Gramme's new album recently dropped (it's great) and we thought it a fine time to catch up with the four-piece for a chat about jazz, detroit and working with Trevor Jackson…
Your Pre Release EP still holds a special place in my musical heart. We used to run a night down in New Cross called Fear of Music and Crooks & Criminals became quite an anthem for us down there. It made so much sense next to the likes of young whipper snappers like LCD, Franz Ferdinand, DFA and all its splinter sounds. Tell us about your musical upbringings, influences and how Gramme came to be.
DAVID – Trombone , choir, Dads discos records, guitar, being in bands, Sonic Youth , Pavement , Sonic pioneers like Morton Feldman and The American Composers , Musique concrete but mainly making rather listening.
LUKE My musical upbringing was definitely hard heavy emotional Bebop , Coltrane , Miles Davis Roland Kirk , Archie Shepp. I can thank my father for this. I was also exposed to great fusion I know it a dirty word but who cares, I loved it and still do, Bitches Brew , Live Evil still rank as some of my favorite albums. From here I discovered James Brown , Parliament , Bootsy Collins Larry Graham but this quickly shifted to the Talking Heads when I went to art school in the early 80s, Tina Weymouth is my favorite bass player and has been for years, This led inevitably to Joy Divisions , A Certain Ratio and the whole Manchester thing. I guess deep down I have always been trying to reconcile my own cultural identity in music, authenticity has always been a flea in my ear, I dont like ripping people off I want to contribute but I am very aware of music history and have a lot respect for the incredible pioneers in music.
SAM I started playing music at the age of 4, I went on to study at classical music at Dartinghall, Piano and voice were my main things.. I went onto music school to study jazz and majored in voice. I met lots of amazing musicians at this time and went on to work with lots of great jazz players. Made a track with North records a dance label in 1995, put out a track called whos going to bring me love and with Tom Middleton from Aphex twin. I then got into house music a kind of parallel universe at the time and then met the Gramme boys inx 1996 and the rest is history.
Trevor Jackson produced and put out a lot of your records. He must had a strong influence on you and your sound. He's certainly paid his dues in music world.
DAVID Well yeah, he obviously did. He brought us back to something simple.
LUKE Yes he did, I mean he was a DJ but also a designer and he new how to set a brief and work around an idea in a focused and intense way. I think the fact that he wasnt a musician in a conventional sense was hugely inspirational, it helped us recognise the relationship between music and the effect it can have on audiences, I think this is something DJs are very good at. He also set up Output and created a platform for our style of music.
Leo you've hardly been idle in the wilderness years, drumming for the likes of Hot Chip and Paul Epworth and being part of the amazing Invisible – something I just learnt about. It must have been interesting and both refreshing to see these sorts of bands and producers coming through and emulating a sound you and indeed Output had been pushing for quite a while before. That's not to hark back to 'oh I was doing this first', more the fact it must have been a sense of 'well we were doing something right all along' type affair. Or maybe you don't see it like that?
LEO I guess I am interested in not being connected to any specific genre of music, I like to experiment and treat all music on its on merits, being a strong musician is a key part of this approach. I am generally interested in things that are against the grain, thats for sure. Regards people emulating us, I dont really see this way, I think people are inspired perhaps but I think this is more to do with the way people are always inspired by other people courage to follow their heart. I am obviously very appreciative of such comments but they also inspire me. Regarding Hotchip Epworth and others its just been great to be a part of their journey and to share in these moments in time. Hotchip were big fans of Zongamin, another band I have been involved with over the years. This is a mutual respect situation, a family of players and artists I think. Its fantastic to have their support around the release of the new Gramme albumits a great feeling.
DFA's rise to prominence drew influence (it has been said by Mr Goldsworthy himself) from your good selves on its evolution. Any plans to work with any of the DFA'ers? Maybe you already have and I've missed something massive!
LUKE Nothing planned but we admire them. Actually we are doing a remix swop with Yacht at the moment.
So I have to ask – you might be sick of answering it – why the return?
DAVID Weed never really gone away. We never really stopped making music but all of a sudden we have finished a record.
LUKE – I see it like letting your favorite dog off the lead and then finding again in the woods. It never stopped being out there its just we didnt know where it was.we could always hear it barking haha! We have to thank Joe Goddard and others for keeping the flame a light. Making music is a weird thing , you just do it and the somehow it finds a form in the end.
