Fans of techno’s industrial wave should already be keenly aware and engaged with Silent Servant, Regis and James Ruskin's impeccably curated Jealous God imprint but, if for some insane reason it wasn't on your radar then this mix that Silent Servant provided for us last week is the perfect introduction to its output and ethos. The artist responsible for the label’s fourth and most recent release is Broken English Club, otherwise known as Oliver Ho (and perhaps more currently as Raudive). An individual with one heck of a back catalogue, Ho first originated in the mid 90’s with a tribal-weighted take on techno and since then he’s proved himself to be an individual with a wide ranging path in production, his mantra seemingly simply to develop and explore.
Broken English Club debut outing found a decidedly apt home with Jealous God, fitting in in perfectly with what Silent Servant and his collaborators are all about - a stylish, punkish minimalism evocative of a seedier view of the world. With only the one full release available to date, Ho has impressed with a promise of something special under the guise so with his debut live set in RM2 arriving this Saturday, we took the opportunity to look behind the ideas that have formed the make-up of this latest endeavour from a consistently eclectic and exciting producer...
You can also listen to an exclusive 20 minute preview of the live set here:
I think a good place to start is when you first conceived the Broken English Club project – how did it come about?
The project came about very naturally, it was the culmination of what I was being drawn to musically and artistically. I am very much influenced by a lot of diverse music, especially post-punk and industrial. There is something in this music that was speaking to me, and I wanted to experiment with a lot of these ideas, in particular the use of vocals, and extreme sparse arrangements. I am always looking how to achieve powerful end results with an 'economy of sound'. There’s a beautiful minimalism in post punk/industrial/synth-wave stuff that’s very similar to techno, but also feels completely foreign to it because it has its own 'world'. These experiments of mine started to have a character to them, and I felt it was becoming something, the tracks were half techno and half something different, they were like mutant creations, not fitting neatly into a genre, but I felt free and excited by it. The initial tracks were really just made for myself, I had no idea what to do with them, until I played them to Juan Mendez, and he totally understood where I was coming from. He really prompted me to take these ideas and develop them and it became something that had the potential to grow and become something I could explore, a way of joining my love of darker abstract noise orientated stuff and stripped down techno.
Sorry about the obvious nature of this next question but it needs asking – how did you get the name Broken English Club?
It’s a reference to the 'English electronic tradition', there’s a very unique history of powerful and strange music in this country, Throbbing Gristle/Coil/Psychic Tv and their relationship with gnostic mysticism/psychology and art is something that has been very powerful for me, and it has seeped into my work and now informs a lot of what I do. It’s a way of seeing music as a form of magick, as a vessel for something abstract. The music comes into being through a process that’s not exclusively just about the music, but what’s inside the music and what’s fueling it. A kind of ritualism. The name also kind of refers to the dark English landscape depicted in JG Ballard’s books, in particular Crash and High Rise. There is an obsessive dark relationship with technology and a sinister suburbia in these books, this bleakness is certainly a place my music comes from and reflects.
What kind of influences do you draw on for the project do you look to any reference points or is it more of an internal process of creativity?
As I mentioned earlier I’ve been very influenced by particular themes in post-punk stuff, there’s a kind of fusion of things going on, especially in Pil, Cabaret Voltaire, African Headcharge and Mark Stewert's stuff, there’s the heavy dub, African tribal percussion crossed with the dark electronics, I love when things fuse together to create something new, that’s what I am always wanting to achieve. I’ve always been interested in a kind of fusion of ideas, certainly with mixing live instruments, vocals, rock ideas, exotic percussion and cold electronic sounds. In all my projects that’s essentially what I’ve been interested in, whether it’s the band I recorded an album with, the Raudive stuff or even my early material I recorded under my own name. With Broken English Club, there’s a lot of tonal noise ideas there too, a lot of this project will revolve around non dancefloor stuff, soundscape stuff, it’s all part of a world I am trying to describe.
With quite a few different monikers for your different styles of production – what drives you to work in one style or another?
Well that’s something I can’t control, I make whatever I make. In the sense that I have to allow the music to be whatever it wants to be, it’s a natural result of where I am at in a certain time, so it becomes an extension of my reality. I have used a lot of monikers in my work because I like to accent the change in energy and ideas, it helps to give them a face. I see the various projects I’ve had over the years as different aspects of a whole, they all relate and have my process and attitude within them, but they all reflect a time or particular set of ideas. There is often similar things running through all my work, but I like to use these projects to allow things to breathe and have their own environment, like creatures needing a habitat.
You can hear the use of (what sound like) live drums and distorted guitar – did you work with session musicians for this project? I’m interested to find out whether you’re competent across different instruments alone or like to bring in other musicians to the process…
I’ve always played the guitar and I use it a lot in my productions, sometimes in a very cut-up way, and sometimes long sections of played out ideas. I’ve felt there is a lot of common ground between electronic club music and weirder rock and punk music, well to me it feels like there is, many people might be baffled by it. I love the tones and texture using live instruments can achieve. I sometimes sample myself playing various other instruments like saxophone and ukulele. I also sample random bits from Avant Garde music and jazz. Drawing those sounds into the mix you get such a strange vibe, it feels more wigged out.
Then at what point did you start working with Juan Mendez (Silent Servant) you’ve released on his label?
I met him in Los Angeles years ago, sometime in the late 90s, I did a remix for him at the time. Years went by with not much contact and then I got back in contact with him recently, can’t remember what prompted us to get back in touch. I played him some of the early Broken English Club stuff and he really loved it, we had always had a similar outlook in terms of influences etc. He was very interested in putting it out on jealous god, and it seemed to be a great way to introduce the project. The label has a vision, that’s what we need, something to have an identity, to be different.
So far you’ve released an EP on Jealous God and a split with Silent Servant on Cititrax – what’s next? Do you have an album planned? If so can you tell us what we can expect?
I will be working more with Veronica Vasicka, we are planning a solo EP, which I am super excited about. She is someone I have huge respect for, the stuff on both her labels is fantastic. I relate to what she represents, which is a kind of mix of taking from the past and fusing it with very modern ideas. It feels perfect for me to be working with her. She also has a great aesthetic for the labels, and is passionate about creating a quality physical product. That’s something really important for me especially now with so much music being so ephemeral.