Interview with Luke Vibert

CL = Clublife Magazine
LV = Luke Vibert

CL: Well, let's see. I always start out asking: Is there any question that interviewers always ask you that you wish they wouldn't?

LV: Um, no actually, no there isn't! There was actually, just one question a couple of days ago a guy asked me that I wish he hadn't. His first question was: What happens after you die? And I thought Oh God!

CL: Er, I wouldn't have thought of that! (general laughing)


CL: Well, cool...I was glad to see Throbbing Pouch finally get a domestic release!

LV: Yeah, yeah...I wanted to make it different, actually, I'm annoyed, but it's exactly the same as the English one. Because I did a Japenese one as well, which had a few different tracks on it. Actually, though, they've both turned up now on other things: there was one out on Chill Out Or Die called "River", and then there's one called "Indian Giver".

CL: That one ended up on Chill Out Or Die America. I was sad to see though, that At Atmos wasn't with the...

LV: Was that free with the...?

CL: with, for us, the import.

LV: It was with the import, but it wasn't with the domestic release? Yeah, that's a bit of a shame. I've got a Plug, jungle album thing that I'm compiling at the moment. I'm going to give away Plug 1, 2, and 3 on CD with it because they weren't on CD as well. That's why I did it with At Atmos, because it wasn't on CD.

CL: Great! That's the one thing I haven't been able to get--any of your Plug stuff.

LV: Yeah, it's hard enough to get over here as well. I've always got loads-- well, not loads--but a few people coming up to me Oh I really want to get Plug 1, I just can't see it anywhere!...and then I see one for two quid in an exchange. (laughs) Yeah, I'm not sure when the Plug stuff is going to be out--probably won't be out for ages--but you'll probably be able to get it on import.

CL: Well, what are you doing right now?

LV: Well, I just did a nasty--well, no I can't say that, but--track, a remix for these Swedish geezers called Ohm[?], who I've never heard of, and I didn't really want to set my gear up because I've just moved house last week, and my sampler must have taken a bit of a knock in the move because the SCSI bit at the back, which connects it up to the hard disk thing, isn't working at all, so I have to load all these tiny disks into the front, and it took me ages longer than it should have done. But I had to do it by the Monday, because I'd left it till the last thing, because I'm moving, and I really needed the cash, so I had to set all my stuff up slightly dodgily. But now I'm going to have a bit of a quiet spell, I think, because I've got to get my sampler fixed, which just takes ages over here--I figure it'll be gone for a couple of weeks. But that's it, yeah, compiling the Plug album, and I've done a couple of slow tracks recently, but mainly they've been drum & bass things, but I've got another Mo' Wax e.p. to do as well. And then an album for them after that, but that's all kind of undone at the moment. And then another Wagon Christ album next year. But that's thinking way too far ahead for my liking!

CL: Get to that follow-up album right away, excellent! And I see that you've been doing a lot of remixes, too, on Further Self Evident Truths. Do you like doing remixes?

LV: Yeah, well they sort of have their good and bad points too. I wan't to keen on doing this last thing because I didn't like much about the track, so I had to basically do one of my tracks completely and then put a tiny bit of their thing in that I liked, which is a bit annoying because I kind of feel like it should be mine rather than theirs. But...I needed that one for money anyway. But the one I did before was sort of a total different one for Aphex Twin's label. You've heard of a group called the Gentle People?

CL: Yeah! But I haven't heard it yet.

LV: Well, it's all sample stuff and loops, but it's old easy-listening stuff, and then they've got a couple of breezy, girl-singing...vocalist, and a guy vocalist, and I did a drum & bass mix of them which was really good fun, and I kept loads of their stuff in it because I liked it, so that was much more enjoyable to do, but it was a bit of a chore. Sometimes it's a bit of a chore, a bit cheezy in a bad way.

CL: Now is this the kind of stuff you've been doing all along? Because I bought Phat Lab Nightmare ages and ages ago, and then thought it was hysterical when I heard that that was just a weird thing, not even what you were really doing then.

