South London Ordnance Vs. Iron Galaxy: Part 2

As promised, here’s the second part of our Vs. interview with Montreal’s Iron Galaxy and that guy, S.L.O. This time around South London Ordnance picks the brain of Adam Hodgins, as they discuss the ‘synth cave’, the influence of drugs on creativity, cough syrup and the musical landscape in North America.

Shall we start at the beginning? What kind of music do you make?

These last few months I’ve been making house and techno. The initial/recent releases have been swingy house things. At the moment I’m trying to work on stuff that’s a bit tougher and a little more urgent.

I’ve seen a video on the internet of you making noises in this dark cave with some other guy. What’s in the cave? Who’s the other guy?

I haven’t posted anything on my SoundCloud page for a while because I’d like to keep it as a showcase for actual releases. I figure Facebook is a good place to post quick parts or works in progress. The videos so far have been from our studio that’s been dubbed the ‘synth cave’. I think we had a cool name for the place at some point, but that’s what everyone calls it. At the moment it’s housed in a windowless room at Dave’s loft in Montreal. Dave is the ‘other guy’. We’ve been friends for years, compiled our gear into one space and make music together as Sex Life. We have a few too many mono-synths, a couple of polys, some drum machines and a limited amount of outboard gear.

Can you remember your first nightclub experience?

I can’t remember if it was at The End for a Renegade Hardware night, or Fabric on a Friday. Those two would have been a weekend apart. I remember standing in this big line for Fabric on my own. When I got to the front I think the bouncers initially thought I was a drug dealer because they were curious why I was by myself. When I explained I just arrived from Canada and didn’t know anyone, they said “don’t worry you’ll meet lots of people tonight” and let me through. I can’t recall everyone who played that night, but it felt like the whole DnB world. It was a bit overwhelming coming from Canada where you would wait months for someone like Bad Company to make their way over. I can still clearly remember Fierce playing his (and Matrix’s) track ‘Climate’ as well as Total Science’s ‘Make Me Feel’ while I quietly lost my shit. I danced with a load of strangers ’til the sun came up and then snuck back into the flat while everyone was still sleeping.

When you’re not making it – if you make it at all, do you listen to a lot of music engineered specifically for clubs?

I listen to all kinds of music but the club oriented stuff has almost always been there. It started when I was young with French House and Drum and Bass. The DnB took over my collection and time in a big way from around 98-02. Though I was still listening to a lot of other electronic music around that time like early Morr Music, City Centre Offices, Suction Records, WARP, Sub Rosa etc. These days it’s a lot of House, Techno and Bass music for lack of a better term. I’m still discovering old and new Hip Hop, Rock, Noise records etc., but the club stuff is definitely taking up a lot of my time. I’m really excited for the new Grizzly Bear record that’s out soon. They just posted ‘Yet Again’ on YouTube recently and I can’t stop listening to it.

I have a group of friends who are convinced psychedelics help them create things like music, unlocking bits of their brain they might have struggled to get in touch with when sober. Does everyone have a ‘creative’ side, and can it be accessed via the use of narcotics? Or is it bred in the bone?

Ha, that’s a tough question and a dangerous one for me considering I’m a school teacher. At the last middle school dance the students were going to advertise it as a ‘Rave’, but that was deemed inappropriate because of a supposed affiliation to drugs. The last thing I need is for one of my students or colleagues to read this and think I’m advocating drugs (which I’m not). However, drugs have definitely played a big part in music’s history. If you do a search you’ll find an interesting article Kevin Sampson did for the Guardian in 2008 that breaks down the influence of drugs on music over the decades.

I believe everyone’s born with a creative side but everyone develops it in a different way. I think part of it is bred in the bone, but like anything you need to develop it, use it or lose it. When you read about stories like the Springer and Lewis twins being separated from birth for 40 years, but sharing so many characteristics, it makes you wonder what strengths and preferences you’re born with. On that note, I wrote my thesis on musical preferences related to personality types and found a strong correlation between the two. I would imagine it’s equal parts DNA/brain chemistry and experience. Drugs will definitely play with that chemistry and give the user new experiences, for better or worse. I think drugs have helped solidify movements and create environments that certain types of music could thrive in. The 60s with the rise of LSD, or Ecstasy and Acid House in the 80s and 90s.

