The Maths is Ben Edwards, otherwise known as Benge. I heard a great record he’d made called ‘Twenty Systems’. It was beautiful – the evolution of synths, all allowed to sound like themselves –exactly what I’ve been on about since ‘Metamatic’, achieved by the most elegant means, from a completely different angle.
We started speaking, and I went down to see his studio. Oddly enough, it’s around the corner from my old studio in Shoreditch, so I was right at home.
Benge is really like a Shoreditch version of Conny Planck – there’s a very interesting scene around that studio…
About a year – but with long gaps for other projects we are both involved in.
Well that’s the curious thing; we had no idea at all. If anything, we both imagined it would much more abstract, a sort of follow on from Twenty Systems… I think the power and rhythm and the harmonic sequences of Benge’s initial arpeggios from all the various synths – especially that big 60s Moog Modular system – really led us into song mode. They have all the basic components for a complete piece of music – all you need do is sing and play along in freeform until things begin to crystalize. Then you have it. Often it would happen right away!
I don’t think we ever struggled with anything. Perhaps only with too many ideas at times – you always have to prune ruthlessly at every stage and that inevitably means there’s a lot left on the cutting room floor…
Well that was what Benge used it as… I like it when other connections get made with the songs. That’s really what they are for. I was actually thinking about a sort of ‘Best laid plans’ sort of scenario. It used to frustrate me when things didn’t always go as planned – now I enjoy the unexpected. It’s always much more interesting!
We weren’t really thinking about reactions. At the start of a session, Benge was playing some beautifully rough and distorted pieces from some of the New York minimal synth outfits, so we just followed on from that. I’d already got an outline song. It all fitted together perfectly when we got down to playing. I’ve always liked aspects of that EBM scene and its precedents – from Cabaret Voltaire to Nitzer Ebb and others.
Well I guess the concept is a man a woman and a city. I always imagine it as a film voiceover – an aerial view of a great city – a bit like those ‘Naked City’ TV programmes when I was very young. You know, ‘There are a million stories in the Naked City…’!
I always want the songs to operate as movies, really. It also ties in with ‘The Naked Lunch’ by William Burroughs. In fact, ‘Shatterproof’ has a very Burroughs delivery, come to think of it. I was listening to some of his readings at the time. Beautifully weird, this dry old voice that gets right into your head. Crackles like electricity.
We didn’t want to bring in many other people. We thought of doing that originally, but things were going so well we simply carried on.
Mira (Aroyo, of Ladytron) was the exception – I’ve wanted to do a track with her for years, for me she’s the absolute personification of EuroElectro; beautiful, cool, intelligent, poised. So here was the perfect opportunity and she was perfect – all you had to do was build a sort of movie from all those elements she carries so effortlessly. Great, evocative voice. She did the main synth riff as well.
Now Benge is thinking of expanding The Maths into a sort of multimedia thing – like a Post-Digital Velvets. Serafina is becoming involved, plus Hannah Peel, Jonathan Barnbrook and Karborn among others. All a bit unformed at the moment, but I think something electrically raw and beautifully brutal is emerging here in Shoreditch.
Oh yes, that’s what it’s all about. We don’t consciously set out to cover any of those areas, but I guess they will inevitably show up at times – they’ve become part of our grammar after all, bits of what we accumulated by operating through all those periods. The best bits!
Benge. He has everything I’ve ever used and lost. It’s a bit sickening really, when you realise just what you’ve thrown away over the years! But you also get to recover the excitement of it, all together in one big room. Add to that, working with someone with an entirely fresh view, who really knows his stuff, in an entirely new London scene – all alive and kicking like crazy… I ask you, what could be better?
It’s fun – it keeps you right on your toes!
We’re getting lots of interesting offers. This kind of music seems to have become pretty global at this point. China and South America sound fascinating, for instance.
On the other hand, I’ve begun five albums with various people and I’m completely determined to finish them this year. Two have been completed since Christmas – one with Theo Travis, one with Harold Budd and Ruben Garcia. What a pleasure those were, working with such beautiful material.
The only problem is that several other projects are also looming attractively… it’s going to be an interesting year!
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