Oct 30, 2014

SYNTH RADIO: Simple Things Special – General Ludd In The Mix

Synth Radio returns this week with a Simple Things Festival special. Taking place across three venues this Saturday, you can expect to see the likes of Lone, Autechre, Nightmares On Wax and Seven Davis Jnr at the at the Art School and 02ABC, while we’ll be hosting a stage at Broadcast with some of our favourite local live talent. Following on from our musical preview yesterday, this month’s radio show showcases the artists who will be joining us, with a super fresh and grooving guest mix from our headliners, General Ludd.

Picking one track to include from each act wasn’t easy, but these are the songs we’ve been listening to in the run up to the festival and we’re pretty sure you’ll dig them too. From the stunning shimmer of Sad City to the electro-funk of Joe Howe, this month’s show is sounding utterly essential.

Listen and check out the tracklisting below:

1. Fortwinks – Askew
2. Sad City – Apricot
3. MermaidS – MersteriouS
4. Atom Tree – Hearts
5. Machines In Heaven – Feel Slow
7. Sega Bodega - Jansen
6. Joe Howe & Matthias Zimmerman – Jules
8. General Ludd – Woo Ha

General Ludd In The Mix

COMPETITION: We also have two pairs of tickets to giveaway to the festival courtesy of Simple Things which will cover all three venues and performances. All you need to do to enter is head over to the Synth Facebook fanpage and type ‘SIMPLETHINGSxSYNTHPRESENTS’ on the wall. We’ll select two winners at random tomorrow afternoon. As always, please be sure to check out the T&Cs below.

Terms & conditions: Please note that this prize is for 2x pairs of tickets for Simple Things Festival on Saturday 1st November. There will be two winners. The competition closes at 2pm on Friday 31st and the winners will be notified via Facebook comment (please check your Facebook entry in the hours following the closure of the competition). The winner must be 18 years or older. After we have passed on the winner’s details to the event organisers we then pass on responsibility for entry on the night.

Catch all the acts featured on this month's radio show live with Synth Presents at Simple Things Festival this Saturday at Broadcast (doors 14.00). Other acts appearing at the Art School and 02ABC include Lone, Actress, Nightmares On Wax and Autechre. Advance tickets are available from Ticketweb. Check the Simple Things Facebook page for set times.

Simple Things Festival Website
Simple Things Festival on Facebook
Simple Things Festival on Twitter

Oct 28, 2014

PREVIEW: Synth Presents At Simple Things Festival

This Saturday Simple Things Festival comes to Glasgow for the first time, bringing a selection of the world’s most exciting electronic music with it. We’re honoured to be hosting a stage at Broadcast where we’ve invited some of the city’s finest live talent to represent, featuring eight essential artists, acts and bands which we believe are destined for great things. Here is your guide to Synth Presents at Simple Things; we're sure you won't be disappointed:

1. GENERAL LUDD (pictured above) 

A word-of-mouth duo who released their irresistibly funky debut on cooler than cool NY label, Mister Saturday Night, earlier this year, General Ludd are Tom Marshallsay (Dam Mantle) and Richard McMaster (Golden Teacher). If you’re already aware of their respective projects then you’re quite right to get excited at the thought of them working together, with a groove-heavy fusion of disco-flecked house and rhythmic bass characterising their sound. Prepare to get up to get down…


Another man who has had a colourful past, Joe Howe has been making weird and wonderful electronic music for many years. You may have heard of his previous projects, Ben Butler & Mousepad and Gay Against You, but adopting his own name to write oddball chip-pin electro may be our favourite thing he’s ever done. Snapped up by equally eccentric French label, Sound Pellegrino, his ‘EXEP’ EP received rave reviews from the likes of Mixmag. Expect hardware and plenty of FUN.


Salvador Navarrete is easily one of Glasgow’s most exiting new talents. With only two official EPs under his belt, the burgeoning producer has already supported the likes of Bondax and Flume, while also drawing a big crowd at Radio 1’s Big Weekend. Listen to his music and it’s easy to hear why: explosive arrangements and emotive themes set the tone, while a sense of spontaneity will keep you guessing.


Having caused a stir on the underground with shows at the Sub Club and Berkeley Suite, the cosmic duo of MermaidS have become one of the hottest production teams in town. Crafting slow motion disco and deep, balearic house (not to mention the odd re-rub of Madonna), their releases on Glasgow Underground, Young Adults and Non Local all have one thing in common: soul.


