Sunday, November 17, 2013

Archive interview: Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire

An interview conducted by Andy Black Forest in 2010, thanks for the permission to reprint.

Stephen Mallinder Interview 2010

You (Cabaret Voltaire) are often cited as pioneers of electronica/industrial, how do you feel about being referenced as such a major influence on modern electronic music?..
It’s very flattering and good to know that what we created had impact and longevity. I think you have to put it into the context of the time and the place as well and acknowledge how a lot of things were coming together at the time - in the mid to late 1970s and beyond into the 1980s. This was the last time that we could really identify the scenes and cultures that were emerging, the volume of music created now and the way it is heard work against the way we evolved – basically it was easier to see and hear us.

Although CV's influence is acknowleged, do you ever feel that theres a whole period thats been overlooked? Nag nag nag seems to be the 'trendy' Cabs song people reference, but theres so many good tracks on say, Covenant and Microphonies, aside from the singles.. You had a really unique sound and take on the electro/pop/industrial crossover.Do you think sometimes there's too much focus on the obvious singles? ....
I think it's inevitable that certain tracks and periods are picked up on ... In large part due to the media. Current media has reduced a very rich and complex period of music to a series of ‘must have’ tracks and iconic acts. Much as I love New Order, and similar bands, the way its is portrayed in the media is that was all there was. That same reduction goes on with bands like us where only one or two tracks ever get mentioned. But that’s the way it is always is ... A lot of history gets squeezed out.

Whats your personal favourite Cabs record and why?
Oh blimey, that’s a tough one. We seemed to cover so many phases of music so I’d have to give a few: From the very early period Sunday Night in Biot; from the independent days This Is Entertainment and Sluggin Fer Jesus; I liked Crackdown and Digital Rasta from the Some Bizarre period and then later clubby stuff Easy Life and from our own Plastex period the Colours EP.
Reason? Oh, I think all of them seem to distill the ideas and the vibe of the periods in which we made them more than other tracks. Having said that I loved the mashup of us with Public Enemy and Air which came out recently called ‘Sensorair’. That’s a good representation of where things are at like it or not – we live in a creative interactive culture, it’s other people’s jobs to recontextualise the music.

The audio visual element in the evolution of cabaret voltaire was a key and unique element … you helped pioneer the industrial aesthetic and 'look' … What was a big influence on you musicially or filmwise? … Obviously you started making music in a very political time ...
Film was always important, we always considered ourselves visual, as in the music had that cinematic quality – textures, moods, ambience etc. We were always a mirror reflecting back what was happening and visually the political images were thrown back in a new setting with sound as the manipulative force ... I’m just about to do a talk on some of this and I singled out the Coppola film The Conversation. Obviously it was the name of our last real album but also it encapsulated the idea of ‘sound’ as an almost forensic application – sound as alchemy - I love the idea of how sound worked in this context. But there was much more as well with film – loved things like Popol Vuh soundtracks for Werner Herzog, Henry Mancini’s music for Touch of Evil and the way Bernard Herman soundtrack worked with Taxi Driver ... Having said that I loved the music in
 American Graffiti and in Vanishing Point.

When and how did you meet Genesis P Orridge and become involved with industrial records?
Kinda goes back to the answer in the first question - There weren’t that many people making this sort of music and these statements back then so we all found each other like heat-seeking missiles. We wanted to do something with Gen and TG for Industrial and the early attic tapes seemed the most likely thing as it was at a slight tangent to the Rough Trade/Factory releases and seemed to fit with the label’s vibe.

Are you still in touch with Chris Watson?
Sadly no and our paths seem to just miss – at talks or festivals, but very pleased to see the work he’s done and proud of the work we did early on.

The house music explosion that happened in the late 1980s was embraced by yourselves and psychic tv..Tell us about your projects post Cabaret Voltaire - .Sassi and loco etc …

I wanted to run the label – Off World Sounds – and my albums were part of that. I have always had a very cooperative approach to music and wanted to give other people an avenue to release music and do gigs .. I hated the idea of it just being about me. Doing the label and the promotions side (Off World Productions) was the best way for me to achieve this. I was doing lots of other things – a producer of a number of radio programmes, writing for magazines, Djing. Doing the label with Pete Carroll let me diversify. Mind you, we never made any money.

Any particular stories you wish to share, amusing or otherwise from this period?
Probably lots but I’d be here all day ... And that would just be talking about the Shaun Ryder album.

Any future plans post this release to release anything under the Cabaret Voltaire monicker?
I think the worst thing that could happen would be to tarnish, or devalue, the name by using it as a brand. Everything has a time and a place we should respect that. BUT you never say never.

Any projects you are currently involved in you want to tell readers about?
I did some stuff with Billie Ray Martin out of Berlin and I’m in the studio finishing off the Light Programme release which is myself and Steve Cobby – from Solid Doctor and Fila Brazillia – sounding really good. And the other project I’m currently doing is Wrangler – with Benje and Phil from Tunng – very electronic and much fun to do. I’m always open to stuff and when I get chance I collaborate – I’m sorting out doing some tracks with Celebratory Murder Party next.

Are you active politically in any sense ?
I’m in favour of direct action so give me a cricket bat and access to Rupert Murdoch, David Cameron and ... Is Margaret Thatcher dead yet?

Lastly,what are your views on the current electronic music scene? Any artists you'd like to mention or recommend?
Its all there in the present and completely subjective so I don’t think its possible to see things as new, just new to me. Yeah love a lot of the West Coast electronic stuff – Vibesquad – and Autechre still. But it's so vast and so available its hard to navigate. As David Toop said ‘an ocean of sound’ or perhaps sadly as Eno said ‘there’s so so much of it and it all sounds so familiar’. Still never be disheartened 'cos there’s so much more to hear and do.

c. ANDY BLACK FOREST for Black Forest, 2010