Header image by press courtessy of Berlin Atonal.
“I always crave that feeling of waking up the day after a gig feeling invigorated, flashbacks of the night before – trying to comprehend what happened… the one thing clear is you’ve been blown away. Not just a blur of indefinable 4/4 beats.”
Samuel Kerridge‘s name may not resonate within the musical scene for a long time, but over the last few years his work has been followed-up by plenty of musical journalists and a crowd eager for fresh music. His releases on Downwards, Horizontal Ground or Blueprint stands on the edges of several musical genres and provide a decent statement for his intense and recognizable sound. You can’t put a precise tag on his music, once you listen to it you only know that you either hate it or totally love it. The UK native and now Berlin based artist has a special gift to cause sound distortions and noises to devour your mind.
The bond for the music of this singular producer has already been formed at an early age thanks to music-devoted parents who took young Samuel to UK warehouse parties. During his youth he collected influences across musical genres so he could start experimenting with diverse equipment and create his own work. Together with his wife, Hayley, they have launched an open-minded irregular series of events named CONTORT which naturally resulted into a formation of Contort as a label earlier this year.
Kerridge, who is regularly on the tour with his latest LP titled Always Offended Never Ashamed, found some time to have a chat with us about his future plans and the ones he has for the label Contort, the problem of being a truly original artist and his involvement at the Berlin Atonal festival where he acts as one of the curators of the program and also as an artist who unveils this year a special A/V live show titled Fatal Light Attraction.
It’s quite convenient that we are here just before the next Contort party happen, so let’s start with this one. I have noticed that Contort got into some Top 10 parties in Berlin, so I’m interested what you think of that, how does it make you feel that the party grows like that?
It makes me proud to get recognition like that, it’s reaching people which is fantastic, but it can be a double edged sword. When there is a “top 10”, it can start to attract a certain type of clientele. At the time this list came out I said to Hayley this could mark the end, and in some ways if it carries on like that we might need to …
Drop it off?
Yeah. It’s not going to go on forever. The label [Contort] will be our outlet and the occasional showcase. Although the events are and will always remain irregular, it’s important to keep moving forward, I’m sure once we are gone someone will fill our shoes, if not already.
You started with like 20 people in the crowd, right?
Correct, the first party was about 20 people, mostly friends, and it has grown organically. I’d like to keep it at a certain level, as it’s comfortable now; I wouldn’t want to go to the next phase, we aren’t aiming for world domination or “being this cool place to go”. We want to keep the music for the crowd — for people who really know what they are listening too, who are into the scene and they come for those reasons, not because it is in a top 10 chart. Of course people can experience new music this way and it can be good exposure for them, Contort is inclusive, but others can go for the wrong reasons. Luckily we still attract a good core group of people, anyone who does come in on a whim fucks off pretty sharp-ish.
Why do you think that this party receives such recognition? Can this be connected to a sort of hype around dark / experimental music during approx. the last 2 years? There is definitely more attention given to artists with tag ‘experimental’.
Definitely. The internet exposes us to a lot, instant gratification for all, which has certainly played a part. In hindsight we did hit the wave at the right time, unintentionally. My productions gained some recognition and everything fell into place quite quickly. There was no luck involved, hard work and the accumulation of various factors came together. There is probably some hype around — but hype is a good thing. Is it not as simple as people getting excited about music? The right type of hype is good.
That’s the thing – the right hype. Anyway, the philosophy of Contort party is Sunday´s daytime, free entrance and what’s probably most interesting — there is no fee for involved artists. It wouldn’t have been that special, but when we seen the line ups, there are some serious names from the scene [f.e. Kangding Ray, Regis, Christian Vogel]. In your opinion, what attracts artists like that to play there?
We are not doing anything particularly brand new, but I think they [artists] see the passion we put into the event. When you take money out of something, all that’s left is passion, and [artists] wanna do it out of impulse and instinct, that’s what I think attracted them; not because they are gonna get paid shit loads of money. Of course I would love to be able to pay these artists, they all deserve to get paid; as an artist myself I understand that, but that would miss the point of our concept and what we are trying to achieve. Me and Hayley want to expose people to a different way of thinking, a different view, listening and experiencing music in a different context. That’s what probably attracts a lot of artists to play for us and the same goes for the crowd. Artists know that they can play anything they desire and the Contort crowd will listen to it with an open mind. For instance, when Regis played d’n’b, he couldn’t have done that anywhere else, other than London. But it has to be the right party and I think Contort delivers that right context and that’s what attracts.
Well, in your concept I can sense some sort of enthusiasm of 60s or 70s around music and other art stuff. Are you into this particular era and into its philosophy?
I’m definitely into that philosophy, I admire their openness to various art forms from that era. For me, art and music go hand in hand – I’d like to see more focus between them both. At some earlier Contorts we had installations, but for the current venue it’s just too small.
“The sound system needs to be capable of delivering all sonic frequencies, it needs to be that physical experience. Shock and awe!”
Talking about art — is there anything (architecture, paintings … ) that inspires you for making music? Some artists have this connection between different forms of art which inspires them, how about yourself?
For making music, the process, inspiration, no… Although, I do frequently visit galleries in Berlin. I couldn’t pinpoint anything that specifically inspires me. Abstract art is a huge focus for myself, we hope to move the label into that direction over the next few releases. It appeals to a record collector- to make it a whole package.
It’s probably another trend of current times, to make everything audiovisual and photogenic for Instagram and other social networks, everything is so connected.
Yeah, definitely, but it depends on the genre. For instance, if you release techno, you can stick a 12″ into a plain sleeve and get it in the shops immediately. Costs are low, and it serves its purpose. But with Contort, we are trying to deliver something else, to be more collectable and create something special, not just club cuts. The next few releases with the new artists – they vary from one another, and rightly so.
So the label doesn’t stick to one kind or genre of music?
No way. I love every release — it goes from Karl’s [Regis] d’n’b mix over to techno, experimental electronics to electro acoustic music, and so on. As long as it’s good music and it’s delivered correctly, hopefully we don’t go wrong. When I shop for music – it doesn’t matter what genre it is, if it’s good, I buy it. To have tunnel vision would mean missing out on a huge amount of extremely good music. I don’t exclusively purchase only experimental/techno/industrial music, I’m trying to put it all together, from every corner.
Great attitude. Anyway, I noticed that Contort is somehow related to Berlin Atonal festival. You were curating the program for last year’s, also the launch of label Contort was connected to New Codes party in February. How did this connection between both concepts happen?
Laurens [from Berlin Atonal crew] came to some of our early events at the beginning of Contort, he then asked if we’d be interested in helping to curate some of the festival program. So we have been curating the Sunday program at Berlin Atonal since it was reincarnated 3 years ago. It’s a great connection between us all, I think it really works.
The Contort concept seems a bit similar to first Atonals…
Yeah, there is a huge similarity, I can’t speak for the guys but maybe that’s exactly what attracted them, the similarity between both concepts. The fact we try and promote upcoming Berlin talent appeals too. For longevity supporting the local scene is obviously hugely important for everyone.
In other interviews you were a bit complaining about the scene here in Berlin, that there are lots house / techno parties and not so many kinds like Atonal for instance.
It can be easy to put a techno or house event on, it’s safe. I don’t want to judge every promoter, as some of them are truly genuine, and do it extremely well for the right reasons, but I feel we all need to push the envelope a bit more. I’m sure when Contort disappears, there will be something else to step into that spot. There were events in Berlin long before we came along that were doing great things. Contort proves that there is an audience that want to listen, they now want more. The problem arises when a crowd doesn’t understand the music being presented, or they don’t have the patience, it causes an adverse reaction which can lead them on to being offended by it. For example, a noise set at 7 a.m. in the morning, just isn’t going to work in a lot of places. Like I’ve said, it’s all about delivery and context. Something which is sadly an afterthought for a lot of spaces is the sound. The sound system needs to be capable of delivering all sonic frequencies, it needs to be that physical experience. Shock and awe!
Yeah, this reminds me ofyour February gig in Prague. With this great sound and dark visual background, it delivered a mind blowing experience. How does the crowd usually react on your new live show? And I suppose it features pieces from your latest record, right?
I have stuff from the new LP, more for reference. It’s a funny thing: after I recorded the new LP, I deleted my whole hard drive by mistake. I couldn’t get anything back, luckily I had backed some stuff up, but the majority of the album had gone. I spent the entire winter rebuilding bits so I could use them in a live situation and making completely new sounds….
It must have been a bit exhausting.
It was intense but also extremely refreshing. It made me start from zero, to develop things. In the live set you hear bits from the album you will recognize, but there´s a lot of new recordings, the next phase….
Some sort of improvisations?
Yeah, I tried to focus on that aspect. There is a lot of room for improvisation, to take things in a different direction — I wanted that, not only for the audience, but for my own sanity too. Doing the same set every single live gig, I’d top myself [laughs]. I don’t know how anyone could do that. You may as well start a playlist and stand back…
And how about your creative process? What’s the element you usually start with when you create the music?
