Mancunian-based pairing AnD (Andy and Dimitri) are part of a new vanguard of English producers fueled by the leftover debris of British industrial music, northern rave culture, and south of the river swing. With a foundry of over 500-plus unreleased productions stowed away in their studio, the duo’s closed-mouth cultivation of industrialized techno sounds is now focused toward harder hitting dynamics, iron clad grooves, aggro distortion, and their trademark “silent part.” They also run the Wood Bison-inspired Inner Surface Music label with Tom Dicicco, a three pronged venture exiting the enclaves of dub techno with a move into situational Downwards territory. The two are also launching their own white labeled 12″ series named AnD, charged by the ascendancy of unyielding and homespun British techno. LWE caught up with AnD on a cold Manchester morning in the basement of Eastern Bloc Records to talk all things “techno and a half.”
You’ve grown a beard since I saw you last, Andrew?
Andy: Got a healthy beard, got the hair on the go, I’m going for the homeless sheik look, mate. [laughs] I’ve gone back to the original surf bum look. [laughs]
Your music has been getting quite hard since your Project Squared and Idle Hands releases.
Andy: Ever since we played at Berghain the other year…
Dimitri: It changed our whole point of view. Playing there is nice and it gave us a different perspective, but in the last year or so with what has been going on in our lives, we’ve turned 180 degrees and gone harder and harder.
Andy: We’re not making the dubbier stuff at the minute, we still enjoy it, but from a personal tip we are wanting to get back to that ’90s hardcore shit, y’know. [laughs]
I guess you could say industrial techno is “in” at the moment. How much has the current UK industrial movement influenced your shift toward harder productions?
Andy: In the last year we have been getting more and more club gigs, we’ve been playing later in the night rather than having to play warm up sets or play towards the start of the night. We’ve been allowed to let loose a little bit more. I started collecting techno records in 1997 or 1998, I started clubbing ’95 or ’96, so for me that was the first sound I was going out to.
Dimitri: It’s all about getting hard man, harder and harder and harder.
Andy: We’ve always loved Surgeon, Regis, Ancient Methods, Female, all the early Downwards stuff and Mick Harris.
Dimitri: Birmingham man.
Andy: I think it has been an opportunity for us to let loose, let our hair down and start doing some stuff that people may not have expected us to have done before.
Do you feel like since you have moved into the harder and industrial side of things that you are working with a true representation of yourselves?
Andy: Yeah, I think before we were making stuff that we were really into as well. But I think when you are warming up all the time you tend to be playing those deeper records, but because we are playing later and because we’ve always been into the harder stuff, we feel more comfortable making the harder stuff.
Dimitri: It’s easier for us to make the harder stuff than what it is to make the dubbier stuff. The dubbier sound is nice and it’s something we love and something we like to personally make for ourselves, but we just don’t release them. We keep them for our personal enjoyment. There’s some things you want to make for the club, but then it’s another thing for what you want to listen to at home.
Andy: In the house man, I don’t even listen to techno anymore really. I listen to promos and that, but a lot of the time I’ll listen to Brian Eno, Richard H. Kirk, Cabaret Voltaire — I listen to more stuff like that.
It seems like UK industrial music is a really big part of your life at the moment?
Andy: It’s still industrial, but industrial in a different way — it’s like the very original industrial stuff. I think listening to loads of that in the house as well makes us want to hone in on that in the studio, but do it in our own way. People like Aphex Twin, Aphex Twin has always been one of my favorite artists, he’s always had that attitude of “make whatever the fuck you like.”
Dimitri: That’s what’s it all about man, don’t get stuck in trends or get stuck in hype, don’t get stuck to anything. Make whatever you want no matter what. If people like it, they will like it, happy days; if people don’t like it, fair play. [laughs] That’s the true idea of making music basically.
Andy: I’d say we’ve become more confident in ourselves due to having more releases as well and I think the most important thing we would say for our sound is we don’t want to compromise, at all, anymore. Basically we will push want we want to do; it will be like marmite: you either love it or hate it.
I remember thinking, “OK, these guys are getting pretty serious now” when your first Black Sun Records 12″ dropped. Was there a moment in time where you guys were like, “We are going to go for it now”?
Andy: We will have more stuff coming up for Black Sun Records, we’ve also got a new AnD White label series starting next month, the masters have just been cut. We both went down to see Matt at Air and they were cut about a month ago and the test presses came yesterday, so happy birthday. [laughs] That will be out in the next four to five weeks and again you’re probably going to hear a slightly new…
Andy: A slightly more in your face sound, even more than the Black Sun Records release.
So where do you draw the line with techno and something like gabba?
