What is IDM? Meet Valance Drakes : London’s Glitch Pioneer
“Mate, where do you go to listen to IDM these days? Is it still a thing?” Asked a friend of mine. We were outside of a nightclub in the small town of Bath, playing the most generic drum and bass records on the dance floor through a system that sounded like the speakers of an old Sony Ericsson mobile. It was awful. I came outside to rest my ears, and escape the catastrophe of Bristolians that flocked here to listen to - what they thought – was a relatively underground, “rebellious” and industrial style of music.
IDM, an abbreviation of “Intelligent Dance Music”, “It Doesn’t Matter”, or… “Isosceles Dodecahedron Maths” (as sarcastically labelled by a friend of mine), is a genre of music most commonly demonstrated through the works of Aphex Twin and the array of artists signed to Warp Records. Warp were originally based in Sheffield, and it’s no surprise that Yorkshire’s industrial environment, bitter cold air and endless cups of tea then lead founders Steve Beckett and Rob Mitchell to set up the most morally-obscure, yet incredibly influential electronic music label. Autechre? Flying Lotus? Squarepusher? List can go on. But these guys are indeed pioneers of today’s forward thinking electronic dance music.
“Basically, all of the artists on Warp need therapy”. Steve Beckett
After Warp released their first “Artificial Intelligence” compilation in 1992, they proceeded on with the development from Techno oriented music, to releases that were more obscure and industrial, sonically to speak. The artistic collaboration Autechre, are a duo on warp that practiced this particular sound, releasing records that aesthetically fit perfectly to their name. Below, is a screenshot of an Autechre track with their software digital performer. It’s yet another one of their complex compositions, and would’ve quite honestly given Beethoven a seizure.
Remember, this is music that was practiced heavily throughout the 90’s to the early noughties, so software and technology weren’t as accessible enough for them to produce everything simply in their bedroom, with something as basic as a laptop. Tom Jenkinson, better known as Squarepusher, is an artist that experiments heavily with arrangement, using an 8 track and tape recorder to layer his bass guitar to drum machine sequences, early computer programs and synth patches. He’s been a keen user of PD and the early version of NI Reaktor, two primitive programming environments of which enable him to practise DSP (Digital signal processing) in his work.
Squarepusher – Do You Know Squarepusher [Warp Records]
I interviewed Valance Drakes, a UK based producer of Detroit underground – a record label and artistic platform that ties Warps influential glitch aesthetics, techno and beats to their catalogue of music and sound design. As reserved and quiet as the producer comes across, Valance has been previously been labelled as “London’s glitch pioneer”, and is a well respected producer within the IDM scene, from England to as far as Japan.
Louis: Thank you for taking the time out to answer a few questions man.
Valance : Not a problem.
So I know you’ve had a very strong discography spanning over many years. How long have you been producing music for? What essentially got you into it?
Valance : ‘97, that was a savage year for me, a friend of mine played Delarosa & Asora (Prefuse 73) Sleep Method Suite, I never heard this style of Ambient or Hip Hop before and was hooked. His release in ‘99 “Crush The Sight Seers” blew me away.
There seems to be a big conflict between producers that use hardware and software these days. What’s in your setup? And how do you go about producing your records?
Valance : It doesn’t matter what you use it’s how you use it, my setup has always been a laptop and FL Studio, and even though it has its limits I gave meaning within my limitations. Creativity is sometimes a difficult situation by challenging yourself. Put some sounds together and wait for the outcome if you vibe to it then continue. If not, save, because you never know it might come handy for later on.
The only conflict that I know is creativity that comes from a conflict of ideas.
I hear a great Hip Hop and Breakbeat influence in some of your music. Have you always been keen for IDM and glitch orientated music? What are your roots, musically?
Valance : Hip Hop, but with its references such as Glitch, Ambient, Experimental (etc).
Are you keen with the abbreviation “IDM”? Steve Beckett, the founder of Warp Records seems to not like to associate with the term. What’s your take on this?
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion if the choices are before them. Music is music , downtempo, fast pace or out of this world. If it’s good, then vibe to it.
Do you have any producers, or labels you aspire to?
Valance : Yu Mitashita, Hiroto Kudo, Ametsub, Geskia, Kiyo, Notuv, Flady, and a bunch of savage producers from Japan.
I understand you used to release under the alias Muss_ck? What was the motive behind your name change?
Valance : Two people: Giovanni Marks: He wanted me to use my real name for the release of Tales From A Game Boi (RIP David del Monaco for doing the artwork) and Jimmy Penguin for when I released my first ever vinyl record with him.
Most people think Valance Drakes is not my real name and that it’s made up, classic people ha.
I loved your last project “Struggle Experienced Internally”. It very seemed to be a concept album, explored with crazy drum sequences, glitches and ambient melodies. What did the record personally mean to you?
Valance : I made a lot of beats filled with anger when my old man passed away from cancer back in 2012 and this album were some of those tracks. During that same year, Geskia from Japan released an album entitled “Muon”, and that album meant a lot to me as it was a healer and eventually became fond on the sound and that’s the path I took. I owe the people of Japan. The likes of Yu Miyashita that’s my brother right there.
Following on from that record, what have you been up to recently?
Valance : I released a vinyl on my own entitled “Promise is a Comfort to a Fool” for the 10th Annual Community Skratch Games which took place in Galway, Ireland at Easter and sold out which I was surprised about. UK BMX Flatland Rider Jason Forde been using some of my tunes for promos for his event Ground Control, which I wish him all the best.
I understand that record was released with Detroit Underground? How did you get into contact with them?
Valance : Annie Hall via Soundcloud, she forward my stuff to Kero. Those guys helped me a lot putting together the EP (A Fatherless Child) which came out on Vinyl.
You also mentioned Richard Devine of Warp Records hit you up for a remix a while back? How did that come about?
Valance : The legend himself posted two projects one that I did with Bedroom Reasearch and the other with Schematic. I got an email by the Detund (Detroit Underground) label boss Kero saying he wanted me to remix for him, and honestly I thought Kero was chatting shit, and now I’m a shadow man of his crew ha ha.
I want to ask where do you think IDM stands in today’s electronic music scene? Japan always seemed to quietly be all too familiar with the genre since it started. I’m also hearing the term “IDM 2.0″ by the way? What is that exactly?
Valance : I’ve not a clue what IDM 2.0 stands for, you’re asking the wrong guy.
Labels such as PC Music and Brainfeeder are still exploring IDM through styles of modern pop music and Jazz. Do you think musicians and labels are still exploring the genre as it was in the 90’s?
Valance : Always, and there’s no harm in it as long as they remain true to themselves. Honour their visions and respect their influences by paying homage.