The first time I saw Anklepants play live, I didn’t really know what to expect. My friend dane//close had invited me to a party at Berlin’s Sameheads art-bar to experience a ‘true dickhead’ playing a totally weird set. I thought someone might tear down the DJ booth or beat up the audience, taking the word ‘dickhead’ quite literarily. I’m always up for something like that. Little did I know that I was to experience a life-changing moment of animatronic mayhem.
Reecard Farchè disassembles blurbs of glitchy Facecore with subverted dubstep mechanics and transforms his facehead – what he calls his mask – into an Über-being of multilayered beats. Farchès’ mask consists of an animatronic dildo that acts as his nose, controlled according to the music. It’s a thoroughly constructed work of genuine talent.
Since my first exposure, Ankelpants has played my own Noisekölln party, and we’ve spoken quite a lot on Facebook. His new album Social?-?Patching? ?and The Pixel Pageant Facéd Boy has been in the making for almost three years. In our conversation we dissect Farchès’ animatronic filmworks, which have been in pictures such as Prometheus and Star Wars III, as well as his humble beginnings playing for a distinctly bro-heavy audience, and fighting his way out of Australia and into Europe.
Electronic Beats: Where did Anklepants come from?
The first gig was, I think, 2008, but some of the music that is now associated with it is probably from 2005 or earlier. Anklepants was originally two heads, as I was playing together with a close friend of mine.
You started out with two masks?
Yeah, they where synchronized, doing all kind of things. He’s a really good friend of mine. I still don’t know why he doesn’t do it any more.
How did you come up with the idea for the head?
Originally it was this stupid idea for some kind of strange porn movie we wanted to make. I was working at Gold Coast in Australia, a seriously horrible place. We just had these ideas for a bunch of strange characters and Anklepants was one of them. I just decided that animatronics and stuff would be pretty strange to use on stage. Since then it’s totally evolved and the character is something completely different now.
You wanted to make a porn movie?
The first pictures I drew of the character where based on ideas we had for this sexual comedy thing. It was gonna be me and this weird pig character in an inflatable suit, doing all this strange stuff. The set would be able to turn upside down because we wanted all all these anti-gravity sex scenes. But of course gravity is all over the place and things would be falling from the ceiling and from the side.
Were you working in movies back then as well?
Yeah, that was when I was working on a film for kids called Aquamarine. We built prosthetic and animatronic mermaid tails. It was after I’d lived at Gold Coast for probably a year and a half. It’s quite a strange place.
My friends Strange Forces told me about a pub they visited at Gold Coast, owned by Paul Hogan from the Crocodile Dundee movies.
I don’t really know about that, but it’s the most overly commercial place I’ve ever been in my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever go anywhere more commercial. Every nightclub is exactly the same, bar one.You can literally walk into a club and then walk into the next one and you just keep hearing the same song over and over. There’s not really any live venues and people don’t really like new things. I had been working on films already for five years or more before I went there.
You initially started with animatronics?
When I first started in this kind of job (creature effects) I was working in the foam latex lab and most of my experience is actually with prosthetic makeup. First I did some stop-motion animation. Then I got my first job on Star Wars: Episode III.
What did you build in Star Wars?
I produced all the foam/latex makeup appliances. I was just learning a lot, sort of watching everyone.
What other movies did you work on?
There was Where The Wild Things Are, the Spike Jonez Movie. More recently I did something on Prometheus for a company that was working on the space ship, control panels and monitors and all that stuff. The last job I did was for the next Universal Wolf Man film, my first film as the Creature Effects supervisor. I also built most of the animatronics. I worked on the korean film The Host, which has this big prawn kind of creature in it.
The mask you are using for performing is kind of uneasy on the eye. What where the first reactions you got on that?
That’s the thing with Anklepants, people look at it and get sort of scared. I don’t know what I would do if I walked into a place and saw that head. It gets a total different response in Berlin or anywhere in Europe than in Australia. In Sydney people usually just stand there, they don’t really participate in gigs. So the response you get is like ‘awkward’, but that’s for any gig there. People are sort of “That’s a dickhead, so what?”. The good thing about Berlin is that people are open to a much wider range of electronic music, and tend to listen to the music and not just look at the cockface…they dance go crazy and do whatever they want.
I remember reading some serious disturbed criticism from a religious person on your Facebook page.