It’s never the same. It can be an accident, or a plan well executed, but suddenly things will “click” and “fuck, that’s it!” [laughs]. I build a lot of organic sounds from custom built instruments, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s the creative process. Everyday I turn the machines on, if it doesn’t work, I turn them off and go to the pub… But when you find that inspiration, it’s a great feeling. That´s what keeps me going, that´s the drug, and that´s my fix, to get that hit at some point…
“The internet makes things extremely easy, to a point where we are overloaded. Of course we all have different tastes, but where is the filter? Everyone thinks they can sing, but few of us actually can.”
Does the process of making music provide you some sort of catharsis or something like that?
There is definitely a release in the process, a purification. You have witnessed the intensity of the live show, there’s emotion, its personal, I’m not making music for others, it is purely for my own gratification.
You mentioned in other talks that your last record was particularly personal for you and also that you needed to release it in order to move on. So, what’s next for Samuel Kerridge?
I have just released a 7″ inch on Contort, it comes as an extension of the labels maiden release, I’d never felt the right time to put these particular tracks out, until now. I’m also working on something new, it’s going to be released later this year, autumn/winter but on a different label. My transmission on Contort is done and it’s time to step aside and let other artists show their worth, hopefully we can be a good platform for them. It was important for me to make the stamp on Contort with my own releases, the same with the event series. I oppose the view that you shouldn’t book yourself or release your own records. I’ve been there from the beginning, they are both extensions of myself, so we shape it how we want. Its our creation and we’re entitled to do that, marking out the direction.
I see. So I would like to ask you a little more about these 60s and 70s. Just wondering if from time to time you just sit down and listen to some old Pink Floyd for instance. Their earlier stuff, when they didn’t care too much about reactions and it is just brilliant and kind of reminds me of your attitude.
Yeah! I always find myself going backwards, I feel more akin to this era, I can relate to it. Everything is too prefabricated these days! Presented to the public as: this IS the right way to go. It’s all on the same spectrum, I hate that. There is some great music, but I still find it hard to locate records I can get on board with.
I know what you mean. From time to time, I experience some sort of musical crisis. Last year I had this feeling to get back onto the “beginning”.
You will find with all early electronic output — they’ve all been there, the majority of it has all been done before. It’s really difficult to be truly original. Of course we all take inspiration from various different places, whether that is consciously or sub-consciously, but trying to create your own interpretation and making your own sound is paramount.
It’s a bit same with the musical equipment too — lots of producers are still using 303s, 808s etc. They are magical instruments, don’t get me wrong, but…
Those machines do it well, but their sound is limited, and something which has been rinsed over decades. I don’t understand the desire to sound like somebody else, I’ve never been to a club and had an epiphany which has led me down a certain path. It’s about having experiences and using them as inspiration to go my own way, not to recreate it. Last year I started buying a lot of custom built instruments, to achieve a more organic sound. There isn’t a conscious effort to be individual or to disrupt the flow. It’s also not about “not giving a fuck”, in a more simpler form, I just don’t know any better. I believe in what I do to the extent of knowing no other way.
Got the point. If you check Beatport and other sites, there are plenty Marcel Dettmanns, Richie Hawtins and others. And the internet didn’t exactly help to this issue.
The internet makes things extremely easy, to a point where we are overloaded. Of course we all have different tastes, but where is the filter? Everyone thinks they can sing, but few of us actually can. In regards to my output, I don’t think there is much middle ground, you either love it or you hate it.
Yeah, it’s better if it’s an intense experience – love or hate. Then you remember the stuff, otherwise it’s just some next piece which goes to your library and is forgotten.
Exactly, I always crave that feeling of waking up the day after a gig feeling invigorated, flashbacks of the night before – trying to comprehend what happened… the one thing clear is you’ve been blown away. Not just a blur of indefinable 4/4 beats.
I kind of had that with your show in February… and also with Nils Frahm´s show in Prague in May. [laughs]
(laughs) Yeah, that gig in Prague was ace! I had no idea of what to expect, or how people were going to take it, as this was my first show with the new set. But the reaction was brilliant, everyone gave themselves over to it! I’ve been sent some videos from Mosaik and the crowd really do shit all over the idea that you can’t dance to Samuel Kerridge. I’ve seen people dancing to drone so why not! [laughs]. Prague was also the place I found Andrej & Maria who I’m working alongside to create a new A/V show titled; Fatal Light Attraction. It will premiere at Berlin Atonal Festival on Sunday 23rd August 2015.
Oh, brilliant! Can’t wait to see it!