Soccer96 interview

October 11, 2014

Soccer96 interview

Soccer96 bring us futuristic soundscapes pierced by extremely groovy jazz-influenced drum beats. The duo firstly bonded over a mutual love of John Bonham’s drumming while in college, where they were part of a group of beatniks who would do experimental jazz jams with the lights out and improvised film soundtracks. This norm-challenging approach became intrinsic to their sound which is proven to induce mind-bending experiences.

Read through and enjoy these guys’ magnificent vibes.

Since this is a magazine about psychedelic music let me start off by asking why do you believe your music might be appreciated by the psychedelic music lovers, although your music isn’t truly psychedelic as far as music genre goes?

Dan: We are psychedelic in the true definition of its dictionary meaning… “relating to or denoting drugs (especially LSD) that produce hallucinations and apparent expansion of consciousness”.

This meaning is close to our hearts as we believe in using music as a tool to elevate our consciousness. This is why the music is psychedelic in its nature and foundation rather than direct musical comparison with psychedelic rock.

“We are creating our own sonic world with its own set of creative ‘rules'”

We don’t tend to adhere to a specific sense of genre boundary or particular music vocabulary in favour of experimentation so we rarely fit into a particular scene and that’s something we’re comfortable with. I think that instead we are creating our own sonic world with its own set of creative ‘rules’ and as long as we don’t break these unspoken rules then our world stays tangible and visceral, the moment we break those rules the whole world would crumble down before us.

Probably your band’s name has something to do with a video game but, being British, don’t you think it is slightly offensive to your own country? I’m asking this because the first time I listened to your music I thought you were from the USA and having the first track of your album named “California” does not help at all. Why not Football96?

Dan: In England we call it football. But there were a whole load of computer games in our childhood that called it ‘soccer’ as they were made and designed in Japan or the USA. Soccer always sounds like a computer game to us. We wanted a name that sounded like a game because that was what we grew up doing with our friends, when we were young, with the soundtracks were like our computer folk music! Sometimes performing our music feels like a playing a game on two player mode.

It’s also an absurdist or surrealist name designed to plant our flag firmly in counter-culture and anti-commerciality, in fact so much that quite a few industry managers have tried to convince us to change our name to something else to be more approachable to record labels etc. So by keeping our name as Soccer96 we hold up a fist of revolution and anti-corporate expression.

Basically some people get it, some people don’t.

“The flow of tape is flowing through our minds.”

Some of your record’s tracks were recorded by Stereolab’s Joe Watson on tape. Why is it so important for you to record on tape and how was it to work with Joe Watson?

Max: Tape is a romance. Practically it encourages us to work creatively with the sound before we start recording. Sonically it cooks sounds together, adds a bit of colour, makes the drums sound more classic, gives instant vibe. Working away from computers at the initial stage of recording also puts our collective mind in a very different place. We think only of the moment, the excitement, the creation. The flow of tape is flowing through our minds. If you love tape, then it will love you back.

Dan: A lot of our favourite music has been recorded using tape. It’s interesting to think that the history of music we own on vinyl from the 30s into the 80s is all recorded on tape. In fact, in our first band together A Scandal In Bohemia we supported Thee Silver Mount Zion, an offshoot of Godspeed, and guitarist Efrim encouraged us to record to tape, that’s how they do all their stuff. Digital has been here for less time, and yet it now seems to be the obvious option. Possibly part of the time speed up effect technology has had on our brains.

Joe Watson is actually writing a PHD about Analogue technique and the notion that just because a new technology comes round doesn’t mean you have to completely throw out the old one! A lot of the practicality of recording has been improved using computers but the sound – especially drums – hitting the tape is just magic. We still use computers for editing and cutting up and finishing tunes though. It also feels great to be recording, look round and the reel to reel is spinning round, like more precious somehow.

Joe Watson is friends with Demons Are Real label boss Rob White. He has a very meticulous, careful methodology to engineering which helps us a lot when we are in full creative chaos! But he also had inventive ideas, like putting the drums through vocoder, which I don’t think he realised quite how extremely we were going to use that effect on the final mix of “EarthAttack”.

Why don’t you tell us about the gear you use and why you can’t live without your Juno6 and your SH-09?

Max: Old drums, I find drums with history evoke a respect for all the vast musical experiences of mankind. Music is an ancient gift from our universe, now I’m ready to play drums.

Dan: The SH-09 I got when I was 17 and I basically fell in love with it immediately. I rang up a mate and played it down the phone for about 15 minutes! It’s mono so you can only play one note at a time, but makes a great bass instrument as well as sound effect madness. When I got the Juno it was like re-living the moment when polyphony came into the synth world, suddenly I could play chords as well as tweak all the knobs. They are from around the same manufacture timeframe, late 70s, early 80s, both by Roland, and I love that. But mainly, I love the way they sound. You can give them to anybody, plug them in and they will sound great. They are very simple too, you can move any of the knobs and it will dramatically alter the sound. I like to close my eyes, move all the faders and see what sound comes out.

