Techno Veteran Surgeon Goes Experimental (Again) for Editions Mego

Shawn Reynaldo talks to the British Murder Boy about his new album

Cathrin Queins

Dark, industrial-flavored techno has become one of the genre’s most prominent strains in recent years, but British producer Surgeon has been working within that particular sound palette for more than 20 years. However, he’s also got a more personal side, issuing ambient and experimental works under his birth name, Anthony Child. With a new album under that moniker, Electronic Recordings from Maui Jungle Vol. 2, coming out this week via Editions Mego, he speaks with Shawn Reynaldo about the new LP in this excerpt from the RBMA Radio show First Floor.

Listen to First Floor on RBMA Radio here every Thursday at 1PM EDT.

The new album is called Electronic Recordings from Maui Jungle Vol. 2. I know Vol. 1 came out last year, also on Editions Mego. How literal is the title, and how did the concept of this record come about?

The title is very literal. Peter [Rehberg] from Editions Mego helped me come up with the title. The first volume I recorded really wasn’t intended for release. It was just a purely personal project. I sent the recordings to Karl O’Conner [Regis] and he really loved it. He suggested that I send it to Peter from Editions Mego. He just really wanted to put it out, in the form that it existed in.

It was literally me sat in a hut in the jungle in Maui with a keyboard playing through portable speakers. I sat up a portable digital recorder. All the background sounds that you hear are just the sounds that are occurring at the time that I’m recording the music. It’s a location recording in that sense, but it’s usually labeled as modular music with field recordings. That’s kind of not what it is at all. It’s me playing a keyboard with the sounds in the background. It’s not like I’ve added field recordings on to modular music. (Which I heard a lot of people seem to assume it is.)

When you are making this music, is it purely improvisational? Are these raw takes that we’re hearing on the album or did you do some editing or processing after the fact?

All of the music is raw and improvised. I’ve faded in and out of sections, but all the pieces that you hear are as they happened, as they were recorded. I’ve subtly processed the recordings in a way, but just to bring out certain aspects like the background noise and things like that.

Lady Starlight has helped me feel a lot freer in terms of creating.

You’ve traveled quite a bit over the years. I assume you’ve seen a lot of different parts of the world. Is there something about Maui that you found particularly inspiring that made you want to make music?

It’s definitely a very special place for me. I’ve been there a lot and have some really good friends there that I always stay with. It’s really, really difficult for me to convey what is so special about the place. But there’s something really unique there. I think everyone who lives there is just completely crazy. I think something about the place makes people lose their minds, really. I was just trying to kind of tap into that with this music. The feeling that place gives me is so different from making music in any other location for me.

In the past few years it feels like there’s been something of an uptick in your output, at least in terms of the number of releases. Is there something that has left you feeling particularly inspired as of late?

I think that a really important part of that is the work that I’ve done with Colleen, otherwise known as Lady Starlight. I think she’s really helped me feel a lot freer in terms of creating. It’s really helped me to not hold myself back and doubt myself as much. I think that’s largely the reason behind having so many releases this year. Also, the live techno side of things. That’s been going really well, so it’s really about fulfilling my potential more and holding myself back a lot less. Really being even less bothered than I was before about what people think about what I do. Just being very clear and honest about it really.

You’ve spoken in previous interviews about how you’ve gotten into modular synths in the last few years. Is that part of the equation that’s left you feeling sort of energized?

I think it may be part of it. I just get worried that people put too much emphasis on it. The answer isn’t just that I got into modular synths. It’s a whole lot more complicated than that. I think it has a lot more to do with the fact that my method of musical creation had stayed largely the same for over 10 years. I felt really stale and stagnant in that. Radically changing the way that I made music was probably more important than what I actually changed it to.

As it turns out, Blawan was on the show last week, and you’ve credited him as the person that helped sort of light this spark to get you into modular synths. He’s obviously much younger than you. He’s talked about how he was listening to your music when he was getting into electronic music. Did you think it was ironic that someone who was so much younger could end up having such a big impact on your own musical development?

Not necessarily. It’s kind of hard to explain, but I look at artists on a much more level playing field as it were. I don’t have this huge awareness of him being much younger or anything, really. It’s just me admiring someone’s artistic output. With Jamie, I saw him performing with that stuff and I thought it looked like a lot of fun. That’s when I realized what I’d forgotten about with music production and music performance. That really reminded me how important fun was.

British Murder Boys - As Above So Below (Live In Tokyo)

It was recently announced that you would be reuniting with Regis for a British Murder Boys show in December. You guys have previously talked about how the last performance, which was in Tokyo in 2013, was going to be the final British Murder Boys show. What prompted you guys to revive the project again?

It’s funny how – from the outside – people are talking about reunions and comebacks and things like that. Personally, Karl and I have been in contact the whole time since then. We make our own rules and we don’t really care, so people can label it whatever they want. I don’t know, comeback and reunion just sounds very strange from our point of view.

Will this British Murder Boys show in December be the last one?

I could say yes, but that might be a lie.

Is there any chance of another British Murder Boys record surfacing at some point?

I don’t know at the moment, but that’s not impossible. I know it all sounds really cagey, but right now I really don’t know. When it comes to me and Karl and basically all of my projects, I just approach everything in a way that feels like the right thing to do. I’m really horrendous at anything like planning, any kind of career trajectory or something like that. It’s really just about what seems like a good idea at that particular moment.

By Shawn Reynaldo on December 7, 2016

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