Recently highlighted by the NME as one of Scotland’s essential new bands, Machines In Heaven are a Glaswegian trio making multi-layered synth music which is both intricate and fluid. Their debut album, ‘Bordersbreakdown’, brims with clever ideas, hooks and melody, with the nine minute title track underlining their aptitude for complex song structures. Their music is experimental, challenging and beautiful all at the same time.


There’s a lot of chat surrounding fellow Glaswegian three-piece, Atom Tree, mostly affirming what we already know: these guys are going places. Debut EP, ‘Tide Of Thorns’ was a sparkling pool of emotion, coupling sweet melodies with soaring synths and grand gestures, while the late addition of vocalist Julie Knox has further exemplified their crossover potential. We’ve got a feeling 2015 will be a big year for them.


We’ve literally spent hours lost in a Sad City record, and at the risk of sounding clichéd, when you press play on Gary Caruth’s music you embark on a very special and unpredictable journey. Two releases so far (both on Phonica Special Editons) have received fantastic reviews, with the most recent, ‘Introduction To Lisboa/Sloe’, taking us to the streets of Lisbon via a patchwork of rich soundscapes and lucid field recordings.

8. HANDPICKED SHOWCASE (Bessa, Fortywinks, Cheeky Forty and Mr Tuner)

Our favourite DIY label is home to some of Glasgow’s freshest new talent, exposed through their hugely popular cassette series. Joining label founder Mr Tuner at Simple Things will be Bessa, Fortywinks and Cheeky Forty, three artists who are a constant on our Soundcloud stream. Mainly producing instrumental hip hop that echoes Dilla, Flying Lotus and Rustie, these guys know exactly how to get a party started.

Catch all the acts listed above live with Synth Presents at Simple Things Festival this Saturday at Broadcast (doors 14.00). Other acts appearing at 02ABC and Art School include Lone, Actress, Nightmares On Wax and Autechre. Advance tickets are available from Ticketweb.

Simple Things Festival Website
Simple Things Festival on Facebook
Simple Things Festival on Twitter

Oct 23, 2014

WORDS: Alex Caslano

Last year Numbers re-released a track called ‘Portland’ by an artist called Sparky. It came with a 30min remix from Ricardo Villalobos and helped celebrate the label’s tenth anniversary. The original version of the track is an infectious electro jam which was first written in 1998, later picked up by Numbers and pinned as a dancefloor anthem at their parties. To say ‘Portland’ has been on a journey would be an understatement – it’s taken on a life of its own, and it’s unlikely the man who wrote it could ever have predicted how far it would go. But ‘Portland’ is only one chapter in Dave Clark’s story, and if the music from his latest guise, LUMA, is anything to go by, then the next chapter is shaping up to be pretty special too.

Having first started making electronic music with a friend in 1991, Dave has produced and released under a series of monikers, first signed to JD Twitch’s label T&B Vinyl under the name State Of Flux. “Very soon after that we began playing live shows” he recalls, “our first supporting Black Dog which blew my mind as they were already complete heroes of ours. We released a few EPs and played loads of gigs in the UK and abroad but split in '94, and I carried on using the name 'Sparky'.”

Fast forward to 2013 and Dave has hooked up with JD Twitch again, releasing on his Optimo Trax label as LUMA. “I decided I wanted to make some no-nonsense club tracks which were a bit of a departure from what I'd done in the past” he tells us. “I thought a new alias was needed, so I guess that's the idea behind LUMA - dancefloor stuff.” Striking somewhere between Chicago house and upfront techno, he’s certainly delivered what he set out to achieve, with a new LUMA release earmarked for early in 2015. In the meantime, you can catch him playing at Simple Things Festival next weekend where the story continues…

Check out the extended mix of LUMA’s ‘Portland’ below, as well as his recent EP for Optimo Music and his Essential Mix for Radio 1. You can also read our full interview with Dave, talking more about the 'Portland' journey, the early Numbers parties and what he thinks about the new wave of Glasgow talent:

Synth: So it’s a pleasure to finally speak with you Dave, and although we’re checking in on you as LUMA, it would be a crime not to reflect on your early work too. For those that don’t know, when and how did you make your entrance to electronic music and the Glasgow scene?

LUMA: I started making electronic music seriously in 1991 once I got to university in Glasgow; I got together with a friend, and we began recording under the name State Of Flux. We sent out demos and one of the tapes was eventually picked up by Keith McIvor (JD Twitch) in late '92 who asked us to do an EP on his first label, T&B Vinyl. Very soon after that we began playing live shows, our first supporting Black Dog which blew my mind as they were already complete heroes of ours. We released a few EPs and played loads of gigs in the UK and abroad but split in '94, and I carried on using the name 'Sparky'. There is a 12" of tracks I made in late '94 as Sparky out in the next couple of weeks on Rubadub records.

