Manchester’s Andy Stott has been among the most underrated producers operating within the UK over the last few years. His output on Modern Love has constantly pushed new and subtle variations on the label’s dubby techno skeleton, from his (rightly) widely acclaimed full-length Merciless to the slowly unfurling petals of more recent tracks ‘Night Jewel’ and ‘Love Nothing’. Over the last three years, his tracks under the pseudonym Andrea, alongside MLZ/Pendle Coven’s Miles Whittaker as Millie, have been if anything even more impressive, breathing a weirdly organic, sample-ridden life into steppers’ riddims and old hardcore tracks. Even a few years down the line, the driving jackhammer percussion of ‘Temper Tantrum’ and the far more delicate, skittish ‘Gunshot’ are among the best tracks to have emerged from the hazy regions where dubstep intersects with techno and house; they remain firey and vital, as distant as possible from some of that much-mooted crossover’s more generic practitioners.
But Stott’s new EP under his own name, Passed Me By, is the most significant evolution of his sound so far, and a serious reason for excitably ringing him to ask some questions about its origin. Unlike the rest of his output, which even at its most experimental and melodically exploratory remained rooted to the demands of the dancefloor, his new music appears to have contracted some sort of strange wasting disease and corroded away almost to nothing. All that’s left are a set of grittily beautiful, super-slow house tracks, muffled in a uniform haze of static, save the odd vocal lurching eerily from the background. And while they would appear to fit in neatly alongside the slower house styles purveyed by the Workshop label and a growing crew in Bristol, closer inspections reveal far more affinity with Whittaker’s Demdike Stare project – another potent example of how to tear apart and reassemble half-decayed samples in formidably creepy shapes.
We caught up with him to chat about the new record, bothering the neighbours while producing juke and why he’s always released on Modern Love.
Sonic Router: I really like the new record, I think it’s my favourite thing you’ve done so far.
Andy Stott: The direction’s completely changed, hasn’t it? It’s just slowed down somehow.
How did that come about?
I started messing about with a different sound palette, and everything just seemed to work slower. Anything above 110 bpm just sounded a bit Mickey Mouse, a bit fast, a bit daft. So I just slowed it down and when I started putting heavy subs in, it just seemed to work – it was just making a record, rather than making a record just for the dancefloor.
That’s it – it sounds more like an album than anything else, it holds together really well. Was it made from putting tracks together over a period of time, or did you set out to make a cohesive record?
It was a compilation of tracks. My last EP under my name was getting slower, [those tracks] are just shy of 110bpm, so I think the stuff I was doing was naturally starting to slow down anyway. And by the time I was writing this stuff and handing it in at the label [Modern Love], they were saying ‘stick with this, this is brilliant’. I haven’t forced myself to stick with that, but I’ve just been writing and everything seems to work at that pace. So I had a bunch of tracks and we picked the ones we thought were the best, I think there was a thread running through them all. There were some that almost got picked, but they weren’t as filthy somehow, they were too clean.
It does seem to fit quite naturally alongside quite a few people at the moment slowing house down and giving it extra layers of fuzz and grit, people like Kassem Mosse and Kowton.
I do love the Workshop stuff – Kassem Mosse! I’ve not really been influenced by anything to do this stuff though, it’s just come about. The only thing that’s – I wouldn’t say swayed me towards this – but I thought had a similar feel, is Hype Williams. Some of that is just wrong, but brilliant. All out of tune, back in tune, old VHS tape knackeredness.
Andy Stott – New Ground [Modern Love]
Was there anything that appealed to you in particular about working at that sort of tempo? Do you think it brings new things out of your music?
I learned, working at that tempo, to restrain a lot of things. [In the past] what I seemed to do was to start building a track, and then think ‘it needs something else’ – and once that was in I felt it needed something else, and before you know it you’ve got way too much going on. And if you’re working with slower stuff and you start adding things, you lose the attention on the main focal point of the track, you start adding gimmicks and stuff like that. So what I’ve learned from doing the slower stuff is to have just a few elements and make them work, just keep the attention on what you want rather than just putting sounds in to fill the gaps. Nothing clever, nothing fancy, just straightforward…
So it’s been very much a natural evolution from your earlier stuff…
Definitely. You do get influenced by stuff, you can’t help that, but to be honest I’ve just moved house and in between moving I’ve had no time to do anything, therefore I haven’t listened to anything. These tracks are just what I wanted to write, completely uninfluenced by anything really, as I’ve not really been listening to anything. So I think it’s the most natural progression I’ve had.
Do you think it’s a direction you’ll be carrying on with in future?
Yeah. Even through this double pack’s due to come out, I think I’m already about another two or three tracks away from having another couple of 12”s in completely the same sort of ilk. Super slow, super filthy, submerged, broken house. Knackered house! So hopefully now I’ve moved in and settled I can now start dedicating some proper time and sit down. For a while I’ve been struggling to get what I think is right together, but I think this double pack paves the way.
So how were Modern Love about these new tracks? Presumably they were pretty keen…
I was unsure about them, because I thought it was just going to be too repetitive or just too much, but Shlom at the label – he’s the main man at the label, the quality control, so to speak – pretty much everything I was giving him he was like ‘this is it.’ So we sifted through a good few tracks, and he did the tracklist and asked what I thought. We changed a couple round – there were one or two which didn’t sound as knackered as the rest of them, sounded a bit too clean.
You’ve had a really long working relationship with Modern Love…
Since day one, they’re the only label I’ve released with.
What drew you to them in the first place? And what’s appealed to you about staying there?
The reason I started on Modern Love is that I’m really good mates with Mark Stewart [Claro Intelecto]. Mark was in contact with Shlom [Modern Love label boss] before me, something to do with distribution, and just on the off chance he mentioned that I made music. Shlom said to get some tracks together on a disc, so I did that, and it wasn’t long after that when he asked me to come down to the office. He said to me that not everything was releasable but some were – I think he saw something in me; and he asked what I’d been listening to. I was in a bit of a bubble really, in what I’d been listening to, so he gave me some tracks I’d never have even thought of looking for. And they really inspired me, so I wrote another lot of tracks and gave them in. And off that second disc we had our first twelve.
It’s been really, really good. Pretty much whatever you’re doing, you can hand it in, and they won’t be like ‘what’s this shit?’ Do you know the Daphne stuff for example – the Millie & Andrea stuff, with Miles [Whittaker, MLZ]? We had these steppy sort of tracks, and it wasn’t to say they’d never come out on Modern Love, but Shlom had this idea to do a sub-label of steppier tracks and borderline old hardcore stuff. So he created that avenue for us to release that music, and obviously the Hate [another ML sublabel] stuff as well.
Millie & Andrea – Sample Clearance [Daphne]
How did the Millie and Andrea stuff come about then? That’s obviously been a big side project over the last two or three years.
Miles has a really mint studio space near his house. And when I first started going down to the label I started meeting everyone in dribs and drabs, and I met Miles, who was doing the Pendle Coven thing with Gaz Howell. Miles invited me up to the studio, and it just became a regular thing, I’d just go up there once a week. Some nights Gaz wouldn’t be there, so me and Miles would have a mess around, and we’d end up doing steppy stuff. He carried on doing it when I wasn’t there and I carried on doing it when I was at home. The Daphne label came about, and it was almost like we hit the ground running with that really.
The reception to those was really great.
For me, and I think for Miles as well, there was obviously a serious element to it, but I’d write a loop and I’d be in stitches. And I’d ring Miles up and play him it down the phone – it was just messing around with porno vocals and stuff like that. It sounds so immature and stupid! We were just doing these really sleazy riffs to go with it, and it just seemed ridiculous but you’d just leave it on a loop, and you’d start thinking ‘actually, there’s something there…!’
So we were just building tracks around really funny things. It was completely unintentional, we didn’t sit down and think ‘I’m going to do a really ridiculous dubstep track’, or whatever you’d pigeonhole it as. But it’s just purely fun – well, it all is – but the Millie & Andrea stuff is as daft as you want it. I mean, I even had a go at juke! All under the Modern Love umbrella, you can pretty much have a go at anything.
Juke’s such an extreme form of dance music, it’s so full-on, in a really subtle sort of way. I find some of it almost too exhausting to listen to.
Some of it, I just do not know how they do it. I don’t know what kit they use and what programs they use, but to sit down and use what I used to recreate that was a headache! Just shifting times with the samples and stuff like that, that whole slow-fast essence of it. Even when it stops at half-time and the snare comes in on the half-bar, and you’ve still got your hi-hats going, it maintains the speed and the franticness – then when you double the clap up again it just goes off to another level. To construct a juke track… I don’t think I’m going to put myself through it again [laughs]!
Did you enjoy the results though?
I did enjoy the results, yeah. I don’t think my neighbours did too much [laughs], the subs on it were unbelievable.
So what’s the plan now, just carry on writing tracks of the same sort of ilk?
Yeah, unintentionally, just writing whatever comes out. If it’s aimed towards Millie & Andrea so be it, but if it sounds right at whatever tempo, then there’s an avenue for it to emerge from [at Modern Love]. Just same old, same old, sitting down and writing with no real idea in mind. That sounds slack as anything, doesn’t it! But it’s all sub-100 bpm at the moment, that’s what I’m feeling right now.
Words: Rory Gibb // Andy Stott’s Passed Me By is out now on Modern Love: