Neu! Reekie! #UntitledLiveInterviews

Posted by in July's Magazine

Michael Pedersen: Kevin Williamson and I set up Neu! Reekie! in December 2010. We’re now entering our fifth year programming what we reckon have been cutting edge, fast-paced yet carefully curated mixed-arts events with a literary yolk – all you have to do is bring your own toast and get dipping. We’ve taken this unique brand of bash to New York, Tokyo, London and Malawi whilst publishing poetry anthologies, sticking out a few singles, along with a double compilation album on our micro record label. We’ve had Jim Lambie designed CDs; honey coloured and scented cassettes; bespoke wooden USBs and, as of the 9th of June, #UntitledLive – our biggest, boldest and most strident undertaking to date.

The historic Central Hall hosted 1,000 guests in what we believe will prove to be one of the shows of the year. Heading up the bill were the mighty Young Fathers (whose interview with Dave McGuire ends this piece), one of the most exciting musical forces in the world right now. I caught up with the other musical acts on a multifarious bill; internationally renowned DJ, producer and re-mixer Andrew Weatherall and Davie Millar from iconic electronic dance troupe FiniTribe.



Michael Pedersen: Tell me how FiniTribe got started, what was the thinking behind it?
Davie Miller: FiniTribe came into being because that’s what you did on the dole in the early 1980s. You formed a band. A mutual love of Edinburgh post punk group Visitors, German Krautrock band Can, Throbbing Gristle and Wire bound us all together. We used tape loops and pieces of metal mixed with guitars and percussion to make sounds and songs. Musicianship was not considered nor seemed important. I doubt there was any collective thought behind it. We just liked getting together and making a noise.

It seems that you very soon found yourselves involved with quirky labels while collecting John Peel sessions?
We started our own label in 1984 called Finiflex and released our first 12 inch vinyl single Curling and Stretching. It was a DIY effort and we paid for the release ourselves. John Peel played the single on his radio show and asked us to support him on his Roadshows. He then asked us to record our first Peel Session in 1985. That changed everything.

Our second single DeTestimony – a slab of music that featured a peel of bells that, two years later, became an integral sound of the Balearic/Acid House movement in Ibiza and London – was released by Glasgow label Cathexis in 1986. Things moved quickly again and Wax Trax! a Chicago label signed us via Southern Studios, home of Adrian Sherwood who became our sound engineer.

FiniTribe have caused a bit of controversy in their time – lashing out at the Golden Arches for instance – are you a political band or just fond of mischief making?
I would say we are political but mischief is never far from anything we do. We openly attacked McDonalds with a song that used the Old Macdonald nursery rhyme as its chorus. It attacked its gross farming methods and deforestation of the Amazonian rain forest. We mimicked their posters and covered the country in FUCK off McDonalds posters. Lawyers came in heavy and we were asked to destroy the posters. We didn’t, we sold thousands of Fuck off McDonalds posters and T-shirts, which funded our UK tour that year.

Was there also a story concerning nearly setting a venue ablaze in Caledonia’s fair capital?
After recording Detestimony we lost interest in the conventional band set-up. We put down guitars and picked up projectors and kettledrums. Mischief and the simple need to do things differently played a part, we were utilising lots of different ways to make sounds and imagery. We used animation, angle grinders, paint and sculpture to make our set, which we built with stolen scaffolding, and for reasons I can no longer remember we used a large metal trough that we filled with petrol and set alight. We had rehearsed this in our studio but didn’t realize that in a room full of people fire is propelled by heat. When we lit the fire the flames reached the ceiling and along with angle grinding bits of the scaffolding set we brought panic and the fire service to the venue. Some thought us quite pretentious but we liked that, indeed encouraged it. I believe we are still barred from the Assembly Rooms!

