AN INTRODUCTION TO…Power Vacuum
In the latest in our series An Introduction To… we take a look at Power Vacuum; the label brainchild of Milo Smee (AKA Bintus), responsible for blasting Bintus, EDMX, Mark Broom, and Invincible Scum into our earholes. Ahead of their release of "Vectors", a 12" featuring various artists, we caught up with Mr Smee himself to talk music, art, and extra terrestrials….
To the un-initiated tell us a bit more about Power Vacuum the label.
Well, its seven releases in after two years, so not prolific with the output. Regarding the music, I love the original blueprint of first generation electro and acid house, lots of techno too (90-92 hardcore being the most dear to me) and also the last ten or so years of twisted, awkward stuff, bass mutation etc. etc. Tame house music would be the nemesis. I have friends who help with the videos, artwork, website, press releases, advice etc. Its not a slick outfit at all, which you can probably tell.
What is a Power Vacuum?
'A power vacuum is a condition that exists when someone has lost control of something and no one has replaced them.'
Thats the first sentence of wikipedia anyway. The back story for the name is that a friend was one of three managers of an infamous Berlin nightclub. They could never agree when to get well-needed new toilets built, it went on for ages – and if anyone knows what the Golden Gate's toilets were like a few years ago, well.. Anyway, I arranged meeting my friend there as I was picking up my Jupiter 4 after a gig (stupid thing to use at a live gig – no flight case either) and he explained the situation that the other two managers were on holiday, creating a power vacuum – so he went ahead getting the workmen in without their consent. Upon hearing the words 'power vacuum' with his broad German accent, I realised I had the name for my label… One of those things.
So, Bintus is you, Invincible Scum is you with Andy Blake, tell us about the other people releasing on the label. The great Mark Broom and EDMX have also featured haven't they?
Yep, both inspiring producers. I have a long history with Mr Broom who was the first person brave enough to release my music as Kruton. Watching him work his MPC60 driven hardware studio in the mid 90's was awe inspiring, his 'Angie is a Shoplifter' album needs a mention here which encapsulated that experience for me. We also did a fun band called 5 Mic Cluster, which came out on Output and ran an acid house night called 'Nyte Biscuit' in London for a couple of years. Ed is someone I met much later, actually just after the label started – but is also a master of his craft. You just feel yourself getting better at doing music just by being around people like that. I'm introducing five new artists to the label with the first release of 2014, a various artists EP of ludicrous quality IMO.
We love the artwork on the both the release and the site. What's the inspiration behind it all?
Speed. Doing it quickly and roughly, capturing the first idea that feels good and moving on. I'm into using photos for the release artwork, not just computer graphics so you get people / textures / streets etc. Ive spent ages on things in the past; two years on a Binary Chaffinch track, or the Crush Depth album from Chrome Hoof, but I'm trying to get away from that methodology. Not that I don't like that level of exactitude, but Im trying to develop some sort of killer instinct with decision making, which both Mark Broom and Ed have to spare for example. The website look was all masterminded by my friend the Cliff. She gets paid in whisky.
What's the studio set up now. Did everything relocate from London with you?
Over two van trips yes, basically lots of not so popular drum machines and trigger boxes, MPC1000, cheap outboard including old hi fi stuff, a couple of circuit bent and modded things. Three mixing desks hooked up in different formats depending on whats happening. Randomness is embraced, if a lead isn't long enough for what i want, it'll go to something it can reach. I have a PC and Mac laptop with cubase and logic respectively, which handle audio like recording stereo mixdowns or multi track recording of live stuff. I'm looking forward to re-initalising my Atari ST, and sequencing with cubase on that. I love midi.
You're neighbours with Mr Luca Lozano who cites the sounds emanating from your lair, amongst other things as the inspiration for his new records. Seem to have been pretty good inspiration seeing as Optimo have just signed a whole EP to their Optimo Trax label!
