Domingo Dark Vinyl is a great activist of the Spanish electronic music, his work in this scene carries different responsibilities. As he is well known, he has a vast musical culture, he is a great DJ and a faithful defender of the vinyl format, he is part of the Valencian collective Hypnotica Colectiva and its record structure, and for many years, he is also a great divulger, with a great program called El Vinilo Asesino.
Precisely, from one of the editions of this program, Domingo himself extracts an interview with the charismatic British producer Steve Voidloss in which he emphasizes his collaborative work with Hypnotica Colectiva and HC Records:
Since 2010 you keep a close relationship with Hypnotica Colectiva, and from the Valencian collective admonition through your work, two references on vinyl have seen the light. The first one kept your classic Meat Hook published on Labyrinth Records on 2009. How was your approach to it again, and what did you want to express on their two new versions called Meat Hook Beauty?
The original tune was called Meat Hook Beauty, but the label Labyrinth misprinted it. The title is a reference to my philosophy of The Beauty in Decay. Which is that beauty is subjective, and not, as the beauty industry would have people believe, objective. I have found beauty in the patterns of rust on a piece of metal, or a dead tree covered in moss, or even blood shining on a metal meat hook.
Essentially when I made the original I was saying that you can make techno in a way that is not like “normal” techno, and it can still be beautiful.
The Arabic/Andalusia scale I used is something not heard in techno very much. Anyway, for the remixes, the first remix, Rhapsody at Miniclub, was based on a live version that I played in Miniclub. Every time I play for HC, people wanted me to play Meat Hook Beauty, but I don`t like to repeat myself, so each time I played live, I played it in different ways.
For this version I was really trying to recreate the experience of when I played it in the club. When I played it in the club, I was reacting to the crowd directly, I was feeling their vibe, and I was trying to ride “their” high and bring waves of ecstacy, like experiencing waves of ecstacy from drugs or sex, so the tune rolls in and out of these big orgasmic moments, each time I try to push the listener higher. I guess in a way it is something like trying to please your partner in sex. Holding them before orgasm and trying to push their feelings right on the edge, higher and higher until…….
For the Return of Acid I was paying homage to my roots in the London free party scene, and acid techno. 303 madness (3 different intertwining 303 acid lines), pure uplifting energy and a little rawness and dirt. This was also a version I play live for HC.
The Taste of Road Tar is the B-2 side from HC-01 on where we are letting go on an emotional waterfall of feelings on what it seems to be a lonely night drive. Two questions: How much from your personal emotions can we find on your musical production, and, in second place, do you enjoy night drive whistl you listen to your music at loud volume?
Well this track references exactly the feeling of driving at night, playing hypnotic music. There is this feeling sometimes where the road becomes like a visual mantra, you are less distracted, the road is more of a focus, the music takes away any other external distractions, and you are “in the moment”. It is like a zen moment of clarity. You are just travelling, moving, the music is moving, you are just experiencing motion, just experiencing a constant change. I love these moments, some of my favourite moments from playing gigs are driving to or from the party. Usually for me it is with the promoters, because I always prefer to be personal and with the people I work with, but there are these moments, you are in “their” environment. It is their car, or van. And they play the music “they” listen to you. And sometimes the music and the journey are perfectly in sync, and no one is talking, just listening and moving forwards. And it doesn`t matter which country I am in, and what the language is, these moments transcend language. We share them together. It`s something I love. Travelling with music. Nothing but the music, the motion, and the taste of road tar in the air.
So, haha, first question. I would say there is very little of my music that isn`t coming from my emotions. I can`t just sit down and make music. I have to be feeling something. For me, music is expressing my thoughts and feelings. If you understand my music, then you will understand me. My music is a very good representation of my emotions and my personality. I think my long answer above answers the second question. Loud music and travelling at night is just a wonderful experience.
Through your career as a producer, we can find few different aspects around styles such Techno, Drum&Bass, Ragga, some under another aliases. Shall we expect a comeback as Dirty Bass or Heretic in the near future? Or those are things from the past?
Dirty Bass… I have tried to go back to that sound, but it never seems genuine when I try. I am not the person who made that music back then, my life and experiences are very different. Dirty Bass was my techno adolescence. Heretic I will do again, I enjoyed the aesthetic. I have currently 4 different aliases I am focusing on currently. 1 of them is Voidloss 2.0, which is an more experimental evolution of the Voidloss aesthetic. 1 is a modern take on early UK Hardcore rave and jungle. 1 is a dark exploration of electronic ritual music And then another is electronic industrial punk music, angry, reactionary, anarchistic philosophy in music. So between that and my mastering business I am very busy.
