Over their now decade long existence, London based Combat Recordings have always managed to keep their output staggeringly consistent. Founded in 2004 by Singaporean DJ & producer Stormfield, Combat focuses on dark industrial soundscapes and brutally twisted noise, amalgamating dubstep, techno, breakbeat and anything else which can be twisted into line with the Combat school of thought.
The imprint’s roster is testament to this, and with the release of their latest compilation celebrating their ten year anniversary, we decided to invite the album’s contributors to quiz Stormfield on the history of the label, audiovisual shows and how ego effects creativity.
_Mick Harris __** First bass experience?**
University of Dub in Brixton. I remember walking up to the Brixton Recreation Centre you could heard the glass windows rattling.
Mick Harris _ East or West? not a trick question.
West; my life is here and most of my friends too. Nearly twenty years in England, I’ve lost the use of Mandarin and have somehow gained German and a bit of Czech. Funny that, at the end of Uni, my mum wanted me to return as it was a more “stable” environment back East, but now things there have gone all tits-up, debt-culture the same as over here. But here at least there’s enough music stuff going on to keep me interested. Although I still find myself looking eastward for certain things like TM (meditation), Ayurveda and Muay Thai.
Mick Harris _ Film to have the most impact be it visually or sonically?
Dark Water (for the sound) - a Japanese horror film.
_Anodyne __ **What artist would you like to work with or do a release on Combat?**
_Anodyne __ **If you had an unlimited budget and choice of every artist out there, which four acts would you have perform at your perfect gig?**
Scorn or anything Mick Harris does…
There would be free E’s or mushies for the whole venue, and the rave would go on for days. You said unlimited budget!
_Anodyne __ **Is it true you once paid a woman in a ballgown to kick you repeatedly in the groin while making you listen to Aphex Twin’s new album?**
How did you find out?!
The Wee DJs _ How often do you get your hair cut to keep it looking so smart?
Once a month usually near rent day. Any longer and it starts looking like a hedgehog. I call the style “miscommunication” because no matter what I say to the kurdish barber, I always walk out of there with something of a mohawk.
The Wee DJs _ What’s the best, and worst electronic live act you’ve ever seen? Don’t hold back.
Best heard, Cane (Funckarma) live at Arcola Theatre. Ninety minutes of broken, sub heavy, deep electronics. Best seen/heard - Chris Cunningham AV set, full on brutal assault on the eyes and ears. Totally blown away. I dont know how “live” it actually is though, there’s so much going on and it’s so precise, impossible for one pair of hands to do it all in realtime.
The worst? That’s an easy one because a lot of cheesy stadium-level “electronic” acts could fit that description. Or in smaller venues, seeing an electro legend turn up in Miami with a full expensive hardware setup on stage then proceed to sing some awful karaoke cheese…
_Milanese __ **What do you think of music today compared to ten years ago, and where do you think it’ll be in another 10 years?**
Electronic music from the 90s has a special place in my heart because those were my formative years, I still listen back to stuff of that time for inspiration. But that’s youth/age. Any kid who pops their first E listening to tracks of now, would probably feel the same innocent / fresh excitement and get motivated to do stuff. At least I’d fucking hope so.
Music of today - the first thing I’d say is there is an awful lot more of it about, whereas in the past you had to investigate and seek out the gems, now it’s more a case of having to aggressively filter out shite to keep focus on the good tunes. The situation now is not better or worse, you just need a different way of approaching it.
This abundance is simply a natural result of the availability of production software and more powerful computers, allowing anyone to make tunes. There’s some decent sounding cheap new hardware around too. Production and sound design standards have gone way up compared to before. Saying that, it’s easier to sound clever and complicated with sound design plugins but the magic disappears once you discover what makes that mad sound, or that it’s just presets. So I’m wary of stuff that’s actually bollocks but trying to hide behind “sounding clever”. I was walking around the Thames waterfront with Autechre “Amber” in the headphones just now - hearing it over a decade later and with producer ears - you start to pick apart the tricks/techniques used but underneath all that is first and foremost genuinely awesome music. So I try to apply that process when hearing other stuff.
The next ten years, who knows, but it will absolutely be informed by the advance of technology. There’s now apps in your phone that you can make music with, really good ones, and there’s arguably more people owning PCs and smartphones than keyboards/turntables. There’s even synths which generate sounds based on visuals or other input. Creating stuff by totally crossing the eye/ear sensory divide. Game consoles will play a bigger part too, they are ubiquitous now and not going away anytime soon. Sounds and ideas from these will feed indirectly and directly into the tunes.
Of course there’s a lot of bollocks gimmickry about, but I’m genuinely interested in interfaces that allow new ways of direct, meaningful musical expression. One of the Combat projects for 2015 is a collaboration with sound artist Marco Donnarumma, he’s created an instrument that literally samples body muscle frequencies. Tiny mics pick up muscle vibrations of around 5Hz which get pitched-shifted up to human-audible range, the sound is then effected via body gestures e.g. moving the arm around in specific ways with muscles tensed. It generates some interesting sounds, and all spontaneous, personal and immediate! As long as there’s genuine ideas and music in the track, I don’t care what weird new tech people use to make it.
Audiovisuals are a growing thing too - again the result of more powerful computers. So it’s possible to produce music and visuals together, one informing the other and vice versa, all on the same machine. So there be much more music that takes shape in that way.
