Plaid Plaid… Framed throughout the land

Interview: Plaid

Published on November 14th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams

Warp Records mainstays Plaid returned in September with Scintilli, their first album proper in eight years and a typically virtuoso display of synaesthetic eclecticism, veering from Mike Paradinas-esque baroque twinkles to fuzzed-out bass massages, from glacial, Whac-A-Mole synth stabs to ambient menace in which refracted images of Salvador Dali clocks rain down from red skies and nothing is quite as it seems. Have a listen and see what comes to mind for yourself, why not? No wonder they worked so well in tandem with Björk, such an adept weaver of lucid dreams herself.

Messrs Andy Turner and Ed Handley have been inspiring such descriptive grasps since 1991 and as such can now be looked upon as elder statesmen, alongside the likes of Aphex Twin, Autechre and Squarepusher, of a game which still defies adequate categorisation. Rocksucker had the honour of getting to fire over some questions to Andy and received back the following, illuminating set of answers…

How’s the tour going? Where have you had the best crowds so far? How about the best food/beer?

The tour’s been going really well, the audiences seem to have been enjoying the show. Best crowds have probably been: Boston, New York, Barcelona, Istanbul, Cork but generally they’ve been pretty loud everywhere. Best food in Paris. Best beer in Moscow, they have a micro brewery in the club there.

Do you feel that your new, more audio-visual approach to live performances has been successful? Or do you think that it could it still be improved upon? What do you mean when you say that you’ve “deconstructed” the album for live performance?

We’re always trying to improve the show. We’ve been working on the video patch we’ve written as the tour progresses and are making plans for the next set of shows. We’re aiming to do something new for Koko in London on 14th January 2012 [also featuring Hexstaticclick here to buy tickets for this]. We’re using audio and midi loops from the album to enable us to build and process the tracks differently each night. The video is mainly midi triggered and so follows our mixing closely.

Congratulations on another splendid album. Can you tell at this point whether or not there will be a similarly long wait until your next studio album? Any more soundtrack work on the horizon? In this interview, you said you’ll be releasing an EP in January or February – what can you tell us about it?

Yes. We wrote an EP but as we’ve travelled we’ve been talking a lot about writing some more straight up dance music. In general we don’t write with any end goal in mind but we’ve decided to pick up some new hardware at the end of this run of shows and rewrite the EP and an album to follow.

Have you worked out yet what you might end up doing with the tracks that didn’t make the final cut? Will it be these that make up the EP?

We don’t release everything – some tracks get played a few times and then left. We sometimes take elements from them, sounds or patterns.

You claimed that you chant the new album’s titular mantra every morning for two hours straight. Sloppy/gullible/deliberately misleading journalism, or profoundly intriguing truth?

That’s deliberately misleading, although a positive chant or two doesn’t hurt any. We are like machines and can be easily programmed.

The album’s cover artwork is apparently an example of an ambigram. Can you tell us what it’s supposed to say? ‘Plaid’ and ‘Scintilli’ would seem to be the obvious answers but I really can’t tell…(I never was much cop at solving ‘magic eye’ puzzles)…

The front cover reads ‘Scintilli’ using fairly conventional 3D geometry; read clockwise round from the clear ‘S’. The back cover reads ‘Plaid’ but the geometry is unreal. It’s a version of the circular logo we made a while ago now. Both work together well as a repeat pattern which we’ve used on the vinyl sleeve.

How do you feel about the shape of Warp Records today compared to its mid-to-late-nineties heyday? Were you pleased or perhaps even a little confused to see bands like Maximo Park signed to the label? Or are you not particularly bothered either way about such matters?

Warp are one of a few remaining independent labels with integrity. We don’t like everything they release but that’s natural. They treat us well and have always been supportive over the last twenty years.

Do you have Warp Records Christmas parties? I love the thought of you guys carving the turkey at a table with Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Autechre, Boards of Canada et al wearing party hats and performing batshit-crazy versions of Yuletide classics. If this doesn’t already take place, may I strongly suggest that it does, and may I have a ticket?

We’ll bring that up at the next meeting of the board.

Have you heard Björk’s new album? If so, what do you think of it?

She’s a rare talent. It would be easy for her to capitalise on her fame and unique voice yet she constantly moves on looking for new surprises. We have a lot of respect for her and her work.

In this interview, you said that you do occasionally contemplate other careers. Such as what?

Long distance lorry driving is appealing.

Plaid

Plaid… Framed throughout the land

I recently moved to Kentish Town, which I’ve just discovered through my oh-so-thorough research to be the location of Warp Records HQ. Are you round these parts often, then? If so, which is your favourite pub in the vicinity? Rocksucker is currently rather partial to the Abbey Tavern.

I’m a bit further up the hill. I’m fond of The Stag’s Head in East Finchley and the Maid of Muswell in Muesli Hill.

How do you settle in-band disputes?

Sudoku wrestling – it’s inspired by chess boxing. When pinned to the ground, a simple sudoku puzzle must be completed before the count is finished.

Are there any other bands that people sometimes mistake you for?

Earth, Wind and Fire.

Yes, I can see that. Are there any journalistic clichés or buzzwords that you’re sick of hearing/reading in reference to Plaid (eg. ‘folktronica’)?

We love any attention but never liked the term IDM.

If your music was a colour, which would it be? 

We hope we cover a few colors. Purple is a favorite.

Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?

We’ve played with and enjoyed WALLS and Cloud Boat. Threnody makes interesting electronic grooves.

Finally, if you had to name your top three albums of all time – right now, spur of the moment, just off the top of your head – which would you go for?

That couldn’t be answered honestly, there’s something for every mood. We don’t feel music is a competition.

Andy, thank you.

Plaid - Scintilli

Scintilli is out now on Warp Records. For more information and a list of live dates, please visit www.plaid.co.uk

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About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.