Let's be honest, the vast majority of people outside of Berlin came to the attention of Anklepants - the dude with an animatronic dildo for a nose - via his now famous Boiler Room appearance a couple of months back. The reactions were varied to say the least; some loved it, some hated it, and others were just genuinely freaked out and struggled to continue watching.
Though as the man behind the dick explains to Pulse, there's so much more to Anklepants - both the live experience and behind the scenes - than just a cockhead jumping about on stage.
You go by a many number of names: Anklepants, Dr Reecard Farche, Richard Face, Face Head...which is probably my favourite. What should I call you? If you're talking to Anklepants, it's Dr Reecard Farche [pronounced "Farch-ey"].
You’re currently living in Berlin, but you’re actually from Australia? Yes I've been living in Berlin for two years but I haven't been back to Australia in five years. It's pretty exciting to finally get back to the colony.
Was it in Australia that Anklepants was born? Yes, 2008 was the first show, but some of the music was written up to ten years before that.
And how did your creation actually come to be? Well the face was kind of an idea for a comedy-sci-fi-porn film but then it got reappropriated into a musical character. But as for the music, it was just a mixture of different things I was doing at the time that came together. The technical side of Anklepants comes from my background in special effects - developing electronic ideas and mixing them together.
You were working in film on the Gold Coast, right? I've worked all around Australia on films, and all around Europe too. But yeah I was working on the Gold Coast in 2006 and in Sydney well before then too.
Did you build the mask yourself? Yeah of course. The actual mask is a prosthetic makeup that's been reappropriated as a pull-on mask to use at shows. The animatronics are very simple. The control system is probably the most involved part of the whole setup because of the many ways the animatronics can be controlled, and the microphone is doing a million things...everything is connected.
So was the microphone controller built in unison with the mask? No, the mask was built two years before the first microphone. I wasn't wireless to begin with and at first the control system was very simple. I had a power and midi cable going into the mask at the back of my head, so I was restricted to stay with the machine. Then around 2010 or 2011 everything became completely wireless including the first microphone which controlled all the voice effects. Now the new mic controls voice effects, the animatronics, or the dick so to speak. It's basically a big feedback instrument which currently has sixteen buttons, two joysticks and an accelerometer. My voice can control the animatronics, or they can be controlled by a sensor. I can chop a track up, there are many different effects and a million different things going on at once. Sadly you can't really tell exactly what I'm doing a lot of the time, but in the future I'll have visuals.
So as well as singing I'm also thinking about controlling a lot of other things. It's kind of like having limbs that you don't have. It's like learning another instrument. It might look like it's randomised but it's not. If people come to see multiple shows they'll realise that often the same things do happen more than once. But I try to make it spontaneous as well.
You've mentioned in other interviews that spontaneity is something you think is missing from live electronic music. Yeah totally. Spontaneity is the key. When rock music first came out it had this life to it. I'm from a rock music background and I still play in bands and with more conventional instruments and I suppose Anklepants is an attempt to bring spontaneity back into electronic music; a performance that's generated before your eyes. Which is totally doable with the current technology, but it just doesn't get used because the norm has become just playing records or CDs. Which is totally fine, but machines can handle so much information being sent to them, just like a guitar or drums. So for me it's just natural to try and enhance this. I want to really go nuts with the possibilities and what people see of Anklepants now is really just the beginning.
You mention electronic music as a performance. As electronic music becomes even more popular, do you think you need the theatrical to stand apart from the pack? Perhaps to a certain extent that might be the case in Australia, but in Europe it's a totally different story. There are so many people doing their own thing here and it's just accepted. In terms of Europe - not just Berlin, which is now becoming very genre-fied like any other city - most people have their own thing going on that involves manipulating machines and combining performance with human interaction. It's just the norm.
A popular topic I've read you talking about is that there's no such thing as the underground anymore. Can you share your thoughts on that? Well in Australia for instance, marketing is the main thing which tells people that a certain thing is popular. That's a concept that is totally obsolete most of the time in Europe. A squat party here will have as many people, or more, than the biggest club in Sydney. In Berlin people go to Berghain with big name international DJs playing, but they also go regardless of who is playing. And on the same night there'll be parties at illegal venues that are completely rammed. There's no distinction - they're the same.
Sadly in Australia things are just so pumped full of marketing across the board, in both music and in film. What is called the underground actually has the same hierarchy as the mainstream, they're a contradiction of each other. So people should just stop worrying about it because everyone's got different opinions anyway, so who cares? If people want to go and see interesting and inspiring things, then they should just get out there and do it.
What kind of a reaction are you expecting from your upcoming Australian shows? That's a good question...I'm really not sure what to expect. I mean I've had some good shows in Australia in the past, but it's difficult to compare them to shows I've had here. My first gig in Europe was at Corsica Studios in London, which has a crazy Funktion-One system, and that had 700 people who just went completely nuts. The first time I played in Berlin was at Cafe Zaparta and that was crazy too. People here tend to...if the music gets too hectic for them then they just watch, and then they dance when there's something for them to catch onto. They really just take it in. But yeah, it'll be interesting to see what happens there.
Sydney audiences can sometimes be quite reserved and non-participatory. Perhaps they can study up on your Boiler Room performance to see what not to do? [Laughs] Yeah the Boiler Room show really isn't a very good reference point for my live show at all. I don't want to say the wrong thing here because it was a great opportunity, but most of my gigs aren't like that. For starters I'm usually jumping into a crowd at a headline show that's sold out with 400-800 people. People love to hate on things so that Boiler Room gets a lot of stick because people are hanging back. But whatever.
I suppose it's all geared around the camera too. Exactly, and it's a very early show too. I think I started just after it got dark and peak time in Berlin is 2 or 3am. It's really hard to put me on early...people need to be a bit looser. So for crowd reaction and participation Boiler Room is not a good one. It's a perfect one for the haters.
You mentioned before that you see the show evolving in the future. Can you expand on that? I'm building a guitar at the moment with an RGB LED finger board so I can have images streaming into it and control feedback and arrangements. The body of the guitar will have a fully articulated, animatronic head with tentacles that will slither around in time with the music and also do back up vocals. It will become like a second member of the show. I plan to include a lot more band members actually. I really want some of my friends from Australia who I've worked with to be involved. I want a live drummer; electronic drums but with rock arrangements and other percussive elements. And all these members will be different characters with masks that I have already designed. Visuals are also something I want included as a strong element, like with lasers and video content. I just need more time and money!
What can we expect coming up release wise? There's the new 12-inch 'Just One For The Guys' which has just come out on my own label and has four tracks. I've got videos planned for all the tracks on there too, which will have a lot of ariel photography of the Swiss Alps and the edelweiss flower.
Once I get back from a US tour early next year I'm going to work on a new album. I've already got a stack of half done tracks, in fact I've got enough material for about three albums. I'll just have to lay off the live shows so I have time to complete them. A lot of my upcoming music is going to be very Turkish influenced, at least the music for the main Anklepants album anyway. Very Eastern European influenced in regards to tunings and instruments. I'd like to release an album of more clubbier material too.
Anklepants 2014 Australian Tour Dates
16.08.14 - Chinese Laundry, Sydney
29.08.14 - Revolver, Melbourne
12.09.14 - Ginger Club, Perth
26.09.14 - Transit Bar, Canberra