"I’m scarred for life!"

Two of the creative lynch-pins behind Throbbing Gristle, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti come with a certain degree of history.

Electronic pioneers, the pair craft music which is utterly indefinable. Continually pushing back the boundaries, Carter & Cosey were jackin' 808s when Aphex Twin was just a twinkle in a Cornish milkman's eye.

So when Factory Floor's Nik Void was invited to collaborate with the pair at Mute's Short Circuit event, she was understandably intimidated. The results, though, are astonishing - given a full release as 'Transverse' the trio really seem to gel, with their differing viewpoints merging in a very natural, very organic way.

A quite unique album, ClashMusic tracked down Carter Tutti Void to find out more.

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What prompted the collaboration?
Cosey: Well we – Chris and myself – were asked by Mute to perform at Short Circuit at the Roundhouse and at the time they said that they were asking the artists who were playing live if they wanted to collaborate with other artists past, present or future. We thought that would be a more interesting thing for us to do, than to just present our own work. We’d seen Factory Floor play live and we knew that Nik did and she’d been with Mute earlier on, from years back. We asked Nik to collaborate with us. That’s how it happened!

Nik – how did it feel to be offered that chance?

Nik: Yeah it was quite daunting – I had to read the email a few times for it to sink in. Obviously, I’ve admired Chris and Cosey for a while and it would be taking me out of my comfort zone of working with Factory Floor like I’ve done for a couple of years. Who could not take that opportunity? So I went to Norfolk and stayed with them for a few days and didn’t really know what to expect so I just took everything I had. I just thought, I would play what I play – because obviously they’ve asked me for a reason and I love what they play, so just see how it works. And it worked really well.

How prepared was the material? Was it improvised?

Chris – When Nik arrived I had some old rhythms that I had been working on. Some of those were for TG but because TG finished they were sort of spare rhythms, I guess. When we got into the studio I played the rhythms we had that I thought we could maybe use to Nik and Cosey, and they liked them and they thought we could work with them. We then spent the next three days improvising around those rhythms and recording what we were doing as we were going along, trying out different ideas, using different instrumentation.. then we just took that – a couple of days afterwards – to the Roundhouse and played it again in front of an audience.

Cosey – We just played it again! But the energy and everything in the room really lifted us. I think basically the studio was preparation to feel like a unit when we went onstage. I felt that the rhythms could drive us into doing certain things, moving in different directions. We just took an arsenal of equipment and sounds that we felt would be great, and work well together and that was it, basically. There was no structure other than the basic rhythm and our arsenal to play on top.

When you were working together how did you manage to describe what you wanted to achieve?

Cosey – We just jammed.

Chris – There was a lot of jamming!

Cosey – Because it was about the sound, it wasn’t about trying to sort of construct an image or anything so much as a feeling. I mean, we all three of us when we do music it’s primarily for that feeling.

Chris – It’s a dialogue. Having to leave space for each other. Because we hadn’t worked together before, there is sometimes a tendency to...

Cosey – Fill in any space.

Chris – Fill in any space. We didn’t want that.

Cosey – We also knew that Nik didn’t do that, from when we had seen Factory Floor play. That was the one thing I noticed, was that she gave breathing space. It’s quite a solid kind of rhythm base Factory Floor, she didn’t try to fight that at all.

Nik – It’s a losing battle!

Cosey – It’s your choice!

Was the chemistry quite immediate?

Chris – We knew Nik anyway through Factory Floor for quite a while but you never really know somebody until you make music with them. The chemistry was pretty instant, I’d say.

Carter Tutti Void - V3

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Where did these rhythms come from?

Chris - I wanted them fairly basic, sort of primeval, tribal. I didn’t want them too frilly, or fiddly I wanted them to sit so that they could play across the top of it, basically. I just manipulated it and put a few more elements in there, a kick drum and stuff, live. Like I say, these were previous rhythms I had been working on with TG but when TG came to an end they were never going to be used. So I just took them and adapted them for what we wanted. That’s just what we were – there’s no reason why they sound like that, particularly.

Did the rhythms change during the live performance?

Chris – It does, it always does and you’re never quite sure what the audience is going to be like – especially London audiences - but they were really behind us. As soon as we walked out onstage you could feel the vibe in the room was electric. That does shape the way I pushed the rhythms in the direction they went in.

Cosey – I think as well when you have the other sounds which are coming in over the top of the basic rhythm and then Chris always puts counter rhythms in live, whatever sounds are there. That also tends to influence what kinds of sound he uses for a specific rhythm.

Chris – In this case – as opposed to working with TG or Chris & