With three albums on PAN released in as many years, experimental club explorer Lee Gamble now turns to running his own newly-formed label, UIQ.
It’s not strictly a record label, Gamble elaborates, nor is it the first time he’s sat on that side of the table when it comes to releasing music. The inaugural record comes from N1L, and it’s a club-minded four-tracker of clouded, alien techno. It includes an eyes-down, head-nodding opener in ‘Iguana Love Bite’, and ‘Lonely Is The New Block’, a stuttery, interluding affair of awkward chords washed ashore. Then there’s the speculative, hazy ‘Stuck In A Cube’, while the final track plays like the journey of a factory conveyer belt. The tracks almost feel shy about their own quirks, and they could work as portals between off-kilter aberrations and full-on dancefloor throbs. As Gamble explains his fascination with colliding worlds and avoiding prematurely self-constrained creativity, it becomes clear that Wrong Headspace is a wholly apt first release.
Gamble will be performing an A/V show with long-time collaborator Dave Gaskarth at London’s Oval Space on October 29. Head here to grab tickets.
“You just put a germ in a Petri dish, put some other stuff in there and see what happens”
Can you tell us what UIQ is?
It’s starting as a label because it seems to be the easiest route in. I’m seeing it more like a portal, a place. I used to do something called CYRK between 2004 and 2008 and that was similar. It had a web presence, it had curated events, radio series, gallery work. I was involved with two or three other people then – this is just me really, being able to have a platform that isn’t me as Lee Gamble but is curated and morphed in a distant way.
How come you’re looking to create this new platform?
I do the NTS show monthly – people give me stuff. I’ve always wanted to do a label of some sort. It seemed like a good time, the other mechanics of it, not just the fun curatorial part, the other underlying stuff. I can’t wait for the whole thing to feel like a germ, to just morph. I like the idea of it not really being anything, you just put a germ in a Petri dish, put some other stuff in there and see what happens. Stuff’s changing all the time right? New stuff, new media, new ways of presenting things – I wanna keep it really open to any of those possibilities, rather than presenting it as something finite before it’s even grown up.
It seems like a lot of the work you’ve been doing have been multidisciplinary collaborations.
Forever. I mean, getting more press coverage in the last few years since Diversions and stuff for PAN, but I was curating stuff with CYRK before that. There just wasn’t really as large an interest in stuff then. We put on events in London, we put on some good people, really interesting folk who are getting some press now which is cool. Perhaps it was just a different time then and people weren’t ready for EVOL or Russell Haswell as much as they are now.
Do you think your audience has changed?
It’s definitely broadened out, yeah. Back in the day, the CYRK events were at Bardens, before it kinda opened. That road was less busy then and we had to put signs all the way down Dalston Lane to show people where to go to get there. Now you certainly wouldn’t have to do that. People seem to be more open to dance music not just having to be dance music and experimental music not just having to be that.
At the CYRK nights we’d have EVOL play and after that I’d play jungle, A Guy Called Gerald, shit like that straight after. I’m not trying to say we did it first or anything like that but it wasn’t really happening. I was bored of going to either a club or an experimental night, I liked both of these aspects so I just put them in one room.
The clash of things that stuff comes from always will start like that with me and music. Jungle where everything’s clashed – jazz, funk, soul, ragga, the technology aspect of it, the futurism aspect of it, you clash things together and you get something else that wasn’t pre-planned. UIQ feels like that to me. It’s just a cell, and then we’ll see. I just needed to be able to represent my interests. Also, I kinda like the idea of saying it’s UIQ. I don’t really care about it being seen to be my name attached in a direct sense. I’m quite happy to devolve that. It’s a way of separating my work as an artist on record and my more curatorial aspects, interests.
It seems like the first artist you’re putting out on the label has been doing a lot of work for a while as well, but he’s moved onto this new moniker – N1L?
Martins [Rokis] – we knew each other way back when I was doing more computer stuff as he was and still is. We’ve met each other a couple of times but we have some contact online. As we both kept in touch, he started to send me this stuff and I was like, “Fuck, this is like really good actually, is this you?” I thought he was blagging me ‘cause his other stuff is really austere computer music. Kinda like non-musical sound art if you like.
But this one is definitely dance music.
It’s really interesting to see him all of a sudden take this turn and I felt akin to that. When he sent me that stuff, I got another couple of bits by some other people and I just thought, “Well, I’m either gonna do it myself at this point or just give it to someone and they’ll do it.” I have the opportunity to do that now, have people who are interested in doing distribution and this and that – doing the artwork, doing the website. CYRK would have been a record label if it could’ve been, but I couldn’t afford to do it.
Who’ve you got working with you on the new label?
Dave Gaskarth, who does the visuals for my live set and has done the three main videos for my releases. We’re old mates as well. He’s involved – he designed the logo, stuff with the website. I’m working with a web developer as well, we have some ideas of where we could take it. The internet’s a platform now – not just to sell your records and not just to give you an identity, but there is new technology in that area coming thick and fast so that’s another angle that it would take. These are just ideas at this point but it will go that way, ’cause it’s stuff I don’t really see so much, I’m intrigued. Ten years ago, the internet seemed really interesting, you could find some really crazy shit.
It’s a little saturated now.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – it’s narrowed down to a number of sites. And that works. I just used to love online stuff that was just there for the sake of them being there. They didn’t have to have an absolute function like some of these websites do, entwined with the idea of how the world ticks in its functional way. We’re artist people right? We should allow ourselves to step outside of that sometimes and not only have a commercial aspect to it.
In a parallel to the internet being a bit of a narrow space, a lot of the work you’ve been involved with (certainly the Café Oto show), seem as if you’re interested in creating new spaces.
It’s a fucking huge area. I have several angles of it. This is the thing I mentioned about UIQ working the other way round – instead of seeing it as, “I want it to be this and I’m all in power over this it,” I really like to flip it the other way, you leave loose edges, you leave loose ends, you leave space, quite literally, in ideas, where you allow other people to interpret. I like ambiguity in stuff, in texts and language, sounds, image.
Obviously Diversions came out and that’s the thing more people got into than anything I’ve made before, it was really set-out and clear. All it left was this hallucinogenic idea of memory. If you weren’t even there in them days you could still implant yourself back by this spatial, abstracted version of that music.
Join Extensions was basically a computer talking to itself. It was coded, I was trying to get as much sound out of the computer by coding badly because I’m not very good at it. That record is just a representation of that, it’s just the space of the computer. It was also architectural. It felt very sculptural to me because I wasn’t thinking of it as music. I was thinking of it as shape, texture and colour. As I’ve gone on, I’ve realised how much space – the idea of another space – is important to me. But I never knew that until I allowed myself to do it without opening this thing up.
Then you have the idea of space as very literal. I’ve done several performances way back with multi-channel systems so then you’re dealing with acoustic space, psychoacoustic space in a very definite way that literally opens up a normal space outside of itself. You make a sound sound like it’s coming from outside of the walls.
I see a lot of spaces as a social thing springing up as well, certainly experimental club music, that kind of crossover – I wasn’t really in a position to say where it was at 10 years ago but it seems like a lot of people are talking about it now.
How do these things form? Is there someone pulling the strings or is it happening because it’s a requirement of what people want now, or is there a different audience? I don’t know. And often, I don’t really care. I don’t think [of] ambiguity in the sense of a mask on stage. More absolute ambiguity in the fact that the ambiguity is the thing that actually drives the things as opposed to hiding. You can’t really hide anymore. Look at Mr. Assange, we all know where he is.
I like the confusion of the times, I’ve always enjoyed the clashes of things. I’ll sit there and read something about the event horizon of a black hole. And I’m not understanding it like Stephen Hawking understands it – I understand it, and I get something out of it, and it fires my synapses and it makes me feel alive, humble and stupid. I don’t want to sound like, “If you don’t understand this stuff then go back to fucking listening to techno.” That’s bullshit, I don’t believe that at all. I think techno can take people to some mental, weird places. Very straight music can do very odd things too. It’s not about being complicated, it is about allowing complexity and ambiguity to put pressure on the works, to embed themselves into the works.
I feel like the focus on asking questions drives approachability.
Yeah, like KOCH, I didn’t wanna say shit about it ’cause I [have] said so much [about] musical hallucination, memory, deconstruction, and I thought, “I don’t need to keep saying.” It’s enough. Here’s a record with tons of stuff on it, and it’s up to you, the listener. If a thousand people listen to that record, it’s more interesting through a thousand versions than my fucking dictatorial version. It’s about allowing to think outside of the structures that these musics have been created with, it’s that space thing again.
“The equipment, the engineering side isn’t for me, it’s a bore”
Since KOCH, have you been doing much more production or have you mainly taken it on the road?
