Szare first emerged towards the end of 2009 on the mysterious hand-stamped white label Horizontal Ground. Under the name of 126.96.36.199.5 the equally mysterious techno outfit crafted pensive, raw techno, continuing to do so under the Szare moniker for successive releases on labels like Other Heights, Idle Hands and their own imprint, Syndrome Z. With so little known about Szare, there were questions about their origins (somewhere in Northern England? The tiny Polish village that begot their name?) and just how many people they were. The advent of live shows lifted the shroud of perplexity to reveal that Szare is a duo comprised of Andrew Diaczuk and Jack Coulton, and they are indeed from the murky depths of somewhere in the Northern climes of England. Having already provided the stunning mix for our Horizontal Ground/Frozen Border Talking Shopcast episode, Little White Earbuds got back in touch with the pair to delve deep into their minds, discovering that their particular brand of abstract, no-nonsense techno is tempered by a refreshing irreverence that errs terrifyingly close to the inane. The duo also put together our 128th exclusive podcast; another thrilling mix of techno and affiliated business that marks the first time we have asked someone back to do a second mix for us, and is testament to the esteem in which we hold them.
LWE Podcast 128: Szare (60:24)
01. Ill-R, “Untitled Love” (Mrsk Remix) [Deep Moves]
02. Tessela, “D Jane” [Punch Drunk]
03. Gesloten Cirkel, “Yamagic [Moustache Techno]
04. NHK’Koyxeи, “55” [Pan]
05. Photonz, “Plague of the New Age” (Maetrik Remix) [Get The Curse]
06. Mike Dehnert, “Treillis” [Echocord Colour]
07. Szare, “Bellevue” (Bleak Remix) [Deep Moves]
08. Bleak, “Fall” [Sudden Drop]
09. Kowton, “Track Mute” [Idle Hands]
10. Alex Coulton, “Bounce” [Dnuos Ytivil]
11. T++, “Allied” [Erosion]
12. Alexander D’niel, “Nihse” [Panel Trax]
13. Szare, “Moção” [Deep Moves]
14. Bok Bok, “Charisma Theme” [Night Slugs]
15. Alex Coulton, “Brooklyn” [Idle Hands]
16. Szare, “Red Desert” [Krill Music]
17. D’Marc Cantu, “Evil Motion” [Crème Organization]
18. MMM, “MMM Meets Tshetsha Boys” [Honest Jon’s Records]
19. Badness ft. Newham Generals, “Murked Again” [Lava Unit]
First of all how did the two of you meet?
Andrew Diaczuk: I think we started having a conversation on a bus (to a rave?) about Galicia. The bit above Portugal. Those heady days of pre-recession Britain, when people discussed the geography of Iberia without reprisal or reference to the falling value of their second homes there. Sigh.
Jack Coulton: It was on the way to the infamous Barnes Hospital rave in 2005, the likes of which Manchester may never see again due to the profligacy of the scallies. Rigs need security to back them up in the dying hours — party people know this but won’t face up to it. When it gets round to 9am and its just a warehouse full of semi-gangsters demanding more jump up drum’n’bass, that’s a problem. Seen it happen time and time again. There was another one in Chorlton Meadows in 2008 where we had to rush the system out in the van when some gang threatened to come back with manpower. Nob heads! No party without our lot.
Were you both already making music on your own before you started making tracks as Szare?
AD: Yes, Jack was already “making waves” in the redundant storage device game. The floppy disk game. Actually, Jack released a tune of mine on floppy way back before Szare. Got some good circulation around the Arndale Centre in town. Both of us had been experimenting in lots of styles for 10+ years. Me in noise rock, dub etc. Jack in jungle and the rap music.
JC: I was banging out certified playground HITS from year 8 onwards mate, not even kidding, back in the day when having a CD writer was rare and I could press my shit up for the canteen crew. Wow.
You’ve managed to keep your identities fairly well hidden behind the Szare name. Do you have any other pseudonyms either for music you make together or for solo stuff?
AD: We do but they sort of come and go, often just resurrected for a one off gig. Just a load of names really. It’s definitely very separate.
JC: Yeah mate. Big in the other scene.
How long were you working on producing together before your first Horizontal Ground release?
AD: I was really into recording plumbing at the time. The sonic possibilities of my central heating were pretty exciting. You would know what I mean if you ever tried to sleep in this flat. You could hear the odds being read out from the bookies downstairs while you were taking a shit. Not even a lie. Anyway, we just put a kick drum on top and that was that — techno.
JC: About 8 hours.
Why the change from calling yourselves 188.8.131.52.5? Were people finding it hard to remember what to call you?
AD: It was never our decision to call ourselves 184.108.40.206.5. It was Jeff’s (Horizontal Ground label head) idea. It was dropped on HG from Skirt’s release onwards so we dropped it too. Never on a long ting.
How did you meet Jeff from Horizontal Ground? Did you know him already or did you submit a demo for the label?
AD: Submitted a demo (the B side of HG02).
JC: Wrote the A-side after the B had been signed. The B was super experimental. I think that caught Jeff’s attention, and gave us room to experiment further on the label. The challenge became (and remains) to write functional material.
