Alex Smoke Interview
Author: Freddy World
Friday, 2 May 2008
Glasgow's techno stalwarts have always bonded with the Detroiters, both knowing the collective trauma of post-industrial decline. But, like Vince Watson, Smoke refuses to be a mere cipher. Referencing everyone from 'Autechre to Rachmaninoff', he exhibits a distinctive sound. Indeed, in downtime, Smoke prefers 'weirdo electronica' to techno or house. That includes the enigmatic Burial.
The Scot is playing the second of two live gigs in Sydney at Lost Baggage, promising different sets. Though Smoke DJs, he's disinclined to transport his vinyl to the antipodes.
'The idea of travelling with records to Australia is horrifying, to be honest,' he says. Aside from gigging, he's visiting family and sightseeing. Smoke, who nearly became a marine biologist, loves 'the great outdoors'.
'I'm a pretty quiet, boring bastard, really,' he says. Not so. Smoke last released the LP Paradolia on Slam's Soma in 2006. The producer still values the album format in the digital era as 'it's not just about dance tracks', and, as such, he can explore divergent influences.
He plans another LP. 'I'm basically three quarters of the way through the next one,' he says, 'which I guess won't be out until the end of the year - November, October maybe.' In the meantime, Smoke has launched a label, Hum+Haw, with Jim Hutchison, formerly of Soma.
Smoke intends to air music he couldn't elsewhere. 'We're not too worried about endless 12 Inches for the dancefloor,' he says. 'It's just gonna be a mixture, some hip hop, some dubstep, some techno - probably more dancefloor stuff than not - but definitely a good mixture.'
Among Hum+Haw's upcoming projects is Smoke's foray into hip hop with Los Angeles MC Non (Shadow Huntaz) under the handle Fool, their album titled Mad Man's Drum.
Smoke, who, encouraged by his music teacher mum, studied cello, piano and drums in his youth, is nothing if not versatile. This year he presented his first classical work, a string piece for The Scottish Ensemble, describing the experience as 'terrifying'.
He's all about expansion. 'I really want to take in more diverse things,' he says. 'I've done a bit of classical work recently and I'd like to do more of that. I'm interested in having as much breadth as possible as a producer, but also not being too much of a jack-of-all-trades. I just want to develop slowly - and slowly build things in and bring in new influences and new techniques and stuff. Then hopefully by the time I'm 70 I'll be really good!'
Smoke is not beyond pulling off a coup. He successfully tweaked Steve Reich's Proverb. The master of minimalism is extremely particular about remixes. 'We heard back from him,' Smoke says. 'Apparently he was really pleased.'