Questions To: Jack Acid
As Mr. James Hawley, founder of the Pirate Audio Soundsystem, Spiral Tribe-member and co-founder of 69db is about to release his new longplay assault "Dead Tube Dead Kore" via DJungle Fever Berlin pretty soon we've been bothering him with some questions on his latest musical outing and his general view on his favorite style - Acid.
Warning: If you're suffering from epilepsy or any other kind of mental illness please do not watch this video. Also keep away from children.
As not only a few new generations of ravers, partygoers and acidheads grew up since you've been doing your first steps on the circuit please give our readers a brief introduction on who you are and you got involved wih the electronic music scene and – of course - especially Acid?
My introduction to electronic music was during the acid house movement in the late 80's, I was lucky enough to be in a moment in time when several sub cultures sort of co-existed together at once, Industrial, techno, electro/bass, and punk.... all of which was exploding when I was in my most impressionable years. This also why my sound has always been more raw and aggressive and not easy to fit into a specific genre. Being a punk promoter and band member, I just naturally gravitated towards the diy asthetic of the early dance scene. As my band started to lose members, we eventually embraced cheap drum machines and synths to replace them and that steered us into a more electronic sound. As avid music collectors, we were also fans of different genres of underground music, so this allowed us to be open minded and explore various cross pollination of genres, and lead several of us to become djs by default (having huge record collections).
My first memory of really "feeling" acid tech was at a small illegal afterhours club in a dodgy warehouse area of town, i was 16 and walked into this event and it was pure acid, no vocal pop style acid, just stripped drums and bassline squelches and the whole vibe just sort of clicked in me... it was like the missing link in my head and suddenly I connected all these dots and realized this was what I wanted to be a part of. From there I just sort of focused on doing psychedelic music and events using my punk diy experiences wich helped me and my friends develope our own version of soundsystem culture.
Although your first record was released back in 1994 which is nearly 20 years ago now it seems like there are pretty big time gaps between your releases which are popping up only occasionally. Is this due to your recording process or are there other reasons for this. If yes, which?
A variety of reasons, one being that from 93-95 I had 3 eps and a full length cd locked in the vault of a record label scheduled to be released, but the label folded and went out of business before they could do anything. During that time I didnt bother looking for anyone to release my music because I felt secure with the people handling my music. After that , I had 2 other projects slated to be released on both Pulsar Records from Detroit and Electronic Music Foundation, both of those labels folded right befor they were to release my 12"s as well, so from 94-96 I just had a bad luck, and the sound of America was changing as well. It became harder to find labels interested in experimental dance music and the focus was on much more cookie cutter dance tracks, labels like Moonshine were getting bigger and the cool labels like emf and pulsar were going under. As far as vinyl was concerned, my releases seem like once every 2 years until lately. I felt very discouraged with the process of making demo tapes and sending them to labels after all that and became more interested in doing cassette releases of livesets instead of records. Up until last 4 years, I averaged one 12" release every 2 years and felt comfortable with it. After the Network 23 release, I felt that my releases should be on the cream of labels or no labels at all, so I just wait for them to come to me, I figure if someone really likes what I make, they will find me and ask for it, and so far its working. The last few years the output has increased. As for digital releases, I have had many on my collectives net label, I just never bothered to push them as hard as 12"s. It wasnt until recently that I fully embraced the digital realm of dj music. Also have to consider that I am a filmmaker and that absorbs alot of my time. So, I think quality is much better than quantity :)
Process plays a role too, I will spend several months working on perfecting rhythms and sounds in my livesets, sometimes I have stuff that sits for a year or two, sequences just waiting for the proper parts to be created, before I feel like they are ready to be put in a final single composition. Other times I may spend half a year modifying some piece of gear befor I use it as well.
Talking your most recent release „Dead Tube Dead Kore“ which caters are pretty ferine, ruff and untamed view on Acid that's hardly to be found in todays club scene focusing on the deeper, housier side of electronic music in general – what is the most addictive thing about this specific variation of electronic dance music that could be filed under the flag of Hard- or MonoAcid? Or, to cut it short – what keeps you Acid?
For me, this is what keeps the other sounds alive, the deep housier club sounds exist only because it originates from the purer, untamed raw sounds like what I produce, then becomes filtered and tamed by other producers til it becomes the club sound. I prefer the dark end of the world sound, its what I want to hear and dance to in the deserted warehouses, the junkyards, empty abandoned lots, the outlaw renegade environments.... but I have been known to release a club/house vibe every now and then.... I feel like the perfect evening at an event is built up with many styles/genres/tempos, my sound being one of them. I stay with acid and psychedelic because its unpredictable, its edgy and feels more like music instead of fast food...
Acid is the sound of a morphing, evolving sound, it may be a repetive rhythm, but the tone changes, and that is something traditional instruments do not do, the closest is a wah pedal on a bass guitar. This what drew me to the sound of acid, the filtering and wiggleing of the sound, the constant change of the tone thoughout the tune... this is addictive to me.
One for the techies and trainspotters out there – what gear was involved in producing „Dead Tube Dead Kore“ both on the analogue and digital side of things?
This project was created with modified hardware in my studio, the Pirate Room. Majority of the synth lines were from a Paia Fatman mono synth that was modified by Tandy Jones and a huge list of circuit bent equipment and fx processors I mangled, I do not own much stock gear, nearly everything is bent and modified in some fashion. After recording from the hardware, the tracks were put together in the computer using audacity and several other programs. I am not a purist with any one type of creating, whatever seems to work, I use...but everything starts in the studio with my hardware. This e.p. was created specifically for DJungle, so I went about the creating process with the label in mind from the very beginning, trying create something that I felt represented the label. Some of the gear used was specifically built just for the e.p.... like for Weather Crash, I circuit bent a toy that originally played prerecorded voices of a weather man giving a weather report but after i modified it, it made nasty synth sounds and also was an fx unit.
„Dead Tube Dead Kore“ is released via DJungle Fever which is – alongside Dr. Walkers other now partly defunct label offsprings – one of the longest running providers of Acid related music in Germany. Do you remember when your paths crossed for the first time back in the days and how the idea for a Jack Acid release on one of his imprints evolved?
I have been a big fan of Air Liquide for a long time, specifically, the first night I was introduced to their music was while I was recording my first album, I was in S.F. C.a. at the time recording in the Visible Records studio and we took a break to go eat, while driving into the city at 2 am , my friend and co-owner of the label , Jeff, asked if I heard of Air Liquide and put a cd in the stereo, I remember him turning it up full volume as we drove through the fog into the MacArther tunnel at high speed, very memorial moment, was so intense and alien. Have been a huge fan of Air Liquide ever since.
As for when did I meet Dr. Walker, we have yet to meet face to face, it was only last year on line that we were introduced through a mutual friend. Oddly, I didnt know all his aliases and when I discovered who all he had been recording as, found alot of them were some of my favorite 12"s in my record bag ....After many online chats, the idea for the release and future audio assaults took place.
One interesting thing though, I actually visited the Liquid Sky store in New York in 1996 while travelling the U.S. throwing free parties and was impressed with the Temple records store down in the basement, but never met Walker or Khan. I speculate the we are blood brothers from another dimension or planet....perhaps we both were part of Captain Cook's crew or sailed on Blackbeard's ship ...
What is the name „Dead Tube Dead Kore“ all about?
A lot of the tracks were processed using a modified tube pedal that had died and been brought back to life multiple times, so it was a combination of my friend Affie Yusuf suggesting the title "Dead Kore" and "Dead Tube" was from a piece of gear I kept bringing back to life repeatedly... it was a DOD Even Harmonic Overdrive fx100 Integrated Tube pedal that I added several new circuit bends to.
A final one – what is your personal view on todays Acid scene, where are the hot spots for this sound and how does Acid feel today, especially compared to the early days of your career?
I think acid has shown that, unlike alot of the sub genres of dance music, it will never go away or die, it just lurks in the underground waiting to eat you alive. It came on strong in the 80's then took a back seat to the hoover sound of the 90's, but always stayed relevant and constant. My favorite time period was in the mid 90's, seems like the best of most creative uses of the sound were from 94-96, and I think it is come full circle to that moment again. Since that moment, there have become many more genres of club music, most of which are solely based on drum variations, and now that those genres seem to be stagnating, it gives the acid sound an opportunity to use those new drum rhythms along with the acid bassline sound... Acid was never a drum genre, but a bass/synth sound and feeling. So us acid creators now can harness the new beats and run with it. I think the vibe for acid has always been for the more discriminating music lover after its first wave in the 80's, It seems to appeal to the people looking for something different than the flavor of the month, so every time there is a new wave or bubble of dance music, the sound is always found by the ones who feel empty with whatever the new trend is. Right now, I feel like it is being embraced again by the consumers of dance culture, which is exciting and frightening at the same time. Though there are thousands of soft synth tb clones available, I believe this has always been a hands on style of music and there are hundreds of cheap hardware tb clones available today, which is creating a new breed of acid producers. Its a good time to be into acid.
The hot spots for acid are wherever there is a dirty warehouse or basement, fog, strobelights and a soundsystem.