For Michael Anthony Wright, music has always been something to lose himself into. Growing up in Kent, he was forever taking apart the electrical appliances around his house – including enabling his turntable to play in reverse and turning his tape recorder into an ersatz multi-tracker. His adolescence saw him dip his toes into rave culture before finding his calling playing with a range of bands. Later as a student of Sound Design at London’s LCC he’d have his eyes opened to a myriad of techniques and methods – going on to design pieces of his own and perform at The Royal Festival Hall. With this experience adding to his already diverse musical background, the foundation for Wright’s unique artistic identity had been laid – the final spark of inspiration coming when he began attending DJ Fonteyn’s Computer Blue night in East London. Encouraged by seeing people rapturously enjoying a blend of synthesizer heavy dance music, he took his friend Ali Renault’s (from synth band Hearbreak) prompt and began working on music of his own – music which soon saw release on a range of labels.
Fast forward some years and Wright has comfortably grown into his own highly distinctive sound using his Brassica alias. Synthesizers play a prominent part, but what’s truly notable is the emotional resonance of each track. Coming at ‘dance’ music from his own personal angle, Wright’s tracks carry none of the throwaway qualities of functional club music – with each offering instead carrying a heavy amount of emotional heft. This has been never more apparent than on his recently released record, ‘Man Is Deaf’. Here Wright lays out a journey rich in detail, texture and personal resonance that also packs a fair few dancefloor moments to boot.
Looking for something a little different from him, we asked Brassica to revert back to making mixtapes as a kid for Hyp 202. Listen to him stitching together The War Of The Worlds with De La Soul and DJ Shadow with aplomb via the player below, then read our in depth chat with him…
1 – Fry’s Turkish Delight Advertisement from 1984
2 – Mogwai – Helps Both Ways
3 – Christian Zanési – Marseille 2
4 – Jeff Wayne – Eve of the War
5 – Ozric Tentacles – Space Between Your Ears
6 – De La Soul – Ghetto Thang
7 – Steve Miller Band – Fly Like an Eagle
8 – DJ Shadow – Midnight in a Perfect World
9 – Future Sound of London – My Kingdom
10 – Stefan Blomeier – It’ll be here when you come.
11 – Cestrian – The Cross
12 – Heaven 17 – Chase Runner
Thank you. I’m at my good friend Bill Ambrose’s flat in Deptford, using his lush studio to finish off a B-sides disc that will accompany the CD version of the album. It’s all a bit last minute but hopefully it will come together in time.
Congratulations on the album. How long did it take to put together? Are you nervous at all about the response?
Thanks! I’ve completely lost track of when I started but I’m always shocked to see the time and date of those session files on my computer. It’s always been part of the plan, an album of some kind.. it was just a matter of finding the right label support and creating some space in life to write without guilt or anxiety that my world might be crumbling around me whilst I turn nonsensical daydreams into a musical form.
Of course, I feel a bit nervous about potentially harsh criticism but I don’t think it’s particularly polarising music. It’s fairly middleground, which I’m proud of, but it’s music you either take or leave. But I’m of the mindset that if you’re making Art, creating and not destroying stuff, you’ve already won. I love what I do and anything extra is a bonus.
The Album has such a wide range of stylistic influences, across electronic music, Prog, Italo, Synth, Rock music from the 70s onwards, would you agree? How reflective is this of your musical upbringing?
I feel lucky to be part of a generation that has John Peel to thank for making eclectic taste a very cool thing, not something that is deemed indecisive or lacking organisation. I find it strange when producers focus on a single micro-niche anddedicate their entire lives to it. Nothing in life is that good. The fact that I’m focusing on music and not music + video + installation art + fashion + whatever.. is enough of a limitation in itself. So why would I not use as much of the musical spectrum as possible?
So yeah, I agree there are lots of influences and influences are exactly that anything that happens and has an effect on your character. Why X effects you and Y doesn’t is the mysterious part. I attribute a large part to my lowerworking class background. I’ve noticed a big difference in the way the working class and the middle class react to music. Working class folks never lie about music they love or hate it’s either “this is a Tune” or “this is bollocks”. Middle class seem able to endure music they perhaps don’t honestly like for the sake of intellectual merit. It’s one of the worst symptoms of modern music culture. I feel kinda blessed because I’m quite easily moved, excited and transported by so many different sounds and styles of music. When the music coincides with memory and emotion, creative energy starts forming. Nothing makes me happier than that feeling.
The genres I just reeled off maybe aren’t typically associated with the dancefloors of today, but you’ve turned them into something danceable on the record what inspired you to be able to do this?
I find this topic quite difficult to think about. I don’t consider my music to be dancefloor music as such. I do however work with beats, which, in an open minded world should perhaps be enough. Unfortunately dancefloor music these days seems to mean adhering to specific rules and regulations. However the reason I work with beats too is because I think music that you cannot potentially dance to is somewhat pointless, unless it’s made for something specific like a film score, meditation, performance space etc.
I realise I could be contradicting myself but that’s honestly how I feel. This weird tension between loving and hating modern dance music culture is what makes my music unique in that sense. I am currently making new music that could perhaps work amongst laserfocused dance records. But at the moment I can tell you, although it may seem logical, nobody is really playing my records on a dance floor. Why would they when there is so much music designed specifically for that purpose?
And what gear are you using to recreate all these vintage sounds, is your studio packed with gear?
I haven’t got any vintage or fancy studio gear, I’m just good at making it sound that way perhaps. There’s a weird obsession with ‘the tools’ in electronic music that doesn’t occur in other disciplines. I always wish people could just listen to the music. If the music is not good enough, then it’s not good enough. If you need to know which gear the producer uses before you can fully enjoy the experience of certain music, you need to let go a bit, work on your trust issues. Would you obsess about seeing a carpenter’s tools before you buy a table and chairs? You either like the table and chairs or you don’t. I’m focused on musical results.
There’s much more of a song structured approach on play on the record which extends as far as you even singing several times. How did you learn to grow confidence in your songwriting abilities?
Thanks, I find that to be a real compliment. I’m a musician first and foremost and that always comes before production. I started out playing bass and loved the music theory side of things. I studied Popular Music at college when I left school and developed a fairly good grasp of melody and harmony. I think the best and most interesting electronic music always has a melody at the core. Listen to Aphex Twin.. he usually always starts with a melody that locks you in. That gives him the flexibility to go on a tangent whilst retaining interest, because you’re waiting to return to that establishing melody the whole time.
You can only develop confidence by doing something over and over and over again and seeing hearing the results. I’m just beginning to grasp certain things now and feel really stoked about making new music.
Let’s talk about some of the collaborators on the record . We’re particularly interested in how the hook up with Bryan Ferry’s saxophonist, Jorja Ren, came about?
Jorja is Ali Renault’s wife who I’ve been friends with for years and years now. She’s a black belt in saxophone and keyboards and can pull incredible melodies from the ether. She’s joining Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues orchestra. I have tons of musician friends who are all phenomenal. Stuart Warwick for instance, who sang on the album. It baffles me why he isn’t a household name by now.
How about the title of the record ‘Man Is Deaf’, what does that mean for you?
It’s originally part of a quote from Terence Mckenna ‘Nature is not mute, it is man who is deaf’. Although he uses listening in a figurative way, I honestly feel we’ve lost our ability to listen to each other, to ourselves and also to music.
Thanks for putting together such an interesting mix for us. Firstly we’ve got to ask where you found that Turkish Delight ad that you put in at the start?
I ripped it from YouTube. I just wanted to make a point. Adverts, TV and Films had more influence over me than a lot of music did. Occasionally I hit upon something in the studio and realise it’s taken directly from a TV ad. I’m pretty certain the Turkish Delight ad has made an appearance in my music several times. It’s pretty haunting.
You’ve stuck in a banger from Jeff Wayne’s famous ‘War of the Worlds’ Soundtrack – was that an album that was floating around in your house as a kid?
Yeah, someone in my family had a copy, but it was more to demonstrate a kind of musical/theatrical side what I do. I find live music in a theatrical setting played by live musicians to have an immense effect.
‘Ghetto Thang’ is probably one of the more underappreciated tunes off ‘3 Feet High And Rising’…
Yeah, that was an album that rarely left my tape player as a kid. When it comes to beats I favour a 2nd hand Gospel-inspired beats programmed on a drum machine over every other style of beat programming. It represents more about how I feel inside than ‘untzz untzz untzz untzz’. That’s why I picked this track.
Heaven 17 seem to be quite audibly influential to your music with their synth work – is that the case?
It’s audibly influential because Heaven 17 use synthesizers and I also use synthesizers. I was born in 1981 and I soak up sounds and music around me. The influence stops there though. I don’t see the 80s like Chromeo or Com Truise must do. I don’t make pastiche music or use 80s imagery or doing anything for the sake of irony. I chose this song because I was heavily influenced by the film Electric Dreams. This was one of my favourite songs from the OST.
‘Man Is Deaf’ is out now on Civil Music. Buy it here.
Interview: Christian Murphy
Photography: Mark Shelley