TEN QUESTIONS WITH DEADBEAT (2011)
We've had the pleasure of featuring Scott Monteith and his Deadbeat project in the past, the first time all the way back in June 2004 (here) and subsequently in November 2008 (here); we were obviously chuffed as well when Monteith contributed an article of his own to textura that detailed background experiences that led up to his fabulous 2010 mix Radio Rothko (here). We're delighted to speak with him once again, this time to discuss his latest ventures, an excellent new album, Drawn and Quartered, and his newly established label, BLKRTZ. An award of some kind should be sent his way for the simple fact that he has not only survived twelve years in the electronic music business but has prospered. More importantly, Monteith deserves to be recognized for being one of the pioneering figures in the now-established dub-techno movement, and the music he's currently making sounds as good as the music issued on his 2002 ~scape debut album Wild Life Documentaries and those that followed (2004's Something Borrowed, Something Blue, 2005's New World Observer, 2007's Journeyman's Annual, and 2008's Roots and Wire).
1. First things first: what prompted you to start your own label (especially in today's climate when many labels are struggling to survive for one reason or another)?
It's by no means a new idea for me; I talked about it for the first time to Kompakt, who are handling distribution, several years ago, but a few things happened recently that made me decide now was the time. I became a father a little over a year ago now and that brings an entirely new sense of urgency to things. It was very important for me to feel like I was in control of where things were going, and I think taking responsibility for releases from start to finish offers that possibility. ~scape also went out of business early in the year and while it had been a while since I worked with them I had a feeling in a philosophical sense that that left a hole for me musically in terms of potential outlets, as well as for our little niche industry in general. There seems to be a growing movement towards pure functionality in electronic music these days, with music being made strictly for DJs, cafes and commercials, or iPod fodder for the crossover indie market. I think, at least to begin with, ~scape set out to champion music that was far more about deep listening and the enjoyment that that brings in and of itself, which is precisely why I felt so drawn to the label in the first place. I don't mean to suggest that I intend the label to be some kind of crusading mission for the marginalized and unmarketable, I just think it's important to have music in my life that is engaging enough to really get lost in and reveals more of itself to you with each listen.
2. What prompted the BLKRTZ name for the label?
The name is in reference to the black arts of recording, modular synthesis, dub, DSP, and the colour of the vinyl on which the results of all these nefarious activities are recorded.
3. The premiere release on the label is obviously your own Drawn and Quartered. Have you got material from other artists planned as upcoming releases or is BLKRTZ going to be strictly an outlet for your own productions?
To begin with it will be an outlet for my own stuff and collaborative projects, but I'm definitely open to the idea of putting other people's stuff out when it feel like it makes sense to do so.
4. One of the things I love most about your recordings is that while each one sounds like you and no one else, they all nevertheless sound different from one another (the five long-form tracks on the new one, for example, are different in scale and tone from the ones on your previous full-length Roots and Wire, for example). The albums, in other words, play a little bit like diary chapters, as if they're documenting in aural form a portrait of who you are and where you are at the moment. Is that an effect you consciously strive to create or does it just naturally occur as the music's being created? And, relatedly then, how does the new album align with what life is like for Scott Monteith right now in terms of your life situation, etc.?
I think that is just a natural result of creating them at different stages in my life and the influence of the things I experienced at those points playing out in the music. This album was created over a twelve- to sixteen-month period, which is incredibly long in comparison to the previous albums, but this was a direct result of having less studio time and being focused on the lead up to the pregnancy and then of course a new life with an entirely new set of priorities. As I mentioned I spent a great deal of time just doing a lot of listening in the studio for this one, to the point of frustration really. I was so consumed with everything else in my life that I would get to the studio and not have the faintest idea where to start. In the end I end up just setting different things in motion be it with the analog modular, delay units, or DSP stuff in the computer and just letting them do their thing. I also did a lot of long live recordings with voice, congas and other percussion, hours and hours of them, which were then fed into these great serpentine effect chains which I also just sat and listened to the results of for hours. At some point I was quite convinced that I was completely wasting my time and was never going to finish even a single song, then low and behold I started sticking different things together and realized that I had this weird, elongated five-track album that fulfilled a lot of creative ideas that had been floating around in my head for quite a long time. Sometimes you just have to let things go and see what happens, I guess. Self-doubt is really a bitch, though.
