There are people who don’t want to hide their collection of electronic music hardware away in a pristine studio. There are people who, while plumbing a reserve of patience deeper than the Mariana Trench and going through countless iterations in their set-up, finally get each instrument to trigger in time and play in tune with all the other ones, making sounds they’re happy with in the process. There are people who then risk it all and take it outside. Out into the unkind and dangerous world. And make loads of fucking noise with it.
This photo is of my band TR-33N. It was taken by photographer Nadia Otshudi at the Music Day Festival 2014 in Shoreditch Park, London. I completely love that I’m whooping a rave war cry like some kind of madwoman and inadvertently pointing at a tower block. I’m wearing the finest t-shirt I own (thanks to the screen printing skills of ashes57) and I’ve had the bizarre cockney rhyming foresight to bring a packet of cheesey quavers along in case of a sudden attack of the munchies. At no live appearance have I ever suddenly wanted to eat; it makes no sense!
I’m lucky that our band grew out of the staunchly left-leaning, artistically imaginative and almost determinedly reckless UK sound system culture of the late Nineties and early Noughties. Many of those same energetic and dedicated people are still to be found on the party scene today, only now they’re putting on extraordinary events and festivals that operate within legitimate frameworks as well as outside them. And, if we’re very lucky, sometimes we get asked to come back and be a part of it. So I’d like to say: Thanks for having us.
Those who have experienced the sharp end of rave and squat scene logistics (’gaining access’ through broken windows, hard wiring into the mains by torchlight, lifting bass bins up five flights of stairs without making any noise) are not the kind to be put off by the extra faff it takes to facilitate a bit of hardware in the wild. The fact we need ages to set up, we don’t fit in the DJ booth, we need a proper sound check. The fact, in a nutshell, that we’re not DJs who can plug in a phono to mini-jack and be ready. For our part every time we take the live set out we pack up our entire studio including the rack it stands on, remembering to bring the little allen key that means when we set the rack up again the whole thing doesn’t fall straight down again onto our toes breaking about three and half grand’s worth of gear in the process, drive it a few hundred miles – did I mention get a babysitter for our two kids? – unload it all again, plug 50+ leads in, check every connection, check every instrument is working and is being triggered properly, get the rack into position, make sure we have got enough light and space to operate it all in, gaffer tape the set list to something, do a sound check, trouble-shoot the mix, play an hour and a half’s worth of completely live, inordinately loud and utterly banging techno and then do it all again in reverse to get it home again. All usually just for the cost of our travel. Frankly, considering the effort people have gone to for us all to have a dance back in the day, it’s a doddle: no-one is calling the police.
This photo was taken at the point in the set where finally everything was working as it was supposed to – like most other live acts, it’s usual for some vital bit of gear to immediately malfunction and for one or other of us to spend half the set fire fighting the problem in a blind panic while trying to act like it’s all fine. The sound was incredible. A massive slab of Virus hypersaw was tearing across the park. People were being drawn from all corners of it to see what was going on. People were hitting the dance floor. I was feeling really confident with the material and the machines. By this time there were no 8 year-old kids playing a cool new game of throwing fistfuls of sand and grit from the ground directly onto all the hardware, and no folks boom-bipping away on their djembes ever-so-slightly out of time with the beat, because I’d already told them all to seriously just fuck off now.
This photo shows the raw and happy face of hardware in the wild. I can’t tell you how good it feels.