a.k.a. Anthony Child
I was born in the glamorous hub of Newport Pagnall. I think it’s most famous for being a motorway service station on the M1. I was born on the 1st May in 1971. I mainly grew up in a village outside Northampton called Kislingbury, and I stayed in that general area until at the age of 18; then I moved to Birmingham to study and I lived there until about 7 years ago. We now live in Worcestershire, just South West of Birmingham.
Music was more my dad’s thing, my mum was a science teacher. My dad is quite a music collector; he’s got a bizarre cross-section of tastes in music. I think there are certain things that I picked out of his collection that really interested me, like a very early memory of listening to Isao Tomita, a Japanese electronic composer who’d do electronic versions of classical music mainly, or film themes, in maybe the mid to late 70’s. I also really liked BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the ‘Doctor Who’ type of stuff. My earliest memories of choosing music were very electronic orientated.
To me, it’s interesting that the earliest techno tracks were in the pop charts; I remember watching Stakker Humanoid doing some really heavy acid track on ‘Top Of The Pops.’ Looking back that seems rather bizarre but at the time it was quite normal; the idea of these things being on mainstream TV when everyone is sat around having dinner. It’s just the way different underground scenes peak into the mainstream and then duck back out again.
Another early important musical experience for me was an art teacher at my school, when I was maybe 15 or 16. He wasn’t actually one of my teachers but he was some of my friends’ class tutor. At dinner time I’d go with them and eat my pack lunch and he used to play records. He had a record player in his art room, he’d play a whole weird mixture of jazzy stuff - Frank Zappa and things like that - but I remember he had this Brian Eno and Robert Fripp record called ‘No Pussyfooting.’ At the time it really blew my mind because he showed me one side of the record, and he’d drop the needle at various points and it would apparently sound the same, but then he played the whole thing and you could hear it evolve. I’d never realised that music could do things like that; it was exploring all these different ideas about sound and music. That was a real discovery for me. I thought German bands like Faust were really interesting, too.
I started making my own music using tape recorders, but there’s not a specific beginning point, really, somewhere in my teenage years. I played some things I’d done to someone and they said, ‘It sounds like Coil, you should check them out,’ so I started listening to Coil in about ‘86/’87. They’ve been a big influence for a long time.
We’ve noticed you namecheck Coil quite a lot...
I was a fan of the band Spacemen 3, they would play in Northampton all the time so I was very familiar with them; they were like a pub band to me. I remember reading an interview with them and they name-checked some of the bands they liked and so I discovered new bands from there. I found about Suicide that way. I very consciously like to name-check stuff in that way because I’ve grown to love many bands I hear about that way. There’s all these worlds out there that you can be completely unaware of. And it can open you up to a whole new world because there’s all these bands that relate to them and it goes from there...
It started off with a regular cassette player and just taking it apart and disconnecting things so I could overlay sound. Then I got hold of one of the old quarter inch tape reel to reel decks and started doing razorblade editing and setting tape loops and things. That was influenced what I’d read about the way that the Beatles recorded. That was a bit of an entrance in to some kind of avant-garde stuff. There were aspects in their music that fascinated me, the sound collage and manipulation stuff. That really fascinated me, the collage aspect of sound much more than the melodic aspects, because when I was young I knew I was interested in music but you assume that means you play an instrument. So I tried piano, violin, guitar and all these things and I got on to an extent – but with the piano, for example, I’d open the top up and start banging the strings like, ‘Ah yeah, I like that a lot better. It’s so boring learning these scales.’ Different things suit different people. I didn’t take any of it that far and was exploring different instruments but none of it really worked for me. I’d much preferred playing with a tape recorder.
With one of my first tracks that got released, Mick Harris had a studio at his home and instead of him hovering over me going, ‘Don’t touch that, be careful,’ he left me to it. He didn’t want to interfere with my creative process; he left me to it saying, ‘Just go mad, do what you want.’
We met through mutual friends and we had some similar tastes so we got on, I’d just go round his house, listen to music and watch films. He was very generous with the studio equipment that he had; at that time it was very financially constrained with what you could do. I had a keyboard and a friend had a drum machine and I carried them round his house and used the equipment he had. Just hooked it up and did it like that. It’s like an apprenticeship, lugging the keyboards around. Having to make something with what you’ve got, that can make you have to stretch your imagination and your equipment.
I was involved as a DJ since beginning of ‘93 with a party called House Of God and that’s still running -we celebrated the 17th birthday in January. The fun thing about House Of God was the fact that we were running a club but none of us had ever been to a techno club. So we had this idea in our heads about what a techno club was. We couldn’t go out in Birmingham to hear the music we wanted to hear so we had to do it ourselves; it just started in the back room of a pub and built up from there. Years later, when we actually did go to some established techno clubs in London, we were really surprised at how different they were. It was largely due to the very wide and varied musical backgrounds of everyone involved with the club, everyone bought these different angles on it. And the audience that the crowd became was very varied and mixed, a lot of whom who previously hadn’t been into clubs or dance music; it brought together this weird mixed bag of people, but it created a really good party and pretty wild but there were no ground rules, it just made itself up as it went along. Musically it was very varied and mixed; people just played what they wanted and tried to take it further and further, whatever direction. It was definitely influenced by rave culture, we’d been to raves of that time but we liked the more techno end of the music, the more pure electronic kind of stuff. We’d still play that rave stuff, we’d mix it up and the whole ethos was very non-purist really. It was fun and very intense with lots of energy.
LABELS & PRODUCTIONS
The Downwards connection was through Mick as well, he was also friends with Karl O’Connor, who I didn’t know at the time. He played the tracks that I’d recorded at Mick’s place and Karl said ‘I want to put these out’, and he started the Downwards label and put the music out, and put his own tracks out as well. Then people like Dave Clarke and DJ Hell were very much behind our tracks. They publicised them really, and Jeff Mills as well - he used some on his ‘’Live At Liquid Room’ mix.
With Tresor, there was a guy who occasionally DJed at House Of God called Terry Donovan, he was also friends with one of the regular resident DJs Paul Bailey, otherwise known as Paul Damage; quite a lovely name. We all chose ridiculous DJ names, because in the beginning it was a laugh and we didn’t think anything was going to come of it, and at the time all the DJs in the UK had really ridiculous names, so we just chose stupid names. Terry Donovan worked at BMG and he licensed some Tresor albums for UK release. He had a residency at the club and got me to come play at Tresor - that was maybe the second DJ gig I’d done out of England, and I was so nervous. The Tresor connection came through that, really. I really enjoyed playing there, I ended up doing the residency there and playing there every month for quite a while and that was good fun.
Karl and I did the British Murder Boys project and for both of us, our work evolved and changed in quite a natural and organic way. For us, British Murder Boys was a much more premeditated project. We really thought about every detail: about how it would look and sound, and the titles and the way it was presented, and the performance. So it was like playing at the image a lot more and very much influenced by Throbbing Gristle’s industrial records and the like. But that reached a point where we exhausted that idea and anything else we did would be breaking the idea of the project. And I think we were moving in different directions as well, with our own music.
Frequency 7 is a DJing project where Ben Sims and I try and bring a lot of different styles into the mix... very improvised; we don’t really know what the other person is going to do. It’s really exciting because the back and forth communication is very quick and very direct but we’re never verbally speaking, or even looking at each other - we’re just listening to what the other person’s doing and very instantly reacting. It’s a really quick musical conversation but it really kind of slots and fits together very precisely. It’s like listening to our musical banter. Ben’s style of DJing is very precise structurally, we can fit it together very precisely and very quickly and it just builds this thing - we don’t know what it’s going to do and it just goes all over the place. It’s really fun and exciting for us. But one cheeky thing about it is that a lot of the time he’s actually playing my tracks and I’m actually playing his tracks. So often I play one of his tracks and people are pointing at him, but I’m playing it. And also, other music - like disco tunes, for instance - people will assume that Ben is playing those but it’s actually me. It gives us both a chance to get away with things. Sometimes he’ll turn to me if I play something really cheesy and its like, ‘Ah you bastard - they’re going to think I’ve played this, I’m going to get the blame for this!’ (laughs) I can really stitch him up. It’s really good fun. We’re doing a Japanese tour soon so that should be fun.
