Gut Feelings: Factory Floor on Natural Response inside and outside the Studio

factory_floor_image_1Manipulated vocals, bubbling and sputtering electronics, and mechanically precise drumming pulse under hypnotic layers of synthesizers on English trio Factory Floor’s self-titled debut LP, out last fall. The sum of these parts is cyborg-like in design: at once cold, distilled from hours upon hours of improvisation in and out of the studio, yet warmly human. Singer Nik Colk Void’s vocals, however sparse and repetitive, provide enough of an organic presence, as does the percussion, which is largely live. It is Factory Floor’s continued exploration of the space where electronic, dance, and punk music collide, and the band’s proclivities for unhinged experimentation and art performance, that has garnered the trio widespread acclaim. Chief amongst Floor’s accolades are nods from pioneers of similarly exploratory music, Stephen Morris (Joy Division/New Order) and Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti (Throbbing Gristle), all of whom Factory Floor can now call collaborators.

As a band that has changed significantly in terms of personnel and, accordingly, sound since forming in 2005, and as a creative force that is constantly moulded by its surroundings, Factory Floor will continue absorbing new ideas and growing during their first proper North American tour, which kicks off here in Vancouver at Fortune Sound Club tonight.

Before Factory Floor evolved any further, Vancouver Weekly spoke to the band about just how much new environments can influence the band, the differences between live and studio energies, the possibility of future live records, and saving their sanity.

Vancouver Weekly: You like volume and being able to feel music live. Since you can’t control how loudly people listen to your records, do you compensate in any way in your studio approach?

Factory Floor: We always knew before recording the album that the ingredients that create the same energy live were not going to be there, so we tend to treat studio recordings and studio writing as a different discipline and explore that in its own right. The audience and adrenaline is a huge part of our live sound, whereas we use the studio environment and how much coffee we can brew up in a day in much the same way!

VW: Can you describe the energy that exists in a studio? Would releasing a live record be out of the question because you’d have to sacrifice that energy?

FF: The energy is completely different, more like an energy brought upon by the want to explore new sounds and the excitement that comes with having created something you know will make people dance or feel something. We have loads of live recordings archived from various shows, and it’ll be interesting to pull some of them out to listen to and maybe release in the near future. Who knows what they will sound like! The only thing we’d be sacrificing would be our sanity after going through hours of archives!

VW: Factory Floor values simplicity. Does the band ever intentionally place restrictions upon itself in order to keep things simple?

FF: We always throw a lot into the pot to start off with, so we are aware of all possible paths a track can take. Then we strip off the nonsense and go back to the most simple form of an idea we are happy with and that’s locking in. A lot can be dictated by the space available in audio recordings. This is our only restriction. That’s why we took so long recording past tracks. It’s good to be restricted! We might move back to analogue tape, haha.

VW: Despite Factory Floor valuing simplicity, your process of editing hours-long jams into seven-minute tracks sounds arduous, to say the least. Will you continue this intense practice or try new methods for your next release?

FF: Our approach is going to be so, so different on the next release. We learned a lot from the last recording process, and as pleased as we were with what we ended up with, we are not going to lose our minds again doing it that way!

VW: Your physical environment influences the music you make, and you all agree that your old studio, in a North London warehouse, was very “difficult” and “gritty.” But you also want to move more towards dance music. Would you relocate to somewhere less dreary in order to make more danceable music? Or would a less dreary environment be too safe, too uninteresting?

FF: The warehouse was really difficult, but we love setting up our gear in one place for long periods of time so we can explore everything to the fullest sound-wise. It’s all part of the project. You have to settle in and focus. It’s hard moving around different spaces. The warehouse has been demolished now, so in a good way, we can move on and choose somewhere for the next album that changes our sound and approach again. Dreary environments are good for a period of time but they take their toll! Time for a less dreary environment then. Caribbean would be nice?

VW: Between festivals, art galleries, basements, clubs, and bars (or none of those), which is the most challenging or inspiring type of venue to play?

FF: Art galleries are really intense places to play in a good way. Again, we’ve always approached shows at galleries with a more open mind and with little or no knowledge of what we are going to play and how it will be received. The buzz from when it all locks in and new tracks are being made there is unmatched.

VW: You already have an impressive list of collaborations under your belts, including Joy Division’s/New Order’s Stephen Morris and Throbbing Gristle’s Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti. Any exciting ones in the works you can tell us about?

FF: We’d love to work with Stephen again! Some more planned trips up to his studio will definitely be happening later in the year. His studio is really inspiring to work in, and Stephen & Gillian [Gilbert, also of New Order] are the best! Hopefully some more Carter Tutti Void works in the pipeline! We have a list of people we’d love to collaborate with, but we wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise for now. More news coming very soon!

VW: You’re kicking off your first proper North American tour at Fortune Sound Club here in Vancouver. Do you have any expectations regarding how fans on the North American west and east coasts will react or influence your performances? Do you try to block out what people tell you about crowds in certain towns in order to go in with as little expectations as possible?

FF: We are so excited to be going and experiencing all these places! We’ve always found that the most un-talked about places in terms of crowds have been the most surprising audiences. It’s another anxiety in the chain that breathes excitement into our performance. Ultimately, no matter how much you speculate or have heard, you’ll never experience what you expect to experience, so we try to just get into the world of Factory Floor onstage and hope people join us. As long as people are having fun then everything’s good!

Factory Floor and local supporting act Pan perform at Fortune Sound Club tonight, Monday, April 7.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu