Artist Interviews

Q&A: Plaid

By | Published on Wednesday 5 October 2011


This year marks 20 years since the release of Plaid’s debut album, ‘Mbuki Mvuki’, but Andy Turner and Ed Handley have actually been working together in various guises since the late 80s. Signing to Warp, the second Plaid long player, ‘Not For Trees’, came in 1997 and featured Björk on a track, which boosted interest in their particular brand of techno.

Since then, the duo have continued to experiment with each new release. Their last album, 2006’s ‘Greedy Baby’, was a collaboration with video artists Bob Jaroc. For the project, audio and visual elements for each track were created in tandem. This then led to two soundtrack projects, the duo creating scores for two films by award-winning director Michael Arias, ‘Tekkonkinkreet’ and ‘Heaven’s Door’.

In 2009, they began work on their seventh studio album, ‘Scintilli’, which was released earlier this month. The CD version of the record comes with special fold out packaging which, when constructed, locks the CD inside the structure and turns it into an ornament. Ahead of the album launch show at Village Underground in east London on 7 Oct, CMU Editor spoke to Andy Turner to find out more.

AM: Your last album ‘Greedy Baby’ was a collaboration with Bob Jaroc, was ‘Scintilli’ created with a visual aspect in mind?
AT: We weren’t directed by any particular visual pieces this time. We did want the work to be emotive though, but we feel audio alone can have a more abstract narrative.

AM: Can you explain a little bit about the processes you went through in writing this album – there’s been talk of chanting and days spent working on each beat?
AT: That’s not strictly true, but the writing process is akin to meditation. Usually we start by creating a sound palette before starting on a composition. When the music is moving us we know we’re on track. There’s many layers of tweaking from there to a finished piece but we try and keep that initial feeling or spark in mind.

AM: Is there an overall concept or theme to the album?
AT: It isn’t a concept album, but the title refers to many sparks, and that describes a feeling we have when we’re moved by music. It can come from any style or genre. We hope the album covers a bit of ground.

AM: The artwork for the CD can be constructed to create a kind of ornament with the CD locked inside it. How did that idea come about, and is it a comment on the CD as a format?
AT: We’re not huge fans of the format, but it was a desire to have fun with it not make fun of it that motivated us. Though, of course, we’re not alone in anticipating the format’s imminent death. Once solid state players become standard in cars there’s going to be no home left for it. But the quality and longevity of the CD was always poor anyway, the polar opposite of the qualities it was sold with initially.

AM: This year marks 20 years since the release of your debut album. How has your approach to creating music changed over the years?
AT: I think we’re still looking for the same feeling from the music but we’re less easily satisfied these days. Every aspect of a track is endlessly adjustable now as it can easily be stored and recalled. This wasn’t the case 20 years ago. Hopefully our writing and production skills have improved a little too.

AM: Do you have any more soundtrack work lined up? How does that compare to creating your own standalone albums?
AT: There are a few possibilities but nothing concrete. We enjoy soundtracking and have learnt a great deal through this type of work. We’re keen to find a game to soundtrack as this modular approach to writing is something we’d like to explore further, a degree of randomization is possible here and that’s an interesting area for us. It’s quite a different process from writing an album, less self-indulgent in essence.

AM: What can people expect from your new live show?
AT: We’re deconstructing the album to give us more freedom to rebuild it live, it won’t be as gentle or subtle as the release. We didn’t want a ‘loud’ sounding production from the recordings but it’s more appropriate live. Most of the video will be triggered from midi data which allows us freedom to improvise and adapt the performance to the environment whilst still providing a coherent audio/visual experience.

AM: And finally, what does the future hold for Plaid, beyond ‘Scintilli’?
AT: We hope to remain interested, boredom is a killer. More specially with regard to music we’d like move away from western tonality and explore other possibilities. There are a few notes missing and we intend to find them.