Interviews with Space Dimension Controller are few and far between, but we collared him for a chat ahead of his set on FACT’s stage at Bloc this weekend.
Our last full-length encounter with Jack Hamill was 2013’s Welcome To Mikrosector-50, which solidified an existing relationship with R&S Records into something more permanent. The album melded a lot of the styles that Hamill had been exploring – funk, ambient, electro and techno – into 13 loved-up, interstellar tracks. Working with voices that blurred the line between robot and human, the album is full of stories and conversations that are so vivid they feel like they’re taken from film scenes, like the rain-soaked conversation on ‘Rising’, where a man’s bellowing, monotone voice enquires, “Are you human?” A female sex worker replies in a giggling tone, “Hm, close enough.”
“Since I left school so early I didn’t have any qualifications of any sort, so I couldn’t get into film school or anything,” he tells FACT while he’s walking around in his home city, Belfast. “When I started making music, I made it like I was making a film, so it was my way of doing things in that way without actually making it.” Welcome To Mikrosector-50 took Hamill four years to make, so three years after it was released, where is he at with the follow-up? “I’ve got most of the ideas for it,” he says. “I’ll hopefully start towards the end of this year, but I don’t know how long it’ll take me to make it.”
In the meantime he has a couple of 12” releases planned, including the fourth instalment of his Correlation series for Clone sublabel Royal Oak. The series, released under the abbreviated alias SDC, has seen him shift his focus away from the conceptual and futuristic aspects of his work. “The SDC stuff is definitely a lot more dance oriented and accessible,” he elaborates. “The last one got a bit weirder but it was still dancier than the Space Dimension Controller stuff. They’re not linked in any way other than it’s me making the tracks.” That said, the tracks on Correlation #3 were initially intended for Hamill’s next album, but he decided to change the entire concept and put them out separately. He’s currently in the process of shaping his ideas into something different, but says he’s had to reboot his drive to make music again after moving studios and taking some time off.
Hamill has previously stated, and it’s still the case, that he doesn’t listen to much music himself. “Which a lot of people find weird,” he admits. “I did when I was first starting out, I took on loads of influences all at once, then I slowly stopped listening to music as much.” One of the few situations where he does reach for his headphones is while he’s travelling. “I’ve had the same ambient playlist for years,” he laughs, explaining that they’re filled with “the usual”: Brian Eno, Boards of Canada, William Basinski. The only other time he’s absorbing music as a listener is when he’s DJing. “That’s totally different because I’m playing tunes that I’d like to play out, but I probably wouldn’t listen to them in a casual environment.”
Hamill has also gained a reputation for his high-concept live shows, last year taking a truckful of lasers on tour with him to bring Mikrosector-50’s sci-fi soap opera to life. The show was inspired by seeing videos of ‘90s raves with acts like dust-mask donning duo Altern8 creating a similar atmosphere (although these days he’s been getting into ‘80s French sci-fi animation, so look out for that in a future show). He’s bringing the full laser-powered works to a show at London’s Corsica Studios this Saturday (March 12), the same weekend he’s heading to the Bloc weekender in Minehead for a DJ set. The weekend also happens to coincide with his birthday, so it’s a double celebration – and as well as playing the FACT stage alongside Midland and Jimmy Edgar, he’s signed up for the weekend’s celebrity pool tournament hosted by Steve Davis and will be heading over to Waterworld for a poolside set. Having had a period of ending his sets with Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’, a few eclectic curveballs are guaranteed.
Bloc is at Butlins Minehead on March 11-14 – tickets are available from Bloc.
Watch Space Dimension Controller live at Bloc 2015 on FACT TV.