It is a natural process to end something, so that there is room for new things to emerge. After releasing 39 FIBER Podcasts over a period of almost 10 years we arrived at number 40; the final release in this FIBER series by none other than Brighton based selector Alex Downey.
We look back on a rich and very personal series, in which talented local artists and international rising names shared their sonic worlds on our platform. Their sets offered countless paths to find new artists and tracks.
A lot has happened in 10 years and the electronic music landscape has changed along with technological, cultural and social developments. This is the reason for us to now bring this series to a fitting end. A full circle almost 10 years after our organisation’s foundation. We thank all the listeners for following us and the artists for their contributions.
For the final installment we asked vinyl connoisseur and Freerotation Festival resident Alex Downey to record a grand finale podcast. And so he did… In three hours Alex will take you through the depths of his record collection. That says a lot when you know that he operates a warehouse stocked floor to ceiling with the black gold.
Luuk Meuffels curated Podcast 40 and Fabian van Sluijs interviewed Alex about his evolution as a DJ and his inspiration behind making this podcast. Now, get yourself ready for a three hour mix.
Interview with Alex Downey by Fabian van der Sluijs
Alex, how did you approach this mix?
It all started with me going through some of the newer bits I’ve been picking up recently, and getting more familiar with them. Before long I was perusing my entire record collection, trawling through for inspiration and ideas, as I wanted to feature tracks that I have not played in any live sets or radio shows lately or before.
I have a lot of vinyl, so this was a lengthy process in which I rediscovered long forgotten gems, un-earthed unknown killer cuts, or found amazing previously overlooked b-sides.
With a collection this large, it can be a bit like plundering one’s own musical history and mind, so it’s common to come across records where you’ve no idea how or why you own it, and probably haven’t heard since the day you first acquired it, which can sometimes be 20 years ago – so it’s a kind of like revisionist discovery of what’s lurking there on the shelves!
It’s a real voyage of discovery. In the process of reacquainting myself with the tracks, I found I often get struck with ideas of what will blend with what, and gradually a picture emerges of where they will fit into the mix.
In previous interviews you have discussed the influence of your parents on your musical upbringing. As FIBER aims to merge the sonic with the visual, we wonder: what inspires you visually?
I have always been inspired by images of space travel, photographs of rockets, lunar-landers, EVA. As a kid I wanted to be an astronaut (or a deep sea diver). But also anything science-fiction, Blakes-7, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica. I would plead with my Mum to let me stay up late to watch ‘Star Trek’ and can remember being absolutely transfixed by ‘Silent Running’, and being hypnotised by ‘2001 a Space Odyssey’ at a very young age. I was always very big on Lego, and would often try to build craft or spaceships I saw on the screen, not sure if that counts?
Later in life I was greatly inspired by the imagery of 60s psychedelic counterculture – and by early computer based graphics found on rave flyers , films like ‘The Lawnmower Man’, electronic music records like Warp’s ‘Artificial Intelligence’ LPs, and in music videos such as Stakker – Humanoid, or on chill out VHS tapes like the 3Lux series.
Looking at contemporary visual culture, how do you feel about all the live streaming that has been going on?
What makes it interesting to watch a live stream? I like to watch highly skilled DJs at work, you can learn a lot from watching. Back in the day I was selling tickets for a legendary Techno party so I managed to sneak backstage as Jeff Mills was playing. I watched him play for hours and learned a lot that night. Back then Jeff Mills’ ‘The Exhibitionist’ film was a true inspiration showcasing his mastery and inspiring a lot of DJ’s, there was nothing else like it at the time. In the same vein I am planning to record video for all my radio shows going forward from a birds eye view focused on the decks and mixer, thereby hoping to inspire people more with what I’m doing than how I’m dancing.
DJs like Oscar Mulero or Helena Hauff for example are also worth watching. Mulero’s technical wizardry is hugely inspiring and I’m a fan of Helena’s energy, approach and authenticity evident in her live streams. She hardly uses any social media but still reaches a lot of people purely with her attitude, style and skill as DJ and selector. When she plays a rare gem, the demand for those records always rises on Discogs…..
I’ve read in an interview that you moved to Brighton to study architecture, which lasted for about three months. As a classically trained architect, could you reflect on the influence of space (nature/urban) on the experience and development of underground electronic music and its culture?
I imagine that a lot of early experiments with electronic music were influenced by Outer Space. The BBC Radiophonic workshop were trying to come up with futuristic sounds for science-fiction TV programmes in 1958. And then obviously there is Detroit, TECHNO-CITY. I am no expert in writing about this, many others have summarised it better than I ever could, but it’s well known that the urban environment of Detroit has greatly influenced the sound of Techno. The sound of the music itself reflected the economic decline of the city through a machine-like aesthetic. There are of course huge links with Berlin due to the post-industrial, social and architectural parallels between the two cities. The fall of the oppressive Berlin wall and subsequent wave of cultural liberation was undoubtedly intertwined with this horrific structure. When I listen to labels like Sähkö or Thule, the music sounds like it has been made in more natural, colder and less densely populated environments, though I might be wrong.
Some music sounds inspired by the desert, some of it by the ocean. I find it hard to separate the music from the place it was made, surely the architecture of Croydon Town must have had an influence on all the Tech-House that was born out of it. What is it about Crawley that produced luminaries such as Insync or Luke Slater?
When I think of music coming out of Wales on labels like Freerotation and Mindtours, it makes me think of the Welsh Mountains. I swear you can hear the influence of that non urban environment in the music.
Thinking about a visual representation of the mix, could you choose an artwork that can function as a companion piece. Why?
I collect images that I come across on the internet and I randomly picked this image whilst I was scrolling through. It was the first one to jump out at me instinctively, I can’t say exactly why. I love the sea and underwater worlds, I spend a lot of time in and under it. I’ve been mesmerised by the colours and diversity of life whenever I’ve been scuba-diving.
It’s hard to believe that this image is actually real. The geometries and the colours are stunning and seemingly archaic. Perhaps it was created in photoshop, or by machine learning? Are machines natural as they were born out of human imagination? Would Artificial intelligence still be natural when it begins to programme itself? Sorry I seem to have gone off on a tangent, but I reckon all this probably has something to do with the kind of set i’ve come up with here.
Synchronistically, I was going through some old electrolux compilations on discogs this morning (electrolux always had nice sleeves and artwork) and came across this track. The video is full of Starfish! Thought it was a bit too coincidental to be ignored.
Photo: The Starfish is a species of starfish called Iconaster Longimanus.