|| Boards of Canada, eh?
|| Walt Miller
|| Vol.02 No.04
"Boards of Canada, eh?" is an interview by Walt Miller originally published 1998 in Faqt magazine Vol. 02 No. 04, pp.32-33.
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, eh?
Marcus Eoin and Mike Sandison are a couple of Scottish lads who grew up in Canada, and were mesmerized as children by the documentary soundtracks produced by the Canadian Film Board, (hence the name). As youths. Marcus and Mike were prolific in their endeavors: early adventures included unusual, visionary film & sound experiments. As musicians, the two went virtually unnoticed until Sean Booth called the band up after receiving a demo tape, which led to the much-heralded release, Hi Scores, on Autechre's Skam label. As the hype slowly mounted on the strength of the record, BOC continued their steady work ethic, contributing tracks to various compilations, doing remixes and releasing two more records for Skam (a 7" and a 10"). In 1998, Music Has A Right To Children was put out by Warp, and subsequently licensed to Matador in America. As their first full length release, the album represents a a culmination in the duo's perfected sound: beautiful melancholic melodies over deliciously crunchy rhythms that give nods to Autechre. The duo plans to follow up Music Has A Right with another album for Warp next year. Meanwhile, their film production collective, Music70, continues to work on a large film project to be completed in 2-3 years time.
The following is an email interview conducted with the band in late summer conducted by Walt Miller.
There's quite a lot of buzz about you right now. Describe how things have changed for you since you put out the Skam 12"?
The Skam 12" took a while to get a reaction, because the Skam releases are very limited and the label is really a streetlevel underground thing. Things haven't changed that much for us really because we've always been workaholics. We usually have about four or five projects on the go at any one time, so the workload for Warp is kind of what we used to inflict upon ourselves anyway.
Some people say that Boards Of Canada is the next in line to grab the "intelligent techno" baton... comments?
That's an oxymoron isn't it? I don't think people will describe the next one as 'techno'. We like some techno, but most of what we listen to isn't connected with that at all. People seem to like these phrases like 'IDM' or whatever, because they hear electronic sounds and automatically they feel the need to reduce it to 'dance' or 'techno'. But then you can't really dance to it, so they say "uh, well then it's intelligent dance" which is rubbish. It's just intelligent music.
Which comes first for you generally, melody or rhythms?
It's nearly always the melody first. We experiment mostly with melodies. Sometimes we dig out an older melody which we wrote maybe ten years ago, and we re-work it, such as 'Turquoise Hexagon Sun' on this album. Usually we let the rhythms fall into place on the melodies.
How fine is the line between melody (particularly the ones you use) and pop?
It's a very fine line. If an electronic artist says they're not influenced by pop music they're probably lying because everyone grows up hearing it. We always wanted pop music to break out of the conventions of melody and structure that make it pop in the first place. When we listen to pop music we hear things we want it to do, but it never does them. So we try to make our tracks sound kind of pop, so we can do something really surprising with the melody or whatever. We decided that if nobody else was going to write the melodies we wanted to hear, we'd do it ourselves. In the seventies and eighties lots of artists realised that one way to make fresh, original music was to practically remove melody altogether. So most early electronic music was rhythm-oriented. But we like to hear original music which is packed full of melody.
Journalists seem to be going crazy over your melodies, as if melody itself was a novel concept. What do you make of that? Is it "weird" to use melody, these days?
I think people just need to own up and admit that they're bored. Right now it's still very cool to produce music which has no tunes, so a lot of listeners are going along with it, saying 'Yeah I love this too', when in fact, they don't.
Your name is derived from the Canadian film Board, whose 70's era documentaries were a big influence on you. What was it about their films that influenced you, and how does it show through in your music?
The National Film Board movies are an example of visuals and music which never had to be in a recogniseable format. Those films were just one source of inspiration for us, because some of the ideas were really unusual, just like those in experimental animations or public information films, or jingles at the end of TV shows. None of these things had any connection with fashion They're anachronistic, unplaceable in that sense. Few recording artists make beautiful music like that which doesn't pander to trends, so you have to seek it out in obscure old films or TV programmes.
I read somewhere that films are Important segments of your live shows. How so? Any plans on releasing those films in the future?
We usually use films onstage, but wo won't be releasing any of those, because they're only designed to work in that context. We Imagine our music to have a visual element, so we make films. When we try to make a film on It's own it usually ends up having a strong musical element.
Do film and music hold equal Importance to you?
No, music on it's own is more emotionally instant, so it's more Interesting to us. I think it's a lot more difficult to achieve an emotional resonance with film alone. Like with your sense of smell, music is more closely attached to the memory. It’s more temporal than film. We've been doing both for a long time, but we've always loved music more.
Your bio mentions that Michael made his first film on a super-8 at the ago of 12, damaging the film in certain ways to create lighting effects. Looking back, doesn't that seem awfully young to be doing cool stuff lika that?
I don't know, it's just what we got into. I was lent a cheap camera, so I roped my friends into being technicians and actors. We were just messing with the equipment to see what we could get out of it. When I first started playing piano I was about seven. I got bored really quickly so I began putting stuff into the piano to make it sound different. Wires and microphones and bits of paper.
Did other children look at you as somewhat peculiar?
Not really. We had a gang like any other kids. One week we were stealing knives from a local hardware shop, and the next week we were making a home movie.
Is there anything you'd like to say about the "large film project" you are said to be working on?
It's something we've wanted to do for a long time. A beautiful feature-length film with no budget.
Highlights and Notes
- On page 07 in this issue there is a small section "Artist Survey" where several artists were asked who their pop culture heroes were when they were 12 years old.Marcus: Masaaki Hatsumi. Michael: Ted Neeley