Function lays down the Sandwell District style on this week's RA podcast.
Over the space of the last four years, Sandwell District have managed to carve out a place in the hearts of techno fans worldwide with their austere minimalist sound aesthetic. The label was actually founded by Birmingham-based Peter Sutton (AKA Female) back in 2002, but lay stagnant until it was revitalised with two releases from Sutton three years later. It has since developed into an international effort, with the Sandwell artist roster sharing the label managing responsibilities.
One member of their American wing is David Sumner (AKA Function), who got his first break via a trio of techno twelves for Damon Wild's Synewave imprint. Sumner then went on to launch his own label under the Infrastructure banner, releasing a flurry of his own material before getting in contact with Sutton's Downwards bedfellows Regis and Ian J. Richardson to sign some of their tracks. Their relationship has since grown, with Sumner becoming a fully-fledged member of their techno alliance and using it as a platform for his claustrophobic Sähkö-esque minimalism and bleakly hypnotic warehouse techno. For this RA podcast, Regis and Sumner picked the tracks, while Sumner did the mixing, and, as you might expect, it's a journey deep into the world of techno.
What have you been working on recently?
Finishing up a new Function 12-inch that will form the basis of an album and John's finishing a new Silent Servant 12-inch. Regis has been working with Ancient Methods on a 12-inch for DN.
Where and how was the mix recorded?
It was recorded at our studio in Berlin, Regis and I decided on the records together but it then made more sense to just have me do the physical mix. I had set up a chain that included Ableton, turntables, hardware and effects.
Can you tell us a little about the idea behind the mix?
I think the idea was to somehow represent what we have been doing live/out over the past year (this was a challenge to do in one hour as we play between three and five hours as a rule). From the outset it was about creating tension.
Sandwell District seems to have its basis in a lineage of anonymous techno production. Yet you consent to interviews, do podcasts, etc. How do you walk that tightrope effectively?
I think that's maybe a misconception as artist names do appear on the label. People may come to that conclusion due to operational methods we sometimes employ, as an example, artist names are sometimes added onto a release a few months after it has come out (no doubt due to indecision at the time or some internal squabble). The N/A thing was an experiment in human nature .... probably.
You recently played the Labyrinth Festival for the first time. Can you talk a little bit about the experience?
Macbook Pro, UC-33, Roland TR-808, TR-909, SH-101, Space Echo, Lexicon PCM-80, 24 Channel Mixing Desk, three hour time slot after the legendary DBX in the mountains of Nigori...
Regis and Silent Servant have a reputed love for post-punk. Are you also listening to quite a bit of rock music, or is it all techno?
From Sonic Youth to Rob Hood, Einsturzende Neubauten to U.R and The Jesus and Mary Chain to Mr. Fingers there is a connection that makes perfect sense to everyone involved with this so-called label.
What are you up to next?
A Function longplayer, a Sandwell collective album project, a limited Sandwell Mix CD, a remix package of Function tracks featuring mixes from Ben Klock, Norman Nodge and CH-Signal Laboratories and a collaboration with Jerome Sydenham, among a number of other projects.