Artist To Artist: Man Power & Asok
Man Power and ASOK have been in touch with each other for years. Their similar musical trajectories have led to a friendship which they say has grown from moaning about the same things, to now getting excited about the same things instead. According to the artists, they thought they first met around 9 years ago, when ASOK (under a different guise) played as a guest a night ran by Man Power (under a different guise). Recently they discovered that they may have been on the opposite sides of a mass punch up in Magaluf around 1998, which they both agree is not-cool, but still raises some interesting questions about synergy. We invited the geordie / scouse pairing to ask each other some burning questions, and the results of this are below.
ASOK – How many DJ’s does it take to change a light bulb?
Man Power – Vinyl Only DJ – None. You get a better effect from a flaming torch. Tech House DJ – One. Plus a pr firm to write about it, a manager to coordinate the tweets, and about 2000 fake accounts to make it get traction. (I could have thought of more, but I'm kind of tired and in a shitty mood after a festival) Ok, my turn to ask you something….
On the subject of PR, whats you’re thoughts on the current state of play with PR and press and how it effects the success of music?
ASOK – I guess it is how it is. PR has always been an important part of success, especially when you are trying to reach a global audience.
In fact, it could be argued that it was the only way to do that at one time. The notion that it used to just be all about the music is arguably not true. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule – the rise of electronic music in the 80’s and 90’s as we know it now was very much car boot in some ways, but without major radio and major labels opening smaller offshoot labels to push stuff into the mainstream more, would any of the really big success have come? I guess it depends on what you measure as success. Is success being a globally recognised name, or is success you being personally satisfied with what you are doing and trying to achieve. If it's the latter, then minimal PR should work for you with that. If its the former, then the amount of PR you need might be even more now to break through the atmosphere. I don't really have a problem with pr or press; I hardly read any of it anyway, and I am probably not alone on that. I suppose its a shame that things like buying likes on social media and what not happens, especially on grand scales – but its just another trick to fool the herd, the same kind of tricks that have been used for a long time in other areas.
It might be a cliche but someone really good is always going to do well, PR / Press or not. Because people still talk. So, to ask you one back, whats do you think will be the next evolutionary step in electronic music?
Man Power – I really don't know to be honest. Something interactive I guess, but without people having to do the inconvenient things like go to clubs and meet with other people probably. It's happened with other entertainment media. Used to be people would meet and go to the cinema and make a night out of it, now they sit at home and play against people on the other side of the world on video games, or idly chat on their handhelds while watching 2 films at once on Netflix and youtube. I guess that kind of thing is happening with clubs too and to be honest, for some people, making music itself is kind of not a million miles away from people playing computer games now anyway. The internet has made everyone feel like their input is valid and valuable, so we’re now only one step away from it being so democratic that the entire industry falls in on itself and it's just a bunch of people making and performing music for their mates via a live stream, or even more likely just loads of people filming themselves DJing, with nobody watching because they're all too busy making similar videos. Whatever happens, it's probably best to not get to nostalgiac over whats being lost anyway. People forget that the existence of recorded music is only a tiny blip on the historical timeline, and the club era an even more infantesimal speck again. In the 1920s the big fashion was to go and sit up a really high pole for a few hours. It was called pole sitting. There's every chance that future generations will look at this club thing we take so importantly in the same way our generation regards pole sitting, with most people not being aware of it and the rest just thinking "wtf"? I hope I'm wrong, but I also don't care too much. I love where things are now with music, and I love what I do. I doubt the pole sitters in 1920 gave much of a fuck about people in the 21st century would think of them either to be honest.
What about you? Where do you think the electronic music scene is heading, and what would you like to see happen?
ASOK – Ach. I dont care really. I mean, I care about good music, and as long as that keeps coming out, the electronic music scene will be healthy. I
like the fact that were in a time again where you can mix up stuff from the last 30 years. It really is quite the back catalogue now. I guess the only thing I'd like to see happen is that it never goes shit, but thats up to you to find it isn’t it?
Seeing as this is your job now, What was the transition into full time music like for you?
Man Power – Kind of undefined. When I was in my 20s I claimed a full time music career because I didn't want to get a job (although I did various illicit activities to sustain myself). Then I decided to go to university, just as the Man Power thing was taking off, so that was blurry too. I wasn't that person who had to look at his successful career and take a leap of faith. Not sure I'd be here now if I would have been required to have been that person either!
How did you get in to this whole electronic music thing? Do you think your history effects your output now?
ASOK – I started out collecting flyers in Manchester and going to clubs in and around Manchester and Liverpool. They were pretty much all shitholes really, nothing like the thought or scale of clubs these days. Quite a few were in leisure centres or just the function rooms on cricket ground and that kind of thing. I guess I still, for the most part, prefer a small, dark, dingy club to something on a grand scales, the obvious one being the exception.
I suppose you could go back even further and say that my dads taste in music had lots of electronic elements…and that influenced too. But I am 40 now and like most people of my age who have been clubbing for that long you came through a scene that was multi0-genre, not quite as segregated…with tracks that would be considered techno, trance, breakbeat, hardcore, Chicago house…etc etc etc. all played under the same banner. I think my output today reflects that sometimes, also a passion for jungle / drum and bass that developed a bit later. And disco, as I grew up with that too from my mums side (well certainly Motown). So maybe my output today is reflective of the fact that I genuinely do like a bit of everything.
With that in mind, what point did you find yourself lost in music the most?
Man Power – Probably the period since the Man Power thing took off. Before that I was lost in music but without the luxury of justifying it as work.
In my early 20s I was definitely on the dance floor more often, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that back then I was equally lost in substances, so it wasn't a pure relationship with music on reflection.
We both had a bit of a run at things under a different monicker before doing our current project.s What made you decide to change things and how do you think the previous experience shaped our current approach to working in music?
ASOK – I guess this would be similar to the answer about how I got into electronic music and how it effects my output. I mean, I really do like everything. I like disco. I like Gabba. I like Jungle. I like Techno. I like house. I don’t really know much of what I listen to by genre definition I just like it all wish mashed together. But very often the way I have chosen to channel things is by focusing on a specific project. So in the past I was ASOK in a drum and bass sense (only as a DJ), but then I did a project called Cosmic Boogie which very much focused on the fact that at the time I was really trying to get to grips with the vast back catalogue of dance music. The good part about being into everything means that everything you listen to, learn from, and experience shapes who you are and how you make things. Disco and its various sub-genres might give you a better understanding of groove, Techno something else, house music something else…blah blah blah. So its good to listen to a lot of things, because you will then naturally channel the bits that you loved. It might make for a mish mash sound thats not for everyone, but making and playing music for everyone is not really the point.
Do you have plans to do another album?
Man Power – At this stage I've done 3 actual albums since the first one, and obviously haven't released any of them. One I wrote and was going to record properly (with me singing… the lot!) but I took some time off to get married. When I went on honeymoon I got super drunk in the pool while the hotel played Peter Gabriel – SO! I went up and deleted the whole albums worth of work as I just felt it wasn't comparable to what I was listening, so what was the point? Like I say, I was drunk. The second full unreleased album I've done has now turned in to a collaborative work I'm finishing with my friend Mick Rolfe (Last Waltz) providing vocals. The whole curse of the "difficult second album" has kind of got in to my headspace, so it's nice to do this a side step and just get something out there that I believe in that isn't entirely wrapped up in solely my creativity. Mick is an amazing song writer and lyricist, and the album is very pop. I've always wanted to do a pop album. So this is my second album, but not Man Power's. The 3rd album I've completed I'm literally sitting on and never going to release. I see it as a kind of sacrificial lamb. The unworthy 2nd album that nobody will ever get to hear. It's actually really good (says me), but doesn't say as much as I want it too. I'd rather have it as an exercise in process. Plus I'm so busy with singles and the label that in a practical sense it doesn't make sense to release something till around 2020, by which stage I can guarantee I'll have the basis of an entirely new body of work anyway.
Thinking about albums, what do you listen to other than electronic music?
ASOK – The sweet sound of regret.
I must ask, as a label owner, whats your thoughts on record store day?
Man Power – This may get me in trouble, but I don't think of it past being a big pain in the arse for me getting records pressed in time. I'm not for, or against it. I don't think about it at all, and have no idea how much good it does for the vinyl industry or music in general. I just have to put up with it fucking up my release schedule every 12 months.
Taking the conversational in a more technical direction.. Whats your actual process in the studio. Do you have a rote system, or do you change up all of the time?
ASOK – I basically make all my tracks live. Not with machines, but more like live arrangement. I get loads of parts and sequences together, and when I think I’ve got enough I hit record and record about 15 minutes to a flat wav file. Twisting and turning knobs and pressing flashy buttons along the way. Then I edit that down disco edit style to 6 to 8 minutes. And its done. Sure, I can't mix down. Sure, it has its limitations (I’m not an octopus so I cant always do the things I want to at the same time) – and if I don't like a part of it, I chop it out or I start again. But the positives are I make things quickly. I don’t have to sit there drawing in music with a mouse (ugh), and it has a natural arrangement to how my mind thinks a track works. So, it works for me I guess.
How many times have you made something you think is really good, only to overdo it and completely lose all that was good about it…
Man Power – I shit you not, you have completely paraphrased my art report from when I was 11. Truthfully! It's been pretty much a weekly occurrence since then to be honest, and probably dates back to before that.
Without becoming #djscomplaining, I do think that music can be a bit of a cruel mistress in that sense. Why do you do this? Whats makes it all worthwhile for you?
ASOK – The mind is a labyrinth, ladies and gentlemen, a puzzle. And while the paths of the brain are plainly visible, its ways deceptively apparent, its destinations are unknown. Its secrets still secret. And, if we are honest, it is the lure of the labyrinth that draws us to our chosen field to unlock those secrets. Others have been here before us and have left us signs, but we, as explorers of the mind, must devote our lives and energies to going further to tread the unknown corridors in order to find ultimately, the final solution. We have to see, we have to know…
Follow Man Power on facebook HERE and ASOK HERE. Man Power will play at LSTD this year, more details HERE.