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Tags: Factory Floor, the Kazimier, Interviews, EVOL, Oriol Bosch

Interview: Nik Colk Void of Factory Floor

Factory Floor

Three months after the release of their self-titled and critically acclaimed debut album for DFA on which the London-based trio had been working for two and a half years, Factory Floor are to play their very first show in Liverpool on December 5th at The Kazimier as part of EVOL’s 10th anniversary celebrations. Guitarist/vocalist Nik Colk Void acknowledges that the record is a “natural development soundwise” for the electronic band, previews the gig as "pretty hard, pretty dancey and punishing" and confesses that they are "quite desperate to get in to do the next record already".

You produced and recorded the album in an ex-clothing factory in North London. It seems an ideal scenario for a band named Factory Floor whose music is usually labeled as post-industrial.
Yeah, yeah, we were lucky to get hold of that space. Basically, I was living there with the intention of making it like a creative space. I wouldn’t say it’s the most pleasant place to live but it just seemed to make sense when I met Gabe and Dom to suggest it: “Ok, I’ll take it over properly and then we can make a studio in there and house Factory Floor”. It’s kind of secluded from the main part of London, it’s 20 minutes from Oxford Street on the tube, but it was away from East London, where we were working at the time, which kind of had a prominent scene there that we wanted to not escape but to kind of shut ourselves off from. We wanted to try to develop something of our own instead of being influenced by what was going on around us, but to be more influenced by the city and by the building that we were working in. So, yes, it meant that it was the perfect place for us to start and unfortunately it’s being pulled down in January so we are quite sad about it at the moment.

Where is your studio going to be now?
We have no idea, we have no home (laughs). I think for the next studio album... Well, first off, we are definitely going to record an EP there before it gets pulled down in January. And that’s going to be like what we’ve done with this record where we’ve kind of developed it more live. So we’ve used what we’ve done on the record as a blueprint to develop bringing this sort of improvisation live again. So what we’ve done so far and what we’ll be doing on the UK tours, after Christmas we’ll get back together again and record it in a live situation. Instead of tracking it like we did with the album, we’ll just record it live so we can keep a documentation of the space and where we’re at. For the next record, I think we’re gonna arrange to go into a studio. I’m not sure where, it might even take us to America, down to New York, or it might take us to somewhere else other than London. We do get really influenced by where we are, the environment that we are in, and when we talk about playing live the environment really kind of feeds back into our ideas, so it works the same with the record. We don’t really like to go into a studio as such, we’d like to find a space and bring in our equipment.

Are you still living there?
I left after we finished the record, I kind of felt that my time had passed there and I kind of needed to move on, Gabe is still there and Dom’s moved, he never lived there, he lived in Central London and would travel there every day but he has now moved to the countryside. But we still have it as our base, we’ll meet up there every week.

Your previous EP was released in 2010. How much time did you spend working on your debut album?
It was pretty much every day for the course of two and a half years, but taking time out to do shows and to do the ICA residency. It was very tense (laughs). For example we’d have ourselves set up live in the main room, the main space, and we tracked that, and then we had a smaller space which we used as an engineering and editing room, and so instead of being in there all together at once we’d take our own... I’d go in there in the evening and work on my vocals and then in the next following day Gabe would be in there on his own working on his drums. Towards the end that’s how it worked out, sort of really taking it in turns, but it was... because we were living there, my room was basically right above the studio, so it was like you heard it 24/7. No escape (laughs).

Is the album a well planned evolution from the pulsating, dark, kind of chaotic sound of the Untitled EP?
Yeah, I think that it was a natural development from us soundwise, but when we did the EP I’d only joined the band for a couple of months at that point and we were all finding our own space within what we were doing, not knowing each other that well. We were very nervous when we were playing live, so that brought out a lot of noise (laughs), like I’d hide behind loads of feedback and the same with Dom, and then because Dom was using bass guitar and then he changed to an SH-101 [Roland] and started bringing more electronics in, the dimension of the band changed. Gabe, instead of being the bed, so to speak, of the track, instead he would be playing over the top of the arc, so the arc would be sort of the structure, the main base of the song, and the drums would go over the top of that. In a way, it kind of gave more space to sounds as opposed to beats and rhythms. And so, this change of instruments allowed us to get to know each other a bit more. Also, in East London there was a massive dark wave scene emerging at that time, everything did seem to be quite harsh and dark and we were sort of moving away from that, and we were sort of dismantling song structures. So, ‘A Wooden Box’ and ‘Lying’ were kind of prominent songs, and if you look at that and then go to ‘(R E A L L O V E)’ and then to this album, you can see the demise of the song structure. It’s more about this kind of linear, repetitive rhythm. The changes are kind of introduced by different sounds as opposed to chords changes. So, it was all these elements that were coming into play, making it into what it is now.