Very nice to hear, I didn't know that! Lucas is a great studio buddy to have in our little complex – there's five studios and it's the kind of situation I dreamed about having years ago.
What's your connection with Andy Blake?
It was a couple of girls from South London, one of them introduced us because she thought we would get on. We got on. Soon after that he put out False Energy on Dissident and we started jamming together as Invincible Scum. He actually reminded me we had met quite a while before that when he sneaked into an early Chrome Hoof gig – at the Montague Arms I think, and I congratulated him on getting in without paying, which I was slightly disappointed upon hearing – I thought I was tighter than that.
Anything else planned with Andy as Invincible Scum?
Nothing planned, we are both busy and rarely in the same city, but when things align I've no doubt we'll put down some more stuff. The working process was always just setting up patterns on drum boxes and synths in his wicked studio, jamming for 20 mins or so then editing down the mono file. Thats the only way I think Invincible Scum will work… Its nice working in someone else's studio as well, when your relieved of wiring duties.
Upcoming on PV?
Thrilled about what I'm kicking off 2014 with.. as i mentioned earlier, a various artists 12" called 'Vectors', you'll have to wait till i send the promo out in a few weeks to find out who's on that though.
What's the closest party to World Unknown in Berlin at the moment? Are you putting on any yourself?
Good question, but I dont feel qualified to answer – I've never made it to one as I'm rarely in London. Also I don't go out that much anymore… my finger is severely delineated from the pulse. I'm not sure there even would be anything that close to WU here, especially where the music is concerned – and for the record, I think Andy is a world class DJ.
There's plenty of mental venues over here though.
If you had to send one record into space, to introduce extra terrestrials to human music, what record would you choose?
Tough call, but luckily I think about that a lot, and it would have to be 'dont pay the ferry man' by Chris de Burg. There's a great live version on youtube, if anyone fancies treating themselves to that.
What do you think the future holds for music if people are no longer willing to pay for it?
It's not something I speculate about. I don't really ponder relevant issues like these.
Please describe the best day of your life to date?
How can you pick out a single day when you live in an un-ending extasis and possess reasonably defined deltoids?
If pushed though, I was pretty euphoric to find a Fela Kuti tape I thought I had lost the other day.
You can choose four members of a band to form a supergroup – who would be in it and what instruments would they be on?
Delia Derbyshire on tapes and FX, Doris Norton on beats, Tina Weymouth on bass and Sean Ryder (Squirrel & G man period) on Vox.
Which figure from throughout history would you most like to meet and what would you ask them if you had only one question?
I'd ask Pythagorus what 1967 x 18 was, if he couldn't answer in 3 seconds I would renounce all knowledge accrued by him and his contemporaries, while still giving them respect for their brilliant names. Furthermore, assuming I had access to a time machine to actually meet the man face to face, I would betray your trust and check out what was going on in increments of 1000 years in both directions until it was tea time.
What do you think the world will be like in 100 years?
Hopefully the opposite of a classic Orwellian nightmare.
Whats your greatest vice?
The one I use to steady planks, though my watchmakers one is more exquisite.
What piece of music makes you cry?
OK I'm not going to side step this one. It's not like one piece of music makes me cry, and I can only think of two or three times that may have happened at all.. I would like it to be more, because that would mean I'm more sensitive to the power of music, right? I was overwhelmed with the beauty of this track called Dudivins by Latvian composer Imants Kalnins after watching about 8 times on youtube, but cant find that version on vinyl anywhere. Also I can remember Army Dreamers by Kate Bush got me choked up once. I was on my own at the time – Paul Hardcastle's 19 was of a similar subject matter, but didn't have the same effect.
Are you a kick drum, hi hat or a snare? And why?
Kick – bass energy. The snare and hi hat just can't give it to you the same way.
What's your answer to everything?
Dismantling the very fabric of my being with a pure skunk number.
Anything else you'd mention that I haven't asked about?