On 2019 you published Dominion EP, 4th reference from HC Records and your 2nd one with them too. We could find two different versions from the tracks Imagination Dead Imagine and Dominion (under the name “The truth in your eyes”, published on your own record label Singularity 10 years before. How has your vision about technno has changed after this 10 years and: How much from this change can be seen on this Dominion revisiting?
That`s a very good question….
Well, I`m not sure my artistic vision has changed, but my aesthetics have. Dominion and Imagination Dead Imagine was early in the Voidloss project. Which itself was me trying to move away from the norms of techno and explore what else could be done in techno whilst still retaining some of the framework. The main difference was my naivety then as opposed to now. In terms of the politics of the techno scene, the mechanics of it, trends, the business side of things etc. I had many utopian illusions back then. Now I am more realistic. So my vision is still the same. Which is. I make music to express my feelings and emotions, to share them with others and connect with people who feel the same way, or who can resonate with these ideas and feelings. And then hopefully share experiences and ideas with these people in some form of dialogue. I think this is why I have worked with HC for so long. They are very open to diverse ideas, they are all very creative, and we all share our creativity and experience together, which makes the whole stronger than the parts. It`s like a family of misfits, rejects and rebels. I too am a misfit and a reject….and a rebel.
In terms of the new version of Dominion reflecting this.
Well, philosophically the tune remains the same, I am still expressing the same idea with this piece, though from a different perspective.
The original was me coping with and analysing depression. It was this expression of deep sadness, of the darkness having dominion over me, and just being lost in this darkness that also somehow was a source of beauty. Creating from pain always seems more powerful than creating from joy. I wanted all these sounds to sort of spiral around and whirl around a centre, each of the melodic parts has a generative element, it spins off little spirals of randomness. So it was like being caught in this spiral of melancholy thoughts, beautiful and terrifying…..
When I was asked to make a new version then I had to assess those same feelings from a me who was nearly 10 years older. And though I still experience depression, through meditation, philosophy and other esoteric methods, I have gained more control over it, and use it as a source of creativity. So now rather than being lost to the void, I was willingly giving myself to it, the blackness is no longer a place of fear, it is a place of wonder and peace and infinite potential, sometimes this can be a little frightening, but life is more exciting for these moments. So the new version I wanted to be more confident, but also I wanted it to contain a more positive uplifting beautiful element that comes over the melancholy. Because although I still experience pain and darkness, I don`t let it direct me, I let love direct me. Sounds corny, but it`s true. This is the final melody that comes in the new version, it`s more positive, it`s lighter, more delicate and fragile but it`s like. I wanted it to be like this pin prick of pure white light and love at the centre of the darkness. Hopefully the production techniques are also much better, and the music still remains unique to my own voice.
We got impressed when listening for the first time “When you remember that feeling”, wich brought us back to 90’s rave scene. Which are your memories from those times and what do you thing about reviving the sound nowadays? Will we see more old school hardcore in the near future?
My memories are many. Good and bad. I think what I was trying to capture here was more the feeling of those times than the specific music.
There was more purpose and truth to the scene then. It was more open, less commercial, people were more accepting of difference, there wasn`t really a “uniform” like techno today (everyone in black). Peace, love, unity, respect. I feel the modern dance music has lost some of this collective spirit. The shared experience. Not the one on your phone that you post up to Instagram, but that shared moment of togetherness, of non judgement and acceptance. All together in the dance.
Anyway, musically there is a sound that hasn`t really been regurgitated that much, so it was to return to it, and I am doing some more under a different alias, I think it will be out this year, it`s much more pure early breakbeat hardcore and early jungle.
It seems that there is somewhat of a oldschool hardcore revival happening now. And you can see that revival seeping in to other areas of dance music. I think I captured that current early on when I did a release on Subsist with The Fading Ruins of Rave back in 2014. But we are seeing a lot more references to early rave now. I mean, it`s fun, but I try not to get too caught up in nostalgia. I always prefer to look forwards. I don`t want to become another person just trying to relive the past, I want to keep changing. Change is the only constant. So for me, it is like a side project, something fun to do, but not my main focus. There is always something to be learned by making different types of music, new skills and techniques, different modes of working, so it all helps to widen my skill set.
Tell us about your experiences by mastering the sound of all HC Records references. Would you say Filmmaker – Noir Times EP was your most laborious work from the label?
The great thing about working with HC in mastering is that the music is always different. I never know what I am going to get. I am someone who loves variety and difference so I really enjoy it. Sometimes the work is challenging /difficult, but this is when mastering is the most enjoyable. It is like solving a puzzle. As long as the end results sounds great then I have done my job.
Noir Times Laborious? Hmmm I think that word implies that it was not enjoyable. I would say challenging would be a better word. The channels were recorded live on hardware, I couldn`t get any parts adjusted or re-recorded, so everything was as it was, and my challenge was to make this sound as wonderful as possible, for it to translate well to vinyl, and to preserve the artists vision. So there was a lot of intricate work, communication, some compromises, some new skills learned, and ultimately I think we got the best possible results out of the material.
I really enjoyed it to be honest. I think the music is great, Filmmaker captures the very essence of early EBM and Darkwave, when it had some overlap from post-punk. It avoids the cliches of a lot of regurgitated EBM coming out now that all sounds like Front 242 and Frontline Assembly B sides. I really wanted to keep the final feel of the sound “vintage” but with modern clarity and dynamics. I hope that comes through in the final material. I think it was a cool move to release this, it keeps with the current of the EBM revival but demonstrates a less cliché side of it.
Some of your most revered tracks remind to us a confluence between medieval metal with oriental influence. How is it?
Haha, well, I love heavy metal, it was my first real passion in music. So it`s influence on me is strong. Oriental influences.. That depends on what you mean by referencing oriental. I love both the music of the middle east, and the far east, and I definitely take influence from both. I think in both cases there is a stronger use and history of use of dissonance and abstraction than in the classical melodic roots of the west. And I find myself attracted to both dissonance and abstraction.
Why does David Verdeguer relates your music to Al-Andalus?
Well, I think because I use a lot of modes of traditional Arabic and north African music, in terms of scales, how they use drones and cyclic phrases. I`ve used patterns and modes and melodies that were also present in the music of Al Andalus during the Caliphate of Cordoba too, and I know David is very much in to the history of this. Also, it is something maybe he doesn`t know, but the landscape of Andalusia, in particular the very south of andalusia, the Tabernas desert of Almeria, is very influential to me.
When I was young, my dad started work for Mcdonnel Douglas in America, designing military aircraft. And we still lived in England but used to visit him for holidays. And he would take me on these long trips out into the deserts of western America whenever I visited. Utah, Nevada, Arizona. And this landscape captivated me, this austere beauty. It was my favourite place on earth. Then I discovered why the spaghetti westerns were filmed in Spain, because the landscape of Al Andalus is very similar to western USA. So when I visited, I was like “My god, I am home”. These type of desert badlands, the feelings they give you, this austerity, timelessness, of seeing the greatness of time, the slow motions of the landscape, the reds and browns of the dry earth contrasting with the pure blue of the sky……This juxtaposition of the solid and the ephemeral…. This is a fundamental part of my music. I have always said that when I retire, I will retire to the Desert.
Speaking about influences and references. Which are your favourite artists inside techno and also in electronic music?
That`s a difficult question to answer. I like so much music, and all of it depends on my mood and psychology at the time.
So favourite artists within techno: Surgeon, Makaton, Kangdingalingadingdong Ray, Regis, Kareem, Huren, Mark Broom, Nick Dunton, Paula Temple, Dadub, Xhin, everyone I have released on Singularity.
Electronic music: Depeche Mode, Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Chris and Cosey, Arovane, Massive Attack, Underworld, Burial, Vex`d, Source Direct, Thom Yorke, Future Sound of London, Alva Noto, Bytone….. I should stop.
Any specific artist which you specially like?
I love Anohni / Anthony and the Johnsons. Her music is just so singular, and beautiful. Bjork, Sigur Ros, Everything Justin Broadrick does, in particular JK Flesh and Jesu, Monolord. I think Neurosis are amazing, just so purely into doing what they do, with original independent punk ethic, they are just so pure and honest in their work, only in it for the love of it and they keep expanding their sound. They manage to be terrifyingly aggressive and heavy but utterly cloaked in sadness and beauty at the same time. I finally got to see them live last year. They played My Heart for Deliverance, and it was just so good. I cried. Literally cried, after the breakdown in the middle of that song, when it comes back with the synths over the guitars, it just gives me shivers. I don`t know any band who can make music where something so loud and hard and aggressive can be so fragile and sad. Their music speaks to damaged people in a way no one else can, they really understand loss.
Arvo Part, Steve Reich, Cliff Martinez, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Hildur Guðnadóttir. I love so much music it`s hard to condense it.
Which are your incoming new projects this 2020, apart from your mastering work at Black Monolith Studios?
Well I have a vinyl and video release out imminently under one of my Aliases. I plan to do more of that this year. Dark Ritualistic Tribal stuff. I’m working on a two man live act with Makaton which we hope to play out in clubs if going to clubs ever becomes a thing. I’ve nearly finished my first batch of Voidloss 2.0 stuff, so I want to find a home for that and eventually work out a way to play it live. I’m going to be doing production streams on Twitch of me making music from scratch and answering production questions. At some point I want to do more Heretic stuff and I have a release of my old skool hardcore alias coming out at some point. So I am keeping busy.
Interview by Domingo Dark Vinyl.