An Interview with The Black Dog.

Over the years The Black Dog has been through many incarnations and of late the sound seems to have taken a darker Techno edge (no complaints), apart from Ken himself would you say there’s much of the original DNA still there?

In 23 years, we’ve only been through 4 incarnations, which isn’t a lot for a band or a collective. And the current one is 10+ years old. So, we wouldn’t say it’s “many” at all. As artists, we don’t want to stand still and produce the same thing over and over and over again. Why anybody would want to do that is beyond us.

As for the original DNA? Well, the DIY ethic, which was present at day one of TBD, is still there. And at the very core of the band, there is still a deep love for techno, shamanism, cyberspace, magick, the beautiful, and the bizarre. The faces may have changed over the years, but the motivation to “make the events occur that we want to occur” has always been the same. To us, there are definite threads of continuity. We don’t doubt that some people have been put off by the new sound and the harder edge. No disrespect to them, but as we said above, we’re not about doing the same thing forever and ever and ever.

With 3 people in a studio writing sequenced music, I imagine it could get a bit cramped around the sequencer – how do you cope with this? (ie. please describe your writing process a bit)

Not really, we have 7 machines in the studio, as well as machines in our homes. When Ken is offgrid, travelling, we use the internet. So it’s never been a problem. There’s no fixed process for writing, we just go with the ideas in our head, and build it up from there. There’s no magic formula, musical roles, or set way of working. Sorry.

How would you say the Techno scene compares to what it was 10-15 years ago?

We don’t think it really matters. They were great times, but the past is spent. We enjoy the time we are in and what’s coming. Constant references to, and reverential treatment of the past can be a little boring and rose tinted. Twenty years ago, it cost £1000 for a scsi hard disk. Now you can get a terrabyte, for less than £100. These are great times to be making Techno. More softsynths than you can ever use! Yes, of course, we feel for the bands, magazines, clubs, festivals and events that have folded and withered as the scene has shrunk and withdrawn from the gaze of media attention. But, as we said above, we’re not living in the past.

Apart from yourselves, of course, who do you feel is making the best impact in the Electronic/Techno scene at the moment?

Ha, flatterer! It’s kind of you to say it, but we don’t consider ourselves “best”. We do what we do, and people can like it or lump it – uncompromising to our very last breath. There are lots of artists whose work we admire, and for many different reasons. But, right now, we are enjoying Perc, Sigha, Shifted and Blawan.

Most Techno seems to be predominantly “Minimal” sounding nowadays, and while this seems to have had a positive effect on the sound quality of a lot of it, do you feel that in some ways this has led to the baby being thrown out with the bathwater (ie. clean but bland)?

We know what you mean, we often joke that the top20 of BeatPort all sound exactly the same. But, in fairness, techno thrives on the dance floor, which is where stripped down electronic music works extremely well. The gap between the disparate strands of techno has increased over the years, virtually to the point that “listening techno” and “minimal” have become separate genres in their own right.

A bunch of Techno folk seem to have gone all Dubstep, should we expect the same from The Black Dog?

If switching over from techno to dubstep is making them happy, all well and good. We won’t be wagging any fingers. We’ve been interested in, and messing around with dubstep beats for a number of years now. And I’d hope that people wouldn’t accuse us of being bandwagon jumpers. But, that said, we won’t be “going all dubstep” anytime soon. No one genre is going to enslave us.

As with the majority of electronic acts nowadays, your live sets seem to be generally laptop based – Ableton Live, I presume – and while this is totally understandable for various reasons (portability, keeping beer out of your 303, etc.) do you miss purpose-built musical hardware other than controllers when performing?

Not really. It was stressful and expensive to transport it and you’d always be wondering if it would work when you got there. Did somebody remember to bring all the midi leads? It was a logistical nightmare. And I’ve permanently damaged my lower back muscles, from lugging the OB8 and DX7 in and out of venues. Nowadays, my home studio consists of an iPad, and a Samsung laptop for HDD recording. Our Roland gear – the 808, 909, 303, 202 & 101 – will forever be in my heart, and I recall with great fondness the times we used to tweak them in front of a live audience. But I’m really enjoying the experience of being portable now.

If it doesn’t exist already what would your ideal piece of music gear be like?

A thought-to-midi input controller which doubles as a pocket pussy.

Desert island tracks?

It’s 2012. You can put everything onto an iPod. And use a solar panel to charge it. That way, you’ll have access to your entire music collection, and won’t have to diddle about selecting individual tracks. However great the song is, you would get sick of hearing the same one for weeks, months and years. Humanity’s technological prowess has moved way beyond the windup gramophone and 78rpm record.

Detroit or Berlin?

They both have their merits, but Sheffield does it for us.

There are a lot of occult references in your titles; do you think The Great Beast, Aleister Crowley, darned his socks?

Unlikely. The only needles he mentions are syringes. He probably got his scarlet women to do it. When he wasn’t fucking them up the arse, and ruining their lives.

According to Wikipedia, the black dog is “often said to be associated with the Devil, and its appearance [is] regarded as a portent of death”. Are you associated with the Devil, and is your appearance a portent of death?

A lot of superstition and folk fears spring from Cynophobia. The particular manifestation of the archetype which you speak of was a large beast with glowing red eyes, whose appearance foretold of a death in the family, or village of the person that saw (or felt) its breath. It’s still seen in some parts of Devon and Dorset. There was another historical variant that scratched at church doors, and scared the faithful within. Over the years, these images have been applied to all supernatural black dogs, malignant or benign. The medieval dogmatic mind has no other frame of reference, than to label them all as demonic.

Do you have, or have you ever had, a black dog as a pet? If so, did it like listening to techno? If so, what kind of techno did it like best?

Yeah, Ken has a black Labrador who likes watching speaker cones vibrate. But, Soulfly and Lightning Bolt are his favourite bands.

Your first full length album was released on Warp Records – which other Warp artists do you rate?

Rob Hall is a thoroughly nice human being. But to be honest, we don’t pay much attention to what Warp are doing these days.

Your Dadavistic Orchestra side project takes inspiration from Dada artists such as Man Ray and Salvador Dali. What is the square root of lobster?

4 crabsticks.

Tell us a funny Black Dog story.

All the proud historic nations of Europe will surrender their independence and individuality to become part of a corrupt and inefficient bureaucratic super-state, where everybody will live happily ever after, with a single currency unit, called the “uro”. Or something.

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