With the exception of hip hop and garage, all the music thats being played in bars and clubs across Britain- whether youre talking minimal house, techno and electro- all comes from Germany. Berlin is great and its also cheap. You can buy great spaces in Berlin for sixty thousand pounds whereas you couldnt get a car parking space in London for that.
Chatting down the line from his London studio, Swayzaks David Brun Brown sounds as enthusiastic about Berlin as hes unenthusiastic about the UK.
In Germany, there is a stronger link to electronic music and thats why we sell a lot more records over there, he continues. To me, Britain always seemed to be a rock & roll country, all about white boys with guitars. And the techno and house music scenes were predominantly about taking drugs as opposed to music.
Despite his complaints, however, David insists he has no plans to copy the likes of Peaches, Chicks On Speed or Richie Hawtin by relocating to Berlin or even moving outside London.
I know I sound a bit critical but I like living here because its so multicultural, he points out.
I dont know, what keeps you in a big city like London? I suppose you get used to it. I like the fact that I have many friends here and theyre all from different places.
Comprising just a little though, he recently spent several months in rural France, locked away in a chateau with Swayzak partners James Taylor and third member (and former sound engineer) Kenny Paterson, working on new music. The fruit of their labour is new album Loops From the Bergerie, an enticing selection of song-based techno (as the label puts it). Or as David might prefer synth pop.
Weve always taken influences from the 80 and weve always been into synth pop; synthesizers were the first instrument that attracted me to music, he admits.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Your new album was both recorded in France and is full of French references, why did you choose to make it there?
Swayzak: James and I were both living in London until March of 2002, then James moved to France not long after we finished the album that came out that year (Dirty Dancing). When we had to record the next album I didnt really want to send files back and forward over the internet or via mail because I like to work on a more personal basis, where things can happen more instantaneously. So we decided that I would go to France for a month and wed find a place to stay and wed build a studio over there. Thats what happened. I found a house on the outskirts of the town he was living in, which was pretty remote. It had no TV, no internet, telephone signal, nothing; so it was perfect for making music. It was part of a chateau, a building they call a bergerie, which means sheep house literally; thats why the album is titled Loops From The Bergerie.
Skrufff: And Swayzak are now officially a trio?
Swayzak: Yes, wed been working with another musician, Kenny in quite a few of our previous recordings, hed helped us out a lot before, so I initially just asked him to come and work with us in France for the month on the production. After that, I invited him to come and play live with us and now hes part of the live show as well, so yes hes pretty much become part of the band now. Were also working with a vocalist and with a drummer, which gives us a whole new kind of line up for the live shows. Were working with drum machines, computers and samplers stuff. It makes a nice change.
Skrufff: When we last spoke you were right on the zeitgeist of the 80s electro revival coming along
Swayzak: Ive been into that sound for quite a while. Its quite interesting to see how it all became so very hip and then went totally un-hip, to becoming hip again. The media seems to be constantly fighting with the whole concept, but weve always taken influences from the 80s
Skrufff: Felix da Housecat and other producers like Canadas Tiga disowned it as soon as they could, did you consciously feel you should move away from it with this new album too?
Swayzak: We were never part of any movement like electroclash or whatever you want to call it. We did our own style of electro-pop, which somehow seemed to fit in with what many other artists were doing at the time. We even had an electro pop album out in 1999 which was pretty much ignored at the time, though its now more highly regarded.
Skrufff: Is DJing something youre still developing as Swayzak?
Swayzak: I do quite enjoy DJing. I think its a good opportunity to play some records that people arent normally going to hear, since the majority of DJs around seem to have turned rather sad and desperate in what they play.
Skrufff: In what sense?
Swayzak: They dont really seem to care about what they playing. I dont know whether its because they play every week. I dont play every week, and also there are two of us and we basically do a one on one Swayzak sound system type set-up, which makes the whole experience refreshing since were always throwing down the gauntlet (challenging- slang Ed) to each other with the tracks we play. We definitely always try out new musical ideas on people. Sometimes when we play room 3 at Fabric and we throw records by The Residents or The Associates we clear the dance floor completely. One of us once played Cabaret Voltaires Nag Nag Nag and completely cleared the dance floor. People couldnt handle it. It was probably too harsh for them.
