Let’s start with the most obvious, yet still relevant one. So what exactly ‘grey area’ is?
Presha: It’s a polyrhythmic technique that links two different BPM’s.
Who can be considered the pioneer of the genre?
Presha: It’s not a ‘genre’, more a style – ASC / Sam KDC jointly.
What differs ‘Grey Area’ from other styles of modern electronic music? What unique values it brings to the table?
Presha: I don’t think it was ever seen as that, it was more created as a means to an end, we wanted music that made it easy to link the two BPM’s we loved the most, 128 and 170. No bold claims. To clear something up about Grey Area – recently people have been talking about it as a fusion of ‘drum and bass’ and ‘techno’, but this entirely misses the point. The whole idea of the 170 that was being made at the time was that it was no longer Drum and Bass, even the rhythms were no longer compatible and it was closer to techno which is why we wanted to link it. This is what was done and showed clearly the aesthetics were already techno. People (often journalists) can’t get their head around anything that is 170 / 85 not being Drum and Bass, but that’s lazy. No attempt has ever been made by us to sell Grey Area to media or ever term it as a fusion of Drum and Bass and Techno.
For me personally, ‘grey area’ is a sort of ambient only in the world of rythm-based electronic music. Meaning, it doesn’t attempt to grab all of your attention, but rather creates a space, a certain environment, which listeners with their emotions and feelings. Does such interpretation has its place in your opinion?
Presha: Well it’s techno at the end of the day, ambient techno would be close but the nuts and bolts are techno. It definitely creates it’s own space, but at the bottom of most of it are very strong techno rhythms, and on the right system they work amazingly like most other techno.
For a lot people Samurai Music is a drum&bass label first and foremost. So what was the live reaction of audiences when 170/85 rhythms were mixed with techno and hybrid sound? Wasn’t it considered as a betrayal of some kind?
Presha: Grey Area is more linked to Horo, and the Grey Area label was a collaboration between Horo (which is a techno / ambient label) and ASC’s Auxiliary label. The first Horo night where we played Grey Area it was received amazingly well, and at each subsequent night it has only got better. When ASC visited we did an entire night of Grey Area and it went down perfectly. I can’t get my head around people thinking it would be a betrayal, we never signed a contract to be any one thing.
So how did you meet each other and decided to work together?
Presha: Aim Instant Messenger is where we all met. I started talking to ASC just before the autonomic boom when he was creating those formative tracks and we started working together. Initially I signed a few ASC tracks that got taken off me for Non Plus ha ha ? Not long after I connected with Sam through ASC and we begun working together as well.
Please tell us a bit more about your new EP ‘Feardom’ as well as collab w. Lemna (Ourea I)
‘Feardom’ is a continuation of the ideas both musical and thematic that I started to explore and express with ‘The Order & The Entity’ and continued through ‘Psychic Dirt’ & ‘Law Of The Trapezoid’. ‘Ourea I’ is the first EP written with Lemna, there will be more as Ourea.
What does ‘I’ stand for in the name of your EP ‘Ourea I’? Is the sequel already in works?
Sam KDC: Yeah, II is halfway done.
What’s the difference in your approach towards music making while working solo and collaborating with other artists?
Sam KDC: Working solo can range anywhere from audio masturbation to defining and affirming cathartic moments. You can do these things with other artists too of course, mutually masturbating can be great but perhaps shared experience is needed for any kind of real catharsis. Therefore, collaborative work is often more musically objective and thematic, ideas tend to be verbalised and agreed on before projects begin.
At least judging by discogs.com, you can be called a resident of the Auxiliary label. Could please tell us a bit about your relationship with James (ASC)? What’s going on with your collaboration projects Saturne and Imagination Network? Any plans for the future?
James and I have been friends for about 7 years and working together for most of that time. I’d been a fan of his work for years and eventually built up the nerve to approach him to send him some music. I was surprised to learn that he was already switched on to what I was doing and we became friends almost instantly. We’ve just released the first Saturne record on Auxiliary, a 4 track EP called ‘Trace Elements’. As for Imagination Network, I don’t think anything else will be happening with that project, never say never though.
