This article was originally published in September 2011
Global Communication, the duo of Mark Pritchard and Tom Middleton, is back.
Since meeting in Somerset in the ’91, Middleton and Pritchard have collaborated on numerous projects in addition to Global Communication: among them the Detroit-influenced techno partnership Reload & E:621, Secret Ingredients, a tribute to the house and garage sounds of Chicago and New York, and the breakbeat-oriented Jedi Knights (whose album New School Science has been cited as an influence by Daft Punk, The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers). This is before we take into account their myriad solo guises, including Cosmos, Link and Chameleon; Pritchard in particular has been busy of late, releasing records on Hyperdub and Warp as Harmonic 313 and Africa Hitech (with Steve Spacek).
However, for all Middleton and Pritchard’s myriad achievements alone and together, their best-known and best-loved creation remains Global Communication. Two albums from the cornerstone of the GC legacy: the ambient masterpiece 76:14, an attemption to render “pure emotion in sound”, and Blood Music: Pentamerous Metamorphosis, a dazzling, otherworldly reinterpretation of an album by shoegazers Chapterhouse that outshone its source material.
Middleton was classically trained and grew up in Cornwall, where he learned the production ropes from Richard D. James, going on to co-produce a track (as Schizophrenia) on the Aphex Twin EP Analogue Bubblebath. When he moved up to Taunton in Somerset to study, he encountered local DJ Pritchard, commencing a creative association that has lasted 20 years and resulted in some of the finest post-techno electronic music ever made.
After a lengthy hiatus, this year has seen the pair re-activate Global Communication, DJing together and performing a series of special live sets based around 76:14. They’re planning a series of vinyl releases for late 2011, including remixes of 76:14 tracks and an eagerly anticipated vinyl edition of Pentamerous Metamorphosis. This Saturday, 10 September, We Fear Silence at Cable in London plays host to Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard present Global Communication – for this one night only, the pair will play not only as GC but as Reload, Jedi Knights, Link, E621, Secret Ingredients and Chameleon, all within a continuous 6-hour live/DJ set that promises “old favourites deconstructed, reconstructed and redefined for today’s dancefloor”. You don’t want this miss this one, to be quite honest, so for more information and tickets click here.
If you’re unfamiliar with the sound of Pritchard and Middleton, or if your ears needs refreshing, we urge you to download Global Communication’s FACT mix, which draws exclusively from their own catalogue of classics and puts the sound GC and 76:14 in the wider context of their work together.
FACT’s Donna Rix caught up with Middleton via email, and Pritchard via phone, to talk about the origins of Global Communication, and the pleasures and pitfalls of reprising such a seminal project.
Tell us about how you first met and started working together. What were your shared interests, what was your situation at the time?
Tom Middleton: “I started DJing and collecting vinyl in Cornwall, spinning alongside the likes of Richard (Aphex) and the Rephlex family. Richard showed me how he produced his music, and helped me produce my first track as Schizophrenia. I moved to Taunton to study Graphic Design, and wanted to check out the local music scene. Mark was DJing at a local club around the time of his Shaft project.
“His selecting was impeccable, all the same music I was into: Chicago acid house, New York garage, Detroit techno, Warp, R&S, Eevolute, Djaxx, GPR, a bit of rave and jungle techno thrown in. I introduced myself at the end of the night, and the conversation continued back at my place. I played him tapes of Richard’s unreleased tracks and he was well into the sound. The friendship just grew from there really.
“I went to visit Mark at his home studio and he played me the first Reload tracks. The Evolution label was born out of the desire to want to produce and release our own music inspired by our shared love of Derrick May, Carl Craig, Kevin Saunderson, Todd Terry…among many others. Initially I added musical ideas, textures, samples and new directions to Mark’s Reload project, assuming the guise of E621 – the flavor enhancer. On my Birthday in ’92 we started producing the first Global Communication track ‘Incidental Harmony’; the intention was to explore pure emotions in sound.”
“The intention was to explore pure emotions in sound.” - Tom Middleton
Mark Pritchard: “Yeah, it must’ve been around 1990… I lived in Yeovil in Somerset, and was DJing in the surrounding area; me and some mates from school started putting parties on in Taunton. Tom moved up from Cornwall to study at Taunton College, which had a really good reputation for Graphic Design at that time, and I guess he thought maybe there’d be a bit more going on up there. He got to Taunton and there was nothing going on [laughs]. He saw there was this night going on and he turned up, was obviousluy happy to hear some music he could relate to, Detroit techno, Chicago house, New York house, mixed in with the seeds of UK rave music, so we’d be playing rave, Meat Beat Manifesto and stuff like that, and the seeds of what became drum ‘n bass and jungle, some hip-hop. Which is what Tom was into anyway.
“He came and introduced himself to me me, told me he did some stuff with this guy called The Aphex Twin, who no one had heard about at that point, and talked about talked about the scene down in Cornwall. We hit it off, and started hanging out, he played me loads of Aphex’s stuff off cassette and I was like fucking hell – what’s this?! Fucking nuts! Tom born on the same day as Aphex and they were part of that scene with the Rephlex crew, people like Grant Richard, Manuel who now does artwork for Hyperdub, this little crew who played in Truro and around there.
“We started writing some music together – at that time I wanted to set up my own label, to put out techno-type stuff really, and we set up the Evolution label around ’91. That’s when we started writing those early releases; I ‘d already done the first Reload and then when Tom joined in it became Reload & E:61, and then Global Communication.”
“Tom played me loads of Aphex’s stuff off cassette and I was like fucking hell– what’s this?!” - Mark Pritchard
You recently put together a Back In The Box mix that leans heavily on Detroit-influenced techno from the early-mid 90s. Was it a conscious decision to focus on the kind of music you were listening to when Global Communication first formed?
MP: “We thought about doing one that represented some contemporary house, more of the stuff that’s coming from the UK at the moment. In the end we decided to focus on that initial love in our hearts: Detroit techno had a massive influence, and as we started going through tracks, it seemed to make sense to concentrate on that music and that period for the mix. We were really inspired by the Detroit music but also Europe’s answer to that, people like Balil, The Black Dog and so on, and the ‘electronica’ (much as we hate that word) scene that came out of it. Most of these people will have been into Detroit techno, Chicago house and hip-hop and that’s what inspired us too.
“So it made sense to pick tracks from that time – most of them from UK and also Holland, which was big into techno in the early days, with labels like Djax-Up-Beats, etc. We wanted to have a few tracks that were a bit less known - lot of people won’t have heard any of the stuff – but also some classics for the people who know. Me and Tom actually came up with the tracklist mainly on YouTube, firing clips back and forth. Remember this one? Haven’t heard this one! The tracks we ended up choosing are really important to us, and really important to the scene.”