Dimitri: No lines at all man, just go hard as fuck. [laughs]
Andy: The thing is, at the minute the way we feel about our tunes is they are getting harder dynamics wise, but actually if you listen to them on a deeper level they are actually really groovy. So it’s a case of keeping the drums really straight and almost military like, while all the melodies circulate around the room to give you the movement. That is something that is always apparent to us whenever we are listening to stuff like Drexciya: the drums are always really straight, but the melodies are what makes people move on the dance floor and makes you feel like you’re spinning above your head. So we have been honing in on that style a little bit as well; The dynamics are hard and heavy hitting, but the melody gives you the groove and movement.
Tell me about the “silent part” in your tracks. It’s becoming a little trademark. You guys tend to have a breakdown that leads to a short moment, to almost complete silence. It seems like a cliché thing to do in dance music, but you guys seem to avoid the cliché. Do you consciously think about that or does it just happen?
Dimitri: The calm before the storm, but no, it’s formulated.
Andy: It sort of just developed naturally. I think before we didn’t really break our tracks down enough to give people a little bit of a lull, just before you get that last heavy drop. Dance music is all about the build, breakdown and drop before you have your outro, so I think we have been trying to hone in on that and tried to make it as effective as possible for the dance floor.
What does it feel like to be part of UK techno at the moment. It seems like a hotbed of creativity.
Andy: I think what happened is the Berghain sound-thing started four or five years ago and it started to really hone in on a certain sound. Off the back of that you have a lot of people that got into that sound; they’ve been to Germany, they’ve been to the club, they’ve been looking to Tresor and Detroit and stuff like that for years. But at the end of the day, the UK techno scene was one of the strongest there was. So I’ve felt like a lot of the UK producers have thought, “Well, if the Germans can get that sound rocking by themselves then we can do that here, too. Because at the end of the day the UK has got the longest running rave culture, and the good thing about the UK is it was originally about rave music, where you had jungle, you had hardcore, you had techno, you had house, you had breakbeat, you had whatever and it all fell under “rave,” it wasn’t a particular genre. I think in the last two or three years a lot of the UK producers have maybe been trying to emulate what has been going on elsewhere, but then it started to come back around to fit their own sound. We’re friends with guys like Truss and he is doing amazing things as well. It was quite funny, we sent him some tunes and he went “fuckin ‘ell” and he sent us some tunes and we went “fuckin ‘ell,” and ever since then we keep sending things back and forward. It’s not like a competition, but it’s healthy competition, not envious competition.
It’s like a mateship?
Andy: Yeah man, it’s good to have that, where you are close to people you talk with all of the time and they’re doing stuff similar to you, but they are doing it in their completely own way. I think you’re right; the likes of Shifted, the likes of Sigha, the likes of Truss, Perc, Forward Strategy Group, Inigo Kennedy — there’s a lot of people at the minute that have said, “You know what, fuck copying anyone else, we’ll all stay within the same realms but we’ll all put our own twist in it.”
How much do you think UK bass music and post-dubstep has got to do with the UK techno resurgence?
Dimitri: Like Blawan, man.
Andy: Like Blawan and Pariah are writing hard fucking techno. A lot of people in the UK who were originally techno, slagged them off because they were saying they’re not techno but…
Dimitri: They are fucking techno and a half, mate.
Andy: If you listen to their tunes man, they completely have their own styles, they’re not copying anyone, so what’s the big deal? I think the problem is [UK techno producers] are scared of them rather than embracing them. But you’re right about people not really being arsed about dubstep anymore, and a lot of those guys like Untold are getting more and more into the techno realms. It’s becoming a nice amalgamation of sounds. You get people like ourselves, people like Truss, people like Shifted, people like Blawan and people like Untold and none of the tunes will sound like each other, but they are all pushing the same shit. It’s more stripped down, but still hard techno that is built for dance floors; it’s not built for you to stand in the house and drink a cup of tea to, you know what I mean? It’s about to take your face off in a club.
You haven’t worked with the one label more than twice. Do feel like you have to be strict on production requests now or are you happy to keep releasing with an assortment of labels?
Andy: Like I said, we have our own white label vinyl series which we are starting and it will only have our stuff on it. Basically we make the tunes, we get them mastered ourselves, we are going to self distribute it ourselves as well. We’re just looking to go a little D.I.Y at the minutes, take it control of our stuff. We are also looking at writing an album for a label next year as well, so we’ll maybe do another 12″ with them and then we’ll concentrate on writing the album for them. There are a couple of nice guys from Italy who are based in Berlin; Ascion, Shaped Noise and D.Carbone, and we’ve got an EP coming up with them on Repitch.
