We Spoke to Lee Gamble About the Forthcoming PAN Records Showcase
"We have it all, and we are still bored, over saturated and drunk all at the same time."
Few record labels have been able to establish themselves so highly as a cross-disciplinary platform as Bill Kouligas's PAN Records. Known for their avant-garde output and experimental collaborations, the label has consistently aimed to push pre-conceived boundaries of electronic music via conceptual releases and forward-thinking artists; the ever-visceral Helm, sound engineer Rashad Becker, the more dance floor-friendly Heatsick, and Japanese techno producer NHK'Koyxen to name a few.
As part of celebrations for their fifth birthday this year, which kicked off with a 7000-strong party at V&A Lates with Boiler Room last weekend, PAN will also be presenting a special showcase for the Harmonic Series at London's Southbank Centre. Curated by label founder Bill Kouligas, the showcase will see a new piece by Turner Prize-winner Mark Leckey (known for his cult 'Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore') and legendary sound artist Florian Hecker. Label signing Lee Gamble will be presenting a series of "club deconstructions" with an exclusive audio-visual show with artist Dave Gaskarth, whilst Rene Hell and Jar Moff will be exhibiting abstract compositions and collage-based works with Lars Holdhus, and San Francisco's Mat Dryhurst.
In conversation with THUMP, Lee Gamble goes head-to-head with Dave Gaskarth about audio-visual art, the end goal of their work, and UK rave culture.
A still from Lee Gamble and Dave Gaskarth's collaborative show.
THUMP: What are your working processes like when it comes to performance projects for the likes of the Southbank show?
Lee Gamble: It's always difficult to get enough time to work on these things, but generally trying not to present it in certain ways was paramount to us. We talked more about what we didn't want to do, than what we did.
Dave Gaskarth: Early UK rave culture was steeped in surrealism from the start, far more explicitly than it is today. Re-drawing Fantazia flyers in art class in 1991 while listening to Sweet Exorcist lead straight to the accessible side of Surrealism; Dali, Ernst. Pop art imagery was a huge part of it too. The Rice Crispies elves being re-named 'Smack, Crack and Pot', and printed on rave tee shirts, is a detournement the Situationists would have approved of. Add the fact that early Hardcore was basically fractured cross cultural collage, and you've got a clear path to Burroughs and Brion Gysin.
The chart show on Saturday mornings in the early nineties also had some amazing visuals; things like Jarvis Cockers video for Aphex Twins' On. Early computer artists like Lillian Schwartz's work would have looked totally at home in any 90's club. Still would. The show is about exploring these parallels, yet without making a clear distinction.
Lee Gamble: All I would add to that is the idea of exploring any form of 'rave' or 'jungle' theme implicitly was never the point. I'm more interested in beginning a complete dismantling of the memories, ideas and 'things' of a time period through the prism of a music culture, as opposed a genre of music, or anything like that. Diversions 1994-1996 was just a starting point for this. I wanted to expand (and not repeat) the stuff explored rudimentarily in Diversions 1994-1996. There is only so much you can examine on a vinyl release. Much of the visual and audio I would suggest is more about 'states' than specifics; The expansion and compression of time perceived in your head, for instance.
How do the more conceptual imperatives behind PAN as a visual and sonic outlet align with you as an artist?
Lee Gamble: Myself and Gas (David Gaskarth) have been friends since school and Gas is a designer, so there has been a lot of cross-pollination between the audio and visual aspects of our ideas for a long time. Of course, I like to collaborate closely with Bill (Kouligas) on the artwork, design, layout of my records too.
A still from Lee Gamble and Dave Gaskarth's collaborative show.
Is there much of an affinity between the artists on the label, or do you feel quite separate in terms of your working identities?
Lee Gamble: I feel separate. Some of the people are my friends, and I love a lot of the music released on the label, but I think what makes the label strong and interesting is the fact that the artists and their work are separate from one another.
Do you feel there are any difficulties in the notion and/or transition of music being seen as a fine art?
Lee Gamble: Music and the other arts have always clashed and crossed-over. The blurry lines are interesting to me. Personally, I find myself at points in an awkward position where my releases have concepts. I want them to be able to work as things to listen to. To offer something other than a purely functional music, and hopefully without seeming pretentious, or bogged down in hot air, or waffle to prop up something otherwise uninteresting. The idea of having to quantify what you do in electronic music for instance in an "art framework", or getting a "real orchestra" to play it or whatever, is bullshit.
I have always been interested in making sound which has the option in it for you to go outside the music alone if you want. The text in 'Dutch Tvashar Plumes' for instance is a large part of it. You can get something else out of it if you spend some time looking into that aspect. But then, 'Plos 97's', a track off that album, gets played in clubs by DJs like Ron Morelli and ends up on Pangaea's Fabriclive mix, so that's ace.
Functionality alone just bores me, to be honest. I used to break calculators when I was small. Perhaps the medium that music is published on can interfere with people treating it as something other than a commodified object. It's a wholesale available thing, whereas art is seen as elite, expensive, one-off, unavailable.
Do you have any expectations or end goal in how a new or unfamiliar audience reacts to your work?
Lee Gamble: It's great when people have no-clue what to expect. It's more raw that way. That's great, I really like that. Hopefully, also some intrigue too. With a show like this, I'd like to push people a bit into those apparently useless parts of the brain that haven't been realigned to make you buy stuff, go to work everyday, make everything seem boring. The noumenal, perhaps.
I like the idea of implanting something in someone's head. Then, their personal interpretation of that suggestion is the crux of the work at that point. Spelling everything out for people is of no interest at all. I like research. I like process. I like deconstructed things. I like blurry stuff. Day-to-day life can become so fucking dull for people. Look down a high street on a Saturday night. We have it all, and we are still bored, over saturated and drunk all at the same time. Like a flat monochrome decadence, served up in a Sainsbury's 'bag for life'.
Harmonic Series presents: PAN showcase at the Southbank Centre on February 7th. Ticket available here.
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