On a collaboration level, things will be much easier in future. You can work on tracks with someone living on the other side of the planet, the project is online for both people to tweak. There’s already websites that sync up DAWs.
_ScanOne __ **Tell us about your visual projects. What are you inspired by, and how do you see the visual side of Combat progressing in future?**
There’s a few things going on. I’ve also done visual jams for some friends like Broken Note, Scorn, Anodyne, Roly Porter. Solo, there’s the Stormfield A/V stuff for gigs, more on an electro/tech angle sonically/visually. Of course there’s also the infamous Fausten which is an A/V collaboration with Monster X & Emoresh, which goes fairly dark involving sexual torture, blood and other cheerful stuff. In a way, Fausten is the main driving force for visual creativity for me, because we film, direct, animate, edit, audiosynch and try out new ideas, techniques and equipment for example live infra-red and CCTV footage feeds. There’s one video out (Punishment) and two more which get premiered this November at the Ten Years of Combat party.
Inspiration, all of it! But especially the unusual, the dark and the intense. In the future, Combat will keep on doing more visual work that’s grounded in solid music, which is the label’s roots.
_Ontal __ **What’s the story behind the combat logo?**
The devil mask? It’s a “Hanya”, Japanese demon. There’s an old film Oni Baba, a Samurai wearing the mask gets killed by a jealous woman, who takes the mask for herself, wearing it to scare off people. But the mask is cursed, later she discovers she cannot remove it. With a lot of force it comes off but she’s horribly disfigured. The mask is a cursed kind of power - very cheerful happy stuff!
Ontal _ Have you considered contacting Source Direct for a release on Combat?
Many times, of course. Especially now he (Jim Baker) has resurfaced. But at the moment the label is low on funds, and to release vinyl costs money - I hate going up to people with big plans and grand ideas unless I already see a way to achieve them. It’s just talk otherwise. I actually met Jim and Phil and had a brief chat during a rave in 1998, although I doubt Jim would remember it. SD has always been my heroes so it would be amazing to get SD involved at some point. Icing on the cake.
Ontal _ What Schnapps would be the official Combat drink?
52% Sliwowica! The warrior juice. Down a shot, run out into the snow and fight bears - it’s that kind of drink. Surprisingly no hangover the next day. Pure.
_Dead Fader __ **How deeply do you feel ones music is an extension of ones personality.**
As a listener, yes of course if a tune connects to you enough then it becomes part of your psyche. It’s impossible not to be influenced by something especially if you like it and willingly expose yourself to it often.
Producer-wise, it depends person to person. I hope it’s not always an extension of someone’s personality – how many times have you heard a track you like, met the producer in person and discover they are actually a cunt? It spoils the tunes a bit, at least in my mind. I’ve been lucky so far, but you do hear of that stuff happening.
_Dead Fader __ **Do you feel a particular pressure to be ‘macho’ in the particular scene u work in.**
But what scene is that? Combat crosses over several genres. We do hard music but also equally do the introspective, deeper side. One thing I have noticed is people that make the harder aggressive music tend to be quite chilled in person. It’s more of a way to vent. So the “macho” that you perceive is more of an outburst that happens to repel people, but it also creates void in which those that really enjoy/understand it can relax. Takes a while to get the head around this, but then you can get into it properly and “hard” music gigs become a lot more fun.
Ever notice how the steroid heads in the gyms tend to listen to really awful cheesey music? Or those extreme sports shows/videos. Fucking horrible tunes, why the fuck? That to me is macho music.
_Dead Fader __ **How do you think a person’s ego affects the quality of their output?**
Creatively it does, negatively. Creativity is fluid and changing. The ego needs a solid/consistent surface to attach itself to. This is not possible if the music is constantly shifting, changing or evolving. So logically, ego drives a producer to be more conservative in their work, strict guidelines, a certain amount of predictability based on what worked well in the past- it’s calculated to make a stronger favourable impression, gets more positive attention which is what the ego wants.
From running a label point of view though, the ego is a useful thing because having a consistent identity IS a strong advantage for any label. Unlike production which is a creative, fluid process, curating a label’s output is conversely a rigid, reductive process because you sift through a load of stuff, actively reject a lot of it to put out only stuff that fits a certain view. The options are being limited by intent, so to speak. Ego needs to take shape via events over time, and again this is exactly what the label does with output, it imprints it’s identity over a series of releases.
Nonima _ What is your motivation in keeping the label moving forward now that Combat has 10 years under its belt?”
Creatively, there’s interesting tunes being made, which others aren’t releasing, for whatever reasons. To be honest there’s a load of stuff waiting to come out, whenever budget allows. At least a few albums and a load of EPs. It’ll come.
I’m quite keen on the audiovisual aspect of things, which is evolving along with the label.
Cursor Miner _ What is the electronic music scene like in Singapore?
Don’t really know tbh, not been back for a long time. But there’s a few people doing interesting music and nights, I keep seeing mentions of “Syndicate” which is a collective pushing sounds outside of the usual club stuff. There’s also a producer whom i’ve kept in touch with a guy called Rora Realis who makes pretty good off-kilter beats.
There’s also a really techno guy called Xhin, but in terms of gigs he plays a lot more over this part of the world.
For more details on on the compilation you can visit www.combatrecordings.com. Tickets for the launch party at Power Lunches on November 8th are available here: http://www.residentadvisor.net/event.aspx?643007