Skrufff: And you dont mind clearing dance floors?
Swayzak: No, no. I think its good! When you go into a room at Fabric, room 2 or whatever and theyre playing really banging techno to me it just sounds just totally monotonous. Its a waste of time, I believe you have to try and introduce new things to people.
Skrufff: Where are Swayzak the most popular?
Swayzak: We did really well in France with the last album, also Germany and America seem to be our main areas.
Skrufff: More than England, would you say?
Swayzak: Yes, about ten times more though I dont know why. I think a lot of it has to do with the way music is sold here. Originally music was sold through Radio 1 or other commercial stations and our music isnt that obvious for Radio 1 listeners so they wouldnt play our music. Independent local radio or internet radio station might do, and in America theyve got endless college radio stations. Eighteen or nineteen years old kids can have a show and play whatever they want, and they get many listeners. In France you also have radio stations like Nova and FG, which constantly play cutting edge music. Though Ive heard its changed a bit recently.
Skrufff: Will Swayzak be touring the world in the next few months ahead?
Swayzak: We have a US tour, European tour, and some dates in Russia and Japan. In Britain we dont have one single gig. I just dont know why that is. Its sad. Ive tried to contact promoters but the only promoter that ever really supports us is Fabric. Theyve been supporting us since the start and thats great but it would be nice to also have a gig in Manchester or Birmingham or even Glasgow. Its tough.
Skrufff: I noticed that your website has not been updated for a while
Swayzak: Our website is a bit of a disaster right now mainly because of financial reasons. Its odd because people find that surprising when youre releasing an album and getting press and stuff like that, but its just a bit of a struggle right now. We will have the website up and running soon. Im planning to make it a really cool site, hopefully well have a lot of information on rather than just one page of updates. Were kind of self managed, were taking care of everything ourselves, and its pretty hard work to keep it all up to date. Sometimes you take on too much and some things get forgotten about, and the website has been one. Its such a great tool as well, its been so stupid that weve ignored it.
Skrufff: I did a Google search on Swayzak and you got over forty four thousand links which is a lot. . .
Swayzak: Were not careerist DJs or musicians, were just guys who love making music and thats maybe part of the problem with us. We dont sit down and go to the office, were passionate about making music and going out and playing it to people. The website is something I dont have a fucking clue what to do with really. I have a friend whos going to update it for us and redesign it, so thats the next step. I know there are many people out there into our music; we receive e-mails from as far afield as the Dominican Republic, Iran, all over the world. I went to the Philippines and found people there that have heard of us. I think thats pretty amazing. Part of the problem is that many of our fans cant find the music, so theyre always on the internet looking for it. Ive had people coming to me saying, Ive got your first album but I dont have any of the track titles because they downloaded it for free or from somebody else file sharing. Thats fair enough, if you cant find it, but it would be great if they could actually contribute in some way. Its great that they love our music though because I suppose that when we play live, thats when we finally get our reward.
Skrufff: Whats the plan with your US tour?
Swayzak: Were planning to embark on a proper US tour by trying to avoid playing in clubs, so were trying to play venues and have a support band, which we havent found yet. America is very difficult since although there are many great radio stations there, there arent many great clubs especially outside New York City. Even there, every time we play we seem to end up at the Tribeca Grand Hotel, the only choice for such a great city. The problem is that the college stations play great music but the clubs are all associated with heavy drug taking and shit music. Which is a bad situation to be in when youre trying to play out there. I remember playing at a rave once where we the first band on and they were already carrying three people out on stretchers. They had taken too many drugs unbelievable.
Swayzaks new album Loops From The Bergerie is out now on !K7 Records. The band also release new single Another Way on September 20.
Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)