Weird moment. I’m on the telephone to New York with Robin Rimbaud, AKA Scanner, AKA The Telephone Terrorist, Airwave Pirate, and he asks if I’m recordingHIM. I am. He approves, of course, and the conversation continues. In case you still don’t know, Scanner is the musical concept of your dreams. Using scanning equipment, he steals private conversations from the airwaves of the world and drops them into a chilling ambient-techno cold room of sound. An audio voyeur, if you will. Rimbaud himself describes his work thus. It’s a form of self -expression which I hope will move people in emotional, physical or psychological ways. I'd say my stuff, in context within the so-called ambient, avant-garde techno circles, is in a way bringing the human voice back into electronic music. Giving faceless music a human side. I hope it doesn’t sound like all the rest of the techno-dance music.
In a strange way Scanner is humanizing a traditionally cold and Soulless format. As he says, 'people have argued that itís bringing the humane back into the digital world of machines and computers. It may seem bizarre to describe the methods Scanner uses in gathering his vocalcontributions as humanistic, especially listening to a track like 'Heidi' onrecent album 'Delivery' (Rawkus) where some guy basically has a breakdown on his girlfriends answering machine after being cuckolded, but let the man explain. 'I care, I'm a moral person. We all have our own moral guidelines. Mine are such that I use these voices carefully, I change their tones, I take out all full names, phone numbers and personal information. When I use voices live its hard to edit them in any way but I try to take the context out and have just a raw voice. I use the relationships between people, not the people themselves.'
Any person Scanner picks up is immediately stripped of their history, future, and reality based lives, and for the time they're being recorded, they transcend their own identities and become players in a tiny drama where everything is imagined, guessed and formulated in our own heads, provoked by Scannerís musicscapes. 'They become almost invisible characters.
Last night in New York I was dropping in voices live and they were so perfectly in time with the beat, it was extraordinary. People must think its pre-recorded when it works that well, but I had no voices on tape whatsoever. The point is to DO it live-Iíve called it a sound Polaroid. It's a real reflection, so when I'm in Seattle the voices you hear will be Seattleites, last night it was all New York accents. I love it if I pick someone up and they say the time, people listening suddenly realize it is happening right then. And the sound is now as well, it's a bit of cabaret, bringing the outside into this warm indoor space. Some people bring mobile phones with them and ring each other trying to get in the mix.'
When we get down to it, what Scanner does works because it intrigues us. It pricks our voyeuristic curiosity to the extent where the music gains a new edge and dimension because of the strange, secret events unfolding within. ' Undeniably. I defy anyone to say they're not voyeuristic. Even in a bar, someone argues and you have the desire to listen in. There's a fascination everywhere with other peoples lives.' Rimbaud is always equipped to capture the moment. You never know what you might hear if you constantly have your ears flapping.'I take a minidisk recorder with me everywhere to get sounds, from traffic to the subway noise...each city has its own dialogue, you can hear Paris is unique over New York over London, there ís all these sounds that maybe you donít hear if youíve lived there too long.' Rimbaud is a busy man, almost constantly touring and releasing new records under various guises. Apart from Scanner, there is Snappy Sid, a drum n' bass thing, and of course the recent collaboration with Michael Wells (AKA Signs Of Chaos) which Rimbaud describes as 'more like a pop record, very tongue in cheek.' Rimbaud has also just become part of history, having remixed a couple of tracks from the brilliant Golden Palominoís album 'Dead Inside' (Restless) for an EP called 'Dead Outside' which is the first official release ever to be distributed solely via the Internet. Scanner will be in town as part of the Abstract Transmission Tour this week, so charge up your mobile and maybe you could be part of a live performance that uses the City of Seattle as a key instrument.
You always wanted to be a rock star, right?