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ASC : Out Of Sync

Interview
Alexander
asc_out_of_sync_album

Here at Organic HQ there are few artists that we always have on the iPod. One of which however is ASC. Luckily for all of us he is just about to drop his latest album "Out Of Sync". Lets talk to the man himself.

"Out Of Sync" is your seventh solo artist album. almost a decade since your first, your album output rate is more akin to the more traditional musician than an electronic producer. You've worked with artist from a wide range of perspectives, recently from the likes of Sam KDC, to bvdub, to Synkro. Where do you place yourself as an artist within the spectrum of electronic music?

It's a strange situation I find myself in these days. I don't feel I'm part of any specific scene or movement, other than what I'm doing with Auxiliary, as that to me is an extension of my own sound and ideas. So when I look at electronic music as a whole, I just see myself as this self-existing anomaly out there on my own.

I've always had the idea that I'd be more of an album artist than just doing singles for the dance floor, although since I began releasing music, I've often done both. When I first started out and had my first release back in 1999, I was thinking about concepts right back then, but I didn't have the studio knowledge to pull off what I wanted to convey in an album for a while. When I did my first LP, Environments back in 2003, I still don't think I got it right. To me, it was still shackled by formulas and the pressure of labels asking for DJ friendly tracks. It was only when I broke away from the constraints of the traditional drum & bass template that I ever felt I was truly able to express myself musically. I think that's a problem that scenes geared towards dance floor music suffer from in terms of long players. The majority seem like collections of tracks rather than a thought out album. Having said that, I do think we're now in a time where the lines between genres are getting more and more blurred, which is creating a lot of interesting music and some great albums in recent times.

"I definitely do build up a personal attachment to pretty much everything I write, as after all, it's an extension of my persona"

The title leaves a lot of room for open interpretation. While "Out Of Sync" stands firm as a metaphor for individual creativity and pursuit of the subversive, tracks like "Oneironaut", "Talisman" and "Stay True" pursue time signatures that are at odds with what both drum & bass and electronic music broadly speaking normally follow. What artistic freedoms does crossing the line into 3 beat (or free beat) and other patterns allow you?

I honestly don't know. I don't try and think about things like that when I'm writing. Oneironaut, for example, is 170bpm, but the beat is programmed so loosely, that it kinda swings in and out of time. It's a strange one to try and mix, as it sounds in time one second and then out of time the second. The whole thing isn't quantized, other than where the kicks hit, so it gives it a sense of rhythm that you don't associate with the tempo at all. There's a bunch of tracks in this vein, and it all just came about from me trying to push the 170bpm template as far away from drum & bass patterns as possible. Stay True is another example of experimentation. I shortened the pattern length just to see how it would roll, and after a few tweaks, I decided I'd write it in 3/4, or 6/8 however you want to look at it. I'm not thinking about the DJ at all these days. If a DJ is creative enough, they will find a way to incorporate the music they want to showcase, but I'm not thinking about my music in the concept of how it will fit in the mix. That in itself is freedom for me.

Are there any core influences that remained current throughout the making of “Out Of Sync” or even over a longer period of time?

Yes, definitely. My love of sci-fi and the sounds I associate with it, is possibly stronger than ever with Out Of Sync. I'm constantly thinking of scenes from movies that haven't been made yet, when I'm putting phrases together in my tracks. It's a process that I truly love and one that keeps me writing music. Our imagination is one of the strongest things we have as humans, and tapping into it when putting collages of sound together in segments of my music is truly an exciting thing for me.

It's hard to find a fixed point to place "Out Of Sync". While tracks like "A Song For Hope" and "No Love Lost" lean more towards the ambient, "Prometheus" and "Blurred Pictures" keep one foot on the dance floor. "Disintegrate" has a comparably loose dynamic while "Glass Walls" confirms to a more familiar sound model. However there is a binding characteristic that allows the album to play coherently from start to finish, what elements or themes did you want to remain across the album?

