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Space

Producer, Musician, Songwriter
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Space

From writing, recording and performing with his band the Black Futures, to producing the two albums that have helped make Idles one of the UK’s most talked-about rock bands, to collaborations with Rat Scabies, Wilko Johnson and may others, producer, writer and musician Space is pivotal in the UK post-punk scene and yet maintains an enigmatic abstinence from the usual online self-publicity circus. Initially attracted by the company being local to him, Space has used Aston mics ever since the company started making them in 2015.

Black Futures, Idles, Rat Scabies, WIlko Johnson
Any party going

 “I moved down to London from Aberdeen when I was seventeen to make a start in music and study. I started doing lots of session work and touring with bands, playing the ol’ guitar and clocking up some hefty road miles. That got a bit boring and I’d always been obsessed with composition and creativity so I started to focus more on that. London always has such a wealth of subculture, a constant anarchic culture clash, jungle, hip hop, techno, avantgarde, punk, metal, world music… it was all happening, all the time. So I immersed myself producing, writing, remixing and forming bands. I was playing festivals around the world - and any mad party going - with my mates in an electro punk band called Subsource. It was that band where we really worked on a language that fused organic and electronic elements which is what lead us on to work with the Prodigy.

At the same time I’d been working on The Mutants with Rat Scabies, Chris Constantinou on a project with Wilko Johnson, Wayne Kramer from MC5, Neville Staples and many other of my punk heroes. We were all making this big collaborative record. Being the producer and writer with all these legends was an amazing learning experience. I was this kid screaming vibes and instructions at these pioneers of punk… It really helped me cut my teeth. At the same time I was composing lots of film music and working on telling stories and emoting feelings through music. For me I always have to push things to the extreme, this took me to recording and composing in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone for one project, to writing with Nepali folk singers from remote Himalayan villages, to India, China, Wandsworth ha ha! Authenticity is everything, a generic sample pack will not do! You push yourself out of the studio into the void and into others’ stories and write what you feel. I took this weird cocktail straight into helping Idles develop and produce their music and voice.

My wife went to check out Idles at the Great Escape and she came back saying ‘you really should work with this band, they’re awful but they have a vital intensity to them’. That was about eight years ago and from there we just developed a friendship.”

Lots of screaming

“Since then we’ve spent a lot of time in pretty damp, horrible rehearsal studios, gearing up towards the recordings. It’s definitely been a passion project for me, building it from the first EPs to Brutalism and Joy as an Act of Resistance [Idles two much-acclaimed albums to date].

By the time we get into the studio we’ve done loads of pre-production so the songs are there, ready, we’ve been through every part and sound and pretty much constructed how to approach the studio session, so everything’s worked out and we’re able to leave some time for vibe and experimental stuff. It’s those wild card ideas and unpredictable elements that often bring the excitement to the mix.

The bulk of the instrumentation is recorded live, so the biggest day is set-up day (or days) because everything has to be dialled in just right. It’s all about the source sounds, and then it’s all about capturing the energy of the songs using the studio as your instrument. Energy and vibe is vital. There’s lots of joyous screaming involved. I like the source to really be right, I like the whole signal chain to be right, but if you’ve not really paid attention to the source then you’re always fighting against it.”

A new world

“The Black Futures started as just a couple of friends. We put the name together co-write some stuff with the Prodigy with our mate Stu - and that grew into a project of its own - Vibes and I started writing tunes and conceptualised this whole anti world, culture and language together, with plans of crazy immersive shows. It was a way of turning our despair and existential dread into a joyous outburst of defiance.

It’s a completely different process from working with Idles; In Black Futures we’ll write and record at the same time and it tends to be a much broader palette – because it’s our own thing we are free to roam. The only rule is it has to be maximum! Ha ha! There is always a concept or mantra behind every song. We tend to write it all on a dictaphone by mouth jamming it. Then we pick up instruments and play something live; it could be anything from clocking a bunch of modular stuff up for a synth jam, or the song could be more traditional and we jam it out with bass and drums. Then we start working into it, with a very free approach, and constructing what’s in our hive mind.

There are quite a few processes but it all stems from a live vibe. We have the drums and everything all set up and patched, clocked and tuned in so at any time we can just deviate and start writing a part on something else. We have all the mics up and ready so if we have an idea there’s no barrier between the creativity and the recording. It’s quite seamless.”

Making stuff

“It was kind of luck I first came across Aston mics. I had a [AKG] 414 that broke just before a session and I was like, ‘errr… I need something to tide me over until I get this one fixed.’ And then I never used it again! It was the Origin, I had no expectations, really, which is always a nice way to start. I had read a good review and liked that they were a relatively local company so I thought yeah I’ll give this a go. It worked out great, I was blown away by it. I used it on all the Idles recordings – on the two albums it was the main part of the vocal sound.

Then I got a pair of Starlights; when we go on tour as Black Futures they go on the hi-hats. They’ve been really good, rugged mics, standing up to the rigours of touring. They sound great, I use them in the studio every now and again. The quality of the microphone is great, and the people are nice too, which helps a lot! I’ve got a pair of Starlights, a couple of Origins and a Spirit too, which I use mostly in my cab room on the guitar cabs.

We [Black Futures] just released our debut album Never Not Nothing which features a song we made with brother Bobby Gillespie [Primal Scream], then we are on tour with Black Peaks in October and many more tours after which I am not yet allowed to talk about.

The split between producing and performing is pretty equal. Whether its production, composing, songwriting, working with other people or on my own projects, it’s all the same boat really, I’m a creative, an empathy machine, and I love making stuff! Thank you Aston for making the tools to do so.” 

Out-takes

Q. Who are your favourite artists?

A. I’m a strict ‘no favourites’ guy!

Q. If you weren’t working in music what would you be doing?
A. Probably living in a commune somewhere in Germany

Q. What would your fantasy mic be?

A. Some kind of sci-fi looking binaural thing you can wear on your head so you can just walk around capturing what you hear.

Q. What are the 4 words you’d chose to describe Aston, or your experience with the brand?
A. Qulity, Reliable, Rugged, Cool

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