Usually Dollars To Pounds focuses its bleary gaze on brand new, up-and-coming acts from our grey little island, but this week is a little different. Darren Cunningham runs the enlightened and enterprising Werk Discs and as Actress made one of last year's best albums, a record of gauzy techno and sparse beauty called Hazyville. In the coming months he'll reprise that role, returning with the remarkable Splazsh. I caught up with the reclusive producer for a rare chat, and yes, I asked him who his favourite actress is, (because I'm lame). Here's an exclusive stream of the first track from Splazsh, the stargazing, hypnotic "Hubble."
Stream: Actress, "Hubble"
Hazyville is a great record. It's thick with atmosphere. I was listening to it while walking around yesterday and it makes everything feel more dramatic.
Hazyville was written at different stages from 2004 right up to 2008. It was recorded on different equipment, formats, computers and spaces. The main influence during the writing process was Mrs Skunk, and 16 hour sessions recording in a space that was both living room, kitchen, office and dance-floor. Paper thin walls, complaining neighbors, the constant hum of double-decker buses. Psychologically it was a very dramatic experience, but through that dense haze I had a crystal vision of how the final piece would sound.
How do you plan to follow it?
A new piece of work has just been completed, and it's to be released on Honest Jon's. Whatever interest I have at a particular time, I try to put back into the music, so for the last year I've read a lot about Francis Bacon and Claude Monet, I spent a lot of time walking through the Pompidou Centre in Paris, found an interest in binary codes and numeral systems, and decided that I'd like to explore the emotion of the computer. The results at times were quite Brutalistic.
Recently a couple of tracks you worked on with Zomby emerged on your blog. Are there more to come?
Maybe...we talk a lot, and sporadically play with ideas, but that's about it for the moment. My only impression of Zomby is informed by the music he has written...most of which is pretty special.
How are things at Werk? It's been a big couple of years for you.
No real plans for the future other than to keep releasing great music by talented musicians. If the result is success then that's a bonus.
You recently remixed Joy Orbison. How do you feel about all the attention he's received?
It's always exciting to see new producers come through and make a mark. I think he's been good for the scene, and look forward to hearing how he develops his sound.
I'm fascinated by the way you play with gender.
You need to understand that the UK is a small island with a lot of eccentric people which has always produced brilliant music by highly stylised individuals. When I was growing up we had so many androgynous characters from Annie Lennox to David Bowie to Adam Ant to Boy George and they had a big impact on the way I see image and representation in music, but I think the name was thought up during a night out with Mr N2O.
Who is your favourite actress? I've been in film noir mode for a few months so I'll pick Jane Greer in Out Of The Past.
Actress's new album Splazsh is out soon on Honest Jon's.