Gabe and Dom keep saying that, although Factory Floor was formed in 2005, it started when you joined. You felt it was a new starting point, a new band, at that time?
I think so. Well, Dom joined probably a year before I joined, even before Dom there were different existing members at Factory Floor. So I know through conversation that we all feel that when us three got together there was this kind of chemistry that happened, and the way we approached music seemed to make a different... it was a lot different to what Factory Floor was before, previously, because it was more sort of like songs, again. I can’t really explain it, I can’t really speak for Gabe and Dom about this, because they always feel that they were trying to find out what they were doing musically before I joined and when I joined it all kind of clicked into place, and the same goes for me, I was doing lots of stuff before I met Gabe and Dom too. You should be asking Gabe and Dom about this because I feel really like “Oh yeah, I came in, joined and it all clicked in and started from there” (laughs), but it’s not kind of how it went. If they hadn’t put that 7” out, I wouldn’t have known. I went to see them playing, it was by chance that I saw them play, and I was really drawn to what they were doing and on that basis I went out and bought their 7”, which I can’t remember what label it was on, but because of that, that’s how I got in touch with them, so it’s always important to have this history to lead up to how it becomes now. I can’t say if it started to be Factory Floor as soon as I joined them, I think it was Factory Floor before too.

Since you joined Gabe and Dom, the more electronic side of Factory Floor was brought to the front, especially with the LP, in a way more embracing the dancefloor. How important is experimentation and improvisation for Factory Floor?
I think it’s very important. That is probably different from what Factory Floor was before I joined to after I joined. There were experiments, they kind of explored in the studio when they were putting tracks together but I think the improvisation wasn’t there at all. When I came along we’d try to play old tracks that they had previously written and it wasn’t really working out. It was working out more when we’d push those tracks in a direction that went to this different place where we didn’t know what we were doing and that kind of rush and challenge onstage, it’s really exciting. It started to draw different ideas out of us, which wouldn’t have happened if we had just been regurgitating old tracks. A lot of our shows in 2010 and 2011 are really shambolic, there is so much stuff that is kind of embarrassing (laughs), but it was important to go through that stage to be able to trust in each other and to be able to improvise on stage and learn what space we occupy as individuals. Without this improvisation, we wouldn’t have been able to move forward and we’d probably still be doing these old tracks that we had three years ago.

I was wondering, in the studio, what you said about the fact that you were living just above where the others were playing, I guess there was much improvisation there as well.
Yeah, it was. What we do is we improvise on the live shows, and if you look at our work sessions, for example, boards that we played on, there’d be writing all over it because we’d be writing down sessions. So when we’d improvise live we’d write down the settings that we had as we were going along and then when we’d come back into the warehouse, we’d start trying to revisit what we’d done live and then it would move into something else. So this is why we’d end up having sort of sessions of 7 hours long. We’d try and record as much as we could, and then we’d listen back to that like two weeks later and take a section of that that really worked. It’s really difficult to know how to record the improvisation and then to record the live show, so because we were constantly bringing it into the studio, we felt the only way that we could do it was sort of like doing it again, so it wasn’t real, full improvisation, but it was semi-improvisation, because we were kind of working from our live shows.

Although it’s an 8-minute track, ‘Here Again’ is your most pop song to date. Was it deliberate to try and make a more accessible song?

Yeah, yeah (laughs). It’s probably the most uncomfortable song for me, I think for the three of us, to play. We’ve tried to play it live and it’s quite hard but we are gonna come back to it. I think we just felt that it would be fun to try and make a more accessible song, and to us that is probably the most pop we will get. When I speak to people and I say, “Here Again, that’s our pop song”, they’re like: “No, no, it’s not quite there yet, it’s not really a pop song”. When I heard my singing back I cringed, literally: “Oh my God, did I really do that?”, but it just pushed me into an area that I am feeling uncomfortable with, and that goes hand in hand with improvisation. You have to push yourself into areas that you are not comfortable with to try and get something new. I think it’s alright. I’m not sure if people think it’s accessible, but it’s definitely the most accessible for us.

Overall, you explore visceral and primitive music. Do you ever perceive your sound as punishing, especially live?
I think the songs aren’t as punishing as they used to be, but they are in a different context, because they will probably go on with one idea longer than we would have bravely done before. And sometimes, they won’t resort to anything. I mean, we played Turin the other night and we kind of did a rendition of ‘Work Out’, and it was like 20 minutes and I was thinking, “Where is this going?” (laughs). Sometimes it doesn’t really go anywhere, and other times it just takes off, and when it takes off I think hopefully the crowd in their minds they take off slightly as well. In a way, it takes a while to get there, but if the crowd is willing to be patient with us, and kind of go through the journey with us, that’s really great and can be a little bit punishing at times. I’m really selling ourselves, aren’t I? (laughs)

Well, in that sense, Dom said that your earlier sets were fuelled by nerves, that you lost yourselves in them rather than attempting to keep control. Are them still like that or you now try more to keep control?
With Factory Floor, we are three members but I think the fourth member is our tools, because we are not using programmes or anything, they are all analogue equipment apart from me hitting the guitar or Gabe hitting the drums. We don’t have that much control sometimes, at first our shows were really intense and loud because we were still learning how to harness our equipment and the sound we were making together, and sometimes if you went with it you’d really go crazy and lose control and the crowd would lose control with you and that’s great, it’s really an exciting thing. We still do go through that, especially like I say more in different ways, just kind of repeating and getting to this point of like you can’t hear it anymore and then it goes into this other stage where you sort of lead yourself, so that’s what tends to happen these days.

