Electro, No Clash: Gramrcy speaks to John Loveless
In the Ransom Note’s regular feature ‘Artist to Artist’, readers enjoy a conversation between two musicians or performers either already collaborating or moving in similar circles.
Gramrcy and John Loveless are two long-term Brits abroad in Berlin. Gramrcy takes care of Peach Discs alongside Shanti Celeste, has numerous productions under his belt, including collaborations with the likes of Hodge, and is a key component of the city’s Refuge Worldwide radio station and fundraising platform. Loveless is a DJ and occasional journalist who has released some precious Gramrcy music on his own Hot Concept label, but is also creatively involved alongside Erol Alkan at Phantasy and Palms Trax for Cooking With Palms Trax.
In this case, Alkan’s ever reliable Phantasy that has provided an ideal home for Highdive, the pair’s first original material following remixes for R$N favourites including W.H. Lung, Discovery Zone and Yr Lovely Dead Moon. Accompanied by a ‘Beats’ mix and a bananas fast-techno Schacke remix, ‘Highdive’ is a barnstorming, big-room electro number like they jist don’t make any more, perfectly capturing a shared affection for a sillier, high-energy time for UK dance music. Having been championed already by DJs as diverse as Gerd Janson, HAAi, Vincent Neumann, Gabrielle Kwarteng, Justice and er, Melanie C from the Spice Girls, it’s a record you’re likely to be clobbered by before festival season calls time.
Here’s John Loveless speaking to Gramrcy, with the Bournemouth lad done good opening up about artistic identification reluctance, fidget house, shoulder injuries and special brew.
Hi Graeme! When you first heard that we had been asked to take part in this piece, you were slightly horrified, and responded that “you didn’t think of yourself as an artist.” Well, bad news my friend, you are an artist, and this confirms it.
To dive straight into the infinity pool of neurosis between us, where do you think this reluctance to define yourself as an artist comes from? You are an incredibly technically talented music producer with brilliant instincts for the dance and beyond. Who were some of the figures, mentors and teachers (both in the literal, and Daft Punk-referencing variety), who helped you slowly realize that you can do this shit?
Despite the title of this article I definitely don’t consider myself an artist. I’m aware I’m probably being glib, but I feel like what I do with music is closer to something like a carpenter – skilled labour with some creativity thrown in. The reason for this is probably a mix of British self-deprecation and that I feel dance music is first and foremost a means to an end: dancing (this is also why I pretty much never listen to dance music at home – see question 10).
After a few years sitting making music with me, I’m sure you have observed some of the subtle but constructive differences in our collaborative production style. For example, how you like to use Ableton, and how I can’t use Ableton. One aspect of your approach that I highly respect is the almost trance-like state you can reach when editing audio. Your attention to detail is outstanding. But sometimes, I feel like you struggle to complete potentially amazing records. This is why I was so determined to get a record out of you for Hot Concept… What’s the longest you’ve ever worked on a track, and when and how did/do you know it was done?
Firstly, I’d like to apologise to you and everyone who’s ever tried to release my music (especially Kavan, who’s had to wait 3+ years for an EP from me). I’m sure there’s a proper word or Wikipedia page for it, but I often get paralyzed by the thought of finishing music because then it’s out of my hands and is free to be judged / criticised by the world. I know that’s just the way it is, and also that it’s just doof-doof dance music at the end of the day, but it still gets me real good. I am actively working to just fucking get over myself in this regard however.
Re: working on tracks – I try not to labour over them too much, knowing that the music I like the most almost always took the least amount of time to put together. ‘Humboldt’, for example, was about 80% done in one afternoon at Universitätsbibliothek der Humboldt-Universität in Berlin, and then sat on my hard drive for 3 years until you asked me for demos. Knowing someone likes a demo is always the best motivation for me to get it finished.
You are known for your versatility. Not only have you had your arm twisted into making records with myself, but Mor Elian, CCL and Hodge have also shared the dials with you, as well as the likes of DJ Fart in the Club in the DJ booth. You are certainly malleable, but I wondered if you have any specific philosophy for collaboration? Can you imagine anyone you just can’t imagine working with? Feel free to pick an artist too famous to care, or else dead, so as not to cause any hassle.
I just like working with my mates, it’s not that deep. Even if nothing concrete comes out of it, we had a good time messing around and that’s worth it to me. I’m happy to work with anyone as long as they’re not a dick.
Another thing we share in common is running a label. Although you take care of Peach Discs alongside Shanti Celeste, whereas I rule Hot Concept with a singular iron first, we both have to deal with the day-to-day queries about metadata and what type of matte sleeve to use. I wondered what labels inspired you and if there are any grand plans at Peach HQ, or is it just “sell good records by nice people”?
It’s just “sell good records by nice people.”
We often wrap up a studio afternoon or evening by watching a film. I think a favorite of mine that we enjoyed together was Clair Denis’s fascinating study of masculine conflict in the French Foreign legion, ‘Beau Travail’, but I was wondering if you could remember one that might make us look even more sophisticated?
Sophisticated? No. But I did like when we went to see The Batman and it was revealed that Paul Dano’s The Riddler was Ben UFO.
The first ‘serious’ conversation we ever had, when we briefly shared an office, was, “What is your favourite fidget house record?” Some years on, let me take this opportunity to revisit this question…
Fake Blood – ‘Mars’. An obvious choice but I can’t count the number of times I’ve absolutely lost my shit to that track. Honourable mention to AC Slater – ‘Jack Got Jacked (Jack Beats Remix)’ which I’d bet good money contains more wub-wubs than any song ever recorded.
DJs and civilians who have heard the record seemed to have knocked around the term ‘bloghouse’. I will let the public be the judge of that, but it’s interesting how we both go into dance music around the same time but I think our bloghouse DNA is different. You seem to prefer the bouncier, borderline bassline end of it, whereas I like the disco bit. What were your peak Bloghouse nights out? (Bloghouse here loosely defined as the period post electroclash and pre-Hessle Audio, although interpretations can vary as the afters wears on…)
When I was at uni there was a night at Lakota in Bristol regrettably called Shit The Bed that put on all the fidget / bloghouse lot, and we’d all religiously get the train up from Bath, dripping in American Apparel hoodies and drinking Special Brew. I distinctly remember one night an absolutely wasted Bobmo playing ‘Mars’ as his last track, right before Theo Keating played his 2nd-ever show as Fake Blood. Legend.
One totally rad Gramrcy fact for the books is that you spent your youth riding Motocross to a pretty high level. I recently broke my leg, and you casually revealed that you had dislocated your shoulder an ungodly amount of times. In comparison, DJing and music production is an insurer friendly pursuit. Have you ever sustained an injury while DJing or dancing? I was once nearly decapitated by an airborne metal umbrella pole while playing an MP3 dub reggae set in high winds. Fortunately dodged it, but missed a superb rewind opportunity in the process.
Yeh 12 is a stupid amount of times to dislocate a shoulder, but I’ve done a lot of stupid / life-threatening shit so in retrospect I consider myself pretty lucky overall. Never damaged myself DJing (touches wood), but a couple of those dislocations were music-related (falling up some stairs in a club / dancing in a flooded kitchen at a house party).
Your work is impressively ‘in the box’, but what is your dream piece of hardware on which to make your trademark trippy Gramrcy noises?
I think it’s important to note that I love knocking about on hardware, and the reason I don’t ever own more than one or two bits at a time is because it butts up against my borderline-neurotic fear of owning things in general. In terms of bleep-bloop generation, modular is obviously the way to go, but that’s a wormhole I’m not prepared to go down for the reason previously mentioned. But to answer the question, I really like the idea of the Polyend Tracker and using it to build weird synth lines instead of the wacky IDM drum edits I guess it was intended to make. I actually bought one last year and returned it because I never got around to playing with it, but maybe it’s time to re-invest.
You’ve recently split your show on Refuge Worldwide to focus more on hardcore, rock and indie releases; the not-dance-music you listen to at home. Name me a few bands that should be slightly terrifying me right now?
I kinda wanted this to be an open secret as I feel like people are already confused enough by all the different things I play, but in the interest of sharing-is-caring, here are a few of the gnarlier ones: Warthog, SPY, GEL, Bummer, Knocked Loose, Witch, Vein.fm, Gulch, Belzebong, Power Trip.
Highdive is out on Phantasy.