Manchester based band Delphic burst onto the UK music scene after releasing ‘Counterpoint’ on the legendary electronic label R&S in 2009, which was produced by Ewan Pearson. The band then signed a huge record deal with Polydor, releasing albums ‘Acolyte’ and ‘Collections’. After recently hearing some great new music from the electronic group, we took the opportunity to chat with the band’s James Cook, taking in Berghain, skate park raves and the bleak industrial yet charming surrounds of Ancoats.
First of all, what have you been up to since the release of ‘Collections’ in 2013? Has much changed? Well, since 'Collections,' we have been writing and honing Delphic as much as we can. If we look at where we were a year ago - preparing and rehearsing for Manchester International Festival and a completely different type of live show - then look to now, having just released a club based mixtape, loads has changed. Essentially, we've been crafting away as much as we can, working on 'Get Familiar' and building our new studio in Manchester. It's been fun!
You recently uploaded the mixtape ‘Get Familiar’ – can you tell us more about this and its inspiration? Yeah, we released 'Get Familiar' in April this year as a free, stream-able mixtape comprising of seven brand new tracks. We could've held out and made a more traditional release of it, but we wanted to act spontaneously and not get caught up in the humdrum that comes with album releases. It also gave us the opportunity to mix everything together much like a DJ set, which is something we have long wanted to achieve with a release.
With tracks that have been remixed by Lone, Shadow Child and Kyle Hall, and a release on R&S, you have always had links to dance music, but with your latest mixtape are you making more of a conscious decision to push in a dance oriented direction? If so, why is this? Well, we've always looked at ourselves as an electronic dance act, which gives us the freedom to reach into every recess of the genre. Our first album was synthesiser led and 'Collections' was sample led, both with a healthy balance of song and band elements. Whatever we do, whatever we put out there will always have its roots in dance and electronica – we just hope we're wavering closer to the dance floor.
Has the huge thirst for dance music in the UK at the moment taken you in the direction you are going now? It’s definitely hard to avoid the fact that dance music is more present culturally in the UK than it has been for a long time, if not more than it has ever been. Those trends seep into your subconscious from the club and from radio, and I think more than anything, we can be thankful that we have a history of making dance music. We'd like to think that we're doing it on our terms and not anyone else's though...
You’re new studio space is in Ancoats in Manchester. The area has an industrial feel, has this influenced you? You’re new tracks sound very summery and uplifting! The whole mixtape is one huge contradiction, really, isn't it? On the one hand, stylistically we wanted to make it uplifting, upbeat and motivational, but lyrically and melodically there is a cold, bleak undertone. That side of it was definitely influenced by the mill we've been locked away in for around a year while making this release - we're massive fans of the Todd Terry remix of 'Missing by Everything But The Girl' because it manages to do everything we want from a dance tune - club based melancholy. Fingers crossed we're ticking those boxes.
How have these new more dance-oriented tracks been produced? Completely independently is the short answer. We've often felt a certain level of compromise from working with people outside of our little unit, and while that can sometimes work out really well, we wanted to have a go at producing it ourselves and being in control of every stage.
Is there a shift in the way you write songs now? Not really, we've always written songs in quite a warped way, although a lot of our tunes are borne out of getting an idea at the piano or with a guitar, you wouldn't class us as a band whose sole aim is to capture those live and organic moments on record. We get an idea and put it straight into a sequencer where we build a feel around it knowing that we have a certain sound palette that we want to work with - guitar and drums being prominent amongst it.
Are you playing any live shows at the moment? If so, how do you incorporate the old and new material and play it together live? At the moment we're focusing solely on studio based activities, working on new material and producing a few other projects. So, touring isn't on the agenda this year, but we'd like to get back out there as soon as we can and we relish the opportunity to get back in the rehearsal room to put the live show together.
Do you have plans to release a new album soon? If so, how do you plan on balancing all the dance elements to create a cohesive body of work? Dance albums can be notoriously difficult. Following up from the last question, an album is in the pipeline but we aren't going to rush it. As you rightly say, making dance albums can be difficult because for us, we want to get the balance between song and dance floor just right - it can take quite a while to calibrate that sometimes.
You’re music has always had a strong electronic aesthetic running through it – what kind of electronic music has influenced you throughout your careers? Wow, it's such a wide genre that we've been influenced by so much over the years. I think a good starting point that connected all three of us was Bjork's ‘Debut’, that album has everything we love production wise, song wise and style wise. Bjork is someone who taps into her cultural environment so well and that album was a great snap shot of early ‘90s Europe.
I read that you were going to minimal techno parties at one point – were there any particular parties that stood out for you? What kind of artists were playing? Ha! One that definitely stood out was a night in a Manchester skate park in around 2009. The DJ was playing stuff like Basic Channel and Autechre, which we hadn't really heard before and definitely felt like a bit of an enlightening moment. We went home and wrote a tune that went on our debut as a kind of homage.
You spent time in Berlin with Ewan Pearson – how did this come about? Did you go out and sample the nightlife there? Musicians often develop a soft-spot for Berlin! Oh Berlin, how we love Berlin. Ewan was recommended to us by a guy from R&S records and after sending a few tunes back and forth we leapt at the chance to get in the studio with him. Ewan lives over in Berlin so we spent part of our time recording the first album there. We've had some great nights in Berlin, the nightlife is the best in Europe, so we always look forward to getting back out there. One night that sticks in the memory was Laurent Garnier at Berghain, a seven hour DJ set. Wow!
Are any of you involved in DJing? Yeah, in the early days we would DJ with our drummer Dan, but more recently I'm (James Cook) heading out solo and looking forward to shows over the summer. I always remember reading about Faithless road testing 'God Is A DJ' in their DJ sets then honing the mix as a result. I can't wait to get out and road test some new material.
What can we expect from you in terms of releases and gigs in the next few months? Mainly writing, producing and DJing. I'm off to Asia in September, so before that I'll be using the next few months to get as much stuff together as possible in anticipation for a rewarding trip away. Purposely there aren't any live shows or large releases on the horizon, but by Autumn it's highly like you'll start to see the murmurs of new 'things', be it music or shows, or something completely different.
You can purchase 'Get Familiar' on iTunes here.