DJing goes back quite far, if you count the idea of making a compilation tape and thinking about how you structure the tracks; that, in a sense, is a DJ set and I’ve done that a long time. But actually in terms of mixing stuff together, I really liked electro in the 80’s with all the compilations with the street sounds. So the idea of DJing was really fascinating to me but all of that equipment was so out of my financial reach, I couldn’t even begin to think of buying any sort of equipment. Like a lot of people did at that time, I just sort of did pause-record mixtapes. There’s quite a grey area with the DJing thing, but in terms of actually playing out to an audience of some kind - that began in ‘92, at the age of 21. There’s definitely a big difference between mixing at home, mixing at that volume and the whole idea of the communication with the people, the back and forth connection.
I do change the way I’m playing at different places. It’s having an awareness of what people’s expectations are, and then stretching the boundaries of that, while trying to incorporate different styles into it. There have always been far more experimental and avant-garde electronic artists than anything that I do, but I like to work as a kind of breach between the fringes of the avant-garde and the experimental stuff - I try and bring an essence and a flavour of that in, but try to use techno as a carrier wave, or a as medium to sort of transmit these more avant-garde elements in. I bring it in but make it more palatable and try to bring it to a wider audience. That’s my method and for me, it’s a more effective way of introducing these flavours and sounds. It’s like testing out boundaries and figuring out how far to go so you don’t completely lose people. A lot of the time in my sets, if I’m in a place that might be more difficult I’ll definitely follow up with something easier. It’s like giving a reward.
How has DJing changed for you over the years?
Something that I thought about, I don’t know how much is a cultural change or a technological change but this idea of videoing and photographing. That’s a big change. It has struck me if I’m in a quite a small club where the DJ booth is very much on the level of the dancefloor, I’m very conscious that there are all these people taking pictures and filming – it’s this idea of experiencing life through the camera lens.
What other technological changes have you witnessed?
The technology of DJing has changed, of course - it used to be everyone played on two decks and a mixer and then people started adding more and more, and then came CDs and computers. You see a lot more variety in the way that people perform now, and that’s something that’s definitely changed. I think it’s too easy to get caught up in technical detail. They are interesting tools to utilise, to put the music out there, but I don’t get too obsessed and caught up in the technical detail, it’s very easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. I try not to lose sight of what it is: this idea of connection and communication and the way that through the dynamics of the set, you can really reach a point in a set where you totally bring the whole room together. It’s all about that moment and not, ‘Oh, am I using vinyl or CD?’ I just utilise the tools that can allow me to do that most effectively and react to the situation, improvise and react to create those moment.
How did you start incorporating some of the newer bass sounds into your sets, like UK Funky?
For me UK Funky/bass music is like my connection with rave music somehow, just this idea of the breakbeat, the broken beat. It’s got some echoes of rave; there are some elements of that somewhere in it. That’s my weird thread back to that, somehow. When I played with vinyl I used to find Drum & Bass tracks that were cut at 45 and I’d play them at 33 and mix them with techno. Some tracks it worked alright, but it always sounded a bit weird: a bit slow and pitched down. When I started DJing with a computer, it was easier to time stretch a Drum & Bass track to a techno tempo but it still sounded a bit laboured. When what I remember first being called Grime came out – MRK1, The Bug, people like that – it was exciting because it’s at a techno tempo. It was really exciting to have all this new music to mix with techno stuff, and there’s just loads of it now, it’s great. Not that long ago it was a lot harder to find interesting different things to mix with techno.