Synth: Last year Numbers re-released your seminal Sparky track, ‘Portland’, with a special 30min Ricardo Villalobos remix; when did you become aware that Ricardo was a fan of the original? Reading some of the back story, it seems like that record has been on an incredible journey!

LUMA: Yeah, it's pretty weird how far that one track has gone. It was done live as a wee jam in '98 just to test out a new synth I'd bought that week, and it sat on a DAT for ages and I never played it to anyone. In 2001, Richard Chater from Numbers, who's an old pal of mine, had decided to start up his first label, Stuffrecords, and asked me for some tracks. 'Portland' came out on the first release and after a while we learned that Ricardo Villalobos had charted it somewhere. When Numbers decided to re-release it last year, they got in contact with Villalobos and he agreed to do the remix. Crazy how far a jam done in half an hour can go!

Synth: Looking back at the early 'Portland' sessions and particularly some of the Numbers parties where the song became a favourite, what was the reaction like when it dropped and why do you think it took off?

LUMA: The early Numbers parties were at small venues (Ad Lib/Brunswick Hotel) in Glasgow and they were very intimate and most of the punters were good pals. The atmosphere was always high energy basement madness, and there were many many anthems back then. 'Portland' just became one of those recognisable tunes that people wanted to hear, and maybe loved a lot because it was local and connected to the club. The whole crowd would hilariously chant the bassline melody; it would always send the room completely bonkers, despite being only about two and a half minutes long.

Synth: You’ve had quite a few monikers down the years including Truffle Club and of course Sparky, but it’s your recent work as LUMA which turned us on to you; how would you describe LUMA as fitting in on your musical timeline?

LUMA: After a stint remixing with JD Twitch I hadn't released much of my own stuff for a while. I decided I wanted to make some no-nonsense club tracks which was a bit of a departure from what I'd done in the past, so I thought a new alias was needed. So I guess that's the idea behind LUMA - dancefloor stuff. There's a new LUMA record coming early 2015 on a rather fine label…

Synth: We’re constantly amazed at the talent which Glasgow seems to be producing at the moment. As someone who has been prevalent both on and behind the scene for many years, has it been exciting to experience its evolution and see all these young guys come up?

LUMA: In the last 10 years or so, Glasgow and Scotland in general has been amazing in terms of new talent. Obviously Hudson Mohawke and Rustie need to be name-checked, but there are many many more. The Firecracker stuff, Linkwood, LuckyMe, Lord Of The Isles, Koreless, Denis Sulta, General Ludd to name a few. I think Scotland has finally found its feet and gained a lot of confidence recently in electronic music and won't be going away anytime soon.

Synth: Finally, we’re very pleased to see you on the bill for Simple Things Festival – the line up is looking tasty. What can we expect from your set? Do you work in any live elements?

LUMA: Not sure how to answer this one…..

Luma plays Simple Things Festival in Glasgow on Nov 1st. Check out the full line up here; tickets are available in advance from Ticketweb. The Tuff City, Ricardo Villalobos and original mixes of ‘Portland’ are available now.

LUMA on Soundcloud
LUMA on Twitter

Oct 22, 2014

RELEASE: Sad City – Introduction To Lisboa / Sloe

They say good things come to those who wait, and while Gary Caruth aka Sad City has taken his sweet time over new EP, ‘Introduction To Lisboa / Sloe’, our patience has definitely been rewarded. Following on from last year’s ambient gem, ‘You Will Soon Find That Life Is Wonderful’, the Glasgow-based producer returns with a six track tapestry of lush soundscapes and mesmerising melody, weaved together with stunning intricacy. With the first part of the EP inspired and comprised by a series of field recordings made on a recent trip to Lisbon, you’ll find yourself seduced by rich textures and distant echoes, descending like a mesmerising haze which envelops your senses. “I wanted the music and field recordings to meld at times” explains the producer; “to obscure what was conventionally the musical element and what were field recordings, blurring the line between found sound and composition in the creation of a whole other.” 

Listen to the EP in full below and catch Sad City live at Simple Things Festival where he joins us for Synth Presents:

Sad City ‘Introduction To Lisbo / Sloe’ is available on Oct 27th via Phonica Special Edition. Catch him live at Simple Things Festival in Glasgow on Nov 1st. Advance tickets available here.

