September 19, 2014

The Asphodells: Cosmic Disco & More

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“If you’re doing something you believe in,” says Andrew Weatherall, “the worst anyone can say is that they don’t like it—it’s just a matter of taste. If you’re doing something you don’t really believe in and someone says they don’t like it, it’s no longer a matter of taste because you know in your heart they’re thinking the same as you.”

Speaking from the bowels of his East London studio, the longtime DJ/producer says he clocks in hours of track-making and music-listening there until he has a collection of material that works well enough to give it a name. Most recently, this is The Asphodells, his project with Timothy J. Fairplay.

The duo’s 2013 album, Ruled By Passion Destroyed By Lust—on Weatherall’s Rotters Golf Club imprint—sees the duo tackling an amalgam of genres with aplomb. By incorporating flavorful portions of dub, electro, disco, techno, punk and psychedelia, the pair makes a flavorful musical gumbo. (And like his 2009 solo album, A Pox On The Pioneers, Weatherall steps up the microphone a few times.) The intention was to capture a ghostly, otherworldly quality, which is done mainly through rudimentary tape echo and spring reverb.

More recently, a remixed version of the album hit the market. Released this past September, the collection of newfangled versions comes courtesy of a group of DJ/studio talents like Justin Robertson, Ivan Smagghe, Phil Kieran, plus Daniele Baldelli and DJ Rocca.

“When people are doing stuff for me they know they can go mad,” says Weatherall speaking of the remixers. “They’ve not got a major record company breathing down their neck, so they can have free reign to experiment. The remix is their trademark sound, but I think they went further out there than they usually would. Everyone’s done their thing and given it their little twist. It’s healthy artistic cross-pollination.”

The type of tracks Fairplay had in mind for the original version of Ruled By Passion are exactly the kind that Weatherall says he’d play at A Love From Outer Space, his club night with Sean Johnston. Spawned from Weatherall and Johnston buying downtempo and midtempo post-punk and Cosmic Disco-sounding records ranging from 90 to 120 BPM and wanting to play them out, the two started in a basement of a pub in East London for 75 to 100 people.

“Like any good club at the start,” says Weatherall, “enthusiasts want to play the music they like and aren’t concerned about reaching a massive audience. We were quite happy to keep it at 100 people and play once a week or once a month. It spread as people got into it. Half the audience is really young. The other half is old enough to know better. You stand on the dancefloor not knowing what’s going to happen next because it’s not one particular style of music. It’s right across the board, taking in all sorts of influences.

“If you book us, we play for five or six hours. It’s old-style DJing. Years ago, one or two DJs would control the whole night. It’s only with the advent of rave culture and promoters having to have lots of DJs on the bill to attract an audience that set times became shorter. Really, you should be given the whole night, so you can control where the music’s going.”

You’ll still find Weatherall lugging the old record crate around—particularly if he’s playing a reggae or rockabilly set where the hardcore crowd expects to see the original 7-inch single. Otherwise, he’ll buy vinyl and record it onto CD with an analog line, to get a vinyl sound without having to pay the excess baggage, plus at 10 tracks per 50-CD booklet, that’s 500 songs to choose from. That, and a rotary mixer with a good EQ—like a Rane MP2016 or an old knob unit from Allen & Heath’s Xone range—keeps him happy.

“I like the sound of vinyl,” he says. “MP3s take a lot of the body of the track, a lot of space out of the music. I will play MP3s sometimes. If it’s a minimal techno track, it doesn’t sound too bad. But, the more frequencies you add, the more there is for them to squash and they sound bad, even on hi-res MP3s. If you’ve been brought up listening to MP3s, it sounds alright to you. You don’t miss frequencies you’ve never heard.

“But I was brought up playing vinyl, so there are lots of frequencies not in MP3 I miss, and it sounds weird to my ears. I’m not anti-digital music—it’s just that I don’t particularly want to listen to it. I make music and play music how it’s suited to me and how I want it to sound.”

 

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