Basically this year there are more records in the world that are AnD that people don’t know about because we have had three or four secret alias this year. Because we had a lot of people recognize us from what we did last year; we have been working on a lot of remixes this year, we’ve done like seven remixes, we’ve got more to do. Truss, he’s based in Bristol, that will be our last remix for a little while because we want to concentrate on our own material and concentrate on the album as well. Our album will have dance floor stuff on it, but we don’t want it to be 100% dance floor. It’s supposed to be a journey in itself with different sounds and different influences that people can listen to in the house, but also something that people can go out and rave their arses off to in the club as well.
How is your label Inner Surface Music with Tom Dicicco going? I saw ISM005 is due for release?
Andy: Number four was a nice combination of Patrick Walker from Forward Strategy Group and and also Inigo Kennedy. The next two releases are going to be a little bit different to what people have previously done on Inner Surface before, we are going to be doing two various artists EPs, probably three tracks for each one and the first one is going to be Ascion. We also have a track from Truss and we also have a track from Sunil Sharpe, who did Black Sun Records three. We’re going to push the label in more of the direction we have been going as well which is…
Andy: A little bit harder and a little bit tougher than what people might have expected.
What does Tom think of that direction? He is a little more dubby. How does the dynamic work between you two and Tom?
Andy: We’ve known Tom for about five years now and Tom loves dubby stuff, right, but if you ever see him play in a club he does play the harder stuff as well. People might expect Tom to turn up and play two hours of Basic Channel and Rhythm and Sound, but when he’s in the club he doesn’t play that stuff, he plays a little bit at the start but he knows how to bang it out.
It’s nice to see Tom Diciccio doing well.
Dimitri: Things are really coming through for him. He is a really lovely guy and he deserves all the attention. As a producer he’s dope.
Andy: Tom’s a pure reggae head really. He’s grown up with his dad feeding him all the best dub reggae music, so that’s the reason why the bass in his music is the first focus, then he builds everything around it.
How’s life going in Manchester at the moment?
Andy: It’s fucking cold mate, I’ll tell you that. [laughs]
Dimitri: It’s really cold. [laughs]
Andy: It’s been good. Manchester for about two or three years has been a little bit dead on the techno scene, but I feel like the last year, year and a half, things are coming back more and more. For example, three years ago you could have put on Jeff Mills and you may have not filled the venue, and Jeff Mill is one of the true heroes of techno. But now you can put on the up-and-coming names, as well as the bigger names, and you know you’re going to be guaranteed to get full club. We played with Ancient Methods about two weeks ago and the club was rammed and everyone was loving it, whereas two years ago people may not have been into such a purist night. It was ourselves, Ancient Methods and Rob Hall who was the Autechre tour DJ, he used to run Scam Records. It was his night with another Irish guy called Gary Sloan, the two of them have been putting on really decent techno nights again. They’ve had Surgeon, Perc, Neil Landstrumm and Ancient Methods, they’re really looking to push that sound again.
So the UK industrial sound is very strong in Manchester at the moment?
Andy: Those sounds are definitely in mate, but I think a lot of people in England at the minute are just enjoying harder dance sounds, like a lot of the hardcore jungle kind of stuff and drum and bass is coming back as well. The Amen break and Equinox.
Dimitri: The harder stuff is coming back more and more.
Andy: I think it is coming in across the board. I think it got soft and downbeat a little bit with house music, like with garage, 2-step and dubstep also. Even half-time drum and bass is a little bit like that as well. It’s really beautiful music to listen to, but a lot of time it lacks the punch in the club and I think all the scenes in general have got a little bit bored of nice sounds. They want to get that heavy hitting thing coming to you, even if it’s metal, post-punk or drum and bass or dubstep, house and techno. Even New York house music which is big here as well. DJ Spider played at a place here called Bohemian Grove and he came into the shop yesterday. I sold him some records and I really didn’t think he would buy the stuff that he bought. I pulled him out a whole load of house records and he was like, “Nah man, I want some fucking banging shit.” He’d just seen one of his best mates Adam X in Berghain on the Wednesday and he was like, “Nah, nah, nah, I want, that, that and that” and he just bought… more or less, straight up techno and noise music.
Dimitri: If you look at the past few years and how the world has been financially, people aren’t being more aggressive, but people want a proper release, rather than giving each other hugs on the dance floor.
Andy: Let’s just get our fucking head down and dance our arses off.
Dimitri: This is what is all about man.
How do the both of you work in the studio. One does the drums, the other does chords and effects, then swap? Something like that?
Andy: We have been working with each other for so long…
Dimitri: We don’t even need to speak to each other, we just go into the studio, open up the computer, open up the racks — that’s it, no more, no less. Other than that, after three or four hours we’ll do a track, we’ll speak once or twice and that’s it. Go there, do the track, listen to it and leave.
