Following the departure of James Taylor from elite electronic act Swayzak, we caught up with David Brown ahead of Swayzak's party at Manchester's Kraak Gallery with Billy Nasty.
Date published: 15th Nov 2011
There have been numerous acclaimed albums, from the debut Snowboarding In Argentina, to the most recent, Some Other Country. Then there are those headline sets on international soundsystems, whether that’s Belgium’s Dour festival, or a Swiss recycling plant.
Suffice to say then, both in terms of production and performance, the name Swayzak belongs in the electronic elite. Earlier this month the duo played their last live show together, with James Taylor having now departed from the act.
But it’s far from the end of the story, with a party at Manchester’s Kraak Gallery amongst the upcoming gigs.
With that in mind we thought it best to speak to David Brown about his plans for the solo Swayzak. We ask when the next full-length release will be out, whether or not going it alone will result in a change of direction, and how on Earth a train in suburban Moscow came to be branded with his production name. He explained, while expounding on why he doesn’t do big PR, what’s going on with the 240 Volts label, and his most memorable gigs of the year.
Hi David, how are things with you today?
Yeah, fine, everything’s fine. Still a little hungover after the weekend.
Of course - you and James Taylor performed live together for the last time. How was it?
Yeah, it was funny, and really good on Saturday actually. Maybe because it was our last show there was some more effort on our part, rather than it just being like a job. And being in London is good for us, James is from there, I have lived there for 20 years, and Fabric’s a bit of a family crew for us so it all worked out well.
Was it particularly different to the normal Swayzak show?
Not really at all. You know, we just jammed in our style, as ever. We always just show up and play, so people have always been like ‘why don’t you do ‘the songs’’, and then we say ‘because we’re bored of playing ‘the songs’’. We don't want to end up the Status Quo of house and techno, so it’s better to improvise. Plus it shows people you can actually play live, rather than just pretending in order to increase album sales.
So far as plans for Swayzak go then, now you’re a one man band is it back to business as usual, or are new directions approaching?
It’s nice to have the decisions left to me in a way I suppose, but direction-wise I don’t think there’s any great change coming. The stuff I’m doing now is sort of like the deep house we started off with, though hopefully it sounds a bit different to the old stuff. But it’s along those lines- stripped back. When you’re using computers there’s so much information it’s easy to get overloaded with stuff- software, sounds. So I tried to strip it all away, and use a limited number of channels. The computers I use are five or six years old too, and I like having those limitations, it’s quite nice. At the moment I’m working with the vocalist Richard Davis, and I was maybe looking into doing some more vocal stuff too. I’ve been talking to DJ Chloe in Paris for example, though we haven’t got round to actually doing anything, yet.
Swayzak, as they were
And there’s a new album planned?
Yeah, there are about two tracks fully finished at the moment, and the rest I’m working on with Richard. We’ve been on the same tracks for about a year and a half now, so let’s hope they’re worth it! It’s mainly sound quality and levels now, which is really important. Especially these days, it feels like there’s a lot of music released that sounds like it was thrown together in ten minutes. But what’s the point in that?”
So when can we expect the LP?
I’m hoping to get it out next year, but it needs to be right. This is a body of work, and needs to be done properly, you know. I’m not into putting out digital EPs all the time and DJ charts listing all my latest singles. As such the album needs to send out a message, and then people will, hopefully, pick up on that.
Your label, 240 Volts, is becoming active again too right?
Yeah, I just put together a compilation of stuff, and there was a 12” pre-release of the compilation too, with a Richard Davis track, and another couple of friends of mine. The compilation is ready to go, and though I can’t get it out until next year now it should feature about eight tracks when it finally arrives.
According to social media, and a spray-painted train, you were out in Russia recently. How did that go?
Fantastic, Moscow was great. Some crazy kids there said they’d graffiti a train with Swayzak. I was like ‘whatever’, then they sent me a link to a YouTube clip of a train leaving a station with Swayzak written on it, so that was pretty memorable. While I was out there I played one night, then gave a lecture on Ableton Live the next day- which was the first time I had done anything like that. It was good though as hardly anyone in the room could speak English, so I needed a translator and therefore had plenty of time to think about what I was going to say!
Though not quite as far-flung you’re up in Manchester next week, your first visit in a while- excited about coming back to the city?
Yeah, you know, I have always had a good time up there. It’s a great place to visit and play, so yeah I’m looking forward to it.
Cool. So where else has stood out this year?
Gigwise? Er, let me think. There was a great party in Switzerland, up in this recycling plant, which was a really special venue, with a good crowd. I was also out in Talinn in Estonia for the first time, and had a great time out there too. I played in this tiny little club, it kind of reminded me of an underground Berlin.
Finally then, have you much time for anything else at the moment?
Apart from all this… yeah, actually I have another project with a friend of mine called D-Fuse, who does visuals. It’s called Cylinders, he has done the imagery, which kind of moves to music I have made- it’s hard to explain, but it’s really trippy, psychedelic stuff. I like the visuals, he likes the music, so it’s going well so far. We plan on making three or four tracks like that, then performing somewhere. Mutek festival in Vancouver is one place we want to approach, so we’ll see how it goes.
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