There’s a lot currently going on in the life of Dalglish, aka Chris Douglas, in and outside of the fact that he’s a man who has been producing confrontational exploratory noises since the techno-advent time of the late 80’s, with his first official release appearing in 1992. His back catalogue of work since then has informed swathes of genres, let alone the artists operating inside them, over two decades and he is still producing music that is capable of stopping a listener dead in their tracks. After pursuing this interview for some time, chatting sporadically to Chris as we contended with both the complications and darkness that hindered the flow of conversation; the same ominous cloud that indirectly helped inform both of us of a mutual appreciation for the psychological position from which Dalglish’s music approaches the listener.
His recently released Benacah Drann Deachd album on Highpoint Lowlife is as psychologically challenging as it is aurally; a journey through a fractured landscape of techno debris and hauntological tremors that encompasses and transcends his bulging archive of previous work, under additional monikers like O.S.T. and Rook Vallade. Benacah… is a powerful record that commands any room in which it plays; it’s ambience is not the kind of ocean you can blissfully sink into. Instead it’s depths are the breeding grounds for violent skeins of corrupting energy. Bolts of unsettling emotions flash from the murky textures that conceal them; tectonic tensions erupt into flows of pyroclastic beats that harden into a discernible form then disintegrate as shockingly as they arose. It’s a textural record that evokes the pure tonal works of Fennesz and the intangible musical forms of Autechre and Aphex Twin.
It is with great pleasure that we present a mix from Dalglish that compliments his outlandish record. Providing a collection of pure experimental music and giving his album’s influence historical and musical reference points that encompass both his own career and a long lineage of electronic music. It shares an equally intense shadowy flow to his artist work, moving through cryptic electronic drone, coalescing into fiery noise, before dissipating into abstract forms of glitching dread techno as it twitches through krauty motorik and back into heavy paranoia again.
Sonic Router: You have an enormous history of producing music. What is it that has kept you making it for so long?
Dalglish: Hmm… good question. I suppose it is because I am not naturally and strongly drawn to do anything else. Music has kept me alive in many instances, I owe all to it. Regardless of all the hard existences I have had to go through there is nothing else I find so perfect and regenerating.
Outside of music who are you? What do you do of a day?
Not much really. I’m usually working, recording or worrying to be honest. I don’t like to go outside during the day much so I mostly stay inside. My neighborhood has become very populated in the recent years so going outside is like instantly being in some tourist town and night is like spring fucking break everywhere. Every night.
Why the change of name from OST, and what is the significance of Dalglish?
There’s a few reasons….Since the industry and private listeners starting using O.S.T. on a massive level, i.e. introduction of the internet, blogs etc. It has started to swallow any releases of mine and now it’s mixed up with movie soundtracks and Asian TV shows so it all got a bit too much. I think because people relate it to soundtracks it lessens the effect of finding out about it.
What kind of musical headspace are you in now?
I would say a very disillusioned one. I never imagine in such short time music would get so massive and so shallow in so many ways. Now, there’s global techno/house yuppies, new age regurgitates, noise hipsters, model DJs, wannabe witches and fashionable darkness. It’s disgracefully desperate in so many clichéd ways. I never thought back then that this is what we were fighting for, against all those established musics. I believe things are far too easy now; anyone can find any genre, adapt daily, change dress, act as if it is theirs then drop it for the next ‘cool’ thing. These times are very arrogant with no experience. I think that is completely mad. Fashion for passion it is….But, oh well…all of us become older complaining people eh?
Get of my lawn you idiotic kids!
Is a sense or form of evil energy and spiritualism something that informs your daily life, or do you use it more as an artform?
I would think most people use it in one way or another, unless you are not aware or open to it. It’s about balancing both and forming something productive from it rather than something destructive and debilitating (most of the time). Of course in a time as now it is very fashionable to play with fire so I am not sure what most people are genuinely sincere about, in any respect.
What does the title of your album Benacah Drann Deachd mean?
The album is a compilation of unreleased tracks spanning from 2001-2011 which was the life of the label Highpoint Lowlife and for me a cursed decade. The title is edited Scot’s Gaelic which basically translates to ‘Farewell Cursed Decade.’ So with this being one of the last albums of the label, I wanted to put both peacefully to rest.
Dalglish – Benacah Drann Deachd [Highpoint Lowlife]
It has a very paranoid sinister feel to it, quite an inhospitable landscape of sounds and tones that is quite a challenge to listen to. What is it you are trying to subject the listener to, or what is it you are trying to convey?
