Thursday, March 01, 2007

TAPEd Conversation: Jeremy P Caulfield (Dumb-Unit, Berlin)

The serious fans (is there another kind?) of new-wave minimal among you will almost certainly own a record or two issued by the Berlin-based Dumb-Unit imprint. Founded by Exercise One's Ingo Gansera and Canadian Jeremy P Caulfield, Dumb-Unit is home to Butane, Sweet-N-Candy and Alejandro Vivanco, among others. This month sees the release of Detached Works, a 2XCD compilation celebrating nearly 5 years of Dumb-Unit business. The first disc is a handy, unmixed collection of concertedly dry, reductionist Dumb-Unit bangers (including Exercise One's blistering version of Sweet-N-Candy's 'Unbreakable'); the second disc is a 73-minuted mix by Caulfield himself which goes beyond Dumb-Unit's percussive, amelodic aesthetic to take in tasty numbers by the likes of Axel Bartsch, 3 Channels and Shonky.

We caught up with Jeremy C to talk midgets, fishing and the dark fantastic...

It’s TAPE’s round. What are you drinking?

Aiight...If it’s just us lads then I’d go for for a nice pint of something wheaty, maybe with a slice of lemon...If we’re out on the town .. a gin and tonic with Bombay...

Do you go back to Toronto much?

About twice a year...I always play for my buddy Ian from Fukhouse...For some reason he’s the only guy there that throws a techno night that isn’t a penis party ..

How has the techno scene developed/changed there over the years?

It hasn’t...that’s why I moved...

"City-wise, Berlin hasn't even hit its stride..."

Do you think the electronic artist ‘émigré’ thing is reaching saturation point in Berlin? Is it still an exciting place to work/live/party?

The same way that L.A. is for film, New York is for writers or Milan is for fashion...Berlin is for electronic music. It’s a hub and a launchpad. So the hype that surrounds it will always be in flux - some years it will be hip, others not. But the city is too diverse and complex musically to really fall off the edge. The minimal “thing" can be considered burnt out. But then again there are so many layers to minimal that it’s too easy to just say it’s a fad (not that I think you’re saying this )...Dumb-Unit is minimal, M-nus is minimal , Areal is minimal.. and all are techno too...There’s just too much energy right now for Berlin to be slowed down. Musicians get bored quickly and I think Berlin’s sound will only continue to evolve...City-wise, it hasn’t even hits its stride...There’s still no international airport etc, I can’t find a good diner or real bacon . So you know, there’s still a long way to go...

How do you find the German language?

Difficult, that’s why I speak English...But really it’s now time for me to learn and I start a new course next week. It’s taken me a few years to get Dumb-Unit to where I wanted. Now I can focus a bit more on the cultural aspects of living here. I just never took the time to learn German because I don’t need it for work. It’s all been about work up until now...So now that I’m more settled I’m hoping to pick up the nuances of living here that I'm missing.

Geek question. You used Serato Scratch to mix CD2 of ‘Detached Works’. What do you like about this particular piece of equipment?

I was sitting on new music for months...So I wanted to play it before the rest of the world. I wanted to keep the same energy as with vinyl. So Serato was the answer...It’s better than CDs...I think playing CDs is a far bigger insult to vinyl...It’s like playing a cheap silver made-in-Taiwan midget version of vinyl. Serato is still tactile. I touch it and work it the same way. I organize records the same way, front to back, in a crate...Also I think not being in my home town made it harder for me to appreciate having loads of vinyl kicking around. I think when I settle down into a little Scottish farmhouse with my studio out back in the old coach house I’ll start collecting vinyl again (as well as old copper milk jugs and horseshoes).

Will we ever know what the ‘P’ in Jeremy P Caulfield stands for? Should we already know? My current two favourite guesses are ‘Peregrine’ and ‘Percy’.

Phencyclidine hydrochloride

What makes Detached Works different to other “similar” DJ comps knocking around at the moment?

To the people on it and to myself we know it’s a much more personal project. Almost everyone is a friend or part of a close knit group. So I think there was a good positive feeling about the CD floating around long before it came out. We worked hard to make it a more subtle type of thing. It is not chock full of hits etc...

How would you describe the Dumb-Unit sound? What do you think unites all the records you put out on the imprint?

We’ve gone through stages. Our sound has evolved but also always stayed rooted in crisp dry percussion, not too many hooks , smart drumming and good energy...I like nice cuts and edits and some digital FX too, but it has to be honest...I like to think of Dumb-Unit as a good honest sound. As Nirvana or the Ramones or Tom Waits or Neil Young is to rock. Where things are there because they should be not because they ought to be...

Any plans for artist albums on Dumb-Unit in the future?

Well, if I stopped running the label, I might get some time..but um then that would kind of not be a Dumb-Unit album then...But no, not right’s a singles market anyhow...

"I always like being at someone's house and smelling cat pee covered up by Fabreeze..."

I’m pleased to hear you're playing Stink in London on Apr 9. What’s your favourite smell?

I always like being at someone’s house and smelling cat pee covered up by Febreeze...It’s pungent but fruity with an unmistakable heaviness way down below... My favourite word for smell is 'dank'...How can a four letter word convey so much depth..?

How did you hook up with Ingo Gansera?

We met at a singles bar, he bought me a drink...

Is vinyl your preferred DJing format?

No I’m a SERATO type of guy now...Call me old...

I may be wrong on this, but there’s a kind of Miami/Hollywood gangster/hustler theme going on with the Dumb-Unit artwork, all palm trees and burly men carrying briefcases - is there a reason you chose that particular aesthetic?

I wanted to create a look for the label that was as ambiguous as the name...A kind of weird world of faceless suit type guys...It’s hard to do on a 4 inch label but “the men” as we call them have a nice subtle impact and can be a bit disturbing. It was also in retaliation to this “future” look that was so prevalent when I started the label. All these labels with little circles and lines etc, they remind me of those rave pants with all the
pockets and unnecessary accessories...Anyhow. I wish I could follow the Men theme a bit more. It was my goal at the start to have something more akin to graphic novel etc...Perhaps a bit later...

Which of your own productions/remixes are you most proud of and why?

I’m not really proud of any “specifically”. I find as a label owner I’m constantly surrounded by music that sounds so much more professional then my own .. but I think what I am proud of is the honesty and directness that my music displays. It’s not technically perfect nor does it fit into the canon of minimal, but it does have a theme to it and I think this will allow it to last a lot longer than most things out there ..

‘Ripped Backsides’. ‘Grotbox’. ‘Scar City’. ‘Wreck Room’. ‘Haunted Days’. A lot of darkness (and, it seems, occasional humour) in your titles. Do you see your music as dark? Is there an emotional slant to what you do, or at least an emotional slant/content that you are trying to achieve beyond dancefloor functionality?

My music and DJing are dark...I’m a visual person and so I’m inspired more from sights , images, films, etc than I am by other music . I try to convey this inspiration into what I make, to create a sonic space of what inspires me visually. Whether I succeed is a different story...From JG Ballard books, to Terry Giliam to Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Brutilism etc. I’m inspired by the dark fantastic that many of these people and countless others create. Most of these people also take a bit of a humorous approach to the darkness they portray...Because dark without a bit of humour is gothic...and we all know just how bad that can be...

Why did the minimally-inclined DJ/producer cross the road?

Because Ricardo lived there...

"He's half ferret with rabies, half hummingbird..."

Plans for Dumb-Unit in 2007? Forthcoming releases your excited about?

I don’t want to blow sunshine up my own ass but I think we have one of the best years coming up..We’ve really connected with some strong artists...Geoph Serge , which is Seph and Jorge Savoretti, and Lee Curtiss - who in my opinion is the most talented artist right now. He’s half ferret with rabies, half hummingbird and so fits just fine with our concept. Also we have more records from our man Butane who is now my neighbour, of course a new EP from Sweet n Candy soon (who is also my neighbour)...And then a slew of EPs from Sarah Goldfarb, Tesh club etc...

If you weren’t a musician/working with music, what do you imagine you’d be

I’d like to get back into more visual arts...Maybe a bit of writing...or a mix of both...Also get back skiing , do all these things that I did before Techno ate my life (that’s actually stolen from Butane...he wanted to name a track for everybody...techno ate my girlfriend...)

On your myspace you say you’d “rather be fishing”. Do you fish? Have you ever fished? Have you ever caught one?

As the old proverb goes: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you can get rid of him for the weekend.

Cheers to Jeremy for taking the time to spill the beans for us. 'Detached Works' is out now, and Londoners can catch Mr Caulfield playing at the End this Sunday March 4, or at T-Bar for Stink next month (Apr 9). The same days sees the release of his new Dumb-Unit 12" 'Lacewing Puff' . Check his myspace for worldwide tourdates...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice interview, just to think we were so close to getting him play for us! :-(
Damn you easyjet flight times, and shit arc bar early closing time

9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great interview im listening to his track now on the breeze block (licorice pipe) - talk about DEEP & MINIMAL =great

2:40 AM  
Anonymous porn said...

nice interview, just to think we were so close to getting him play for us! :-(

10:28 PM  

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