It's safe to say we're massive fans of Bicep round these parts. In an increasingly fragmented genre-hungry musical world and a muddying of reference points, Bicep are as real as they come. Not flitting between genres in their productions to chase scenes or fads, instead wearing their breadth of knowledge firmly on their sleeves to create aural outpourings which sound timeless.
From Andy and myself abusing each other via the PR and our, ahem, publication axis to having them come play at our very first ramshackle tent at Farr many years back, it’s been a pleasure to see 'em grow into this all-conquering force.
So what better thing to do with these Northern Irish reprobates than sit down in their ever burgeoning studio and talk a load of randomness.
So I wanted to start with technology seeing as we're in this studio with a lot of analogue equipment. We’re storing everything online.
48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Everything is just becoming redundant so quickly that it feels like we’re going to end up with this backlog of shit in our lives. Hardware you can kind of get around but software and anything else that you’ve got stored can just disappear.
Matt: Eventually everything will probably break.
Like your iPhone, for example. In a few years it’ll break, or they’ll bring out another new one with a different connection.
Matt: Back in the 70s, 80s and 90s there probably was a genuine belief that they were on to the big thing. So the quality of the machines was just amazing. This MPC, it’s probably from the late 90s this model, it runs like it was made last week. It’s a tank. We’ve had a few new MPCs and they’re always breaking. All of these new MIDI controllers and stuff are nowhere near the quality of what they were back then. We’re really falling into this throw-away culture now. iPhones are designed to break. Companies make things just to break as they know that we’re into that whole thing of wanting the new model every couple of years.
Andrew: It’s like music as well. We’ve got to the point where Pop records are being made in a completely different way. The studios used to have massive analogue desks with live elements core to the recording process. There was no auto-tune or touching-up after really, it all had to be done on the spot. Using at the time, independant company’s hand crafted equipment whether that be compressors, Eqs or desks and that was the peak of the technology.
Matt: I wouldn’t say it was the peak of the technology; it was more the peak of the craftsmanship.
Andrew: It’s more about being expensive over what’s the actual point of doing it nowadays. It’s like; making a road car that can do 1000mph, what’s the point of doing that? Companies that make musical equipment probably make more money now out of making 1000 digital vsts rather than one nicely crafted one-off desk.
We’re just amassing so much shit digitally so quickly at the moment.
Music is kind of one of the only places that I really see it though, I think. I’m never going to look back at TVs and want one that’s fuzzy or whatever. I want a new one that’s pristine that works perfect with Sky HD.
Andy: >laughs> I can just see you with a black and white TV that takes half an hour to even turn on.
I went to help a relative move and she had a Bang & Olufsen TV which has these ridiculous built-in speakers and you can turn it on it’s axis for some reason. She was going to throw it out so I took it off her!
Bang & Olufsen make stuff to last like 40 years though. They’re like art pieces more than anything, The speakers in that are probably really well made too.
It was £5,000 new apparently.
That’s what I mean.
Is it quite old?
Yeah, it’s probably like 15 years old. It’s only got scart input.
What’s the screen like on it though?
It’s amazing. I looked on eBay and they go for like £400. (You can actually pick one up for 99p here. It is recommended)
With these machines, I think it comes down to art over function, if you know what I mean. The functionality of these wasn’t great, or certainly they are a lot more difficult to use, but that also means you learn a certain process. It takes so long to make a track on these but then you get something cool in it like this weird fuzz or high-pitched desk noise. You just get these little artefacts that you wouldn’t get if you were making the same sound through a computer. I even love hearing the MPC loop click in some old hip hop records.
Then when it gets mastered those artefacts get gelled together and it just comes out way nicer as a whole.
It’s like when you take a photo on film, you get all those little bits of information that aren’t actually there but it kind of adds to the whole feel and image. It’s also the same in terms of it being a whole process, like developing a film and printing the image from the negative.
