Consistently producing some of the most exciting electronica over the last few years has been Ceephax (aka Andy Jenkinson). We managed to catch up with him for a chat with us about his new album, his live shows and his Amiga.
Hi Andy, thanks for chatting to us at the music fix, how are things with you?
Hi, things are cool.
We’re looking forward to your new album United Acid Emirates on the 25th of January – can you tell us a little bit about it?
It's basically an assortment of stuff made over the last three or so years, covering various tempos and moods but united by it all being quite melodic and friendly sounding, and most the tracks having a TB-303 in them. I don't think there's any concept behind it, just tunes that go well together and that the label like.
Do you have a composition process?
It's quite different for every song I'd say, but I'd say it usually starts with the bassline or the chords, then melodies, then beats, then refinements,then refreshments.
What are your influences, I can hear a lot of 16-bit sounds in your music?
The main music I love listening to is film soundtrack music, Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, Giorgio Moroder etc (seems to be quite Italian too). Also old game music from the arcade games and computer games like you say, games such as Golden Axe (the arcade version) and C64 classics such as One Man and His Droid (Rob Hubbard) and the Overlander loading music (Mark Cooksey).
I'm quite partial to a bit of early 90's hardcore too and pretty much anything else in music that I like which could be in any genre. I don't limit myself really, but I must say I don't listen to that much new stuff. I'm totally behind the times.
Rob Hubbard’s stuff is amazing. So, were you a computer games player in the 16-bit days and do you play games now?
Definitely..... Some of the games I'll always come back to are Asteroids, Centipede, Turrican, International Karate, Pinball Fantasies, Vroom, Spindizzy, Robotron, The Sentinel, Mercenary (although I never really understood the last two for some reason I still load them just for their amazing atmosphere). Doom and stuff like that when I'm angry.
What was the first piece of computer based music that you made?
‘Hardcore Wick’, a previous release of mine, was made on a Commodore Amiga about 2001, and updated a bit later on. I only currently use a computer for recording though not composing or sounds. So I wouldn't call hardly any of my stuff computer music, only a few tracks that were made on an Amiga.
’Hardcore Wick’ is one my favourite things you have done. How did you decide upon the name Ceephax?
There was a jazz funk band from Chelmsford in the 90's that I thought sounded a bit like the library music from "Pages from Ceefax" (see youtube kids) on TV late at night on TV. But I don't think they would have appreciated the comparison so I didn't suggest the name to them at the time. Later when I started a band, I remembered the name and took it on myself, even though the music sounded nothing like the Ceefax music (we weren't capable of jazz funk). When I came to making my own electronic tunes, I kept the name changing the f to a ph so Ceefax didn't get cross with me.
You’ve been releasing material on cassette recently. What’s the philosophy behind that decision? Is duplication & distribution an issue?
I think cassette is a great format. Tapes have got real personality, I've got tapes I've made from tons of different eras and they've got vibes. I take vibes over sound quality. It's basically the same music, but if you had a playlist on a computer you wouldn't care much if you deleted it, whereas if you lost a tape you'd had for years and had played in cars, parties etc you'd be pretty gutted, well I would be anyway.
I think a few of the people who buy that tape and like it will treasure it for years (hopefully). Duplication is a bit dodgy because the tape duplicators dotted around the country are getting a bit old now, so the quality could potentially suffer!! Distribution is easy, just put it in a jiffy bag and take it down the post office!
You are known for actually playing live rather than running off a laptop, do you think this adds to the spontaneity of performance?
Depending on what the person is using and doing with a laptop, I think generally it's more spontaneous with live equipment, it allows you to compose the track as you are playing it, go off on different tangents and really change the sounds live etc.
I think this gives you more of an opportunity to be in sync with your audience and their mood, rather than just hope that a composition is going to float their boat. It's loads more limited in complexity compared to a laptop, but all the important bases to make people dance and enjoy themselves are covered!
Out of all your electronic musical equipment do you have a favourite?
At the moment it's the SH-101. It just seems to fit into every track and it totally rips it live, sometimes even more than the TB-303. It's also the first bit of kit I bought so it's sentimental although it's a bit sorry for itself these days as most the keys don't work!
You sometimes release as Ceephax Acid Crew and sometimes as just Ceephax is there a different approach between the two?
There was I think, with Ceephax Acid Crew being the acidic stuff, and Ceephax being ambient, jungle and more experimental stuff.
But for instance, Hardcore Esplanade EP was jungle and released under the name Ceephax Acid Crew which it probably shouldn't have been, and the United Acid Emirates has some ambient stuff on it. I really don't care much about having different names for releasing different stuff, it only comes down to whether the music is good or not at the end and a name won't do anything to change that!
What music are you enjoying at the moment?
Zombie Flesh Eaters title music by Fabio Frizzi.
Thanks for your time today and good luck with the album. Finally what are your plans for 2010?
Haven't got any yet, will see at the time ..
As we clamour over cables and circuit boards, we have a cheery goodbye to Andy and look forward to all of his upcoming eccentric electronic emissions.