Fflint Central, UK - A Label's Label
betterPropaganda (David): Please explain what Aquarius Records and tUMULt Laboratories and Andee Connors are all about?
Andee (Aquarius Records, tUMUlt): Aquarius Records and tUMULt, my label, are ways to turn people onto interesting, weird music. The label was born out of the store through meeting and finding people who didn’t have records released or didn’t have exposure in the United States. Basically, if the record is something I would put out on the tUMULt label, then it is a record that Aquarius would carry and vice versa. We do this because we like music and want to share cool music with people
betterPropaganda: I learned about Aquarius Records and yourself and the interesting things you do by way of investigating black metal. And while researching the black metal reviews on the Aquarius site, I kept seeing glowing review after glowing review for the electronic music put out on the Fflint Central label. What is Fflint Central and why do you like them so much? There are so many electronic labels out there, why them?
Andee: I don’t think it is necessarily because they are the only one’s doing it. I’m sure there is, with the advent of people having their own computers and the ease of home recording, I’m sure every other person you pass on the street has their own electronic band. I don’t remember exactly how I first heard them. I think the Fflint guys – Fflint is two guys and there are a bunch of bands, most of them made-up of some arrangement of those two guys, whether it is one of them or both of them – I think they just checked out our site and were psyched about all the weird music we carry and they sent us their CDs. And I really liked the CDs and we became friends, but even if we weren’t friends – I’ve never met them, only emailed them – their music is weird and crazy and kinda stands out from the rest of the stuff because it is so…electronic music in general has gotten really boring, everyone is doing the same thing, with the same computer programs, I think those two guys are coming from a place where they didn’t make music before, so it is this total organic what-the-fuck-are-we-doing-but-it-is-turning-out-pretty-cool thing. And it is all really creepy and droney and has all the sonic things that attract me to music. So far everything that Fflint Central has released has been great and that is a really rare thing. Not a stinker in the bunch, as they say.
betterPropaganda: In your audience, what kinds of people are drawn to Fflint Central, e.g., is it mostly people already into electronic music or does it appeal to the edgy folk or does it appeal to most everyone?
Andee: Fflint Central is like the stuff we like, it’s for people who are opened minded. People who are totally into Aphex Twin and nothing else aren’t going to like Fflint. And people who are just into electronic music might not be into it because it is just so weird…and that is what is so appealing. Part of the Fflint specialness is that not everyone is going to like it. This might be silly, but it is a little representative of being super into music and excited about it. That’s just the way I am about that stuff. I mean I’d love for those guys to get huge, a friend of mine who has a big label is putting out a sampler of theirs and hopefully more people will hear it and like it.
betterPropaganda: How would you describe what you do?
Tim (Fflint Central, Berkowitz, Lake & Dahmer, Pendro): I record and arrange electronic and acoustic sounds and blend them together. As I see it, to just try and capture a certain thought or feeling, this may be reflected in the title, obscure or otherwise. It's sound for people to listen to in a variety of different states. What could be pleasure for some people, could be irritating to others, just like food, art or anything else.
Barry (Fflint Central, Berkowitz, Lake & Dahmer, Cavendish Sanguine): I create and organise sounds into pieces which are satisfying to my ears. The vast majority of these sounds are created using a PC, either using software synthesizers and effects or from processed samples. On the most recent Cavendish Sanguine album, I took the plunge and added some 'real' guitar, played with my own incompetent hands. The source of the sound is not of great importance, only that the end result is enjoyable. I'm not very interested in the analogue vs digital debate. The thing that fascinates me is how different sounds work together: often, combining things which might not seem to 'belong' together produces the most interesting result.
Silas (Fflint Central, Cousin Silas): Difficult in some ways, and a little bit of a cliche, but trying to convey moods, images and impressions via sound sculpture.
Steve (Fflint Central, Gideon Leeches): Like a blind-folded cosmetic surgeon, you fiddle a bit, take a peek, put the fold on again, a few more delicate incisions, a sharp crack on the chisel, look, not quite there, tap tap, quick look, oops a mistake, fold, crack, slice, look, blink, stitch, swab, look, bang, screech, bleep, bass, hiss, white noise, rumble, creak....
betterPropaganda: Do you like black metal?
Tim: The music reflects the other kind of 'black metal'. You can have powerful, artistic and minimal ironwork on a pair of gates to a country house or you can have tacky, over-the-top ironwork on the same. All gates are open to everyone, hopefully!