Andy: I think we have built up a telepathy type thing, because even when we do live sets in the club, they are completely split; one does drums, the other does synths and we look at each other and say, “Are you ready to go?” We’ll both go, “yeah,” and that’s pretty much it until the end of the set. We don’t talk, we don’t need to talk because we have worked together now for seven years, so when you have worked with someone for so long it is telepathy, we don’t need to worry about discussing, “What do you think about this, what do you think about that.” We can write tracks individually that go out as AnD, and nobody even knows they’re not done together, because we have both developed a pallet of sound. When we work together or individually it’s the same thing. We could play you five or so tunes, where three of them have been written together and two have been written individually and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. It’s nice that we’ve reached that point where we both trust each other 100%, no matter what we do in life. We’re studio partners, we DJ together, we play live together and we are best mates.
So how often are you guys apart?
Andy: We always DJ and play together 100%. We’ve been offered gigs in far off places but had to turn them down because they’ve only offered to bring one of us.
Is that tough?
Andy: A lot of people would say, “Well why didn’t you do it? Surely if it’s one of you there with your name on it, then it’s just as good,” but…
Dimitri: It’s all about having fun man, not press or hype, it’s all about having fun, being together and having a good time.
Andy: The way we see it is, in a club situation, whether it’s live or a DJ set with AnD, it’s A and D. It’s not just A or just D. If someone wants to book me I’ll go and play as Andrew, I don’t play as AnD, I’ll play as myself. If you want AnD you’ll have to book both of us. We are a collective duo. [laughs] We’ll keep making music if we are releasing it or not, it’s our life. There’s only a few things in life that fully allow me to meditate and switch my brain off to everything else that is going on, and music is one of them. We probably wrote four or five hundred tracks in the first five years that we were writing tunes, because we have to do it. We don’t ever sit down and say we are going to write a tune for this label or this situation, we just write tunes and if we feel it is right we’ll give it to someone. We’ve probably got five or six hundred unreleased tracks, maybe more.
So what happens to them, do they just sit there?
Andy: They’re just there, mate. [laughs]
Dimitri: Maybe about three years ago, we spent every single day of three months recording, just to see if we could do it. We’ve done it, we have it there and we are happy with it. We are never going to release them or anything, but we have done it. Like Andy said, we like making music.
Andy: Some people feel like they have to make music to get something out by a certain point.
Andy: But Dimitri and I write music everyday. We both work full time jobs, but we write music every fucking day, as soon as work finishes, there’s only one thing on our minds and it’s “let’s go write a fucking tune.” It doesn’t matter about genre or anything like that, it’s just about us feeling like we are being creative.
Do any of these unreleased tracks get played out?
Andy: We did six or seven international live sets last year and at that point it was all the music that was coming out this year, so no nobody knew what it was; so it’s almost like we are testing the tracks out in a club for ourselves. The thing with us as artists is we don’t want to be doing the same shit all the time, we want to be moving forward. Techno is about the future, it’s not about going backwards.
How long do you think this “harder” phase you are going through at the moment will last? Do you think you will be still making tracks this hard in a few years?
Andy: Possibly. If we do ever get some money saved up we’ll get some modular synths and really hone in on the sound design elements.
Dimitri: Yes, we’ll probably take it in a new direction and to another level.
Andy: We can’t say the hard stuff will last forever. It probably will do, but we might just do it in a slightly different way. I feel like in the last three or four years — once a year — we have a reshape of what we are doing and what we are thinking about. We’ll always do something of a similar ilk, but with a completely different twist to it. It keeps it interesting for ourselves as well as our sound too.
How much music are you making that is not tough, balls-out techno?
Dimitri: Probably about forty of fifty per cent man.
And what sort of music is it?
Dimitri: Hip hop, jazz, funk…
Andy: It could be drone.
Andy: Half-time drum and bass, dub techno.
Dimitri: We have a track coming out on ASC’s label Auxiliary. Everything and anything man, whatever we feel like. Everything except rock and indie. No. I’ve never liked it and I will never like it. It’s sounds too natural, the sounds don’t click with my brain for some reason.
What sort of gear are you guys using?
Dimirti: We start by using the analogue gear to put the beats down.
Andy: We’ve basically got no expensive gear, we just use a lot of small synths that are quite easy to get about. Basically we don’t like to spend money on expensive shit. We’d both love to have a 303, 909 and 808, but if you add all of them up together, we don’t really have four grand lying around, but what we do like using is some Dave Smith stuff.
Dimitri: We have valves, distortions, filters, a ’70s drum machine.
Andy: We’ve got loads of smaller toys from a company in Chicago, they’re more like noise machines, they’re really good and playful because they’re quite cheap.
Dimitri: We also modify things ourselves, it’s easy to do and they sound like nothing else.
Andy: Dimitri is a fully trained electrician as well which helps…
Andy & Dimitri: [laughs]
Dimitri: If you make your own stuff, man, it will cost one tenth of the price.