I guess the thing that worries me is the last 10 years - people stopped putting vinyl out because it wasn’t feasible. It was the same with digital cameras. I had 3.2 megapixels - oooh - and it didn’t have any sound, so I’ve got this video without any sound. Then I’ve also got these shit pictures...
Because they’re all so low quality and pixelated, so look shit.
That in-between phase where everyone got those shitty little digital cameras because it was the new thing. You might as well have just bought a £2 disposable camera and the pictures would have looked way better.
On eBay there is an average of $680 worth of transactions every second. What’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought on eBay?
A synth that was like £3k, it was one we’d wanted for a long time, it was the major thing on our hit list.
Most expensive record?
Not that bad. The most is probably £70.
We’ve got this want list on discogs of expensive stuff, there’s a lot of Italo Disco in there. We want quite a lot of Italo but they are so expensive because there are so few of them.
We’ve got a lot of Italo Disco that has been in and around that price. We mainly buy records to play out, although that’s becoming harder and harder with the current situation with turntables in clubs. It’s hard to warrant going above £70 for that. A perfect example was one we got by vil-n-x for like £50, it was something I’d been wanting for a while. Then the first time I took it out to play, the side I really wanted ended up getting scratched.
Had you recorded it?
No. There are 3 mixes on it though and they’re all around the same track so it’s not too bad.
We’ve wrecked so many records. That’s why we’ve got our own dedicated ripping deck now.
So the blog is pretty active again I see?
Yeah we’re doing a post a day. We’ve got a bit of a backlog from when we were over in America though.
We’ve begun to really loathe the control that Facebook has over stuff. All the 'advertising your post' stuff and having to pay to reach people…
They’ve played the biggest prank ever really. Make supposedly the best service ever and let everyone have it for free for years and then after that make anyone dependant pay for it. They got everyone hooked and made it integral to everyone’s life and then suddenly slapped on all of these restrictions unless you pay.
It’s genius really.
Yeah it is. But we’ve just tried to use it as little as possible, the blog has always been our platform and we’re trying to really focus on it as much as we can.
We just use it in a different way and post what we want to post.
Unfortunately Facebook is the centre of a lot of people’s lives now. I remember when the Internet first really came about. I was around when the Internet wasn’t there, and then when the internet was there. Everything was over msn messenger.
Yeah, and Geocities! Very early days. Then you got art blogs popping up like ffffound. I remember it getting to the point where you could spend hours and hours searching into weird little corners of the Internet. All that people do now though is just log into Facebook and look at what other people have posted. I actually deleted my own Facebook about 6 months ago. I just don’t want to be fed stuff that people haven’t even put any thought into writing. I don’t want to be constantly fed a few sentances that someone has just thought up in a couple of seconds.
And that continuous stream of articles… I’m not saying that they’re not good articles but it’s just a constant churn.
For some reason I really hate it when I see someone I don’t like posting up a track that I really like. It ruins it for me. I’ve stopped using it too and I’ve deleted it off my phone.
Humans shouldn’t be able to communicate with each other that easily. It’s a never-ending dodgy after party. Its just loads of people chatting shit and not even thinking about what they’re saying.
I’ve told [Dan] Beaumont off before because every time that I see him he just takes his phone out. He’s never even sure what he was going to use it for. Sorry Dan, I’m going to keep this bit in…
There was this thing on Radio 4 saying how we only have a certain amount of brain capacity that we can use each day. Now we keep looking at our phones for those little red alerts, those little hits of dopamine. And we keep hitting it like a rat in a cage and by about 3 ‘o clock we’ve used it all up!
Sometimes it just gets exhausting. I remember days when you’d sit there and end up just going through people’s feeds. I’ve caught myself doing it sometimes and thought, ‘what the fuck am I doing?’
There’s also only a certain amount of information that:
a) People want to digest.
b) Need to digest.
