Fixtures on the London club circuit for many years now, and established international artists to boot, Layo and Matthew 'Bushwacka!' are on the cusp of calling their creative alliance a day. Before that happens though, their latest album 'Rising And Falling' has just been released. It's their fourth and perhaps their most solid artistic statement yet, marking the culmination of a joint venture that began in the mid-nineties when The End, which Layo's father designed, opened in central London. I sent them some questions to answer about their new release, as well as their partnership, and found them in a very talkative mood.
'Rising & Falling' is your first album for six years. Do you think you've achieved what you wanted to with it?
Layo: I think this is always a difficult question, when I leave tracks, a couple of months later I often think, maybe we could have done it slightly different, taken more away, edge the arrangement more, it's constant. And after three other albums and so many singles and remixes together trying to express new ideas means going deeper within but I believe we achieved this.
I am very happy with the soul of the album, there is a great flow and I think Matt reached a super high quality in the end production, he also pushed me to write the lyrics which came out OK. We knew this would be the last album together but it made the creative process easier rather than more complex.
MB: I think we have done just that. This album is grown up, matured, more of a reflection of what we actually play when we perform, and less of a mixed bag of styles. But equally good to listen to at home. We are proud with the result.
Matthew, "Bushwacka" is quoted as saying from an interview last year in answer to a question regarding the development of your sound over the years:
Well of course we are constantly inspired and into different things as the scene moves around but the constant is energy, depth, emotion, music that is house in feeling, techno in attitude and tribal in rhythm...
Does this still hold true and does 'Rising & Falling' represent a consolidation, or a progression of your philosophy?
MB: I think it represents us as who we are, where we are, what we do, and how we sound...it is subtle - complex, yet simple, detailed, yet spacious...and the feeling is very electronic, but warm.
The album is very well produced with a lot of depth. Have you consciously been trying to refine your sound or did it naturally evolve?
Layo: Thank you. The quality of the sound is hugely important to us. It is a real shame when you hear a good track badly made, same as people playing with mp3s, the music has all the life squeezed out of it. And regarding refining our sound, it is always evolving. There is a core that remains, we always sound like us even if we are trying not to sound like us! Maybe there is a maturity that comes now after so many life experiences and we are able to translate that into the music. And of course we are always aware of what others are producing, how the trends in music are changing and this naturally has an effect.
MB: Constantly refining it. I still do on a daily basis. Sometimes I like things to be just raw and rough, but where the album is concerned we made a point of giving it a lot of space, depth, and movement.
Kim Ann Foxman is pretty ubiquitous at the moment, and she does a great job on 'Can't Hurt You.' What prompted Cevin Fisher's appearance on 'Dancing in The Dark' though? I'm guessing you're both huge fans of 'Darkness'? Also, what do you look for where vocalists are concerned?
MB: Well Layo wrote the lyrics - we were both very open to trying out different artists on our tracks. We went back and forth with the artists until we were happy with what we had to work with. Cevin did a great job. He is very talented, as is Kim.
The idea of syncing the album tracks like a continuous mix isn't a new one. How do you think it has worked and did it allow you to be more creative than you normally would have been?
Layo: No but we did it in 1999 with 'Lowlife' and again in 2002 with 'Night Works' so I do think we can lay claim a little to it. But it's obvious with electronic music. The music is made to be mixed, the best DJs use that total creative advantage and so in the studio we work an album like that, blending, styles, tempos, emotions and energy. And yes it gives you a lot of creative freedom. I don't think the listener needs to hear the opening bars of just plain beats on an album, unless it is for space or effect but over ten tracks, it would be pretty boring.
MB: Well, to be honest - it all flows, but we didn’t end up writing as many joins as we thought we were going to - sometimes less is more - and we felt that the space was part of the flow. There is a 20-35 minute middle section that is much more of a representation of our DJ sets - and we felt this was enough of a moment on the album. I think the tracks lent themselves to falling in the order in which we used them. There was a three stage process in the writing of the tracks - 1st was lots of sketches and ideas - up to 5 a day. 2nd was going back through everything and making a yes/no/maybe/joins folder. 3rd was working on the strongest tracks. Then when it came to joining them it came together fairly quickly. The balancing was the hardest part.
You both helped make Subterrain a seminal night in London clubland. What are your abiding memories of it and what do you think you achieved as part of it?
MB: Well, for me The End was home from day one to the closing party. I played with Layo every month, in Subterrain in the lounge, where I was pushing the breaks sound many years ago, and then at our own night All Night Long, where we played 8-10 hours main room. We accumulated a strong fan base, and a sense of fulfilment in having given so many people such a great time through our music and performances.
Who do you regard as kindred spirits and when looking back, does any era of house/techno stand out for you more than the rest?
Layo: I think there is a great respect for people who have been involved since the beginning and continue to create great music or DJ at the highest level. The consistency is very hard in any area let alone such a fashion driven arena as music and clubbing. I also see this as a craft and with all crafts, you learn the rules and then you learn to manipulate them. Of course now with Traktor, you don't need to learn to mix, studio work is easier but something is lost when you haven't had the feeling of learning, going through some difficulties and obstacles and then the feeling of connecting with your practice and what you have learnt. I'm not going to list names, remember some, forget others. So whilst I see kindred spirits as people who have been involved for the duration, it doesn't mean that I think all the people who began only 2 or 5 or 10 years ago are not amazing, because without endless reinvention, new talent and new forms, electronic music would be nowhere, and kindred is a vibe, a recognition of seeing things the same way, be that over twenty years or six months. Regarding special moments in music the last 25 years, there have been several key areas, but for me 1987-89, 1993, 1998-2000 and then 2006. We need a new special era about now …
MB: For me the two best eras were 1988-1990 obviously. That was the most exciting time ever on the planet in house and techno - the beginning of the movement. The second was 2005 - personally I think that electronic music hit new heights that year. There were so many special tunes and Germany ruled the world at that point.
Have you ever considered releasing original material by other artists on Olmeto and, if so, who?
MB: No. Olmeto is and has been just our own outlet for our music. We ran labels before and its too much pressure taking care of lots of other artists and being an artist and DJ yourself - its ok when you have a big team running the show, but for us, we had just too many other things going on.
What next after 'Shake It'?
Layo: Well not too much I'm afraid. It's almost the end of Layo & Bushwacka now. We will still do parties in 2012 with our record label night, Olmeto in London but all touring will stop from February. The mixes and singles from the label will run till next summer. You will of course be seeing Matt Bushwacka with his new project, Just Be. But from me, it's goodbye and thank you.
MB: We have our bimonthly residency at Egg Club in London. We have already had great guests there - Paco Osuna, Richy Ahmed, Russ Yallop, Uner is coming up, as well as Mr. C, and we get to stay open 12-14 hours. It's fantastic for us to put on a night that can really take you on a musical journey for that length of time.
Thank you Layo & Matthew.
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