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Escape Velocity

Sturm Und Clang: Prangers Interviewed
Patrick Clarke , August 8th, 2022 08:50

Ahead of their set at Supernormal this weekend, Patrick Clarke speaks to experimental trio Prangers about how unusual percussion, interoception and the sounds of their native Rochdale influences their remarkable music

Prangers at Robyn's Rocket, photos by Dawid Laskowski

Robyn’s Rocket is a semi-regular night, where the venue (this time East London's Cafe OTO) is transformed to resemble a child’s recreation of a spacecraft. In the corner of the room, just in front a pleasing bookcase, houseplant and lamp, Rochdale trio Prangers set themselves up amid a tumble of tin foil and shiny card cutouts. Drummer Dan Watson is behind a traditional kit (albeit it foiled over), and Maryanne Royle and the mononymous Joe stand behind a table covered in writes, trigger pads and cassette manipulating equipment. A discarded gas canister to Royle’s left catches the eye, propped on a chair in front of a side table as if reclining after lunch.

There are pops of feedback as they plug in and a brief ‘thanks for having us’ from Royle as she loads in a tape. An eerie, echoey recording of an unknown sound begins to play, fragmented and looped around in on itself. Then, Joe starts hitting his sample pad in time, which triggers a sound halfway between a buzzsaw and a double bass. Before our ears, those sounds merge into one another, and the dissonance mutates into a lurching rhythm.

Watson starts hammering the drums to give it more impetus, and Royle, still manipulating the tape with her right hand, uses her left to deliver alternate hits of an additional drum behind her and the gas canister. A second or so after each time she strikes the latter, a hiss of air escapes and pierces the band’s tumultuous noise.

Later in their set they up the intensity, their music becoming a percussive stampede, the tin foil suddenly ablaze in a fire of flailing limbs. Elsewhere Royle incorporates live spoken word, much of which is inspired by her interest in taking interoception – the constant movement within the body that we are only sometimes conscious of – and making it external and alien. It’s music that sounds industrial in the truest sense of the word, built up from a tangle of metallic clanks and clangs, that sometimes recalls the jabbing sparseness of a drill beat, and that sometimes hypnotises like the more psychedelic realms of krautrock, but that ultimately sounds like nothing else at all.

Ahead of their next show (which takes place this coming weekend at Supernormal festival in Oxfordshire) we caught up with Prangers to find out more about how they arrived at that extraordinary sound, their use of unconventional percussion, the importance of their native Rochdale, their approach to interoception and more.

tQ: How did Prangers originally come to be?

Maryanne Royle: Joe and I were already a couple when we started Prangers as a duo project. It started quite organically, I would go on walks in the hills and moorland around Rochdale, where we are both from, and Joe asked that I collect sound recordings while I was out. He did the same while working in the stockroom at a bar. We used these along with some scraps of verses I had been writing to create the first tape.

Joe: Yeah, it was meant to be just a bit of fun chopping up the sounds from our hometown and workplaces, but we got really into it and found that using only these sounds added a really local and personal feel to the stuff we were making.

M: Exactly, a sense of place.

What specifically inspired you to start taking the sound recordings in the first place?

J: I’ve always been into recording stuff on my phone and Dictaphones, and Maryanne had a digital voice recorder that she’d being doing similar stuff with so we thought it would be good to make something just out of those sounds.

M: I had been given the voice recorder several years earlier that I thought I should use for something. So, I started collecting sounds I found interesting but with no real purpose.

At what point did the sound recordings become the foundation of a serious creative project?

J: I don’t really see it as a serious creative project, but we ended up spending more time on it since we’ve put this new live set together.

M: I suppose releasing the first tape would be a marker, but I don't really see it as a serious creative project either, I didn’t think anyone but us would listen to it. But I'm glad some people have.

Tell me more about that first tape?

J: We uploaded some of the stuff we were doing to a Bandcamp which I played to Paddy [Shine] from Gnod who I was working with at the time and he pushed us into finishing it up and put out the tape for us [via his Tesla Tapes label]. We do have a couple of other tunes on compilations online on Avon Terror Corps from Bristol and 6a6y6 who we share a practice space with in Manchester

I gather that Rochdale itself is very important to Prangers, can you expand on why a sense of place felt important when it comes to the band's sound?

J: We made a rule about only using recorded sounds from our immediate environment just as a way of starting the project, so Rochdale ended up being a big part of it. As its where we’re from it’s going to have a big influence on whatever we do anyway.

M: There are a massive amount of synthesised and recorded sounds that you can utilise using the internet; any instrument, any tone, any spatial quality. The same goes for staged recording. Exclusively using sounds that we have collected ourselves from real life was a great way for us to narrow down the options. The sound was defined by this rule and as a result reflects the landscape and time it was taken from.

. How did the live show develop? Particularly the use of unusual percussion?

J: After the release on Tesla Tapes and before the lockdown we played a few gigs as a two-piece, trying to recreate the sounds from the cassette using whatever audio equipment we could borrow or collect along with found percussion like gas canisters and scrap metal, experimenting with four track tapes, samplers, contact mics and delay units as well as building installations and having projections to add a visual element to the live performance.

M: A lot of the sounds that we had collected were metallic and harsh so it translated well to use gas canisters and pipes. We liked the idea of collecting sounds, objects and footage mostly from Rochdale to create the audio and visual elements. It also helped that it was free. The equipment we managed to gather was quite unusual, a lot of it analogue, which only added to the sound.

J: There is a song called ‘Automoton’ released on a 6a6y 6 compilation you can check out from this period. We then had a bit of a break because of the coronavirus stuff until we started being offered gigs again and decided with the percussive element it would be good to get a real drummer involved. So we got Dan Watson, a friend we share a practice studio space with so were used to jamming with. I met Dan working together while me and Maryanne were making the first tape and he is from Darwin, a Lancashire small town so I feel like he understands the vibe Prangers are trying to get across. He has also played in loads of punk, rock, metal and experimental projects so has brought a load of those energies and he is used to using unconventional percussion so has fitted in perfectly.

Tell me more about the spoken word elements in your music

M: I wrote them while thinking about the idea of interoception, the constant movement that happens within our bodies that we may or may not be aware of, and trying to imagine a hyper awareness of it or even being able to see it. I was also thinking about the body as a space; performing circus silks on the tendons and veins of an arm, living in the pupil of an eye; a bit like that sci-fi trope where the characters are shrunk down to enter a person’s body. The words on our first tape were written independently before the project started. Because the rest of the project is based around everyday experiences, I thought they fit in quite well.

Where did your interest in interoception begin?

M: It began through reading science fiction novels. I like the idea of taking something everyday, such as the inner workings of our bodies, and making it fantastical and alien. I use a direct quote from Ursula Le Guin in the tape. Other authors are Sue Burke, Sherri S. Tepper and Octavia E. Butler.

What are Prangers' immediate plans for the future?

J: Yeah we are working on getting something released over the next few months. Other than that we got a couple of gigs and festivals lined up over summer and we’re just working out the live stuff.

Prangers will perform as part of Supernormal festival, which takes place August 12-14 at Braziers Park in Oxfordshire. For information, the full line-up and tickets, click here