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Sonic Router

Sonic Router 024: Spam Chop's Techno Flex
Oli Marlow , January 26th, 2012 10:44

In this latest Sonic Router column, Oli Marlow speaks to Wigflex label head Spam Chop about the release of his debut EP Cuckup, his love of techno and Nottingham's close-knit scene

With so much onus being placed on how a music style sounds in comparison to what’s going on around it these days*, it can be a little difficult to carry on caring about such journalistic unifications. Direct comparison is an essential way to give music an immediate context - I get that, and I do it probably every day in conversation - but to be so blasé about artists whose work is wildly different from each other by labeling them as one particular thing can cause a bit of a problem.

When speaking to another online magazine back in December Ben UFO, one third of the Hessle Audio trio, said something along the lines of “a year ago, I may have clung onto the idea of dubstep as a name to unify all the different styles of music being made at the moment”. In my own ham fisted, drunken way, it’s a notion I was hanging onto for a little while longer. I was keen as mustard, always trying to draw physical lines between producers’ musical tangents in my head, before trying to put it on a computer screen. Then, when the dubstep bubble truly burst out across tempos and everything splintered proper, I just stopped caring, and stopped trying to justify to myself how someone like Mosca could be ‘dubstep’, when he was pretty much just making straight house with an outwardly London attitude.

Labels like Nottingham’s Wigflex were a real case in point. Listening to them now, they bear very little resemblance to anything like what ‘dubstep’ is now, or even was in the traditional sense. What those early split Wigflex 12”s did was help me realise that there were different ways of looking at things and different ways of approaching bass heavy club music. I was super naïve, and the Wigflex branded rude-boy techno of people like Hizatron and Taylor (later Morris Cowan) totally blew me out of the water: they were so indebted to a certain style I knew little about, yet the music they made was having the same impact. They didn’t give two shits about what anyone else was doing, choosing instead to represent themselves and a likeminded crew of musicians and producers.

Hizatron – Schlupinski [Wigflex]

Wigflex was all incubated in a small space in Nottingham by Lukas Cole (aka Spam Chop), who was busy running the club night of the same name. Having lived in the East Midlands myself when I was a teenager, the tracks by Geiom, Metaphi, Hiza, Eleven Tigers and Taylor on those first couple of singles really managed to capture the colour and slight friendly menace of the city and its population. Given his prevalence and reputation as something of a lynchpin for the city’s scene (a notion I wrote about extensively in one of my first columns for this site) it’s kind of surprising to learn that Cole’s forthcoming single on the closely related Mimm Recordings is his actually debut solo release. It says a lot about his attitude and outlook on the world that he’d rather put on a group of other people rather than push himself, but he’s consistently made music that’s pushed at the mould he helped define, whether on his own or working with other people.

“Yeah, it’s my very first solo release,” Cole tells me when asked if he deems the single to be in the style we’ve come to expect from him and the surrounding crew. “I don’t even know what ‘typical Spam Chop’ is yet, to be honest, but Nathaniel [owner and proprietor of Nottingham’s Mimm shop and record label] was the first person to ask about releasing my music. It took me a while to come round to the idea, but the recent reaction to the EP has been brilliant and I’m glad he managed to coax me out of my hole. It’s given me a big kick up the arse to start finishing a lot more music.”

“The first records I bought were hard house and trance - eurgh,” Chop says when pressed on how he got to his current axis of production, “but I think it was just a progression from that really. I used to go to a lot of drum & bass and garage raves as a kid, but techno nights were the one thing that I keep going back to, and that I can go to and happily dance to for days on end.”

In conversation, the self-confessed Peter Crouch lookalike is modest and to the point. He answers questions by quoting his friends who’ve all gone on the record at some point or other to discuss the current state of their hometown. And tricky as that is in an interview context, it’s actually quite endearing and most definitely indicative of how he comes across in real life: very enthusiastic, without ever ramming his own pursuits down your throat.

In the words of Hizatron then: “Nottingham is popping off. There’s a new generation of DJs, producers and promoters that’s taken over. We’re a collective. We work together, we get messy together and we promote each other. It’s not a competition. We’re a movement, a scene.” And Spam Chop’s debut, the Cuckup EP, is very much indicative of that front line of the ‘Nottingham’ sound, yet it still sounds totally unique, bastardized beyond any easily taggable genre conventions. 

All three tracks are totally rhythm led - whether that’s the clipped clunk of EP standout ‘Blergzz’, the garage-like snare patterns of ‘Cuckup’ or the total techno pummel of ‘Frames’ - but they all veer so far away from each other. It’s like they’re three completely different approaches to producing music - as if Spam Chop, like he says, hasn’t really decided on what his sound is supposed to be. That’s precisely what makes this EP so interesting, though. With no prior conventions to adhere to he completely lets his imagination and tone palette run wild all over the shop, creating some astonishingly rough and ready club tools.

‘Cuckup’ harbours a deranged electronic melody that clangs and warps in on itself as soon as it starts to get overexposed, swelling up and dissipating a number of times as it goes, whilst ‘Blergzz’ focuses on low end as Cole plays with little tumbling bass fills, letting pitched percussion do most of the talking as the underlying bass stabs stretch for four bars at a time. ‘Frames’ is awkward and slightly messy sonically, but when its whooping drones collide with his drum work and padded synths, it becomes beautiful - its shudders of drum percussion jut in and out of earshot like gunshots, while the four-four kick pulse takes a back seat to sinewy bass work. 

“I got into music probably the same way most people do,” he reveals in his own unknowingly astute way. “I fucked around on E-Jay, started DJing and then decided I wanted to play (and make) music that sounded like me.” 

With this attitude, Spam Chop’s out there on a limb (even more so now he’s taken the plunge to push himself and his own music) but on the strength of the Cuckup EP there aren’t many producers, cliques or trends you could ever comfortably lump him in with.

*see fellow tQ scribe Rory Gibb’s soliloquy about the dissolution of genre tags in his latest Hyperspecific column here

DOWNLOAD: Spam Chop – Sonic Router Mix #118

Spam Chop - Fritz [Unreleased]

Roman Flugel - Brasil [Dial]

Jesper Dahlback - Cvann [H Productions]

Spam Chop - Kitbags n Bling [Unreleased]

A Made Up Sound - Take The Plunge [AMUS]

Q1tize - Driver (Hizatron Remix) [Unreleased]

Rebolledo - Steady Gear Rebo Maschine [Comeme]

Thomas P Heckman & Jesper Dahlback - Bloody Snow PT1 [AFU]

Hizatron & Bashley - Discharge [Unreleased]

Nathan Fake - Giant Impact Hypothesis TAPE [Unreleased]

D'marc Cantu - Stand Up [Creme Organization]
 Blawan - Peaches [Clone]

Bageerha - Ulcerated [Resopal Schallware]

Surgeon - Floorshow part 1_2 [Counterbalance]

Minilogue, Let Life Dance Through You [Traum]

Margot - Liuff Settanta [Hell Yeah]
Hizatron - Gutter [Unreleased]

Kingthing - Serenade [Unreleased]

Lone - Vulcan Mill Acid [Unreleased]

DVS1 - Evolve [Hush]

Metaphi - Poached [Unreleased]

DVA - Polyphonic Dreams [Hyperdub]

Nathan Fake - Tuba [Unreleased]

Groj - Spending Tim [Unreleased]

Words: Oli Marlow for Sonic Router
Photo: Ashes57