In discussion with Anno Stamm on “Complexification” by T Power (1996)
I assume you were familiar with Drum & Bass artists before this record came out. How did you first encounter „Complexification“?
It was a vinyl that my older brother had bought. At that time I was not going to the record stores by myself, so my older brother was basically my record store. When I came home earlier from school, I would go through his record collection and then record the vinyls that I liked the most to a cassette with the Hi-Fi tower from my father. This was always very “James Bond” like, because touching my brothers vinyls and touching the Hi-Fi tower from my father were two major offenses, which would turn out really ugly if one of them would have caught me.
Why did you choose this particular track, the b-side to „Symbiosis“, and not another classic of that era, or even a different track by T Power, like his much better known „Mutant Jazz“ for example?
For me this song stands out in many ways and I think even for T Power this song is outstanding and unique. You are rather out of your mind when you produce such a song, or you are in an extremely clear state of mind. It is a song which breaks so many rules but still manages to be simply breathtakingly beautiful. That is a goal that I admire very much in making art.
Is Marc Royal aka T Power a producer you rate particularly high in Drum & Bass history?
I must admit that I reduce T Power pretty much to that one song. I like his general sense for sound and chords but I am not really an expert on his complete musical back catalogue.
„Complexification“ is not necessarily a typical Drum & Bass track. It is much slower, and it is working with Jazz leanings in the synth and bass sounds, while the beats and groove are hinting more to the sound West London’s Broken Beat scene. But does „Complexification“ transcend musical folder categorization, or does it even have to belong to a certain context?
I chose this track because for me it is a good example for “beyond genre”. This song is perfect in every way. It is idiosyncratic and lives in its own cosmos. There are no genres in that cosmos. Sometimes that is the problem with genres. You get into a routine because there are rules, schemes, patterns and templates you work in. You get lazy in terms of decision making. This song is not lazy at all. Every note is in its exact right place but it feels like it really started out with a tabula rasa thinking – everything can happen.
Do you like both, Drum & Bass and Broken Beats, and do you treat them differently, or do they come from the same origin?
In terms of “Drum & Bass” I started with the “Jungle” phase, because as you might know I am a big sucker for the drums, especially if there are played by the devil himself. That is why I really was into that fast, wild, raw and breaky material. Actually when it was called “Drum & Bass”, that whole thing was nearly over for me. Because all the wildness basically turned into one sterile
drum-loop… with saxophone samples. There was a big shift from the rhythmic energy to a generally more chilled background music approach. So, I think they may come from the same origin – but I would treat them very differently.
There are other fine examples where Jazz elements were integrated to the sound palette of Drum & Bass. Are you interested in Jazz, and how it can be worked into other music?
When there was the trend to just sample something smooth and jazzy over a fast drum loop, that was not very interesting for me. Sampling some “blue notes” doesn’t make you a “jazz cat”. For me and most of the people Jazz is about expressing yourself through playing an instrument, and also pushing the boundaries of that instrument. So, you have to have a plan if you want to achieve that purely with software. Squarepusher’s “Hard Normal Daddy” is a good example from that time, how an electronic version of Jazz may work. He brought the real instrument into the software world in a very smart and respectful way. But in terms of Jazz is about pushing boundaries of an instrument, then one must say that in that days there were a lot of other electronic composers who would
deserve it much more to be called “Jazz Cats”.
You are known to be not afraid of bold statements in your music, and they can both be found in your Anstam and Anno Stamm projects. What are the conceptual differences between the two? Can traces of „Complexification“ be found in either side of your work?
Yes, you can definitely find traces of “Complexification” in both projects. Anstam is now more of a studio project, the idea of modern music played with modern instruments. Anstam is more about exploration, song structures and sentiment. Anno Stamm is my take on dancable, 4 to the floor club music. It is much more simple in terms of rhythm and structure. But in the end I have musical
preferences, which you can recognize in nearly every thing I do. But my general
attitude to “draw from the full” – that I think is something that is very similar to the idea of “Complexification”.
From what I heard of your music so far, the music we hear on this track probably is not the only inspiration for what you do. Could you name other music you draw inspiration from?
I am not so much inspired by bands, artists or tendencies. I would say that I prefer and look for special musical ideas, approaches and tactics – all of which you can find in nearly every music genre. I like a raw and playful rhythm section, complex and original song structures and dramatic and bacchanal melodic developments – and above all I admire music with its own individual musical handwriting. “Complexification” has all of that.
I could not help thinking that already a track title like „Complexification“ sounds like a concept you might like, as your music is indeed rather complex. Are you antagonizing monotony and simplicity with your music?
Yes, I antagonize monotony, but I do not have a problem with simplicity. Back in the days I made a cassette series called “Ruheschleifen”, which was basically 20 minutes synthesizer arpeggio loops. I always liked the idea of the perfect loop, that can run forever without being boring. The reason my musical outlet is always rather complex comes from a different angle, I think. I have a very submissive attitude when it comes to art in general. The simple chance to release art professionally and let it out into the real world for me always comes with a big bowl of responsibility. That may sound a little pathetic, but I really believe that you have a social and cultural responsibility as an artist – so, it has better to be good what you come up with. I put a lot of thought, time and detail into my albums, because I want them to be a serious and significant body of work.
The release date of „Complexification“, 1996, is generally acknowledged to belong to the golden era of the Drum & Bass genre. But would you agree that the releases of these years had a higher quality than what came before and after? Do you still follow current developments in that field?
With different times you always have different surroundings or habitats for artists – and these can be very fertile or very infertile. In the mid 90s it was really good to be an electronic producer in general. There was an extremely euphoric sentiment, everybody was actually exited when new releases came out, they really followed the music closely. As a producer you could feel some kind
of social and cultural appreciation. That is why it was much more productive to work on music these days – and that is maybe why the music in general was more uninhibited and turned out to be much more significant. The same thing happened 2006 with the early dubstep phase. So maybe now in 2016 we are in for a treat again.