In a city still besotted with the metronomic beats of techno, it’s good to know electronic music is being prodded and cajoled into something altogether more substantial, memorable and, dare we say it, beautiful. The Hive Collective is a group of audio and visual artists who’ve been responsible for some of the city’s coolest soundtracks and installations over the past couple of years. Their mission: to make us look again at just how innovative electronic music can look, sound and feel. You can catch them this Saturday evening, at The Cooperatives, Mercy’s Biennial-only performance space on Renshaw Street.
With Hive at the helm, audiences from FACT to France, the Bluecoat to Bulgaria have experienced just how, with a little digital intervention, the place where sound and vision meet can be far greater than the sum of its parts.
Music has the right to be captivating, after all.
We don’t get hung up about definitions. I think what we do has been a product of who we are as individuals and how we’ve had an influence on each other over the years. We’ve all got varied backgrounds: DJing, fine art, music, graphic design and film but the reason we met was music.
We started off by putting on gigs that we wanted to hear because no-one else was doing it. As most of the artists were laptop producers the visual element just made sense in terms of creating an individual performance and an interesting environment. Because we started off doing so many events at FACT, it meant that we were also tied to an art institution right from the start.
So the fact that we eventually got involved in what I suppose you would call art projects has been a natural progression for us. As DJs, musicians and visual artists who were working together quite closely we almost instinctively became aware of what the possibilities might be if we collaborated and developed what we were doing into other contexts. So for instance, it’s not too much of a leap to take what we’ve been doing in a performance context and adapt it to a gallery context.
Electronic music in a city built on guitars. Why have you stayed around?
I guess because we’re still interested. As I say, we came together as a collective because there really wasn’t much going on in terms of electronic music in the city and we’ve been in a really lucky position that we’ve been able to put on acts that we like over a number of years. The fact that these have been some of the most interesting artists in European electronic music (Kode 9, Ben Frost, Alva Noto, Shackleton, Apparat, Plaid, Frank Bretschneider, Colleen, Vladislav Delay etc.) has been almost coincidental as really it’s been reflective of our collective tastes. Having said that, the fact that we’ve put on so many of the acts that we find interesting means that we’re now a little more selective in what we put on. That’s why we were excited by putting Forest Swords on this week. He’s doing something new and really progressing a number of current strains in electronic music.
How’s the ‘bedroom producers’ scene in Liverpool?
It’s always been pretty small in Liverpool but I guess because of the increasing availability of digital production technologies you are always going to get creative people using it as a tool to express something. For example, acts like Shadow Cabinet, Binary Toad and Pariah Qarey are doing good stuff at the moment and they’re all connected with the wider underground scene in Liverpool- so I guess it’s just an another outlet for their creativity. CAPAC are another interesting Liverpool band- they do Four Tet style electronica but have also been involved in that crossover area doing soundscapes/installations and things. CAPAC have been regular attendees at Hive events for the past few years and they’re now starting to get a bit of recognition which is great.
Is your work intended only to be experienced in-situ, at events – where do you stand on owning and downloading, and otherwise getting it out to larger audiences?
Because we’re an audiovisual collective the actual context and environment is really important for us. Providing a unique and unusual experience has always been a central driving force in what we do. And there’s something perversely pure about just leaving that experience in the moment or as a memory. For instance, the Matthew Herbert and Chris Watson commission that we did as part of Capital of Culture was amazing as a process for us. Getting two of the most important UK sound artists to do a new piece around a concept that we’d developed is something that we’re really proud of. And they both delivered something really beautiful and thought provoking which totally worked within the context of the event. We’d put a lot of time and money in to dressing the space, putting together visuals, giving the audience mementos like specially printed postcards and free ice cream and everything. So everything just gelled and it was an amazing night. But we’re also quite proud of the fact that you had to be there in order to experience all of that. We do have a really nice film of the event which gives you sort of an idea of what it was like but there’s no recordings available, no real tangible outcome – it was the event that was important.
With the live installation stuff that we’ve done it has tended to be even more in the moment. We’re interested in the interactive possibilities of digital technologies so events such as the installations we did at the Tate and Future Everything or when we did a live installation in St John’s shopping precinct were dependent on who turned up on the day and what they contributed to the work.
Having said that, if the artists themselves want to release stuff from our events that’s fine. It’s just never really been part of what we’ve done ourselves.
For example, Philip Jeck’s set from a couple of years ago has been released on Touch and TVO’s peice that we commissioned for this year’s Future Everything event is being released as a CD/DVD package with visuals by Bob and Sam from Hive on broken20.com.
Who or what or where are you enjoying in Liverpool right now?
Obviously Forest Swords in terms of music. Ex Easter Island Head’s take on minimalism is probably one of the best live things in the city at the moment. The Kazimier is the hub of a load of interesting stuff but there’s a really strong creative underground in places like Wolstenholme Projects. The old paint shop where Saturday’s event takes place has got a really nice feel to it and Mercy have done a great job in programming some off-the-wall one-off events there. In fact these temporary and one off events and spaces are probably the most interesting thing about the city at the moment like Sound Network’s event in the World Museum and the Never Records thing on Seel Street. In terms of promoters it’s really good to see Upitup doing successful electronic music events, La Racaille has a really eclectic approach to its line-ups and there’s a whole bunch of underground rock stuff which is good.
What can we expect of the Co-operative event?
There’ll be poetry from Aisle 16 which we’re hoping to do an audiovisual remix of on the fly, and we’re also excited to have Forest Swords coming in to do a set of live mixes and reinterpretations of his tracks alongside some new material put together specifically for the night; so its a kind of mix between a spoken word show, an AV presentation and a gig, and it’s all free.
Is electronic music misunderstood?
It’s a pretty broad term that means different things to different people, and probably means different things to each of the HIVE crew. I think there’s some great festivals and events out there which start from a principle of being about ‘electronic music’ but then really veer off into the leftfield, like next week’s Unsound which we’re off to. I think that’s what we’ve always tried to emulate, so we’ve had Mugstar play on a line up with Shackleton in ’08, Kode 9 with Colleen back in ’05, live sound art and a performance artist in St Johns on a Saturday. If its predictable I guess it’s in danger of being dull, so avoiding that as best we can is what drives us.
Electronic music you can listen to is fine. But, really, are you good dancers?
Destroy All Linguists, Midnight, Saturday 16 Oct
Featuring The Hive Collective, Aisle 16 and Forest Swords
The Old Paint Shop, Renshaw Street
(tickets from Diesel, Met Quarter) (yeah, odd but true)