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"[[The Secret Life of Boards of Canada]]" is an interview by John Mulvey originally published Feb. 23 2002 in NME magazine.
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"[[The Secret Life of Boards of Canada]]" is a 2002 interview by John Mulvey. It originally appeared in ''NME magazine''.
 
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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.
 
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.
{{boc| We take that as a real compliment,}} accepts '''Sandison'''. {{boc|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.}}
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"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.
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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. {{boc|My parents worked in the construction industry out there,}} writes '''Sandison'''. {{boc|My memory of Calgary is a picture of boxy 1970s office blocks dumped in the middle of nowhere against a permanent sunset.}}
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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. {{boc|We're a bit anal about this,}} admits '''Eoin''', {{boc|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. {{boc|A typical day for us,}} writes '''Eoin''', {{boc|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.
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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.
{{boc|We're too busy to give a shit,}} reckons '''Sandison'''. {{boc|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.}}
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"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."
  
 
{{question|Why is it so much better to live in the country rather than the city?}}
 
{{question|Why is it so much better to live in the country rather than the city?}}
  
{{boc|'''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.}}
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{{boc|"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."}}
  
 
{{question|What's the significance of hexagons to you?}}
 
{{question|What's the significance of hexagons to you?}}
  
{{boc|'''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.}}
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{{boc|"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."}}
  
 
{{question|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.}}
 
{{question|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.}}
  
{{boc|'''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.}}
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{{boc|"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."}}
  
 
{{question|What's the fascination with children's voices? Is it to do with a nostalgia for childhood?}}
 
{{question|What's the fascination with children's voices? Is it to do with a nostalgia for childhood?}}
  
{{boc|'''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.}}
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{{boc|"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."}}
  
 
{{question|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?}}
 
{{question|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?}}
  
{{boc|'''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.}}
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{{boc|"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."
 
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."

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