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Al Tourettes

Interview
Liam Griffin

The past 12 months have been busy for Al Tourettes- his sound has evolved into a unique electro-garage-techno hybrid, his improvised live show has become a talking point amongst electronic music fans and one of his tracks featured on the unmissable Black Swan. Here, Alec takes a break for a few minutes to talk about Bristol, collaborations and dissolvable t-shirts.

You come from an electro background- how did you make the transition from electro to bassier productions?

My early productions were still pretty bassy so I don’t really think of it as much as a transition and more a natural process. I’ve always loved bass! I’m more confident to use more melody and hooks in my more recent stuff though that’s for sure.

Do you think your electro roots show in your current tracks?

Absolutely – I think most of my newer tracks more than hint at it. It’s probably still my biggest influence and will always be with me.

Are there any specific electro producers who have inspired you?

Drexciya, Volsoc, Radiocative Man, Bitstream, Silicon Scally/Carl Finlow, Microthol, Keith Tucker, Dopplereffekt, Bolz Bolz, Anthony Rother, Cybotron/Model 500, Dynamix ii.

You collaborated with Appleblim on Lipsmacker and a number of remixes. When did you meet Laurie Appleblim?

I met him a few years ago. It’s always a pleasure working with him as we were friends originally so we get on really well. We come from quite different backgrounds, musically, but generally seem to have the same outlook in terms of structure, groove, etc. This is why it’s always exciting bringing fresh ideas into the mix.

Do you have any more collaborations planned for the future? Are there any artists you’d love to work with?

Yes there will be more collaborations with Laurie as well as another good friend of mine Adam ‘Arkist’ so far on the cards. I’d love to work with George Clinton, Cristian Vogel, Prince, James Stinson, Raymond Scott, Miles Davis, Stevie Hyper D and so on but only three of those is actually alive so I can’t see it happening to honest. RIP.

Bristol has a very fertile electronic music scene- what do you think makes it so unique?

Well there’s the obvious musical heritage of the city, from Massive Attack, Portishead, to Full Cycle. Apart from that it’s a University town (I came here to study Music in 2002) so there’s always a steady influx of new people to the area. It’s not at all pretentious here, which I absolutely love, whilst being diverse enough to be a fairly cosmopolitan city. It’s pretty liberal in general and also not too big, so that you can still get that sense of community. People are quite open minded to new things on the whole…They also love Bass! One of the other things I love about Bristol, is it’s very hilly so you never feel too isolated and can see the countryside easily. I grew up in the flatlands of Norfolk/Suffolk so arriving here was like arriving on another planet.

Rooted Records recently shut down- how has this affected the electronic community in the city?

It’s gutting to be honest. It was literally down the road from me so a real shame to see it go. On the plus side I hear one of the guys who worked there Chris Farell, who runs the label Idle Hands is opening a record shop in Stokes Croft so there is hope on the horizon.

Where are the places you like playing and who are the artists you like listening to?

I like playing in Ireland, the crowd there is always well up for it and definitely get where I’m coming from. I really enjoyed playing in Glasgow for the same reasons. Playing at Space was definitely a high point –the club itself is a monster and Ibiza is such a beautiful place and not at all what I expected from the obvious media coverage. In terms of new music I recently got the Black Dog’s latest album ‘Music for Real Airports’. It’s stunning. I love Surgeon’s and Shackleton’s mixes for Fabric as well. R & S’s recent output has been excellent . Kelpe and Four Tet’s recent work is superb. I’m also into the band Little Dragon, especially the first album.. Other than that, I always listen to P-Funk, various house, old Detroit Techno and Electro / Electronica and quite a lot of ambient stuff. An album that I recently discovered in my Dad’s collection has really inspired me actually. Pat Metheny & Lyle May’s album ‘As Falls Wichita, so Falls Wichita falls’ on ECM records. (A label I need to research a lot more) It’s just epic. Check it!

How did you get involved in the Black Swan project?

It came completely out of the blue. Mary Anne Hobbs sent a load of tracks to Clint Mansell (she knows him from many years ago) as they were looking for some music for the club scene in the film and had approached her for some fresh music. They picked out 10 tracks and one of them was my track “When I Rest I Rust’. They then got in contact with me about producing a special piece of music for the film. When I first got the email I didn’t believe it was real.

Can you tell us a bit about your contribution to the soundtrack?

The track itself was based on a small section of Tchaikovsky’s original score for Swan Lake. Darren [Aronofsky] wanted to hear my interpretation of it in my own style and also gave me an outline of the scene from which to work from. I had a rough idea of the kind of thing they wanted from the notes so did several demos for them in the short time I had to submit ideas. They decided they wanted to include the track later named ‘The White Easton’, and so from there it was lots of hard work and sleepless nights tweaking it and getting it to a point where it was exactly what they wanted.

How much did you know about the movie when you were approached?

Not a thing…

Clint Mansell, who has a bit of history with English electronica, scores the movie- are you a fan of his?

Yeah I’m a big fan. Not only of his film scores. I used to own a tye-dye Pop Will Eat Itself long sleeve t-shirt and matching shorts when I was 11. Unfortunately I went swimming in them and they disintegrated.

Have you seen the movie itself- what do you think of it? Who else features on the soundtrack?

It’s excellent. It’s got humour whilst remaining dark and sexual and completely in-keeping with the timeless tragedy of Swan Lake. The other musicians on there include Jakes, Kavs Rave, Sepalcure and the Chemical Brothers.

Can you tell us a bit about your live set up?

I use Ableton Live, with Max for Live and lots of third party synthesisers and effects. I use an Akai APC 40 for control. I’m a drummer so I also use a Roland SPD-S drum pad for jamming live.

Does your performance change from gig to gig?

Of course. I have lots of ways of manipulating the set and I’m always writing new bits so it’s never the same each time. There’s plenty of scope for improvisation what with the live drums, synths and a big bank of effects

You’re playing at Bloc soon- do you have anything special planned? How did your set go down last year?

Last year was great fun. I had a lot of new material and new ways of doing things, so in essence Bloc makes me work even harder to create as much new stuff as possible. This year will be no different in that respect. I’ve got a lot of new tracks to test on the unsuspecting (or should that be suspecting) Bloc crowd! Should be a laugh, as always.

Getting your stuff played by Mary Anne Hobbs on Radio 1 was a bit of a breakthrough for you- what was it like listening to your mix on the radio? Do you miss her show now that she’s left the BBC?

I’ve been a fan since the breezeblock days so it was a real pleasure for me. She brought me to the attention of a much wider audience so I have much to thank her for. And yes, I do miss the show. I think she pushed a lot of very challenging and inspiring music from all over the place. In fact one of my favourite mixes ever was on her show…Two Lone Swordsmen’s breezeblock set from 2000 – it’s an absolute belter.

What do you have planned for 2011?

More hard work-More Productivity-Drinking Less-Smoking Less- Eating more fruit-Getting Better- etc. I’ve got a new EP on Bloc’s in-house label coming out in the spring as well as a Remix of an Axel Boman track with Laurie Appleblim, also due out soon. The track me and Laurie did with Underworld is also coming out on a limited 12” on Apple Pips. I’m also working on an EP for new label Sneaker Social Club. Gigs wise I’ll obviously be returning to Bloc, Shambala, and appearing at Space again for ‘We Love’, plus plenty more shows in the summer soon to be announced.

Finally, I'm contributing a track for a new website launching soon called www.touretteshero.com which is dedicated to the creativity and humour of Tourettes Syndrome.