On Line interview
February 2003

How do you view your practice? as social commentary or the re-interpretation and experimentation of information?

I shape shift at will, never defining myself or my work under a particular label, I’m interested in ideas and themes which can manifest themselves in all manner of different ways and avenues. All the works I produce,both in sound and visual art, function as metaphors of the rapid process of mapping blurred boundaries between the intimate, individual sphere and the public, accessible sphere. Whether expressed in clubs, installations, soundtracks, my projects question not only the hidden daily interventions of the immaterial soundscape in our physical environment, but also our very awareness of this ever-present phenomenon, its laws and the possibilities of its manipulation. As such they can be interpreted as both social commentary depending upon the context of the work, as well as using the refocusing on the familiar.

In some ways my work is concerned with capturing, hunting sound from many inaccessible spaces and bringing it out, whether it's the private phone conversations I find in an airspace that proved more public than anyone thought, or location recordings from the restricted access sites which my art projects take me to. It once seemed through experience that everyone wanted to listen but no one wanted to be that person being listened to, everyone wanted to watch but no one wanted to be that person being watched, but with the advent of commercial television ventures like “Big Brother’ around the globe we are beginning to exist ever more in a culture that consumes more real people than ever before. The earlier Scanner works are almost less about sound or music and more about the space of telephony and the atmospherics of transmission. Later on they explore positions which are not clear until the works are made. I barely think too much about my works
until they are finished and then begin to interpret the themes and ideas afterwards.

Deconstructing sound and placing it into a new context, how important are your samples in the relation to the
narrative of a piece?

Interestingly at the moment I’m working on several projects that connect directly with this question, in that I am re-constructing several works by other artists, both historically and new. I am sampling the back catalogue of French musique concrete pioneer Pierre Henry for a performance and work in Berlin, resampling the entire back catalogue of seminal American band The Swans for a compressed release of everyone of their recordings into a single new work, and experimenting with recordings of Andy Warhol’s voice for a German radio play and subsequent CD release that will explore the role of boredom in art and especially in the
approach that Warhol clearly took with his presence.

Where I was previously focusing on the scanner device itself, drawing in sound from the ether and in so doing suggesting a means of mapping the city, where the scanner provided an anonymous window into reality,cutting and pasting information to structure an alternative vernacular, I now also use samplings of locations, of cities, of voices, accents, radio, television, music, etc. to offer a new context to a work.

Sampling is such a massive subjective and controversial subject that we can barely touch the surface here. I still enjoy locating a sound and with technology infinitely twisting and manipulating it into something fresh but still ‘understood’ in musical terms.

What technologies do you implement when creating a piece of work?

I use a series of small boxes that reveal a larger sound that their size might suggest. That includes a sampler, a keyboard I play with a touch sensitive screen, an MP3 player and recorder, an effects unit the size of a credit card and a laptop that floats in textures and rhythms when necessary. It all travels in my hand luggage! I nearly always start from a texture, a sound, an abstract which then begins to suggest the next step, the next shape for the piece to take. I collect together sounds and mix and match them in the simplest manner until you hear what you hear, the finished work. It is remarkably simple really!

No artificial stimulants are used during the creation of my work though: I don't drink tea, coffee and have never touched alcohol, drugs or cigarettes. I even cut sugar out of my diet completely now so perhaps this is the reason behind my constant energy too then! :-)

Utilising such technologies often produces unexpected results, how much control do you have when constructing your work ?

I remain positive and believe that we use the tools of our time to create the work we do. I try not to let the machine impose it’s voice too strongly, yet chance is a key factor in all that we create, be it our plans for a weekend or a musical work and as such I embrace this Cagean approach to creativity. New technologies are writing an achingly fresh new language that we need to learn from and with. Problematically the rapid speed of advancements in new technologies has meant that many are left with a sense of ignorance or the seductive commercial idea that we have to keep up with the latest gadgets, thereby disposing of the uniqueness of another object. I try to keep things as simple as possible personally.

How do you view the relationship between yourself and the audience? Does this relationship change when playing live or when the work is shown within a site specific space ?

This is very relevant to work that I have been producing over the last five years. Where once I was just producing CDs and the occasional live performance, a large part of my output is now public arts based and as such relates very closely to the issue of responsilbility. An audience is the measure of the work that I produce and ultimately influence countless details, from the production to the performance of live works.

If I focus for a moment on a project that I recently completed in Paris this should respond to your question in clear way. I was recently invited to work on a commission that has been the most responsible work I have ever created in a public place, at The Hopital Raymond Poincare in Garches, near Paris, which is famous for treating road injury victims. The chief pathologist Doctor Michel Durigon decided it was time to create a Salle des Departs, a place where families and friends could come to say goodbye to their loved ones without, as he says, “having to suffer sickly background music and a red carpet,” and to follow this through I was commissioned to write the soundtrack to this special place. It has been an extraordinary humanitarian project to be offered this chance to create a musical and artistic space in a hospital morgue, and was personally a remarkable artistic journey of discovery. It was a daunting work, having no idea what culture, religion, age of the visitors may be that would be passing through this space to bid farewell to their loved ones but to be part of project to humanise such a difficult experience, and to be a source of sustenance to mourners cannot simply be expressed in words here. The work is permanent and will be heard by an unexpected audience for years to come .

Do you consider your work to possess qualities more suggestive of sculpture and painting than more conventional forms of electronic music ?

To me art is a process, not as an objectified ‘thing’ that references plastic arts, painting, music, photography, and the relationship between art forms is so flexible that I would almost follow Joseph Beuy’s conception of any public activity or private action as a form of sculpture, so we are in the end all artists.

I realise that when I speak of my work I talk in terms of textures, contextualisation, colour, almost as if they were paintings, not sound works or installations. Art is invaluable to our culture and our value within civilisation.. Art can force questions, opinions, tear open the electromagnetic sphere itself and provide content where there is no content anymore in the wider mass media.

Any current projects or concluding thoughts?

This is such an easy question to ask and a notoriously difficult one to answer. I would never know where to begin. Perhaps tune into my website at www.scannerdot.com and follow the news link on there to keep up to date with current activities. As a friend recently said, I like to make myself busier than an ant colony! A concluding thought? Well, that when one responds to these questions it seems to somehow to squeeze all the amusement out of these works when in fact they are not as dry and cerebral as I tend to make them sound. Accessibility within all my works is essential so please don’t let any academic thought processes distract you from the work at heart.