After the unfortunately predictable problems that come with a Skype call, a generous soul in the Four Four offices offered their phone to be the connecting link between Dublin and Manchester. A chirpy Dublin morning lights up the white walls of the room that will play host to the voices of the Manny’s imperial techno duo; AnD, comprised of Mancunian Andrew and Greek native Dimitri. Much like the collection of journalists on the Dublin end the pair of producers are in work early, possibly in possession of the same bags under their eyes as the voice tasked with questioning them that fateful day, except their work is most definitely more lively than that accompanying the slow news day in question.
It’s no secret that AnD have carved out their own frightful cavern in what can be at the best of times the already scary landscape of techno emanating from the UK and they make no qualms about it, having adopted the ‘Go Hard or Go Home’ motto as their own over their past 8 years in operation. With the release of their latest EP on their self-titled label, they have only strengthened that notion and added to a seemingly endless catalog of some of the toughest techno in existence.
After the Skype issues are dealt with and a steady phone line is held down, the pair’s personalities begin to burst through the (borrowed) phone’s speaker and it’s evidently clear where their destructive techno sound comes from. Andrew outlines their surroundings within the studio, while Dimitri quickly interjects that they’ve been spending countless hours there of late. Andrew’s more relaxed tone is contrasted perfectly by an almost frantic Dimitri, who points out that he’s actually connecting equipment while answering questions in anticipation of the day’s studio session. With so much focus on the studio it seemed like a good place to kick off the day’s interrogatory proceedings:
You seem to be dedicating a lot of time to the studio, whereas a lot of other people would be producing on the go on their laptops in today’s electronic music landscape.
Andrew: “For us, probably, the last 12 or 13 years that we’ve been making music we always try and come here, just to make something.”
Dimitri: “It’s the only way forward, otherwise you’re fucked. After five years if you do the same thing and are relaxed and laid back, if you think your music is badass and all this bullshit then you’ll lose the plot”.
With such a particular sound, how do you approach it in different ways given that it’s so in your face?
D: “Every time we try a different set up in the studio. The way that we set up the actual material can give us the idea of the day.”
A: “Certain things and certain machines will lead us towards a certain aesthetic which we will then try and make different in the ways we process it and with racks and whatever else.
“It’s about experimenting for us more than anything else. We enjoy making sounds and seeing how different things react with other things and how different machines speak to other ones. Sometimes two different machines plugged together react differently to two other different machines plugged together. Sometimes there’s macro information within the machines and it starts transporting the midi information from one synthesizer to another or a drum machine and then it’s basically controlling the other machine without you touching it. It makes all this random sort of stuff that you can’t come up with otherwise!
“You can get so lost and keep going back and changing it. If you set up and start recording tracks straight away like you’re performing live, weird things happen that you can’t programme anyway.”
Do you ever find yourselves making more cinematic music rather than strictly techno given the time spent fiddling around in the studio?
D: “We’re getting more and more involved with sound design for movies, TV and radio to games and anything else. We’re going in deeper every single day.”
A: “You can write music for every different scenario. A lot of the time it depends on the sort of mood you’re in on the day as well, it can reflect how you may approach something or what comes out as the end result.”
How did the collaboration with an MC come about? It was quite unusual to see one of the most straight laced techno duos in the game team up with a vocalist for a more grime-inspired project.
A: “The two of us are big into hip hop since we’ve been about fourteen. There’s a lot of stuff around at the minute that’s sort of interesting but there’s not a lot of stuff that stands out a lot. We decided to make some hip hop that we’d like to hear.”
D: “That’s exactly it. It’s the same as sound design, one day you can record an orchestra, a violin or a drum for these exact sound design purposes. The next day you can come and record a techno record in an hour and go home, it all depends on how you’re feeling.”
How much has Manchester influenced that creative aspect? It’s well known worldwide that the city is one of the most influential in terms of rave, but it holds its own in multiple different categories, including rap in recent years.
D: “It’s good man, it has its own vibe. It’s laid back but it’s also really rough and ready. People from here love the place and they’re proud that they’re from here.”
A: “Manchester doesn’t necessarily shape the sound that we make but the attitude of the people here is really nice because you go to music studios and there’s people that make everything from dub and reggae, to indie and rock, to electronic music, to hip and grime and so on. Everybody respects one and other for what they do even if they mightn’t like it that much so it’s quite a close knit scene here really and everyone supports each other even if they’re not 100% into that sound they’ll still go and try it out.”
In more internationally renowned cities at times it feels as though international talent gets more of a look in than the locals, is that also the case there?
A: “Not so much, there is a strong scene here and opportunities for residents to play in the clubs here because people support the scene here. There is no real scene for techno here so people make their own. It’s the same with Dublin, Glasgow and Belfast it’s that like Northern UK or Irish vibe; people have to put the shit on for people to go to it and that makes other people start up their own nights.
“Once these nights start they also invite the residents from other nights to come along and play and vice versa and everybody works together. It’s really small so everyone sees each other at one point or another so it’s better to work together than against one another.”
One thing that always comes up in conversation whenever the topic of tech riders comes up in (what’re usually rather mauve) discussions is the number of CDJs you use when you play together. Why exactly do you elect to use so many?
D: “We mix all the time, that’s why. We always have something on, well maybe 80% of the time, so there’s always around 6 to 8 CDJs playing at one time.”
A: “We always played on vinyl up until two years ago. We started to play bigger events with vinyl and the needles were always jumping off the records and it would always make us look a bit stupid. We were having technical problems because we were playing vinyl while everyone else was rocking it out playing on CDJs on massive stages with massive soundsystems.
“At that point, we basically said ‘Fuck carrying records around for it to basically sound like shit’. We treat it as if we both have Traktor but really we both have a mixer each and we’re both in control of what we’re doing. When we’re both mixing all the time it’s a lot more interesting than a normal back to back.”
D: “You don’t have to wait at all to use the mixer. If you have your own set up you’re just able to do your own thing the whole time.”
A: “Sometimes it’s a bit cheeky because while the Dimitri is playing I can just bang something over the top while he doesn’t even realise. Then he’ll look at me and I’ll start cutting it and bringing it out and back in [laughs]. It’s more like playing live because it allows the two of us to really do what we want the whole time without having to wait because we did that for a long time when we were playing records. We always wanted three or four turntables when we were doing records but we could never that in every club we played in.”
“The minimum in most clubs now is three CDJs, sometimes even four. Most clubs have about 12 to 16 CDJs but they’ve only got about three turntables and two that’re in service. It has been useful in terms of us heightening our DJ performance, even if it pains us not being able to play records anymore, it actually allows us to do a lot more than we were ever able to do.”
D: “It’s like the live shows really. Every live show we do is completely different for the same reason as our DJ sets. We’ve been doing this for give or take 8 years and every live show is completely different. It’s improvised on the spot. To keep things exciting and fresh for us, not for anyone else. If people like it, happy days!”
You’ve established your own, self-titled label and are now on the third release, with the lovely touch of a red vinyl. How are you finding the whole process and what exactly is the main role or function of it in the grand scheme of AnD?
A: “It’s something that we originally started because we wanted to represent ourselves and release the music we wanted to as we did it. We did the first two and then we had a few years where we decided not to do it because we were releasing a lot of records and remixes and albums on different labels.
“We just decided it was about time for us to bring the label back with a nice collection of tracks that we were happy with.”
D: “We can release them whenever we want and however we want. It’s DIY.”
Words: Cóilí Collins
You can listen to their guest mix here: