Thursday, April 03, 2008

Drexciya Groovesmag interview

Another of the rare Drexciya interviews has found its way to me. Big thanks to June for locating and scanning it. This is the 9th full length James Stinson interview I have archived here to date and to my knowledge there were only ever 10. That of course leaves us with just one more left to locate! This would be the one from 1994 which was done by Tim Barr. It was probably only available in a print magazine, as was the Groovesmag one, so if you ever come across it let me know and we'll figure out how to get it up here. I have already included some quotes from the 1994 interview in 'Drexciya Speaks', the article which rounds up all of the James Stinson quotes under different headings, but they were gleamed from the later 1997 Tim Barr interview where he referenced them. I will slot these new quotes into 'Drexciya Speaks' asap as well. Check it out at link below.
I must say that this interview is particularly interesting and revealing. Sure to become another important piece of the Drexciyan puzzle. Enjoy.
Unleashing Storms Unto The World
James Stinson surfaces from Drexciya's underwater lair for a rare interview.
from Groovesmag #8 2001
by Nick Phillips
In this electronica era, where genres mutate and multiply faster than you can say drill’n’bass ghettotech, Drexciya plays like singular transmissions from a parallel universe. It is an essential otherness coded into the very genetics of its music, a slowly percolating wash of sound that systematically subverts electro’s 808-driven pulse by driving its icy, clipped rhythms deep into liquid layers of low frequencies. And, more obviously, this otherness is dictated by Drexciya’s stubborn and insistent refusal to play any of the minutiae of the publicity game, instead shunning interviews, avoiding press, and shrouding its personal identities in veils of mystery that have driven the electro crowd into gossip overload.
Until now, that is. Drexciya’s newest release, Harnessed the Storm on Tresor, with its epic ebb and flow of delicately warped electro, finds the enigmatic Detroit duo letting a little outside light into the studio – even consenting to a phone interview, although the surprisingly congenial Drexciya spokesperson with whom I finally caught up admits no change of heart. "We never were hostile (to the music press), though my aggressive nature probably made it seem otherwise,” says James Stinson via telephone. “Before, we decided that for our purposes we didn’t have time to do interviews, because we were in R.E.S.T. mode – Research, Experimentation, Science, Technology. We didn’t listen to the work of our peers, listen to techno radio programs or do interviews. Because it would upset the balance of our R.E.S.T. mode and upset the balance of our work. Now the time just seems right.”
Of course, Stinson’s being a little disingenuous: This is the same duo that blocked interviewers’ inquires for a full eight years. Drexciya’s current assumption of the spotlight is especially perplexing once you consider the announcement that filtered through electronic music circles back in 1997, hot on the heels of its classic double album The Quest, that Drexciya was quitting music altogether – a promise that was thankfully broken with 1999’s Neptune’s Lair. So what spurred Drexciya back into the studio for their most productive years to date? “Back in the day, things were really limited,” he says, “You had minimal techno, hard techno, house, and that was it. What energised us to return was that techno went supernova, creating many new electronic music formats. Now, hell, there are so many different music groups, so many categories, so many styles. You’re always hearing something new, like somebody off doing something extremely abstract and out there. I may not get into their style, but that’s the evolution of electronic music, and that’s what’s important – people coming from the beginning and cutting their own path from it.”
In fact, one of the most surprising aspects of Harnessed the Storm is how contemporary it feels – until you realise Drexciya hasn’t changed, it’s just that the rest of the world finally caught the electro bug Drexciya has been feeding off for close to a decade. Refreshingly, Drexciya isn’t defensive about artists like Peaches or Adult., who draw from a sonic blueprint Drexciya helped to forge. On the contrary, Stinson says, “I feel overjoyed about these people, because that was one of the many goals that was set from day one, to influence others and bring some excitement into electronic music. That’s my duty in music. We were building from Juan (Atkins) and Kevin (Saunderson), and the Underground Resistance, so we’re giving our contribution, and we want people to take from that and do their own thing with it.”
Talking about Drexciya’s inception, Stinson sounds like he’s recalling a religious conversion. “I first received this thing called electronic music back when I was a little kid, when I heard Cybotron, the work of Juan Atkins, and a lot of the early Detroit people played on the radio, and it blew my mind.” He says. “This was back in the funk era, when you had just funk and R&B on the radio, a little bit of disco maybe, and that was it. Then I heard techno, I heard bass music. I heard electro, and the music just grabbed me and dug deep inside like a parasite.”
From this bite-sized introduction developed a full-on obsession: At times Stinson sounds more like a rigorously committed student than an electronic musician. “Yeah, discipline was a big thing for us,” he says. “We didn’t want to just get some equipment so we can release some records and then we can have this jet-setting, party lifestyle. When we sat down to do Drexciya, we worked out our principles by putting together extensive protocols for how we were going to operate, like the idea of R.E.S.T. We weren’t in it to sound like the new hippest thing; we didn’t listen to the newest hit record and say, ‘How can we sound like that, how can we get their sound?’ We loved electronic music, and we wanted to contribute to it to have a lasting influence.”
Some critics have mistaken Drexciya’s unswerving discipline for an unchanging sound, but Stinson shrugs off such criticism. “We stick to our style, cause that’s our style,” he says. “A while back, people said we sounded old, but we do what we do: We use 808s cause we love the sound of 808s! Of course, the earth turns, and you gotta update programs, like you update your AOL browser or whatever. You have to update your theories and stay current. But I’m not in the process of just making records; I’m in the process of developing my style.”
And Drexciya’s particular style was forged in the early electronic scene, which (out of necessity) heavily favoured live recording and knob working. Stinson professes a disinterest in the computing advances of recent years. “There’s nothing wrong with computers, but it’s just not our style,” he says. “For me, playing live is the key: That’s how the energy becomes transformed into something unique, and the music becomes part of you. When you’re doing it live, it’s all about the rhythm pattern you’re on, evolving to the energy you’re creating on that moment. Every time you switch something, every time you twist a knob, you can make something on the spot – it could be something glitchy or whatever, but it’s part of the feeling of the moment, and it’s something you can’t reproduce.”
This emphasis on following the moment informs all aspects of Drexciya – even apparently, the overwhelmingly complex mythology that underlies its releases, which pits Drexciyans, "the water breathing, aquatically mutated desendants" of "pregnant America-bound slaves" discarded on cross-Atlantic voyages "by the thousands during labour for being sick and disruptive cargo," against the dreaded Audiovidual Programmers. "Man, that was spontaneous!" Stinson says, laughing. "It was back in '88, and we'd just been fooling around with music for a few years. One day, I woke up and it just came to me! I rolled straight out of bed and it all just started flowing. I didn't have the name at first, but the stories started coming naturally, and one day the name 'Drexciya' came to me, it just felt right when I pronounced it. Since then, we've done some heavy meditations on it, and the story has just evolved. But the music always comes first - the concepts always follow the music. We listen to the tracks and decide how they correspond to these principles and to these stories, and then we build the album around it. If a track doesn't fit in the flow, we'll just put it aside. We're perfectionists, and we control the output of our music. If it's not working, we don't force it: We just wait until you're clicking on all four cylinders, and the energy is strong and clear, and that's when music comes out fast and good."
Of course, Drexciya isn't about to give up all it's secrets, and Stinson turns shadowy when I ask him about what principles are driving Drexciya now, admitting cagily that, "There are some principles we have that we can't share with the world." When pressed, Stinson reveals a little of what Drexciya has in store. "At the moment we're working on unleashing the seven storms onto the world, which are seven albums that Drexciya is involved with that we're releasing into the world under a whole host of names, from a whole host of countries," he says "It started with the first storm, which was the new Drexciya release. Then the second storm was Transllusion, which came out of Germany, then you had The Other People Place LP coming out of England. And now we've got four more storms in the works, coming from places like Portugal. They're just in a holding pattern, just waiting to be unleashed."
Check out latest online issue of Groovesmag here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good interview, surprised by Stinson even mentioning Portugal, the place where I live.

6:03 PM  
Blogger lenore said...

it's always interesting and powerful reading drexciya's thoughts. tnx alot for posting it!

7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this site - only found it recently but so good to see someone keeping the legacy of a true pioneer ,James Stinson, alive and well. Thank You

8:19 PM  
Blogger  said...

You don't want moi's liver, do you?

6:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cherenkov radiation arrived
- and it's VERY good

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good interview. The new Der Zyklus is awesome btw.

7:51 PM  
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