Not so long ago, Horo was split into a separate label. What was the mindset behind that split and what does the future holds for Horo?
Presha: Samurai = drum and bass and 170 bpm music with strong links to DnB. Horo = Ambient / Techno / Experiments. We were frustrated with people listening to records we put out on Horo and just saying it was ‘drum and bass’ when it clearly wasn’t, just because the Samurai name was attached. It needed to be separate to give the music the chance to be heard for what it is. Horo is changing all the time, I’d say in the next year it will shift again musically. I don’t even know what the future holds, it depends what turns up in my inbox that I love.
This year alone Horo was expanded with 3 new names (SNTS, Grebenstein, Lemna). Yet, when you look online, Horo Soundcloud page clearly states that label doesn’t accept demos. In that case, how do you select new artists for the label? And is there’s even a slight chance for up-and-coming and unknown producers to join SMG crew?
Presha: I listen and my close friends listen to what is around. If I hear something by someone I think has promise or excites me, I’ll usually start talking to them and see what else they have and if we get on as people. I really like to find music organically, this is how the Lemna story started – actually Sam was very instrumental in developing Maiko’s music which he first heard on Soundcloud. So we are listening, just not to what others think we should hear.
You moved to Berlin from New-Zealand some time ago. How did the change of scenery affected you personally and the way labels operate?
Presha: I could write a book about that! The main difference is it cemented and grew existing relationships with people and developed new ones as I got to spend time with like minded people personally. It also made my taste in music change very rapidly as I got to experience it close up and not from a distance. New Zealand is very isolated and you have this idea of who you are and the people you connect with based on what you experience out there and your perception of how the main core of people are in Europe from dealing with them online. Actually living in the middle of it changes all that drastically.
I was really surprised to learn that you reside in Malaga, Spain. It’s really difficult to understand how one can create such dark and industrial-tinged tunes while living on next to the sunlit seaside. What’s the secret? Does your surrounding affect your sound and work process?
Sam KDC: It definitely affects work process and flow. I actually live about an hour drive north of Malaga in a tiny village up a mountain. Being this isolated and free from social distractions and employment restrictions for the last few years has allowed me to live and work with less external influence and dilution. I’d like to think that my work comes from what’s going on inside of me, not outside of me and being here and being so cut off has allowed me to explore inner realms much more effectively I think.
Any hobbies/activities beside music production and live DJing?
Sam KDC: Yeah, loads, but not the kind of things I talk about with people I’m not close with. I read a lot though and usually have at least 2 books on the go at any time. I have two dogs and am surrounded by pretty awesome nature, so I walk a fair bit too. I was volunteering with an animal charity for the first year or so that I lived in Spain, and that’s something I’d like to get back into when the time is right.
2 new Horo projects were presented during Berlin Atonal – Pact Infernal & Lemna. How did the performances go? What was the reaction from audience?
Presha: Yeah amazing, both went down very well. Reactions were better than we expected, especially for Lemna.
Sam KDC: It was epic. Obviously I’m biased but the atmosphere when Lemna played was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before from electronic music. The last 20 minutes were insane, there were points where you could barely hear the music over people screaming. At the end when the music stopped, we even saw some people crying and hugging in the audience. It was fucking unreal!
There’s a whole pool of artists around SMG that release vinyls and even play live, yet remain completely anonymous. We’re talking the likes of DiNT. Pact Infernal, Separation Anxiety. What drives this sort of mysticism? Can it be seen as some sort of subversive self-promotion? Because apparently anonymity can be pretty a pretty effective way to attract listeners.
Presha: The goal is to bring the focus back on the music and for music to be seen as what it is without pre conceptions. It’s kind of the opposite of self promotion really. It does work. In todays culture everything is based around instantaneous gratification, not being able to get everything you want information wise is quite challenging to people now. I still get one guy that tweets at me totally baffled as to why I won’t tell him who Pact Infernal are. Like it’s his absolute right to know.
