An Interview with Scot Art
What first attracted you to the act of making music? In particular, making electronic music?
I can only really remember that I was very interested in music from an early age – at least my early teens. This was probably the influence of 1970s Countdown. So my earliest influences in terms of electronic music were pop artists in the immediate aftermath of punk like Gary Numan, Talking Heads, etc.
In the early to mid Eighties, when I was old enough to discover music that wasn’t on television, it was the multitudes of the Sydney “little bands” that inspired me to make overtly ‘electronic’ music. The stand out amongst all of those would have to be Severed Heads of course, but there are many others.
What were your earliest musical influences?
Severed Heads, Cabaret Voltaire, SPK, Throbbing Gristle, Human League.
And for bonus points… Who/what influences your music making now?
Well, the Victor Xray material is directly influenced by the hyperdub/dubstep meme that’s been coming out of London for the past four or five years. So that would be Kode9, Benga, Skream, Mala, Loefah, Burial, Horsepower Productions, and so on.
How does Victor Xray differ from Nerve Agent and – prior to this – Now Zero?
Well, Now Zero was always a collaborative electronic pop project that morphed into a kind of trance-techno hybrid in the style of the early 90s. Nerve Agent, my post-Now Zero solo project, ditched the trance for a more techno feel with influences from the Berlin scene of the Basic Channel / Rhythm & Sound / Chain Reaction stable. I was also very influenced with the various species of breakbeat. Nerve Agent was fairly aggressive music with a strong undercurrent of dub as filtered through the previously mentioned Rhythm & Sound and Burial Mix* styles that had come from Berlin. But, always simultaneously with this progressive output, there was also the “Nerve Agent In Dub” series, a very traditional dub project, quite conservative in its goals really.
* Not to be confused with Burial the London dubstep artist on the Hyperdub label.
Victor Xray was a natural continuation of this progression, with a modern twist. I was always very interested in the stuff that Horsepower Productions and Kode9 were doing in London, going back a few years, after a tip from Seb and Luke (Sub Bass Snarl and part of the Cyrogenesis / Frigid nexus in Sydney) some years ago.
Victor Xray had initially started as an electro-based side project, but I decided against that initial impulse in favour of something that could take those dubstep influences and meld them with what I was doing with the breakbeat and dub of the earlier project.
There is also Xray Audio System which is a redevelopment of the Nerve Agent In Dub series. One of the Victor Xray tracks (Dub Forever International) is a remix of an Xray Audio System track (Melodarhymbic International) off the compilation “Clan Analogue In Version”.
With your new EP, “The Dark Arts of Dub”, you incorporated elements of dub, dance hall, and minimal techno. Is this a new scene you’re tapping into or did these styles appeal to you as an interesting divergence from what you’ve done before?
No this is a definitely deliberate divergence, although it still retains its traceability to the earlier material. See Above.
What is your usual approach to producing music? Has it changed over time? If so, how?
My approach changes over time. In fact, almost daily.
I am now using Ableton Live 6.0 as a software platform with a Nord Modular synthesiser as practically my only piece of external hardware. I used to use external sequencers and hardware synths and a sampler with no computers except as a very simple digital multitrack at the end point of the composition and arrangement process (the G-Type Nerve Agent album was recorded with this technique).
Nowadays I tend to avoid sample-based composition. It was a favoured technique of mine to start with a sample, build a track around the sample and then throw the sample away before final arrangement and remix. But now I tend to start with a bass line or a melody and build out. I also tend to compose quite a lot on the bass and guitar – then play the composition into a keyboard and record the midi in the computer. Sometimes I still start with the drums.
I also tend to like to work quickly nowadays. Lots of tracks I’m recording and mixing down in a single day and then posting the MP3 on my blog that evening. This does produce mixed results.
How is the electronic music scene now, compared to 15 years ago?
15 years ago you couldn’t get a gig as a live electronic musician – you had to be a DJ or a live rock band. That’s the main impetus of the Clan Analogue collective — allowing producers to find and collaborate with each other and also to basically, put on gigs. By the late 90s no dance event was complete without a live electronic act – Clan Analogue along with a few other people (e.g. Frigid, Kooky, etc) helped pioneer that in Sydney. But now its gone full circle! There’s a lot of awful indie-electronic-rock which is just rock music with synths and not really attempting to look beyond that particular mode. And my friends left in Sydney are now complaining is impossible to get good good electronic music gigs organised.
Things aren’t as dire as that in Brisbane or Melbourne, but, its possible to see the beginnings of this trend here in Brisbane, from my limited, two-year perspective.
You’ve been involved with a range of music delivery models over the years. Drawing from your experiences with labels such as Volition, the Clan Analogue collective, and in light of today’s blogs, YouTube, Myspace, falling CD sales, and the resurgence of niche vinyl, how do you see music access trends changing 5 years from now?
Well, the label thing is well dead. I can’t really predict the future but its obvious that electronic delivery is going to play a big part. I think that bands and producers will be more polymorphic, rather than signing and releasing all their rights to a single entity, they will more and more do smaller projects with flexible configurations of business models and delivery platforms. For example, with the way that I’m releasing the same EP on vinyl though my own label with distro from Vinyl Factory Australia and the electronic delivery through Trans:com via iTunes Music Store.
What is playing on the Victor Xray sound system as we speak?
Currently nothing, I’m writing! But this week I’ve been listening to … (consults last.fm profile) .. Air, Rhythm & Sound, Basic Channel, Scion, The Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack, Burial, Massive Attack and Atone. I also was listening to some vinyl that doesn’t of course make it onto the last.fm list, Kode9+Spaceape “Sine Of the Dub”, the Skream double 12″ EP Skreamism, a fantastic Benga 12″ on Tempa records (Crunked Up / Electro Music / Skunk Tip) which I highly recommend to everyone, Coki “Disco Rekah”, more Basic Channel, and a remix 12″ of some Rhythm & Sound, with mixes by Villalobos, Vladislav Delay, and Tiki. Also a Patti Smith album.
You have been, and continue to be, quite prolific in your output. Are you planning to re-release this body of work?
That’s in negotiation. 😉
What item of electronic gear have you found hard to part with? Is it still in use today?
My Macintosh! Actually I’m a recent convert, but it does seem a lot more stable than the Dell it replaced.
I still use my Nord Modular synthesiser. I would love to buy two more – they keyboard version and the tiny little Micro-Modular so I can take it on the road. Basically apart from my Bass Guitar and a microphone that’s about it. I have a couple of midi control boxes that are very useful for injecting “human feel” into the computer.
What is the ideal place to listen to your music?
On a big system, with a huge sub-bass system, that’s only turned up 1/3 the way so the sound system isn’t stretched. Its all about the headroom and the bass response people!
Tell us about your ideas for an original industrial music night?
I wouldn’t actually call it an industrial music night at all. That term is way too loaded nowadays — and polluted. Its about the roots of modern techno, from EBM, to post-punk experimental music, to electronic pop, to early European electro, to minimal. Its about Severed Heads, Cabaret Voltaire, Basic Channel, and Kraftwerk, and everything that comes from or feeds into that.
State your preference, or add an alternative!
Atari or Commodore?
Atari. I was always an Atari man.
Detroit or Dusseldorf?
Detroit’s got a music style!
Analogue or Digital?
Digital to Analogue and Analogue to Digital.
Brisbane or Sydney?
CV or USB?
Factory or Warp?
Sensoria or Masterhit?
Voice Of America
Tape loops or samples?
Interview conducted by and © Anna Petrou, April 2007. May be reproduced only with permission.