Celebrating Warp At 20 With Clark And Bibio In Conversation

Happy Birthday makers of musical weird-spoons Warp, says the Quietus as we publish a conversation discussing their love of the label

This Saturday Warp bring what has been a wonderful anniversary year packed with sumptuous box sets, compilations and events to a close with a grand finale at London’s Coronet theatre, where Warp artists including Battles, Broadcast, Plaid and Nightmare On Wax’s DJ E.A.S.E will bring things to a fitting climax.

Earlier this year, Warp artists Clark and Bibio sat down to interview each other about their love of the label, and what it means to be part of one of the most pioneering record releasing operations of recent decades. Here are the results of their encounter:

Bibio: So… Warp’s 20 this year. You’ve been on it since 2001 was it? With Clarence Park?

Clark: I dunno…

B: Yes it was, coz that’s when I discovered it! Would you say – especially back then, before signing to Warp – that you were a big Warp fan or was it just one amongst many?

C: No not at all, I was a massive Warp fan.

B: Can you remember what was the first Warp record you bought?

C: I think it was Black Dog. I just remember it standing out as being completely emotionally engaging, but not an obvious teen-angst way, I’d just never heard anything like it and it completely blew me away. At first it was more to do with Black Dog, and then I heard it was put out by Warp and I think they were still putting stuff out on cassette. But that didn’t seem unusual back then. It always stood out, as there was so much rave stuff you’d listen to and you could imagine bobbing about to it, but it [Black Dog] just had more depth and layers of feelings to it. You know all the Artificial Intelligence stuff was visually exciting as well, which at the time was really engaging.

Do you remember having a definitive experience or did Warp slowly creep into your life? You got into them by rejecting other stuff or you heard a record that was really personal?

B: It started for me…I grew up on really rocky stuff, I had this teenage attitude that you had to play an instrument to prove your talent. And then I became musically enlightened in a way when I discovered electronic music. I suppose it was because I let go of that patriotic idea and started listening to music without this checklist of what it had to achieve. The first thing I got into that really broke the mould was Portishead’s first album and Orbital. And that was like ‘Yeah, this is a new thing for me”. It was music that was more three-dimensional. And then a friend of mine played me Aphex Twin, he had the ‘On’ cd single, and it just totally blew me away. I think I nabbed his copy and never gave it him back. I didn’t necessarily think “Oh yeah it’s on Warp, great”, I just thought Aphex Twin was brilliant. I think I went out and bought an Aphex Twin album, the Richard D James album, which at the time was the strangest thing I’d ever heard. Now there’s so much music that’s been influenced by that that it’s almost become a genre. But at the time, growing up on rock music, hearing that album, it was like “What made you think of doing that with machines in 1996?” or whenever it was.

And then I think a friend mentioned Autechre and I checked that out – realized that that was on Warp – and then it was like “Ah there’s a bit of a pattern going on here!” When I moved to uni and met some more friends – Dan Howard being one of them, he was like the music forager – it seemed that everything he was finding was on Warp.

C: Does it feel weird to be signed to them now?

B: Very, yeah!

C: Does it feel weird to know Steve Beckett.

B: In some ways because it was a long process – I mean I was thirty [when I signed to Warp] and I started listening to Warp when I was nineteen. So it’s taken a long time…

C: – That’s mad because it was ten years ago when I’d signed, and then just before I signed it was the tenth anniversary of Warp…and now it just seems like yesterday.

B: Totally, yeah.

C: And there’s been so many new artists since then.

B: I think it’s only natural for people to cling onto a certain era when they were young and mistake it with being this golden era. Because when I’d meet guys older than me, and we’d talk about Warp, I’d be like “Yeah check this out” and play them the new Plaid album, play them the new Boards of Canada album. And they’d be like “Oh no, Warp was at it’s best in the early Nineties”. It’s an age thing, it’s like when you discover something new and it totally rocks your world. I think for me – and I’m glad that Warp’s progressed and isn’t just electronic music – for me it’s still late Nineties/early 2000, that’s my little golden era…

C: Yeah like with all those videos, like ‘Come To Daddy’

B: …that for me is when it became ultra inspiring, got me out

of this rut of playing the guitar for a long time and I used it in a very normal sense. I mean Steve Reich for me was somebody who really turned me around as a guitarist. But then it was like ‘I really like electronic music, I really like Steve Reich, I play the guitar – what’s this got in common?’ It goes back to the guitar cannon thing really…

C:… I sparked something off there then

B: …People hear an instrument and they associate it with a certain style of music. They hear a guitar and they think, oh folk, or rock, where you could be using it in the same way that an electronic musician uses a synth.

