Attrition

By Bob Gourley | Originally published in 1999

Since the early 80’s, Britain’s Attrition have been at the forefront of dark, often ethereal electronic music.

Their current album, “The Jeopardy Maze,” truly represents the band in top form, combining electronic beats, orchestral elements and haunting vocals. The following is an email interview with the group’s leader, Martin Bowes.

How big of an impact has the evolution of musical technology had on the evolution of Attrition’s style?

it has had an impact of course…..mainly in the fact that it is now much more feasible to own your own studio…we can achieve a quality of production in our home studio that was previously unheard of in terms of synthesis….which is a big part of our sound….then things haven’t really progressed so much recently…..maybe we can all afford a little more…. in terms of computers….we can put a whole album on hard disk and master it properly now…..something that is evident on the “jeopardy maze” our latest album…

Are you satisfied with the current electronic instruments? Are there any particular ways you’d like to see them improve in the future?

yes and no….as i said…there are no great sonic advances….only more for less money…and yet all the old instruments had a character that is sometimes lost in our digital “utopia”….I have a dozen synthesisers….i like to work with traditional instruments as well, so i’m not too desperate for new forms of synthesis…i can do a lot with what i have….i am interested in new developments in computers though….they are getting very powerful in terms of software synthesis, recording,processing and mastering….

What inspired you to start making music in the first place?

i think life!….and a little help from other musicians i admired…. i always knew i had to say more than i could with words alone…..there is more to express in our lives…. so much more…

Since Attrition started, quite a few bands making dark electronic music have emerged. What do you think other bands out there making somewhat similar music? Have you been inspired by any? Are there any you particularly don’t like?

we have been around for quite a while!….i like music that is powerful, emotional, and at the same time is not afraid to take risks…..there is not so much that falls into all those categories…..but there is always enough…

How did you get involved with Projekt?

i first came into contact with sam from projekt when we released our first album in 1984…he was writing for a US magazine at the time and gave us a rather good review….so i contacted him….soon he started his own label….eventually, in 1990 we started to work together, in that he released “Recollection” our best of up to that date….we signed with Projekt for new material in 1996.

What can we expect from the current tour?

a new line-up…new songs….new approach…..a very “live” set…..dance orientated…..in the main…. with a few favorites and a few surprises….i’m very pleased with the rehearsals so far!

Does the material you currently play live span your entire career, or do you focus on the newer stuff?

we play a mix of old and new….but mostly the last few albums….we concentrate on the lively material rather than the contemplative tracks….

What type of instrumentation do you use on-stage? Since there a lot of electronics involved, is it difficult making the songs work live?

No!…..we use a combination of electronic programmed backing material…..which is precise, but inflexible…and improvised keyboards/ analog synths/ violin/ vocals….which puts back the free element in a live performance….

Do you have a particular creative process that you feel works best when composing songs? For example, do you tend to often start out writing particular parts (bass, percussion, etc)?

i usually start experimenting with abstract sounds, effects…..these gradually take on a form, a rhythm or a melody….i write lyrics in much the same way…it’s a natural process akin to painting or sculpture…working material from the subconscious to the conscious….they eventually settle at some point along the way….and we release them…!

Do you have any particular favorite pieces of equipment that you feel have had a big impact on Attrition’s sound?

we bought a korg ms20 very early on in our career…1981!….in the digital revolution of the mid/late 80’s it got retired to an attic for a couple of years!!!!!….seems crazy now….i rescued it…it has long been my favourite toy….but to be fair, my other favourite toy is my computer….my latest acquisition….so everything has it’s use in the creative process!

What’s in the future for you after the US tour?

it would be nice to know!!….or maybe it wouldn’t….! we will be touring europe…and working on finishing our album of remixes….by us and many other bands….it is already half completed!…. then….i’m busy with production work for other bands…side projects and new attrition material…. we are always very busy….and i wouldn’t want it any other way….

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