One of the many highlights of this summer was the Funktion-One Experimental Soundfield at Glastonbury. This special area of the festival really carries the original essence of Glastonbury. Among the performers there was YOUTH. It’s hard to summarise YOUTH’s career but let’s try…
He is a founding member of Killing Joke and has collaborated with Paul McCartney for The Firemen project. YOUTH’s Butterfly Records label has produced artists such as Take That, Wet Wet Wet, Tom Jones, The Orb, Maria McKee and Heather Nova. Youth was the co-producer of The Verve’s Urban Hymns and Dolores O’Riordan’s ‘Are You Listening?’.
He has also worked, produced and remixed for bands including Kate Bush, Guns N’ Roses, Primal Scream, Embrace, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Art of Noise, Crowded House, Zoe, P.M. Dawn, Yazoo, Erasure, U2, Bananarama, INXS, James, Suns of Arqa, Depeche Mode, The Shamen, Misery Loves Co., Texas, Dido, Gravity Kills, Fake?, Pink Floyd and The Charlatans.
We were lucky enough to catch with him to discuss Glasto and his upcoming projects.
How was Glastonbury this year?
Despite the challenge of the mud, which was immense, and it raining pretty much all the time, despite that, musically everything I saw was fantastic. Whether it was Ronnie Spector or Kamasi Washington or a DJ tucked away somewhere. I was just on a really good flow this year. Wherever I landed, it was really great, which is often the way with Glastonbury because everything’s pretty great there.
I was with a good bunch of friends. Let’s not forget, Glastonbury and all the festivals are about connecting with friends, making new ones, bonding with old friends and sharing the experience with lots of like-minded people. That’s really what it’s all about – friendship, which increases our overall sense of happiness and well-being.
The Experimental Soundfield returned to the festival…
It’s funny, I’ve been going to Glastonbury for over 25 years, and I remember when Tony introduced the first Experimental Soundfield, which, apart from the technical innovation of it, it was innovative for Glastonbury because it was playing mainly electronic dance music and that was still considered to be a bit controversial. It was before they even had a dance tent.
Glastonbury is constantly evolving and changing and morphing, I think it’s good that it does. It has to re-invent itself. The dance tent isn’t there any more; it was like a grime tent this year. If that’s the current climate of where underground music is, that’s great. It’ll probably be the death of grime though! [laughs]
I think the Glade has been there on and off for 25 years or so, and it has been predominantly electronic music. I think that’s become part of the Glastonbury DNA, so I think it is important. It reflects a particular side of electronic music; it incorporates techno, ambient and the best of it.
The curatorship of that particular area is always very good. They have a high criterion and it’s quite a high profile spot. It’s a great spot because you’ve got the shade and those rows of trees. And it’s a good spot for Tony to experiment with his wizardry at his Experimental Soundfield – his holographic sound experience.
Did you spend a lot of time there?
I did spend a lot of time at the Glade. Again, everything I saw there was great. The highlight for me was A Guy Called Gerald. He was doing a special thing with Tony, where they had different sounds coming out of the six stacks. Tony was weaving his magic at the mixer and it sounded amazing. And, of course, another highlight was when I opened the Friday daytime set.
I did this dub, Pink Floyd-inspired journey. I managed to coax a few people out of their nylon caves and through the rain and mud. By the end of it I had a great crowd. Tony was doing the sound. I was giving Tony weird sort of doppler sound effects of foxes and jets and stuff that he was spinning round the system while I was doing a stereo main signal, which is very much like what Pink Floyd used for holographic sound effects. That was a great honour, to have Tony participating in that. I really enjoyed it and got a great response for the rest of the weekend, with people coming up to me and saying it really blew them away, which was fabulous.
Do you think audio quality has a big impact on audiences?
I think it does, yeah. I think people often underestimate the public’s capacity for appreciating high criteria music and art, you know? They’re very discerning, the public. They’re super aware of what the possibilities are and what the criteria is. I experienced sound at another area of the festival that had issues with latency and it really impacted the enjoyment of it, whereas at the Glade there was no latency there at all. It was really crystal, pristine clarity. That really makes a difference for me as a fan. If I’m noticing that, other people will too.
What was the sound like at the Experimental Soundfield?
Even though we’ve got two ears and we hear music in stereo, those ears can pick up vertical and horizontal sounds, as well as other geometric tangents. Having a six stack circular system, as opposed to four or even just two, creates a more holographic soundfield for you to experience the sound. It creates more sweet spots where the sound is pristine. It also gives you the opportunity to do more 3D special effects with certain sounds by being able to move the around the circle.
I suspect, and I’m sure Tony will agree, that we’re really on the cusp of technology and the science of sound design and projection. We still don’t know how they built The Pyramids. We’re only just starting to understand what sound can do. I think Tony Andrews and Funktion-One are at the cutting edge, the sharpest point of the sphere of sound design, and have been for many years. I look forward to new discoveries in the future. I have a vision of having sound systems in the desert, where you have 40k buried under the sand for subs, and speakers all around surrounding you, for this amazing holographic aural experience. Having said all that, I just love a dirty, filthy techno record on a very cheap bashed up rig as well. Both extremes. But it can only get better with the science and technology getting better. Already the leaps in terms of what Tony demonstrated to me, what I heard at Glastonbury this year compared to 20 years ago, say, or even 10 years ago is massive.
Also the way the music has changed. With dubstep culture and garage culture and grime, how we listen to bass now is different. It’s changed the nature of bass. The new technology can recognise that and respond to that in a way the old stuff can’t. It’s all really exciting, how the technology is evolving together with the music.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m just finishing up the Jesus and Mary Chain album, which is exciting. Just got a new release coming out at the end of August – David Tibet and myself as a collaboration under the name Hypnopazūzu on House of Mythology Records, on vinyl. That’s really exciting. I’m doing a Hypnopazūzu gig on October 22nd at Union Chapel. I’m very, very happy with the production on that. There are a couple of tracks up on YouTube, you can hear the production and the quality of the sound. I’m delighted with that. We’ve got Killing Joke’s European tour in October. And I’m going to be doing a launch of Pure Tone Resonate Festival, which is going to happen next year properly but we’re going to have a big party in September to launch that this year. So there’s lots going on.
Find out more about what Youth is up to on his website.