Neil Landstrumm has been making music since the early to mid ’90s and continues to create new and interesting sounds to this day. We are thrilled to bring his live set to the Boston stage and celebrate his contributions to techno. To dig deeper into the mind of Neil Landstrumm, Dev/Null crafted a some questions to find out about his equipment and production preferences, past collaborations with fellow producers, the scene in Edinburgh and much more.
Interviewed by Dev/Null
DEV/NULL: What is your setup like for PAs these days? Do the trials and tribulations of international travel ever make the more recent USB stick mp3 approach tempting (asking since I heard something about your gear being destroyed by an airline once… ouch)?
NEIL: I’m a big fan of the Swedish manufacturer Elektron’s equipment for my live shows and use an Octatrack, Monomachine, and Analog Rhythm as the core of my live set up. I also use a Dave Smith Evolver for acid, bleep and modular type sequences and a MacBook for odds and sods thrown in for good measure. It’s like having another pair of hands…
Yes, its a pain in the arse dragging all that about with the cables and powerpacks but I need that amount or type of gear to really deliver what it is I want to do. The Octatrack really helps though. Amazing sampler and the synths just add that punch and power over the beats. I could do the old USB DJ-ing thing, but to be honest I really don’t enjoy DJ’ing one bit and was never very comfortable with it. I like being behind a huge pile of gear that I know inside out—but yes, being on the road and the inevitable damage to the gear does throw up a few problems along the way… like your suitcase being run over by a truck at an airport completely flattening the contents before a headline show at a European festival. I just laughed when I saw it!
DEV/NULL: A lot has been written about the “glory days” of Edinburgh club culture: Pure, Sativa, etc. What about the current days though, is there still good stuff going on? Do you have much interaction with the club scene there these days? In general, how do you rate the experience of being based out of a city like Edinburgh vs New York?
NEIL: Yes, I’m still quite actively involved in Edinburgh’s scene and right now it’s as vibrant as ever. I recently played with Optimo at Edinburgh’s Summerhall art venue in the dissection room (it used to be a veterinary teaching hospital) and it was one of the best gigs for a long while… packed and mixed crowd in an interesting space with good sound and light. What else do you need! Smaller events like SLVR at the mash house also pull in a younger crowd and my other act, Modini played there recently. Edinburgh’s regular techno night Substance also bring over guests from Europe once a month and it’s always edgy, interesting stuff. Edinburgh may not have the never ending scale of a big city like New York but we do quality and creativity very well. Plus, Glasgow is only 40 miles away…
DEV/NULL: Your recent Modini project with Hostage (whom you collaborated with previously as GUTTS) is excellent and seemed quite well received. How did you and Alan first link up? Any more releases or live PAs planned?
NEIL: We met through mutual friends and in airports hung over after gigs in Europe. We got on personally so it seemed a natural progression to try a track or two and our methods of working just fitted together very well. Plus, we both enjoy a splendid ‘soup-based’ lunch. We just kept racking up the tracks and the project grew from its original sound of GUTTS to what became Modini on Glasgow’s Dixon Avenue Basement Jams label. The main thing is we both didn’t take it all too seriously and just enjoyed making tracks on the old gear with new production techniques. We haven’t written together for a while but the live shows have been going quite well with one booked in for April 2nd in Bristol with the boss of the Hypercolour label who released our last ‘ The Answer’ ep. Modini is really the sound of a cheap leather jacket.
DEV/NULL: Along those same lines, you have a record coming out on Jerome Hill’s excellent DON’T label (your third record on there). Jerome is another great veteran who’s been DJ’ing since the early 90’s. When did you guys first meet up? How did that record come together?
NEIL: Jerome was a fan of my early work from the Peacefrog days in the mid 1990s so our paths always crossed at gigs and so on over the years. Jerome is a tireless foot soldier for techno in London and his three labels are excellent and really gaining more and more respect and penetration today. He’s a good sounding board for fresh tracks and his ear is keen and honest. The new ep, ‘Clawing At Sand’ are tracks written over about a year and cherry picked for the pool. All unashamedly dancefloor bangers with a bit of fun and playfulness.
DEV/NULL: In a few recent interviews, you’ve made clear how important experimenting and pushing music forward is to you. With that in mind, what factors do you think personally drive your experimentation the most?
NEIL: Boredom and frustration mainly.
DEV/NULL: What are your musical influences – do you listen to a wide variety of music and keep up with new releases?
NEIL: I don’t listen to much new techno to be honest… in fact very little. I do listen to a lot of varied radio and records round at mates’ houses so I have my sources, but I have never been one for following the herd in dance music. I think at this point I have sort of heard it all with dance music and my inspiration comes from other sources than just trying to copy something. I love Jamaican music, heavy dub and dancehall and find these styles perennially interesting and inspiring from a production point of view.
DEV/NULL: Do you try to keep up with the latest and greatest hardware / software?
NEIL: Yes, I do keep up on equipment but also have a core of classic synths in the studio like Roland Jupiter-6 and 8, OSCar and Sequential Circuits Pro-1. The Roland TR-808 is also a favourite. I do use Logic and keep up with the latest plug ins but my work is usually quite dry synth lines but well produced. I’m a big fan of Elektron’s equipment and use that in both the studio and live settings.
DEV/NULL: Just raw time spent trying new stuff in the studio?
NEIL: I only make music when I feel like I have something to say. There is nothing worse than feeling like ‘you have’ to make music when you don’t want to… a simple equation that has worked for me over time. Sometimes the gear has the dust covers on for 6 months till the ideas build up again. It is quite easy to get burned out with techno I find. I have been in a bad place many times but somehow pulled myself back out of it and found something new to inspire me to write. A fresh attitude if you will.
DEV/NULL: Is there a new artist or piece of hardware/software that you’ve been particularly excited about lately?
NEIL: The Scottish Highlands have been good to me. I’ll stick with them.
See Neil Landstrumm on Friday, March 4 with Isabella, DJ Won’t, and Dev/Null at Good Life. RSVP here!