Again, I think that's just my character as an artist shining through. It's a strange thing to explain. It's like I'm on auto-pilot when I'm in album mode. I'm not constantly thinking about a theme or tying things together, it just happens organically. There's this magic correlation that meshes all the music together that just happens. Then again, I also think I can get away with this, because I don't sound like anyone else out there in any scene, that it's a lot easier for people to spot a link between my tracks on a long player, as to the listener, it all has that familiar ASC sound. To address some of the tracks you've name checked, I'd just like to point out Prometheus was named before I had any idea about the recent film! I'd played a demo version of it as early as May 2011 at Dommune in Tokyo and the name was originally The Promethean Saga, which I later changed as I felt it was too clumsy a title.

Going back to finding a common ground throughout the album, it's much easier to judge things now that the whole process is over and I'm sat back waiting for it to drop. As you say, Glass Walls is definitely a more familiar sound. It's one of the tracks that ties Out Of Sync & Nothing Is Certain together, with the other being Spheres in my opinion. I think the main thing was to move on from Nothing Is Certain though, and present a new body of work that takes those ideals and expands upon them into another cohesive long player.

We hear that you had written quite a lot more music than could ever fit onto one album for "Out Of Sync". How do you even start to look at editing down to the final package? You must build personal attachment to your tracks?

There's been 3 or 4 revisions of the album. Each time, I've given it a few weeks, then made a decision based about how well I feel it does, like do I get bored of it? Could certain tracks be in better places? Would track X work better than track Y? etc. I'm my own biggest fan. I listen to a lot of my own music all the time, as I am writing the music I want to hear, so if I get an inclination that a project isn't quite right, then I'm usually not wrong.

I definitely do build up a personal attachment to pretty much everything I write, as after all, it's an extension of my persona - it's me expressing myself in the best way I know how. I can't speak for how other artists approach their work, but for me, there's always that connection. I'm always trying to better myself and offer my listeners the next evolution of the ASC sound, and for me to do that, I have to put my heart into every piece of music I do. I can't write any other way.

"It was only when I broke away from the constraints of the traditional drum & bass template that I ever felt I was truly able to express myself musically."

You've been working closely and releasing with the Samurai group of labels for around 18 months now. You are also the first artist they have released an album project with. How did you first start working with Samurai and what's it like working with Geoff Presha?

Geoff is a great guy. I've been chatting to him for years now. Right when I signed with Nonplus for Nothing Is Certain, we were talking about working together, but we had to put it on hold due to the commitments I'd made to Nonplus. I had some offers from him that I had to turn down at the time, but we both shared a love of techno and more obscure music, so we were on the same wavelength. Having that in mind, I always wanted to work with him at some stage, so once the LP with Nonplus was done, we first spoke about doing stuff. The first batch of stuff we did was abstract stuff, but geared towards the whole minimal side of drum & bass at the time. I got bored of that very quickly and I think Geoff did too. I'd started doing a lot more non-dnb sounding 170 stuff, including a few tracks that made the LP, and Geoff was very much into the same direction I was heading. I was sending Geoff the tracks as I was writing the album and keeping him in the loop. I think it's a great fit style wise as Samurai, especially Red Seal & Horo have both become very diverse imprints over the past year and will continue to do so.

"Out Of Sync" is your first album since the whole Autonomic "thing" happened a few years back. Now you are much more of a lone artist on your own musical island whereas before there was more of a feeling of a collective moving together. Post autonomic, how do you feel people now perceive your music and following that period in your career what expectations do you find if any are thrust upon you from your listenership?

Autonomic was a collective in the fact that it was a group of like-minded artists writing similar music, but I was always a lone artist back then in my own mind, even with the affiliations of the movement and labels involved. I think that's mainly because I was 4000+ miles away from where the action is, so being out here with no scene around me is very isolating. At the same time, it's also very rewarding, as I'm not influenced by anything going on and I've written the best music I've ever written since I've lived out here in San Diego, so there's pros and cons to that argument, Anyway, going back to the question, I've never felt any expectations in regards to my music from my fans. I've always written for myself first and foremost. If other people like it, then it's a bonus. I'm fortunate enough to be in a position where I have a solid network of fans, artists, and DJ's that enjoy what I do also.

Through the autonomic movement and your album “Nothing Is Certain” on Non-Plus you were exposed to a vastly wider audience than ever before. It’s put you in the privileged position where you went from being an artist known by the real connoisseurs to something of an forefront artist more openly acknowledged. With this in mind “Out Of Sync” is undoubtedly going to reach more people than your work pre autonomic. Even when the writing process can be self indulgent or selfish, the moment it becomes a commercial product it is for someone else. Does this have any bearing on how you view the final product initially or retrospectively?

Nothing Is Certain opened a lot of doors for me and for that, I have nothing but praise for Al & Damon for believing in my work and giving me the platform for it. It was definitely a timely break and I was happy to seize the opportunity when it was offered to me. Being part of the Autonomic movement helped me reach a whole new audience, mainly people outside of the usual sphere of influence that drum & bass has. I found my work being lauded by techno and ambient fans especially, which was exactly what I was hoping for. I grew up listening to early 90's IDM (for want of a better word) , stuff on Warp, the music on their Artificial Intelligence compilations, in particular being very influential in what I'd eventually go on to write.

In a way, the sound I was writing now has come back full circle, but while having that nod to the past, it definitely has one foot in the present. I think when you come from this kind of background and when you arrive at a point where you are presenting a similar type of music to a much bigger audience, it can bring those notions of worry about it having to be for 'someone else' as you say, but I tend not to think like that. I'm still thinking about writing music for myself, first and foremost. I have to please myself. I said earlier that I write from the heart, as it's the only way I know how, so I don't really think beyond that. Perhaps I do subconsciously, but I'm not openly aware of it, that's for sure.

The last time you spoke to us, you talked about your love/ hate relationship with drum & bass and the genre despite your attraction to the tempo. Tracks like “A Song For Hope” and “No Love Lost” are not recognizable as drum & bass. And there are other tracks that could be more reasonably identified as other electronica outside of what would usually be categorized as drum & bass. More so now than ever, the more experimental artists within the genre are carving out their own sub genre or even genre in it’s own right. If someone had never heard your music before would you necessarily think they would categorize it as drum & bass?

Drum & Bass is a strange genre for me. Too many producers and not enough artists. I got into it all back in 1992 when it was still the UK Hardcore scene, and then about 1993/1994, Jungle started to happen. Right through until about 1998 I'd say, there was this air of magic about the music. This mystery and feeling that anything could be accomplished with it. Every week, there were amazing tunes being produced and it was a great time for it. When I look back now, I put that down to how it wasn't as easy as it became after the turn of the century to start writing music. You had these brilliant artists who were writing music with inspiration from OUTSIDE of drum & bass. You could hear it coming through in a certain artists style and that's what made it so unique. Once things became saturated, and anyone could pick up a copy of Reason or Fruity Loops - nothing against either program, they just seem to be very popular cracked software that people start out on - then we got inundated with clones.

It's gotten to the stage now where I feel Drum & Bass is a very incestuous music. There's no real inspiration and influences coming from outside of the scene, bar from a select few. The majority are keen to latch onto whatever is flavour of the month and then rehash it. You have a whole generation of drum & bass producers that are influenced by drum & bass producers. You have labels influenced by other labels within the scene, which in turn leads to more copies and clones of the same type of music, yet people seem content with this. I'm sure this happens in all forms of music, but being so involved in this music since it's inception has opened my eyes to it more than any other form.

About the time of Nothing Is Certain, I'd crossed a line that I realised I didn't want to go back from. I think I've said all I've wanted to say with Drum & Bass, so it was time for me to move on. I personally don't see what I do now as drum & bass, and I think the majority of people who buy my music these days probably don't either. At least I hope not anyway, for no other reason than it's the whole wolf in sheep's clothing argument. I don't want to claim this is drum & bass, as it's unjust on what IS drum & bass, and vice versa. I've said recently that the only thing I see the music I'm doing right now has in common with it, is the tempo, and even then, I'm often working at half-tempo, which is more in line with Hip Hop really.

Having said that, the blogs, the magazines, the Beatports etc. all want a label for everything. If there's no current label for it, and you identify newer genre's by tempo, like if a track is 140bpm, then it often gets pigeon-holed as Dubstep. So if this music is 170bpm, then the same happens and it gets classed as drum & bass. I think slowly and surely people are starting to realise that this isn't always the case. Music is one huge Venn diagram these days, with the genres overlapping more than ever and the lines getting even more blurred. It's certainly making for exciting times for people operating in these grey areas, regardless of what the media want to label it as.

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