So, could you please tell us about the mysterious ‘DiNT’ project (if it’s possible ofc)?
Presha: They’re a loose collective of devil worshipping cross burners.
Some of your releases and composition features ritualistic sounds and occult elements. Is it something that interests you?
Sam KDC: This is a difficult question to answer in a short space. There is a lot of focus on the aesthetics of the occult in music and it’s becoming more prominent again in electronic / techno informed music. And this is only natural, I believe that most humans are drawn to the unknown/taboo and the ‘dark’ aspects of existence, but most, arguably, live in fear of their compulsions and indeed of themselves, and therefore deny their curiosities. For those who do accept it, some will fully envelop themselves with it, explore what it really is and others will merely flirt with it and borrow ideas, themes and imagery in attempt to give their craft a bit of an edge or depth. Neither is particularly right or wrong, it’s all subjective really.
Vinyl remains the core format for all Samurai imprints. However there’s a singular tape release by Fenton on Horo. Why such format has been chosen
Presha: We also did an ENA tape. We like tapes so we did them, will probably do more. I try and do what the artist feels is best for their music.
You were part of the hardcore-punk subculture back in the day and also fronted a metal band. So how did you move from guitar-driven music to electronic sound? Do you still listed to punk/metal records?
Presha: I always listened to electronic music right from my early introduction to music. I worked in record shops from a young age and was a big fan of early hip hop records. The move came from DJing. I was DJing metal / rock records in clubs in the UK in 90 / 91, then went home to NZ and my interest in DJing developed into a desire to mix properly. My metal friends saw the change as a betrayal that’s for sure. A lot of them still haven’t forgiven me to this day. One of the last gigs with my band was supporting Metallica on the ‘And Justice For All’ tour so we went out on a high note. I love a lot of music and yes still regularly buy punk / metal records and go to shows.
Please tell us about your favorite music. Any all time favorites, new names that inspire you?
Presha: All time faves – Miles Davis, Black Sabbath, Patti Smith, The Birthday Party & Samhain. Current favourites – Electric Wizard, Trepaneringsritualen, Fret, Laraaji and everyone on the labels.
Sam KDC: Some all-time favourites that stem from childhood that I still listen to now are Sonic Youth, The Butthole Surfers, Frank Zappa, Nirvana, etc. I listen more to bands / singer songwriters than electronic composers and most of what I’ve been listening to for the last few years is bands from the 80s & 90s that I missed at the time. New name that inspires me more than anyone is Lemna, I find her music more exciting than anyone else’s right now and she’s a big inspiration in my life beyond music as well.
Any Russian names you’re familiar with? Anything you like?
Presha: Obviously BOP, Abstract Elements, Torn, Nina Kraviz. Torn is the current Russian fave.
Do the visuals (meaning, both artworks and other media) play significant role for SMG releases and events?
Presha: Sure, I work closely with Ryan Quinlivan who has been our designer for 10 years to get the look that we feel best suits the music. We’ve yet to find anyone able to translate it into a live setting. Open to offers..
What are the criteria for picking tunes for your DJ sets? What % share of set is usually being dedicated unreleased and obscure stuff?
Sam KDC: There’s really no set formula. Depends on who else is on the line up, what the venue is, as well as how much unreleased music there is at that moment. There are times when everybody has loads of freshness all at once and it’s all great, you can play a 2 hour set of unreleased and largely unheard music easily. And then there are times when it’s hard to find more than one or two tunes that are unreleased that you want to play. I like to try and create a balance of playing music that’s unheard with music that’s familiar, as that’s what I like to hear when I’m in a club.
Based on the number of orders online and overall feedback, would you say there’s an interest for Samurai Music / Horo in Russia?
Presha: Absolutely, it would probably increase if the Russian post was more reliable.
So what can we expect in the future from SMG as a label and your music projects?
Presha: Lots more music, mostly on vinyl ?
What do you expect from the gig in Moscow?
Presha: Actually not much idea what to expect. I just look forward to meeting new people and playing music that I hope they enjoy.
Sam KDC: I expect nothing, but hope for deviance.