Interview: Andy Stott

Interview and photography: Andrey Bold

 

In the modern music landscape where even Daft Punk have chosen to record their latest album with live instruments not to sound cliché, Andy Stott's music sounds refreshingly original. A shamanic mix of womb deep techno-dub and, a recent addition to his signature sound, operatic vocals, is instantly recognizable.
This is his second visit to Tokyo in less than a year, but many things have changed—Stott has finally quit his day job repainting Mercedes cars, became a father, made it to the top of most critics' lists with his third studio album, Luxury Problems, and is now headlining fully packed Liquidroom. All of this seems to have no effect on him, the Manchester-based producer remains firmly grounded and continues to follow his own, slightly off-key personal rhythm. He gets easily excited about small things and often pulls out his iPhone to share goofy pictures of his beloved French bulldog, Coops, and himself as HDR zombie. That is until he hits the stage or a conversation turns to music, then, at once, he becomes fully alert, focused and in control.

Andy Stott

Andy Stott

  • ABIt's been a while since you quit your day job, how are you doing?
  • ASIt's going better than I expected. I was really cautious about quitting, especially with Joseph (Stott's baby son) coming along, but I took a chance. The reception of “Luxury Problems” has given me complete confidence I did the right thing, so yeah, it's good.
  • ABYou had to describe your music to a friend of mine the other night, what did you tell her?
  • ASI said if you can imagine an atmospheric soundtrack to a film, but at the same time it's dance floor friendly. Which is almost like an oxymoron. They shouldn't go together, but they do.
  • ABWhere you always into music?
  • ASFrom an early age. I'd listen to what my dad was listening. It was an interest that was beyond, how it's made.
  • ABDo you remember what stirred up your interest the most?
  • ASAphex Twin. A track called “Metaphrastic” from his “Classics” album. I must've been about 14. At that time I was just listening to rave on the radio. This was twice as hard, like nothing I’ve heard before. From that point on I wanted to know everything. I went to a local store that weekend and picked the first Aphex Twin album I saw, “Selected Ambient Works.” I got home thinking it was going to be industrial... Was I disappointed! [Laughs] It was like “Oh No!” but then it became one of my favorite albums of all time.
  • ABDid you get a chance to meet him?
  • ASOnce. Well, I was totally, totally on another planet. I was at a club in London watching a friend playing, and he was right in front of me. All I could manage to do was point at him. He turned around and walked away. [Both laugh]
  • ABWhen was that?
  • ASSo bad. So bad. That must've been 1999 or 2000. Just some kid pointing at him.
  • ABYou must've had nightmares after that.
  • ASThat was the first thing I thought of when I woke up next morning. Horrible. [Laughs]
  • ABWere “Transformers” the biggest influence on you as a child?
  • AS“Transformers!” I wish I could speak like Soundwave!
  • ABWhat is your favorite sound?
  • ASSoundwave’s voice. [Laughs]
  • ABSoundwave’s voice is your single, most favorite sound?
  • ASOh god... don’t know. That's a ridiculous question. So difficult
  • ABOk, give me another four.
  • ASTB-303, it's got this phase around it. Hmm... Jean Michel Jarre synths. The Ford BA engine, it's so brutal and raw. [Laughs] Aggressive sounds. Rickenbacker bass guitars.
  • ABDo you reflect on what you've done or just keep on moving forward?
  • ASI move forward. In my opinion there aren't many artists who can continue in the same vein while staying interesting. It's a rare thing. For me, to even keep myself interested I need to change what I do. It's not a conscious thing, not like I’ve done that before and need to do something else. It's a natural progression.
Andy Stott at Liquidroom