After a hiatus you’re back with a bang: a stunning 2015 Record Store Day release with One Little Indian, a flurry of live events forthcoming. How did the comeback happen?
I was encouraged by Trevor Jackson to re-release Detestimony 25 years after its original release. He had licensed it for a compilation called Metal Dance and thought it should come out again. It snowballed from there. I asked various people to remix it firstly my good friend Scott Ferguson (Robot 84) and Justin Robertson. Keith from Optimo got in touch, I was delighted he wanted to rework it. Finally John Vick (Millar’s bandmate) remixed it and it just found its own momentum. I went back to One Little Indian who we’d been signed to in the early 1990s and they asked for more. 101 has just been released and there will be a further update of this track later in the year with Andrew Weatherall’s original Intensity mix featuring.

John and I are working with One Little Indian on a project but are unsure how this will materialise in shape or sound. It’s likely we will spend some time in Iceland collecting sounds and ideas and there is a theme developing around Science.

Can you let me know your thoughts on the acts you’re playing with at #UntitledLive?
We’ve known Andrew since we first met in Brighton in 1989, he has never compromised his position on any of his creative output. When I want to hear new music I pretty much refer to his recordings, his radio shows or his Djing much as I did with John Peel in the late 1970s.

That Young Fathers have a clear vision of what they want to achieve musically and politically is the biggest appeal to me. I have only seen them live once but their intensity reminded me of Joy Division. They don’t need that comparison but they enthralled me that night as much as when I saw Joy Division. I find them quite industrial and I like that.

Andrew Weatherall
Andrew Weatherall: (Eventually answering phone). “Sorry Michael, I’m in the basement all the time – it’s my excuse for being non-contactable. Too busy making things to be interrupted.”
Michael Pedersen: Aye, that’s the show sold out. Did I tell you it’s in a Methodist church?
Sold out? Why the fuck am I doing this promotional interview then? Haha! Methodists – we’re just doing what they do without the books – gathering together in sacrament, trying to attain transcendence. We’re Methodists in disguise my friend.

How did you find your way into music because it was a zeal for art and a flair for style that held you in the younger years?
Suburban living is a bit dull to a young man reaching his teens; you’re looking for a Technicolor escape. That was provided with music and with that came the style and the fashions associated with music, which leads you into art. It was just what I liked more than anything and it enabled me to escape. I didn’t have a bad up bringing it was just a bit monochrome.

Can you package some highlights from your career to date? In terms of the fulfillment factor or something more unusual.
Just being given the opportunity to make things, sometimes with people whose music I really admire. Being mentioned in Jah Wobble’s autobiography was a bit of a high point. Also DJing/warming-up for Chuck Berry. And I’m being given that ability as an amateur. I’m not a professional by any means, I’m a music fan who gets to go into the studio with people far more talented than myself and make stuff.

How would you describe your relationship with Scottish music? Naturally you’re lauded for those sacred ‘Screamadelica’ workings and you’ve produced Twilight Sad.
In The Herald a few years ago I read I was a ‘Glasgow born’ DJ and a fair amount of the world believes I am from Glasgow. So, I like that osmosis where I’ve actually turned into a Glaswegian. Hmmmm, maybe that’s not the best thing to say when doing an interview for an Edinburgh publication. I’ll start furiously back peddling. So, yeah, it’s not just Glasgow I get a lot of love from Scotland in general.

Many of my early musical memories are based around John Peel. Favourite moments include Ivor Cutler’s Life in a Scotch Living Room and a record called Inverness by The Prats, which is just them banging saucepans and shouting: “Inverness! What a Mess!”. Both are quintessentially Scottish.

I produced The Twilight Sad by not producing them if you see what I mean. They wanted something more electronic but they did all the work with the engineer. I think they just wanted someone outside of the band to step inside and say “that’s okay”.

What does the rest of 2015 have in store?
Right this second I’m putting the finishing touches on a New Order remix. I’m running Convenanza Festival in France at Carcassonne Castle in September. I like that sort of secular taking over the religious – it’s the heresy element. It’s nice how that symmetry came around. I’m also setting up a new label called Moine Dubh where I’ll work with poets on improvised, subscription only, 7-inch singles.

