Your album Hot Coins ‘The Damage Is Done’ has just been released on Sonar Kollektiv. Can you tell us about how your relationship with the label happened?
I have always been a big fan of both Sonar Kollektiv and Jazzanova. The label and production collective were a massive influence on me as a DJ and Producer in the early noughties. I briefly met Jazzanova in 2009 when Gilles Peterson invited me to play at the Worldwide Awards in London. I remember meeting Daniel Best (their live agent) and Claas at the awards as I was playing directly after their first ever live performance as Jazzanova. It’s bizarre to think that 3 years later I am living in Berlin, am now really good friends with Daniel Best and releasing my Hot Coins album on Sonar Kollektiv. I remember meeting Alex Barck in Nottingham around 2004 when he played at The Bomb so it was mad to fast forward many years and be driven round Mitte by him in his family car when we were having the preliminary album signing meetings. The way it all hooked up was quite unplanned. I went to a Sonar Kollektiv club night at Gretchen during the Berlin Music Days in 2011 and met Oli from the label there. We spoke of me possibly doing a remix for Micatone. I ended up remixing I Human by Jazzanova instead and during the meeting about that remix I mentioned to Oli that I had the Hot Coins album. After I sent it to them, Alex Barck got in touch saying that he loved it and we had an album signing meeting on Jan 3rd 2012 which seemed like a good idea when I made the arrangement but I underestimated the length of new years eve in Berlin! The rest of 2012 consisted of final touches, mastering, artwork and I am really happy with how the album turned out. It’s exactly as I envisioned which is a really nice feeling.
The album takes its inspiration from the sounds coming out of late seventies/ early eighties post-Punk N.Y.C. Where did you first hear this music and which records have inspired you most as Hot Coins?
Well my parents brought me up with a steady diet of Talking Heads, The Only Ones, Television and Captain Beefheart so I already had the seeds of some kind of counter culture music in me. My older sister was into punk and rockabilly when I was a kid and I have a really halcyon feeling when I hear late 70s/early 80s pop music. The real eureka moment was when my friend Fraser Saunderson (went to school with him and he was my first ever flat-mate in 1995) played me stuff like ESG, James White and The Blacks, Material, Konk, The Units, A Certain Ratio etc. He lent me ‘Rip It Up And Start Again’ by Simon Reynolds and I have to say I don’t think I would have made the Hot Coins album without that book. I was so inspired by the music and vibe from that era. But I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that it’s still quintessentially MY music. It has all the hallmarks of my Hot Coins and Red Rack’em stuff. I think it was a bit of a mistake to pitch it as a ‘homage’ as a lot of people have focused on that rather than taking it as something new. My mistake. Next time I will not mention anything else as having influenced my music.
I did this mix for Pulse Radio using records which have influenced my Hot Coins album.
The album has a very distinct sound. Which were your favourite instruments used in making the album?
I really enjoyed working with Chris Todd and Paul Johnson’s guitars. They both added completely different vibes to the album. Chris played amazing one chord Nile Rogers style ‘chicken scratch’ guitar on several tracks. He’s got a lot of experience of this style from his day job as the guitarist for Crazy P. It was great to have some really well recorded perfect guitar from Chris. He knew exactly what I was looking for. Paul played all the cosmic background stuff in tracks like ‘Leathered’ and I used it in a completely different way. While Chris’s guitar was mixed incredibly loud on the tracks, Paul’s stuff was used as more background textures. Heavily reverbed and panned to the left. I just told him to ‘play some self indulgent cosmic shit’ and he obliged. Personally I am really happy with the tracks all having a different vibe and I think there’s more depth to it than is initially obvious. They aren’t just a collection of loops.
Can you talk us through how you created one of the tracks: Roadtrip?
