Interview: Kris Weston’s fuzzy dimension
Kris Weston, aka Thrash, was the creative driving-force behind The Orb’s early material and has remixed Primal Scream, Depeche Mode and U2. He is currently working on a new crowd-funded album. 25ThC caught up with him for a chat:
You are best known for your time with The Orb and your production on the genre-defining and mind-bending Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld and U.F.Orb albums. That led you to your appearance on Top of the Pops playing chess whilst the track Blue Room played. Where did that idea come from and how was that whole experience?
The idea comes from [Orb co-founder] Alex Paterson. I had no creative input into the idea at all and was not interested in the slightest. I was literally forced into it. Just before going onstage, some guy in a suit I had never met before, who was apparently from the record company took me through how he wanted me to behave: “when the chorus comes in, just lean towards the camera and put your fist towards it, going YO!” – obviously that person should be used in part of a lower caste human slave army mining in space for us superior beings. The story ends with Paterson exchanging spit with Take That in the corridor shortly before their ‘performance’.
There seems to have been a lot of Orb retrospectives featuring work which you were involved in over the years. The latest one features quite a bit of your work, but is entitled A History From The Future – by Dr Alex Paterson. Fancy letting rip on that?
Why yes, yes I think I do. Lulz. This is down to Island Records, but I also can’t see Paterson arguing about not crediting people if his name is in big letters on the front cover. Island Records screwed me in 1997 on some contract I didnt get legal advice for and have been milking my catalogue for everything it’s worth ever since in a desperate attempt to recoup their massive losses on The Orb. They put far too much money into it ten years ago – the majority going to Paterson, and have had trouble making it back since, with no killer platinum-selling album. It’s embarrassing. It’s taking the piss out of fans of the work, expecting them to buy the same thing over and over again, slightly repackaged, or remastered by some plum without my permission. It’s shamefully exploitative too. I would urge everyone to boycott Island Records entirely and all major labels, in fact.
You are currently based in Eastbourne. How did you end up here and how are you finding living in the “UK’s first town with an average age of more than 70”?
I take great exception to that. As explained in [local newspaper] The Argus, that story was clearly misrepresented by the otherwise sacrosanct Daily Mail. They took the data from the Meads area of Eastbourne, not the entire city proper. If they had counted the inbred teeny chav population who use their prams like weapons and walk around with frozen sneers, the average age would be about 35, with mental age being near 1 overall. No but I really like Eastbourne. Compared to say, Juarez. I moved here because I met a girl on OKcupid, without her, I certainly wouldn’t be doing this project.
Your new album, which you describe as beautiful, psychedelic and unique music, is to be recorded using a large number of extremely talented musicians. Can you talk me through some of the people involved, who you are most looking forward to working with and the planned recording and mixing process?
Well really, if I’m honest, I am looking forward to working with Davide and Morgan the most, but all of the people on it are not only bloody great musicians, but I can honestly say they are ALL lovely people. They don’t all know each other, I just seemed to have stumbled into the nicest bunch. Basically I’m going to record it wherever I can depending on budget. If I can get a grand over what I need to pay the musicians I can transport everything over to my friends place in Europe. He has a place we can record and mix in by the mountains. That would be ideal, but I will stop at nothing to get this done, so remaining in Eastbourne and using whatever I can has to stay on the cards. The only problem here is I cant have it loud, which means I couldn’t mix it here, but other options are forthcoming…
You are seeking crowd funding in order to finance the album. This is a very 21st Century concept and releases you from the constraints of a record label. Do you feel that this allows you to record and release the album exactly how you want and that fans feel closer to you as an artist and to the album?
Well there is never any way I would do anything other than exactly how I want it. I’m a bit of a control freak like that, and apparently in every other area. It does allow me more creative freedom in the way that I can finance working with other musicians. In that way, it allows me to work with many more people than I could do using a record company as these days, they just want finished stuff handed to them, for little to no money. You could spend months working on something now for a record company and if you get five grand to pay for everything and live, you’re lucky. Certainly from the limited experience of crowd-funding I have I get the impression that people enjoy being part of the process a lot more than if they just receive something with no insight as to how it was made and no idea of the person who made it and why they did.
I love your new website and particularly the videos and photography. It looks like you had a lot of fun making it all. Who is responsible for the photos and is there plans for videos to accompany the album tracks?
Thanks 🙂 lulz. Fun? You have no idea. I spent a week alone getting the ignition deck plugin working, what a joke that software is, the take away from that is: proprietary software is a false economy. Go OPEN SOURCE! I sysadmin the server myself with some help from a friend, and it was quite hard work to set it all up, it’s an ubuntu virtual machine running nginx with postfix / dovecot. It was more a massive ballache than fun if I’m honest 🙂 the photos are from all over the place, I’ve stolen some, took some myself, and theres a bunch of shots from the video, which I made myself as well, with help from two camera-persons. In particular the skills of ‘shakyhand’ the cameragimp, amazing. I’m also an awesome natural editor. Obviously if the whole music thing doesnt work out, Martin whatshis-Boresese will have to watch out.
You describe yourself as a “producer, guitar player, analog synth tweaker, DSP expert and abuser of mixing desks”. When did you first get into making music, were you self taught or classically trained, and what instrument or synth did you first pick up and mess with?
Guitar, I’m into geeeeeetar. I’m shit at it, but you know, you have to try. I remember vividly playing one note over and over for ages when I was little and being amazed. It must have sounded like I was insane, but I was happy. I’ve never had formal lessons, learning happens everywhere, all the time. constant flux is about the only thing you can be sure of in the universe, you know 😉 making music though came from working in recording studios as a lad. Due to using so much kit in so many studios over the years, I seem to intuitively pick stuff up as long as its not designed by a numpty nuts. One of the first synths I messed with was a Juno 106. Not many modulation possibilities on that, not so interesting. Nice sound though.
What is your favourite vintage analog instrument and what do you make of the new analog equipment being released by companies such as Moog and Korg?
Generally, I would say ‘fuck that shit into next week’ unless its some huge modular system that has been built to crustise the entire universe. My favourite thing….. well *one* of me favourite things has got to be this Electrocomp EML 101 I used to have. Honestly man, there has been no synth that has ever sounded so crusty. I think there might have been something wrong with my one. I got some recordings of it I’m putting on this project, as it goes, I’ll play em yer next time yer round ;). It’s like the Jimi Hendrix of synths. It was fucking unbelievable. One day I hope to own one again. I used to own a Digisound 80 modular synth that had that special veneer of crust as well….
You are a big fan of using chains of effects to create lush spacious weird sounds that evolve and grow. Can you tell me what effects you are currently using?
I use Plogue Bidule, Buzz, AudioGL and Flowstone. Within the first two I use a whole bunch of plugins. Audio Damage, Sugar Bytes, Camel Audio, Nusofting, Izotope, Fab Filter, GRM Tools, Ohmforce, etc etc. There’s a whole bunch of free plugins out there as well, but theres a bit of a 32/64 bit battle going on at the moment, bunch of things haven’t been updated that are a shame to leave behind.
We discussed before that you are looking to create your own DAW due to the fact that there is currently nothing out there that you are totally happy with using. Without wanting to give away too many of your ideas – how would your system differ and how would it improve your ability to create music?
Well, not strictly right. I’m hoping to help design a DAW. Someone else is building it who is far more qualified than I to talk of design decisions relating to low level driver stuff that has plagued GNU/Linux audio from the outset. The linux audio community annoys me a bit, they need a serious kick up the ass. There is no cohesive direction, and the idea that a professional studio could work with the current plug and pray system that is happening is ludicrous. The GNU/Linux DIY plug everything together and get it working is not sufficient for writing music. I want to help get musicians a fully free and open music making system, that fucks off these large corporations for good. One of the many problems here is how DSP developers can still make money to be able to work full time on writing cool shit that will make amazing sounds.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to follow in your musical footsteps?
HAHAHaahAHAHAHAAHHAAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAHAAHAHAHAHAAAaaaaHAHAaaAHAAHAHAHH”£”*£(*”^$)*!_£(&%”)$ – enter the fuzzy dimension.
You can contribute to Kris’ crowd-funded album here.
Interview by 25ThC. Photos by Nathan Damour.