Factory Floor forge a link between the avant garde and the dancefloor with their innovative techno sound.
It’s refreshing to see that the success of London based trio Factory Floor is progressing in tandem with the development of their music, a unique brand of post-industrial, faintly gothic, minimalist techno.
You could argue that the current generation of music listeners is characterised by a scatty pursuit of instant gratification. Scenes and trends pop up, bands scramble to mount bandwagons which crumble within months and everyone suddenly spits it out like gum that has lost its flavour. It’s in this context Factory Floor stand out as a more durable and heavyweight form of band. Over the last few years they’ve shown a little restraint with their musical output, affiliating themselves with producers, labels and promoters who respect artistic integrity. Their records get stronger with each release and they’ve now carved out a truly distinctive sound. Like all the best minimal music, hypnotic repetition is strung out so even the slightest addition – a snare drum or another layer of bass – is anticipated by that feeling of nervous excitement in the pit of the stomach. The band recently released a 12” on the reputable American label DFA, a step which will undoubtedly expose them to a much wider, transatlantic audience.
Factory Floor originally formed in 2005. Their initial sound was heavily indebted to early 80s post-punk and goth. Although tracks like Bipolarare laudable tributes to that era, at that early stage Factory Floor were by no means the behemoth they are today having established their definitive line up. By recruiting Nik Void (previously frontwoman of the now defunct indie band KaitO), Factory Floor ignited a frenetic creative spark. Onstage Nik, Gabriel Gurnsey and Dominic Butler share a remarkable chemistry, and their live shows have procured them a certain notoriety.
Factory Floor’s uncompromising manifesto has won them admiration from elder pioneers of avant-garde music. Chris Carter, a member of the cutting edge industrial group Throbbing Gristle, has signalled his approval by remixing Factory Floor’s Lying single and the band played alongside Throbbing Gristle offshoot Chris and Cosey at the Institute of Contemporary Art earlier this year. Factory Floor also struck a chord with Joy Division and New Order member Stephen Morris, who recognised a kinship in both sound and ethos. This led to a collaboration, with Morris taking on production duties for the awesome (R E A L L O V E) single, one of Factory Floor’s best musical achievements to date. You don’t make friends like this if you’re lightweight.
Crack caught up with the band for a chat, achieving a little insight into how they preserve their integrity, and how Factory Floor has become such a brutal live force.
Crack saw you live at the Arnolfini Gallery’s 50th birthday last month and the line-up for the night was put together by Qu Junktions, who host experimental and alternative music events. You’re known to perform in some interesting venues and at more tasteful music festivals. Do you get to choose where you play and who you perform for?
Nik: We do get to choose where we play, I think it’s important for our set up. We had a show in Shoreditch where we had a quadraphonic sound and we were playing in the centre, that’s something we want to work towards next year. All these interesting shows are gearing us up to when our record comes out, giving us ideas about how we can present it. We’ve been playing with really amazing leftfield artists, then we’ve got a thing with the older generation of artists like Chris and Cosey and they’re people who admire what we’re doing because we’re coming from the same place.
Gabriel: I guess there are two different paths, which are the dance- orientated stuff and the more experimental side. But we want to cross them over and that’s what we did with the quadraphonic thing. We played a ‘blackout’ show as well, where basically all the audience were in a totally pitch black room and we were just behind a little curtain but they didn’t know who was playing. That was really inspiring and it was really fucking good.
Do you feel under a certain amount of pressure to compromise your sound in order to widen your audience? You’ve had quite a bit of exposure from mainstream publications like the The Guardian and the NME, you could have easily ended up on a conveyor belt of endless tours of o2 Academys etc.
Dominic: I think we’re a bit more in tune with what we want to do. We’re not desperate to please anybody, we’re actually more interested in shows as events as it’s a way of expressing some kind of creativity. When people come and say, ‘we’ve got this, we’ve got that’ [as potential shows to play], it soon becomes apparent if it’s suitable for us, or if it’s totally unsuitable.
