Leaving Werewolf Country for the summer pastures of The Gates of Greenhead Park, Autoclav1.1’s Tony Young speaks with ReGen on the development of his craft to culminate in his latest album.
An InterView with Tony Young of Autoclav1.1
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Since the project’s inception in late 2004, Tony Young has taken Autoclav1.1 through a journey of sonic exploration and personal development that has seen each progressive album solidifying a singular style that stands apart from others of its ilk. Fusing deceptively complex but highly rhythmic beat structures with chilled out ambience that merges the organic tones of bass, piano, occasional guitar, and ghostly vocalizations with the synthesized glory of electronics, Autoclav1.1 defies strict categorization. His music offers a more orchestral, more visceral and varied blend of IDM, ambient, and even rock to create a signature sound that in 2014 brought the project to WTII Records. With this year’s impending release of The Gates of Greenhead Park, Young takes his music away form the stark textures and moonlit atmospheres of tension that permeated 2015’s Werewolf Country in favor of a warmer, more inviting flow that stays reverent to the sound of Autoclav1.1 but still sees the project experimenting with new textures and emotional states. Furthermore, having long associated with fellow IDM/post-industrial act Displacer, the pair’s Spacetime full-length album will see a release later this year, following up on the 2015 split EP The Star Atlas. Young speaks now with ReGen about his creative and personal partnership with Displacer’s Michael Morton, the evolution of his latest album, and touches on his writing process through the years, the role of technology in modern music, and whether or not we’ll see Autoclav1.1 live.
Young: Well, while writing any new album, you always end up writing (or at least, start writing) more tracks than actually end up on the album. I wrote the start of a few other tracks that either sounded too different, or indeed too light to appear on Werewolf Country. I left these until after the album came out and gave it a short while to rest up; then I started on them again. We had some pretty good weather at the time and some nice summer evenings where I could chill in the back garden. The mood comes across in the album in part. It’s an odd blend because, in all fairness, these tracks were written without any specific concept, and while it may not be my best overall, I do think it’s a cool album for vinyl; especially with the two mixes. Think of it as a compilation of new songs thought up while going about my daily business around where I live.
You’d mentioned that the new tracks were written without any specific concept, while also saying that some written during the last album sounded too different. What is your writing process like in that regard? Is there ever a concept in mind when you start, or do such considerations come into play after they’re written?
Young: Sometimes I will just start writing a song with nothing in mind and then a concept folds around it. Mostly though, when I am on my own, an idea forms in my head and I start collating track names and then build songs around that idea. I occasionally have a tune in my mind and something visual will give me an idea for a title that will become the song that particular tune will make an appearance in. It changes, song by song, album by album.
Autoclav1.1 has always presented this blend of electronic modes with organic tones, particularly piano – having been making music for well over a decade, how much of a challenge is it for you to find new ways to present this dynamic without repeating yourself; or is that ever a concern for you?
Young: As you have previously pointed out on my last two releases, I have revisited old sounds and looked at them with fresh eyes. It’s kind of hard now to find anything new to work with for me. I am currently working on a future album and threw a lot of patches away – no piano, just electronics and the odd smattering of organic bass. I don’t really have any concerns anymore; people will like it or they won’t. It’s hard to get everyone to see what you were trying to accomplish. I had an old fan complain about ‘Earworm’ and other stuff off Werewolf Country, stating it should have been on a side project, even though I think it still sounds like me. I thought it showed me trying other stuff out. You can’t please everyone, so there’s no point trying. (Laughs)
Among those organic tones are a variety of vocal samples and performances; has it ever been a consideration for you to do an album with a more lyrical/vocal focus? What are your favorite tonal aspects of the human voice and how would you like to further experiment with them?
Young: Not really. I think to do an album with more vocals would definitely be something that should be on another project. I like the odd smattering, but I think it would take over too much on a full release if everything had a vocal. I like all styles of voice as long as I can play and manipulate them.
In pointing out your approach for a future album and trying to restrain yourself to more pure electronics, what would you say are your thoughts for the future of music – not just electronic, but as a whole? In other words, what do you feel or would like to see as a next step for its evolution, either from an artistic or a technological standpoint?
Young: I couldn’t possibly think that far ahead as I am in my own little bubble in that respect. I mainly listen to old music as there isn’t that much out there that is new that really grabs me. When I listen to industrial nowadays, it’s usually old WaxTrax! stuff. When I listen to electronica, it’s mainly stuff on the Warp label or similar; and then, it is new albums by more established artists. I listen to Joy Division and New Order as if they’re still fresh modern artists, and the other night, I went to see Iron Maiden. I guess in all those respects, I wouldn’t be best placed to envision what will come in the future. I honestly think, though, that all these types of bands come full circle into the hearts and minds of younger folk who happen upon them, and will undoubtedly become an influence. There really isn’t that much out there that is original and no music in the future will be either.
