Interview: Necessary

Tony Wilson by Steffen Oftedal

This was how I discovered Necessary, via an interview at The Quietus: Necessary had given away their second album, Galgeberg/Gimle, for free, which was fortuitous for my ears, if not for their wallets. It was one of the best pieces of music I heard that year.

I’m not sure which words persuaded me to click on the link: “heavy breaks, turntablism, bass music, hauntological synth work, drum and bass, hip hop, chopped and screwed rap, industrial, choral and funk” … “combined in surprising, provocative and unsettling ways.” Maybe it was the occult chanting, the Persian singer, the Ligeti reference, grime, hip-hop, black metal and doom. Perhaps it was the Spanish civil war samples, the Chilean rapping, dub, goth, world music, or the “Post-Dictatorial Troll-Hop”.

I think it’s necessary for you just to hear it.

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If there’s something a little Prong-ish about that bottom end, it’s because Ted Parsons has played for Prong (and Godflesh, Swans and Foetus). If it’s weird for him to have turned up in Oslo, it’s a stranger still destination for Tony F Wilson, a half-Jamaican ex-hack from South London, whose own credits include work with Slowdive and Seefeel. Why Norway?

TFW: The short version is for love. The long version is that the world went to s*** not just for me but my Norwegian girlfriend too, whilst we were living in London. Just everything you can imagine really. If I’d stayed I would’ve either murdered an estate agent, press officer or magazine editor.

Tony F Wilson’s path has been a strange one, and his Linked-In profile lists one of his many occupations as “Booker at Hell’s Kitchen”. That must be some exotic club or other.

TFW: [It’s] not as exciting as it sounds. Hells Kitchen is a pizza restaurant-come-bar that I book DJs for on the weekends. Naturally this includes myself at least once a month. It keeps me in records and justifies the need for them.

If that’s less glamorous than befits such a musical enigma, surely attending the BRIT School must have been an experience. After all, the London School for Performing Arts & Technology was directly inspired by the movie Fame. Its alumni have included Adele, Amy Winehouse, Jessie J, Leona Lewis, Katie Melua, The Kooks, Imogen Heap, Kate Nash, The Feeling, King Krule and Rizzle Kicks.

TFW: It was absolutely hideous, like Glee doing Hi-de-Hi. My year were the first enrolled students and the building hadn’t even been finished. So all this stuff that had been promised, like a 48-track recording studio, wasn’t even there. Most people seemed to be West London toffs but, because it was based in Selhurst, there was a certain quota they had to allow from South London boroughs, hence me being there. This meant that all the South London kids into underground stuff whether metal, indie, hip hop or techno, all banded together in mutual hatred of the kids who would burst into More than Words by Extreme in the canteen every lunchtime. If it hadn’t been for going there I probably wouldn’t have got into guitar music as much: Screamadelica, Nevermind and Loveless all came out whilst I was there, which naturally had an impact. The best thing that happened as a result of being a BRIT student was that a bunch of us got to see the KLF performing 3AM Eternal with Extreme Noise Terror at the Brit Awards. Bill Drummond appeared in a kilt on crutches for the performance. It only made sense at the end when he revealed the hidden crutch to be a machine-gun loaded with blanks, which he fired into the audience. Of course that part has never been shown on TV. Later the same evening KLF left a dead sheep scrawled with I Died for Ewe (it was the year that I Died for You by Bryan Adams was at number 1 for what seemed like ever) on it.

I remember that night well. Tony and I are the same age, and my first job a few years later was at the elephant’s graveyard where those who didn’t make it in the music business ended up. I shared an office with a handful of one-hit wonders, the drummer from the UK Subs, several aspiring journalists and a fair few kids who went to the BRIT School. I mostly remember the kid who got his eyebrow pierced. He played the drums. It didn’t end well.

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What’s Dausteg?

TFW: Dausteg is a DJ partnership I have with my friend Are Mokkelbost who plays in the avant-metal projects JUV, KILLL and Single Unit. He’s better known here as being one of Norway’s best visual artists. We tend to only play when people give us an exciting venue and budget to play with, as we don’t envisage Dausteg as a regular club concept. We have nothing against regular clubs or DJing at them, it’s just a lot of what we play is not really designed for dancing, although we did have someone breaking to Nico one time.

How has being a former writer for I-D, VICE, etc. impacted on your approach to music?

TFW: It’s only impacted in the sense that I found being a journalist restrictive in communicating my ideas and passion for music. DJing and creating music is much more instant and gratifying for me. Articles nearly always get edited or have stuff added by editors, so I never felt it was fully representative the whole time, of what I wanted to get across. Or to put in another way, It’s more direct to just do a real-time mix with Death in June and Rhythm & Sound or record a track that sounds that way, than to write a 3000 word tract on the similarities between industrial-folk and dub-techno; that then gets edited in a way that only appeals to one of those demographics.

There’s been a huge progression in your sound between your first and second albums, from something quite dreamlike and trippy to something a lot more immediate and aggressive – at least on Galgeberg. Is this a natural musical progression? A change in headspace? Or something you planned deliberately?

TFW: I only became involved with Necessary on the album Voldsløkka but I personally don’t really feel like I’m that involved with the end result. My role at that point was as an amateur turntablist and by the time Justin Broadrick had finished re-molding the tracks we sent him, my parts were barely audible. Not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, just saying.
 