LV: No, it wasn't...yeah, true. It was the same thing with the first e.p. as well, really, the Sunset Boulevard thing. Because I got a call off Rising High, rather than me sending them any stuff I got a call off them because, I can't remember, they heard a tape or something off someone and it had my number on. And I'd only done tracks at this point--because it was '92 or '3 or something--with my mate Jeremy because he had most of the gear, he had a 4-track and a couple of keyboards and I just had drum machine and an echo! I used to do all my stuff with him, and...

CL: This is Jeremy Simmons [member of Bark Psychosis and collaborator with Luke on the Vibert & Simmons Weirs project]?

LV: Yeah, and they said Do you want to send us up an e.p.?, and I said Yeah OK, phoned up Jeremy and he wasn't into it for some reason, I don't know if he didn't like Rising High or I can't remember, but I had to do it on my own. So I just did it in a couple of days, and I was thinking Yeah, better make it a bit techno-y and some such thing, and I sent it up to them and they liked it and they said Have you ever done any ambient stuff? And for some reason I just lied again, because I thought that if I said no that they wouldn't release an album of mine, so I said Yeah, yeah! And they said Well, we'd like you to do an album for our ambient series, and I was like OK, cool. And there was this big poster that was called The Ambient Collection with me at the end, and then Pete Namlook and all these other geezers. It was a bit cheezy because I was still listening to hip-hop all the time!

CL: But were the tracks you were doing at that time...?

LV: Well, I really liked them, and I still like them now, they're still totally me. I was just actually trying to be a bit techno-y or something; but also I think the major reason for the sort of change in style...I really like to still do kind of acidy things, and more keyboardy stuff, but all my keyboards broke from that time--all I've got now is my sampler at the moment. I don't really like any of the new keyboards that I've been looking at; I think I'm going to have to get old ones again, play around with them. But mainly I think that's it, when things like the 101 break, these old analog things--I dropped a pint of rye bean onto one of my keyboards and it totally fucked it up.

[...ridiculous conversation about various ways to destroy keyboards...]

CL: Well, am I correct in that acid house was the first sort of electronic stuff that you got into?

LV: Yeah, although it was hip-hop really because it was much more...When I was 10 or something I really liked Melle Mel, Doug-E-Fresh "The Show", and all the sort of bigger tunes that were coming out, and I liked it till I was something like 13, and then for some unknown reason went off dance music altogether, got into the more indie side. Probably, I think, because of my friends--my friends totally changed at that point because I moved school and town, moved about 20 miles away in Cornwall to a different town when my parents split up and we went with mummy. And then I went to a different school, and that was when I grew my hair, turned into a bit of a punk-rocker eventually, by the time I was about 16. Had a wicked Mohican, though!...really big, spiky Mohican. Yeah, and then got back into it again through live..actually no it's not true, because I actually always listened to it even in the years between; I listened to the old ones; I've still got all my old rap records like Melle Mel, really scratched- up and fucked Run DMC records and things like that. I've always kind of liked them because I've always liked loads of different music, but the outside image I had was more sort of indie, rock-y--not rock, God--punk kind of thing.

CL: So you listened to it, you just didn't always admit to it.

LV: Yeah, I'd just be a bit embarrassed going around with all these genuine punks. And then I think another big thing was getting into pot-- when I started smoking it, it's not that it changed me a lot but it made me relax a lot more, and I didn't go agg so much; I used to be more of a drinker, go out on a weekend, more--not normal, but--more sort of an everyday-type thing, but now I stay in a lot more and do my own thing.

CL: What do you think has had the biggest influence on what you're doing now?

LV: I think it would have to be--it sounds absurd--but just life, because it would be stupid saying something like pot because it wouldn't be at all, I'd be doing it whether it was that or not, but yeah just sort of whatever's happened to me. But I don't really know; I'm kind of the worst person to ask always about my music although not in any sort of technical way but just thought-wise. I never really think anything when I'm doing the tracks; I just sort of clear my mind and do little bits and then start linking them all up, and just go usually by what I don't like, and take that out, and what I'm left with just arrange all that up. Just really work through it, and not have a clue what it's going to turn out like until it's finished. That's why I hate to...If I spend any more than three or four days on a track I get really--not anal, but--you don't get very objective, you get too involved. I've got a mate, he takes like a month, a guy called Graham [Sutton, aka Voafose, other member of Bark Psychosis] did a mix for me on that last Wagon Christ e.p., the Redone e.p., he did the Boymerang mix, spent over a month on it--mad--and most of the time he was just turning things down, spending ages doing things and then thinking No no no, shit!, and totally scrapping it, going back to the beginning, and ended up with a totally different track, but in the process lost about five pretty good ones.