Tell us about the new album.
DAVID Its a dirty little disco oddity. Im surprised so many are getting it, but Im obviously pleased as I spent so many hours , days and nights mixing it.
LUKE The new album is the result of many jam sessions, and writing sessions in some of the less salubrious basements and cellars of south East London. We knew what we after but it was case of finding it. We benefitted from the excitement of being back together, I think this sustained us through the wilderness moments. We have been in each others lives for a very long time, we know what turns us on. We wanted to explore all the different sonic areas of our sound, we indulged ourselves but in a good wayis there any other way? We wanted it to be our call to arms, the things we felt passionate about and a chance to reconnect with our own history and settle unfinished sonic business.
SAM- It makes me think abut why we are doing it, I guess, Its bought together a lot of different areas which makes it sound so unique. We learnt a lot along the way but me personally I coming from the same place. Its quite icy experimental without feeling that we are being led into something commercial . Me and Luke write together , lyrics basslines and stuff and this combines with what Leo and David do in the studio production wise. I am proud of this record.its a creative step forward.
How have modern production techniques affected the way you produce music these days?
DAVID The band started off by using a 4 track. We have always been into the sound of tape, tape compression. Trying to get that overloaded cheap mic sound that can sound so good if you play simply. Tracks forming in the computer is one the main modern production techniques, we often create arrangements like this but then translate back to live and then rerecord live again sometimes. The thing that remains the same is that the sound design is achieved using computers to hold it all together. When we get together to play tracks it has to gel , it has to groove. Its made it possible for us to do ourselves and not have to record it all in two weeks, I guess this is the biggest effect, this is a massive advantage. We all live quite far apart so file sharing and multiple versions of tracks helps. We are into Programmes like Ableton because they are intuitive and you can achieve in minutes what used to take hours to set-up in older programmes.
Your music is based around live instrumentation creating the groove. How do you feel about sampling in this day and age? Before it used to be about taking a loop or section and crafting something new. These days its nicking some disco record wholesale, 're-editing' it and claiming it as your own.
DAVID , I feel that sampling has its place. When you spend time designing a sound to be in a piece of music it can take many hours to reach the perfect sound. When you place that sound in a record its psycho-acoustic properties illicit an emotional response. If you then attempt to generate sounds live it can only ever be an attempt to mimic the affect you were trying to achieve. Samples for us are deliberate statements not approximations, this is why I spend a lot of time creating sounds and developing sonic palettes. I am mainly talking about the melodic components of the record. Random sound generation and found sound need to be edited to make sense to the listener. Samplers are brilliant!
How many times have you been sampled?
LUKE God knows, Im not actually sure if we have.
Your press release likens Laugh Out Loud to an Underground Resistance record. Has Detroit and all its subsequent permutations been an influence on your music over the years? Pretty stupid question really… everyone is influenced by Detroit in one form or other!
DAVID Of course
LUKE I think we all love the vibe, the roughness but the sheer exuberance of this music. Ron Hardy has been a key influence in recent years. From my own point of view I dont think knowledge of specific records has been the thing, I thing its more a sense of kinship with an approach, the vibe I guess.
Sam yeah totally.
Are you a kick drum, hi hat or a snare? And why?
DAVID Im a kick man. The importance of in the mix, the infinite variations in the sound, I love the Love/hate relationship between the kick and the bass.
LUKE – Kick drum .The bass and the kick are lovers in my head..a dirty secret
SAM- I am a Hi hat the energy its gives offI am the sparkle
What are you obsessed with at the moment?
DAVID Transferring our dirty the record to the live stage
LUKE Playing tightly, getting inside the tracks. Getting it right!
SAM My baby Blue
What's your answer to everything?
DAVID Keep going
LUKE – Stay positive, recognize the things you do repeatedly.
SAM- Self belief
Producer living or dead you'd most like to work with.
DAVID Martin Hannett
Whats the best piece of music youve ever heard?
DAVID My life in the bush of Ghosts
SAM Nimrod Elgar
First and last record bought?
DAVID Peter Rabbit – Barbara Norris heavy Hitter
LUKE – Abba – Toro Y Moi Underneath The Pine
SAM Human League – Dont you want me. And the last record was Love birds want me in your soul.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to R$N. Keep on being ace.
Stream the new album 'Fascination' here: