Light speed techno and electro.
One of the conversations that has defined 2017 has been the degree to which dance music and politics should mix. A number of artists have shown that the two are often inseparable, but none have done so as idiosyncratically as Galaxian. The Glasgow artist, AKA Mark Kastner, who regularly performs wearing a fighter pilot's helmet, has made some of the most vital electro of the past 18 months (though he's been making it for much longer), and it's in part informed by his outspoken views on capitalism and the state. On a recent track, "Dosing The Population," a vocal sample gestured to government-sponsored mind-control. Other track titles—"Tunnel Vision" and "Ouroboros," both from this year's Blowback EP—allude to mindsets and systems he wants to disrupt. "I see the Galaxian music as a vehicle to spread this alternative view not dictated by the ideological managers and traditional narratives," he recently told Inverted Audio.
If that sounds ambitious, then consider his music. Though it absorbs ideas from numerous Detroit artists—particularly Underground Resistance and DJ Stingray, with whom Kastner released a 12-inch last year—and Aphex Twin, he's spoken of the impact of ambient and classical on his sound. The results send electro's off-centre drums and squealing circuits into a tailspin. As his RA podcast makes clear, Kastner's horizons expand far beyond the music for which he's best known. In the space of 80 minutes, you'll hear euphoric '90s cuts from Kevin Saunderson, industrial techno from Paula Temple and frantic Warp cuts from the likes of Squarepusher and Oneohtrix Point Never, alongside unreleased tracks by DJ Stingray and fresh Galaxian material. To borrow an aviation phrase, RA.584 goes balls to the wall.
What have you been up to recently?
Most recently I played at Tresor for DJ Stingray's Kern CD launch party. Not only was that my first time in Tresor, but starting out as a musician it had been one of my main ambitions and goals: to play at Tresor, where all my musical influences and inspirations have played at one time or another. Back then that was an ambition I never dreamed would have come to pass.
Apart from that I've been having a bit of a break after a very long and intense period of music making, essentially the last three years almost constantly making music and working on getting these EPs and tracks out and heard.
How and where was the mix recorded?
It was recorded at my small home studio. I used Traktor and a Novation Nocturn for a controller and cross fader.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
A lot of the time I find safe DJ tracks that are perfectly beat matched and all seamlessly mixed to be pretty tedious and mundane. I like to hear that the DJ is actually doing something. It would have been really easy for me to just do what people might expect or what I have done before, which would have been a super-fast electro or straight techno mix. And as much as that would have been good, I wanted a bit more of challenge for myself and something that the listeners might not expect and ideally be into more.
I wanted to include so much and take the listener on a real journey through some of the tracks I've enjoyed in recent times and going way back to some forgotten gems. I didn't want to let the styles or tempo inhibit what I wanted create, but it was a pretty difficult mix because of the wide ranging tempos and styles of music. I had to miss out so many tracks or it would have been a four-hour mix, but I'm more than happy with the selection that I did get in there.
How would you describe the relationship between your music and your politics?
If you look at "Uprising" (Shipwrec) for instance, both visually and musically there is a clear relation and theme about revolution and the masses smashing the chains, in particular Egypt in 2011, when there seemed to be this real sense of hope and people using their innate power to shift things in their favour. "Blowback" (Foul-Up) also touches upon themes of how modern industrialised society is organised, the top down hierarchical and patriarchal monolithic state, the inherent horrors of systematic violence, the bloodlust figureheads, savage oppression and all the other psychotic deformations of that illusory reality.
I like to think that the music has a strong philosophical and political message, both in the feel and sound, although I'm not sure this is the way others hear or think of them. I'm very much into anarchist principles and thought. On that level, given a chance to flourish and grow in the right manner, it seems to me to be one of the most sane ways of approaching life as a starting point. For the last few years I've been inquiring about and exploring the ancient traditional Eastern wisdoms, teachings and the concepts of the egoic self and the awakening of higher consciousness. It's a very different way of looking at and sensing our ideas of self, identity and our relationship to, and as part of, nature and the universal whole.
I won't get into all that just now since it's my favourite thing to muse about and ponder, so we could be here all night if I do. I didn't start out with imbuing the music with these ideas, but more and more it's felt like I could use it as a voice to encourage others to think of things differently the same way I was encouraged and inspired by music I heard and books I read. I doubt I'm saying anything new, but I still feel a need to incorporate that into the music.
You've released three lengthy EPs in quick succession. Are you feeling particularly inspired at the moment?
I'm pretty much always inspired by something but not necessarily music, it's the norm for me. Those EPs were the result of different points in my musical journey, having been created over a fairly wide time span. Putting the EPs together and finishing off the songs and finally getting them out there took some time and a lot of effort. I hope that the work put in is heard on the records. I've made less music this year than any other in the past ten years, a small faction, it just seems like that because of all these releases. It's probably a bit confusing for people and hard to pinpoint where I'm at musically, even I have problems working that out.
What are you up to next?
It should be the next EP on Helena Hauff's label, Return To Disorder. I'm really looking forward to that one. She doesn't normally have cover art, but I'm doing something pretty nice for this one and she's happy to let me do what I want. I need to get on with that as the kind of artwork I've been doing takes me ages sometimes. I'll be in Berlin next month to play at the launch party for the Foul-Up label, which I released Blowback on earlier this year. That'll be a really nice event, and I always love to play in Berlin.
I have some other music projects that I'd like to spend more time on and perhaps release some of that, but it's so hard to find the space to do that. Big into ambient experimental and atonal drone stuff these days. As far as Galaxian goes, I'd like to evolve that towards a more expansive and broader expression of musical and philosophical ideas. I still have two Galaxian albums that are just about finished, I just need to get them done and dusted.
Apart from that, I'd like to go on a nice extended getaway. Thinking Nepal or somewhere like that. I can barely imagine what musical madness that could inspire.
I got to say a big heartfelt thanks to you guys at Resident Advisor for being such a big supporter of my music and allowing me to do a podcast for you. I hope you and everyone else enjoys this mix and continuous to enjoy and find something engaging in Galaxian music.