The brooding, brilliant new offering from Moiré, No Future is his sophomore album but his debut for Ghostly International. Part maverick, part electronic nomad, Moiré has previously flitted around labels such as R&S and Werkdiscs, but the move to Ghostly and the resultant No Future may finally see a wider audience turned on to the myriad delights of his musical journey…and deservedly so.
The Russian producer’s electronic world is mysterious and immersive, without sacrificing the ability to pack a dancefloor! Album opener Sequence 1 sets the scene perfectly while cuts like Lost You, Bootleg and Façade see the previously instrumental artist harness the vocal talents of MC DRS and James Massiah to great effect. Future Music was delighted to hook up Moiré and get an overview of the machines and methodology he employs to make his distinctive music.
No Future is brooding, intense and wonderful. How long did that little combination take to concoct?
“The process of making the record took a little over a year. Some ideas were maybe there a little earlier as you tend to generate a lot of material over time. Sometimes you have to leave a track and let it breathe for a bit. What happens in some instances is that you’re either fighting with the track until you actually finish it, or sometimes it all just happens really quickly. I probably had hundreds of versions of the same track, and then quite often I end up going back to the original one… or the initial idea!
“Someone asked me the other day if I was excited about being referring to as ‘the next big thing’. We’re making underground music, so I don’t really expect anything! This music is made on impulse, emotions and experiences of life rather than by planning to make a hit. Timing is more important – sometimes things happen outside the music, and they trigger the urge to make tunes. No Future was that kind of situation.”
You’ve always struck FM as an artist who doesn’t just paste your beats and sequences up on the grid of a DAW and leave it running?
“Again, if I did that, I’d probably be more successful and be playing out every weekend. If I put everything on the grid with a 909 and some acid-synths just because everyone’s listening to Acid Techno again… well, I just don’t think like that! For me, making music is about making something I want to make – it doesn’t matter if people like it or don’t like it. Maybe that’s because I was a Drum & Bass boy in the ’90s when nobody really gave a shit!
“If you don’t know how to dance to it, fuck off, but if you’re into it, stay on the floor. The same with techno in that none of the people who are massive now thought that anybody would care about their music. It was done because they felt like doing it.”
You’ve got some desirable bits and pieces in the studio – what gets your creative juices flowing?
“I love what the Swedish synth-makers have been doing. I have a Nord Rack, and I also got addicted to Teenage Engineering. The OP-1 was great because I couldn’t afford to rent a studio for a while, so I thought that buying and collecting smaller but powerful pieces was the way to go. As challenging as that is, I liked it. The OP-1 is a marvellous bit of gear as you really can do everything on it. It’s also got that sampling/Hip-Hop attitude about it, which I really like. When they first came out, some people were complaining as it only had digital outputs, but I actually really liked that. For the same reason that I like people who make music in GarageBand; only because of the certain compression it has that’s really interesting. It’s how you use it that’s interesting.
“On the software side of things, I use the old Logic as I still like the old interface. Occasionally, I’ll try and do something in Ableton but I don’t really like the way it sounds. I don’t think it affects the final balance, but the way it sounds through the speakers is really strange. I think it’s a good platform, but I find a little thinness in the sound of it.
“Back to hardware, I use the Octatrack – anything by Elektron is basically awesome! I wish I could have more Octatracks – a whole bank of Octatracks! I’m learning and exploring the Analog Four. Again, I think I’m drawn to the machines that other people reject. A lot of people have issues with the Analog Four, and it can sound weird, but I think that makes it good. If you’re designing your own sounds on it and going a bit deeper, it’s a very powerful machine. Monomachine is awesome too and I love that it’s digital.”
Have you had a chance to check out Elektron’s upcoming Digitakt yet?
“Yeah, I saw that, but if I don’t have money, I try not to engage with things too much! It looks sick and really promising, as everything they’ve done so far is good. I’m looking forward to trying it.”
There are a couple of intriguing old keyboards…
“Yeah, I’ve got a Korg Synthe-Bass, which is pre-MIDI and awesome for bass stuff. There’s also a Roland JD-800, which I keep in my house as it’s too heavy to carry around. I forgot to mention the Moog Mother 32 that I got – they sound really good and I think it’s generous of Moog to release a cheap, smaller synth as Moog’s sounds are amazing.”
What’s the little homebrew-looking circuit-board synth?
“It’s a circuit-bent noise-maker made by a Dutch electronics genius called Gieskes (gieskes.nl) who sells synths on BleepLabs. The one I’ve got I use to generate noise and crazy video live.
”There’s a pleasing resurgence in people producing more boutique and one-off synths at the moment, isn’t there?
“Yeah, and people are really excited about buying this stuff. It’s understandable that people have got really into the whole modular revival, too. It’s similar to vinyl in some ways – some people got into modular to make some music, some are just collectors. A couple of people I know have really nice modular rigs at home, but only for messing around with when they get home from work.”
So, you’re not an analogue purist with your synth sounds then?
“For me, digital is every bit as important and amazing as analogue. Obviously, it depends what machine it comes from, but the best thing about the Hamburg studio is the combination of digital and analogue they have. It’s about the way that the individual synths are – with something like the PPG, if you send a sequence to it, it does its own thing that goes beyond what you send it!
