Some producers can plod away for half of their careers and still sound as nondescript as the next faceless electronic music maker sitting in their bedroom trying to replicate the sounds of the music they love. Others hit their stride straight away, indelibly forging their mark on everything they touch. Dave Henson under his Nochexxx handle has achieved the latter with just three proper releases in a little over a year, carving out a sound for himself via hotly tipped emissions on Ramp and Werk Discs. In his earliest musical incarnation he played keys in the English post-rock band Gwei-Lo, who had a promising career ahead of them which sadly ended with the tragic death of guitarist Al Brooker. Following the dissolution of the band Henson began indulging more in his penchant for electronic music, releasing experimental electronics under the name Ascoltare, before deciding that he wasn’t get the sound he wanted out of his software studio. Turning to a hands-on, hardware setup, he became Nochexxx, and embraced a raw, primitive sound that evokes early acid-house and new beat. LWE got in touch with Henson to find out more about the Cambridge producer and what the future holds for his music. He also put together our 111th exclusive podcast, which due to a feverish bout of the flu and its resulting woozy delirium, is a brilliantly surreal yet soothing journey Henson issues with explicit listening instructions.
LWE Podcast 111: Nochexxx (70:20)
01. People Like Us/Wobbly/Matmos, “Shenandoah” [Tigerbeat6]
02. Aphex Twin, “Goon Gumpas” [Warp Records]
03. Ennio Morricone, “Ricreazione Divertita” (Titoli) [Saimel Bandas Sonoras]
04. Malcom Cecil, “Crystal Lullabye” [Unity Records]
05. Nuno Canavarro, “Untitled” [Moikai]
06. Dome, “Cruel When Complete” [The Grey Area]
07. Walter Marchetti, “Per La Sete Dell’orecchio” [Vandalia]
08. Grouper, “Moon Is Sharp” [Yellow Electric]
09. Nuno Canavarro, “Untitled” [Moikai]
10. Harco Pront, “Dawn” [Music For Speakers]
11. Labradford, “El Lago” [Flying Nun Records]
12. Pierre Henry, “Après La Mort 1” (Fluide Et Mobilité D’un Larsen) [Philips]
13. Durutti Column, “Requiem For A Father” [Factory]
14. Harco Pront, “Dinner” [Music For Speakers]
15. Aphex Twin, “Lichen” [Warp Records]
16. Angelo Badalementi, “Twin Peaks Theme” [Warner Bros. Records]
17. Boards of Canada, “Fonec” [Music70]
18. Bernard Szajner, “Crash Diet” [Island Records]
19. Hieroglyphic Being, “I Am That I Am” (New Age House Re-make) [Mathematics Recordings]
20. Laurie Anderson, “O Superman” (For Massenet) [Warner Bros. Records]
21. Alvin Curran, “Fiori Chiari, Fiori Oscuri” [Ananda]
22. Slowdive, “Blue Skied an’ Clear” [Creation Records]
23. Laurie Spiegel, “The Expanding Universe” [Philo]
24. Pete Um, “You Will Never Let Me Fall” [Grist]
25. Ennio Morricone, “Ninna Nanna Per Adulteri” [Saimel Bandas Sonoras]
26. Grouper, “Mary, On The Wall (For Betre Jackson)” [Yellow Electric]
27. Panabrite, “Octopus In Your Dreams” [Hobo Cult Records]
28. James Ferraro, “Heaven’s Bathroom” [Muscleworks Inc.]
29. Test Dept., “Fuel Foundation of The Nation” [Sweatbox]
30. Ennio Morricone, “Il Grande Silenzio (Restless)” [Beat Records Company]
31. Conrad Schnitzler & Wolfgang Seidel, “Consequenz 010B” [Mirror Tapes]
32. Seefeel, “Charlotte’s Mouth” [Too Pure]
Starting with your first musical output, you were in the band Gwei-Lo, which is very different from the music you’ve been making since then. I understand the dissolution of the band was due to tragedy, but what brought about the shift in music? Was this other side of you something you had already been fostering?
Dave Henson: From the get-go I’ve been into electronic music, and during this formative period I had begun producing my own tracks using an Atari ST. After Gwei-Lo’s demise I continued working on my own ideas, some music surfaced, which eventually led to loading floppy disks on stage — we’re talking sometime ago!
Nochexxx is a relatively new moniker for you. What was the decision behind changing your name from Ascoltare to Nochexxx, and how do you feel the music you make as Nochexxx differs from that of Ascoltare?
Ascoltare was computer derived and I became increasingly frustrated with the software I was using. I was unable to make records the way I wanted them to sound. Eventually I flicked two fingers at myself and migrated towards hardware. I wanted to go back to primitive basics — not just with equipment, but also musically and psychologically. I had also begun harboring negative attitudes towards certain aspects of sound art. It was the right time to delve into club music as it was a much needed antidote to help fix my psychic ills.
