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INTERVIEW: 808 State
The Quietus , September 21st, 2013 08:08

We talk to Graham Massey ahead of Incubate's Acid Flashback tonight

One of the many excellent pieces of curation of this year's Incubate is tonight's Acid Flashback, celebrating 25 years of acid house with a run of sets from original 90s pioneers to later practitioners: 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald, DJ Pierre, Ceephax Acid Crew, Tyree Cooper, Chris Moss Acid, Hieroglyphic Being, Kosmik Kommando, 030303, Mantra and Wirwar Soundsystem.

For anyone in Tilburg, all the shows are in 013, with proceedings beginning at 10 pm with 030303 on the Main Stage.

Ahead of that, we talked to 808 State's Graham Massey about the night, acid house's influence on the current generation of electronics and the various projects he's working on at the moment.

This is your first time at Incubate - what are you most looking forward to, musically and otherwise?

Graham Massey: I’m only just getting my head around the scope of Incubate. It’s a seven-day festival with multiple genres, film, theatre and talks. To be honest I would have liked to have been there on Friday for some of the talks, I’ve noticed the "live chat show" as a night out being on the up in Manchester too. We are just there for one day so I’ll see how the day pans out and go exploring.

What can people expect to experience when they watch you play at Incubate?

GM: 808 State have found lots of ways to bend and shape our back catalogue into new forms. There are five of us in the live group. We tend to think in terms of a set of music that takes you to different places, mixing timelines we hope to surprise you.

A successful concert to us is all about vibe, connection on stage and connection with the crowd. Acid is in our DNA but I think we won't be as overtly 303 as the smiley face logo might imply.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing tonight?

GM: It’s going to be a bit odd in that over the past two weekends (A Guy Called) Gerald and I have been doing live Acid sets under the name REBUILD, using all the old Roland drum machines and analogue synths. REBUILD would have suited this occasion but this was booked a while back before we planned it. I’m not sure if Gerald is doing an analogue set or a laptop, but he has so much experience I reckon he decides on the day and reacts to the situation. He is a very instinctive musician that has always followed his own path.

It’s been interesting, each REBUILD set we have done has been wildly different in feel, you can’t plan it, it’s a system for improvising, as it was when we did Newbuild back in 1988.

I wonder what the Chicago guys, Pierre and Tyree Cooper, are going to be doing - will no doubt check those guys out and I love a bit of Ceephax in full flow!

Has it been surprising to see the revival of interest in both house in general and quite classic­sounding acid stuff in particular?

GM: Not really surprising. I don't expect Motown to fall off the face of the Earth. House music was the next generation's Motown. Its functionality is bombproof. Maybe it was so futuristic that it’s not yet aged? I can spot an old acid record from a new one but I’m not sure if anyone cares when they are dancing.

Modern stuff like Tin Man has fatter kick drums and are a little more spatially thought-out, I don't think we ever tuned the synths on some of our acid stuff, accidentally microtonal, and we were very dense and polyrhythmic. I’m not saying that was right for the dance floor but it was a cue for some people to weird out a bit more. We sort of became an albums band quite early on. We also used to hack it up on tapes so Traktor users will despair of it fitting a grid these days.

There is a re-evaluation of the technology of those records due to the current ubiquity of DAW (digital audio workstations) music. There’s more of a biological thing with analogue we resonate to it in a stronger way.

How do you feel about the unending wave of reissues of older, 'classic', house material over the past couple of years? Does it feel odd that a style of music that at the time was so futuristic is now as in thrall to its history as any other musical style?

GM: Past couple of years? It’s never stopped in the past 20 years! It did feel like we were making something new back in the late 80s but we were all listening to some pretty old music whilst we were making it, I don't see old music as bad and new music as good. But I feel lucky I grew up in a time of flux where things changed every few years like the seasons. The technology encouraged change, new sounds, better sound systems.

Context is so important, I’ll always be glad we lived and effected change with music and I wish that for my kids that they might experience what it can do for people.

Sometimes I think music isn’t important anymore and that I’m a self-indulgent MF; then other people’s music comes and saves me so many times. I still would like to be involved in that conversation.

Equally, what have been the positives from this resurgence of interest? Have you been hearing any new material that expands on ideas they were pioneering and does new things with them?

GM: My son turned 16 over the summer; it’s been party-central and his gang are really exploring house music for the first time. It does have a smattering of classics but more often than not it’s me running upstairs (actually texting upstairs) and saying put that in my folder.

Things like Hudson Mohawke, Lone, Disclosure, Jon Hopkins, Daphne. It’s their summer of love and they will be nostalgic about it by Halloween. I’ve tried to feed them Autechre but they are not going there yet. I noticed he has had my Africa Hitech away - Mark Pritchard will survive us all! Tortoise and hare stuff…

What’s next on your horizon?   GM: As I said last week we did some totally analogue improvising as REBUILD, I‘ve just contributed some writing and wind instrument playing to Paddy Steer’s new self-released album The Fortified Herd. Paddy is someone I’ve played with since the early 80s and he will be playing bass in 808 State this weekend. Paddy and I do a number of projects together, we’ve just done a 13-piece Sun Ra tribute band in recent weeks which was a lot of fun, I'm in the horn section in that.

We have visited Saturn before with the Toolshed and Homelife big bands. But this band are a new bunch called The Part Time Heliocentric Cosmodrama After School Club. It might last a few months; mind you, we said that about 808 State.

When I first saw Sun Ra play in 1982 the idea that you could address music from different time periods in one concert was an epiphany. If it’s done with sincerity you can feel old music as if it's just been born. Free of the baggage. 1930s music played alongside music from 2020 but in 1982. Time travel!

I did a gig at Festival No. 6 last Saturday as Massonix, which is exploratory electronic or clubby stuff, a chance to try out ideas with instant feedback. Having said that I have some soundtrack music coming out as Massonix. My friend Ken Hollings needed some "Radiophonic”-style music for his six part radio show Hollingsville on Resonance FM. I made it using some of my antique electronics, but it has come out surprisingly hummable, some 7" singles on there! Finders Keepers Records are putting it out as limited vinyl this month.