You launched your own label, Syndrome Z, in 2010. Can you tell us about the aims of the label and where the name comes from?
AD: The name was decided with co-launcher Alex Coulton — took ages! We wanted something with the intials “SZ” so the catalog numbers could be SZ01, SZ02 etc, thus indicating our proprietorship.
JC: No aims at all, fam. Not even little ones. Originally it was just a platform to release “Mendeleev,” and we did that. Done. If we was gonna have aims we’d be talking about conquests and ting but man hasn’t got time to be making no conquests in the rave.
How did you team up with Alex Coulton for the first Syndrome Z release? Is he your brother, Jack?
JC: Yeah. Alex is my brother.
AD: It’s not like a competitive ting but we definitely inspire each other and there’s an element of, “Oh, he made that tune? Well now we gotta make THAT tune.” Like it encourages you to stay on top cos you don’t want Alex to just start drawing for the heat and we’re still trying to defrost the fridge and shit.
Having been releasing for a few years now, how would you say that Szare is evolving musically?
JC: I believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and so I don’t know if I wanna talk about no evolution or nuffin cos man ain’t sure about no Darwin ting. Just praise God for the tings he bestowed naturally and everything else is just in the diary you know.
AD: I don’t think we know to be honest. I think we have a bit more confidence nowadays to make bold production decisions. Rather than trying to be actively ambiguous we’re quite happy to integrate other influences like Harold Budd, Sunn O))) or the Baile Funk. We wear our hearts on our sleeves. We’re trying to explore certain moods and feelings via the techno template and if it seems that there’s a uniform “theme” of spookiness or scariness which some have commented on then it isn’t entirely intentional. It’s just how things end up sounding. Blame Cameron’s Britain, the bankers’ war and the systematic destruction of everything the British working class has fought so hard to gain over the last 70 years. We aren’t trying to be pastiche. You reflect your environment…
Some producers are inspired by art, some are inspired by nature, some just want to make tracks for the club. What are some of the things that inspire you to make your tracks?
AD: Lisa from behind the counter at Poundland and Veronica who does the door down at The Salisbury. Celery. The smell of petrol. Arabic confectionery. Clint Eastwood’s lines at the end of “Unforgiven.” BBC’s coverage of the Jubilee. Jonathan Meades. Foreign coins that have holes in them (what the fuck is that about?), so-called “Black Cherry” flavor, Polish sausages, Polish attitudes to forgiveness, Ross Noble’s guest performances on “Have I Got News For You?” and the thought of Louise Mensch waking up and realizing all her family photograph albums have been re-arranged in non-chronological order. OH SHIT BITCH, THE WORLD IS CHAOS.
JC: Man can’t compete.
You guys are known for doing a pretty tight live show. Do you DJ as well, or are you strictly a live act?
AD: Yeah, we DJ, but we prefer playing live. It’s a real improvisation, even though the so-called “live set” can be a case of someone pressing play. But when you have keyboards and drum machines and human error you get a different sound every time, no two shows (or any two practices) are the same; the element of performance is there, which it isn’t in DJing, to a large extent. Obviously there are mindblowing DJs out there but they aren’t doing anything except playing tunes. We put a lot of effort into delivering a performance. Special things can happen, and catching a wave and riding it is totally different to DJing where you are constrained by the track lengths of the records in your bag. You have to follow the tune that made the crowd go “oooh” with another that makes them go “naaaaah son” and it’s just different, innit. When you’re playing live you have more freedom to tease and play with the audience depending on their reactions. It’s a similar entertainment using the same basic building blocks.
JC: Yeah but if you really want us to play other people’s tunes that’s not a problem, but would prefer not to. We’ve got the goods; one-of-a-kind hand-crafted instruments from the depths of Old Trafford. Playing with a “bass wheel” made out of a hard drive right now. Shit is on top. Our guy Ed is a big boy tinker in a big boy trade. You don’t wanna ask him for an estimate. Man ain’t cheap. Live.
What can you tell us about the mix you put together for us?
AD: Very little. It’s some songs. We like them and they segue nicely (FOR THE MOST PART).
JC: It’s like a spiritual ting you know, it’s not even about music you know. It’s about knowing your place in the grand diary of tings you know. Mans can’t be demanding overtime and shit — mans got an appointment with the big man and he ain’t rescheduling even if you just bought a Twix or a Wispa or whatever.
What can we expect from Szare over the next year?
AD: Got a release forthcoming on Indigo’s Mindset label, another one on Deep Moves coming with imminence, maybe a couple more things down the line from the usual suspects but can’t commit to it. There’s a lot of non-dance floor material that we don’t really know what to do with, probably it’s not commercially viable and it would be highly cynical to stick on a B side and throw some generic techno thing together for the A side in order to get it out there. What’s the point? I think if there’s something we’ve really learned over the last year or so it’s that quality control is incredibly important.
JC: Less of the same. But more of the difference. Like an equation without a variable but two variables at the same time, like two odds make an even and ting. It’s a maths ting.