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PREMIERE: Soccer96 Share New EP, 'Tactics'
Patrick Clarke , June 25th, 2020 10:51

Soccer96, the modular synth and drums duo of The Comet Is Coming's Danalogue and Betamax, have enlisted Total Refreshment Centre cohort Alabaster DePlume for their new EP 'Tactics'. It's premiering exclusively with tQ, along with a Q+A with Danalogue

Soccer96 is a project made up of Dan Leavers, AKA Danalogue, producer of Snapped Ankles, Bo Ningen, Ibibio Sound Machine, and more, and drummer Max Hallett, AKA Betamax, who are also bandmates in crucial psychedelic future space-jazz voyagers The Comet Is Coming.

For their new EP, Tactics, streaming exclusively in full via tQ just below ahead of its release tomorrow (June 26), they've enlisted Alabaster DePlume as frontman. A long-time friend and collaborator (Danalogue produced his brilliant 2018 LP The Corner Of A Sphere), both acts are based out of Dalston's vital creative hub The Total Refreshment Centre.

With DePlume charismatic, captivating and witty at its front-and-centre, and fellow TRC fixture Kristian Craig 'Capitol K' Robinson on bass, Tactics is a joyous and kaleidoscopic record, with Danalogue's swarming and pounding synths wrapped tempestuously around Betamax's relentless, head-spinning drums. Read on below for a quick Q+A with Danalogue about Soccer96's past, present and future.

What does the Soccer96 project allow you to do that other acts you're involved in, for example The Comet Is Coming, do not?

Danalogue: Generally we approach both groups the same, Soccer96 and The Comet Is Coming, the creation process is where and who we are at the time, musically and mentally, and it's a conversation between the players and their personalities resulting in whatever synergy you get. Often the melodies are being rocked by Shabaka in Comet, so maybe there's more space for some synth lines in there.

I don't see music as having that many boundaries or a concept of what we can or cannot do, which is probably why all our records go all over the place. We usually go on instinct, both in the immediate moment of recording, and also deciding what direction we are going to take on the next release.

One thing is that we haven't made a Soccer96 record really since the beginning of The Comet Is Coming, so that's over five years now (Rewind came out more recently but that was plundered from a bunch of old tapes). So things have changed a lot since we were last making music as Soccer96, in terms of our mentalities, our production and mixing abilities and the fact we've basically been on the road for the past few years.

I'm pretty excited to be making new material in this format. Betamax and I mixed and produced all the Comet stuff together while Shabs was away with Sons Of Kemet, so in a lot of ways, it's a very similar process: the two crazy professors, Danalogue and Betamax, going nuts once again in the lab with limited oxygen, tape machines, analogue synths and too many in-jokes!

I know Alabaster would often join you for impromptu performances when you were both on festival bills. How would you compare this this new EP to those shows?

D: It's almost exactly the same. I don't like to do too many takes in the studio; I think all three tracks are first or second take. So it's live AF! Having said that, I'm always conscious when I'm producing stuff that what makes a great live gig doesn't always make a great record. Sometimes on stage it can go so intense, and can get more rough round the edges, but on record I want it to sit in a slightly different space so spend quite a bit of time tweaking stuff.

'Buy It', we tracked first in and around the time we were doing it at festivals, so it's pretty similar. Maybe Alabaster shouts more at gigs! And we jam out a bit longer. 'Children Will Dance', I'm chuffed with how that came together. Soccer96 were offered a gig out in Malta, as was Capitol K, and we managed to smuggle Alabaster out there as an extra member. I really wanted to have a TRC crew holiday for a week out there! While we were there we had this magic late night jam, set up by a Malta-based artist called Joon (check out her single 'ET', it's dope) we played for hours up on the wall of her bar in the sweltering heat. The riff just came out and luckily, we recorded it on someone's phone... I think you can still hear the Maltese heat on the recording.

How pivotal was the Total Refreshment Centre to the creation of this EP?

D: I mean, we met Kristian there! And then a few years later along came Alabaster DePlume. We also recorded all the tracks there. Actually now I'm thinking about it, Max and I had a rehearsal booked for a festival a few years back and Alabaster was knocking around, so we invited him in to the rehearsal room to jam over a new riff we were playing with, and that became 'Buy It'! Kristian who runs the main studio there plays the bass on two tracks, and then in terms of engineering, Kristian recorded with us too.

It's weird though, I can't imagine another world where the TRC doesn't exist, and these semi-random, situational collaborations aren't just commonplace. We've been gigging and making records there for eight years or so now, so could be easy to take it for granted, but you've just reminded me what a unique place it is and how directly it feeds into our creativity as well as our bonds with our fate-chosen brothers.

How is the Total Refreshment Centre holding up through lockdown? How are you holding up yourselves?

D: I think it's OK, yeah. It's quieter, there’s a giant pot of hand sanitiser and funny elbow handshakes. Bands are just starting to think about coming back in, Snapped Ankles appeared back from the forest last week. Lockdown is strange. I think it's made people look inwards way more than when there's the external distractions of parties and bars. More reflection, more dark nights of the soul.

We are also dimly aware of how tragic this time is for some and are fortunate to not be directly affected ourselves. To have all gigs cancelled and some forced downtime is actually pretty great; last year we did over a hundred gigs, toured the States three times, it was utter madness! So to have some sleep and to be able to be grounded at home a bit more is bizarrely welcome.

I enjoyed the live videos filmed at TRC a great deal. Did yourselves and Alabaster have further plans to perform live that were scuppered by the pandemic?

D: Yeah, that gig was basically the beginning of what was going to be a touring period, with quite a few festivals booked in, so we were gutted to lose a bunch of shows, but lucky we somehow managed to film the only one we did! That was a magic thing where we did a private invite to a bunch of TRC heads past and present, and it ended up being like a kind of reunion and a gig in the old upstairs venue like the old days, was pretty nostalgic! We still have a show booked in at Brixton Academy on November 16, supporting our pals GoGo Penguin, so let's hope that goes ahead...

What does the future hold for Soccer96 beyond this EP?

D: Well I'm no soothsayer, but Max and I are working on demos for a new LP right now. I have an 8-track 1/4" tape machine in my bedroom as well as my synths. I've been laying down some parts and then riding over to Max's on my bike, posting the tape through the window, and he uses his tape machine in the shed to record drums. Pretty mad lockdown system, but it's fun, and we're managing to make some headway into our 'new sound'. We've been enjoying working with bass players a bit more, something we did back on our old track 'Flight Formations', so we want to do a bit more of that. Betamax and I have been playing together for 15 years now, so it's around half our lives! I don't know if we know any other way but to create something new.

Soccer96's new EP Tactics is out on June 26 via Moshi Moshi. You can pre-order it here.