CL: So you go more for spontaneity?

LV: Yeah, but not as much as I used to, it used to be...things like Phat Lab Nightmare, I did that whole album in three days, plus extra tracks that didn't get on it, but then the tracks were longer as well, because I didn't have...No I was using Cubase, the sequencing thing, but I used to do more of this thing called "cycle", where you've just got these block bits going around and you don't change them at all, you just bring them in and out with a mixing desk, live, more spontaneous. I did that up until Throbbing Pouch, and then started arranging them on the computer, so eventually you just press play and that's the track, rather than actually doing anything by hand, so it's not quite as spontaneous now. But I just like generally spontaneous-sounding things; I still do bring things in in weird places because I like the sound of it. So now it sounds exactly like it did before, it just takes a lot longer!

CL: Well, that's the thing that trips me out, listening to something like Throbbing Pouch, is that there are so many things that sound like they shouldn't work, but somehow they work perfectly!

LV: Well, I think that comes from the mixing-down style that I've developed (or whatever) comes from hip-hop, definitely. Because when we did stuff on the 4-track thing of Jeremy's, in '91, and Weirs as well was done on that 4-track, but what we started out doing was get a breakbeat album and just play a break for like four minutes onto one track, and then do a live bass thing, and just kind of go like that, and then we'd mix it down onto tape to play to our mates, and just bring things in and out on a snare drum, just sort of more loose and more distorted--well, not literally distorted, but more...

CL: Loose, exactly. Well, now I know you use a lot of samples, but am I correct in understanding that you don't use any drumloops?

LV: No no, I never don't use anything, there's nothing I don't use--except for the only thing I'd never do, or haven't done yet--I just never feel like sampling off my peers. I mean, for a couple of the drum & bass things I've sampled off old breakbeat records from '91 if I can't find the original break, but then completely cut it up from that point. But no, there's nothing I don't use. Usually it's all completely samples off other people's records, totally mauled around and...I still really like making up my own tunes, so I usually just try and take sounds rather than loops, and with the beats I started out with just something like a five-second sampler, so to save time we'd do something like just take snares, and middle bits, and just mix them up, make our own beats up, because it saved loads of time. So I've always liked that kind of sound, I like mixing beats up, sort of taking the piss out of the original arrangement of the beat, or the same sounds but in a different order.

CL: Now, I know you don't like to've been trying not to have any labels put on you, but...

LV: But then that's one thing that everybody always says to me, everyone says Oh, I know you don't like labels.... I mean it is true, the question's fine.

CL: But I would imagine that the "trip-hop" label is being thrown at you left and right! Do you not like that?

LV: Oh no! It'd be fine for some record, I don't mind records being categorized, it's just that me...

CL: But you as an artist is something else entirely.

LV: Yeah, I'd never want to be known for one thing---well, maybe to one person: someone that likes Plug, say, that doesn't like Wagon Christ; and that'd be no problem--but I don't just want to be known for doing any kind of certain thing. Apart from "techno"; I think that's a fine category. I think it's really broad, but it's gotten a bit narrower recently in people's eyes, but originally it was a huge category for anyone using technology, or electronic music. Those ones are fine, but when it gets specific like trip-hop, or fucking...I mean trip-hop, God--nobody knows what it is! DJ Shadow doesn't know what it is, and he's the original man! God knows. Bizarre.

CL: Do you see yourself as part of a scene at all?

LV: Yeah, definitely! A kind of bedroomy-type thing. All of the people I know, all of my friends make music in their rooms--I mean, there's not many because I've only got four good mates--but that's the one I think I fit into definitely. Mike Paradinas [Mu-ziq], and Richard [James, the Aphex Twin], and Jeremy, who can't really do stuff at the moment because he hasn't actually got any gear--his four track broke and he's got no money. But he lives with Graham, who's the guy who does the Boymerang stuff, and Graham's got all the gear, so he does stuff with him. But that's the scene that I feel part of, really. Quite small. I'm sure there'll be more people making it from their rooms in the future; it's just a shame you can't quite release it from your room yet! Cut out all the shit with the record companies!

CL: Given that, then, do you have plans to be doing other sorts of styles?

LV: No, I don't really think like that, I never sort of think even...Actually, the only time I do is when I've got, say, a Wagon Christ album: When that comes up I'll have to think Right, shit, I've got to do--because I don't want to do drum & bass stuff for Wagon Christ--I only do that kind of.... I don't want to do any more pseudonym stuff unless, I was thinking recently, I might at some point try to have a commercial chart, go for a hit or something, yeah that'd be fun! Because I used to be a pop lad when I was younger, follow the charts, and there's still a lot of that in me somewhere, not wanting to be a star in any of that way because I really want to be background and have no credit for it at all, but just want to have a hit, sell loads of records, that'd be great. But no, for the Mo' Wax thing I just used the name Luke Vibert because I didn't want any more, not just the names but just anymore different things. Basically, even I think my drum & bass stuff sounds like the Wagon Christ-y stuff. I never try and do different things, just using different--not mediums, but--different BPM's, basically, or something like that.

CL: You just do what you do.

LV: Yeah, but it's pretty much hip-hop and jungle and not much else. I mean I usually--because I used to have just drum machines and no samplers--I used to love making electro-y things, stuff like that, and I might well do in the future, but I've got no plans.

CL: Do you ever do live performances?

LV: No, I haven't yet. I do want to at some point, but I find it incredibly boring when I go and see people and they've just got a mouse or some fucking...clicking on things on the screen. So I want to have a think about it and do something different, but I've got to start thinking about it now, really, because I know I'll put it off forever if I don't seriously think about it. But I'm not sure what I could do, really, that would be--it's just the visual side of it...

CL: But you have been DJ-ing some?

LV: Yeah, but it's totally different for me because I hardly ever play my records at all, because I don't really make them for clubs, not in my mind. I have actually been to clubs where they've played one and I'm like Wow, no way, it worked!, but I never think of playing one myself. I play a lot more stuff that's made for clubs, like jungley, really spacy drum & bass sort of stuff which is a bit boring if you listen to it at home, in my opinion, but it works wickedly in a club. Or any kind of hip-hop I love to hear in clubs really loud, but I don't get much of a chance to do hip-hop, because over here it's a bit like (raspberry). They don't want to know, especially because I'm lazy and don't keep up with the records, so I would never get to do a hip-hop club, so I only get to do chill-out things and then I can play hip-hop with loads of people sitting around thinking Ungh, groovy. (laughs) But yeah, no I like DJ-ing, it's wicked. I just got a little pissed off recently because I've been going over to--like miles away in Europe--and I get a really lukewarm reaction, and I get really peeved when I've missed three days of my life on some shitty gig when I could have done a track, which is what I really like doing anyway. Because releasing it or not I know I'd be doing that anyway, because it's the only thing I can really creatively do, so.... I really like it when it's just casual--I can go over to my mates' houses and just play whatever I want; it's wicked.

CL: From what you've seen is that dance scene in England going in a good direction? Is it improving?

LV: Oh, I don't know; I'd actually be a bad person to ask, as I go to hardly any clubs. I think it was better a few years ago, actually--I don't know maybe that's just because I used to go out dancing, and also because I didn't know so much about how you make it, and wasn't so in on--not on the scene, but--knowing what it all sounds like. And it used to be, things like LFO "LFO", when that was coming out, like '91, when Richard was DJ-ing at the Bowgie, and it just fitted in and was like (whistles)...I'd never really got so much into electronic stuff before, and that was the point that I got into acid rather than '88. I remember it from then, but I didn't really like it then, but when I got into things like LFO "LFO" and then found out that it was from before then, then I found the older stuff and was like Wow. I got more into acid then and it was my favorite for a year for DJ-ing, especially because it's nice and easy to mix.

