To help kick off Mantissa’s launch event, we sat down with AV/N to get a sneak peak into the mind of the selector who will be playing the closing set at the Horse and Groom in Shoreditch this Saturday 11th of February.
AV/N has had a heavy involvement in Mantissa’s recent activity, designing all artwork and event visuals that you’ll see on Saturday. Have a read below to find out more about his involvement, sounds and influences.
What have you been involved in before Mantissa and how has it affected your musical taste?
Before Mantissa I spent a lot of time in the Netherlands. I run a techno events series and online radio at one of the country’s top clubs, TOFFLER. This project is very much an extension of myself, so it’s less been a case of the project pushing me down one path, and more the case of allowing me to push my taste further, and in to different areas than I would have thought.
When I started the project, I was really fixed to a particular kind of sound. Having the freedom to experiment with that, and then to try and construct something over a period of 6 hours or so really helped to develop this. It’s added a lot of ambient in to my library, and helped to develop a philosophy of how different schools of techno fit together in my head.
That’s all very abstract, I guess the simplest way of answering this question is that Rotterdam really gave me a love for industrial techno. The city’s architectural hangover from the 90s rave scene, and the attitude of ravers out there creates an perfect world for the more industrial soundscapes. I think once you’ve experienced music in its intended environment, it’s hard not to fall in love.
Why did you decide to join mantissa?
Whether it’s through my own project in the Netherlands, or set that I’m booked for, I always find that new challenges help me to focus, and really deviate from any linear path. Musically, Mantissa is a different world to what i’ve been pushing abroad, and this really excites me.
It’s also really important to me that any project I work so intimately with has a real care for what they’re doing, and they treat it like the creation of art. The guys at Mantissa really understanding the importance of giving artists freedom to create a set in line with their own vision and feelings at that point in time.
It’s always exciting to work with curators that put so much thought in to the music behind their night, and from a DJing perspective I’m glad to be a part of this. From a design / visuals standpoint, i’m hoping I can push things even further.
What do you think you bring to mantissa?
Some slamming 7am industrial. [Laughs] Just kidding. I think a large part of the work so far on the project has been to bring the visual side of Mantissa in line. I firmly believe that when you have multiple mediums of art working together to elicit the same emotional response, you can create something truly special.
Certainly in the musical culture I find myself in, there’s a lot of very strong aesthetic art and imagery that’s used to powerful effect. A large part of what i’ve done so far is to try and communicate Mantissa’s musical philosophy through our design & video work.
We’re not at a point of perfection yet, so I look forward to developing this, alongside a few other visual projects, in the future.
You've done a lot for the visual identity of mantissa. What was your inspiration and thought process whilst doing it and what do you think it represents?
I think with any project started out of passion, the philosophy and identity of the creation is intrinsically woven with those of the people who set it up. This all started with a long conversation between James, Tom & myself, before going through a number of concepts to see what fits.
For me, a lot of the aesthetics associated with techno runs along themes of coercion, implied violence or some form of mental imbalance. Those themes itself are largely irrelevant, but it’s the intensity they communicate that really strikes a chord with me.
Looking at Mantissa, I think the same intensity is something we want to achieve, but the imagery i just talked about is far too specific for the range that this project offers. I’m a big fan of old film and photography, almost as though it’s giving perspective on to another world or alternate reality. This theme of nostalgic simplicity really worked for me, so we took it from there.
I guess a large amount of the inspiration for this project was Mantissa’s own radio. All design or video work i’ve done was developed whilst listening to Mantissa mixes. If what I was working on didn’t fit what I was listening, it was scrapped.
What is your perspective of music, where did you start off and how has your taste evolved?
[Laughs]… How much time do we have?
In short, music is by far the most impactful form of art for me. The emotional response you can get from it, and everything that contributes to that moment or experience, is something that’s truly special. There are moments where it’s like waves of awe washing over you. It’s like it touches your soul. That’s what I’m trying to create.
This all started with a friend showing me a few ambient house records, which I really took to. A few months later, the same friend showed me a Sven Vath boiler room set and explained what a DJ did…. I was hooked. It’s all really evolved from there.
It started with house and has changed a lot since then – at quite a violent rate really. I’ve noticed that the environment i’m in really changes my perspective on the world and music. Every time I move, a different aesthetic and sound interests me, and that’s really pushed things in an exciting direction for me.
I think in recent times, I’ve found a groove. I always worried that I would continually change my taste every 3 months, and that this would all fade in to irrelevancy. I’m at a point now where instead of looking to replace my library, I’m trying to build around it. Sure, some tracks are still getting deleted when they fall out of favour, but this feels far more stable now.
When did you start getting into underground music and what was the key event or moment that got you hooked?
Underground music, I can’t really recall… or define actually. I’ve always loved finding new music, and often indulge hours in to exploring what’s out there. When you get so much pleasure from music, finding more and more ways that it can excite you or be combined is fascinating. I think this is a major appeal of the music we listen to – I can spend 8 hours a day every day for a month digging, and still feel like i’ve barely scratched the surface.
The key moment that kicked this off was being shown an Adam Beyer remix of a Gary Beck track. [Laughs]…This is definitely more embarrassing than Tom’s Bullet For My Valentine revelation. Since then, the key moments have either been changing my environment, or experiencing something incredible at an event. The recent ones that come to mind were sets from Clouds, Luke Slater & Function. All of these really affected me, and completely changed the way I looked at music afterwards.
Dax J recently had a pretty special half an hour at Jaded, but it’s maybe too soon to see if that’s had a profound impact yet…
How would you describe your sound?
My collection is almost exclusively minor key. The emotion i’m trying to hit on is a sense of nihilistic optimism. For me, that’s the strongest feeling in music. I want what I’m playing to be challenging and complex. I don’t just want to play something because it thumps or has a cool groove.
Beyond this, it’s difficult to pinpoint. I’m a big fan of the long mix, though this varies on the style – I’d push high energy and industrial cuts quicker. I think this is linked with a love of ambient soundscapes, which are pretty consistent across my collection. Beyond that, I love the interplay of percussion. Seeing a hi-hat hang a little longer than one would expect, or a cool ride arrangement punching over the top always excites me. I want to be surprised by music, so something that subtly fucks with my expectations is always going to go down well.
Who are your key influences/artists that you follow religiously?
I wouldn’t say I follow anything or anybody religiously. All this music is created by humans, with a subjective audience, which means their liable to do something “wrong” or that I don’t necessarily love. This is also a creative art, so to follow so strictly would be to deprive yourself of creative freedom.
That said, there are a few labels that hit far more often than they miss for me. Avian, Semantica, Perc Trax, MORD, Ost Gut Ton & Modularz are all recurring names for me, and put out a lot of great material. I’m also a huge fan of Mulero, from his sets to his label, the majority of that is gold for me.
What are your future aspirations with Mantissa?
I want to create a night that was truly special. Something mind opening. Then I want to do it again, but differently.