The Gates of Greenhead Park also marks Autoclav1.1’s first vinyl release. First of all, while the ‘vinyl sounds better’ point is subjective (though widely accepted), what are your thoughts on the resurgence of vinyl, and what do you foresee for the future of the medium?
Did you face any sorts of production challenges in mixing/mastering the album for the vinyl format?
Young: Well, it’s the first vinyl album at least. There is an upside and a downside to it all. Manufacturing plants are absolutely backlogged, and this album should have come out last year. WTII runs like a proper label should, so they have to schedule in with a distributor and get a date. But the plants are completely backed up with so much stuff that a smaller label has to queue (and therefore reschedule a release date) and wait for a major that is pressing the fifty-thousandth repress of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours that no one should really want. I am happy that there is a resurgence, though, as vinyl is a more tangible format and I feel that you are getting more for your money. As far as the challenge went, well, I had to think about it a little more, but there was no real issue and Chemical Burn knew how to master it right.
I’m glad you mentioned how WTII runs like a ‘proper label,’ as I had spoken with KMFDM about the band signing to earMusic, and Sascha Konietzko said something similar. It does seem like not only with the vinyl format, but with the way artists and labels are thinking about music. I know this is a dreaded question (art vs. business), but what are your thoughts on this?
Young: I am a firm believer in proper record labels as I see them as a filter to dredge out shit. It’s nice and all to have a lot of available music, but I have a hobby where I review stuff and I am literally bombarded with music to listen to, and more than half of it is badly produced garbage on download format only. While you don’t necessarily need a label anymore and can release your own stuff on Bandcamp, it doesn’t mean that you always should, and labels provide a valid checkpoint. I like the old school way of sending a demo to a label, and if no one replies, then maybe that’s a hint that it might not be good enough. That said, there are many gems out there that get missed by those holding the purse strings, so it’s one of those catch 22 things when you speak of the validity of labels. And there are some record companies that release a load of dross. The good thing about a well run label is if they choose to fund it, then they really must believe in you too, and it’s good to have that kind of support. Also, a good label has adequate distribution, which is vital.
Young: I have known Mike for utterly years now, since he did the art for my first two albums and a remix for one of my shit demo EPs. I proudly call him a friend and we almost chat weekly and have done for ages. So when I suggested compiling an album of space related tracks after the EP, it was a real no-brainer. I had to tailor my sound somewhat to match what Mike does with Displacer. I love the way that every element of every track he does has its own space and individuality. Personally, I just had to flow with the concept and write accordingly, and it has turned out more dance like, apart from the bits on ‘Uranometria,’ where I tried to channel Peter Hook.
As far as working together in the future, well, I can’t see why not, as we work well together. It depends on our own project schedules, I guess. I would like to play live with Mike again; he was absolutely awesome when I unrelentingly badgered InFest to get him to play over here. As time passes, it may never happen and I am slowly more and more against going out and playing live personally, due to many a reason.
On the subject of playing live, will we see any Autoclav1.1 shows in the foreseeable future?
What are the major challenges for you personally, given your particular style of music, in translating the music into a live environment and having accompanying visuals that enhance the music?
Young: The technical part of playing live isn’t an issue for me really as I have a simple set up with MIDI controllers and a laptop, so it’s all pretty compact. I have never worried about how it translates as to worry too much would affect my performance. It does help having the right visuals though, and my mate Kev nailed it when I last played InFest. Right now, I am on hiatus from playing live, though, as there simply are not enough worthwhile shows to play. For years, it has always been the same in the UK with people moaning there are not enough live shows. So you put one on when people ask and they don’t show up. I would love to do more abroad, but it is a lot of effort and you need the financial backing. This has happened for me in the past, but now, we live in a different age and there are a lot of other restrictions to playing live anywhere other than your home country. Also, with most live shows over here, it is an utter ball ache, personally. You get asked to turn up at a very unreasonable early hour to be there to sound check, even though you tell them you are pretty quick at doing this. You end up lounging around doing absolutely nothing for hours… or in my last situation, just getting drunk with a mate because there was nothing to do. Most venues charge a fortune for the promoter, so they have to pick one in the arse-end of nowhere, and people do not show or have to go before you complete all your set, just so they can get home. It is soul destroying and pointless.
Nowadays, as I get older, I prefer to be in the company of my Missis Bex and my cat William, or sat in the local pub drinking real ale with my best mate Doc, putting the world to rights. Running halfway around the country to play music doesn’t really factor into my life much anymore. I have a fulltime job as well, and I need my weekends to be somewhat pressure free and relaxing. Unless it’s a slot supporting a bigger band, or a festival or opportunity I cannot miss, then I don’t need to be spending my spare time going through the hassle of being forced to hang in a club all night just because I played live.
I guess I am sounding like a real misery here. (Laughs) But I enjoy going out and watching bands with friends more than I do actually being the one on stage nowadays. So for the unforeseeable future, I am just a studio act, which I still derive a lot of pleasure from.
Website, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud
Website, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube
Website, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, YouTube
Photography courtesy of Autoclav1.1