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Interview: Andrew Weatherall

31st January 2013

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Andrew Weatherall is a successful man. Having been in the music business for over twenty years, the Windsor-born DJ and producer has released several albums and has remixed the work of such artists as Primal Scream, the Manic Street Preachers and My Bloody Valentine.

Andrew WeatherallHe also founded the label Boy’s Own Recordings, which becoming Junior Boy’s Own after he left, were responsible for unleashing the talents of the Chemical Brothers and Underworld on the world.

Back with a new psychedelic project The Asphodells and a new album, TNS sat down with Weatherall...

 Many artists claim to have a unique artistic process which they go through in order to create their music. Whether it be the length they’ll go through to find that one source of inspiration or even their list of influences, artists are usually quite open about their artistic journeys.

However, Andrew Weatherall doesn’t really have one – mainly because he never stops making music. “When you’re putting out a new record or a new piece of art, there’s never any start point,” he explains.

“We’re forever creating music and I don’t come in on a Monday and think ‘right, now we’re gonna make an album called The Asphodells and we’re gonna make it sound like this’. It’s a very creative studio and there’s always music being made”.

Indeed, Weatherall enjoys the process of making music very much. He believes that his continuous work ethic is due to his working class background. “I didn’t have a good education,” he reflects, “I got expelled from school and thrown out of home so that work ethic was necessary.”

His new album, The Asphodells, isn’t a major change from the DJ/Producer’s previous work – but it is one of a long line of albums in his catalogue. Having been in the industry making these records for over twenty years now, he is unclear where his influences lie – they lie under heaps of his well-respected work.

“If this was the first thing I’d done, then I could go into all manner of influences,” Weatherall explains, “but if I were to try and distil this album then it would take far longer than either you or I have to spend. This is the next part in the process. Hopefully, I’ve gotten better as a human being and as a musician over the past twenty-five years.”

That is a question that can be answered positively – The Asphodells is a record full of beautiful and varied tracks that, although are traditional Weatherall affairs in many ways, show a considerable improvement from his previous work over the years.

The Asphodells is an impressive album – so how does The Asphodells Weatherall and co. craft such fine work? How do they get themselves through the album-making process?

“In the studio, there should be laughter,” says Weatherall, “We try to make each other laugh. Whether it be hilarious computer programming or weird sounds, there should always be a spirit of fun in the studio. Even you’re very serious about doing, you should have fun.”

Certainly, since he is in the business of creating music with an air of comedy, this is a convenient factor of his job. However, as his fans will no doubt be aware, the British DJ has remixed the work of many other artists as well.

How does this process unravel? Does he already have an idea in his head the moment he hears a song being played?

“I’ll listen to a track and it could be a small development that I latch onto,” explains Weatherall. However, many critics and fans of the artists’ original work agree that he destroys the material he remixes by adding his own touches. This is something that Weatherall is more than aware of; but he insists that by adding his own vision to the tracks, he still keeps the original essence of the track in place.

“That sometimes means the small development, the hidden thing you can’t really see on the track and kind of magnifying it a bit. It’s almost like painting by numbers because you’re arranging other people’s pieces and making an end product using stuff from your own palette.”

Additionally, he believes that remixing the tracks of other artists is the ideal thing for when the creative juices just aren’t flowing. “Especially if you start a remix on a Monday and you’ve had a heavy weekend and your mind isn’t functioning,” he says, “if you’ve got that shortcut, it’s a great creative kick-start”.

Back in the nineties, hel modelled a persona that reflected the artists that he himself was a fan of. “A lot of my early heroes are very backroom people,” he explains, “My two main heroes, Martin Hannett and Adrian Sherwood were very mysterious, backroom people. They rarely had interviews and very rarely had their picture taken and that’s what I wanted to be[…]The first photo I had taken at the NME, I was wearing glasses and a scarf and appeared like this mysterious Martin Hannett and Adrian Sherwood figure.”

Indeed, during those times, remaining anonymous in the public eye was easier, admits Weatherall. “You [could] just about get away with it twenty-five years ago but over the past ten or fifteen years, remaining anonymous has become very difficult. It’s impossible now with the advent of the camera phone”.

Although remaining anonymous has indeed become more difficult, Weatherall is aware that he has a dedicated fanbase that highly respect his work. When fans approach him on the street, the DJ admits it is a good part of his day. “People are genuinely interested in my work. It’s nice - it’s a level of validation which is quite comforting.”

The nineties also found him delve into other areas of the music business for the first time; along with some friends, he began his own record label, Boy’s Own Recordings. “Boy’s Own was meant to be the spokespeople for the house scene. We just wanted to put our own music out. We had a kind of rock attitude – we said, ‘Why can’t we have our own record label?’ There was no game plan.”

Before long, though, he left Boy’s Own and the label changed its name to Junior Boy’s Own.  He is somewhat amused at his unfortunate timing to jump ship.

“I left Boy’s Own before they signed two of their most successful artists, the Chemical Brothers and the Underworld!” he laughs. However, he appears to have little time for regret and is clearly satisfied with the success he currently sustains now.

“Everything I do is a kind of natural progression. At the time, the label was beginning to diverge a little bit with our tastes and what we were doing so I went off and did my own thing and the boys at Boy’s Own did theirs. I’ve never really put much thought into anything, it just seemed kind of natural!”

After twenty-five years in the industry, what advice does he have for newcomers?

“Don’t get too stuck on being original; make music you love and don’t worry too much about originality otherwise you’ll get bogged down. If you get into any form of art, whether it be a writer or a painter, musician or whatever, you start off by doing an approximation that you love and almost by force, you become original”.

Weatherall, whilst being very successful in his craft, can’t help but joke about his position as a relatively underground artist and not being in the mainstream music industry. “Originality is definitely my advice but then those who follow that could end up like me – in rented accommodation and not much money in the business!” he laughs.

However, no matter how much money Andrew Weatherall has made during his lengthy music career, there is no doubt about the amount of impact he has made thus far – with a stunning back-catalogue of finely-produced albums, he has truly earned his place in history and a special place in the hearts of his loyal fans. However, how long can he continue to make music?

“It’s a showbiz cliché but I will stop working until the phone stops ringing,” he replies confidently. And that, his fans would undoubtedly agree, can only be a good thing.

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