Since I deleted mine I’ve been noticing things like, if I’m in a hotel and I’ve got a couple of hours, the standard thing I’d do before would be to go on Facebook and probably see what someone had for lunch. Now though I find myself actually digging up old news articles and reports and actually finding them myself. I’ll normally have a couple of books with me too. I actually think in my head, ‘What do I want to learn about today?’
Since deleting it what we’ve noticed is that the studio is now where our focus is every day. I’m in at 9 every morning.
You’re teaching yourself how to actually behave like a normal human being. I think it’s a really good thing to do as it’s definitely getting to that point where people are reaching breaking point.
I feel bad for kids these days as things are only going to get worse.
Kids in schools have phones now!
Embarrassing someone used to be drawing a dick on their back with chalk. Now it’s someone getting beaten up, recorded on a phone and then put up on YouTube.
Or someone getting pissed on and then it goes viral.
Ruining people's lives in 10 seconds. I’m pretty pleased I’ve missed all of that.
It’s slightly different but I remember as a kid waiting for a track I liked to come up on the radio and then recording it. Whereas now you can just find whatever you want within a few seconds.
I think there are still kids out there that go out and dig for themselves though.
My jaded thing is that if you do go to all that effort and you come out with something unique, 10,000 people will just copy it anyway.
This is the thing I always chat with my dad about, there’s a certain flavour to the 70s, and then to the 80s and the 90s. Now though how long does a certain trend last for? 5 months?
And then it’s gone.
Now we’re just into this weird mix of stuff but in a way I guess you could say it’s good as people get this chance to really be individual and find exactly what they want.
Rather than something being jumped on and it’s suddenly just gone after that. But you’ve got things like L.I.E.S. that are still really cool but...
When L.I.E.S. started it felt really refreshing, compared to what was currently being made. Now look at how many people have tried to emulate their early style. I see so many reviews where it describes something at L.I.E.S.-esque. Maybe the artist’s actual reference was old dark-wave or industrial but some people can only think back 6 months.
You can’t describe a sound based on something that you heard last week. L.I.E.S is an amazing label and really diverse, it’s funny how quickly people just pigeonhole stuff.
Lets move on… There are 6.8 billion people on the planet and 4 billion of them use a mobile phone but only 3.5 billion of them use a toothbrush.
Might not be related but in Asia they use oil and they swirl it about for 20 minutes and apparently that better than brushing your teeth. It’s called oil pulling I think.
So this is some bullshit western fact then?
I don’t know if this is actually true but 91% of all adults keep their phones within arms reach every hour of every day.
If you farted consistently for 6 years and 9 months you’d have made enough gases to produce an atomic bomb.
The catfish has over 27,000 taste buds. You’re quite into food aren’t you?
Yeah. I’ve had a catfish as well before.
I think that was the most hungover day of my life, we’d had a heavy few days in China. We went to a Szechuan restaurant but it was a proper Szechuan. The chillies that numb your mouth and you lose all feeling in it.
Then they brought this catfish out.
It came out live in a bucket and the girl asked if it was okay for us. Then they roast it and bring it out with the chillies. I was almost passing out from the hangover. It was so intense. I remember trying to nibble on this fish and peppers.
A cats wee glows under a black light.
Does it? As in, UV?
Yeah. An average human loses 200 hairs a day.
But then how many grow?
I don’t actually know…
Ah, you see! You need to know that.
Let me consult my phone! That’s another problem these days. No-one has anything up in their head anymore. They just rely on Google.
I think I actually know more now because if I come across, or just think of, a weird fact and then I look it up to clarify it, I remember it to use in a conversation. You can’t create old wives tales anymore.
You have to make your own Wikipedia entries about them.
We used to make fake Wikipedia entries and trash our friends on it. Overall Google isn’t a bad thing though really.
No, it’s not.
You could look in your fridge and put in a bunch of ingredients and then come out with a really good recipe with a bit of common sense.
