Laurie Osborne and Alec Storey, a.k.a. Appleblim and Second Storey, are two key figures in the UK’s electronic music scene. Osborne ran the venerated Dubstep label Skull Disco with Shackleton and was a resident DJ at cherished Bass night FWD>>. Storey’s solo debut, ‘Double Divide’, arrived last year on Houndstooth and saw the artist formerly known as Al Tourettes working at the confluence of his Electro roots and IDM. They’ve come together to present ALSO, starting off with a self-titled record for R&S which aims for that sweet spot between music to dance to and music to listen to. Osborne is animated and lights up when he’s talking about the music that inspired ALSO; it’s easy to see why the serial collaborator works so well with other artists.
Storey admits to being obsessive in the studio and the enthusiasm he brought to the more complex corners of both this album and last year’s debut is palpable. The two are clearly excited about working together, revealing that Osborne has moved to London for the express purpose of continuing their collaboration. “Having Al there allows my ideas to come to fruition much more effectively than if I’m just chasing them on my own,” he says, and Storey reveals that Osborne is the only person he’ll collaborate with.
I wanted to start with asking how ALSO came about, was there always a plan after ‘Lipsmacker’ – a few years ago now – to do more together?
Second Storey: Yeah, I think after we did that, coz we’d done quite a lot of remixes and that was the main deal, ‘Lipsmacker’ was almost between all the remixes, we just knew that we could work together. We never thought about it too far ahead but we always knew that we wanted to work on new tunes.
Appleblim: Yeah you know time and opportunity. We’d done a few remixes together, a remix of Luke Slater – Planetary Assault Systems – for Ostgut Ton and then a remix for Phonica of a guy called Hector and then we did ‘Lipsmacker’ for Aus. Then there was probably a bit of a gap and during that time we always loved DJ’ing just at home together and then we DJ’d together out in Ibiza in Space – we did the main room of Space, back-to-back, which was really crazy…
SS: Yeah, Jeff Mills on the same night! And warming up for DJ Hell.
That’s not bad.
A: It was brilliant. So yeah Space asked us back for another set and instead of doing another back-to-back DJ set, which we’d already done, we thought why don’t we challenge ourselves, do something a bit more than that, and so that ended up turning into “well let’s do a whole live set for them” basically, because they booked the gig quite a long time in advance, like we probably got the booking in about March or something.
SS: And I’d done a live set there already.
A: Yeah, he’d done a live set there, we’d DJ’d there together already and I’d DJ’d there a couple of times, so it was like rather than doing one of those things again, let’s do something different. We thought that it might just end up being a decks and effects sort of thing, Ableton running alongside the things that we’re doing, but in the end when we started sitting down and mucking around it was like “well we may as well turn this into a full set really”. So we wrote over that summer, getting ready for the gig in September, and we ended up writing lots of stuff that I guess in the end turned into the album.
SS: It was from the jams that we had in the live set for that gig. We came back and were like “well, people liked that” but we didn’t go near them for ages, because we’d gone in so hard on that set. We were sort of just like “go away!” and then we came back to them and were like “oh, these are pretty good”. It was almost like the other way: normally you write the tune and then you make it into a live set or something but we did it the other way around. I think that was actually a really good process.
A: Yeah, it made the tracks interesting. The album I think has got a quite varied feel I think because there were bursts of activity and then there were breaks, so there’s quite a big time difference between certain tracks on the album. Some of them are almost two years old.
That’s interesting, because I just assumed that you were in the studio together and then the live set came afterwards. Was it almost like an anchor then through all the work you were doing in the studio, this idea that however complex we’re getting and however far out, we’re making something that’s going to work to a big group of people?
A: I think it’s probably safe to say that that’s what we think about anyway in terms of the tunes that we make. They’ve got to work for people on dancefloors and they’ve got to be interesting enough to listen to on headphones.
SS: The main thing it has to have the funk, the grooves, but we’re interested in all the top level higher frequency stuff as well-
A: The sort of Psychedelic detail – I hope you get that from it, because for me, I always used to listen to stuff like Autechre and think it’s great that everyone listens to this at home and on their headphones but actually they’re really funky rhythms as well and you can hear them on a big soundsystem if you wanna dance.
SS: It also depends on the mix as well – it’s keeping those beats and bass at the fore, at the front, and the other stuff is around it, you can get into it if you want to.
I remember reading μ-Ziq/Mike Paradinas, talk about how back in the day he and Aphex just called what they did ‘Techno’. I was really enamoured with the idea that – like what you guys are doing here – there was clearly a lot of studio time involved and a lot of thought going into this stuff but it doesn’t lose the fact that ultimately this music comes from a place where people can enjoy it.
A: It’s soundsystems and it’s music for dancing. Our bonding is over a love of music: DJ culture, club culture, Techno culture but also psychedelic ‘head music’, so it’s trying to marry those two things and not leaving the one wanting. I think the album caters to both entirely really. There’s enough in there to flip you out but there’s enough bass so that when we play live it’s not like Ambient – it’s body music.
What were those influences that you were bringing to bear on the album then? Were you both coming from a similar place originally in terms of the stuff that was informing you?
A: Lots of shared ground.
SS: Yeah definitely, that’s why we started working together, because we were so in tune. But individually we’ve influenced each other in both ways.
A: We bonded over sort of Techno I guess originally, but Al has his whole history of sort of Electro-based music and I was probably bringing the Bass and Dubstep music and then within that we were listening to different types of stuff. Obviously we’ve got the shared bond of Warp and Aphex and Autechre and then all the Detroit stuff, and then Al played me Cristian Vogel and Neil Landstrumm and in a way we’re doing a similar kind of vibe in that it’s Techno but it’s completely out there as well. And that’s the UK thing I think – coz Techno obviously is from America, from Detroit, but the guys who were making music that was on Tresor and all these different labels, who were from England…
SS: It’s no boundaries. ‘Techno’ means basically nothing.
A: It’s just forward-thinking music, innit. Swung Techno, that’s basically where we united.
When I listened to ‘Blyford Bass’ in particular and one or two other points on the record, I thought, “they’ve made something that they’ve heard played out and they’ve distorted, deconstructed it, taken it apart.” So that wasn’t the process?
SS: That tune is the most sort of Electro-influenced track but with almost swung hats and stuff, it’s not straight Electro.
A: I think the nice thing is that you can’t really place it anywhere and that’s good. I listen to like Livity Sound, Kowton, Tessela and they’re doing their thing, which is weirdly deconstructed club music or whatever – but we’re doing our thing. It doesn’t really sit in exactly anywhere. It’s not really Electro, it’s not really Techno, it’s not really Bass music, it’s not really Dubstep, it’s not really Garage, it’s just kind of like us music.
For the fabric date, where you guys played on a bill curated by R&S, I was just looking down the line-up and it almost seems that despite all the disparate influences you’re bringing to bear there are some shared sounds and motifs. People like Lone and Space Dimension Controller. Maybe it is that sort of UK but also global sound?
SS: I’m totally into the UK sound, that’s where I’m from. But I also love everything else. You don’t have to lock yourself into one sound.
A: It’s like that Kassem Mosse and Mix Mup EP. We were listening to that quite a lot and in a similar way it’s such bonkers music. You can kind of go “it’s sort of House-y, it’s sort of Disco, it’s sort of Lo-Fi…”, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just basically two blokes from Germany doing something mental. Hopefully we’re doing something that is like that but it’s us. It’s not really meant to be Techno or Bass music or fucking anything.
I read something from Rory Gibb the other day on Kassem Mosse and the new Levon Vincent. He called it ‘anti-austerity music’. Not even necessarily in a political way but just because it was so generous.
A: So rich.
I guess that’s how I felt listening to this stuff.
A: It’s like, why hold back?
SS: Yeah, I’ve never been a big fan of holding back!
A: It’s not really reductionist or minimal, it’s more the opposite. It’s a big outpouring of everything. Obviously there’s restriction in the beats and there’s restriction in the production and kind of refining, it’s not Noise music.
SS: I want full range music. I want music to press. I don’t just go ‘that’s a nice idea, let’s leave it at that’, I want to take that idea as far as it can go.
‘Second Storey & Appleblim present ALSO’ is out now on R&S. Buy it here.
Photography: Sarah Ginn
Interview: Gabriel Everington