“Pitch black techno war funk”. Yes, we all know Boomkat are prone to hyperbole on occasion, but on this occasion their phrase is altogether appropriate.
There’s something about the fearsome crunch of Ancient Methods‘ sounds that defies dry technical description and demands that you go over the top, whether in talking about it or moving to it. Which isn’t to say they make headbanging music – the “funk” part of their pitch black techno war funk is as important as anything, and their tracks have a good healthy dose of bump’n'grind running through them, even if that grinding is as much angle-grinder as bogling. The raw edges, thick-layered sound and general old-school soundsystem-in-an-industrial-building kick has leapt out amidst the minimal orthodoxy, creating a massive buzz over a few beautifully marbled pieces of vinyl with medieval etchings on the labels, and prompting suggestions of a new industrial forward movement in the techno scene.
Certainly their music feels very, very fresh. But the slightly mysterious Baeks and Trias are not the types to have any of that: after all, the hugely popular mix set they put together for the MNML SSGS blog was not only titled ‘Fashion Is Not A Part Of It’ but was full of plenty of classic techno names like Thomas Bangalter, Patrick Pulsinger, Adam X and British Murder Boys alongside more experimental, arthouse and obscure tracks. Whether they’re a leap forward or a consolidation of techno classicism though, is not really relevant once you’re plugged into their sound – ramped up on headphones or, even better, immersed in the noise in a dark room with smoke and strobes, they represent electronic music at its absolute, most direct, straight-into-the-back-of-the-brain best.
People are trying to describe your sound in different ways, but do you see Ancient Methods as “techno” above all?
How do you feel about electronic club music in 2009? Is it alive and innovating or simply finding new variations on the past?
B: “We were frightened that most musicians who made good techno music jumped on that “minimal-click-clack” hype-train in the past years. Although there were a few interesting developments like dubstep we still miss the energy and bravery in today’s electronic music. We got bored by most of that stuff and that encouraged us to start Ancient Methods.”
T: “To be honest, I’m not going out to clubs that often except for our own gigs. So there might be a development beside the current releases in that genre of “electronic club music” worth being mentioned that we are not considering here. But I still try to keep the recent output fairly under review and regarding this I do feel a slight improvement. A very few “big” labels made a notable turn away from minimal. This might be a good sign for a return of techno in all. In general, “innovation” for me has never been a musical criterion, and I feel the word has been often confused with fashion. One can not expect musical revolution as a permanent phenomenon, and similar is true for innovations.
“Techno had its time of revolutionary, or at least very innovative records nearly two decades ago. I think there is still development and innovation – but this happens in details, so one has to pay much more attention to recognize it. There’s nothing wrong with it, I guess it’s a usual development in music. Therefore for me it’s hard to understand the apparently strong demand for innovations in music, as there is so much good music which I’ll never be able to discover within a single lifetime. Just as regarding Ancient Methods I don’t make any demand on us to sound innovative. As long as I like the music I’m satisfied with a glass bead game.” [the reference is to Herman Hesse's 1943 sci-fi novel The Glass Bead Game, set in a world where intellectual and artistic debates are endlessly acted out through the complex game of the title]
Who was it in dubstep that you felt was doing something new? And who in techno do you think still feels creative?
B: “In dubstep the debuts of Vex’d and Burial really impressed me, they were very new sounds at that time. There are only few artists and labels that still produce energetic techno like the outstanding Planetary Assault Systems album. Nice stuff for the club came from labels like Labrynth, Token, ARMS, Audio Assault and affiliates.”
T: “For me, Cloaks, Vex’d and T++ in dubstep. But in techno – if “modern” means “recent” it’s a tough one. It’s only really individual tracks of the past few months I enjoy, rather than artists.”
Do you see your music first as a local phenomenon or part of a global scene? i.e. is it Berlin music, German music, European music or something more global or even cosmic?
B: “I think the musical output of a musician is – at least partly – a result of the music and sounds he has experienced in his life. As Techno is an international phenomenon our musical influences were international too, focused on US and European Techno – especially from the UK. In return it’s funny that our A.M. records get very good feedback from the UK at the moment. But I wouldn’t label it as “typically” Berlin or German Music – it’s simply our sound.”
T: “Okay, maybe I got this question wrong – but I can’t imagine in which sense music could be restricted, defined or emphasized to a special region. It might be helpful to describe music for an easier communication like naming of genres can be helpful. But if you communicate by the internet and see people all over the world producing music in every genre, terms like “Detroit Techno” or “Berlin Techno” appear quite outdated in a musical sense. Music has never been so global before. And a good thing, too.”
You say it is a good thing that music is global – but is there not a risk that global music means music even more dominated by homogeneous corporate sounds?
B: “I’m sure there will always be people that get bored by big trends in music or by listening the same sounds over and over again. They still want to explore new sounds and rhythms – simply music they haven’t heard before.”
T: “I guess the risk that sound becomes homogeneous is rather caused by lack of own ideas. I think local influences can still remain if you take care of your culture or surroundings. After all it’s a personal decision if you follow the dominating sound or look for something different. The dominating homogeneous sound has always been presented by the dominating homogeneous media. In this respect there has been only sparse change by the internet. But the possibility to get an easy access to new or different influences has never been so diverse before.”
The word “industrial” is often attached to your sound by bloggers etc. Do you like that word? Do you feel a connection to others in the past who’ve had that word connected to them, whether that’s the old school like Throbbing Gristle or Einsturzende Neubauten or later industrial techno like Planet Core Productions?
B: “The expression “Industrial Techno” describes our sound best. To be honest I haven’t been that deep into Industrial Music as Michael. I play techno since the early nineties and especially the harder UK techno from the Downwards Posse had that energy that exalted me over many years and I think is so often missing nowadays. Of course I had PCP on my list in earlier times – especially ‘The Mover’ – yeah!”
T: “I don’t have any particular “feelings” on the word but I guess it’s the best substitute to describe my romantic and glorifying thoughts on techno music and techno venues. When I first got in touch with techno music in the early ’90s I thought of music done by machines. The monotonous, haunting, dark and inhuman sound of engines, pistons, gear wheels. The same applies to my first visits into techno parties: derelict old buildings and the smell of smoke from the fog machine. Indeed PCP’s ‘We Have Arrived’ is the exemplary carrier of this mental image.
“Regarding the industrial pioneers, the “big names” you mentioned, I have to admit their influence is not that important compared to other bands from the scene – Institut, IRM, MZ 412, S.P.K., NON, Esplendor Geometrico, Haus Arafna, Deutsch Nepal, Sonar, Zoviet France, Coil, only to name a few… There has always been a very strong interest in dark and sad music, so parts of the so called “industrial scene” have always been something that matter to me. My interest on industrial music, especially rhythmic noise grew when techno turned to ascetic minimalism and consequently lost its energy. Still a lots of bands from the industrial scene sound much more “techno” to me than most of the current “techno acts”.”
Your artwork suggests an interest in medieval, pagan, dark times. In fact it reminds me of a lot of Black Metal artwork – do you have any connection to metal?
B: “No, I’ve got no connection to metal. We just liked that artwork and found, that it fits quite good to our sound – tear down the walls by means of music.”
T: “There’s only very little “metal” stuff I like: Nadja, Sunn o))) and [their] related musicians. However I enjoy a lot of folk and ritual music. Therefore I have encountered these topics naturally. Apart from reading a few books I don’t have any time or need to develop a serious interest in them, though. And there’s no connection to our artwork neither to metal, black metal nor these pagan topics. We just thought it would apply to “Ancient Methods” in an ambiguous sense.
You mention ritual music…do you feel Ancient Methods’ music is ritual music? What would you like the effect of the music on people to be?
B: “I think a techno party – especially in a club – is something like a ritual. You regularly meet musically like-minded friends and have fun together. In that context one could therefore say A.M. supports that ritual, although I wouldn’t say that the music itself is ritual. The aim of our music is simply to make people dance and give them a good time.”
T: “While ritual music can engender a state of trance, I feel that A.M. tracks are way too coarse, short and interruptive to create that hypnotic impact.”