snd felt in 'Atavism'.
They still think about similar approaches on space and sound just with less prejudice and more experience.

Mat Steel and Mark Fell who are also known as Blir or most commonly Snd, are two creatives thinking about sound and structure in terms of music and art. They were the key players of the clicks & cuts' initiation as a genre, since the beginning and the nicer Mille Plateaux times.

They have been one of the key figures and pioneers of Sheffield's music and arts scene where sound and concept meets. They have toured alongside Autechre two times and they have a core audience who like and buy whatever they do. Because they know and believe that snd creates the right and forward thinking glitches and bleeps beneath and beyond the trends, fashions and so called hypes.

They have released an album called 'Atavism' for Raster Noton Records after 7 years of silence, since their untitled '4,5,6' triple pack.Within 'Atavism' they still offer unlimited minimalism and timeless musicality. Snd is one of the most influential and interesting sound artists/producers around and they took their precious time hard on answering my questions. Here is the snd interview...

Keeping "Atavism" in mind, how do you think your behavior towards your musical approach has changed and evolved during all those years?
Mat: Perhaps less self-conscious and less concerned about what we think we "should" be doing, but essentially we've probably retained a very similar approach, fundamentally, over the years.
Mark: Our behavior towards our musical approach has definitely changed due to our increased awareness of the environments within which it occurs. I guess this would include things like; technical processes and methods, aesthetic concerns, our relationship to peers and the way that the industry is structured both legally and logistically. A related point is that we are not a naive pair at the start of our professional careers. At one time we would be excited about flying to some German city to stop on someone floor after some show. But that isn't the case anymore. We still have enthusiasm for what we do, but now there is more of a focus on standards and doing things on our terms and according to our larger plan.

Can you be defined as on the frontline of the 'second generation' Sheffield techno revolution? Hence you followed quite a different path. Is it because you studied in art school?
Mat: I wouldn't say we were on the frontline of anything; maybe on the edges of something. It often feels as though we're operating in a vacuum as regards to any "Sheffield" music movements, although we've always had a strong and identifiable connection to certain aspects of the city's musical history. And many artists in Sheffields music history attended art school...
Mark: Is there a second generation sheffield techno revolution? if so I would like to find it. In a way we feel very connected to the city. But although we have lots of friends there, we don't really connect to any musical scene as such that is happening. We met at the art school where we studied, which itself played an important role in the history of electronic and techno music in Sheffield. There was always a very strong connection between the people there and the other communities around the city. The Human League played their first show there, and during the early techno days and then then Warp years there were always people at art school involved in those scenes. In general we do have a very strong affinity with early techno from Sheffield, and its still some of my favorite music. But I'm not aware of any second generation thing going on.

After some time you concentrated on curating audio visual events. Was it a natural process, need for you and if yes, why?
Quite natural development, we had connections that made this possible and we wanted to bring interesting artists from around the world to Sheffield. We were also less motivated to make music during that time.
Mark: We were attracted to doing that. We had some opportunities and it seemed interesting. We had been exposed to lots of emerging music and it was good to bring that to Sheffield. We would still like to do that, but to produce events of the standard we want is extremely expensive so its quite difficult.

Audience, context and software. Is it the only three that you need to go on further?
Mat: Sorry I don't really know what you mean by this question!
Mark: Yeh, it is the only three that we need to go on further.

How much mathematical modeling or algorithmic structures do you use in your music?
Mat: It varies depending on what we want to achieve.
Mark: We use some modeling but often not of complex things. And again we use algorithmic structures but again not complex. When dealing with these kinds of processes its easy to keep adding more and more complexity, but in actually fact simplicity is much more interesting for us. That is why I find most computer music quite boring because it is too decorative or baroque in it's approach.

How do you fine tune the balance between conceptualization and technologic side of your music?
Mat: That comes from experience and personal preference.
Mark: (Ahahahahah! In response to mats answer). Our music is totally non-conceptual. Although obviously everything has a conceptual impact or can be looked at in those terms, that is not our interest as makers of the music. We just take care of the music and let the concepts take care of themselves. And to say there is a balance between technological aspects of our work and conceptualization is not an equation that we would agree with.

