BELOW: NEIL LANDSTRUMM SAYS HIS BIT - 2006 STYLE
The most inane question first: who actually is Neil Landstrumm...?
I'll let you know when I find out... somewhere around the label owner, music maker and car fetishist mark...
How and when did you actually discover the fine art of making electronic music?
I learned to play the drums at high school, so moving onto electronic drum machines was the natural next step.
About 1990, after going to a Happy Mondays gig at Glasgow's SECC, I was totally inspired by all the rave and bleep records
I heard the Hacienda DJs playing. It made me want to go out and research this new music and find out how it was made...
A few mates were into it also, so we slowly discovered what machine made what sound and went on from there. Warp, Djax,
Plus-8, R&S, etc - I loved that period in the music; so exciting and new; fresh records every week to inspire.
I always felt like different countries records had a unique style and sound which were trying to communicate something
about what was going on there. I think that's been somewhat lost with the advent of 24 hour information through the Internet.
However, loads of new music is evolving from the Internet too, so that's cool too.
I discovered a lot of technique and methods from talking to other people also interested in making electronic stuff at
the time, Tobias Schmidt being my main collaborator.
What changes have transpired in your mind, not to mention your ability, since that humble beginning?
Seeing how other producers make music is always a learning experience. Makes it more fun too. Less of a slog sometimes...
There's been a move back to bands and separate producers in recent years, which should be mirrored in electronic music. You
get a variety of inputs with both creativity and production methods which makes the whole process more special.
Sometimes I suffer from being one dude in a studio syndrome, but I have always worked a good few sessions a year with
Tobias Schmidt, Cristian Vogel, Si Begg...
Why do you continue to make music?
Well, it fluctuates. I only write music when I feel I have something to say with it - if I am not feeling it, I just don't...
It's weird, I can sit in front of a keyboard and drum machine and literally not be able to bring my fingers to the keys, or
be frantically programming and writing on a good day...
Jermey Blake, a visual artist I have worked with, talked about creativity as a muscle you have to use it to keep it pumping...
once it stops or stutters, it becomes weaker. True, I think. Ups and downs; flow and constipation sums it up pretty much.
I continue, I guess, because people want me to also... When fans write emails or come to gigs and enjoy the music, it
makes all the dark days and bad gigs go away.
You've released through labels like Peacefrog, Tresor, Mosquito, Sativae, Scandanavia... why move around the traps? And
who do you think suited you the best?
I have always been into many strains of music, and many different labels' output. When you start out, it's not simply
a case of sticking with one label - you want to try lots of different angles to see what is successful.
The relationship between an artist and a label is a fairly fickle one and only lasts if there is mutual respect and good
business between both parties. The other choice is do-it-yourself, or you simply put music out with your mates (which tends
to be better and more fun all round in the long run).
Scandinavia is more of a personal music agenda rather than a label; to release uncompromising music without much concern
for commercial viability. Not the most profit-making venture I have made, but one which seems to gather fans and be in front
of most emerging scenes as they appear. I am proud of the fact that nearly all of the Scandinavia back-catalogue is as good
today as it was when it was released.
Most of the artists give me music which stands the test of time and is ahead of the curve creatively. The downside is
most people don't "get it", but that's a small price to pay for the fans who are down with Scandinavia in an almost
cultish fashion.The back-catalogue, now mainly deleted, is traded for pretty high prices on eBay when they appear, so that's
also a good sign.
Around 1997/98 you were referred to in the same breath as other guys like Cristian Vogel, Dave Tarrida, Si Begg, Tobias
Schmidt, Jamie Lidell, Subhead, and Tube Jerk. How'd you feel about that at the time?
Most of us each knew each other pretty well anyways as friends, so it became a natural social group of electronic mavericks.
Everyone was pushing the same knobs and buttons and trying to reach the same goal of getting our music out there.
It felt good, and continues to feel good to be part of a group going against the mainstream grain - and getting away with
it for so long.
What are your thoughts on these other artists' individual developments since then?
Everyone has moved on, geographically and creatively. I am still in constant contact with most, and some have gone on
to be very close friends.
We are all still at it, though, making music and gigging, so we must be doing something right. It's been interesting to
see how each artist has developed and moved on, trying different genres or mediums.
I am amazed that most of us have kept our love of electronic beats and stuck at it, because I'm sure there have been times
for all of us where we absolutely hated it and wanted to give up...! Again, everyone has good years and bad, so it all seems
to even out in the long run. The music always comes first and that's what is most important.
Now, in 2006, would you draw parallels between yourself and any other particular producers?
Not really actually. I have always just concentrated on keeping myself going and doing my own thing; not really getting
caught up in what everyone else is doing.
I think you have to be like that to stay the course somewhat. Bloody minded and dogged perseverance, etc... There are
so many ups and downs in the this game it's very easy to become distracted.
What was the story behind Sugar Experiment Station, and is this an ongoing project?
Sugar Experiment Station has been going for a very long time. In fact, really since about 1993 when myself and Tobias
Schmidt were playing live together at the Sativae club [in Scotland] and beyond in those early days.
We get together several times a year and do a session. Of late we have been trying out lots of different styles away from
electronic stuff just to keep things fresh. We have released as SES some of the best work on Scandinavia, and certainly some
classics in our "wonky" field.
SES live is always a pleasure and uncompromising. We just released Scan024=SES 'Sweet Fang' EP at the end of 2005, so
there's fresh stuff out. Vinyl distribution is so bad now it probably didn't make it to Oz, but look for it.
John Peel included the session which SES did for him in 1998 in his biography, which was an amazing honour and like the
gig at the BBC's Maida Vale studios itself, certainly one of the highlights of our respective careers.
The same question regarding 'The Fourty Million Dollar Beatnik' soundtrack...
The Beatnik project was a soundtrack for an artist friend of mine, Jeremy Blake's gallery show in LA. He is old mates
with many of the original Washington DC dischord hardcore scene - Fugazi, etc. Mike Fellows is a long time friend of Jeremy
and an incredible musician in his own right. He played in Royal Trux, Silver Jerws etc and recently has a hit with his 'The
Mighty Flashlight' project.
We all just locked ourselves into my studio in Brooklyn for a few days and this project came out of it; I assembled, arranged
and produced it all with creative input from both Jeremy and Mike. I am really happy with it and think again it stands the
test of time... Very Californian desert music, tripped out and cool.
Jeremy is very successful now and moving into the film industry, so you may see us rear our ugly heads again for another
Edinburgh versus Brooklyn: in a nutshell, what's the difference, and what's the same, for you?
Almost impossible to compare... I like them both equally, but for entirely different reasons. I think Hollis - in Queens
- is where my heart lies in New York, though... I make frequent returns to NY to keep it fresh. I wish Edinburgh was in New
New York is constantly inspiring and invigorating due to the mash-up of cultures and people but Edinburgh is laid-back,
and the countyside simply stunning.
On a different level, what exactly does Scandinavia really mean to you, and what's happening with the label?
Scandinavia means the world to me. It's an abstract idea for a company that is a space and platform for experimental music
and image. The label stops and starts certainly with vinyl releases... It's become so hard to sell vinyl it's almost a joke
But I release more and more live sets and odd tracks through the Scandinavia online music database and that makes up for
it. In fact that is where the pop part of the Scandinavia art is now - the Internet affords easy and wide distribution of
music completely worldwide.
My live sets get massively downloaded all round the world, so that keeps the Scandinavia sound alive. The label had three
12-inch releases last year, so it's still active. I reckon there will be an album this year, and certainly a couple of 12-inches.
The next is Scan025 - A.L.E.X.E from Berlin.
Also in the pipeline is my Factory Records remix 12-inch. The Happy Mondays' 'Hallelujah' (Landstrumm Bleep Mix) and my
Joy Division 'She's Lost Control' cover version featuring Tommy from The Magnificents, Scan-021, also on the label.
On your Web site you describe your sound as "sub-lo bass n bleep,metallic and melodic clangs and odd funky percussive
swing lines". Would you care to add to this?
Add what exactly? Isn't that enough guff? Ha ha... It's just how it sounds, I guess. I'm not one for pigeon-holes, really.
I like the fusion of loads of different electronic music styles. I always seem to end up in a sort of bleep, rave, grimey
Do you prefer to make more abstract sounds to listen to and chew over, or stuff aimed at an up-for-it dance floor?
Both... One leads to the other... experimental research breeds good interesting dance floor stuff.
I find it a bit frustrating at times when some people just want the same old cheese the whole time... In the early '90s
people were more open to anything, but that was choked out of them by greedy distributors and crap promoters of weak club
nights. Personally, I think people are cheated by distributors a lot of the time. They stifle quality labels by not trying
hard enough, and then choke the market with their own shit quality easy labels that are destined for bargain-bin fodder in
It's a vicious cycle really... Boom and bust.
What kind of of music are you most interested in listening to at home at the moment?
Everything and anything... no rules here... All I can say is John Peel is sadly missed
When will you release your next record(s)?
Well, definitely something on Scandinavia fairly soon. Planet Mu is on the cards. Rag and Bone records, and probably Tresor...
All of these are in the pipeline but nor confirmed. I have a stack of fresh tracks at the moment and would like an album,
but it has to be 100% ready and quality before it comes out... Keep checking the Scandinavia site for more info: http:/www.scandinavianyc.com
What are your thoughts on sampling? Is it an art-form or musical theft?
Can be both. I do it, but I think I make more out of it than just a sample. You really have to look at early hip hop to
see the real art-form of it, though.
It's easy to do great evil with a sample now, or with Ableton Live. It's made it so easy to loop it and make it fit without
effort. Sampling does bring new life to old tracks, though, which shouldn't be overlooked.
People like Si Begg, Luke Vibert, Kid Koala and Cassetteboy - and yourself, on tracks like 'Blam The Target' - have done
some hilarious samples over the years. Is humour important in music?
Absolutely... As soon as you intellectualize music, game over. Humour's what it's all about - take it too seriously and
you look like a knob pretty much. I'm glad you think 'Blam The Target' is funny. It's a Scottish piss-take on Chicago dance
mania ghetto style music. I have total respect for that genre, so its OK to make fun of it I think... It's just silly humour
- after all, it's party music, right? Not chin-stroking noodling here...
Fame or respect? Which one, and why?
Respect always, but a bit of fame helps get gigs and pays the bills!
How do you prefer your mushrooms to be cooked?
Garlic, butter, olive oil. Bit of pepper. I like a nice meaty Portobello mushroom.
|m'sieur landstrumm himself...
TAP RIGHT HERE TO GO TO THE WEBSITE FOR NEIL LANDSTRUMM & SCANDINAVIA...