As Container, Ren Schofield has proved himself a real master of dancefloor chaos; he always manages to find a groove amongst the sonic madness.
This is thanks to the Providence-born, London-based producer's background in drumming, which he marries with elements of techno, lo-fi noise and driving rhythms — with each release he's pushed the envelope, propelling his sound into new realms.
Previous releases have come via Alter, Editions Mego offshoot Spectrum Spools and Morphine, and now he's finding a home on Richard Fearless' Drone imprint with his newest LP 'Creamer', the first record made without his faithful Roland MC-909.
Treading similar sonic terrain are Bristol-based noise makers Giant Swan. The duo, made up of longtime pals Robin Stewart and Harry Wright, have become figureheads in the South Western city through their releases on Mannequin, Whities and their own KECK imprint. But it's their mind melting live sets where their output really comes to life: from Boiler Room to Fabric's Unlocked series atop Tower Bridge, their fusion of electrifying noise and techno needs to be seen IRL.
As well as being mutual admirers, Giant Swan and Container have shared agents and stages, and now they're getting to know each other even better by asking one another the really big questions. Visiting large cats in Toby Carvery car parks, strangest gig experiences, police raids and barbecue recipes are all on the menu...
Robin (Giant Swan): What is your favourite type of container?
Container: I've got a load at home with those weird vacuum/rubber seals and they never, ever stay on and they leak a lot - too much air resistance or something going on in the seal. Also, just typing that out, I'm pretty sure you have tunes named 'Rubber' and 'Leaker'... are you just compositing the structural elements of various containers in your work?
I’ve never really thought about this before and no I wasn’t intentionally doing that, but I guess I really like those vacuum sealed bags that you put clothes and blankets in and then suck the air out of. Love how it looks when everything is all scrunched up in the plastic like that. If that counts as a container, those are probably my favorite.
Robin (Giant Swan): You recently moved to London. How, if in anyway, does it differ from Providence, RI? Are there as many large roaming beasts in London? Are there as many buildings in RI? What is your favourite English smell?
Container: It differs greatly I’d say. For starters, just doing some quick math in my head I’d say London is about 70 times the size of Providence (I failed math in high school though, so don’t trust this figure), but I find that to be very relaxing. You’re constantly running into people in Providence, at the store, on the street, wherever... I’d have to strategize where and when to go shopping so I wouldn’t run the risk of seeing anyone when I wasn’t in the mood to.
I really enjoy the anonymity of London in that regard, just being out and about and never seeing anyone I know. The proximity to everyone else and lack of privacy is a drawback though. Also the expense is something I’m not used to, even with a regular job I seem to be completely broke all the time. But overall I must admit I love living in London and think that it’s a great place, which contradicts the feelings I had for it the first handful of times I would’ve come to visit on tour.
I honestly don’t know what to say about the beasts or the buildings.
Robin (Giant Swan): Why did the police raid your studio?
Container: After a lot of unsuccessful attempts to find a studio space I could afford, against my better judgement I took one that had a bit of a bizarre and sketchy vibe to it. When I signed the lease the landlord took me through this door that led into a full 500 person capacity club space with a fully stocked bar and the room had the feel and odor of a place that had recently been partied in — this was last August, so in the thick of events being frowned upon.
It was my second day there and around 11am when I heard some shouting from down the hall. It was the kind of shouting that concerned me and so I turned the music off and listened as the footsteps of an entire gang approached. I was a bit taken aback to see the doorknob start to turn and then just genuinely shocked to see over ten cops, all crowding around into the tiny doorway peering in for a look. I was sitting at a table with all my gear on eating stroopwafels and they seemed unimpressed. There was a quick interrogation which seemed to leave them satisfied that I simply rented the room as a studio and wasn’t aware of the seedy goings on in the rest of the building.
They started knocking in the other doors and seizing all the alcohol from the club room, one of the cops kept referring to me as ‘the bloke’, which I liked. Eventually they let me out of the room and told me the place was shut down. I asked if I could have 30 minutes to get my things out and they said 10. I was sharing the space with Helm so I called him and said to get down there ASAP and quickly just started unplugging everything and dragging all our stuff out onto the sidewalk. Another tenant came by in the middle of all this happening acting as if nothing was going on and I said something like “this is crazy right?” and he was like “oh are the cops here? the cops are always in and out of this place.”
