
For Pink Floyd, they generally don't compare us. There isn't so much to hear in their early works. The same can be said about Brian Lee Residential. Some of his works we've certainly enjoyed though despite not listening to all of his works. We adore and are well connected with Autechure. It feels like a vast difference between our sounds though. I tend to focus on music to surpass limits of rhythm and electronic sounds, the core of our sound is generally a melody. With God Speed we have also listened to a small quantity of their work but by no means all of it and I would like to express the greatest respect for Darrel, also my friend. He is probably one of the nicest guys in the people who are doing electronic music.
Mike: SKAM, they are not affected by the commercial thing. A 'do-it-yourself' atmosphere that you have to stick to to a certain extent. Andy Maddox (head of SKAM records) is, while being a layed-back person, someone that would come up with ideas to realize that you want to do immediately. I think we just wanted to feel that we where running our own creation. Warp is more of a 'big label' type situation but I also feel that we are one large family in music.
Marcus: We are. We made a song that is sampled from the basic elements of a rather famous song, in order to avoid any legal trouble, we thought it would be best to release it under the pseudonym.
The John Peel Sessions where also a great release, we don't yet have any recordings other than that of seeing you perform in a live setting. Do you consider yourself to be more expressive through live works or do you tend towards the studio side of the situation?
Mike: Thank you! We spend several months preparing for a performance, mostly because of the visual side of things and using our 8mm film footage. Trying to accurately time psychedelic imagery with the music and we use some unusual effects
Do you see yourselves ever performing in Japan?
Marcus: Really, we have actually wanted to do so. Several times we where invited to play in japan, in fact. However, its not like we have a 'This year I want to do a gig' sentiment very often.
Mike: We've already begun working on the new album so we have plenty to keep ourselves busy with. After that, perhaps, we will complete a video and consider a live event.
Original text (Japanese)