Rob White, a glitch/noise producer, helped you produce the album. How did you guys met and how important was he in the whole process?

Max: Rob was this guy with a massive beard who befriended us at our first gig, I think there were only 5 people in the audience.

Dan: Ah man, this album is like a love letter to Rob!

Rob White met us outside our third gig in Brighton supporting Dan Friel from Parts and Labour and basically convinced us to let him cook us a curry dinner (he had been living in India for a few years and is a great cook) and then he convinced us he should release our record. He managed to collect 500 quid from friends and family to put us in a studio for a couple of days, and also encouraged us to release “Call To Arms” as a single, which we probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. He loved that song. He was heavily involved in the post-punk fanzine scene in the 80s and obsesses over the tradition of single releases.

It was basically his dream come true to release a record as well as ours, we were going to be the first release on his new label, so I really wanted to happen for Rob more than anything else. And when we ended up in Studio 4 at Maida Vale where all the legendary John Peel sessions were recorded doing a live session for Steve Lamacq, Rob came along and it was a proper magic moment.

He encouraged us to take risks, go gritty, dirty, use tape, amps, and would shout: “fucking HAVE IT!” before our takes in the studio. We all jumped up and down shouting at the end of the third take of “Yoga Flame” because we got it in the can.

The album was mastered by Kelly Hibbert, the guy responsible for the sound of Flying Lotus and Madlib, which seems to be quite a bold pick. Why him?

Max: Coz flying lotus and mad lib sounds amazing, we wanted to sound amazing too.

Dan: I was living with Jack Eveleigh at the time who had just met Kelly on a tour with Dam Funk, so put us in touch. We love Flying Lotus and Madlib, but our first record sounds nothing like that music! Sometimes we make decisions just for the sheer buzz of it, and that was one of them.

For the mixing process you picked Rob and Jack Eveleigh who have worked with Dam Funk and Neon Indian. Why did you want to have them mixing your album?

Max: They were in the crew of friends so it was all vibes and stuff. Vibes is the most important aspect of all musical creation.

Dan: Well, we did a lot of the mixing work ourselves on the record, but it’s always great to have some more ears on it.

Jack as mentioned above was living with me and had a studio in the basement below our flat, he engineered a few of the tracks and fell in love with “California” and “Yoga Flame” and did a lot of work manipulating sounds on those. We were working with them I guess because we were hanging out with them!

Taking into account the people you decided to work with on this album it becomes pretty obvious that you listen to a lot of different music. What are you guys listening to these days?

Max: Peruvian Cumbia from the 70’s.

Dan: I’m in love with the Brainfeeder label, everything they put out m in awe of, most recently the Mono/Poly and Taylor Mcferrin LPs, along with Gaslamp Killer, Thundercat, Teebs and of course Flying Lotus himself. I’m a big fan of Do Make Say Think, Lower Dens, Holy Fuck and arty post rock in general, as well as Warp artists like Patten and Clark. We are both into Tame Impala and Connan Mockasin.

We met at a Portuguese fest called ‘Milhões de Festa’. For the ones who have never heard of it what can you say about the fest, the city, the people, the wine, etc…? Is there any band that caught your attention you would like to share with our readers?

Max: Earthless changed my understanding of music – trying to hook up a play with them in London one day.

Dan: Oh My Days. Milhões de Festa! So it’s probably the best festival we’ve ever been to. Not the largest, but the vibe!! So strong. A stage in front of 2 swimming pools with cocktail bar?? All the people were super cool and very kind to us from the moment we arrived, the best and most generous hospitality we’ve ever had. Our stage manager Nuno was a true legend and counted out about a million beer tokens and got us extra food before we’d even blinked. We really felt like we connected with the audience in our set, their warmth and enthusiasm poured onto the stage like a tidal wave and this continued with many meetings over the next few days, (including with your good self Hugo!) we found there were no barriers between us and the Portuguese people, their hearts so big that we were all friends straight away. Great beer too.

We loved Memoria de Peixe, Earthless, Mdou Moctar and Boogarins.

You played at that fest as part of a Baba Yaga’s Hut curatorship along with The Comet is Coming (a band Dan and Max share with the fantastic sax player Shabaka Hutchings), Melt Yourself Down and Flamingods. Since a lot of people highlighted those shows as the most surprising of the whole fest why don’t you tell us what exactly is Baba Yaga’s Hut?

Max: Baba Yaga Hut is all about conducting mind melting psychedelic noise experiments in front of an audience.

Dan: Well it’s the work of one guy called Anthony Chalmers who puts on kickass gigs in London. For instance, last week we played at the Baba Yaga festival ‘Raw Power’, the line up was incredible, with Bo Ningen, Acid Mothers Temple, Mainliner, Gum Takes Tooth, an unbelievable 80s psych group call Terminal Cheesecake…the guy just has amazing taste.

I believe I read somewhere that you jammed with Damo Suzuki once. How does it feel like to play with such a legend?

Max: It felt like travelling through a timeless void, entering an area of the mind that is suddenly created yet is as old as life itself.

Soccer96 with Damo Suzuki

Dan: It was a great experience of course! He was a real force of nature, singing throughout the whole one and a half hour improvisation. He told us of his philosophies of music and life, it was great to be handed down this knowledge from one of our main elders, someone we respect and admire so much, we have listened his records with Can so much.

Your friend Alexis Blondel founded Total Refreshment Center in 2012 which seems to be such an exciting place. What happens there? Has TRC inspired you in any way?

Dan: We have been hanging out a lot at the Total Refreshment Centre in Stoke Newington since the last release. It’s a unbelievable place, a live-in artist warehouse spot with recording studio run by Capitol K (a great recording artist – check out his music!) rehearsal studio, and big live space for gigs and art installations. Max lived there for a bit so we played a lot in there, a lot of our new LP has been tracked in there as well as Constellation off Jupiter Masterdrive. It’s gaining popularity now to the point where I was mixing a band in the control room and Thurston Moore came in to check it out. But there’s such a great vibe, it used to be a Jamaican social club in the 70s, the mixing console and outboard gear there is rad, and the gigs we have done there have been packed out, hot and sweaty like the old post punk loft scene in New York, lots of tribal hypnotic grooves from great bands like Boss Terror, Blurt, Super Best Friends Club, Totem, and that has definitely had an effect on the way we approach our new tracks. The french anarchist Alexis who runs the place just has a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality that is so brave and often lacking today… like once he fancied having a hiphop skate jam and with days had built a skate park downstairs and made it happen, we recently have started doing 3 course dinner jazz nights there, there are african drum nights, experimental film nights, its a really inspiring collective to be part of and we’re really proud to be part of it. Anybody who visits London, come and find the Total Refreshment Centre!

Soccer96 by Will Barnes

Both of your releases feature artwork by Helen Plumb. How do you think her work complements yours?

Max: Helen Plumb is able to spontaneously manifest images as a direct reaction to sonic provocations.

Dan: Well, she is a great thinker and innovator in visuals, and has a good eye for colour. I think in the end we pushed our ideas pretty hard! It took a long conversation to convince her that we had to have the owl destroying the wolf with a laser beam coming out of its eye! I was pretty convinced it had to be animals fighting, to kind of represent the battle between the two of us on stage. She captured the vivid colours and the pixelated fantasy world we were alluding to with the music perfectly.

Soccer96 by Will Barnes

Your album dates back from 2012 but your live acts have evolved since then. What are the differences people can expect between your recorded material and what you’re playing live these days?

Max: During the live performance, we aim to create sound rather than recall it. We trust our instincts to guide us, embracing the chaos at the same time playing patterns that have flexibility and emotional symmetries. The goal is to leave this state of mind behind as we interact with sound and our bodies to release the sacred energy within us.

Dan: It’s true that we have developed our sound and songs a lot since the first record, we’ve just been waiting for the right moment and opportunity to record and release them. At gigs we extend tracks a lot, improvise on stage and treat live performance as a chance to create an alternate psychedelic dimension. We both feel that through becoming one with the music and the audience we can attempt to transcend the illusory material world, as mad as that sounds! We see our job like modern day shaman with our music as our drugs to offer spiritual medicine to those who want to come on the journey with us.

This leads us to your upcoming EP, Jupiter Masterdrive. Is there a release date already? What else can you reveal us about it?

There have been many holdups with the record, its been a long time coming! It is however a pretty simple thing, 3 tracks on a 7″ vinyl, born out of us buying our own beaten up tape machine and experimenting with sounds by recording jams in a little spare room in Dan’s old flat in Brighton. They are largely instrumental, we kind of pushed away from writing songs to explore our proggy leanings, they are like 3 miniature epics. We also worked with a bass player called Swann Hunter who took us to quite a groovy place on one track. It’s coming out on WotNot Music an electronic music label in London, hopefully by the end of the year.

To keep up with Soccer96 sounds follow http://soccer96.bandcamp.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/Soccer96band. Besides Soccer96 they have several other bands like Hothead Show (Max), Super Best Friends Club (Max), DA-10 (Dan) and The Comet is Coming (Max and Dan), with whom they are finishing their debut LP.

– Hugo Pereira

The Comet Is Coming – ‘Channel The Spirits’ (2016)

The Comet Is Coming – ‘Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery’ (2019)

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