“I don’t care where you’re from or what your passport says”: Moiré on Gel, nostalgia and making music in bed
London’s Moiré isn’t interested in geographical borders or notions of nationhood.
Ask him where he’s from and he bristles; he’s even unwilling to disclose his full name. But he’s more than forthcoming when quizzed about his music. Striking music it is too: a buzzing mesh of distorted beats and tough techno tropes, Moiré is as likely to lull us with a lush Motor City melody as he is a piercing synth shriek, a propulsive 4/4 rhythm as a weird drone. Like the patterning effect he’s named after, it’s the combination of disparate ingredients, that sweet spot where they overlap, that really makes Moiré stand out.
Since emerging with his Never Sleep EP on Actress’s Werkdiscs label in 2013, he’s released on Rush Hour and Phonica, assembled a debut album, appeared on Boiler Room and seen his gauzy, scuffed house and techno seized upon by the dance cognoscenti. His new Gel EP on R&S is likely to deepen the drama.
The loping title track is a fucked up hip-hop anthem, all frazzled synth loops, sample sutures, odd clicks and clangs. The rickety ‘Blind’ crackles with overdriven Dance Mania beats and disturbing rhythms before squelching into analogue life, while ‘Let Down’ is the lovechild of John Carpenter and Mr. Oizo with Derrick May as godfather: eerie and dark before exploding into life and vivid bursts of Detroit synth colour.
FACT tracked Moiré down to talk about harnessing limitations, challenging established ideas, his love of French film and music and the state of the London club scene.
“We have so many divides and now we’re all paying the price of it, it’s really fucked up and it’s not cool”
You’ve mostly avoided the press up to now. Why?
A lot of the time people send questions, and they would be the same questions that you always get. That stuff I’m not interested in, and I’m not interested in sharing it with people because I think nobody is interested in it. I don’t want to give that type of interview. I don’t really care where you’re from and what your passport says. I don’t want to know. I’m interested in what you do and what you have to say. It’s very easy to judge people in terms of where they come from or which class or country they come from. We have so many divides and now we’re all paying the price of it, it’s really fucked up and it’s not cool.
Your first release was for Actress’s Werkdiscs label. What was happening before that?
Years ago, when [Actress’s] Hazyville came out, I was doing [music] for years myself, with my friend. He ended up going to do something else so we never finished anything, but we always wanted to do fucked up house and techno ’cause we were into it. I’m massively into African rhythms and music, drumming, and he poisoned my head with his ideas as well, ’cause he was massively into Nigerian music. He went to Lagos and to [Fela Kuti’s club venue] Shrine, and was married to a Nigerian girl for a while. He’s quite a vibrant character. He had other things that he wanted to do, and I was doing my thing, the day job and so on.
Then Darren played at Flying Lotus’s party at Hearn Street Car Park, the first Brainfeeder parties. They were sick, these parties. I knew Lotus a bit and I was hanging out and saw Darren playing at the end of the night. Hazyville was before that. I was already inspired by Ark, Pepe Bradock. I actually went to Paris to see Ark playing and he destroyed the place, literally – throwing the mixer at the promoter, proper deep house! It was insane, it was incredible. I was into what the French guys were doing and the early Perlon, and what was coming from Detroit.
And a lot of hip-hop as well. When I was a kid it was like Wu Tang Forever, Mobb Deep, but all the darker side, always the deeper and darker side. I always preferred New York, and A Tribe Called Quest. I was close to that kind of sound. What was great about Actress, when he made that record it was almost like a door to this, “oh, someone is into this weird shit. Oh, people are gonna want to dance to this shit, that’s crazy.” That triggered something in me, like, “Wicked, I’m gonna try to finish my music,” and thinking about releasing it and so on.
And make what you want?
Yeah, exactly. I’ve always been a massive fan of Jeff Mills. If you followed him from the 90s when he was mainly playing his tracks in his sets, most of them have never been released. Now I understand that even more, the one thing you release and the other thing you play – you still play your music but it’s not necessarily gonna be released. Not because it’s cool, just because that’s when you’re really close to your music, rather than just being a DJ and a party maker. That’s two different things. Going to Werkdiscs and what Darren did with Hazyville was one of the steps.
On your new R&S EP, lush melodies emerge from weirder, darker passages, like on ‘Gel’ or ‘Let Down’. It’s a different approach. Is it an electronic artist’s duty to do something new each time, challenge what’s come before?
I think that depends on the individual’s beliefs. On the one hand there is the continuation of the Moiré idea, the reflecting idea in terms of the unexpected situation and errors that then become something else. I think it’s a longevity thing. I don’t think there’s a rule, maybe you can just do the same thing all the time, become Andy Warhol or something. Repetition of the same crap, and later people want to pay so much money for it, it’s ludicrous.
I’m into putting work in and doing something new myself. I’m expressing my new feelings and new situations, new ideas, rather than just like, “Here’s the deal with so and so and I’m just gonna make three house tracks and release them because X amount of people are gonna dance to it.” What’s amazing for me is when people come back and say, “Hey man, can you send me the promo, I really want to play this this week,” which happened to me recently. I didn’t think about it that way.
‘Let Down’ seems to have a horror soundtrack feel. Are horror composers an influence?
I was probably breaking up with some girl and it was that energy coming out, trying to mute all the noise by doing walls of sound. I’m obsessed with film, but I’m massively obsessed with French new wave and also the electronic French film music, which had a lot of synthesis in it. It’s really interesting what they were doing in terms of the sound.
Like Alain Goraguer’s La Planète Sauvage soundtrack?
La Planète Sauvage is quite interesting. But Francois de Roubaix, who was one of the biggest and the first French composers that used synthesisers — he did it for crazy psychedelic cartoons and then loads of big films – he passed away, but his daughter is still alive, and they did this great event. I went there to hang out with my mate, they did this gig with all these composers and all these people came down, [Jean Luc] Godard, it’s crazy.
I researched all his work and it’s fascinating, a lot of it is really weird, typical 70s. Some of it’s amazing. There’s something about French music in general, electronic music that is very powerful. Maybe that’s why French electro is so strong as well, the sounds – they like the walls of sound. That’s why I wanted to make ‘Let Down’, it’s almost like a slammer. When I made it I played it in Paris, and I specifically played it at the end of the night, it went off. French people like it – good! It was a weird moment. It wasn’t finished, not mastered, anything.
People have classed your music as techno but Gel is like a mutant hip-hop thing. What do you call it?
Gel is interesting, I made it in bed actually, ’cause I bought this little synth I love, it’s a synth and sampler and it has a 4-track in it. What’s great about it is you can be anywhere and work on it. That’s what I did, I was like, “I want to make a slow house track,” but because it has sampling in it, and synths and drum machine, it makes you want to do this hip-hop feel. You need to cut things like on old samplers. It’s very limited. All the sounds and everything in it is just this machine. It was an interesting experience.
Do you believe limitation can be a useful creative device?
Of course, I’m very selective about what I use. I think having too many things is not very good. At the same time, it depends on the situation. I don’t own a lot of stuff. I use a studio that has everything, and I will go there and rent it specifically for one day or one night, and come out with the material from that. Otherwise it’s just endless, it’s impossible. It’s impossible to write that way. I know a lot of people collect stuff, but I always wonder, how can you do anything?
Is your music especially for clubs? How should people use it?
I want to share the music I like to listen to or dance to. To get out of the cycle of sameness. Also the idea of techno, technological music, I always thought it should be about progressing, always challenging. I don’t really care about being romantic or nostalgic about the past, but the idea of introducing new things, breaking some rules is something I like, and I want to share something I would listen to. Some people will like it, some people won’t but it’s their opinion. I always believe that the moment you release something, it’s not yours anymore, it’s theirs. It belongs to the audience, and they can use it or not. And then I move on to the next thing.
“The great music was driven by people struggling, fighting for something”
On the track ‘Blind’ there’s a weird bit of percussion that sounds like a creaking bit of furniture. Where do you get your sounds? Do you use field recordings?
Sometimes. I don’t remember on this particular track, but I got some new sequencer that allowed me to do more fucked up rhythms with my hands rather than sequencing it through software or other machines. I like that weird rhythm.
It sounds rickety, like it’s gonna break apart.
I wanted that wrong-sounding stuff. I remember playing that track in Leeds Warehouse, and it sounded great on a huge sound system. The design process, the way I see the sound in the production side, it’s like data, a brick of some sort of material that you can shape the way you want. Pretty much everything starts somewhere in maths, an algorithm you can manipulate to the point it sounds different, even though it could be some stupid sample from GarageBand. But it’s just data. It’s limitation versus an open mind.
What do you think of the London club scene right now — is it in crisis?
I guess it’s not great. First of all we have no clubs in central London. I used to go to The End every day when it was open. I really miss it. It was meant to be a car park, flats, and then suddenly the next thing they open The Den. That was the biggest insult. It’s a closed venue, and a total waste. These things are happening and it is what it is. Even in Hackney Wick people are having problems with licensing.
But why when electronic music is more popular than it’s been since the 90s?
Without being romantic or nostalgic about it, people had a lot more to say [then]. The individuals that were making music, who were my idols, had something to say that was important. It was a movement that was against the government. Now everything is flaky. Yeah, there are some nights but they’re not really avant-garde. It’s another thing that society is part of, on and off. But none of it is standing for anything. People have their opinions but I don’t think artistically I follow that many people who have something interesting to say, other than like, “Oh it’s a cool tune.” There’s a few people, like Call Super, he was talking about something that was important for him. For me art was meant to be expressing something, not just making. The great music was driven by people struggling, fighting for something.
The problem is, a lot of the music is predominantly instrumental. Sometimes you can say something with a sample though.
That is true. But we could be doing more about it, the people who have power. I’m sure there is a way.