So to answer your question I believe they were wise to the illegal activities occurring in the building and would raid it regularly, and the owner — who seemed completely unphased by the whole situation — would just continue on doing the illegal things and paying the fines or whatever. I’m happy to say I’ve since gotten a new studio space which has been working out much better.
Robin (Giant Swan): What did you learn from watching Kay's Kitchen? I hope her dog is still alive…
Container: I was impressed with her ability to combine cooking with suspense so effortlessly. This was my first time seeing the British method of using the grill function on the oven for cooking, we don’t really use that setting so often in America, especially when cooking steaks which I seem to recall her doing. I respect the stressful atmosphere she creates for the viewer while she herself manages to seem, maybe not relaxed or in control, but certainly joyful and enthused. It was a real eye opening glimpse into the UK for me.
Robin (Giant Swan): Has working with juice turned you off juice? or are you now a total 'Juice Head' and do you silently* critique other juice you encounter on your days off? *nb: you could also answer regarding juice critique that you have vocalised.
Container: When I first started working at this juice cleanse company about a year and a half ago (the longest I’ve ever had a job), I thought the access to free juice was a real perk, but as the time has gone on and my familiarity with the processes of making it has increased I’ve started to see it as something not fit for consumption. To me it’s become just a substance that I’m responsible for transferring between different vats and into bottles and boxes, the idea of ingesting it almost seems ludicrous at this point. It’s really one of the most dysfunctional businesses I’ve ever encountered, 100% would not recommend.
Robin (Giant Swan): For many years, we shared the services of the same booking agent who would book us gigs and send us all over the world to perform. What is the strangest gig offer that our esteemed colleague ever sent your way and what was the thing that made you NOT play it? Full respect to JJH.
Container: I’ve sort of mostly operated with the unofficial policy of agreeing to any show I get offered. I think the only times I’ve turned one down were for boring reasons like a scheduling conflict or the fee wasn’t enough for it to make sense logistically. Although I once inexplicably turned down a show at a bike shop on a Greek island, ended up accepting a show in England of all places instead, and that's how I met my wife.
Robin (Giant Swan): What is a corn dog?
Container: A corn dog is a hot dog on a stick that has been dipped into a thick corn meal based batter and then deep fried.
Harry (Giant Swan): What would be better: Enya covering Metallica Or Metallica covering Enya?
Container: Personally I’d be much more interested in hearing Metallica’s cover of Enya. Never really cared about Metallica until I heard Lulu which I guess you could say I was ‘impressed’ with. And then once I saw Some Kind of Monster, the scene where they’re trying to jam and Kirk and James have got a heavy riff going and Lars is playing some wonky beat that doesn’t make sense with it at all and they’re like ‘Lars what on Earth are you doing?’ and he’s like ‘Hey, I’m just trying to try something new’... that spoke to me. I feel like given the creative freedom they’d take an Enya song to a place where no one at all could’ve seen it going, especially them.
Harry (Giant Swan): Any new weird addictions or tastes since covid? Personally I've replaced buying weed with buying Blur 7"s from Discogs.
Container: Yeah, many new things actually. Woke up craving corn nuts one day, went out and bought four bags of different varieties and brands, now they’re a staple item in the house. Been watching loads and loads of Come Dine With Me, which I’ve come to believe is maybe the most important television show and will serve as a significant historical artifact documenting UK culture from this era. Really been loving that show. Was into baked camembert for a while at the beginning of lockdown, but that trend has sort of faded. Got into the habit of visiting this large cat that hangs out in the parking lot of the Toby Carvery up the road from my house.
Harry (Giant Swan): When are you gonna finally sell out and start singing and or rapping over your tracks?
Container: This is something that probably won’t happen.
Container: I’d like to hear about some of the more awkward shows you’ve played. Ones where it didn’t make sense for you to be there, it didn’t go over well, and you were like ‘what the hell am I doing with my life?’ You got any of those?
Robin: Harry might have a better memory for these but tbh I can’t really think of many. There was one in Ventspils where we arrived the day before the show, both unreasonably tired from wherever we’d been previously, the promotor was one of these men who is able to drink maybe 40x as much as we can and not seem drunk, we both had pretty bad nights (I believe Harry was violently ill), then the promotor was so hungover he forgot to pick us up for soundcheck, the show was in a massive theatre paid for by EU funds but nobody came except a man who more or less just stood at the back of the room shouting. We nearly missed the flight home because the man was, once more, hungover as fuck and forgot to pick us up. I remember that one being an interesting one to mull over.