Are you fully aware of your sound at this point, with the debut album released?
No. I think we still got a long way to go. I think at the moment we are probably the most commercial and accessible that we will be. I think we might end up going more towards techno, with less vocals and more sounds. But then, I’m just speaking from experiencing the shows that we’ve just played, this might completely change and we might end up just doing... I don’t know (laughs), I don’t know where it’s going to go. I don’t think that we’ve got to a point where we’ve learnt everything we need to learn and I think we still got a long way to go.

Perhaps you’ve already chosen your path for the next record and have no need to keep exploring then?
Yeah, we are actually quite desperate to get in to do the next record already, which is a bit dangerous, but I think the next record is not going to take as long as the first one (laughs). And you are going to do the EP first? Yeah, we plan to do the EP first, and then in the summer we are going to be doing lots of festivals and stuff like that, so hopefully after that period of time we’ll get back in and try to do the next record. We just need to find a new warehouse (laughs).

You collaborated with Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti from Throbbing Gristle - as Carter Tutti Void - on the brilliant live album Transverse. Do you have any plans to maintain this collaboration in the future?
Yeah, we are going to get together next year. We may go to New York or LA in the middle of next year, but we are hoping to do a couple of shows before that in the UK. We are yet to announce what we are going to do, but we are definitely talking about doing another record, which is exciting. We will do it in the same type of vein where I’ll go and visit them for a week or so and work out a new set and then we will play it live and record it. This is a really good, spontaneous way of recording.

Stephen Morris remixed Factory Floor’s song ‘A Wooden Box’ and later produced ‘(R E A L L O V E)’. Have these collaborations with your music progenitors and famed artists worked for you as sort of a thumbs up for what you are doing?
We feel really lucky that we’ve been able to work with Stephen and Chris & Cosey and also Peter Gordon and Simon Fisher Turner, because they are all a different, they are from a different generation to us and it’s a generation that we look at in awe, and there’s Richard H. Kirk too. I think in the Eighties there was a lot of creativity because there wasn’t a lot of money, there was a lot of kind of DIY approach to making music, and also finding, we are from Bristol, they found their own space to work from, they had their own record label and stuff like that. It’s real self-efficiency that they did before us. It’s something that we’d look for, in thinking that, well, that’s a good way to go with music industry as it is now where it’s not really got any money or foundation to help a band that’s trying to develop and experiment. The way to be able to do that and grow is to become really self-sufficient. And then for them to come and play with us, or work with us, it kind of clarified that we were going down the right road. It confirmed that what we were doing was right, to a certain extent.

You’ve played raves, festivals, art galleries, cinemas and nightclubs. Where do you think is the perfect place for Factory Floor to play?
I personally like to play in a close space, so I prefer to play in a dark, close space. It doesn’t come in to any of those categories. It’s just that I like to play basements or I like to play art galleries, which is totally different, it gives you a different way of approaching your live shows. I like dark basements because you can sort of forget about presenting yourself onstage, and I think people can hear and absorb the music a lot more in a close-knit space. You do get that kind of feel in nightclubs as well, if they’ve got a really nice big PA, like a Funktion-One PA, like The Berghain for example, and if it’s a quadrophonic setup, then the best place is to play in the middle on the floor with the audio surrounding you, that’s also really exciting. I think it’s not so much of what type of venue do you want to play, it’s more about what the room is like and how you can set yourself up as a band to get sort of the ultimate experience. Obviously, when you play in an exhibition, an art gallery, you’ll get a different audience to what you’ll get if you play in, say, Fabric in London. It’s really important that we’ve got a mixed audience anyway, so I don’t want to sort of dictate what type of audience we want, because I’d much rather it be everyone, all ages, from every walk of life, to be able to come and listen and get into what we are doing.

Visuals play a big part in your shows, do you make a conscious decision when choosing a venue whether it's a good fit?
That is another part of it, yeah. For example, if we play in a huge warehouse and a PA is brought in and visuals are brought in, they tend to be really organised and you’ve got like nice big screens where you can put your visuals on and obviously it makes it a lot easier. But then you just make do with the space, for example we played in a warehouse in East London and we had our visuals on top of us projected down to the floor and covering the audience. It is an important thing. When we did the collaboration with Simon Fisher Turner I did the visuals and he played with them, and that was quite important. So in those situations then yeah, we’d think in advance and get it all set up properly.

You’ll play at The Kazimier in Liverpool. Do you know the venue?
No, I don’t actually. We haven’t played Liverpool before so it’s going to be quite exciting.

What shall we expect from the show?
East India Youth is supporting us. He is great, so I’d encourage people to come down early to see him. And then for our show, we are going to have live visuals, sort of mixed visuals working with what we are playing, we’ll be playing most of the album but obviously an extended version of what’s on record, so it will be more of a semi-improvisation of that. I think it’s just going to be pretty hard, pretty dancy and hopefully, because it’s in the closing stages, it’s going to probably do that thing of taking off. It’s going to be punishing (laughs).

    Oriol's posts By Oriol Bosch
    @ obosch_



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