Edinburgh's king of bass gives us a taste of his new live set on this week's RA podcast.
Edinburgh's Neil Landstrumm is a man with some serious techno stripes. (And not just because two of his tracks got mispressed onto Robert Hood's Internal Empire LP.) Landstrumm got his start at the beginning of the '90s, when he began DJing at the Sativa club in his hometown alongside friends and fellow techno junkies Tobias Schmidt and Dave Tarrida. That's where he met Chilean electronic wizard Cristian Vogel, a producer he would begin to work with as Blue Arsed Fly. In addition to BAF, Landstrumm also set out on his own with bass-heavy interpretations of jackin' Chicago house rhythms marking Brown By August, a full-length that's still considered a classic of mid-'90s techno.
But while he had great success producing techno for labels such as Tresor, Sativae and his own Scandinavia imprint, Landstrumm has never been one to get too comfortable with any particular strain of the stuff, often making great stylistic leaps between albums. Restaurant Of Assassins meshed modern UK bass music with Sheffield bleep, Lord For £39 saw him offer a rave-infused take on dubstep and the recently released Bambaataa Eats His Breakfast showcases Landstrumm's more playful and melodic side. The thick low-end synonymous with his sound is still there, but there are also clear parallels with the adventurous instrumental hip-hop being pushed by his countrymen Rustie and Hudson Mohawke on top of bleepy dubsteppers like Zomby and Ikonika. This week's RA podcast seems Landstrumm revisit these three Planet Mu releases with a special live set that's interspersed with some of his own personal favourites from the likes of Mala and Jakes. We caught up with Neil to ask him about the mix, his chameleonic tendencies and rumours surrounding him and Kompakt.
What have you been working on recently?
I've been mainly writing a new live set for this autumn season's live gigs, most of which is recorded into this live RA session. Over the summer I enjoyed a few weeks music break-up on a large estate in the Highlands with my family after finishing the last Bambaataa Eats His Breakfast LP on Mu. You can't beat a bit of clear Highland air, wild animals and big skies to sort new ideas out and recharge.
I'm developing a new website for my design company called Scandinaviaworks.co.uk, which will expand the label into a gallery setting showcasing works for sale by various international artists. I'm working with Remote Location on the design, who did a sterling job on the Bambaataa cover art. I have a few new tracks in the bag at the moment post-Bambaataa, but would ideally like to get some vocals and chatter on top to finish them off. I'm actively looking for new people to work with if anyone likes my stuff and wants to get in touch. I've always had pop music aspirations, which one of these days will bleed out of the fingers I hope.
Where and how was the mix recorded?
It was recorded in my studio, The Witness Rooms, in a few sessions and then spliced together later into one piece. I use a fair bit of hardware in my live set, up along with a Macbook, so you get the best of both; the punch and rawness of hardware and the library of beats and clips from the Macbook which is like having two pairs of hands. My live show is a bit like a DJ's box in that when you add a stack of new patterns or sequences you push out some of the old ones from the current bag.
Can you tell us a little about the idea behind the mix?
This live set spans material from the three LPs on Planet Mu plus loads of dedicated live set elements. The work represents most of the electronic styles taken from the LPs and indulges my '90-91 rave fantasies as well as the darkest parts of my own take on UK electro bass music. It's more of a clutter than mash-up, but it works as my gig at the NuMusic Festival in Norway last weekend testifies. Kode9 and The Spaceape played straight after me so it was a strong UK-represented night with the subsonics startling the locals to no end.
Your latest album sees you meddle with dubstep, albeit in a more quirky and colourful style. Who have been your main influences for this record?
I don't really stack up my influences before doing a record I just get into the studio and see what comes out this time... It's been compared to Zomby and the likes a fair amount in reviews but it's not intentional on my part. The biggest positive influence on the record was becoming a father, I think, and having that perspective shift which has injected some light into my music. I've done many dark and heavy records before that so I wanted to make something a bit more fun, properly orchestrated and melodic this time.
Plus, I wanted to complete the three LPs for Mu with something more future-forward than retro-regenerative, which I think this LP achieves. I keep my ear to the ground as far as what's going on though in contemporary music with the radio, friends and gigs and just let it filter through my own ideas. I actually watched Afrika Bambaataa eat his breakfast in a Detroit hotel which is inspiration in itself.
You mentioned in your interview with FACT Magazine that you were planning on doing a twelve-inch for Kompakt...
Yeah, I think they misheard the word "Kompakt" when transcribing the interview tape, as it's actually a twelve-inch for Combat Records I have produced which was just released. The Acid House James May EP, with Sugar Experiment Station and Ebola guesting on either side. Its about as far removed from a Kompakt twelve-inch as you could get.
You're notable for your stylistic shifts on each of your albums. Do you think that this chameleonic desire has helped or hindered you as far as having a loyal core fanbase?
There's no harm in being a chameleon. Chameleons have the ability to drop their tail in danger, which is a pretty cool trick to have up your sleeve. I've managed to keep this music game going for a while now, so casting off styles is a tactic that works for me. I've always recognised artists getting trapped and buried in a sound and the damage it does to them creatively and career-wise. If you haven't got anything new to release or play in a live show, it gets very dull for you very quickly and it shows. There is always a place for classics naturally, but you need to stretch to get to the next phase or rich seam in your music.
For me, electronic music has always been about the future and going forward, even if you have to take a few steps back to re-energize older styles and influences. Music always comes from somewhere before it's your turn to work with it. Just check out Vicious Pink "Can't You See" and Nucleus "Wicki-Wicki" EPs if you want a window into old UK rave and bass origins and samples. I've enjoyed a pretty loyal fanbase who get off on the new records normally sometimes skipping one or two releases.
You can't please everyone all the time though, and why would you want to? I make music for myself initially. Of course some people want a repeat shag, but that's a hard trick for anyone to pull off. I feel that the Mu records have won me a new younger audience and also reinvigorated some of the older fans back into the fold. Music is a continually moving front so people should want to come along for the ride. Some records are stepping stones to the next one which nails what I am trying to achieve better but that's just the way it goes. Hopefully I manage to weed out the chaff reasonably successfully.
What are you up to next?
I'm currently consulting with a couple of video game producers in California about a new console project they would like to involve me in. I'm excited about what that idea may grow into. It's at the delicate seed stage now—and fairly revolutionary as concepts go—but I think a bit cross-pollination might work with this one. Plus I'll get to exercise some ZX-81 and BBC micro sounds I have lying around in my hauntologist's handbag.