How modernist are you and do you think is your music?
Mat: That's really hard to answer. We obviously reference the past in some ways but it's not supposed to be any kind of homage or parody of anything. We feel we are making something quite contemporary.
Mark: Most poor people have always been both modern and postmodern and neither of them at the same time.

Is snd representing 'sound'?
Mat: No.
Mark: Yes.

Do you have any apprehension beneath being understood, listened and perceived correctly? How much it is important for you, being in a right interaction with the listener/ audience?
Mat: For live situations, the setting and all that goes with it are very important to the experience, as a performer and as the audience. But factors and circumstances are always different; there's no 'perfect' situation as often if you feel an audience is uninterested or bored or there have been technical problems this can all lead to you delivering a really good performance. For example we just played in Lisbon and the visuals didn't work and our system crashed half way through - but it felt like a good performance and we were really pleased at the end. For recorded material, theres little you can do to control how someone listens or perceives the music over and above considering the label you release on and the artwork you use and the image you may project. I often have records I dislike for a year then they become my favourites.
Mark: The way you present your music gives the audience cues about how to respond. Whether its a seated venue or a bleak club, weather there are wires trailing all over the place or everything is running in straight lines. All these things and other tell the audience how they ought to respond. These are not just transparent things that have no consequence. And we are quite aware of them.

Your artworks and design conceptualization has always been so simple and direct, as your musical approach, in what terms do you think it is important for an artist, trying to express himself?
Mat: As I mentioned before, artwork does offer a suggestion or clue as to how you might want someone to perceive the music inside. For us, we've always been careful to consider the look and feel of a release, though much like the actual music itself that doesn't mean our references will be recognised or received in the same way by the audience.
Mark: Although we make things we are not interested in bringing about some cathartic experience in ourselves or others. We don't really believe in any romantic inner being connecting with another through the vehicle of music. Neither are we trying to communicate anything and our music does not have an intentional message. Although our work can be explained by others in terms of the values it transmits, this is not our concern. And we have no interest in exploring this. Our focus in making everything is that its just a bunch of sounds we like put into the right order.

Could you please talk about the approach and process in"Atavism"?
Mat: We locked ourselves away in a studio for 5 weeks and focussed only on that project.
Mark: We worked for about 7 weeks in our studio and went home every evening and did a few other things also at the same time. Mostly for the first few weeks we just rewired our studio and removed different pieces of equipment. Then after that we passed the edit around between us and finally finished the edit on a train from Dresden to Berlin in time to master with Lupo at Dub Plates.

Do you have a special or 'favorite' track in the LP?
Mat: No.
Mark: I would have to listen to it.

What other projects will you have forthcomingly both design/art and music based?
Mat: None planned right now other than a high resolution version of Atavism on SD card. It would be nice to have a vinyl version too.
Mark: Yeh!

Do you have any thoughts of making your back catalogue available online. Because some of your former LPs are being sold under very expensive costs. What is your opinion on this situation?
Mat: We've often considered this but never got round to it. For a long time our Mille Plateaux releases were available to buy as MP3's on Itunes and other legitimate sites but this was unauthorized and it took us ages to have them removed from distribution and sale. We didn't want to re-release them ourselves until it was all resolved but may do so in the future. In some ways it's nice that they are no longer available, but I would like to make them available if people want them.
Mark: I think we could do this.

Have you heard of Mille Plateaux re-launching? What do you think about this and will you be a part of it maybe in the future again? Can you talk about the effect of MP to your music and your music's effect on MP?
Yes MP contacted us but by now this is a few generations removed from the original owners and vision/concept. It would not be the same label, and anyway I don't know why anyone would want to restart that label now. It was something that worked at a certain time, for certain reasons.
Mark: The original Mille Plateaux is over. Its time to start something new, not to try to revive its corpse.

What do you think about İstanbul and Turkey? When do you think will you perform here live and would you like to do it?
Mat: We are currently playing live and open to offers. We've never performed in either of these places but it would be great to have the opportunity.
Mark: I would like to go there.

Are you still touring with Autechre duo and do you think the two also will be interested in performing in İstanbul?
Ma: Touring the Autechre is not an ongoing or regular thing, we were just fortunate and happy that they asked us twice. You would have to ask them directly if you want them to come to İstanbul!

Interview: Christopher Çolak
19 July 2009


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