Lee Gamble will release a new LP on PAN next month called Dutch Tvashar Plumes.
Gamble is a UK artist with a somewhat schizophrenic musical history: jungle was his bread and butter for years, until he abruptly grew bored with it and threw himself head first into the world of academic experimental music. These days he finds himself drifting between the two, something that's immediately clear on his recent EP, Diversions 1994-1996, a dark and mostly beatless record composed entirely out of samples from old jungle cassette mixtapes. Dutch Tvashar Plumes, while less directly indebted to jungle, still shows Gamble exploring the nether regions between club music and the avant-garde, with long passages of challenging sound design offset by occasional 4/4 beats.
Reached by phone at his apartment in London, Gamble gave us an excited earful about his musical history, the process behind his new music, and what kind of records he would play in clubs if given the opportunity:
You kind of came out of nowhere with these two releases, Diversions 1994-1996 and now Dutch Tvashar Plumes. How long have these records been in the pipeline?
I've known Bill (Kouligas) for a long time and he asked me to do a record for PAN maybe, I don't know, six years ago, when he lived in London. It wasn't a case of me sending anything, he's a friend. Things have taken a turn in the last few years. I've released a record for Entr'acte, much more heavy computer stuff. Then I decided to relax a little, do something a bit more fun to make. Bill heard the results and he was quite keen to release it. So yeah, it's been in the pipeline for years, really.
What do you mean "more fun to make?"
On my old records I was very strict with myself, I had very academic processes and also a lot more technical restrictions on myself. They were kind of explorations for the computer itself. I'd generate the sound from code within the machine, then work with that over many, many years, just keep processing this material as it got richer, more interesting. I didn't have any hardware, didn't use any synths, nothing. A very hardcore, academic approach—not really that fun. I mean, I loved it, and I taught myself a lot about digital sound on its raw, digital level. And then I just did the two records for Entr'acte and I was like "I just can't keep on doing this, there's so much more."
I'm from a dance background, I'm from jungle and everything, so it's like, "can I really get into this? This high brow art world?" Bit of a Freudian thing I guess. So yeah, I learned a lot, got a lot out of it technically, but I needed to start making music and exploring a lot more of myself than this one scientific, academic dimension. I've got no rules now, it's just whatever I want to do. I've got hardware, a sampler. I would have never allowed myself to do that before, even if thought it would benefit the work!
Tell me about the transition from jungle to what you do now. What got you out of raves and into "computer music"?
I was really involved in jungle as a young teenager in the mid-'90s. It was experimental in nature. I didn't know that at the time, but in hindsight, it was always changing, there were many people from different parts of the country and world trying to do something with this palette of sounds. So it had a lot of intrigue for me. Then it died down, got stale, got formulaic, as lots of musics do—they find their base, lose their peripheral intrigue and just get formulaic. I got bored with it, so I decided to escape.
The Mego thing was the next big thing for me, Hecker and all that. They were the same age and from a similar sort of background as me. But they all had this weird iconoclastic take on academic computer music, and I just really dug that. They were intelligent guys who knew what they were talking about, but they were doing it in a natural way, not in the high brow, academic, boring way. I would go to some of those academic shows and I would just be bored. Then I learned there were other people who hadn't gone to university for it, who hadn't been classically trained, and I got into that.
Anyway, the shift was pretty sudden. I got bored with jungle then delved into books, Stockhausen and everything. Dived under, studied hard, learned all about this stuff, then here I am going back around again now.
Do you still DJ?
Yeah, even when I wasn't DJing I always had decks and CDJs, still have my 1210s from when I was a kid. It gets me up in the morning—bang a coffee and have a mix. I'd like to DJ again. Right now London is deeply rooted in fashionable cultures. If you came up in that time you get booked, if not, well... but yeah it would be nice to play out. I wouldn't play jungle though. I played last week at some warehouse party, people were like "are you gonna play jungle?" And I said "no way! why would you wanna hear that here?" Maybe it will have a resurgence, it feels like it's in the air. But then again the idea of reading about something on a blog and the experience of hearing in a club are two very different things.
When I play it would mainly be scuzzy, fucked up, obscure house stuff, really. That would be the angle in a club.
So what's next? Do you think you'll start DJing and playing live more off the back of these records?
Yeah, I'm playing live tonight with Hieroglyphic Being. I'm playing at Unsound. A few little DJ sets here and there. There's a limit to what you want to do, you don't want to play every single night, that's just not interesting. But there's been a lot more opportunities, especially with PAN. So yeah, it would be nice. Berlin next year, at CTM I think. I'm looking forward to it.
Dutch Tvashar Plumes was mastered by Rashad Becker at Dubplates & Mastering. It will be available in a "pro-press color jacket" with a PVC sleeve featuring artwork by Kathryn Politis and Bill Kouligas.