G: We do what we’re doing and people pick it up. I guess if they don’t, they don’t, but things like NME have so … it’s an interesting crossover. Our music’s very experimental, but I guess a lot people want to hear something new rather than all the boring bands that are coming out.
Certain developments in technology are in danger of making music more disposable as a commodity. Do you think that your live performances – the volume, the improvisation, the visuals – preserve the idea of the ‘live experience’ and gives the audience something which couldn’t be replicated by watching YouTube footage, for example?
G: That’s really important to us. With our live sound we want it to surround you, so it engulfs people in the noise and the music, and that it’s a physical thing.
D: It’s always been that way with live performance. You go and buy your Sonic Youth album, but when you go and see them they fucking knock the back of your head off. When you see an artist you like play, the performance has an impact on you, there’s something about it that stays with you.
You’re known to play loud, on some occasions at an excruciating level. What’s the impact you’re trying to achieve, what do you want the audience members to experience?
N: I think to forget about reality and just get lost, like if you go to a dance club or something. Not necessarily to have to get totally pilled up or drunk, just to get taken over by the sound. Sound’s a really powerful tool and because our stuff on stage is very instinctive and improvised, there’s some quite big energy coming from it, and if it’s very loud people can get really into it. We rehearse extremely loud, it works with the instruments we’re using.
D: It’s like a colour, if you see a watercolour it saturates you and really impacts on you. I think we’re not a band who has to play loud, but volume does bring a saturation on the listener, the audience. I think that’s what happens when people come and see us.
G: I guess it’s a form of escapism, because you don’t get that from walking down the street.
N: But we’re definitely inspired by our environment and living in London as well. It dictates your sound if you’re working instinctively, the repetition, the kind of slashing noises over the arpeggio – it’s the rhythms of the city. We’re feeding off what we hear day-by-day.
Conventionally the function of a live tour is to promote a record, so often a band’s performance is essentially an imitation of their recordings, yet so much of your live set is improvised. Why do you think it’s important to break away from the structures of your recorded tracks?
N: It’s better to offer something that’s different in a recording to what you do live, and I think there are labels out there who appreciate that.
G: I guess we’re doing things in reverse. We’re trying to capture what we’re doing live on record. But it’s interesting for us, we can’t control the sound we make to a certain extent.
D: It’s kind of an industry thing, isn’t it? To play your album how it is so it’s not really about the art. We’re more focused on what’s actually going on at that moment when we’re playing and if it takes a course that it hasn’t taken before.
You worked with Stephen Morris on the (R E A L L O V E) single. When your sound is described by bloggers and journalists, stuff like Factory Records and New Order often gets mentioned. Do you feel uncomfortable about these comparisons, or do you believe it’s possible to be influenced by music from the past but still be looking forward and pushing boundaries?
N: I never saw New Order, but from what they’ve said about their performances they had a similar approach to us. Stephen saw that in us and that’s why he wants to work with us. I haven’t got any problem with people referencing the past, unless it’s wrong. I think Throbbing Gristle are a good example as well, because they have a similar approach, but we don’t sound like them.
D: I think someone’s always influenced by something. If you go to see a good exhibition, it’s going to imprint on you. And somewhere, if you’re an expressive person, you’re going to go through that maze of your subconscious. If something is good art then it imprints on you, doesn’t it. I guess Factory Records is good art.
What have you got planned for the next few months?
G: We’re releasing the Two Different Ways single on DFA, they’re really into what we we’re doing. We’re writing the full length album at the minute as well. We’re playing ATP, Primavera Club and we’re touring over in the States. It’s great to experience the different crowds, see the different reactions. If you’re just playing in London you expect a certain response. Bristol’s a great response, we’ve played Thekla a couple of times. People just need to lose their shit, you know, go all out.
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Two Different Ways is out now on DFA Records
Words: David Reed