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Escape Velocity

My Mind Is Going: Psychedelic Vanguard Sculpture Interviewed
John Doran , April 7th, 2015 07:24

Ahead of one of their all-encompasing, mind-unlocking, dance-starting, cortex-melting, immersive psychedelic events in Hackney this Friday, John Doran talks to the audio visual masters of (un)reality, Sculpture. Enjoy an exclusive audio/video transmission

Exclusive Sculpture video edit from their February Cafe Oto show

Sculpture will deterritorialise you.

The will discombobulate the fabric that envelops you and keeps you static and held in place. They will pull away at the strands until holes appear. They will then poke, prod, tear and rip at these gaps until you are completely loose.

And then for the shortest amount of time you will be unshackled and have blissful free movement until reterritorialisation occurs.

Really, what more could you ask for?

Dan Hayhurst ("media devices and electronic instruments") and Reuben Sutherland ("video zoetrope turntable, optix") provide optrex for your third eye (and your third ear) with their ultra-pointilist, high definition, complete immersion live audio visual ritual which combines Radiophonic adventure, experimental electronica, musique concrète, acid house, propulsive techno and future audio wizardry with cinematic visuals that create a porous interface between environment and retina.

Or, as they describe it, "an amalgam of electronic music, kinetic art, comic strips, abstract animation, audiovisual cut-ups – mixing analog and digital practice – tape manipulation, digital sampling, found sound, aleatoric and algorithmic programming and live improvisation".

The pair, who live and work in London, have become a word of mouth sensation - mainly due to their disorientating live shows, but also thanks to a series of inventive, boundary blurring digital releases. I talked to them ahead of this Friday's The Thing party that they're playing at held at The Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick.

Can you start by explaining to me how you interpret the word 'psychedelic' as it applies to both your music and your personal philosophy. If this interpretation has evolved over the years can you trace the development?

Dan Hayhurst: To me the word ‘psychedelia’ relates to inspiring (trans)formative moments. I think if you’re making stuff these instances are vital. Like if you haven’t gone “there”, maybe it’s not worth bothering people with your stuff. In a way it shows you that engaging with the substance of music and giving yourself up to it. It’s not necessarily about pushing your own perceptions or ego onto other people but can be about opening up ways for these kind of intense experiences to occur. You set up conditions, for yourself and other people, and when it works really well, actually there’s a feedback loop between everyone involved. We want to take you higher. We want you to take us higher. You don’t necessarily need drugs but you can’t get it on the internet. You could go there by blasting the Stooges as loud as possible, dancing like crazy with your friends (we don’t want to be in a rock band because Funhouse already exists).

But that’s just one arbitrary example. I’m not into lists.

The experience is kind of ritualistic in the sense of that being a ludic rearrangement of information which changes the way you interact with the world. Rearrangement of air molecules and light waves.

When I’m thinking about information in relation to this kind of idea, I spend a lot of time going through random piles of old tapes and seeing where those findings lead. In a way you’re letting this information - in the form of layers of human cultural detritus - suggest unexpected pathways, even just on the level of timbral or aesthetic choices.

I’ve been making a soap opera called The Department out of cut up bits of found tape. I’m up to episode three. It’s taking a really fucking long time cos it only seems to work if I do hundreds of physical edits of the tape, like I have to put the time into the ritual before the universe gives me a powerful configuration. There’s the barest shred of a plot or conceptual integrity but it suggests itself into existence.

But anyway, what’s my point here? [The psychedelic experience] is something to do with the way this material is gifted to you, and if you look at it the right way it opens a door.

Reuben Sutherland: To me, psychedelic was what other people started to call the visuals that I would splatter up on the screen when we played live. It was only then that I realized that I had always been into that sort of animation. And after the term was bandied around a bit I think I might have started even trying to live up to the name it was being given maybe… or maybe I just happened to get more into bouncy rubbery cartoons at that time.

What is the primary (and secondary and tertiary if appropriate) function of the art of Sculpture?

DH: I don’t really think of it as ‘art’ but more as kind of pop music (and I mean visual music as well). I’m aware that’s a slightly absurd way to look at it. it’s one reason why the last LP is called Membrane Pop – though people took that at face value – we know it’s not a ‘pop record’ but we enjoyed playing with the reference – with its multiple meanings. But actually what we were visualising was a kind of translucent boundary collapsing, and something escaping from containment. Changing states and algorithms falling in love. But to come back to our functional purpose... well, we are modifiers of your environment and psycho-physical effectors. It is sometimes good music for dancing if your balance is steady but it isn’t ‘Dance Music’.

RS: For me it is to visualize unpredictable music using unpredictable tools but the whole show seems to open the door to people realizing they can make good stuff and leave the standard machinery behind. And it’s also about having fun.

Would you say that you are primarily a live act and if so why?

RS: Yes, it's better live. That is when it really comes together for me.

DH: The records and films are byproducts of an ongoing process which comes most sharply into focus when we play live – but I think these physical manifestations are pretty interesting. It’s fun to play around with formats and presentation of ideas. I feel like music is this liquid substance and you just sort of trick it into assuming temporary forms. Records/films are like snapshots of one possible iteration.

The way Reuben and I both work is we’ve got a load of elements, fragments of visual and sonic material, like this sort of chaotic library and we throw it together quite spontaneously in the live shows. Heightened mental state and that feedback loop I was talking about with all the people present and energetic circumstance encourages something unpredictable and transformative. Things get a bit out of control and that’s when the good stuff starts suggesting itself into being. I’m really into Jimi Hendrix. I want to set fire to a tape recorder on stage. It’s very rare Reuben and I really ‘rehearse’ anything, so often we’re seeing/hearing/combining new stuff for the first time. We’re aiming for something to occur that’s more than the sum of its parts. Some kind of hyper-jump.

When and where did you meet?

RS: We met in Hackney Wick where we were neighbours in the same old building

DH: Yes, we randomly ended up living next door to each other. We were both already mucking around with stuff. We realised if we did these things simultaneously some reaction might occur. So we just did a show (at Elevator Gallery in Hackney Wick in fact). We didn’t rehearse at all. It clicked straight away as a musical conversation in audible and visible frequencies.

Why did you choose the name Sculpture?

DH: The name has something to do with elasticity of materials maybe. It’s a good word. I picked it before I met Reuben, at a time when there were a lot of changes going on. I’d just moved to London, things had fallen apart a bit. There was a bit of reinvention going on. It all seemed to make sense somehow, cutting up bits of tape, dismantling your personality, you know, just like Dave. But it’s a bit of a red herring. People take things so seriously. This isn’t ‘art’ in the sense of ‘fine art’ or ‘sound art’ or ‘multimedia art’ thankfully. I did used to get lots of shows at art openings. I never got paid but I did get a lot of free drinks.

Can you describe exactly what your roles in the band are? DH: I make the music and Reuben makes the visuals, though we sometimes work together on sonics which get fed into a compositional process - especially on Slime Code which is essentially cut-ups/superimpositions of multiple duo improvisations.

But there’s a lot of crosstalk. We know that we’re going to merge the visual and audible elements musically – and we know each others’ style – we have this in mind all the time. We’re imagining how things might work in combination.

What can the audience at Hackney Wick expect from your show on Friday?

RS: They will need new eyes and new ears. Both during the show and afterwards.

DH: I think that just about covers it.

Sculpture are playing alongside Ed DMX and DJ Horton Jupiter at The Yard Theatre, Hackney Wick this Friday