Radioactive Man Interview
NSB dropped down to Fabric to catch up with Keith Tenniswood, on the eve of the release of his new L.P. Growl and in between talking London house prices and jobs, discussed the state of play for half of Two Lone Swordsmen in 2008 over a few cups of tea.
NSB: Keith, listening back to your past material now, the first album was a very focused, very personal sounding work, quite a tight and integrated record, wheras “Boobytrap” [the second Radioactive Man LP] had a much more varied palette of sounds, it sounded more like a soundtrack to the live sets you we’re performing . Now you’ve come to this new album, “Growl”, tell us a bit about where you’re at with this album.
Keith Tenniswood: It’s a culmination of the past 4 to 5 years, since the last record, there’s been lots of different things happening in that time, I’ve been working with Two Lone Swordsmen, doing a lot more guitar based stuff, and also djing a lot, all the time still, but generally focusing on Two Lone Swordsmen stuff. At the same time I was always still making my own tunes, but it wasn’t like I was pressured to make an album, it was all done a lot more sporadically. I think it’s a good thing if music stands the test of time like that, a lot of the tracks that didn’t make it onto the album I will probably put out at some point in the future.
I’ve got a dub album as well which I’ve been working on for a long time, that’s coming together as well, hopefully that will come out this year as well, it’s not kind of Dubstep, it’s more steppy, kind of four-four, I always look out for that kind of stuff to play out, it always comes out well when you mix it up with that kind of stuff, it’s quite upfront still, it probably will get lumped in to that whole dubstep thing, I’n not jumping on that train! [laughs]
NSB: How do you feel about that whole dubstep vibe?
Keith: I like it, some of it I like, but there’s nothing that’s really made me freak out, and go, “this is the new thing, I want to listen to it all the time”, y’know?
NSB: I think some people have got so into it, and it’s kind of getting forced down people’s throats
Keith: Yeah, and some of it, is kind of really cold, some of it is just to slow to dance to for me…
<NSB is doing an mime of some very slow robotic dancing>
Keith: [laughs], yeah, it’s all that half time stuff, but then, having said that I think some of it is very energetic and inventive as well, wheras some is just very formulaic and very similar to other stuff, but then I suppose you could say that about techno. I think it’s forming it’s own sound, but I’m still yet to be really blown away by it.
It’s taken a lot of inspiration from drum and bass, in your face bassline sound, coupled with the way the garage scene turned to grime, and reggae influences, obviously, so I think it’s good.
NSB: This record is coming out as a collaboration between Control Tower and Fabric, is that right?
Keith: Yeah, that’s right, I’ve licensed it to Fabric from Control Tower, my own label, because I mean, the way we ran that was to make like 500 to a thousand copies of a record, which is quite easy to do, but to actually do a whole album isn’t so easy, so that’s why I approached Fabric, because I’ve got some good friends here, and I haven’t really got the knowhow of how to do an album properly.
NSB: We’ve always loved the Control Tower output, is that something you’re planning to continue?
Keith: Yeah, it’s difficult, because I really want to keep putting out vinyl, but sometimes it’s just so difficult to justify putting the money into it, when you only break even, or sometimes lose money and end up sitting on loads of stock.
NSB: That segues nicely into my next question, the inevitable question, the whole “death of vinyl” nonsense that has been rattling on for so long now, A lot of people now are just turning to direct digital distribution.
Keith: I think vinyl sounds a lot fuller, a lot rounder, and I still get sent it, and speak to my friends who run other labels, I don’t think it’s ever going to die, I think it’s still going to be around.
NSB: There’s a lot of horror stories around, you hear about so many labels going down,
Keith: I think with digital stuff it’s not being properly mastered a lot of the time, people are just doing it themselves and putting it out, and I think that’s a factor in the poor quality of MP3s, it’s another cost, if you’re going to get something mastered it’s going top cost £300, but we’re still going to be doing vinyl
NSB: Do you think it is generally bringing down the quality of what’s out there because so many people have the opportunity to put it out there?
Yeah, I think it has, the fact that software is so easy to make tracks with, everyone’s got it at home, I think there’s less effort being made, I don’t want to say on the whole, but I think it’s so convenient, you don’t have to move your hand from the mouse these days, just sit in front of the computer, but having said that, there’s still a lot of great music out there.
NSB: It’s more a case of quality control though, when you can have a track on your hard drive one minute and all around the world the next…
Keith: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing as well though , it’s cool. But I haven’t moved into that realm of MP3s yet, my mate’s got that Traktor Scratch and I think I might get that at some point, cause it is really good, but at the moment I’m still working exclusively off vinyl and c.d’s.
NSB: What’s the biggest tune in your box right now?
Keith: The Synapse remix of Paul Spectrum; My Amusement, on Bassgun records, which is a great new label, this guy called Smashback from Manchester, really kind of up front fast electro stuff.
NSB: So for this year promoting “Growl”, are we going to see full on live sets?
Keith: Yeah, I’m still doing what I have been doing, taking out my old hardware bits, we’re doing the Fabric launch soon and Dot [Alison] to sing a couple of tracks. Just developing the live thing, getting a few new toys.
NSB: Again in terms of the live thing, your past sets have always s lot of equipment, MPC, Samplers, Grooveboxes, wheras a lot of people these days have gone down the route of just a laptop and a little midi-mixer, do you still think harware is the way to go?
Keith: For me personally it is, I think it’s more interesting to watch, not that that should be what it’s about, because you’re going to hear music, it’s about what’s coming out of the speakers at the end of the day, but to have something to physically hit is much more appealing to me. There’s probably a lot more that you can do with a laptop, but I like to be limited in that way, to get the machines to work as hard as they can. There been times when I’m carrying 5 or 6 different cases full of stuff I’ve thought [laughs] y’know , maybe it’s time to get a laptop, but I’m not going down that route, I still like to actually play like that. I think it sounds better as well. We do a clubnight in London Once a month, and we had a guy down called Richard Wigglesworth, who does basically acid house stuff…
NSB: Good name!
Keith: [laughs] Yeah, that’s his real name, Mr. Wigglesworth, he just had a 909, 303 and some little Yamaha box that he was playing chords with, but the actual sound was brilliant. Just straight out of a drum machine, more punchy.
NSB: So if you were marooned on a desert Island, that mysteriously had power somehow, if you could have one musical toy to keep you company, what would it be?
Keith: I think it would probably have to be my MPC3000. But then that alone is no good, you have to sample stuff, so I’d have to have decks and records as well.
NSB: If you could have a dream remix, any tune from any time, what would it be?
Keith: It’s a difficult one that, because I think remixing classic tracks can be a bit hit and miss sometimes, y’know, I think some of those songs should be left alone. But, I’ve always liked Carl Craig, I’ve always wanted to do a mix for him, maybe we could do a swap or something! If you’re listening Carl! [laugh]
There’s a track “Falling Out” kind of a four-foury track that is really beautiful, that I loved, I’ve always been a big fan of that.
NSB: What was the first record you bought?
Keith: Hehe, it was probably Pinky and Perky or something like that, I remember buying a 7” of Depeche Mode called “People are People”
NSB: See, there’s your credible answer right there!
Keith: Yeah, yeah, I do remember that when I was about 12, I just have a memory of that record from some reason.
NSB: What’s the most embarrassing record you like, but you wouldn’t like to admit to?
Keith: Oh, that one Kylie did last summer, like huge record. Like a classic disco track, I’d always find myself singing it. I quite like Kylie, I’d quite like to get her in the studio actually.
NSB: Radioactive Man with Kylie! Your heard it here first!
NSB: A lot of people now are coming up into electronic music, and it’s all there for you now, the cracked software off limewire, people from the slightly older generation were messing round on Octamed on the Amiga and Cubase on the Atari ST, when you were just starting in electronic music, how did you get into it?
Keith: I was playing in a band at the time, and we had an a little studio, and we bought an Atari, which was being used for click tracks, backing tracks…and to play games on obviously, first of all there was a program called Notator which I used for a while, had a keyboard with like four seconds of sampling, just beg stole and borrowed stuff really, till we had a little set up at home, and then moved on to Cubase, SH-101s…well, they still sound really good even now, got used a lot of the time and then used Akai samplers a lot.
NSB: When you were at that age, and just getting started, what were the tunes that were influencing you?
Keith: I was going to a lot of spiral tribe raves, where I used to live there were always mates of mine organising raves as well, convoys of cars every weekend,
Then after that whole criminal justice thing came in I started going to a lot more clubs, and getting into the more sort of techno-ey stuff, a lot of hardcore about at the time, a lot of ravey stuff which I was quite into at the time, and then it got more four-four, big techno thing going on at the time as well, with the Drum Club every weekend.
NSB: What has been your favourite live, or dj experience if you could pick one out of all the places you have played?
Keith: Playing in Japan has always been pretty mad
NSB: What’s the reaction like over there, because somehow you imagine it would be very reserved
Keith: No, it’s really cool, I mean I remember playing at this party in an old aircraft hanger and at one point our music was being pumped onto the main stage so we were playing to 80,000 people which is pretty intense, but then,. Just for sheer nuts we played a live Two Lone Swordsmen band set, in this club called yellow, to about 400 people and they were just going mad, crowd surfing, people throwing stuff onstage, absolutely awesome.
Over there, there aren’t so many pre-conceptions, people are just into good music, if they like the music, there’s not so much bullshit attached to it all.
NSB: Well we’re out of time now, thank you very much Keith, best of luck with the album.
Keith: It’s been a pleasure
Radioactive Man – Growl is out now on Fabric / Control Tower Records
RADIOACTIVE MAN ‘GROWL’ (Control Tower)
01. Basement Business
02. Pieces of Eight
03. Nothing At All featuring DOT ALLISON
05. Double Dealings featuring ANDREW WEATHERALL
06. 5 Armed Skeleton
07. Up in the Air
08. Dalston To Detroit
10. State Of That
11. Lungful of Bass
Release Dates: 12/05/08
Interview by Underpass http://www.underpass.org.uk/