> See a video of this talk here
Bright Club Manchester invited me to give a talk at their debut event at Nexus Art Cafe in Manchester. So I decided to set up a new religion and present it to the unsuspecting masses.
My brief from Bright Club was to talk about something I'm passionate about and to make it entertaining. My brief to myself was to make it sound convincing whilst making absolutely no sense whatsoever. It also had to be utterly un-fanboy, so there are no details. Just silliness.
You can stream the full audio for the Gospel According To Aphex Twin here. Meanwhile, here is the full text.
Gospel According To Aphex Twin
I'm here to present to you tonight a new religion based on modern electronic music, and by the end of this you will be converted. It's based on the holy trinity of the analogue drum pad, squelchy bass line and bearded geeks in bedroom studios. This is the gospel according to Aphex Twin.
To understand this gospel, you need to go back to the prophets. The BBC Radiophonic Workshop, who were working with George Martin before he became that bloke to do with the Beatles. Who knows what the BBC Radiophonic Workshop is most well known for? (Audience response: "Dr Who!") Doctor Who theme tune, absolutely right. Ron Grainger's notes to them contained annotations like 'swoops' and 'wind bubbles', it really was a fantastic new sound.
In the beginning also, there were hippy-haired men in sandals. Some of Pink Floyd's more experimental was as close to techno as you're ever going to get. I've not got time to go into this now, but the Beatles really do provide the missing link between skiffle and the Chemical Brothers (come and ask me afterwards!).
In the beginning, also, you had the puritans. Kraftwerk, who were clean and clinical, who stood there on their podiums giving sermons about wild ideas like pocket calculators and autobahns.
But I'm talking about modern electronic music. In the 80s, a lot of electronic music was about going out, getting dressed up and going dancing, so you had new wave, hip hop, rave. But this is about what happened after that. When the musical missionaries brought Detroit house music over to Europe, it became something different. We know it as electronica, intelligent dance music, armchair techno or, my favourite, braindance.
You had people like LFO who did this really ordered warehouse techno, which made Kraftwerk look like a free jazz band: they were cold and ordered - and looming (you know when you get that feeling when the One Show's about to come on?). It brought techno kicking and screaming from the dance floor into the pizza-box strewn living room of the ravers.
This whole group of bands gave us the new scriptures to follow. The Artificial Intelligence series of CDs was brilliant stuff. Their record label described it as: "You could sit down and listen to it like you would a Kraftwerk or Pink Floyd album.” This was radical for that time, it really hadn't been done before. Although that manifesto was later used to excuse trip hop, which is wrong.
You had Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85 – 92, our bedraggled poster boy tonight. On that album - it's a beautiful album - there was a sample from the Charlie And The Chocolate Factory film, the one with Gene Wilder, “we are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams” – for me that was inspiration, it was like the Martin Luther King of electronic music.
And Orbital's brown album, so-called because it didn't have a title. It was their second album and it was so unifying and so uplifting that if you go to an Orbital gig now, it's like they're the early hymn writers and people are raising their arms in unity and in worship. The NME called Orbital's second album “as warm as plasma and as eerie as ectoplasm”. And incidentally,I wasn't sure how to fit this in: Orbital are named after the M25, and I wanted to do a section based on bands named after roadways. I've only got The Streets, Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes and Muse...
So what are the beliefs of the Gospel According To Aphex Twin? Salvation can be found experimentation. We will encourage you to question and to challenge. So we've got Flying Lotus paying tribute to Alice Coltrane on his new album and Bjork has been working with techno pioneers for most of her career.
Salvation can be found in repetition, that Hot Chip refrain of "the joy of repetition is within you". Repetition in this religion is not essential, but it helps you reach a new, higher state of consciousness (something falls down at the back) or make people collapse. Repetition is a political thing also: a previous government tried to make repetitive beats illegal. Some of you might remember the Criminal Justice Bill was a big thing. Repetitive beats technically became illegal, but it became law. Fighting it was a bit like like banging your head against a brick wall continuously and ironically.
Salvation can also be found in staying underground. It's easier for me to fit through the eye of a needle than it is for electronica to get into the singles chart; it just doesn't happen. Autechre, who are the Mancunian purists of techno music, are wilfully obscure. I run a website on electronic music and for a while I ran a thing called Chartwatch where I would track the progress week-by-week of electronic acts in the singles chart. It wasn't very successful, and I've got a few of the entries here:
- No new electronica in the singles chart.
- Still no new electronica in the singles chart.
- Simply Red are in the top 40, I'm off for a cry.
So it didn't really work. Speaking of Simply Red, it brings me to the one unforgiveable sin, which all religions must have. The unforgiveable sin in this new religion is mediocracy. If you are, for example, The Orb and you record a 40-minute single Blue Room and it accidentally rockets up the charts and so you go on Top Of The Pops on prime-time TV and you're not sure what to do so you play chess, that is brilliant. If however, your album ends up on coffee tables, you start hanging out with celebrities and you've got lyrics like "there was snow, white snow", then you're Coldplay.
Extremism is encouraged in the Gospel According To Aphex Twin. Like all good religions, extremism is encouraged. So Venetian Snares, one of my favourite bands, he sounds very much like a barrell of nails being rolled down a cobbled hill. I'd particularly recommend the albums Cavalcade Of Glee And Dadaist Happy Hardcore Pom Poms, Filth and Winnipeg Is a Frozen Shithole.
I'm here to increase my religion, I'm here to grow my religion because I had to fit it into the theme of tonight. So will the Gospel According To Aphex Twin work? We will get organised, we will make Brian Eno pope. Electronica is dominated by a lot of the hallmarks of religion. So you'vbe got worshippers in communal ecstacy, you've got white middle-class, socially-inadequate men all over the place and also electronica's very good at looking down its nose at other people not quite doing it right.
I'd like to end with a bit of involvement, if you'd like. This is where you become part of the new religion. I'd like to end with a call-and-response, a piece of liturgy. This comes from when Lady Gaga and La Roux and Ladyhawke were first getting successful and the Guardian ran a piece about "chicks with synths", that was the new thing. So I wrote a letter to James Blunt suggesting that perhaps he get on the bandwagon and... you'll see.
If you can say the bits in bold, but please can you say it loudly and clearly and with conviction:
We join together in the Gospel According To Aphex Twin.
Aphex Twin is the daddy.
This is the First Letter To James Blunt, chapter one.
Thanks be to Aphex.
Dear James Blunt. You should become a chick with a synth.
Amen to that.
You need to buy a nice shiny silver synthesiser and get it into every publicity shot you can.
Praise be the synthesiser.
You will, of course, need to alter your gender. I once cut the leg off a teddy bear with my dad's nosehair clippers... I'm sure changing your sex wouldn't be much different.
Get to the point.
I pledge my all to the Gospel According To Aphex Twin and his holiness, Brian Eno.
I will experiment.
Yes I will.
I will embrace repetition.
Yes I will.
I will embrace repetition.
That’s not funny.
I will follow the holy order of the analogue drum pad
and the squelchy bassline.
Lead us not into Maroon 5 for ever and ever.
This was the Gospel According To Aphex Twin. Thank you very much.
You can stream the full audio for the Gospel According To Aphex Twin here.