Barry: My honest answer is that I don't know! This is a result of my embarrassing ignorance of so many musical genres, rather than evasiveness. Must try harder ;-)
Silas: Not really sure what black metal is.
Steve: Some of the music yes, but the "scene" appears to be a liittle too serious and solemn for me (and downright dangerous in the Nordics). A bit closer to home and more "dark" than "black", I really like Anathema, particularly the early albums with the growling vocals and Carcass, who can really play fast and symphonic.
betterPropaganda: If your art were to be the basis for a movie, who would direct it and what would the movie be about?
Tim: Too many great situations to think about, although thinking about the fantasy element, then incidental music for anything that would be written and directed by David Lynch or Kenneth Anger. If the situation was right, I/We would like to do some material for any budding film-maker out there who has a genuine passion for their creations. Any students of film should get in touch with us (Fflint Central), although it would be even better if they were familiar with the material on the FfC roster. Hey you with the lens.....bring it ON!!
Barry: Without hesitation it would be David Lynch, my favourite director by a long way. As for the content, I'd leave it to Mr L - he'd have much better ideas than me!
Silas: Almost impossible, but I'd love JG Ballard to direct (not that he's a director, but what a writer!) and I'd let him pick whatever pieces he wanted, or felt happy with, and then say, do your stuff!
Steve: Me (unless Roman was free) and it would be about Folklore; in particular "premonitions" and their origins (done in an early Hammer style)
betterPropaganda: Is the creative process a luxury or a necessity in your life?
Tim: I see it as the Luxury of Necessity. It's good to have a break from it, but I could never give up doing it in some form or another.
Barry: It started out as a luxury, but has become a necessity - probably like smoking. FfC is a huge pleasure and always seems to occupy at least a part of my head, often when I should be focusing on something far more mundane.
Silas: It's more of a therapy, aural basket weaving!
Steve: Definitely both.
betterPropaganda: What inspires you these days?
Tim: The same things that have inspired me since I can remember. As a child, the only 'experimental' or odd sounds would be gleaned from the TV via programmes like the original 'Outer Limits' series. These still influence me today, but the palette has grown. I've always liked good Pop music, sometimes it's more moving, mysterious and life-enhancing than most so-called 'underground' musics.
Barry: Inspiration for the music rarely comes from other music. More likely it'll be something visual like a place, picture or movie, or even a word or phrase that appeals.
Silas: Snippets of stories, be they fact or fiction. It varies, some pieces have been written with things specifically in mind, such as the Moorgate tube train disaster. Others are based on supposed and/or alleged incidents such as the human bio-tanks that some claim exist undergound in Dulce, New Mexico.
Steve: Passionate people of a like mind.....mainly really the people I know...not know of. Some art, but that's mostly "admire. Current (poss. short-term) inspirational objects include a set of 1958 Brussels World Fair Viewmaster disks & Model E Viewmaster, a Spong No.100 Mincer, the soundtrack to a home video of Jakob and Cecilia's wedding in Leeuwarden NL and a Trilobite fossil.
betterPropaganda: How do you see digital music in five years?
Tim: I think there will be a shift back to acoustic/analogue instrumentation, but manipulated via digital technology or a pleasing melange of the two. When new technology comes along, lots of artists digest it and spew it out in many diffrent forms, seeing how far they can push it etc., trends and preferences go around in a large time-cycle and each time they come around they are presented in a slightly different way.
Barry: It'd be nice if the label 'digital' ceased to be necessary. We've always felt that one of the best things about Fflint Central music, even though it is largely 'electronic' in nature, is that it has what you might call 'soul' or a good dash of humanity at its core. Electronic music doesn't have to be aloof, mechanical, cold or soulless, although all of those ingredients have a place. If you're talking about the future of the digital, downloadable medium which is getting so much attention, I feel that it will settle down and become just another way of buying music. Personally, I can't get excited about just having thousands of tracks on a hard drive. The idea of an album of tracks, complete with artwork and packaging is still very important; it all adds to the value of the music and supplies another level of interest. A collection of mp3's on a computer seems like a picture without a frame to me.
Silas: I reckon if I could answer that I'd probably be as rich as Bill Gates. It's impossible I think, to even hazard a guess. I would have been hard pressed to imagine, five years ago, the stuff I'm doing these days on the computer with regard to music and experimentation.
Steve: Through some fancy opto-aurological apparatus.
betterPropaganda: How about yourself in five years?