I think a friend of mine took some pictures and posted them and then this girl made a comment about the penisface, and how obviously the person who made the mask is really disturbed and all kinds of things. Not many people say horrible stuff though, and I haven’t had any other religious people complain before.
The funniest thing that ever happened, was when I played at this psych-trance parties in Australia. I was watching this guy chewing his face off, no idea what he was on, then he just comes up and was looking at the case with all my gear and I realized he was looking where the master power is and pulled the plug. Then he ran, and I just took off the mask and all the gear and just tackled him. Thats probably the worst reaction I had: pulling out my power. I had an argument with a university crowd once, I had people just screaming at me to stop playing. They where like ‘play R&B, play R&B, Beyoncé.’ I don’t know exactly what their idea of R&B was, but they where totally trilling me. It was like playing at McDonalds. And this guy just decided he was the leader of the pack and started to tear me apart. Then he waited for me and tried to bash me after the gig. It’s usually guys that come up and grab the dick, not girls. That’s weird.
So you don’t get any sexual inquiries to try out the mask or something?
From time to time, but it’s not the most sanitary kind of material and its really soft, so there’s not gonna be much penetration going on. It’s just like a prop-dildo. Like a Nerf dildo. I want to make a silicone one one day because it looks better.
It’s a pretty Freudian thing.
Yeah you could definitely say that! The original idea was just this porn thing, but now this character is starting to represent a lot of different prominent figures in political and social movements.
You’re playing with social gender norms a lot, like on your press pictures when you’re in this dresses and such.
I don’t really think about that that often; I suppose I do it subconsciously. My last girlfriend used to dance with the cock-face on, that was pretty intense. She did it once at a show. In Australia there is not many gay people around, just a lot of rednecks, and it just fucks them up so bad. But I think it works better with the male body, because it just doubles.
Is there a lot of social commentary in your music?
I look at a lot of things, American politics, economics, history. The way currency works is pretty important and a lot of people don’t really think about it enough – I think it all relates to music directly. Everyone’s part of it somehow and we can’t really get out of it. It’s pretty important for people who are producing some kind of visual sound to be aware of it. At least a bit aware of things that Freud and these kind of guys did. Advertisement, propaganda and all those things. Music is a massive part of that. Even if it’s commercial or underground, it’s using the same tools that were designed by those guys at some point. I don’t know if it shows in what I do. Economics and music go hand-in-hand for me.
A lot of the apparent underground is also using the same tactics. I’m not saying there isn’t any sort of ‘underground’ music; music is mainly spread around for free, it’s all online. Everyone seems to be on the same level right now. A lot of the underground music is marketed in the exact same way as the mainstream music now. Which I know is obvious, but I think it’s very important for people to realize that. People use the term ‘underground’ or ‘experimental’, but most of the time it’s really just not. I don’t know if it comes out in my music. There are some lyrics about that kind of thing, not very direct, sort of jokes and silly things.
I agree, there is no such thing as ‘underground’ anymore. Everything is totally arbitrary and scattered in small scenes. Mainstream music has become an in-joke and the big record companies seem to go down steadily.
I’ve never been involved in those kind of things. To me it’s coming more towards the performance. I thought that for a long time, the whole live thing… it used to seem like it was all secret and different, but maybe that’s just what happens when you are young and you don’t realize that it actually wasn’t at all?
Now music is universally available to almost everyone, but before you bought one record a month and it was totally special to you. Now a lot of half-ass stuff has become a lot more acceptable.
I totally agree, it’s becoming easier to make genre-music. Before that you needed all these things, it was just not possible for the average person to make, for example, classical music in the 1920s. But now if you want to make dubstep you can just get a soft-synth that makes that sound and a sequencer and click on a few spots on a screen: presto, you made a thing. Not to discredit people; I just think it’s an overflow and there is not much sincerity going on. I don’t know how many people mean it anymore. When you’re at a gig, and someone is not into what they’re doing it’s pretty obvious. That’s why you go to gigs anyway, to see this extra kind of energy and people doing this crazy shit.
Michael Aniser’s Noisekölln party takes over Berlin’s RAUM club tonight, together with the Czech label AMDISCS, fellow EB Editor Daniel’s ghetto-goth #gHashtag party, and local filthstep purveryors HELLDROP. RSVP here.
Photo: © Marina Dellamore and Reecard Farché