Carter Tutti Void on Political Apathy

The Throbbing Gristle and Factory Floor alumni of Carter Tutti Void discuss the societal changes that have immobilized a generation of un-activists.
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Spawned from a conflation of Viennese Actionism, Burroughs-ian dada logic and hijacked electronics, pioneering industrial band Throbbing Gristle beat an inspired route out of the discontent of late ’70s England. After parting ways with founding members Genesis P-Orridge and Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti embarked on a string of inspired albums under the moniker Chris & Cosey, drawing equally on the pitch black content of early industrial and a burgeoning interest in pristine synth pop. In 2012, Carter and Tutti teamed up with Nik Void of Factory Floor for a series of live shows that became Transverse, an album of live-cuts which garnered considerable acclaim from old TG-heads and younger techno-types alike. Where TG’s political stance was aggressively self-evident, CTV offer a more subtle and perhaps insidious means of recalibrating your sense of self. Their new album, f(x), is a studio creation that takes a fascination with motorik repetition and sonic minutiae, strips them of club bullshit and leaves listeners with something properly primal.

Catch Carter Tutti Void live appearance on November 6 on the Field Day Stage at Club To Club  Festival in Turin.

Your first record,Transverse, developed out of a one-off live collaboration. What inspired you to go back to the studio together for a pre-meditated record?

Chris Carter: It was because of the live shows. They went really well and people were extremely receptive to what we were doing. At that point I think we realized that there was mileage in the project and that there was more to create by going back into the studio again.

Cosey Fanni Tutti: We really enjoyed playing together anyway, and I personally didn’t want it to stop at just the one live show because it seemed to work so well. We sat so incredibly well together when we got playing.

Nik Void: We didn’t even talk about it really. It was extremely natural.

Did f(x) require more premeditation than the first record? Or did you try to harness the energy that was developing from the performances?

CFT: As you say, the momentum was already set. When we decided to do some more recording in the studio, we were keen to keep the same approach because that’s what we love doing. It gave us all a sense of freedom to go wherever we wanted with our music. That’s what was so refreshing about it for us, and I think for Nik as well. There was no history between the three of us towards any kind of music collaboration, so we could do what we wanted and we didn’t want to change that. We wanted it to be what it had always been from the beginning.

CC: There was definitely a lot of give and take. I am constantly working on rhythms and ideas. It’s just what I do, almost like a hobby. The rhythms on this record are completely new, but we were playing some of them live before we had recorded them. I like to get new gear and try out new ideas and reconfigure how things are connected together. I never have the same setup; month to month it’s always changing, and it really inspires me to do new things.

The last time I saw you perform, everyone was dancing, but at no point could I have ever qualified it as the type of dancing one sees at a traditional contemporary “dance” club. It seemed like the rhythms and sounds encouraged a type of movement—a churning—that precedes the idea of electronic dance.

CFT: For me, it’s always about encouraging a primal instinct more than anything else, ensuring you can’t just stay still. That’s what I like in turn to feed off. When people start dancing like that, and you can tell it’s not like a techno dance, I like to feed off it and throw in little sequences that I have samples of. Or Chris will pull back a bit on his rhythm, and Nik and I will go in a new direction on guitars. That’s what it’s all about. When I’m feeding back the audience’s primal response to what we’re giving them, that redoubles what we will give them again, and it’s a wonderful collaboration. For me, that’s where the power lies: building this wonderful atmosphere together and the physicality of the sound.

CC: Sometimes the rhythms on the record are almost just an undercurrent, like a subsonic undercurrent. It’s definitely veering more towards industrial, but it also remains really fluid. We had a problem with syncing at the first show at the Roundhouse. I couldn’t figure out who was in sync with who, so I put my metronome on, and you can actually hear that in the recording at some point. Or was it Nik’s?

CFT: No, it was yours. Don’t blame Nik!

CC: After that we decided that we wouldn’t be synchronized, and it would create a lot of slippage.

CFT: It gives you room to manoeuvre. You don’t get tied in, and that allows for a lot more texture in the sounds that we use.

NV: Yeah, you just respond to your own body clock. Playing the guitar like Cosey and I play is all to do with the movement of the body. When we time with Chris’s beats, it’s a bit like clapping or something, but instead you’re running a bow or a stick across a guitar and you’re generating all these envelopes of sound. If it was all synced up, you would get all of these harsh “full stops” in our sound, and it wouldn’t reverberate in the manner which it does.

Cosey, you’ve mentioned previously that you’re surprised at the lack of truly challenging or different sounds coming out recently. Would you say there was a direct retaliation to that with f(x)?

CFT: I can’t say it was a conscious decision to inject them only for the sake that there was nothing that really grabbed my attention. That wasn’t the purpose of what we did. In fact, what springs to mind is, when we first did TG, we would inject the kind of sounds that we didn’t hear anywhere else—that we couldn’t find anywhere else. And that’s how industrial music was founded: by trying to generate sounds that reflected our emotions and how we felt about the world. I think CTV is a different iteration of that. In TG, it was half unconscious and half not. We wanted to deliver something that was anarchic, but on the other hand, we wanted to express something. This time around, it was much more organic and much less intentional. When we get together, we make sounds that we feel primally, and put them through whatever instrument we choose to manufacture that sound.

TG’s approach to creating something anarchic seems related to the music’s expression of anger and the political climate of England in the ’70s. That form of expression changes over time, but today England seems once again marked with political problems. Given the generation gap that separates Nik from Chris and Cosey, is that anger is still there? Has it changed?

CFT: I’m always angry! Nik, are you angry?

NV: I’m actually the opposite. I’m really baffled because I just don’t understand how I came out with this angry-sounding noise. When people actually meet me in the flesh, they always say, “Oh, you’re actually quite nice.”

CFT: But there are still evocations of anger I need to get out. In the last five years, I dare say I’ve felt a little hope, that something will come through. I just find it very sad that things have to almost crash completely before people get off their backsides and do anything positive. And that’s the saddest thing about humans really. Whilst we are comfortable, we don’t think of doing anything that moves us forward.

CC: I think in the ’70s, TG were more political because of the political situation at the time, but it’s getting a bit like that again with the right-wing government we’ve had for however many years. But it always disappoints me that the youth aren’t more angry, actually. There used to be a load of demonstrations in the ’70s and the ’80s, but you get hardly any now.

NV: I think in our generation, the Internet has pushed our awareness further around the world so we aren’t so focused on what’s happening in England. I think anger has become diluted. You’ve got so much information thrown at you just by looking at your daily Facebook feed. You have to turn it off because it makes you angry. That’s probably the reason why there isn’t a lot of music that’s as strong politically as music from the ’70s and ’80s. Things are more subdued at the moment. I’m thinking about contemporaries—a lot of whom I love—and I can only assume it’s because people are feeling quite jaded by the information overload. You feel a little bit helpless, that you can’t do anything about these issues that are constantly bombarding you. London is completely drying up in terms of creativity, and I don’t know what’s going to happen in 20 years. Hopefully that changes when musicians realize that they’ve got things other than a computer that can make music and start being more primal with the process again.

CTF: Music can get you back to personal, inner empowerment. It can give you the “values” if you like, the knowledge, about where you might want to go and how you think humanity should share in it. And this actually gives you something to say in the end, because you have an opinion of your own. I think finding that empowerment is a way to make sense of this stinkin’ world.

CC: Sound does follow a fashion. There are definitely fashionable sounds and fashionable singers, but it’s when someone comes up with something new which sounds different that you start to arrest people’s habits and trigger an effect. People should stop using preset synth sounds and just switching on their brand new drum machine and using the patterns it came with. In a way, Cosey and Nik are better off in that respect because they play guitar. It engenders a very personal relationship and an individualistic style of playing.

CFT: I don’t know about Nik, but I do feel at one with it. When I get into that zone, it becomes my voice really.

The idea of allowing rhythmic slips and improvised changes to shape what a performance can or should be can be quite a jarring idea to a generation of electronic producers who often use very grid-like structures. 

CFT: It’s not quite soul destroying, but when you go to festivals and see people are running Logic and they’re just playing on top, you just think, “Oh, fucking hell.”

CC: “Not again!”

CFT: And everybody applauds, “It sounds just like the record, doesn’t it?!” It’s because it is!

CC: It’s like karaoke. But with us we literally are making it up as we go along with all the intention of playing what we think is the album, but it in all likelihood it won’t sound anything like it.

CFT: I would be so bored going up there and doing the same thing every time. Wouldn’t you, Nik?

NV: It would defeat the whole purpose of what we’re doing. I don’t do what I do to try to impress an audience. I go up there to enjoy what I’m doing. If I went up there and pressed play, I just wouldn’t know what I was doing.

CFT: I had a similar thing with someone else I did a project with. They expected me to go on stage with them and stand there while they’d press play. I got up, he pressed play, and his face—the look of horror!—when I didn’t follow the script. I’d usurped him. But it was fantastic. I don’t go on stage just to pretend to play.

Was there any significance to releasing f(x) on Industrial Records? It feels like a really neat tying of the present to the spirit of the label’s past.

NV: For me, releasing on Industrial Records is amazing. We are forever changing, and the whole project started off without any responsibility to each other, it was just to see what happens. I don’t think any of us own the music as individuals and I can’t pinpoint this music fitting anywhere specific. I didn’t go through the production of the album, so when I heard the album back, it was like nothing I had heard before. That’s what the spirit of Carter Tutti Void is, to keep changing.

CFT: Yes, I think releasing it on Industrial Records speaks to the spirit of CTV very well. Industrial was really about representing a spirit of independence, and that’s what CTV is. As Nik says, it’s for everyone. It’s not to be categorized or tamed in anyway.

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