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Feature

65daysofstatic are staring down the end of the world: "It's socialism or barbarism; time to pick a side"

Taken from the October issue of Upset, out now.
Published: 1:42 pm, September 27, 2019
65daysofstatic are staring down the end of the world: "It's socialism or barbarism; time to pick a side"

65daysofstatic have just dropped their new album, ‘replicr, 2019’. The follow-up to ‘Wild Light’, and their more recent ‘No Man's Sky: Music for an Infinite Universe’ soundtrack which saw the ambitious group experimenting with algorithms, the full-length is described by its blurb as “a stark, angular, stripped back slab of focussed noise”. Its end-of-the-world style peaks and troughs making for an at times difficult ride. “The world is ending," Paul Wolinski explains. "Look at what is happening."

Hey Paul, how are you guys doing?

Hello. I am doing well, thanks. The band is good. As I write we are playing a show tomorrow, the second and also last show of the year. That's an almost impossibly low number of shows for us to be playing in 2019, so we're really looking forward to that.

When did you begin work on your new album, did you have any specific goals going into it? What was your headspace like?

It depends on how you count it. We tried writing some songs in early 2016 but didn't really find what we were looking for. Then in 2017, fresh from working on a computer game score which involved us taking a crash course in making algorithmic music, we spent a lot of time developing what we had learned and using it to our own ends. We ended up touring a live algorithmic A/V show where every night new music was uniquely generated onstage. After that, in late 2018, we started writing very intentionally to make this record, and things came together very quickly. Even though the vast majority of the material heard on the record was written in this last stage, it felt like the speed with which it came together was only possible because of the groundwork we had put in through the previous years.
We recorded it at the start of 2019. The goal was simple: we'd unravelled all of our compositional techniques and wanted to put them back together. The computer game soundtrack (for the game No Man's Sky) was massive, sprawling, literally infinitely-long in the game and it came out as a four vinyl boxset. Then our own algorithmic experimenting generated hours and hours of music. All of this was rewarding in its own way but was in danger of going a bit prog, and we felt that what some of it lacked was a sense of purpose or intentionality. We wanted to make a record that was focussed and laser-like in its intentions, a record where no note or noise was a waste of frequencies.

How did you find switching up your way of working after spending so much time exploring algorithms?

It was like coming back to life. The detour through algorithmic music was a valuable one but if anything, rather than showing us that computers can help to make music, which we sort of already knew, it reminded us how important all the very human social relations that exist around a band are. A band is about so much more than the music they make. Computer scientists teaching computers to make music is really clever, and everything but it so often seems like it's based on this idea that 'objective music' is a thing that exists. But music is just vibrations in the air. There's no metaphysical magic to it. Its meaning is entirely manifested through people listening to and being affected by it. It's a social construct.
In terms of the algorithmic stuff, there's definitely really interesting work being done. Holly Herndon's music where she's using machine learning is cool. The live coding community and their 'algoraves' are doing really useful things in challenging the boring, linear, patriarchal, hierarchical templates of what conventional live music generally looks and sounds like. Ultimately for 65 though, algorithms became just another tool. Switching back to composing with an eye on the final creative production rather than getting too wrapped up in the specifics of the creative process was like letting the brakes off.

What was your studio set up like for this one?
Same as it ever was: messy and confused. I'm sat in it right now, wearing ear defenders while crazy noises are coming out of an apparently-dying amplifier that we need for our show tomorrow, surrounded by equipment in various states of brokenness.
The funny thing about being in a band who has our level of success is that while we are incredibly lucky to just about manage to be in a band as a full-time pursuit, we are very far away from being able to afford much in the way of good equipment. The bits of expensive stuff we have are pretty utilitarian and not that exciting. I mean, I find them exciting but I'm not sure you want me to write in too much detail about the routing matrices of our soundcards (do you?).
We embrace this limitation, though. A major part of the song 'Trackerplatz' from the new record was made by using an old Akai S2000 sampler that I got back in 1998. In so many ways, this is ancient, limited, redundant technology. But in a couple of key ways, it's invaluable. Twenty years of entropy and damp rehearsal rooms have broken it in just the right way. (This last sentence probably applies to all band members too.)
The other thing about the 65 studio is that it gets dismantled every time we go out to play live as we cannot afford to have two lots of equipment. This is good, though because it stops us getting set in our ways. The studio is built from scratch every time to best fit whatever music we are trying to make.

Did you hit any unexpected challenges during the writing and recording process for 'replicr, 2019'?

Not really. No drama this time. We didn't start to make the record until we knew what we wanted to make. It took a while, I'm glad we jettisoned so much of the early material. I'm really glad we didn't make '65's algorithmic album'. We waited, figured out what we wanted to say, then found a way to say it.

It kinda feels like a soundtrack to the end of the world, what are you hoping listeners take away from it?

That the world is ending. Look at what is happening. There's a sliver of time left to build any kind of inhabitable future for humanity. It's socialism or barbarism. Time to pick a side. Records that allow people to find a temporary calm or retreat from the world are invaluable these days, but this record is not like that. It is not designed to give listeners a means to escape their dread, it's designed to antagonise or perhaps weaponise it.

"There's a sliver of time left to build any kind of inhabitable future for humanity"
Paul Wolinski

Do you think immersing yourself in such an emotionally heavy vibe impacts your view of the world?
It's the other way round. Immersing ourselves in the world impacts how we make a record. You just have to watch the news.

Have you put much thought into how you're going to present this album in a live environment?

There are loads of ideas about how we could present this record live. What's more complicated for us is how to balance the logistics of fitting these songs alongside older material. The way we're working as a band is becoming less and less 'band-like' as time goes on. For example, even though we are still very much a four-piece, when we toured the algorithmic stuff in 2018, we toured as a three-piece, because that opened up possibilities for us on stage and changed the expectations of the audience. Looking like a band on stage comes with a lot of baggage. The reality of making 'replicr, 2019' is that the four of us were all producers and sound designers more than instrumentalists, and the most accurate way to present that live would be to have the four of us mostly behind laptops. But that's not a live show that anybody wants to see. So. There's a lot of conversation happening around this. More details TBA when/if we figure it out.

What else are you guys working on at the mo, do you have any other exciting projects in the pipeline?

As well as the album we're currently doing this subscription project called A Year of Wreckage (check subscription.65daysofstatic.com). We are releasing music every month to subscribers for a year as a series of e.ps. As discussed above - we very much wanted 'replicr, 2019' itself to be a tight, focussed slab of music, but in reality, we still generated a huge amount of associated material. This series is designed so that each release works as a standalone piece, but each one is vaguely themed, and together they hopefully get across the scope of our sound and the kind of work that goes into making a record, work that would otherwise have just been buried in the graveyard of old 65days hard drives.
It's been really invigorating because it's a direct line between the subscribers and us. It brings back a little sense of community around the band. If you're reading this and at all interested in how we've operated as a band then I'd strongly encourage people check this out. We're putting a lot of work into it.
Aside from that, we also launched our own podcast called Bleak Strategies. So far it's been mostly unorganised chatter about our old records and why capitalism is bad.

Taken from the October issue of Upset. 65daysofstatic’s album ‘replicr, 2019’ is out now.

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