Most of the music I do is created in a real-time spontaneous manner. I am never setting out to create a certain feeling or intended effect it just comes and I follow it. Sorry if I seem inhospitable. I would want people to accept different ways of thinking, processing, and – this has been hard – but it seems all is getting more popular the longer one exists. Many others benefit now, more than the ones before, alas history…
The titles of the tracks on your new album are all dates – what are the significances of all those?
They are the dates they were created. Apparently one is a day that is yet to happen. I’m curious about what does happen on that day. The significances would be as I mentioned before; to release something like a curse. Not to ignore but to accept and make peace to hopefully move on…Nothing worse than being stuck back in time.
Do you draw inspiration from any musical artists, outside forces?
There are many of course, but it’s more so the ideas and emotions provoked in me from their work. It’s mostly about how it makes me feel or the memories it brings up. To be sensitive to all things can sometimes be a bother, but other times everything comes through so clear and makes perfect sense.
You were once in the US and now in Berlin. Has geography influenced you at all? San Francisco and Berlin seem to share some kinds of liberal similarities, but the musical landscape is entirely different.
I would say not much, if any. Berlin is quite dominated with techno, house and much mediocre music. Every club is the same and same people who might as well not exist because it looks like bad copies of the ones somewhere else or even next to them. As I was saying earlier it is basically techno yuppies experiencing what they think is unique and being very arrogant about it. Of course we all once had new experiences and they were fresh to us at whatever time we experienced it but I think there should be a certain humbleness in this time. Arrogance is only to cover up how insecure they really are. Most things which I loved and many others did have been so homogenized there is no trace of what the original intention was. I stay away from it as best as I can.
In San Francisco it was all starting up there when I left and seems to be full blown now, especially after the dot com boom started to bust. We did a lot of work in the early days to establish new ways there. It seemed as usual to benefit others while the ones who worked when there was no support is covered and forgotten. As Lands says… ‘History ALWAYS favours the winners…’
What’s your production set up like? Do you have analogue, synth, PC kit, any microphone sampling at all?
When I started it was possible to have many older analog machines, synths. Since then greed has taken over and people are charging 5 to 10 times the amount of what they used to. It’s a shame those machines we had before cannot be purchased without a sharp sting in your backside. But now I use a variety of analog, digital, sampling (digital and analog, acoustic) over the recent years I have been collecting more gear and this adds to the options and less confined states as in composing solely with a PC.
Are there any favourite pieces of equipment or sounds you keep returning to to develop new sounds out of?
Besides my old synths which have passed on, I would have to say the Yamaha Dx7/11. These synths are the notoriously bad stock sounds that dominated loads of 80s music yet when you really get into programming and understanding FM synthesis and spend time with it you can get unique sounds which you wouldn’t with most gear. Even now, still…
What projects are you working on at the moment?
At the moment there’s a few things I must finish or continue. I am going to finish this proposed idea of recreating the 1999 album Death Notice re-interpreted with acoustic instruments in unintended ways. For the year 2012, which will be 20 years of releasing, I will do a limited box set spanning 1992-2012 which will include most of the released albums and many unreleased tracks (and albums). I have thousands so this should be started now….
Have you got any recommendations of producers to look out for that you’d care to share?
Many to look out for as in catching a disease…? Ha! But seriously, there are quite a few that are already getting props. These days things blow up quick and slowly linger then burn out. The real trick is staying afloat and outside yet still exist somehow as a part, I guess. I think with all this new young interest/obsession most things unique do not get accepted because it threatens the safety in numbers mentality. It’s a shame but maybe it will come around, but not anytime soon. It seems to have to reach critical mass first.
Tell us a little bit about the mix you’ve put together for us, what have you put on it, why did you choose those tracks. Are any (if not all!) of them really important to you at the moment for any reasons?
This is actually my first podcast type mix. I wasn’t sure what to do hence the delay in sorting it out. I felt I could have made a 12 hour mix. Of the tracks I picked, a lot of them are tracks I used to play when we would do parties/clubs about 20 years ago. Many artists have since had a resurgence in popularity, but I still love a lot of these tracks. I picked them with others that I hoped flowed together. Through the years I have been involved in many different musics, recording, producing etc. I kept myself open to finding something enjoyable regardless of the genre or general acceptance. I’ve included the artists only in the tracklisting. I think people should search for the tracks if they feel so compelled to.
DOWNLOAD: Dalglish – Sonic Router Mix #89
Jean Michel Jarre
Hans joachim Roedelius & Tim Story
Klaus Janek & Scald Rougish
Jon Hassell & Brian Eno
The Irresistable Force
Dalglish’s Benacah Drann Deachd is out now on Highpoint Lowlife.