60 minutes of fresh techno.
Steve Bicknell is currently having a moment. This might seem like a weird thing to say about someone who's been making and playing music for almost 30 years. But when you look at his recent releases, his growing number of gigs, his eye-catching collaborations and his new record label, 6dimensions, it seems Bicknell is feeling particularly inspired in 2017.
Bicknell has a vast body of work and experiences to draw upon. Lost, the London party he started with Sheree Rashit in 1991, is the most obvious example. "The ultimate techno ideal of a dark, dank, secret space, a roaring crowd of passionate, knowledgeable likeminds, and music that felt like it was being beamed down from another galaxy," is how Lee Smith described it in a 2011 RA feature. The party, which wound down a few years ago, gave UK debuts to Jeff Mills (who became Lost's most cherished DJ), Richie Hawtin, Basic Channel and Robert Hood, and was a source of creative inspiration in the way a club like Berghain is today. Lost's success perhaps overshadowed his own work as a DJ and producer, a point Artwork made in an Exchange last year, when he said Bicknell is "the most underrated UK artist." He was referring to the string of records Bicknell released, mainly through his own Cosmic Records, in the '90s and early '00s, mostly explorations of minimal techno that still sound bold and inventive.
Bicknell's RA podcast sums up his recent hot streak. The mix is comprised almost entirely of unreleased music from 6dimensions. Like all of his work down the years, it's characterised by an unwavering focus and a striking clarity of vision.
What have you been up to recently?
Traveling, playing, producing, remixing and concentrating on my new label, 6dimensions, which I'm working on with Dave and Alex from FatCat. Metro Skim's first release, Identifying Possibilities, is out now, and Heartless' 12-inch Impulse Module is due for release September 15th, followed by the first of my Awakening The Past series, which is where I start delving into my production catalogue. The first four-track EP includes three tracks from a Lost Recordings double pack, Why? + For Whom?, (originally released in 1996), plus a new track I recorded in the same spirit as the original release.
Also collaborating with Dave Sumner (AKA Function) and Luke Slater on LSD, which is a project we started around a year ago. LSD to date has been a live/DJ show, which is now mainly moving towards the live element. We've performed twice thus far at Berghain, and we're also in the studio recording. I also remixed Ø [Phase], due for release on Token Records.
How and where was the mix recorded?
With this (and most podcasts) I used Ableton and MIDI controller. Podcasts are extremely different from playing at a party/club/festival; as with playing out, it's all about the moment. For DJ sets I use four CDJ-2000NXS2 and a Pioneer DJM-1000. This setup really opens the door for on-the-spot experimentation.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
All tracks included in the mix apart from Muff Man are unreleased and reflective of what I'm playing right now. I wanted to present music that's unavailable and unheard before outside of clubs. I also wanted to share the dance floor side of 6dimensions.
Tell us about 6dimensions. It sounds like the scope of the label will be pretty broad overall.
As 6dimensions develops the label will represent my past and future music collection and interests. It's an extremely personal journey. 6dimensions is not just fixed on being a record label. I see it as an outlet for creatives, a platform for expression presented via different mediums, be it events, installations, stories, film, visual art, or performance where people create from within, with feeling over thought.
How did the site Calm Down Mind inspire you and the label?
Calm Down Mind was something I stumbled upon during a challenging time. It raised my own awareness of the human mind's six dimensions and how balance and imbalance affect us throughout our lives. I'd been considering starting something new for a while and wanted to explore and give a purpose and concept to what I would present. Looking at the balance and imbalance of each dimension gives myself and the artist I work with something to reflect on, and revisit time and time again. We as humans are a complex species!
What are you up to next?
Continuing to experiment each time I DJ and doing an LSD show at Reaktor during ADE in October. Working with Luke and Dave to further the LSD project. 6dimensions will be hosting a stand at the KRAKE Festival Label Boutique on 28th July, and I'm developing 6dimensions showcases for 2018 to include myself, Metro Skim, Heartless and also Jing, whose first release on 6dimensions will open the door to another side of what we do.
I'm collaborating with Jonas Kopp on a future Tresor release, working on exclusive tracks to be released on Lenny Posso's label Chronicle and a track for P.E.A.R.L on Falling Ethics. Last but by no means least, I have a collaborative release with Lee Grainge forthcoming on a seminal record label (and shop) that's about to announce some big news.
Photo credit: Cedric Diradourian