Photo by Carsten Stiller.
Swarm Intelligence takes a hammer to the usual techno blueprint, reassembling it in haphazard fashion. Since his early releases in 2011/12, the Berlin-based Simon Hayes has developed a knack for crafting broken-beat 4/4 and downcast melodics which add a little more depth to the dancefloor than the usual format. His albums on Nicolas Chevraux’s Ad Noiseam might be a good first reference in attempting to pinpoint his sound; he has as much in common with the label’s earlier forays into savage noise and breakcore as the more contemplative recent offerings.
Later this month, Hayes will be visiting London to play Towards Collapse; an event series which stares down the capitalist machine with nihilism and humour in equal measure. “Broken beats and bass to drag your feet to as you stumble”, reads their latest flyer - perhaps a fitting primer when considering not just Hayes, but also the rest of the lineup. Fellow Berliner Dead Fader, as well as VORRS, Nolan Dialta, Codex Europa and the expertly-named DJ Bin Fetish will also join the bill at Dalston’s VFD on February 17.
With the show just a few weeks away, and an upcoming EP on Instruments of Discipline, we decided to invite Hayes to contribute to our That Time When series, discussing five of his most memorable gigging experiences.
I remember getting a free CD with a copy of Mixmag back in 2002, cringingly titled Italian Techno Master. It was mixed by none other than Mauro Picotto. Being about 16 and into hard dance at the time, this totally blew me away. Like the rest of my aspiring DJ mates, I had plenty of Mauro’s big hits on vinyl at that stage but this was a side of him I hadn’t heard before. That same year, he played Creamfields in Ireland. A friend and I snuck our way in. At that age, I had never experienced anything like it – it was absolute bedlam! I remember Mauro Picotto played a set really close in sound to this CD and I left a changed man – I’d just had my first taste of proper techno.
Another pivotal moment came when I was 20. I’d listened to Autechre, but I guess I wasn’t a huge fan or anything at that stage. This all changed at a gig at the Temple Bar Music Centre. It was during the Untilted tour. Autechre played with all the lights off, save for a glowing lamp above their equipment. The sound – it was unlike anything I’d experienced before, completely transcending and otherworldly. I left the venue in a daze. Looking back, I reckon this could be where the Swarm Intelligence sound began forming.
Dublin has always had an absolutely kicking techno scene. There were so many good gigs that it’s hard to pick a favourite but there’s one weekend that really stands out; The Dublin Electronic Arts Festival was a four day event that was sprawled throughout venues and galleries all across the city. Run by the veteran label D1 Recordings, the line-ups were always brilliantly curated – not only did they book some great international acts but there was always huge support for local artists and promoters.
The 2008 edition was no different, at the time a few friends and I were also running events as Stasis Collective. We brought over Rob Hall on the Friday of the festival, which went down a storm. Rob was great and a real gent to top it off. Saturday event saw a line up of Regis, Sunil Sharpe and ADJ and was hosted by Test, which was another belter. The highlight of the weekend for me however was the closing night on the Sunday.
First of all, let me describe the venue. McGruders was essentially an old man’s pub that had somehow become a raver’s haven. Tables and chairs were pushed aside to make dancefloors out of beer-soaked carpets and massive sound systems were hauled in. On the bill were the fathers of Slovak techno – Loktibrada and Rumenige. At the time I was quite into clicky, bleepy minimal techno and electronica but nothing put a smile on my face like the absolute, utter pounding those lads gave the crowd that night. I’ve had a soft spot for that brand of broken techno ever since.
A year or so later, I moved to Berlin. I must admit, I felt like a bit of an outsider in the beginning. There were so many gigs happening, that I didn’t really click with a crowd or venue, at least not to the extent of how things were in Dublin.
This all changed when a friend of mine, Dean Rodell, told me he was starting his own club – Subland. Subland quickly became a home away from home. Weekend after weekend you knew you were in for a pummeling. With a sound system so huge it was almost silly, and a soundtrack of the harder, darker and weirder stuff that had been amiss for me up until then in Berlin, it was one of my favourite spots in the city.
A year or two after opening, Dean teamed up with Nicolas from Ad Noiseam to run the Burn The Machine festival. For 2012’s edition, he asked Monolog and myself to play live together. I am not sure if I have ever had that much fun playing a gig, we both tore parts from our own live sets and let rip, completely improvising on the night. I think we ended up playing for almost 2 hours, finishing with me bashing out rave stabs on some pads and Mads doing live drums. There’s an excerpt on my Soundcloud page somewhere. Since then, we started a project called Diasiva and have a couple of releases under our belts. Subland has unfortunately closed, though it has since reopened under new management and is now called Void.
Through Subland, I became friends with Nicolas and ended up releasing two albums on Ad Noiseam. This led to one of my most memorable performances to date – Maschinenfest. This infamous noise, industrial and power electronics festival has been running since 2009 and has a massive following. People come from far and wide to attend each year. Back in 2015, I’d just released Rust and had built a new live set around it. My girlfriend had done the photography and one drunken evening, we came up with the idea that she’d do visuals for the set. So, basically she had a month or two to learn the software, film and edit the footage and rehearse it all. She somehow pulled it all off and it ended up being one of the best live sets I’ve done – the visuals were amazing! There’s some grainy footage on YouTube that doesn’t half do it justice.
Tickets for February 17 are available via the Towards Collapse Bandcamp, here.