Years before Interchill started as a label there were Ozric Tentacles gigs and Megadog shows... and Eat Static were seriously inspiring - mixing innovative production, heavy psychedelia and a sense of humour with quirky B Movie samples, mostly relating to aliens. I went to their shows, played their records at gigs in Montreal and later having started the label we went on to release tracks on compilations and the excellent album Back to Earth. Merv has just released the new Eat Static album - Dead Planet, which is a double and is available here >>
We sat down with Merv for ten questions...
1/ What is new for Eat Static in 2015 ?
The new album! I've been recording it for the last 18 months and wanted to make something special to mark my 25th anniversary..I got a little carried away and there is now around 24 brand new tracks recorded..so it will be a double CD for sure,with some extra tracks included with the download version. I have also done a few collaborations this time,including one i have been chasing for a long time....Robert Smith from The Cure! He has done an amazing job with the track i wrote for him..Others involved are original member Steve Everitt,Martian Arts,Hujaboy,Robbert Heijnen (PWOG/Exquisite Corpse),Chris Rich,System 7, Laughing Buddha,Georgina Brett,Elaine Frost & Mik Singh..so quite a good cross section of different musicians,many of them up and coming artists whom i admire and want to help promote. Summertime will be the usual smattering of crazy festival appearances including Glastonbury, Ozora, Antaris, Sonica and many others...
2/ You've made and played a lot of psychedelic music over the years, and yet a lot of psy or trance music seems predictable and formulaic to me - What elements do you think are required for something to be truly psychedelic ?
Couldn't agree more with your observations..I am pretty unimpressed with many of the current releases musically..so much sounds the same and as you say, is very predictable..'truly psychedelic' to me means taking you on a journey,sounds playing with your deepest emotions and steering you through cosmic worlds,never knowing what is lurking in the shadows...that it what i truly love about the whole music making process..to have that power to take people away is a wonderful thing... I guess,because i have such a broad range of musical interests,that this has become quite a natural way for me to work..i listen to a lot of world music at home so i'm always digesting strange scales and odd musical instrument sounds..the more open minded you are,the more this will nourish your own artistic output..
3/ Tell us about your new Eurorack modular synth what makes it so good ?
It's alive! That's what!
I swear,little creatures live inside it and make strange noise after strange noise every night..I had already gone back to using mainly analogue synths again in the studio and had been planning to dive into the modular world,when along came Steve Everitt, who i hadn't seen for around 5 years..in fact,since we wrote those tracks for your Interchill album 'Back to Earth'..anyway,he had just hooked up with a guy called Tony Wride from 'Exclusively Analogue' who had some original 1974 Emu modular stuff for sale..stuff he had lovingly restored/built from parts rescued from a back room at the Emu factory...there were 5 in total,2 having already gone to the Chemical Brothers and Vince Clarke..so i nabbed the last one but had it custom built into a cabinet with some rows free that were in the modern Eurorack format..so its essentially a hybrid and ,like me,has one foot in the past and one foot in the frontline of new technology..I had got to the point where i couldn't listen to soft synths any more..the sound of them,the editing with a mouse etc...and its been liberating! And i also love the fact that pretty much every single sound i use in a track now,has been made for that exact purpose..i also love the fact that none of the sounds are ever saved..they come,they go..and there are billions of combinations..enough to keep me going a few years anyhow..funny enough,my next album project is your album for Interchill so expect music that will definitely be challenging and unique..
4/ These days technology allows people to get quick results with their music making, but it has yet to solve the challenge of crafting a good arrangement. - Can you give any tips for producers wanting to improve this invaluable skill ?
Well,i do an awful lot of experimenting these days..with all the amazing crazy plug-ins and fx now..ya have to! So i generally write a few weird and wacky loop based things,copy them out for 64 or more bars then ride them and play about with them while recording the whole thing...afterwards,I pick through them,looking for interesting bits that spark off other ideas..its usually endless! Also, being a drummer, i am usually changing vibes every few bars..i can't get stuck on loops unless that particular track lends itself to being more 'loopy'..i like stuff to change and take you off on tangents..
5/ What is your live set up - how does it differ from a laptop set in Ableton ?
I'm using a digital ADAT running 16 channels of stuff..all the drums are on their own channels and certain sounds are grouped together for external effects, which i also take out with me..add to that 3 live synths,one digital (JV80) an sh101 and a custom home made analogue 'screeching thing'..Also some real hand drums and a Roland SPD 11 are on stage with me..oh,and sometimes the giant brain still comes out...I'm looking into a jamming set up for live again soon because things are coming on the market that look very interesting such as Octatrack Maschine etc...I also want to take a smaller travel modular out as this would be pretty fascinating for people to see used and to hear it through those systems...wow!
6/ You have often incorporated B Movie samples and alien references into your music have you had any alien encounters that you can share with us ?
I live in the West Country..we see flying saucers every week down 'ere! hehehe. I had one major experience years ago,on the edge of Salisbury Plain,coming back from a gig that was a long way away..I saw it,my driver/roadie saw it...and Joie had seen it...from a different car..our car just stopped after we had been driving with no problems for 5 hours..we got out,my mate was trying to fix the car while i was staring up at a huge silent craft above us..it was 5 am and there was no noise from any direction..and this 'thing' was silent..with bright lights around it.. Funny,because it was the last thing i needed at that point,it was quite a bizarre feeling inside..something i had always dreamt of seeing but coming when you least needed it...i tried to flag down an oncoming car,which sped past me..i later learned from Joie that it was him in the car,driving like mad to escape the saucer he had seen following his car...it eventually just shot off sideways....again,still silent...after it had gone,the car just started no problem...
7/ You live close to crop circle territory in the UK what's the story, have you ever seen one up close ?
Of course! many many times..i went to my first one in 1977.. there was a rumour at school,that a saucer had landed at 'Cley Hill' which is a local landmark, and had left marks in the field..so i rode my bike there after school to check it out..i remember how eerie i felt and how scared...it was a big main circle with 4 satellite circlesat equal distance apart around the outside...
8/ Where was your favourite place to perform last year, and why ?
Hmmmm I would probably have to say Boom festival..it truly was an epic..the main stage production and the build of the huge towers all around the main arena were just awe inspiring..it brought a tear to my eye..and the actual gig was incredible..a huge system installed by Tony Andrews which was just...mind boggling...i also had an amazing chilled set there...a 3 hour epic set next to the lake..everyone was horizontal when i got there but after 15 mins,everyone was up and going crazy to all kinds of electronic styles/vibes...really magical place too,that site...
But i pretty much love every place i go to for gigs..i usually stay around for the whole event and also love mingling with local cultures and trying local food etc..
9/ When you're not gigging or traveling, how many hours a day do you usually spend in the studio ?
I can tell you now, for the new album my days were averaging 35 hours! You figure it out!
10/ What advice would you have for producers starting out ?
You need endless passion,endless energy,you need to ditch your ego,you need to be prepared for pain...a lot of pain and hardship...make music that is true to YOU!
Don't copy others! Push the music forwards not backwards! BE ORIGINAL!!