Crack shared a brief word with the UK techno pioneer
Whilst the flash, fizz and wallop of EDM sweeps America, the UK increasingly looks to the darker end of things for its dancing kicks, with the likes of Andy Stott’s diving-bell-deep dub-techno and the Blackest Ever Black roster’s warped, urban-tech-dread explorations leading the way.
One man who fits nicely into this continuum is Anthony Child, aka Surgeon. In the early 90s, Child went from studying audio to crafting his own under the guidance of Napalm Death’s Mick Harris: the resulting EP kickstarted a career that’s so far spanned releases on labels like Soma and Blueprint, residencies at Tresor and his own House of God party, and remixes of artists such as Mogwai, Oneohtrix Point Never and Thom Yorke. Making and playing – Surgeon’s a renowned manipulator of digital DJing software as his multi-layered entry to the long-running Fabric mix series attests to – the kind of steely, noise-inflected techno that pummels away at both dancefloors and the consciousness of its listeners, Child has carved out a niche as a curator and creator of the kind of music that radiates the focus, power, and precision of its master’s yogic practices. This is the kind of techno that seems at once utterly dehumanised and anonymous, yet simultaneously possesses some kind of metaphysical ‘essence’ of its maker, some innate watermark.
As we approach the release of new material from his British Murder Boys collaboration with Karl O’Connor, Crack had a brief chat with Surgeon himself. Just don’t call his music ‘pure techno’.
Can you tell us how your move to Birmingham kickstarted your career in music?
I moved to Birmingham in 1989 to study audio-visual design. It was amazing to connect with so many other people who were also deeply passionate about music and I became exposed to a lot more interesting music. In Birmingham, if something didn’t exist there, then we had to make it ourselves. There was no techno club in 1992, so we made our own. We’d heard about Lost in London, but didn’t have the money to travel down to London for a night out so we just made it up as we went along; we had nothing to compare it to. That was the fundamentally important point: creating something vital without regard for what others thought of it.
Is it fair to state that you’re interested in a form of sonic brutality, in the bludgeoning, physical end of the musical spectrum?
Not at all; I’m interested in an incredibly wide sonic palette. It’s just that in the situations that I DJ in I find it most useful to play heavy music, although no more force than is necessary.
When reading previous interviews you’ve done, William Burroughs and Whitehouse, amongst others, are names that often come up. When and where did this interest in cultural prurience and boundary-pushing stem from?
William Burroughs is a longtime big influence for me. The way that he perverted the structure of a novel, for example; the ‘cut-up’ technique was a huge influence, though I’m aware that it was Brion Gysin who discovered that. Where do these interests come from? I can’t say, it’s just where I’m drawn.
How did you feel when The Wire placed you in the ‘British Noise continuum’ – was it a positioning that made sense to you?
I didn’t know that. I guess it could make sense, being part of that musical lineage. I can relate to that much more than any kind of ‘pure techno’ label.
Would you mind giving us some insight into your British Murder Boys collaboration with Regis (Karl O’Connor?
Between 2003 and 2005 Karl and I released music as British Murder Boys. This year we’ve been working together again and will release a 12″ as BMB on the Mute sub-label Liberation Technologies, called Where Pail Limbs Lie on 29th October.
Do you still practice Ashtanga Yoga? If so, do you feel that the sense of bodily-discipline that such an activity must instil in one is something that feeds into your music?
Yes, I still practice Ashtanga Yoga and I do believe that it affects many things that feed into my music. It adds so much and takes nothing away.
Since the internet’s made sharing DJs live sets easier, and the discourse around and about them more open, do you find it harder to confound clubbers, to mangle their expectations of what a DJ should be playing?
It always comes down to the connection between the people on the night, the venue, sound and 100,000 other factors. That’s the interesting and exciting thing about DJ for me, reacting within that.
Is exciting, relevant, challenging techno still being made?
Very much so. There’s something of a renaissance at the moment.
What can we expect in the near future from Surgeon?
I’m working on several extremely exciting projects, none of which I’m able to discuss yet.
- – - – - – - -