Andy Stott at Liquidroom

  • ABThere is a saying—“I don't know what I think until I see what I say.” Does it apply to your music?
  • ASHmm... There is no process. I start with a different machine every time. You start randomly until you get a feeling from it. I never, ever think I'm going to do this or that, never. Switch everything on. Start.
  • ABSo, you just follow your heart.
  • ASExactly, and then it just comes.
  • ABDoes the final product surprise you, when you listen to it afterwards?
  • ASIt takes me a while to hear it. The track has to be finished for long enough so I forget the process and can listen to it again. Then, I can hear it as a track, not as a track I produced. It takes time to hear what I’ve done. Say “Luxury Problems,” if I listen to it now, I know what I did to that sound, to that vocal, to that kick drum. I still know. But if I listen to Passed Me By I can start to hear it because I’ve forgotten about the process. It's quite interesting.
  • ABAre you a control freak?
  • ASI suppose I am. [Laughs] If I'm working with someone else, it's strange, I’ll ask for their input, but what I really want them to say is “That's fine.” I don't like too many changes. I'm stubborn. [Laughs] Set in my own ways.
  • ABWhat is your most cherished Star Wars item?
  • ASI’ve got a helmet.
  • ABA helmet?
  • ASThe guy who designed the original helmets for the first episode, “The New Hope,” won a court case against George Lucas who tried to retain the copyright a couple of years ago. Now he's able to manufacture and sell them, but only in the UK. I’ve got a helmet pressed off the original from 1976, the one worn by Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. It's up in the studio.
  • ABDo you think Manchester is a music forward city?
  • ASWell I think it slowed down a bit. I always considered Manchester music similar to its people, there is no messing with it, no nonsense. Straightforward. It's there and that's it. Nothing else, you know. To me that's a reflection of the people of Manchester. Not that they’re nasty people, just no bullshit.
  • ABIs it similar to Detroit? The image both cites have is quite dark.
  • ASThere is a connection. Not as harsh as Detroit, but there is just nothing pretty about Manchester and I think it reflects in the music. There's nothing to shout about.
  • ABRhythm or melody?
  • ASOh, God! That's so difficult! Rhythm, but there're these fresh note melodies you know, three notes. John Maus—killer. His music gets me on a level. You could have a metronome, a beat and the atmosphere is still there. I'm focused on the rhythm at the moment.
Stott’s set at Liquidroom

Stott’s set at Liquidroom

  • ABWhat is the male to female ratio at your shows?
  • ASI was gonna say 70/30, but I think it's actually 80/20. Men.
  • ABHow do you feel about this?
  • ASI’m not a fan. [Laughs]
  • ABIs that why your music is getting faster?
  • ASYeah, more vocals. Pianos. Major key. [Both laugh]
  • ABFirst time I went to see you play I could pretty much count the women in the audience.
  • ASIt's getting better. [Laughs] Fame helps. [Big laugh]
  • I think the vocals on the last album really land themselves to a really different group of people. Because of that, the same people have taken interest in the previous two releases, “Passed Me By” and “We Stay Together.” So it's all coming around again, very fortunate.
  • ABWhat is your favorite soundtrack?
  • ASGod, I don’t know. The first thing that comes to mind, I have no idea why, is “Big Trouble in Little China.” No idea why.
  • ABWhat do you listen to when you’re angry?
  • ASOld rave, just when it started getting nasty, nasty as in rubbish. Recently, I got interested in metal. That always helps. [Laughs]
  • ABAnd when your sad?
  • ASWilliam Basinski.
  • ABHappy?
  • ASGod! Everything between metal and William Basinski. [Laughs]
  • ABYour favorite Depeche Mode song?
  • ASEither “Walking In My Shoes” or “It's No Good” from Ultra. To me Ultra was the end of Depeche Mode.
  • ABWhere do you think club culture is heading?
  • ASI don’t know, I'm not really a part of that world. I just think club music is not that challenging. It depends on what you want. Personally, I want something more, I want something more interesting. I'm into figuring music and can't say the club scene is exactly that.
  • ABHow much do you think it's connected to drug culture? Do you think it's possible to separate the two?
  • ASYeah I think so. I think there is specific music for going out and having a night like that. People will go somewhere just because it's a club, not because of the music, it just doesn't matter. I prefer people who follow the person, people who go to the club because THAT person is playing.
  • ABWhat's your next move?
  • ASFuck the rules. The books have gone out of the window now. Don't think about things too much. Leave them. Don't tweak to make them user-friendly.
  • ABYes, please don't. [Both laugh]

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Interview transcript: Shoko Tanaka