Rappers and producers in Houston created ‘Chopped and Screwed’ music while drinking codeine laced cough syrup. There’s no need to be high to create or enjoy that music, but it was definitely what inspired it. Nobel prize winner Francis Crick admitted to discovering DNA’s double helix during an acid trip. He and others believed that we have filters to help us survive, so we’re not distracted or killed by the immense amount of sensory input we face on the average day. Taking LSD supposedly helped Crick become more of an abstract thinker. Flying Lotus has talked about using DMT and how that’s inspired him musically and spiritually. There’s an interview where he says, “you can’t compete with music on the astral plane”, but it inspires him to attempt to translate that experience somehow. I’m sure he’d still be making amazingly creative music without those experiences, but it would probably be different somehow.

What does 2013 sound like?

That’s probably a question for someone like Dan Snaith (Caribou/Daphni). He always seems to be ahead of the game or leading it in some form or another. Personally, I’ll be getting a little darker and maybe more tracky on one side. I just finished a dissonant piece of techno that I’m happy with, so maybe there’ll be more of that. I’d still like to explore house music without getting too uplifting. I think ‘Attention Seeker’ rode the line of being big and melodic without getting too cheesy. I’ve had to shelve a few new tracks recently because I think they fell on the wrong side of that line. Maybe my guitar will re-emerge for a different project when we move the studio this fall.

Talk to me about the name Iron Galaxy. It’s the kind of juxtaposition I can really get down with and I’ve always been interested by it – is there a reference there?

I wish I was much more of an avid reader and a creative writer so I’d be better with words. I’m horrible at coming up with names and bad with commitment, so choosing that was tough. From time to time I try to write down interesting word combinations for song titles etc. Growing up I listened to a band called Eric’s Trip. They borrowed their name from the title of a Sonic Youth song, so when I had to come up with a title for this project I was open to doing the same. Iron Galaxy is my favourite track off of Cannibal Ox’s album ‘Cold Vein’. It’s an amazing EL-P production that samples Morder’s ‘Leopard Tree Dream’ from the ‘Cat People’ Soundtrack.

Audio Culture maintain a very tight visual aesthetic – it was one of the first things that attracted me to the label. How important is the way a record looks to you? Or is it simply about the way it sounds?

Well, sound/songwriting is always the most important factor. The most beautiful packaging isn’t going to make me buy a horrible record. That being said, vinyl and good design are really important to me. Being a new artist it’s hard to thumb my nose at releasing digital only, so I appreciate it when labels like Audio Culture take the chance on releasing something like a single sided 12″ with etched artwork, in a debossed house bag with a beautiful print on the inside. As you mentioned, Mike and Simon have a strong visual aesthetic when it comes to Audio Culture, but they don’t neglect the audio side of things. I know they had you down to Amsterdam to do an analog mixdown of your EP, and both our releases were mastered by Stuart at Metropolis. There’s a commitment and a big cost to all of these things that’s a little more special and dangerous than putting a few MP3s on Beatport. There’s a great interview that XLR8R did with Bok Bok recently about the visual direction of Night Slugs. It adds so much more depth to the music when the visual side is well thought out. That process doesn’t have to involve elaborate packaging. The simple stamp on a Levon Vincent record can be just as powerful as well designed series.

What’s the musical landscape like in North America? Is there a big scene and do you feel part of it? Or is what you do very much to do with the ‘underground’?

There’s definitely a lot happening here (in Montreal); People putting on nights, starting record labels, making music, a few good record stores. It’s impossible to compare it to scenes in Berlin or London though. You have way more people doing all those things, so much closer to one another. New York and Toronto are about a 6 hour drive from Montreal, which is reasonably close I suppose. However, the musical infrastructure just can’t compare to Europe when it comes to “underground” dance music. I don’t feel super connected to a particular scene over here, but that’s starting to change as I meet more people. The Internet’s great because I get a lot of encouragement from guys like you, Guy Andrews, Tim (Locked Groove), Bobby Champs, etc. Whenever I send unfinished ideas to Gingy and Bordello on Facebook, they’re great about giving honest feedback.

To really develop a scene I feel like it’s still important to have physical spaces for people to interact, talk about what they’re doing, maybe decide to collaborate on something. People always have stories about places like The Music House, FWD, Transition etc. I feel like I get glimpses of that here sometimes. I’ll go to the record store (Atom Heart) and bump into a DJ, producer, label manager, or a writer/critic I only knew of previously via the Internet. Thomas Von Party runs a house night in Montreal and it’s become a good place to meet with people. He’ll play some forthcoming Turbo stuff (PS, the new Duke Dumont EP is amazing) and other producers have been making their way down. It’s great getting to talk with guys like Bowly, Bordello, Nautiluss, and Footprintz, hearing what they’ve been up to and what they have planned. I’d like to surround myself with good people doing good things, it makes life fun and motivates me to get out there and do something.

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