Sad City on Soundcloud
Sad City on Facebook
Sad City on Twitter

Oct 21, 2014

FEATURE: 808 State - Back To The Future
WORDS: Alex Caslano

If you were of an age to party during the second summer of love, then chances are you will have lost your shit to 808 State. One of the most important dance acts of all time, their use of the iconic Roland TR-808 drum machine and prominence in acid house led them to soundtrack a generation. A collective of experimental producers who bonded at Manchester’s legendary Eastern Bloc Record store, they’re cited by Autechre and Aphex Twin as a major influence, having fused some of the most exciting sounds of the day to create something which was unequivocally theirs.

Harnessing the new technology which had become available, there was a sense of pioneering and possibility, as explained by Graham Massey, one of the founding members of the group: “we recognized a technology revolution, in that synths and other music tech that had seemed unobtainable was now becoming part of our world. I was on a sound engineering course and was able to come into contact with the new technology, but meanwhile we were picking up second-hand music gear at knockdown prices.” The process of making music certainly wasn’t uniform, but the results were extraordinary. 808 State’s debut album, ‘Newbuild’, was a challenging vision of the future, described as "what Detroit techno sounds like after Manchester roughs it up".

Of course, it would be short sighted not to mention ‘Pacific State’, a song which took on a life of its own and boasts one of the most recognisable sax lines to ever feature on record. It was the track which took them onto daytime radio, but never eclipsed the band’s pioneering and experimental reputation, a reputation which follows them to this day. “We still use some of the gear we've had since 1988” continues Graham. “I’m also using some of the new Roland hardware and I always like to throw in new software”. Still touring and appearing in Glasgow this Saturday, we ask about their set up on stage: “sometimes I decide on the morning of the gig" he tells us. "The size of the vehicle dictates what we bring…”

Check out a full stream of 808 State’s debut album, ‘Newbuild’, below, as well as the seminal ‘Pacific State’. You can also read our full interview with founding member, Graham Massey, in which we talk more about the revolution of technology during the 80s and how the 808 State story began:

Synth: Before 808 State you had a hip-hop group called Hit Squad Manchester with Gerald Simpson and Martin Price. Who were the artists that were inspiring you at that time and how did they influence your own productions?

Graham: The Hitsquad MCR was really just a record project born from a bunch of people who frequented the Eastern Bloc Store; hip hop Crews handing in tapes. We tried to get a grant from some local scheme to pay for some studio time, but in the end one of the guys at the store used his Gran's inheritance I think. Studio time was prohibitively expensive back in the day.

The idea was to record a couple of the hip-hop crews (there were 3 crews) and also do a sample record in the style of Double D and Steinski. So there were about 12 people in the studio all trying to make a record from bits of other records, and that's what it sounds like - a right dog’s dinner.

Within that initial group of 12 were 808 State members to be: Darren and Andy, Gerald and MC Tunes, Martin Price and myself. It gave us a chance to meet each other and from that we set up a few gigs and worked out how to do live shows using drum machines and synths.

As a spin off from Hitsquad, Martin, Gerald and I began State 808 (as it was first called) doing acid house at hip-hop gigs. We were bringing a lot of different musical tastes to the studio but a common one was the Street Sounds electro records. There was also a local radio show, ‘Stu Allen’, which played an hour of hip-hop and an hour of house and street soul. We all used to tape that show in order to keep up with imports, then we had Martin at the record store turning us on to stuff, and of course being musicians already we all had our own mad record collections. A journalist pointed out how much of a post-punk UK sensibility we had on records like 'Quadrastate’ and Ninety, and it makes sense; Martin and I had only just come through all that. The younger members still had eclectic tastes but more informed by hip hop and the break scene.

Synth: Do you think that the 80s are sometimes overlooked in terms of musical influence? Many people when they hear ‘80s’ automatically think of big overblown synth pop, but it also heralded the arrival of hip hop and Chicago house. At the time did you recognise it as a period of musical revolution even before acid house exploded?

Graham: Yes, we recognized a technology revolution, in that synths and other music tech that had seemed unobtainable was now becoming part of our world, through pawn shops and the rapid obsoleteness of older models of drum machines and analogue synths (or so it seemed at the time). Atari Computers were a revolution in themselves and also samplers becoming less than five figure prices; this meant that studios in the northwest invested at a basic level in new tech.

I was on a sound engineering course and so was able to come into contact with the new technology, but meanwhile we were picking up second hand music gear at knockdown prices. These days even places like Cash Converter are a little too knowing. Back then it was "have my SH101...why would I need it? It doesn’t have midi like my DX7."

In learning sound engineering I was listening to a lot of production by Adrian Sherwood and being very influenced by Miles Davis’ producer, Teo Macero, who did creative editing and sound processing. Editing was something that was still analogue tape splicing but it made you think about non-performance structures, juxtapositions, odd bar lengths and other spice.

Synth: You celebrated 808 State’s 25th anniversary last year and we’re actually just listening to ‘Newbuild’ now; do you find new generations are discovering your music and coming along to the shows? You’ve got a teenage son…he must be pretty clued up!

Graham: Yes, my son is doing music tech at sixth form College; his textbook name checks The Orb, Underworld, Orbital and the Chemical Brothers, so yes, that does erk me that once again we get left off that list of UK dance pioneers, but I guess we were never as easily definable, every record being an exploration.

Now with time I can say I liked this, or that period, but at the time you were never looking back. I do feel we kicked open a lot of doors…some era-defining singles, some era defining-albums; making a dent in the live scene as a rave act, taking UK dance to the US; but our timing was perhaps a bit out and we lacked the management when it was needed. Look at Warp’s 20th anniversary; Warp have loyalty and a proper dialogue with their artists and look after their back catalogue with respect, giving it a sense of continuity. ZTT hasn’t panned out that way due to various circumstances.

I can find all this history to be a bit stifling for creativity at times - you have to tend to it like a garden. We've all been finding other ways to be creative though; I still love playing as 808 State, and it’s not like we over-do playing gigs so it’s still a buzz. I do realise that it’s just as relevant to play it to the new generations as we have been doing in recent times - it doesn’t feel out of step.

808 State play Glasgow this Saturday at the 02ABC

Synth: Obviously electronic music and house music in particular is very popular in the mainstream at the moment, while there’s also some really exciting stuff coming up on the underground; do you pay much attention to what’s going on with dance music at the moment? Are there any artists who have really caught your attention?

Graham: I’m lucky to have a lot of DJs as friends, plus my son’s crew seem to have pretty similar tastes to mine; we are always swapping stuff off each other. It’s a bit of a pain when I’m trying to mix and he’s blasting it out in the room above, battle of the sub-bass!

Synth: We really liked the concept of the ‘Rebuild’ collaboration with A Guy Called Gerald, and you seem to be having a lot of fun with it; do you think it surprises some of the younger members of the audience to see you making music with all this machinery instead of staring into a laptop?

Graham: When we do Rebuild we really are making it up on the spot. I’ve no idea what Gerald's going to do and visa versa; it’s systems music and it will lead you to unexpected places. I think we are both at home with the equipment and each other’s sensibilities; it’s very engaging as music making, but nothing is ever repeated. We always need to find an empathetic promoter who will give us the space and time to set up such a fragile system. Promoters tend to put on a ridiculous amount of acts on one stage these days.

808 State live is much more of a band situation, delivering a structured high. There’s room for improvisation but it’s all about the tunes and I don't have a problem with using laptops so long as you don't have a problem with live drums and guitars or anything else.

Synth: I think it’s fair to say that people are pretty damn excited about catching you here in Glasgow this weekend where you’ll be performing live; in terms of hardware, do you still use some of the original gear from the early days?

Graham: Yes, we still use some of the gear we've had since 1988, but I’m also using some of the new Roland hardware and I always like to throw in new software - sometimes I decide on the morning of the gig. The size of the vehicle dictates what we bring…“let’s throw this stupid string synth in" - it can get a bit Rick Wakeman. I’ve recently had some old 1989 tapes baked, and that gives us access to samples and songs long forgotten. I’ll see how we get on; it’s still got to work as a set…

COMPETITION: We’ve got two tickets to giveaway to this Saturday’s show courtesy of Let’s Go Back…Wayback and 02ABC. If you want to be in with a shot, simply head along to the Synth Fanpage on Facebook and type '02ABCX808STATE' on the wall. We’ll select a winner at random this Friday and notify them shortly afterwards. Please be sure to check the terms & conditions below.

Terms & conditions: Please note that this prize is for two places on the guestlist for Let’s Go Back…Wayback and Academy Events Presents…808 State Live on Saturday 25th October. There will be one winner. The competition closes at 2pm on Friday 24th and the winner will be notified via Facebook comment (please check your Facebook entry in the hours following the closure of the competition). The winner must be 14 years or older. After we have passed on the winner’s details to the event organisers we then pass on responsibility for entry on the night.

Let’s Go Back…Way Back and Academy Events present 808 State at the 02ABC this Saturday. Tickets are available in advance from Ticketweb priced at £20.81 (inc fees).

808 State Website
808 State on Facebook
808 State on Twitter