|Get Out And Hitch A Ride
Last summer seemed to have a strange effect on a large proportion of the notions population, the media went mad, T-shirt producers had a field day, the police got confused and Johnny punter was alledged to spend most of his or her time 'jacking' to the latest waxings in clubs and seedy warehouses up and down the country. And why....acid! Bleep, bloop, bleep, bloop boss lines and strobing lights became the order of the micro-era. Once the temperature and the leaves had dropped by autumn, so had the cult status, overdrive T.V. exposure, tabloid stories of grannies having bad trips whilst walking past the singles rack in the local Woolworths and of course the now legendary appearance of Sandy Gall making a pratt of himself on the ten o'clock news, all contributed to the death of the so called sub culture.
State 808 rode through it and have continued to put out good product. Formed by Manchester's Eastern Bloc cheese Martin, ex Biting Tongue Graham and the now well known Gerald, State 808 has now evolved into an on going project. With the media all clammering to find something new to latch on to, we decided to find out what State 808 are currently up to.
An afternoon meeting was arranged with Graham and we began by discussing the LP 'Newbuild'. The feeling that it gives is a very live one, at some points it feels almost jammed, how does this come about?
"It was all written in the studio, it's an expensive way to do it, there's an awful lot of stuff that didn't get on the album. There are tapes of stuff that got thrown away, it was a really inefficient way of doing it, but it sounds fresh because of it."
So how is their recording done, do they say lock themselves away in the studio and start kicking ideas around?
"That album was done for £400 and a lot of it was was done on a couple of weekends, we had to squeeze the rest in at four in the morning. A couple of the tracks, the last two on each side were done after a warehouse do we'd done. We had all the gear with us, whilst taking it back to the studio we thought should we do a few tracks? So at five in the morning me and Gerald just hacked it out, we didn't even have any multitrack tape, so we just put it on an old BBC tape. When we went to get it cut, the guy was in stitches 'cos there were edits every few inches. There was something about those tracks that we liked, it was a bit scrappy but we didn't have a lot of money. The initial thing of getting people to put money in is hard, once we'd done the album people were prepared to put money in Martin was the one who pushed it to put the money in, you know what a gob he's got on him'"
What part does Martin play?
"He's the catalyst really, 'cos he's the kind of person...catching up with his mouth."
The whole thing of technology based bands seems very elitist, mainly due to the supposed high cost of the instruments and also because of peoples fear of touching anything to do with computers.
"When we first started, if you've seen one of our gigs, it looks like Johnny Roadhouse on tour, it really is shit equipment, old Roland stuff. It's not really expensive, if you've got a guitar band, well, a guitar's gonna be £200 and an amplifier £300, there's £500! What we've got is like £80 for a Roland 101, £60 for a 303 or £100 for a drum machine. It really is a myth that the electronic stuff is expensive. Drum kits are bleedin' expensive, I reckon you could get three drum machines for a drum kit. A lot of the equipment we use in the studio are the studios, like the samplers. The hard thing is getting the experience of using the new technology. It seems elitist, but I know ten year old kids who show me up on drum machines, it's just 'cos they've had it for longer, guitar bands have a fear of technology, kids don't have that they're not afraid."
It doesn't seem credible somehow, that Mr and Mrs Average would go out and buy their child a sampler rather than a guitar for christmas, even though a sampler costs as little as £60.
"That was one of the things we started off with, one of those cheap samplers, and I had an old syncussion box that was my mates, which is one of those horrible disco drums, you know, Dooo! Dooo! We use that an awful lot. Gerald's got most of the equipment, he's not rich. I don't know where he got it all from, he may have an Akai sampler, but he's got nowhere to live."
Do the band use tapes in a live situation, or is as much as possible done live?
"We've never used tapes, I've used tapes in other bands, it all precariously falls together. The Roland 101's we use have built in sequencers, but no memory, we have to program them. So we have to do that between each track. I'd like to get to the stage when we can get a computer to do it."
But surely a music computer could technically do everything?
"Yes, but it never works like that. I don't want to get to a point where you have to do your hits at a gig. Some of the best gigs have been spontaneous. When we first started it was at hip hop jams and we'd go on after with house things, it was spontaneous, programming it was we went along."
With the whole dance thing people were dancing to records in general, not just particular groups like with other forms of music.
"Yes, although people do respond to classics like Gerald with Voodoo Ray, I liked it before it was established and you didn't know where you were."
So what direction do you think things are going to go in?
"At the moment, deep house, it's got some classics, but an awful lot of shit. Someone gives it a buzz word and you'll get a few good records and then there's something else. I'm not one of these obsessive people, when I hear the music, I'm dancing to it. You can feel the changes when people get bored and see their reactions to stuff. If anything I think hip hop is making a comeback."
State 808 have been spending a Iot of time in the studio recently, is all this work building up to something.
"Yes, a second album, it should be out in March. It's different from the first, I wouldn't like another heavy acid album.The buzz with me is learning how to do things with the equipment, you learn something new and it's on your next record. The exciting thing is that the technology is changing as we're making the music, there's new possibilities for music. When you think with many bands you spend weeks and weeks stuck in an awful rehearsal room to come up with a tune. Now you can do one in a weekend and it's a lot more accessible for your average person to start making music."
The whole thing about technologically based music that it all seems so fast moving.
"There's only one rule...if it's good it'll stand up, if it's shit, no one will buy it. The initial buzz here has gone but in places like France and Germany it's just starting to take off."
Have State 808 done much live work outside of Manchester?
"We've done Dundee Art Collage, me and Gerald went up there on the coach with two suitcases full of equipment, they treated us really well. We did ten minute spots right through 'til dawn, at the end of term bash there. We also did Wrexham, Wrexham razzmatazz show bar, there were loads of women dancing round hand bags. At Chester it was full of fourteen year old kids, we have a better response off kids. I'd like to do matinee shows on an afternoon at a club in Manchester, it'd take some organising."
State 808 recently appeared on Snub TV performing a track which proves that their music is definately moving on. If the last LP is anything to go by, the next one should be excellent. Watch your local record store for details!
[Author: Get Out And Hitch A Ride]