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luke vibert

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Luke Vibert is morally bankrupt.

Hey, he's the first to admit as much himself - particularly when it comes to audio sampling and the notion of copyright control. And in truth he has a hell of a lot more to answer for.

By Andrez Bergen - Daily Yomiuri (Japan), October 2003

It was under the alias of Wagon Christ (along with other equally vital monikers like Plug, Vibert & Simmons, and later more simply in his own name) that Vibert helped to redefine the rules of electronic music in the UK in the early to mid '90s - alongside a bunch of reprehensible mates that included Richard D. James (a.k.a. Aphex Twin), Tom Jenkinson (Squarepusher), Mike Paradinas (-Ziq), Chris Jeffs (Cylob), and the labels Rephlex and Warp. Together they assimilated such diverse elements as hip hop beats and drum & bass into the more eccentric take on electronica they tweaked, and kick-started a virtual insurrection in sound around the world.



In the latter part of 2003 Vibert released 'YosepH' - his first ever album for Sheffield imprint Warp Records. The album smacks of Vibert's merry inclination towards innovative expert-knob-twiddling: this time around he concocts a brew that fuses together acid and electro in a cocktail shaker that's stirred, bounced and wiggled - then poured liberally over one very entertaining olive. He also throws in some of his brand name Wagon Christ-style beats and pieces for good measure.



I caught up with Vibert in late October '03 - on the eve of his tour of Japan and Australia - via a dodgy phone connection from a telephone box next to rowdy Shin-Koiwa station in Tokyo, assailed by drunken Friday night salarymen, through to his immeasurably more comfy abode in London...

You've been to Japan before - what are you impressions of its particular flavour when it comes to scene or culture?
"Good question - I don't know, really! It seems quite different in a way, but I think the more times I've been back the more similarities I've seen, at least in regard to the music scene. The first time I went it did feel different; maybe it was because it was 1995 and there weren't so many kids! But I travel so much these days that I tend to spot the similarities. Also you sometimes have good gigs and other times not so good gigs - which happens anywhere. Generally the biggest difference I find is just that people - when they come to see me - are really there to listen to the music. Obviously I s'pose they do everywhere, but the weird thing is that hardly anybody talks at Japanese gigs.
I noticed that the first time I came. At some point I'll play with the track and just play, say, the snare-drums for a little bit - and usually at those points when you're playing at any other club in the world you can hear loads of drunken conversations and people shouting. But in Japan it's just really quiet. The first time I went there I found it really freaky, but now I love it. It's really respectful."

The new album 'YosepH' is a release through Warp - finally!
"Yeah! It feels good, man."

I was always wondering when that was going to happen...
"I know - me too! I tried before with Plug back in 1996, or was it '95? And then I tried with the B.J. Cole stuff - just everytime I didn't have a record label for something I'd done then I'd always try to give it to Warp, and they'd be really tempted but at the end of the day they'd say 'ahh, no, it's a bit too sampley' or 'there're too many dodgy samples' were the reasons they'd usually give. 'We're not like Ninja Tune or Mo'Wax,' they'd say, 'you can't put those dodgy samples out on our record label'. [he laughs]. So it was this analogue sort of stuff - without so many dodgy samples - that they got really into. And, funnily enough, only really because I was doing a tour with them last year, the 'Magic Bus Tour' [it included Aphex Twin, Plaid, Vincent Gallo, Casseteboy, Jamie Liddel, Mira Calix, Chris Clark and others along the way across Europe], and I was just playing mostly my own stuff that was the source of that album [YosepH] - mostly analoguey kind of stuff - and they were saying 'wow, what are these tracks?!' and I turned around and said 'they're all mine'. They asked if they could put them out so I said 'yeah, please!' and that's how it happened."

Maybe the best way for it to come together.
"Yeah, I guess hearing it out in the clubs makes a difference - it's more effective when you see people raving to it! It's a really nice, natural way for it to happen."

You spoke of Plug before. It's been a long time between outings. - what's actually happening with the Plug project?
"Well, I sort of think it's had its day - I do drum & bass still, but I got really fed up with deliberately aiming at it [Plug] half-way through 1997, I think because there were so many other people like Squarepusher and Mike Paradinas doing really crazy stuff and I almost felt like it was turning into a competition - who could do the craziest drum & bass programming. I just wasn't interested in that aspect of it at all. I liked the fact that there was some crazy programming in the Plug stuff, but that wasn't the point of it so I lost interest in a way - mainly because my friends got so into it! [he laughs again]. And originally they were one of the reasons that I didn't put it out, because they were all saying 'you can't do drum & bass - drum & bass is for stupid people; it's just rave music!', and I was like 'no, no, it could be brilliant!'. So then I kind of went off it, and I only started again about a year or two ago. I didn't try to do something old, but it just sounded really old when I made it; it sounded like hyper-rave music or something. I wasn't trying to reproduce Plug - I was just trying, like I did back then, to make drum & bass - but either I knew too much about old drum & bass, or I don't know, but it came out all different and that's the stuff I now call Amen Andrews. It's still me, but it doesn't sound like Plug anymore. And there're all these people who come up to me at gigs saying that they love the old Plug stuff, so I thought I couldn't really call this Plug - all those people would be a bit disappointed because it's kind of different. It's not really intelligent. That's what I love about making the Amen Andrews stuff... it's just rave music to me and having a good laugh."

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Why the name Amen Andrews?
"Just because it's silly, really. Have you heard of Eamon Andrews?"

No!
"He was a TV presenter [in the UK] who did dodgy quizshows and things. The breakbeat I always use is that 'amen' big drum & bass breakbeat - so the name itself is just a silly pun."

I heard that you're also doing stuff under the alias of Kerrier District...
"Yeah...! It's funny that one - it's similar to Plug in that I can't do that stuff anymore now! It was just a mood I was in for about two or three months before the birth of my second child about a year and a couple of months ago. We'd had a bit of a scare, because at six months pregnant my girlfriend had started having contractions and we were, like, 'oh no, oh no!' - but in fact it was fine and went the full term. But we'd got worried and we were going to have him in France, where she's from, because it's more relaxed out there. And in fact we went out really early just in case he came out at seven months or something, so we ended up staying in the middle of nowhere in France for three or four months. I was in this really mellow mood, making loads of live sort of disco stuff! [more laughter]. I tried again as soon as I got back to London, because I really liked it, but I couldn't do it! It must be something about being in a mellow place. Once I got back here there were just too many things to do and I couldn't relax, so that's another funny project I'll probably never be able to repeat again!"

I hear that Warp have unleashed a bunch of Luke Vibert t-shirts. When are the bumper-stickers happening?
"Well, they've kind of happened already! [laughs]. They've done some great stuff and they've done these glow-in-the-dark stickers that I think they give away if you buy the album on Warp Mart or something. They've been nice, and it's all really nice packaging..."

Sampling has been a major part of your music for a helluva long time. A lot of I guess what I'd call intimidated people still proclaim that sampling is stealing. How would you respond to these kinds of claims?
"Umm... well I suppose it's really obviously stealing on some levels, but I don't really get into those boring things - like copyright. I forget about them. I do some stupid stuff that I could never possibly release with really famous samples in them. It never stops me making a track - but obviously it does stop me releasing them. I don't know... I don't really have any moral standpoint about it at all. The sample is never usually the main thing in my track, so I never feel guilty about it or anything."

So would you say you're morally bankrupt...?
"Yeah! ....well, maybe morally audio bankrupt. [laughter all round]. I'm a bit of a moral person regarding other things day-to-day, but with audio I'm a terrible thief! Not so much, though, on this album [YosepH].. There are samples on it, but they were all played live from my keyboard onto my 16-track reel-to-reel thing just to add texture. This one's a lot more old skool in the way I put it together."

What do you think of the cut-up plunderphonics of somebody like Cassetteboy, for example, who goes crazy on the samples?
"Oh, it's great! I do quite a lot of that stuff myself - you know the vocal cut-up things - and hopefully sometime I'll release them, but they're so dodgy! I did all these ones where I was making Tony Blair talk about raping children - really bad, man! But I hope some time they'll see the light of day. I love it. It's not really music, obviously - for me it's more in between comedy and music - but I get more of a thrill making that kind of stuff. It's really fun!"

Do you think that humour is a vital ingredient in music that many people forget?
"Yeah. Yeah, a bit right - especially modern kind of stuff, in a way. I thought for awhile people were going to start lightening up a bit; I can't remember when - mid '90s, maybe - but they haven't really. I think most people still take things too seriously in a way - same old chord changes that other people have done, and they do it really seriously, and you think 'oh, come on'!"

Who do you think making music right now - apart from yourself! - is somebody people should look out for?
"Umm... well aways my mates, but in a way that's because I understand the way they work. The obvious ones would be Aphex [Twin], [Mike] Paradinas, but also Tom [Squarepusher] Jenkinson's brother - you know Ceephax [a.k.a. Andy Jenkinson]? I love Ceephax's stuff; he's amazing. Everything he does has got some touch to it, like Derrick May or whatever, but it's not necessarily. You can't say 'oh, those chord-changes are good', or 'that beat's good', but he has some sort of touch that makes me like all that he does. And then there are quite a few hip hop producers and drum & bass producers - but I wouldn't really want to name names because in a way I don't so much like their music; I just respect them as producers. The music my friends do seems a little more personal - but I often think that's because I know them well and I see them making it and I know why they're making it. When you have an insight like that into someone, it generally makes you feel it more or enjoy it more personally."

The last question... what can people expect from your set when you play in Japan this time round?
"Hopefully nearly all my own stuff - because sometimes I chicken out! [he laughs]. But no records this time at least. It's always more tempting to play other people's records. I'll be playing off my lap-top using two programs, firstly Traktor - which is generally for DJ sort of stuff so you can do handy little loops and things - and Reason, which has got some really simple sort of loops which I can mix in and out."

What kind of lap-top do you use these days?
"A tiny little G4 - the smallest kind of G4 just because I'm lazy and it's really easy to carry around."