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Sound Check

Factory Floor's Minimal Joystick Disco

Sound Check

Emilie Bailey

FACTORY FLOOR See them hit New Order’s Roland toms!

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UK trio Factory Floor sling a postindustrial dance craft deeply into the inner reaches of outer space. The joystick in their cockpit has one big red button for the thrusters—no instructions needed. Minimal disco and house cycle bluntly, pulling you in by a tractor beam. The percussion that begins their self-titled DFA Records release sounds like a droid tapping on the lid of a Pringles can. Kick drum drops in, and the triangle is divided by squares. Nik Colk Void's ghostly cyborg vocals issue unintelligible decrees. Her singing is monotone, affected, and sovereign. You will do as she says and report your waveform to the dance floor. Since 2005, founding members Gabriel Gurnsey and Dominic Butler have been suturing together minimal, hard-hitting sonics. Void plays guitar and manipulates her vocals with samples, Gurnsey plays drums and drum machines, and Butler operates modular synths and electronics. Factory Floor's early shows garnered them a loyal London fan base. Since then, they've worked with Throbbing Gristle, Trent Reznor, and Stephen Morris of Joy Division/New Order. Their latest release was recorded on the same mixing desk Dave Stewart used to make the Eurythmics' early hits. Void and Gurnsey spoke from Manchester, where they were working on a remix for Liars.

Do you like gravitational force? And tractor beams? Void: Yes, we do. It's strange, I've have had a day of space-related incidences today. I visited Jodrell Bank earlier, a space observatory not far from Macclesfield. I met the scientist Tim O'Brien. He's organizing some sky mapping for artwork I'm working on, and he showed me around the third biggest telescope in the world. I asked if he could beam some of my music up into space like NASA did with a Beatles album. He said they don't really do that, though, the consequences are unknown [laughs].

Your music has this gravitational thing. A pull. It pulls you in. Why can I not escape it? Void: Our individual sounds are instinctive reactions to each other's playing. I would say that contributes to an atmosphere of gravitational pull. It's an inviting, come-and-join-our-gang type thing. The repetition drives, but also allows space for the listener to let go hopefully. We write a lot onstage, and we see what impact this has on the audience; this usually determines our choices.

Once I'm inside your cell, or your landing bay, you filter sounds and turn them inside out. Then it makes me hover, like a helicopter. What do you think about when you play? Helicopters? Let's get psychedelic. Gurnsey: We get so immersed in the sound, we can forget we're onstage. Our heads are down because of the nature of our tools and concentration. We filter with EQs, modulation, and pitches.

What is the appeal of monomania and repetition and minimalism? Gurnsey: Repetition is the platform for free thinking.

What drum machines do you like to use? Be sexy with gear talk. Gurnsey: Now we're talking [laughs]. Jomox 09, Elektron Machine Drum, Sequential Circuits DrumTraks. I like programming simple elements into whatever drum machine is not at the repair shop that day, and then I layer live drums over the top to gain more natural fills and elements, then I press save or delete depending on Nik's facial expression.

What's the trick to mixing acoustic drums in with electronic drums? You're obviously thinking about helicopters when you play. Gurnsey: Allow for three years in the studio.

Nik, how do you approach your lyrics and words? Void: I have a cut-and-paste approach to words. The sound comes first, then I try to make dialogue. Then I deduct the unnecessary. I try to limit the amount of words used to get to the point. I do like to play with words, like "My mind's made for good times," and "I have a head for blurring lines." Robin Thicke stole that one [laughs]. The practice of processing, experimenting, and resampling vocals helps put an expression into the words I deliver, as I deliver them deadpan. So I guess this is where the human and the machine switch places.

What books have you read lately? Who's your favorite writer? Void: A book I'm reading now is Acid House: The True Story by Luke Bainbridge. I don't have a favorite author, I pick up what's laying around.

Has your work with Throbbing Gristle affected the way you work with Factory Floor? Void: No, not really. Chris and Cosey approached me because of the way I work. It has given me loads of confidence that maybe I'm doing something right.

Factory Floor is a triangle. What do you all disagree on musically? How is it resolved? Void: We don't tend to disagree—this is the reason why it works. If something we bring to the table doesn't work, we usually ignore each other for days, stop eating, that sort of thing.

Please talk about your new "How You Say" remix EP. How did you decide who would do the remixes? Void: We wanted to have artists from London and New York because this is where our hearts beat faster. We love all that's coming out on the L.I.E.S. label right now. Bookworms supported us last time in New York at the Kent 285 venue. We are hoping Gunnar Haslam will DJ for us this time around. Helena Hauff, who lives in Hamburg, was the only exception. I was blown away by her Actio Reactio EP. Gabriel remixed Drone Logic for Daniel Avery, and it sparked our friendship with him. We love Invisible Conga People and were so excited to hear Justin Simon's mix when this came back. We like them all far more than our original track [laughs]. It's usually the case.

What was it like having the great Stephen Morris do a remix for you? Did you all have much back-and-forth with him? Void: It was fantastic. It started with the track "Real Love," out on Optimo Records. We visited his studio a few times up in Macclefield, played with his tanks, met Gillian Gilbert. For me, just to see New Order's flight cases stacked in a pile, or the set list pinned to the wall listing "Perfect Kiss," "Temptation," and "Blue Monday" —yeah, like, pinch me please [laughs]. We keep in touch—Gabriel's borrowing a set of electronic pads for touring from him. So I guess if you are a New Order fan, it's worth coming to our shows just to see his Roland toms!

Have you all ever gotten back a remix of one of your tracks that you didn't like? What do you do when that happens? Void: Nope, never.

You're coming to America [I play Neil Diamond's "Coming to America"]. Who and what are you looking forward to? Watch out for Cheesecake Factory. Void: I'm excited about it all. I wish we didn't have to fly from Seattle to LA. We'd rather take in the scenery. Hopefully we'll get to see Kraftwerk at Moogfest and Lana Del Ray at Coachella. I notice Pet Shop Boys are following us around [laughs]. recommended

 

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Anna Anna Anna 1
This shit is cool. Right up my schteezes today. When she says "tanks" does she mean aquarium? I want it to be aquariums.
Posted by Anna Anna Anna on April 4, 2014 at 4:13 PM · Report this
Masi 2
Be sexy with gear talk.
Posted by Masi on April 5, 2014 at 2:23 PM · Report this

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