London post-industrial outfit Factory Floor make severe, unrelenting electronic music for an anxious age. And they do it with the endorsement of post-punk’s elder statespeople; Mark Stewart, Stephen Morris, Chris Carter—all have worked with the band, contributing remixes or, in the case of Stewart, recruiting FF for his single “Stereotype” alongside PiL‘s Keith Levene. Currently, Colk, Gabe Gurnsey and Dom Butler are working on their first, highly anticipated album. We caught up with them in Kraków, a few hours before their very well-received gig at the Unsound Festival.
How are you finding Unsound? You don’t play that many festivals.
Nik Colk: It’s a festival we really wanted to play. We’re still recording our first album so we have to be very selective about what we do. We felt though that we had to play some of the new festivals in England to show support. We like playing with bands whose music we’ve never heard before.
Gabe Gurnsey: And reaching out to new audiences is important, too. There are always the same people coming to our shows but at festivals the mixture is slightly different with other people standing at the front. We’re continually bringing in new people.
We’ve all been waiting for your first album for what seems like quite a long time. Playing at festivals like Unsound, you’re confronted with a lot of other music—does it help or confuse?
DB: The music of others always informs you in one way or the other. I don’t think that it actually shapes our music though. I tend to listen to less music when we record. It might change your focus which I find irritating.
GG: I find it interesting to see what kinds of methods other bands use to get the crowd going, manipulating the sound to manipulate the audience – and vice versa. Feedbacking…
Are you still working with Stephen Morris, New Order’s drummer?
NC: It was a one-off thing, really. He did a remix for us, on our “A Wooden Box” 12-inch and he then worked with us some more. We met up in Norfolk, in the middle of nowhere, and he brought his equipment with him. We then spend six months working with him, visiting him in Macclesfield, exchanging files. It was a massive learning experience for us.
GG: We might work together again in the future, we got along really well, but we decided to do our album alone. Written by, produced by, recorded by, engineered by, mixed by Factory Floor. It’s all a bit of a journey but that’s part of the fun. We’re also learning a lot from collaborating with other people: We performed a set with the New York composer and Love of Life Orchestra founder Peter Gordon at the ICA which later helped is structuring our music and finding new sounds.
Then again, a producer can help to make decisions you’d rather not want to make but which might lead to a better song…
Dom Butler: With a producer things can get diluted. Us three have been playing together intensively for quite a while so we usually know what the others think and want, we’re in tune with each other’s thoughts. At the same time, of course, we surprise each other. I find it a bit distracting having another person with you who’s not actually part of the group. Working on a song can be a really intimate experience. You really have to be in there to help the song. And if the producer isn’t in there then it’s difficult. It can be intimidating—not with Stephen though, he’s got a great sense of humor, which helps.
He once said that when you play live the music is often “at the brink of chaos”, which he likes.
NC: Our sets are half-improvised. It’s all about looking at each other and communicating. When the atmosphere and sound is not right this can make it difficult.
GG: The chaotic aspect is something we can control but also something that we don’t want to control. It’s exciting to let the music do its own thing. We’re still investigating the songs when we play them live.
When will the album be ready?
NC: Early next year.
What’ll be the label?
NC: Oh, that’s still a secret. But there is one.
It seems like you’re operating at your own very specific pace. You haven’t released that much music and you’ve also not played live that often. Is that a strategy?
NC: We nap a lot, don’t we? No, seriously, when we first got together there seemed to be an immediate hype around us while we, at the time, didn’t really know how we’d work together. We’re still learning about what we’re doing, same as we’re still learning how to record. This takes time. If you listen to our first 10-inch and compare it to our last 12-inch they sound very different, so that’s already been a long journey with lots of experimentation. Also, the collaborations take up a lot of time as well.
GG: So, yes, we’ve got our own pace and our own rules which have come unconsciously and naturally to us.
I find your music quite grim and dark. Is that a reflection of the overall social climate in Great Britain at the moment?
NC: Not all. It’s a reflection of our personalities, ha! We’re quite serious individuals. And it’s also about the pace of living in London. The area we live and record in in North London is quite grim, too. We’re disruptive and constructive people at the same time.