Q + A : SURGEON
We had the great privilege of having such a legendary artist answering our questions. Ahead of his Marseille premiere for our Paradox night at the Cabaret Aléatoire, we sat down with surgeon to share with you his feelings about ritualistic experiences, invisible rules and his love for a experimental music band. It ended up like one of the greatest achievement on the Paradox project webzine so far.
Alae Ramdani | 18th September 2018
Hi Anthony, thanks for answering our paradoxical questions! You're one of the electronic music artists we respect the most. With over a quarter of century in the scene, what could you say have changed in electronics in this period of time?
Many things have changed, yet on a deeper level they have remained the same. That doesn't disturb me. I can feel at ease with paradox.
I guess you also experienced a change in generations of Techno fans. Do you feel the crowd interacting with electronic music the same way as back in the days ?
It's really difficult for me to separate my own experience from my observations of the techno scene. I guess my answer is the same as to the first question. I really enjoy working on the fundamental level of human experience, emotional and animalistic reaction.
You're also releasing music under your real name, Anthony Child. Can you tell us what is this moniker about artistically?
Surgeon is my techno alias. The music that I release under my own are much more personal projects, originally recordings that I made for myself and not to release. Unbound by the strict framework of techno.
One of the title that caught up our attention from your Anthony Child backcatalogue is: "Caught Dreaming In A Perfect Past". Are you sometimes haunted by your past, asking yourself how you could have done things differently?
I do not believe in regret, I feel strongly about that. The language in the titles of that release were designed to elicit a sense of disorientation of time and space.
You were running a radio show at Rinse FM lately to share with people your picks of the moment. Looks like listening to such a huge amount of music made your relationship with music too much functional and less pleasant. How did you find again the passionate approch for music and is this something related to a hectic period in your life?
Doing the monthly show for Rinse FM was a lot of fun. Prior to that I hadn't presented a regular radio show and I learned a lot doing that, it was a new way to connect with music fans and I really enjoyed it. Putting together the show was very time consuming and so after just over 2 years I decided it was time to end the project. That's frequently the way I work, nothing is forever and I feel it's important to know when it's time to focus on something else rather than holding on to something that's past.
I've always been a passionate music fan, ever since a very early age, that's something that's never left me.
By the way, which artists or labels drew your attention on 2018 ?
I'm always discovering a lot of old music that I hadn't heard before, or just maybe didn't connect with when I first heard it. Sarah Davachi, Stephen Lopkin, Darkthrone, John Abercrombie, Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies, Organic Dial...
A couple of years ago, you were pretty much enthousiastic about the Bristol scene, and artists like Pearson sound or Kowton or Peverlist... What has this scene brought to Electronic music that lacks lately in the pure Techno scene?
Yes, I'm still enthusiastic about their music. I think you're referring to a time when I didn't find much creative energy in the techno scene, so I was looking elsewhere for new music to play in my DJ sets.
Do you have any connection with the techno scene in France ? What do you think about it ?
To be honest, no. I think that if I performed more regularly in France then that connection would occur naturally, at the moment my gigs there are quite sporadic.
Seeing you performing alongside Lady Starlight as opening performance for Lady Gaga's concert is something remarquable in a Techno artist career. You've talked about that experience as a will to "break artistic bounderies". Has this statement got a deeper political meaning that can be understood beyond the artistic field?
Yes, you could call it a political statement. I strongly believe that we shouldn't blindly follow rules and structures in anything. A lot of the time these are invisible and we aren't even aware that we're following them. It's not about breaking every rule just for the sake of it, but considering them and making a conscious decision.
How far performing at huge arenas for a completely different crowd been something special for you? Has it raised a will to spread underground Techno to a wider audience in the future?
I perform at all kinds of events. To be honest many of the larger techno festivals I play at have much bigger audiences than the events I played supporting Lady Gaga. I think that puts into perspective how naive the idea that techno is an underground form of music.
I think it's important for me to play at these larger events to present my style of techno to people who may not have encountered it before.
One of the most remarquable achievements in your career is the duo alongside Regis as British Murder Boys. Can you recall how did you meet with Karl O'Connor?
Mick Harris introduced me to Karl in 1994 as someone who was interested in releasing my music. Even though he'd attended many of the clubs I'd DJed at in Birmingham in the early 90's, we hadn't met before Mick introduced us.
The live recorded in Tokyo in 2013 was supposed to be your last performance together. What has motivated you guys to perform live again?
We felt that there was unfinished business and we both felt good about performing live together again. Performing as a live act, rather than DJ duo as we originally did.
The world of streaming videos is full of weirdness and creativity. Latest trend is called ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) and is a relaxation method made by people whispering and making sounds with specific textures. Would that be something for you? And if not, what do you do to relax usually?
I've heard of ASMR, but it's not something I've investigated at all. I like to spend time with my family and cats, enjoy the countryside and of course listen to music.
Your latest LP under the Surgeon moniker, Luminosity device, is inspired by tibetan books of the dead. Is this LP intended to be used as a media for a shamanic experience or is it itself intended as a shamanic experience?
It's more of a representation of the psychedelic experience. Most of the track titles are inspired by Timothy Leary's The Psychedelic Experience which was based on The Tibetan Book Of The Dead.
Is what happening after death something that you often think about?
I think our atoms return to the Earth.
Recently you teamed up with London based Daniel Beans as The transcendence orchestra. The approach here seems like to use music as media for ritualistic experiences. Do you think the club context is a space for those kind of spiritual connexion between people?
It can be. Many, many levels occur in the same space and time. For example, on the same night in a nightclub one person could get drunk, have a fight and throw up. Another could fall in love and yet another could have a transcendent experience and have the whole course of their life changed.
Have you yourself experienced a ritualistic/religious related experience? and if yes what did you liked the most about it?
Yes, I've had a few (what could be called) religious experiences. It's a huge experience of what I can only describe as awe. It's not really something that I could have used the word 'liked' to describe.
You grew up in a small town near Birmingham and looks like Brum is where you did your first musical encounters. Why do you think the Birmingham scene has such a rich background musicalwise?
I grew up in a small village outside Northampton and have been obsessed with music since an early age. I'm not exactly sure why Birmingham has such a rich musical heritage, there are some common themes though. A very dark and self deprecating sense of humour and a very strong Do It Yourself ethic.
One of the encounters that counts the most for you is Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris. How did you guys meet and is there any further collaborations planned with him?
I don't remember exactly when or how we met, sometime in the early 90's. It was probably through mutual friends as we both lived in the Moseley / Balsall Heath area of Birmingham at that time and there was a large network of musicians and artists living in that area.
When we want to find more about Birmingham techno, what comes next is The House of God party concept where you were a resident dj several years ag. What was so special about those parties that you didn't find anywhere else?
I'm still a resident at The House Of God after 25 years. Since the beginning those parties have been a refuge for all the freaks, weirdos and outcasts. There's a unique energy and atmosphere that I've never experienced anywhere else.
guess almost all your interviews end up speaking about your absolute artistic inspiration. So this will be no exception as this band is worth mentionning for our readers. What would be the first track you would recommand someone to listen from Coil, and why?
It's impossible for me to pick one track, or even one album. Their musical output is so diverse. You could start off with the following albums:
Love's Secret Domain
Worship he Glitch
Black Light District
Music To Play In The Dark Vol.1
As you may have noticed, life & humans are full of paradoxes ! What would you describe as paradoxical in electronic music ?
For me the greatest paradox is how conservative the techno scene is when it presents itself as an experimental form of music.
Thanks a lot Anthony, keep the cool vibe on!
Love and respect