CL: So you got into electronic music before you got into making it?

LV: No, I'd been making it longer, because I'd been in bands since I was really young. I've only been recording since '89, but i've been in bands since I was fucking ten, in stupid bands, and making my own compositions, and plays, and I used to get in that sort of fight a bit at school because I was never much of a writer or anything, or things like maths and English, I always hated them. I just got into theatre studies, music, and did a Peter Pan soundtrack which was hilarious. (laughs)

CL: Wow! You should put it out!

LV: I can remember it! One of them was totally--it was my equivalent of sampling at the time--ripped off something else, and I claimed credit for it. But no, it's totally different from seriously thinking that I could put stuff out, because that's been very recent, like '91 and '2, more '92 when we realized that we could actually do stuff in our rooms. It was Richard that made me think that; I'd always had some preconceived idea that you had to go into studios or higher somewhere, and that always put me off, because you had to have a real idea of what you were going to do, and I was like Fuck! We have to get all this stuff ready and go in and do it, and that's always a bit nasty. And then Richard was getting stuff out and I was like Fucking hell, he's doing it from his room! It sounds really rough, and yeah, I was really pleased. It gave us the thumbs-up to start it out: we sent him a tape and he was just about to start that RePhlex company, kind of at that time, with this guy Grant who I went to school with anyway so I knew him as well. So we gave him a tape and we should have had the first release on RePhlex, but they just pissed us around a bit, and it's annoying because that release would have been a lot more true to how I am than, say, Sunset Boulevard or Phat Lab Nightmare. It was just a brekabeat thing with bits of jazzy-type keyboards and things like that. But they didn't release that because it wasn't RePhlex-y enough or something. Then they released Weirs a year and a half after, but that was really late because we'd done all that stuff around the same time, '91/'92. It was a really old album, and I was a bit worried at the time; I thought Shit, everyone's going to think it's crap, but it got an OK reception at the time.

CL: Well I remember that was a great moment for me, when Richard started putting stuff out, and you could tell that it was raw, not overly produced. And then you, and Mike...

LV: Yeah, Mike is wicked. I remember, because he used to do covers of Richard's stuff. Richard has this tape--and I didn't know it was Mike, it was just this guy--who'd done "Digeridoo" and all these things on keyboards, playing them, and it was Mike, it's wicked. (laughs) He's nutty, though, he sent Richard like ten tapes full of stuff...which then picked through to make that first album.

CL: Do you feel like you're getting a lot of media attention?

LV: Yeah, I do, and I'm constantly surprised by it. I don't know, it just doesn't sink in. Because I feel exactly the same and everything. I just find it odd that there seems to be so many people who like it, but I think it is a lot more things like journalists--not the press, because that sounds nasty--but more artistic-y people who get into it. I mean, we don't sell many over here at all, it doesn't sell much to the sort of general public, but it gets really good reception. All my singles have been Single of the Week in NME, but then not many people buy it. Not over here, anyway. I don't think the press over here have much control over it. I just sell sort of 200 more every release, I think. Which is fine by me. My first e.p. sold 250 or something, and that did surprise me because I though things sold in thousands..I had this weird idea, and then saw the first royalties thing and was like Oh my God! And then if I sell a thousand I get into the indie singles chart at number 50 and think Christ!, if I'm only selling that many then records can't sell as much as I imagine they do. But then there's more people in America, so the numbers would be seemingly greater, because there only 56 million people in the whole of Great Britain, but like 300 million people over there. I think the best thing for getting it around, anyway, in the future, 20 years or 10, would be the Internet, putting tracks on the Internet...that'd be crazy. Available all over!

CL: Yep, that's going to be it! Are you active on the Internet at all?

LV: No, I'm not, but it's just because I'm lazy. I mean, I've only got a crap-old Atari as well, but I've got lots of mates with it so I go on it quite a bit. Richard's on it; he's on it quite a lot. He's been thrown off it loads, actually, becauses he uses bad language, telling them they're cunts or whatever, so he gets barred. (laughs)

CL: Well, we'll be keeping an eye out for you! In the meantime, do you have any famous last words.

LV: No. (laughs) I never do. I should think of things before, but (raspberry).

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