Ahead of Factory Floor playing live in Room One on Friday 15th August we arranged a conversation between Avery and Gabe Gurnsey, Factory Floor’s drummer and founding member, where the two could properly interface, geek out a little bit about production techniques and generally interview each other...
Having known, drunk and danced alongside Daniel Avery for such a length of time now, the man makes no bones about his love of the music of Factory Floor. A number of times he’s said publicly that they’re one of his favourite bands; so when the opportunity arose for him to book them for the first installment of his brand new residency here, Divided Love, it came as no surprise that he jumped all over it. We already knew he had that passion and in truth you can hear a similarly industrial, sort of combustive sound palette in Avery’s own production work. But Factory Floor seem to revel in both the size impact of their drums and depth of their droning. For lack of a better description the DFA signed band’s music can be like a wall of sound that physically encloses itself around your head for the duration of their performance.
Daniel Avery: I want to start with drums as they are such an integral part to the Factory Floor sound. There's a definite pulse that runs throughout everything you do. Are there certain records you've referenced in the studio to achieve that?
Gabe Gurnsey: Ah shit, I could talk about drums for hours but I'll keep it short (kind of). Sonically I've always loved the boxy, dead tight drum sounds that artists like Talking Heads and Arthur Russell achieved on their records, even the Beatles at points, so this ideal has always slipped into my mind when I'm in the studio gaffer taping snares and toms until they sound like cheap Argos cardboard boxes. 'Cross Eyed and Painless' (Talking Heads) and 'A Platform on the Ocean ' (Arthur Russel) are records I've tried to reference but pretty much failed each time. Fuck recording to analog tape though - it's my worst nightmare having resonance on drum kits and I guess in a lot of ways I like the idea of a traditional kit sounding closer to a drum machine to start with and getting the expressiveness out of throwing sections into delay or reverb or whatever external processes after it's tracked. A bit like the processes used in dub. I love the drum production on the 'Cry Tuff Dub Encounter' records by Prince Far I and the Arabs and King Tubby records. I can't get enough of spring reverb.
GG: While we are chatting drums, I've always loved the simplicity but profoundness of your rhythms and drum sounds in your records . Are the drums always a starting point for you when writing or do they come after?
DA: Yeah, always. Like you, I’m not into perfect sounding drums and a lot of time in the studio is spent ‘ruining’ them. They have to have an energy and a life. I’m really into the idea of drowning elements of tracks with reverb and distortion, sometimes reducing kicks to little more than distant pulses. Aphex is the king of that.
DA: I mean this statement as the biggest compliment: it seems to me that Factory Floor are a live band who also happen to make great records. It's something to be experienced in the flesh. Something to get lost inside. Do you agree?
GG: Yeah I agree. It's definitely been that way to date and achieving what we've done live so far on record could make for a pretty messy, long album. We've always looked at recording our tracks as a different discipline and another opportunity to explore and experiment in different ways so in our heads they are two sides of FF. We definitely want to bring in more textures to our next recordings and bring in some of the elements playing live brings to the feel. Especially that feeling of getting lost inside you're talking about. It's all about learning for us and people who are into FF watching us learn along the way is important I think.
GG: I’m interested in this escapism idea in music and searching for it in clubs and records. I can really get lost in your album and tracks whenever they are playing. Are there any artists or particular DJ's that give you that escape full on?
DA: In my opinion all of the best DJs have that quality to them. It’s a communal experience between everyone in the club. The dancefloor has to give itself up to the night and trust that the DJ is in control, even in the quieter moments of a set. This modern idea of every single record having to ‘kill it’ could not be further off the mark. Have patience. In turn, the DJ has to trust that the crowd is with them all the way. The same applies to certain bands: Spacemen 3, Neu!, Wooden Shjips, Velvet Underground, you guys in Factory Floor… it’s exciting to lock into someone else’s world and to be taken somewhere. That idea has always had an effect on me and it’s how I like to play as a DJ. I search for those records.
GG: Your track 'Naive Response' was used on Grand Theft Auto V. Do you have influences from gaming visuals or any game sound tracks you experienced in the past growing up that have stuck in anyway and feed into your music. I think your album would work great soundtracking a bit of Street Fighter 2 or R-Type.
DA: Not consciously, no. But you’re right, it doesn’t get much better than this. The glory years before every game was about shooting soldiers in the face…
DA: Can you talk about the role techno plays in Factory Floor? I’ve always been drawn to that dynamic you have between noise and the motorik momentum of club music.
GG: When you mention that I look back at when me and Nik first played together a few years ago and joined the two elements we each brought to the table. It was just raw live drums and Nik blasting out her textured manipulated guitar sounds. The two sounds combined just worked for us, it made total sense. It’s very percussive the way Nik plays; locking in with each other rhythmically definitely brings a reflection of techno but we weren't trying to emulate it. It was only with the resurgence of techno a few years later that we came to realise the comparisons with contemporary techno artists. I think Nik wants to be a drummer deep down, haha. I'll swap roles any day.
DA: Do the others in the band ever give much guidance as to what Nik should do with her voice? It’s such a distinctive part of your sound and yet it sounds like it comes from another place entirely. It has such an otherworldly quality to it...
GG: The vision for the vocals are totally Nik's and no-one else’s. She knows what she wants and knows how to achieve it each time. It really is otherworldly and to be able to play alongside that element and sense of escape with a human voice just gives me a total buzz. I could endlessly build tracks around even tiny parts of what she does. For me it's the most important element in FF. That human connection is essential for me (she definitely owes me a tenner for that).