Harry: Yeah this one was bizarre... a lot of the time with these I just feel bad for everyone else in the room... you know those ones where as an audience member you feel awkward leaving the room cos there's so few people there. We've had a bunch of them. At first you feel bad for the promoter but then you see it's an arts festival where the poster has about 20 different tech corps logos on it and you feel slightly less guilty about it.
Container: Do you guys have a favorite airport? If you don’t have a favorite, pick which one you think would be best suited for a ten hour layover. Have you had any layovers over 10 hours before?
Robin: We always enjoy a stop at Schipol. You can more or less do whatever you need to there. We always emphatically finish our weed out the front. We slept on the floor of Gatwick airport once which was shite - don’t think they let you do that anymore.
Harry: Anywhere that has hot food / a Mcdonalds is basically good with us. Rob will be ready to run to the gate as soon as it's announced, I on the other hand will take my sweet sweet time finishing off those McNuggets, and looking at souvenirs, which I'm sure makes me a very relaxing person to travel with... And I've only ever missed two flights can you believe it!?
Container: Right now I’m vaping in a hospital in exchange for £370. You guys have any odd jobs or money making schemes you fall back on in tough times?
Robin: Hahahaaa!! I’d love that to pass the time. I’ve been working back behind the bar which has actually been good fun as am with good folks. Did a bit of unloading pallets from a lorry which was horrendous but mostly coz I have tiny arms.
Harry: Gig posters for tribute bands is something that still occasionally crops up. And when I was in art college I used the school's printer to forge tickets for gigs and clubnights that I'd then sell to my friends and their mates... I use my Photoshop powers for evil not for good.
Container: Hypothetical situation: we’ve agreed to tour Florida together and will be traveling by speedboat. I’m the driver. What are your reservations?
Robin: What boating CDs have you packed? Also, does the boat have a crocodile catcher (like a cow catcher but but for crocs, obvs)?
Harry: I'm into it. My only reservations would be: Why aren't we going at top speed. Why are we bothering wearing life jackets.
Container: What do you usually cook at the barbecue and how? Get deep into technique if need be.
Robin: I got really into doing the flattened chicken thing; where you pound the chicken breasts with a rolling pin and then marinade for 24hrs. Usually I start with an olive oil/vegetable oil rub with paprika, basil, cayenne, oregano, veg stock (works so much better than chicken stock), cumin, salt n pep, madras curry powder and Worcester sauce. Usually use 6 breasts so we need a big container ( ;) ) and enough fridge space.
When the barbecue is hot enough, lay them over the middle part of the grill for 10 mins, then turn. Repeat a few times till the edges of the flat chicken are crispy and the middle is basically leaking marinade. Bit of greek salad and you’re laughing.
Harry: I'm really into barbecuing paint. Get a nice boiling broth out of that Dulux, then leave it to set. Once the tin has cooled enough to hold, then proceed to painting the walls with it. You won't even need to use a paint roller, just chuck it straight on to that wall and the molten heat will allow it to stick instantly and also eliminate any under coat or remaining wallpaper. DIY but make it BOILING.
Either that or burgers: Low fat mince, diced onion, garlic and parsley, lots of pepper and a beaten egg. Don't be afraid to get that mince all eggy.
Container: I’m a big fan of doing karaoke but where you pick a song for someone else to sing and vice versa. What songs would you like to see each other sing?
Robin: I reckon Has could batter a rendition of 'Rhinestone Cowboy'.
Harry: I'd give Rob either 'Wuthering Heights' by Kate Bush or 'All Is Full Of Love' by Bjork. Not because I think it's outside his range and capabilities, but because I genuinely believe he thinks those two songs are the same.
Container: Soundcheck is at 2pm but you’re not on stage until 6am. When do you start drinking?
Robin: I usually start drinking at soundcheck so probably 2:25pm.
Harry: I'd have about 14 cans of Diet Coke and 20 cigarettes until about 6:35am where half way through our set I MIGHT have a drink. #rockandroll
Container: What are your favorite restaurants in Bristol?
Robin: Cuban Cafe hands down. My treat next time you’re down <3
Harry: ...I can't believe Cuban Cafe is your favourite restaurant in the whole of Bristol... But then again you did order a burger-less burger from Five Guys once.
Photo credit for Giant Swan: Keith Leaf.
Enjoy this article? Want more?
You can support Ransom Note and independent journalism through our Patreon campaign now.
Become a friend of Ransom Note