LFO RIP (+ Skrufff interview with Mark Bell from 2004): LFO on Techno, Life and London- It Doesn’t Feel Like England . . .
Warp Records announce the tragic death of acid house pioneer turned Depeche Mode/ Bjork uber-producer Mark Bell this week with a short statement on their website.
“It’s with great sadness that we announce the untimely passing of Mark Bell of LFO who died last week from complications after an operation. Mark’s family & friends request privacy at this difficult time.” (Warp: http://bit.ly/1tWYTgh )
In tribute, we’re running one of our favourite Skrufff interviews with the legendary producer, first published in October 2004 . . .
LFO on Techno, Life and London- It Doesn’t Feel Like England . . .
Techno Leeds legend Mark Bell first made his name in 1990 when LFO’s first track LFO was snapped up by Warp Records and went on to become one of the first UK techno anthems, selling well over 100,000 copies. Consolidating he success with two albums Frequencies and Advance, by the mid 90s he found himself producing albums for Depeche Mode and Bjork, leading him to scale back LFO activities almost to the point of non-existence.
7 years on, however, he’s suddenly storming back into public consciousness, courtesy of his justifiably acclaimed comeback single Freak and his equally interesting new album Sheath. While Freaks has been devastating dance floors, whether techno or electroclash, Sheath is a considerably more complex offering, featuring clicks and breaks tracks next to string drenched electronica and 80s tinged electro of seriously high quality. Which is no small achievement given, the providence of how the album came into being.
“This album came about by accident when my friend made a cassette for his car with my stuff on that I’d made over the past seven years,” Mark told Skrufff.
“I was and am quite happy just making music for myself though when I heard the tape I thought ‘Brilliant, I can give this to Warp and they’ll stop pestering me every two years for new material.”
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Freak has been a floor filler at electro clubs like Nag, Nag, Nag; how much do you keep up to speed with musical trends?
LFO: “I go to friends’ parties and the odd club when I’m in the mood though I made Freak purely for me to play when I DJ, it’s just the kind of track I’d like to hear if I went out. I made the track in one day and I actually make tracks like that every week, anyway. That just happened to be the one my friend picked out to stick on the original cassette. I could do a whole album of tracks like Freak if I wanted but when it comes to releasing music the whole process feels like work.
I’m spoiled because having done the Bjork and Depeche Mode records I don’t totally need to do LFO for the money now, I’m lucky. On the trend question, It’d be a full time job keeping up with the million and one sub genres of ‘dance’ though | like places that play allsorts of crap, like Nag, Nag, Nag for instance.”
Skrufff: Are you still going out clubbing much?
LFO: “Yeah, there are some good places in Leeds I go to but they’re more like bars with DJs where the DJs are playing for fun rather than being paid. So you might hear Underground Resistance followed by Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades, and anything else, as long as it’s good. I did a remix for that electroclash band Whatever It Takes (W.I.T.) I came across a little mpeg (video) of them on the internet and they just looked funny because they couldn’t dance at all.
It just looked like they were having fun doing it and the track sounded quite good so I emailed them and asked them to send the parts, and they ended up using my track as backing for their live shows. I’m happy that fun is coming back into the club scene, I never liked that chin-scratching, train-spotting attitude- it’s horrible. I don’t like this attitude of liking a track because it will fit with other ones, that means nothing stands out.”
?Skrufff: You’re seen as one of acid house’s pioneers- do you feel any affinity with today’s house culture and its superclubs?
LFO: “The whole superclub thing was a right pile of toss (rubbish.) I’ve got nothing against furry bras, trust me, but paying lots of money to get in, wearing my shirt open to the waist with fake tan on the collar- no thanks. I live in Leeds and I’ve been to Gatecrasher just the once when my ex (girlfriend) made me go. It was terrible, it had absolutely nothing to do with the music; it was like a big Sharon and Tracy club.”
Skrufff: Having worked closely with Bjork and Depeche Mode; both globally recognised acts, did you spot any common characteristics?
LFO: “Both are quite humbled by the adoration and recognition they receive. You meet some right wankers in this business but Bjork and Depeche Mode are 100% genuinely lovely people.”
Skrufff: You’re distributing graffiti stencils alongside the new album, what’s the idea behind that?
LFO: “The main idea is so that people can make their own T shirts, I don’t want people to spray LFO graffiti everywhere. When I like a band and I try and buy a T shirt I find they never fit me, so I’ve often ended up making my own T shirts and that’s the idea behind the stencils. It’s not to be punky as such but more of a do-it-yourself type thing, instead of forcing people to buy a crap T shirt for £18.”
Skrufff: You still live in Leeds, is your house some kind of massive hill top mansion?
LFO: “It’s a small house, though it’s got a nice garden and I live near a lake and a pub. It’s not the kind of house you’d associate with the rock & roll lifestyle. All my friends live in Leeds, I like London, but I only go there for a week at a time, usually. London’s funny (strange), to me it doesn’t feel like England at all, it feels like loads of other capitals, I don’t mean that in terms of there being more foreigners, it just doesn’t feel like England.
It seems like I’m on holiday when I’m there. In London you don’t tend to get people talking to you at all, I don’t know why that is, they seem a bit rude. I’d miss the community that exists up here. When I walk down the street here and pass by people they’ll still say Good Morning even if you don’t know each other.”
Skrufff: How do you view today’s techno scene?
LFO: “The whole techno thing has screwed itself really, it’s been so fine tuned into that percussive, whatever, sound it is and it’s become boring. I can go out to a techno night and come home not remembering one tune I’ve heard. It seems like one track all night long. I’ve never thought I’m thinking like that because I’m getting on a bit either, it’s because techno’s crap actually.”
Skrufff : Is it true you have a stalker?
LFO: “There’s a French nutcase that follows me and takes pictures of the back of my head. He sends the pictures to Warp, it’s like a pantomime but he really is behind me. He sends in the pictures to Warp and they’re always of the back of my head and always taken from really close up, it’s weird. It doesn’t scare me and he doesn’t do anything odd, he just sends them to Warp.
He’s been doing it since the first time we played in Paris at the first proper rave they ever had there. That was in like 1992, and he’s been doing it for ten years now.”
Skrufff: Do Bjork and Depeche Mode visit you in Leeds?
LFO: “I think Bjork is banned from Leeds, from her time with the Sugercubes. I usually keep things separate up here, for example, it would be really awkward for me to DJ up here because I know everyone, it’d be embarrassing. I keep the two worlds separate.
We did the Oscars once with Bjork, when one of the songs from Dancing In The Dark was up for an Oscar for Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. I remember she was singing, wearing that Swan dress she had and I was standing behind her on stage at the Oscar ceremonies. When my Mum and Dad saw that they don’t think ‘Oh my God, our son’s at the Oscars’, but then when I did an interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post my Dad was totally proud. He’d bought that paper since he was 16.”
Skrufff: Are you going to be waiting another seven years before releasing your next LFO album?
LFO: “No, I know I should release more because I’ve got loads of finished tracks just sitting there but I’m lazy. It does feel like work when I have to make all these decisions. In comparison, I’m doing some new stuff with Bjork and that’s like work but other people are involved with other record companies and proper deadlines. But with Warp, I signed to them when they were starting out and the contract is totally in my favour so I don’t have to do anything if I don’t want to.”
Jonty Skrufff: https://twitter.com/djjontyskrufff