In between Voldsløkka and Galgeberg/Gimle we lost a keyboard player, who was also a very competent studio engineer, and we acquired a new studio space. My role then shifted from hobby turntablist to de facto keyboard player.
 
I think Galgeberg is pretty dark and aggressive but I think Gimle has some very pretty moments. Ted’s drums are more present on Galgeberg and his style is quite hard and aggressive, plus drums take up a lot of room in the sound spectrum so that probably has a lot to do with it. Gimle is more atmospheric and possibly more representative of stuff I’ve done in the past in the projects Knives ov Resistance and Zurich. Neither of which are hard or aggressive. Although I end up doing all the interviews (because I’m English) Necessary is very much Matti Hansen’s project. He’s the editor if you will but of course it’s a democracy and he listens to all our input.

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If Necessary is a mash-up of genres and styles, it’s also a mass of contradictions. Take Well ov Initiation, for example: an evil-sounding slice of gothic-electronica that turns out to be a sample of a Spanish historian talking about the Spanish-Peruvian War. The choir is from a Macedonian Church music album that Ted brought back from his holidays. The juxtaposition tickled the band’s wry sense of humour. Sadly, the joke soured after Anders Behring Breivik’s appropriation of Templar imagery, but the band was already too established to change their name to disassociate themselves from the “gruesome but necessary” quote by the mass killer. I doubt many would make the connection, especially given the band’s mix of a multitude of languages and cultures.

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TFW: Rapping in Chilean is just something Salvador felt comfortable with and we all loved the sound of. Also, what I know of Chilean culture, which isn’t much, I really like Alejandro Jodorowsky, Aguaturbia and Ricardo Villalobos to name just a few examples. So we all wanted that represented.  Andreas Mork and I are massive Autechre and Cocteau Twins fans so we really like unpronounceable song titles and Old Norwegian is a really good source for that. The titles aren’t random though, they all relate to something we talked about during the creation of the track or can be quite literal. Raskol for instance is Russian for split or divide and that particular track has two very distinct halves. 

Both you and Death Grips are finding common ground between death metal, grime, rap and electronica. Are there other bands out there like you?

TFW: Firstly being branded together with Death Grips is a massive compliment, thank you. I’ve talked in length elsewhere about the parallels I see in gangster-rap, grime and black metal but for us it’s not necessarily a conscious thing. Ted’s old band Prong was very much into mixing some of the genres you mention, as were people like Godflesh and Young Gods of course. Contemporary wise, I don’t really see anyone else doing what Death Grips is doing, they seem to be in a league completely of their own. For me it’s about sounding effortless in combining influences and I think that’s something that comes with a certain age I think. The new My Bloody Valentine and Autechre albums are very good examples of this. Young acts are so obsessed with being part of the right scene and they of course are the ones the media and blogs favour over oldies like us.

Ted Parsons Necessary

Ted Parsons: I don’t think Necessary have anything in common with Death Metal. Death Grips does from what I have heard. We definitely have influences from Hip Hop, Dub,and Electronica. To be honest I dont really listen to any new music these days. I´m sure there’s tons of bands out there doing the same sort of thing. There is too much crap to weed through and I can’t be bothered.

You openly express a love for industrial music. Do you ever feel afraid of being lumped in with something unfashionable?

TFW: Being lumped in with anything at all would be a step up for us. I think it’s actually the opposite, we fear being lumped in with something fashionable. I don’t know what Trap music even is. In Oslo I got lumped in with Dubstep when it was fashionable for a while but now my name ain’t worth s*** as a result. I just noticed recently that Discogs have tagged Galgeberg/Gimle ‘Bass Music’ which I find utterly f***ing insulting to my Jamaican parentage. For the reason being that as far as I can make out Bass Music is grime and dubstep stripped of all links to its Jamaican sound system roots.

TP: Absolutely not! I don’t even know what industrial means these days.  Throbbing Gristle coined the term “Industrial”. I don’t think of music as being fashionable – that’s for people into image and not the music. I choose what I like and don’t like as far as music. I could give a f*** if people think it’s cool or not.

Ted, what are the key differences in how you work with Necessary and your experiences with Foetus, Swans and Prong?

TP: Necessary started off being called “Necessary Intergalactic Cooperation ” which was a techno  jam band. I joined  in 2005 after a three-month world tour with Killing Joke. It was just for fun and to keep up my chops. I always liked to play or jam with different people. I liked the fact that we could jam, record it  on the computer and then cut and edit and turn it into a song.There was something refreshing about that after playing in such regimented groups such as Prong, Godflesh etc.  Those groups are all about arrangements. Necessary has now turned into a Synth band. It’s like playing drums with Kraftwerk, which is a new way of working and we are writing songs and  arrangements. There are no rules which leaves tons of room for interpretation. I like that! There’s been a lot of people in and out of the Necessary collective but it’s always been fun otherwise what’s the point?

You uploaded Galgeberg/Gimle for free. Why?

TFW: I don’t think anyone would’ve heard it otherwise. We only had distributors in Scandinavia and they turned out to be pretty hopeless. They’ve been so many great albums by the likes of Death Grips and The Weeknd given away as free downloads, so it just seemed like the best thing to do. We figured if people heard it, at least then some people might want to have a physical copy.

You can hear Galgeberg/Gimle here, but it’s best if you purchase it here. Either way, it’s necessary that you own it.

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