5. Speaking of the differences between albums, how does the new one sound to you when heard alongside the ones you've released before? How is it different from the ones preceding it and does the new release showcase any particularly new techniques, ideas, or gear-related aspects?
I haven't really had the distance from this one yet to answer the first part effectively, but in terms of the technical side of things this is the most outside-the-box, analog record I have ever made. There are modular recordings all over it, I recorded lots of real instruments, and it was mixed on a TL Audio tube mixer with most of the edits and mixing being done physically on real faders. I'm stll a firm believer in the power of computers for making music, you really don't need anything else, but the physicality of hardware is very, very inspiring.
6. You issued what I thought was one of 2010's best mixes, Radio Rothko. Did the process of compiling that collection and absorbing all of the other producers' tracks have an influence on your own sound/approach and Drawn and Quartered in particular?
I suppose so to some extent, but I buy a lot records as well so the I don't think those tracks had a greater influence then other things necessarily.
7. For simplicity's sake, I'll use the term dub-techno to refer to the genre presented so thoroughly on Radio Rothko as well as on the recent Echocord compilation Jubilee, to which you contributed what struck me as the standout track (“House of Vampires”). It would seem that the genre has never been more popular and never had as many producers as it does now. What's your explanation for why this is so, if you do in fact think it is so?
I don't really have one actually. Different sub-genres come to the fore and are championed by a new generation of listeners and DJs, and then sort of sink back into the aether until the next revival or mutation. It may have had something to do with the all -consuming minimal explosion and implosion of a few years back. I think everyone got so damn sick of it they just started looking elsewhere, hence the resurgence in house and more old-school sounding techno, be it dub or otherwise. Having been involved in this stuff now for over a decade I really think it's just the natural ebb and flow of things.
8. Do you read the genre's success as somewhat of a personal vindication, given that, after all, when Wild Life Documentaries was released you were operating in a largely unpopulated field? All false modesty aside, isn't it the case that the pioneering body of work you've created is part of the reason for the genre being in the healthy state it's in today?
I don't really see my stuff as particularly pioneering but then again perhaps it's because I can't even decide what team I'm playing for most of the time. I think it's important to make a distinction between so called genres and scenes. Genres I think are imposed virtual creations which link people who may not have even met one another and maybe never well based on a subjective idea that their work is stylistically similar. Scenes on the other hand are made up of people who know and support each other in a myriad of ways. I may feel some vindication if something that I've worked hard to accomplish, be it for one of the labels that I work with or trying to help a friend get their stuff out there, ends up having some success, but I never wake up in the morning and think “What can I do for Dub Techno today?” In all honesty, if people feel inspired by or simply enjoy listening to the music from time to time I couldn't be happier.
9. One of the things I admire about the artistic path you've carved out for yourself is that you've always remained true to your own singular vision. For example, considering the amount of attention dubstep received when it emerged, one might have almost expected to hear your music gravitate in its direction to some degree, given the closer proximity to the style your music already possessed, yet that didn't really happen. How were you able to resist the influence of dubstep and its signifiers when it emerged with such force?
I think it's actually had a fair amount influence in so much as I've been listening to so much of it the last few years. I think it's great that a more rhythmically broken style bubbled to the surface again, though the most recent developments in that end of things seem to be drawing ever closer to techno and house anyway. We are destined to dance to straight kick drums forever more it seems! It may be that I'm getting old and lazy but 140 bpm at which most of this stuff is being made is just too damn fast for me, and any
10. Your appearance at MUTEK 2011 will be a collaboration with ex-Rechenzentrum member Lillevan, which strikes me as a perfect sound-and-visuals pairing. Can you give us a preview of what we can expect from your show?
A deeper-than-deep, immersive re-dubbing of the album material set to a spiraling whirlwind of mind-bending visuals that will certainly not involve vector graphics dancing rhythmically in time with the music.