I’ve been DJing a lot. I’m not really a musician, I’m a DJ, so that’s been really cool. I’ve been making a lot of new stuff, it’s kinda different, I’m just pushing it somewhere. I’ve been concentrating on the label and the A/V show quite a lot. I’m working with my friend, we’ve found all this shit together all these years so that seems like a really obvious thing to do: to develop outside of our individual interests, make something separate from them. It’s difficult when I’ve had two or three records that have been so specific, I’m not one to just continually repeat that. I’ve been working on production, just the sound of my sound, which has been interesting. I’m not interested in that kind of thing most of the time. The equipment, the engineering side isn’t for me, it’s a necessary bore.
Has it changed much over the past couple of years?
Yeah, I think so. I’m always intrigued to learn something, like how to use the computer for instance with the early stuff without any way of just having the sound. I’d never sampled or anything, then I made a record which was only made of samples, so none of the skills I had before were relevant at all. Now’s the same, I’m working with a few things I’d never used before.
Different ways of working with the machine itself. Different modular systems – modular in a sense that they’re intertwined, one thing’s doing something to another, not in the £10,000 modular system sense. I’m interested in algorithmic stuff so that’s developing. But it’s not like I’m gonna make an algorithmic record, it’s just in there. If there’s a riff in there it could be made that way, that’s all. I like the idea of the computer doing shit for me.
Where do you take your inspiration from then, for the album?
It’s generally something that’s outside of music. Kuang, KOCH, Tvashar and Diversions are all in a way from an interest in neurology, fundamentally. Not to make it sound anything that it isn’t, but I was more intrigued to make Tvashar especially about the idea of it not being an electronic music record of function, rather using the by-product of it: The stuff that’s left over, the stuff that’s rattling around in your head, the earworm, the tinnitus in a sense. The fucked version of it, the version that you interpret in your own skull. You go to the toilets in the club and it sounds pretty mad in there. That’s a process going on, I was interested in that.
I’m doing some work at the moment based around a split, a dualism in things and language itself. It’s this idea of these exchanges of language that are deconstructed and confused. Projects like this allow me to go and study a particular interest which I like doing, but that can then feed directly into the work, so it’s not a time wasted, or it feels that way anyhow. I can have a day not making anything at all, apart from just reading, filling more shitty notebooks of this stuff I can’t do anything with but you know, keeps me ticking, floats my boat I guess.
Do you revisit old ideas much?
A lot. I have like a box full of notebooks. I just write. I’ve got two hours on a plane, I’m bored, I’ll listen to a lecture and write some stuff down. Sometimes it won’t happen, sometimes nothing will happen, sometimes it turns into an idea for something, or it could just end up as a fucking track name or something like that. Just end up as a piece of text, alright that’ll do.
What does the name UIQ represent?
It’s basically this idea of a germ, as is Kuang. Kuang is a hypothetical idea about a germ, a panspermia. There’s one idea that human life is alien, because if say a bud of a plant came to Earth through the Galaxy, and landed on Earth and life developed from that. It’s from somewhere else right. The idea of panspermia is something you could send somewhere and life would start from it. So yeah, UIQ is the idea of germ, virus, panspermia. And I have to shut it down if it’s terrible, or let it go if it’s OK.
I really like the idea of having something that doesn’t have a meaning yet. Like an utterance a baby might make. It doesn’t know what it means, it’s naturally trying to do it because it’s human and humans develop language naturally. I’m excited to see what it means, eventually. It’s fun right? I just find it more fun doing shit that way, I find it more intriguing, I’m kinda bored with formulate stuff.
I’ve got records myself that have changed over the years. If I think back to Black Secret Technology by A Guy Called Gerald, when I first got that it was definitely a weird record because I couldn’t play it with other records. It was mixed really weirdly, it felt minuscule, because all these jungle records are full twelves, there’s five tracks on one side so it’s all compressed. And I didn’t like it for a few years ’cause I thought it’s just flat. Then I thought it was amazing again, for a different reason. They are great records when they have a life themselves. They become different things at different points. They feel alive in the ‘panspermia’ sense.
That was really the idea with KOCH, to maybe make a real fuck-up of it but allow it to just be there. Over the years it’ll hopefully be something to someone, and other people just go, “Fuck this, I dunno what it means, weird picture on the front and a word I can’t pronounce,” and that’s it. We don’t know what loads of shit is in the world, but we don’t let it get on top of us.
I guess not many people wake up every day admitting that there’s so much that they don’t know.
It’s fucking overwhelming the more we develop our idea of sciences and quantum and these kind of ideas, it really becomes very fucking confusing – and rightly so! We shouldn’t have answers for that, we’ll never know most of it. I guess the whole UIQ thing pins on the same idea of just allowing it to be it. I’m not into dictators. I don’t wanna be one, even in a very small way. Allow some flakiness.