C: I think the time of separate instruments is over in a way, you know like the possibilities for layering and what you can turn a synth into. I think the guitar’s like a voice, if you take off the beginning and the end it’s just like a block tones.

B: Exactly. And also the electric guitar has been around for a long time and you can plug it into different effects which can totally change the sound. I think as the guitar is the most overused instrument in the world – maybe ‘overused’ is the wrong word – you know it’s not a bad thing that most people play guitar.

[both laugh]

But you know it’s the most common instrument in the world, it’s the most fashionable instrument, it’s the most phallic instrument… And you can understand why loads of people turn their nose up at that instrument, it’s like ‘Oh God, not another guitar’

C: I wonder if Warp would have thought of your stuff if it had been written in that climate, you know when they were quite electronic and purist? I think Steve’s always been into guitar stuff as well. I mean it’s hard in a way to be purely influenced by electronic music. I think that’s when I first started to want to do more vocal stuff and more melodic stuff, coz all my mates were exclusively into the most impenetrable, avant garde music. it destroyed the mystique of it. I studied it off my own back for about a year, researching techniques and stuff, but the people who I knew who were into it seemed in someways more dogmatic and conditioned then the pop culture they dismissed. It was just like “Yeah this’ll make people freak out at a party”. So in a way it felt more radical for me to move away from that and not just do something that was completely impenetrable for the sake of it. That felt like less of a cliché. If you’ve grown up with this music that pushes narrow boundaries, you get sick of it pretty quickly.

B: Well people push boundaries but they don’t necessarily break them, you just move the boundary somewhere else. I often think that there’s a school of thought of people who seek out weird music…

C: It’s also a conditioned thing to do that, it’s very much being part of culture to do that, mainstream culture accomadates and creates that… It’s like if you look at adverts and effects in films, it’s all about being the most technologically innovative, or not even that, just "new"… – this is going off point isn’t it?!?

George Clooney shower hell vs James Blunt session misery

C: [looks at watch] We’ve been talking for 30 minutes? Fuck… ok I’ve got two either/ors that are pretty quick.

B: Are they silly?

C: Very silly. Be warned. Either: have a shower with George Clooney –

B: I knew George Clooney would come into it at some point!

C: – Only one shower head, nothing sexual, but naked though…

B: …yeah

C: …just have a shower with him, you don’t have to talk either

B: …like you’ve just played rugby or something?

C: Not even that, could be a morning shower or just to freshen up in this kind of heat. Either that or massage Lars Ulrich’s head – he hasn’t washed his hair for a while – for one and a half hours and pay him compliments.

B: Ooh, that last bit effects things! [both laugh] I think the last one would be more humourous because I think you’d have more of a funny story to tell your mates.

C: You see I’d rather pick George Clooney. Because you’d regret Lars, you’d have regretted doing that.

B: It would probably anger me, yeah. But I think it would be funny because he’d be really demanding on how you’d wash his hair.

C: Oh no not wash it, just rub it.

B: Oh right…[laughs] Yeah I’d still go with the last one. Next one?

Sleep-deprived TOTP James Blunt hell vs sitar session

C: Either sleep deprived for two days, drink 5 shots of espresso, then singing with James Blunt on Top Of The Pops through a chorus pedal. Or signing a year contract to play sitar for him on a world music concept album.

[both laugh loudly]

It’s kind of short pain versus long pain, that’s a pretty fucking nasty one.

B: I think with the sleep deprivation one, you know that it would be over and done with. But then I have a feeling it could kill me? Whereas the sitar one, I could be in a nice studio…

C: But that would be a slow pain!

B: Yeah but I could go there every day…

C: But he’d boss you about and you wouldn’t get paid! You’d have to do one of these.

B: I think I’m a bit of a chicken, I’d probably go for the sitar one.

C: Really?

B: Yes. And regret it for a year.

C: If I had to make the choice for you, I think I’d choose the performing.

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