Tim: Hopefully living nearer the countryside and out of a city. Here, I can immerse myself even more into the fascinating realm of sound recording and be even more in tune with my Fflint Central cohorts. There are lots of distractions in a city, but that is what's so good about the Fflint Central camp, we straddle the strain of the city AND the calmness of the hills.
Barry: Hopefully being in full-time employment at Fflint Central, living near the sea in a Cornish village. More likely I'll still be commuting to my uninspiring day job with less hair, but still brimming with enthusiasm about everything FfC - we've only just begun.
Silas: Hopefully still as content and maybe, just maybe, more folks will have heard of Fflint Central!!!
Steve: With a mirror held by a waiting Devil.
betterPropaganda: To what extent is "the other" important to your art?
Tim: I will always have a bit of "the other" whenever I can experience it, so it's important. "The Other" can be anything you want it to be.
Barry: A bit of the other lubricates the mind and spirit very effectively.
Silas: The other what? My other half? She thinks it's crap! So in that respect she's as important as a chocolate kettle.
Steve: To me "the other" is the people who have trailblazed a path before me, the tools and equipment available to make your art, the people/organisations who provide positive support to the artistic cultural environment and anybody who consumes the art and tells you something about the experience.
betterPropaganda: What do you think about philosophy in this day and age?
Tim: Have a good time ALL the time. If you can't fight them, make them laugh. Never buy your shoes from a butcher.
Barry: It doesn't get the washing-up done. But I have attempted to come to grips with philosophy in the past and rarely with a proper understanding. It should probably be taught in schools instead of religious education.
Silas: Never really got into the philosophical side of things. Indeed, the only reason I remember and know some of the so-called big names in philosophy is down to Monty Pythons. Is "same shit different day" philosophical? I dig that...
Steve: There's lots of it...but little explanation...and rarely a conclusion. Everyone's a philosopher (except me...I've given up) and that's the problem.
betterPropaganda: Do you have an idea of something before you create it, or does the process create itself?
Tim: When I record the Pendro material, I usually have an idea of what sounds to produce or manipulate. Even right down to how the track listing varies. When working in conjunction with other people, I usually feed off what others present or throw something into the arena and see how it affects them, so I would say that the collaboration material creates itself and grows a bit more unaided.
Barry: Normally I get the urge to create something new without any specific idea - I just need to DO something. I then sit at the computer and start fiddling about. On a good day, stuff starts to happen: on a bad one, I go around in circles, record a few fragments, then get stuck. Then a few days or weeks later and with a following wind, the things I recorded make more sense and I discover what to do with them.
Silas: Both, and more. Sometimes it can start as an imaginary noise or sound, just as a basis for a piece, of which I can often spend more time trying to create that sound than in finishing the damned thing. Other times, an odd sample that's reversed or pitched right down can trigger something. The biggest problem sometimes is knowing when to stop adding stuff. I always use a parallel to writing short stories. When I did used to write, some stories started out just as the opening sentence. Others used to have more of a structure, a beginning middle and end. Some were never finished, and are filed for future use.
Steve: I develop a concept...and then look to gather things (audio and visual) which will fit into the space I have defined.
betterPropaganda: What questions would you ask yourself?
Tim: 1. What are your favourite kinds of food?
2. Could you try and describe what is the appeal of electronic or improvising music?
3. Do you believe in Ghosts?
Barry: 1.Why does Hawaii have an Interstate Highway?
2.Do you dream in colour?
3.What do you think of vinyl versus CD?
4.Is music more interesting vertically or horizontally?
Silas: Maybe stuff that I've often asked others, such as do you read. What do you read, are you interested in anything Fortean, what music do you like. What kind of people do you find interesting, and maybe some of those you've asked?
Steve: One lump or two?
You found a small ornamental object in the ground when you were about eight...where is it now?
What really is important in life?
betterPropaganda: Finally, address the most compelling item from the last bit.
Tim: Question 2 - It's the hardest of answers as it relates to the other to questions. It shows that we need the nourishment of the mysteries and that we are obsessed with the mysteries of finding fuel to live.
Barry: Q4: I don't mean listening standing or lying down, but melody versus harmony. Music that on first listening doesn't seem to 'do' anything or 'go' anywhere is often very satisfying if you're prepared to listen more intently and with more patience. I think it becomes more important as I get older, but I still need regular fixes of stuff I can sing along to in the car.
Silas: Er..... I can't. I'm from Yorkshire...
Steve: None...thank you.