Clash swaps emails with Bristol’s enigmatic techno five-piece…If SCALPING’s unique brand of techno, punk and hardcore is yet to grace your eardrums, then now’s the time.
Since 2017, the group have been loudly carving a unique path, crafting a genre-defying blend of metal and industrial techno that is very much their own. Having released their debut, ‘Chamber’, in 2019, supported by remixes from Bruce and DJ October, they quickly went on to garner plaudits for their frenetic live shows, which truly have to be seen to be believed.
Inspired by their hometown’s off-kilter brand of dance music and myriad other genres, the group shirk convention by employing more organic instrumentation typified by noise-rock and post-punk. The group signed to Houndstooth in late 2020, followed by the release of ‘Flood’, their first full EP in June this year.
With the group currently preparing their first batch of live shows since just before the pandemic hit, Clash swapped emails with them about the new EP and plans for great things to come.
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Congrats on the new EP, guys. Dare I ask, how has the past year been for you?
Thanks! Obviously a weird time to be putting out new music, but it feels good to have released something a little bit more long form. As it has for everyone else, the past year’s been super strange, scary and frustrating but ultimately we can’t complain too much. We’ve all been safe and healthy, and we’ve been so lucky to have this band as a creative outlet to turn to at times where there’s been nothing else to do.
Were you guys able to spend much time in the studio together?
Right at the start of the pandemic we actually got our own studio space which has been invaluable. We’d go in one, two, three of us at a time, sharing ideas over Dropbox and WhatsApp, going back and forth with feedback and edits, slowly piecing together tracks.What we’ve ended up writing over the last year has definitely been strongly informed by the circumstances in which it was written. We’ve been able to scrutinise absolutely every detail in a way that we wouldn’t have done if we were working in a more traditional way.
‘Flood’ feels like an evolution from ‘Chamber’ into something that somehow sounds even bigger than before. How long had some of these tunes been gestating for?
It definitely feels like an evolution for us, but actually also already feels old compared to the stuff we’ve been working on this year. We recorded the EP just before the first lockdown, back in February 2020 and the songs were written in summer 2019 and refined through playing live over the rest of that year.
SCALPING sounds like nothing else out there at the moment, but for the uninitiated, I’m interested to know how you’d characterise your own sound?
It’s always a struggle to sum it up and it always changes, but currently we’d describe it as heavy, industrial techno played by a live band, with some metal riffs sprinkled in.
What did it mean to you guys to sign to Houndstooth last year?
It was massive to be honest. Since the start of the band, we’ve always felt like a bit of an imposter in the more club or electronic worlds, so getting support from a label like Houndstooth was incredibly encouraging. It gave us a lot of confidence in what we’re trying to do.
I caught your Simple Things set at SWX back in 2019 and it was one of the best things I’d seen/heard in years. What will it mean for you guys to finally get back out there and play some of these tunes together? That is definitely one of our favourite shows we’ve ever played. The soundsystem, lighting and crowd were all incredible. We can’t wait to get out there, we haven’t done any kind of live stream or socially distanced shows at all so at this point it’s been about 17 months since we last played live, which is just insane.
There’s a massive visual component to SCALPING. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
The visuals have been a massive part of the band from the very start. We’ve never done a show without the visuals. Jason [Baker] is a part of the band and we create the music and visuals together, bouncing ideas off each other throughout.
SCALPING visuals constantly change and evolve alongside the live shows. Ideas could be formed on stage or in practice then implemented by the next show. But the pandemic has given Jason the opportunity to create a whole new visual style that was hinted at in the music videos for Deadlock, Monolithium and Empty Cascade. The style being a mix of apocalyptic tech religion, human / biomechanical hybridisation, 90s era computer virus dread and a large dose of DMT level paranoia.
You guys have also cultivated your own distinctive aesthetic off-stage too. Can you tell me a bit about the artwork that accompanies your work/merch etc.?
Yeah, the graphics that form the foundations of all the artwork and merch is all Jason. We’ll have long conversations and put together moodboards pulling from all sorts of sources – films, books, games, news, internet etc. and go back and forth hashing ideas out until we have something we can use.
Very excited to catch you in Bristol again later this year. What can we expect beyond that?
Can’t wait to play in Bristol again! We managed to squeeze in a Bristol headline just a couple of weeks before lockdown which was a huge relief. After that we’ve got a few festivals and a tour with Squarepusher, including a show at The Roundhouse in London which will be unreal. We’ll be roadtesting all the music we’ve written over the last year and a half and gearing up to release some of it.
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‘Flood’ is out on Houndstooth now.
Words: Paul Weedon // @Twotafkap
Photo Credit: Jamie Harding and Matthew Sterling of We Are Jam
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