There really was only one person to kick off the interviews of 2012 with and that is Mr Neil Landstrumm. The word legend is thrown around a lot these days, I’m guilty of it myself but this term most defnitely applies to Neil Landstrumm.
From the very first time he started releasing music, the Scottish producer has been pushing boundaries and crossing genres to create some of the most interesting and banging electronic music around. He’s one of the few producers who can seamlessly go from releasing stuff on a techno label such as Tresor to a label like Planet Mu, all the while retaining a certain sound that sets him apart from his contemporaries. He’s responsible for some of the best Wonky techno releases out there and with more releases in the pipeline for 2012, there’s no sign of him slowing up. The guy is one of my all time hero’s and has released some of my favourite music ever so I was thrilled to do an interview him and pick his brain.
How and when did you start off making electronic music?
Around about 1991 I bought my first Boss drum machine and started programming it by copying things like “Energy Flash” and LFO. That gave me a feel for what was involved and soon after I began to hunt down a TB-303 and Tr-606 to make some acid trax. I was already DJ-ing and buying vinyl by then so it seemed the natural progression . By the first time I heard my 303 and 606 over a big soundsystem at an under 16’s rave I was playing at, my mind was made up. It was production I really wanted to do. DJ-ing was limiting and I was on the way to sourcing other bits of hardware as and when money was available. Part of the fun then was finding the gear and building a studio up from nothing. I was lucky to experience the rave explosion after the acid house years and also attended Pure and Wave in Edinburgh which was a superb education in quality electronic music at the time
Your sound is hard to fit into one category. While some would say Wonky Techno others would say Dubstep. Which genre would you feel more a part of or does it even matter?
Personally I don’t think it really matters. It still all sounds the same to me as it did then. I’ve always wanted to sound unique and different to everyone else which in some ways has been a real hinderance to any big success but it has given me great longevity in the scene which is better overall really. The Wonky adjective has been attached to music both in the late 90’s and in the late 00’s….I definitely wouldn’t consider my music dubstep although there is heavy bass elements and it was an influence in the mid 00’s certainly. I have always just thought of it all as “techno” really. I’ve always liked the early 90’s rave and bleep period in electronic music and that has stuck with me over the years. Same goes for the Chicago shuffle and funk. I like Detroit but it was always other cities music that inspired me like New York and loads of Dutch techno and acid. The majority of the names given to electronic music now are just plain nonsense,. Fickle fashion and emperor’s new clothes and all that…..I’m just proud to be part of the British electronic sound and innovations over the years.
How did you find living in New York? Did it have a major influence on your sound compared to Edinburgh?
Yeah great.. It was a good education in life being there and it enabled me to do some other art and music projects. I came back to Edinburgh after 5 years in New York and its just a place I find relaxed and comfortable to be. I think New York influenced my music more in a mood rather than anything else. I did dig for loads of old hip hop and dancehall / dub music which eventually filtered through in the Planet Mu records.
How does your live set up work?
I’ve developed and adapted it over the years to where it is today. Its still a bit of an effort to drag it around but the hardware sound kicks it out over a big rig.. I use Elektron equipment from Sweden , namely the Monomachine and Machinedrum. The Machinedrum is the master midi clock and the Korg ESX-1 sampler is the next in the chain. After that comes the Monomachine for synth lines and basslines then the Motu Ulralite and Powerbook 12″ running Ableton is stuck on the end. I use Ableton just for throwing in breakbeats, vocals, samples and bits of old tracks etc.
The Korg sampler is where I stuck all the analogue samples and sounds from my Jupiters and Pro One etc. This type of hardware setup keeps the live set quite flexible as each box is independent and can keep running if there is a problem with the mac. Plus you can load different disks and sets on the fly whilst its all running.
I’d really like to get rid of the Mac to be honest and use an Octatrack but we’ll see once they start becoming available second hand.. I’ve seen it all on the road with my equipment, live wires coming loose on stage and blowing up 909’s, baggage trucks running over my suitcase, tables falling over mid set, cables coming loose and my pet hate , the power going off mid set leaving you on stage looking like a fool or worse wiping memories on the gear…arghh.
You’ve released stuff on Planet Mu. How did this deal come about?
Just as simply as sending Mike Paradinas a demo CD and him liking it. If he’s into something he’s really into it and gives you decent artistic reign.
You also run your own Scandanavia Records. Any upcoming releases afoot?
Well I officially stopped releasing Scandinavia records directly around about 2006 but every Landstrumm release always has the Scandinavia logo on them as its my signature. So in my head everything I do is a Scandinavia release.
Have you any more plans to release stuff as The Sugar Experiment Station?
Not at the moment.
Do you still do much design work? Which would you consider as your main ‘job’ or do they go hand in hand?
The design side of the business has slowed right down due to the economic conditions mainly as the clients we had were financial companies in Edinburgh. Music and design have pretty much always been side by side for me so I enjoy both. I’ve got a decent amount of gigs up until April at the moment including a tour of Japan so Im lucky in that respect. I am actually thinking of going back to University to re-train in renewable energy so I have something to do once I finally hang up my 808.
You recently played in Berlin with a big Irish line up. How was that?
It was a superb night. Great venue . Loved it. Best thing I’ve done in Berlin for years. It was a club called Subland run by Dean Rodell and the night “Skank” was run by a couple Irish lads. Rory St John and Simon Stasis….. Sunil played and Eomac from Lakker. Co-incidentally Lakker was the last release on KilleKill records where my new EP is coming out.
What does the future hold? Any releases in the pipeline?
Yes I’ve just had a slew of releases out and there’s a new 12″ on Berlins’ Killekill label for January called “Night Train E.P.
The 12″s just out are Neil Landstrumm- Munich 72 E.P. on Snork a German label, Doubleheart (co-produced with J D Twitch) – Salsa Apocalypso on Boddika’s NonPlus label and Neil Landstrumm- Explicit Six E.P. on Slidebar also from Germany.
Im really pleased with all the above releases as they are recorded on new recording gear bought with the royalties of the Planet Mu LP’s. Yes I blew it all on a Midas Mixer, Crane Song STC-1 and Thermionic Culture Rooster Vavle EQ Pre Amp.!
Other than that I made a few techno classics reinterpretations recently which Boddika and others are playing out….Beltrams_ E_Flash..Blake Baxters_Sexuality and Random XS.
Give your Body… Just waiting to see what I do with those ones at the moment… Also there will be more in 2012 from the Doubleheart project with J D Twitch.
Big Up to Neil Landstrumm for the interview and watch this space for upcoming news and reviews about his stuff 🙂