Do you use computers at all or is it a strictly a hardware deal?
All the music is made with hardware, but I do use computers either to bounce finished pre-masters from quarter-inch tape or for WAV-editing large audio segments. In fact I was just saying on Twitter how even though I produce 98 percent on hardware I get to that remaining two percent, and computer says, “No!”
What machine forms the backbone of your productions?
My Akai MPC2500, quarter-inch tape recorder, and my first analog synth, the mighty Korg MS-20. I bought it from a military dude who used it in the army’s theatrical department! I also have a Juno-6, an 8-bit Eprom drum machine. I’m still trying to wrap my head round analog instruments. Recently I’ve have been having a stab at making music without MIDI (wait, is that Ekoplekz I can hear cackling in the background?). Ignorant techno confusion seems to be how I work, I’m always trying out new methods. It helps me avoid being creatively stifled.
Is it the raw and sometimes unexpected sounds you get from the machines that you prefer, or is it the physicality of how you use hardware that appeals?
There’s this horrible quote from me which says, “I abandoned computer music because its like working with cheap-quality paper.” This “cheap-quality paper” thought transpired through my own inadequacies in producing music with computers. I find there are psychological benefits to using outboard. I get excited when I see a setup that looks like the interior of a TIE fighter. Put me in front of a Logic screenshot and I’m going to puke. I think I suffer from synergy issues.
You’ve had three Nochexxx releases to date plus your free download album, but searching through YouTube, Vimeo, and your website, it looks like there are a bunch of unreleased Nochexxx tracks out there. Any plans to release any of them?
Recently I spent a few days going over my work, which roughly amounts to four hard drives, two bags of unmarked CD-Rs, some MiniDiscs/cassettes, and DATs. There’s even some bloody ADATs. Lots of truly awful stuff. I’ve finished compiling an album for Ramp, which should be out this year and there’s a whole bunch of stuff that I think is not good enough for the more expensive formats, but I’m thinking perhaps some tape releases would be cool.
Can you tell us about some of the videos for these tracks, particularly “Polterhost” and “Sandspur”?
I used some YouTube clips and crudely arranged them with Movie Maker. Generally, people are more likely to listen if there’s a visual accompaniment, besides its always worth working off total naiveté.
You grew up in various places around the world but are living again in the country of your birth, England. Are you still based in Cambridge?
Cambridge doesn’t seem the most obvious association for your music. Can you tell us a bit about the local music scene there and about your Bad Timing nights too?
I’d be making the same music regardless of where I was living, but that’s not to say there haven’t been a number of artists that have made their indelible mark on me! In the mid 90s you had Bovinyl Records (Animals on Wheels, Vert, et al.) who were making some really cutting edge electronic music. AOW really gave weight to that whole drill n’ bass scene. He later signed to Ninja Tune and Thrill Jockey. Vert eventually went over to [Mouse On Mars]’s label Sonig. Man From Uranus, Pete Um, and The Doozer are also local heroes producing great stuff — in fact, we’re working on a compilation for Felix Kubin’s Gagarin label. Cambridge has always seemed like a difficult place to get anything rolling, however this is changing for the better. Bad Timing (which I am no longer a part of) has always worked hard to bring in national/international acts to Cambridge. Recent BT events colluding with Aid and Abet have been immensely positive. There’s a morphic sense an arts network is building and genuinely moving towards something positive. Bloody great! I never understood why the gap between art and music establishments are so often widely separated, when they really are two sides of the same coin.
I understand Pete Um is a friend and collaborator of sorts. Can you tell us a bit about him and your musical friendship?
A true experimenter, who has been home recording since the early 90s. I recently compiled his new record, which could have been the greatest record of 2011, but has moved to number four as he cut the release down to 10 inches. He produces thousands of these amazing one-to two-minute audio miniatures, and lots of crap tape and drone work. [laughs]
How did you come to work with Sensational for your 12″ on Werk?
The golden age of Myspace. [laughs]
Did you write the beat using an MC in mind?
Do you play live or are you strictly studio based at this stage?
I press my own dubplates, occasionally DJ, but I’ve never enjoyed it enough to pursue it. I have complexes about live performances and my own music, so I’m not sure how to break through and do something that would be ultimately satisfying. I think part of the problem is I don’t like the way venues are set up. I’m very much in favor of the musique concrète approach, until then count me out! [laughs]
What can you tell us about the mix you’ve put together for us?
I’ve been semi-comatose with Alpine man-flu, so I wasn’t in the mood to belt out thumpers. Naturally, I made a mix that soundtracked my fevered mind. Please don’t listen over your lunch break, take time out of your busy lifestyle, arrange necessary precautions, and enjoy the music for what it really is.
What can we expect from Nochexxx in 2012?
There will be an LP for Ramp. A few tracks will surface on Felix Kubin’s Gagarin label compilation, and my redux version of the Greatest Record should see a physical release. More news to come!