Roadtrip is the longest track on the album and is in 3 stages. First I created a slightly rocky country section, which is why I called it Roadtrip as initially as I had visions of some hillbilly guys driving their trucks. So it starts off on a kind of country punk funk vibe. Then I decided to use this cosmic glissando synth and turn it into and epic Norwegian feeling opus with a bit more of a complicated chord sequence and a driving bassline. This inspired me to play some Rhodes and more complicated synth bass stuff. Then I broke it down into a more Balearic housey outro section with some lilting emotional melodies. It’s hard to describe how I made the track it’s easier for me to say what it sounds like. I wanted to show several different Hot Coins moods in one track basically. I don’t think everyone understands my magpie approach to making music but I am heavily influenced by Musique concrète, New Beat, EBM and wave stuff where they have loads of disparate samples. So for me banging a load of different vibes in one tune is totally fine.
The album was mixed on the same desk that P.I.L’s seminal Metal Box was mixed on, the ex-Townhouse studios SSL 4000 B series. Can you tell us about how that came about?
This is another remarkable strange turn of events that I couldn’t have ever imagined. I was at playing at the Garden Festival in 2010 and on one of the last days I was invited to join a group of Austrians on a hidden beach about a mile along the coast from the festival. We all had the most amazing day ever together in a really odd environment. We were trespassing in a multi–million euro hotel development which had had all the money siphoned off from it so it was basically abandoned. It was like a lost chapter from ‘The Beach’ or something like that. We all swam and snorkeled and the Austrians built these beautiful stone towers on rocks on the beach. We even explored the abandoned holiday homes nearby and did a spot of singing in one of the buildings that had a big reception area. One of the Austrians was called Werner Freistaetter and at that point his only significance to me was that he was very friendly and won the lilo race that day. Fast forward a year later and I am high in the Austrian mountains mixing down the Hot Coins album with him. It turns out that Werner is a highly experienced engineer and producer who has worked with Kanye West, The Kills, Depeche Mode and PJ Harvey. He is also an SSL expert and fully restored the original SSL 4000 B series desk from the Townhouse studios that was used to record ‘In The Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins and PiL’s Metal Box album. It was amazing to get to go and stay with Werner and his girlfriend Tina and spend a week mixing down the album in their cellar studio in a beautiful valley in the mountains of Austria. It felt like destiny.
I have formed a band to perform the album live and our first gig is the album launch party this weekend in Berlin at Renate on 16/02/13. We’re also playing at the Munich album launch on 27/04/13 and at The Garden Festival in Croatia on 06/07/13. I have really enjoyed the experience of putting it all together and I have been so lucky to get to work with some exceptional musicians. We’re a four piece and we have been rehearsing in the historic Funkhaus Studios in East Berlin for the last few months. I have to say a massive thanks to David, Jens and Steffen who have been amazing to work with and I am really excited to get to play with them.
Can you describe the scene on the album cover, and what is the drink you’re holding?
The album artwork is all about presenting the rock n roll cliché but also highlighting the hollow nature of fame and how the ego is often the driving force behind rock star behaviour. Having to surround yourself with fawning women/men and taking lots of drugs and basically pleasing yourself is generally driven by an inferiority complex or at the very least you will end up with one if you chase the frail power of rock stardom. I played at Berlin techno legend Woodys Geburtstag last July with Radioslave and Marc Schneider and it was one of the best parties ever. Off location, amazing Kirsch Audio sound system, covered outdoor terrace, the crowd and music was amazing. I played at about 9am on the Sunday morning and was rather ‘in the zone’ for the rest of the day and the next night I think as well. So when I had to do the photo shoot on the Tuesday evening after that I wasn’t feeling very charismatic put it that way. BUT it turned out really well so I just put it down to method acting. I didn’t want to say ‘hey look at me with all these girls’. I wanted to say ‘look how disconnected and isolated I look with all these girls’. I wanted to paraphrase my life a bit – it’s not saying I am a loser but it’s definitely been inspired by the times that I did feel like a loser. Winning is for insecure people. Losing is actually stronger.