But the issue there is that you have a brain and you know how to use it. Everyone has a voice now, and I guess it’s a good thing in one sense, but there’s so much mind spill now. People just need to learn when not to talk.
I think we’re getting old.
Sometimes I’ll read in the paper a conversation between 2 kids via text message, but I can’t actually understand what they’re saying to one another.
Lets move on to some 90s facts. At 8 minutes and 58 seconds, November Rain by Guns ‘n’ Roses is the longest song to ever reach the top 10 inthe billboard top 100 chart. That was a pretty bold move back then to release a single that long.
And a bold move for a record company.
I can’t imagine anyone at a record company saying yes to putting that out. There must be a story behind that.
Haha or a lot of coke.
By the time you have reached 50 years of age you have walked approximately 75,000 miles.
That’s very general. I’m sure some people have walked half that and some people have walked triple that.
I cycle everywhere.
I walk to the studio now. It’s 2.5 miles and a good time to make phone calls.
Good to call the mum.
I do my day-to-day admin on that walk.
Unlike other muscles found on the front of body, the biceps are responsible for pushing movements instead of pulling movements.
It’s funny that they’re called Biceps. Bicep doesn’t actually exist as a noun. The muscles are always referred to as Biceps.
Feel My Biceps.
It just doesn’t have the ring to it.
People that exercise outdoors burn off more fat than those who exercise indoors.
Maybe it’s because you burn off more calories if it’s cold. I think it has to be like significantly colder though. I’m sure It’s better to swim in the sea than in a pool. If you train somewhere like Iceland you probably get fitter much quicker. Sure look at the size of all of them.
I didn’t know that. The average 21 year old has spent 5,000 hours playing video games, has exchanged 250,000 emails and has spend 10,000 hours on the phone. That’s pretty horrible.
Maybe it’s good that our phones were shit when we were kids.
How many hours did you spend on snake? It took up way too much of my time for what it was worth.
It was crap!
I remember the first ever computer games that came into our house were like Pac-Man. The first computer games were alright though. I was never really into computer games.
I got bored quite quickly. Did you know the word ‘set’ has 192 definitions?
No, that’s class.
That’s definitely one for the Christmas table.
What’s your favourite set?
Set of cutlery. Nice house set. Lets bring it back to the points that matter. What’s your favourite Carl Cox set?
What’s your answer?
Love Parade 1997. Don’t even know if he played there.
The world's largest Biceps belong to Mustafa Ismael from Egypt. Did you know this?
I think this might be the guy that takes synthol.
When measured, with his arms flexed, it came to 64.77cm.
Yeah, this guy is a fake. What he does is he injects oil into his muscles.
Who should take that title then?
I don’t know, but if you look at pictures of him, it’s horrible. It’s not a body.
It’s basically oil you inject into your muscles and they take it on and you keep injecting it. Then slowly you’re just making fake muscles.
So it’s basically like pumping water into a chicken.
It makes them look like a cloud! I was looking at pictures once and there was this guy that actually looked like a human cloud.
Why would you do that to yourself?
I know, it’s bizarre. It’s more about the size than the shape.
Science has told us that large biceps attract more women that money and large penis’ put together.
I’m not sure where that comes from.
Synthol forum. <laughs>
Is it true that cats chew grass if it’s going to rain?
I don’t know…
There’s a chemical in chocolate called Theobromine and we have something in our liver that breaks it down but dogs don’t have it. If you feed a dog chocolate you can actually kill it.
Here’s a random fact for you. Oxford University is older than the Aztec Empire. Sounds fake, but look it up.
There's an image of them together on the internet so it must be true!
Another weird one is that Russia has a bigger surface area that Pluto!
Good fact... I did not know that.
Bicep play An Evening With... Bicep this Easter Thursday at Motion, Bristol. Full details
FeelMyBicep can be found on the internet here.
They are releasing a lot of excellent music this year. More details will follow. Let's call it 'Outtakes'.