"That’s what I love about the old synths: they were so uneven and unpredictable. Of course they go out of tune but I think that’s excellent too. You could leave something running all night, and when you came back in the morning it would be different. That’s the beauty of voltages and the analogue side of things, but if you combine that with, say, using an OP-1 in sketchpad mode, and send MIDI to some old machine, then it’s pretty bonkers!”
We wanted to ask you about the Hamburg Synthesizer Studio that you used for your previous album, Shelter?
“It’s amazing… they have everything. We met years ago when they were doing a synth exhibition in Graz, Austria and I was curating a project with two pianists. We became friends and I suggested they should put a studio together with all the gear they’d collected. They’re both sound-engineers at a big club called UG in Hamburg where they’ve been given one room – it’s like a bunker – for their studio. They have a PPG Wave that I love. It’s really old… from the late ’70s I think, and it was already an analogue/digital hybrid. Depeche Mode and some others used it. It’s quite complex…a really little screen. It’s a little bit like the Elektron in that it’s a pain in the ass to program but the sound is incredible.”
What’s your process for building a new track?
“Everything’s done live into Logic – sometimes sketches, sometimes the whole tracks. I connect all the machines together: the OP-1, the Moog, the Octatrack, the Analogue Four… I like to sample with the OP-1 as it’s an excellent little sampling toy, but then sequencing the sample and making the synth or the drums with it.
“I’ll have a sequencing ‘mother’ sending stuff to all the other machines then doubling up additional signals from the other machines… so of course, they’re going to start cancelling each other out, which can make things quite interesting. If you experiment enough, you start repeating these errors, and suddenly it becomes a method. That’s what I’m searching for…finding the errors that I can re-use.
”It’s important to get to know your hardware and how it interacts with the rest of your set-up…
“Definitely. It comes with knowing exactly what the gear can do. On the receiving end of the sequence, it goes to some other box, which is just making sound but maybe also has a sequencing capability… and then that can send another sequence to something else, and so on. The combinations are endless. I do limit myself to a set group of machines per record, though, just to allow me to really learn that gear. In my case, I then take that same gear out to perform live so I have a similar set-up on stage and in the studio – something I feel comfortable with.”
It’s a hell of a job taking a load of electronic machines out into the live arena though…
“Well yeah, though obviously, the term ‘live’ doesn’t express what’s really happening quite often. Replaying tracks live is basically DJing, but taking the tracks apart then making something new with it is another level. Audiences often want to hear the tracks they like from an album, but we’re not in the pop world – here, if you can deliver something different, people will enjoy it just as much if you played the tracks as they sound on the album.”
No Future is notable for containing your first collaborations with vocalists. How was it working with MC DRS and James Massiah?
“That was awesome – being able to introduce other humans into my world, in a way. Making electronic music can be quite a lonely process, so collaborating with someone else brightens the journey up and changes the colour of the tracks.
"When I made the first track, Lost You, I sent it to DRS and two hours later he’d done it! He sent a few bars via email and we bounced it around that way until he’d laid down the whole thing… super-professional. James Massiah was more about spoken-word, something different again, so we met and had a long session in my studio and we recorded a bunch of different tracks, but I chose the one I used on Façade. Maybe one day I’ll finish the others.”
How did you initially get involved with the good people at Ghostly International?
“I knew Sam [Valenti] from a few years back. I was a fan of a lot of the early records they put out on Ghostly, and then I accidentally met him through someone else, and we ended up chatting about design and music. I told him that I made beats, and after we’d finished the campaign for Shelter, the album I put out on Werkdisks, I was searching around for a label.
“I approached a few people that I knew, but it was taking a long time. Unexpectedly, Sam emailed me and asked if I wanted to do an album with them.”
Are you still writing, or are you focused on promoting the release at the moment?
“Well, I have some live shows coming up, so I’ll explore that side of things and do as many as possible. I’m already sketching out new ideas and there are some collaborations I’ve done too… one with a British sculptor called Mat Chivers, where I composed a piece of music for one of his shows. That was interesting as it’s very different from what I do normally. Potentially we’re going to take that further.
“Just the great response we’ve been getting to No Future has inspired me to keep writing, so I’ve got lots of new ideas and sketches on the go…[laughs] there’s always some other record around the corner!”
Any new bits of kit you fancy for the next Moiré project?
“Teenage Engineering have been working on their OP-Z, which I think is going to come out sometime this year. It’s a crazy, audio/visual synth that I really want because it implements the game engine in the synth. We did the Monolith interactive game at nofuture.uk that you can play around with – the same technology we used to build that, they’ve implemented in their synth. So, for example, I’ll be able to load Monolith into it and have it do its thing live while I play the sounds. On top of all that, the OP-Z has some incredible sounds in it too.
“I’d love to get a big Moog – maybe one of the old Voyagers if I can get one. I’ve never had a Dave Smith synth, but I’d love one of the Prophets… and if I could ever afford it, a Buchla Music Easel – those are brilliant. There are so many things to get! But for making the music I make… I don’t know that I need that much!”