Is a collaboration between you and YF likely in the future?
I thought they were great the first time I heard them, it was timeless music, it was naturally modern – they weren’t trying to be modern – nothing dates quicker than a new sound, by not striving to be modern they are, but in a way that resonates. There are so many elements in their music: a pop sensibility, a glam rock sensibility, a bit of rock and roll – all the things I like really. It’s not obvious and they clearly really listen to their own music. This music they are referencing is in their blood – they’re not copying anything. Regarding a collaboration, they’re far more talented than me. Being a big fan does have its drawbacks – you turn into a fan around them. I’d be in the studio repeating, “That sounds amazing chaps.” My usual non-production.

Young Fathers
Dave McGuire: You followed your biggest success so far with ‘White Men are Black Men Too’, something much less obvious and different.
Young Fathers: One of the good things about being this kind of group is we can do whatever the fuck we want, as long as we make it fit with the aesthetic. In fact, that almost is the aesthetic. There are invisible lines that we don’t step over, that change all the time but are relative to our journey but to even define them means examining the process too closely. It’s like trying to catch a dust mote in your eye.

Is a ‘pure’ hip-hop record ever a possibility?
There’s a chance we could still make a clearly defined hip-hop record at some point – it’s in the DNA after all – but it would probably only work if the bigger hip-hop world moves forward a bit, especially when it comes to words. There’s a lot of dumb-ass shit rapped, full of cliché and ugly, bully words. There’s meant to be a swing, a beauty to the lyrics. Even when Wu Tang riffed on torturing people there was self-awareness there. An irony. That seems to have departed.

Stating upfront that you are addressing issues of race is bold. Do you hope to provoke discussions about these issues, or do you worry that liberal white arts/music writers will be too scared to approach the topic for fear of offending someone?
The title is a way for everyone in the media to be able to talk about skin colour and all the things that come from that, because it’s really all about privilege and class and skin colour is just a distraction invented by psychotic idiots who seek to control others and even if there’s a kind of unspoken, wider understanding that this is the case, because we all have different experiences of it there’s no unity in response. Scotland has hardly any black people but, for instance, if the SNP had won last September, then they proposed much more immigration. Then the idea that Scotland is somehow a more tolerant place than the rest of the UK would really have been put to the test.

Do you feel that your non-traditional UK heritage helps with the usual false modesty, and enables you to aim for worldwide success?
That’s about right. We’re proud of what we are and don’t need to be part of a local scene in that way – it doesn’t define us. It’s a small step away from that kind of pride to being proud of your country, whatever it does and being proud of being white, whatever that means and being proud when your country wins at sport and, just a short step from there, at war. We have family, friends, our own country we create, that shifts around. It’s not just musical freedom – it’s the whole thing, of being in a group.

Have you considered working with anyone beyond these shores? Someone like Nigerian afrobeat legend Tony Allen would seem like a perfect collaborator, or maybe an album with Rick Rubin. Are such opportunities a reality for you these days?
Both ideas would be fun. We were talking about Rick Rubin the other day, wondering if he still makes his own beats. In fact we have been collaborating more this year – in South Africa with several artists and, by coincidence, with some singers and a rapper from Durban when they visited Edinburgh. Both tracks are waiting for a mix. We’ve also kind of collaborated with Tricky, by accident and recorded with Massive in Bristol in January. We’re getting a little more open minded about that kind of thing!

You could’ve had your pick of any choir for the album but you chose Leith Congregational Choir, is it these little things that keep you grounded?
The Leith Congregational Choir themselves help keep us grounded! Or at least the female members who don’t take no shit from no one. We’re proud of the choir and it’s great that the world knows they exist as they were pretty well hidden before.

2 responses to “Neu! Reekie! #UntitledLiveInterviews”

  1. iAMHJA says:

    good work iAMHJA

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