Thursday, 29 January 2009

Stealing Time: Q & A with Vandal

Last week, long time electronic artist and DJ, Sam Evans, better known to dancefloors across the world as Vandal, got his candid on for the reading enjoyment of TFM. By now most blog visitors will be quite familiar with his newest single, ‘Captain Magic’, and indeed, it’s a racy video. But here we have the opportunity to delve deeper with the breakbeat veteran, including some of his inspirations, general musical musings, and future plans. Enjoy.

Q: I see on your myspace page that we've both grown up listening to a large amount of the same music, from the hair bands to the boss. So, I have to ask, who's your favourite non electronic artist?

Tough call, either Bruce Springsteen or Fugazi. I’d have to go for Springsteen just because I’ve listened to him all my life. I’ve seen him play many times over the last two decade and he still blows me away. Although his musical output over the last decade or so has been very inconsistent quality wise. Fugazi always stuck to their guns though and consistency in quality of all their albums was exceptional. Both acts are legends in different ways.

Q: Any defining moment or track that got you into dance music?

It’s hard to pick any defining moment but the years 92-94 was the period when I really started getting into electronic music. I remember my mate gave me a copy of the brown album by orbital and straight away I was hooked. The track ‘Impact’ just blew me away. 94 I got to see Orbital at their now infamous Glastonbury show and it was like nothing I’d seen before, looking back it was quite a basic show in terms of lighting & visuals but at the time it was very different. Only the Orb were doing anything similar on that kind of scale. Early in 94 I also got to see Underworld play at the university in Sheffield, I really remember that night as it was the first time I’d ever seen a band that didn’t have a pit down the front. I also realised very quickly that I was shit at dancing. Good times.

Q: Having been a successful label manager during the last good years of vinyl, and now being a part of the digital age, would you say that dance music artists struggle more these days against being anonymous?

In my opinion nothing much has really changed, if someone looks good or has an interesting appearance and produces fairly strong music then, providing they have fairly good PR, they will be noticed. When I was working with Plastic Raygun all artists had promo shots and biogs but the records were sold on the quality of music, definitely not on our good looks and taste in fashion! I think the major difference these days is the sheer volume of music available to buy.

Q: If you could only choose one or the other, which would it be: DJing or producing?

I love producing, I’ll quite happily spend 12 hours in the studio without batting an eyelid. I would class myself as a true nerd, although I still struggle working with computers! But Djing is something else, nothing beats having a crowd going off to your own music. Djing has taken me all around the globe. I’ve played some unbelievable shows, seen some amazing sites and met some great people.

Q: How do you approach or become inspired to writing new tracks? Is it a melody in your head or do you start throwing loops together, etc?

I found just playing out or hearing other tunes (new & old) is enough to inspire me. I don’t really start writing with a melody, I tend to go drums, bass then leadline.

Q: Is there a remix that you've done for another artist that you would consider your favourite?

Probably my remix of Dynamo Dresden’s ‘In The End’. It came out around 2003 (I think), it was ltd to vinyl promo run and never went on general release. It’s completely different to anything I’d done before or since, my love of Underworld shines through! The reactions that remix received were something else. Freeland, Rob Da Bank, Paul Van Dyke…the feedback across the board was exceptional.

Q: It was 20 months between 'Idiots' and 'Captain Magic'. Writers block or just extended time by the pool?

Not sure really, I’ve never been that prolific. After Idiots came out in 2007 I had plenty of stuff to deal with outside of music and that did affect my writing so that probably had something to do with it. Captain Magic will be my fourth single in over 4 years. I’ve just always looked for the big tune. The weird thing is I’m constantly writing but it’s not just tough dancefloor music, I’ve written and produced tracks for a few different acts over the last couple of years. Hopefully 2009 will see a few more Vandal tunes out there though.

Q: So, the 'Captain Magic' video...inspiring stuff to say the least. And I'll admit, I spent a few handfuls of dollar bills supporting my favourite single moms after first viewing it, but it must've been hard work shooting that video. Any words on how the idea came about, tomfoolery during the shoot, how it's been received, etc?

The feedback has been great, people either think it’s genius or just wrong! It’s made a lot of people laugh which is what I wanted. It’s all very tongue in cheek. The idea was to create a superhero character who had made a sex tape which was then leaked. The actress was a friend of a photographer I work with and the shoot was the first time we had met so it was quite funny to begin with. Basically I’m asking someone I’ve never met before to do some dirty dancing for me in a hotel room, which we will be filming, and I’ll be dressed up in an outfit that makes me look like a camp superhero! The track Captain Magic is really filthy and I wanted the video to have a real seedy style.

Q: Finally, what's next on the agenda for Vandal?

The Captain Magic release is officially out in February then I’ve got a remix of a Dopamine track out on LOT49. I’ve also been working on two remixes of a band called Operahouse, they’re signed up to the label that discovered the Killers. After that it’s a case of sorting the next few EPs and Djing.

Many thanks to Vandal for the opportunity to talk to him, and look out for more keynote interviews on the tech-funk manifesto.

And now, let's have another look at the Captain Magic video.

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