Landstrumm live at the DEMF 2009
Cutting edge music comes to Shanghai this Saturday night when the “King of UK bass music”, Neil Landstrumm, performs live with local undergound techno crew, VOID. Shanghaiist caught up with the Edinburgh native on the eve of his second visit to the city, to hear his thoughts on the current electronic music scene, the differences between Shanghai and New York, noodles, faceless techno bollocks, adrenalin-pumping live electronics, and jelly botties.
So Neil, this is your second visit to Shanghai, no doubt you’re looking forward to it – any lasting impressions of the city, and the VOID gig last time, from your first visit back in 2008? Last time you really got the Shelter dancefloor rocking with a fine mix of live dubstep, techno and everything inbetween. What have you got up your musical sleeve this time?
I’m actually more back on the techno buzz again, reflecting a couple of recent 12″ releases on the Snork and Slidebar labels from Germany. I still like mixing it up but more with 4/4 styles of late. Garage and electro. I’ve actually just had an entertaining studio week making new versions of Beltram’s Energy Flash (listen here) from 91 and Blake Baxters, Sexuality, (check it here)
Are you going to be dropping any new and unreleased material? What can we look forward to?
Yeh from the Explicit Six ep on Slidebar and Munich 72 on Snork records. Both German labels. Also I have a new 12″ in the can for Killekill in Berlin. All quite future acid and techno styles…..
Looking a bit further back, you spent a few years living in New York in the late 90s and early 2000s and at the time you spoke about wanting to live somewhere different to soak up influences and ideas from living in different urban environment to your hometown, Edinburgh. How did New York influence the development of your sound and do you get the same kind of vibe from Shanghai, which is another huge metropolis?
Yeah New York has a big effect I think. It certainly opened me up to broken beat and a more hip hop studio mentality. Also the world music side of things is strong in New York with latin rhythms and Jamaican beats. Plus in New York you can hook up with many different musicians and studios. I think perhaps more importantly the mood of New York seeped into my music, particularly the last two LP’s on Tresor and the 12″s on Scandinavia.
I was blown away by Shanghai during my last visit and it certainly made me think if i was in my 20’s Id move there in a shot. It would be hard to predict what outcome the Shanghai environment would have on my music though, I’d probably just be distracted for months…
Do you feel the gentrification of certain areas of New York spoiled its inspirational qualities? Is this an inevitable path all cities follow as they develop?
No i dont think so. New York is so much more than the hipsters. I preferred the Boroughs anyway like Hollis, Queens which is my home from home. Yes I think the whole gentrification cycle is endemic to big city living… Just look at London or New York. It goes round and round. Great if you can spot the cycle and signs and buy up property.
As someone inspired by the locations you visit, do you think urban planners should consider abstract concepts like how an area or place may inspire creativity when planning city developments? Does this already happen in some places, or is it badly lacking?
I think when you visit the Netherlands you see very interesting spaces and creatively inspired architecture which make the whole place seem bright and interesting. Bright colours and interesting building materials go a long way in making a place feel like a nice place to live. Denmark is great for this also.
Staying on the geography theme…. you named one of your earlier albums “Bedrooms and Cities” based on your experiences of travelling all over the place and staying in random hotels, rooms, sofas etc, whilst gigging in Europe and the US and Japan. You’ve travelled far and wide and have a real feel for how the flavour of different locations affects an artist. Now that you’ve branched out into China, can you give us a rough comparison of Edinburgh, New York and Shanghai?
Stodgy chips with salt n sauce – Thick deli pastrami sandwiches – Noodles and soy
About your show itself – you’re playing live. In previous years you were known for taking a lot of hardware on the road to play with at your shows. How much of your VOID show will be hardware-based, what kind of sound can we expect?
Yeh still dragging the hardware around with me but a macbook has crept in. To be honest having the laptop is an extra pair of hands. I love the Elektron machines and use a Machinedrum and Monomachine as the backbone of my set… High quality direct audio straight to the soundsystem.. The macbook is great for roadtesting new tracks and other random bits of audio i collect and can through in the mix.
When and why did you quit DJing to move to performing your own music live only?
It was new year 2002 i think. Id just had enough of DJ-ing. I was OK at it but never really felt entirely comfortable with it. I lost my confidence with it and decided to go back
to just making live performances with gear. Just how I started out in 1992.
Your last visit to China was VOID’s first birthday party. Your reading material for the journey to Shanghai was a novel about the second world war, which you kindly shared with your fellow guest that night, Berlin techno producer Pacou. What will you be reading this time?
I’ve just read Shaun Ryder’s autobiography which was an amazing read. Really funny, honest and tied up a lot of loose end on the whole Manchester / Factory scene which I am very interested in…. Not sure what i will be reading yet on this trip…. I’ll have to dig deep into the Landstrumm library and dig out a classic.
Who and what are your biggest influences musically?
Northern Bass n Bleep period 1989-91
Happy Mondays and the warehouse rave culture surrounding them
Jamaican Dub and Reggae
Djax records (the early years)
Pure and Wave (infamous Edinburgh techno nights).
What do you think about the tradition of “anonymous techno”? None of your albums have featured pictures of yourself – was that deliberate, or was it just fun to indulge in faceless techno bollocks?
Yes I subscribe to the “faceless techno bollocks” philosophy. I dont really think anyone wants a picture of me on a record… plus it should be about the music not the personality in my book.
Your sound has changed over the past few years, moving away from 4/4 forms of techno to more dubstep and breakbeat influenced sounds. Where do you see your sound going in the future?
I’ve definitely headed back to 4/4 after a loooonnngg break. Who knows. I dont really set the rules I just follow my nose.
What have you got in the pipeline release-wise? Any new album or EPs coming? Which labels?
Yes loads at the moment. Theres a 12″ with J D Twitch from Optimo under new project name, Doubleheart out this week on UK label NonPlus records, ‘Salsa Apocolypso e.p.’ Munich 72-Snork Records, Germany, Explicit Six- Slidebar records Germany, Night Train- Killekille , Berlin in January 2012, and a new 12″ for Sonic Groove which im just in the process of putting together.
What do you think of the current popular trend of “Beatport techno” – that is, all those releases with 3-4 breakdowns in one track and loads of whoosing sounds?
Is it a good or bad thing that music making technology is so much more accessible than before?
Both good and bad. Its very easy to make an average but well produced track but very occasionally real gems come through. The kids are alright.
Complete this sentence: “One night in Shanghai City……..”
Equals a hangover and jelly botty in the morning.
Neil Landstrumm appears LIVE at the Shelter on Saturday night with support from Void resident DJs Kunming Ultra, MHP, Nat Alexander, Zammo and Tzu Sing.
50RMB // 10pm // The Shelter // Basement of 5 Yongfu Lu, near Fuxing Xi Lu 永福路5号, 近复兴西路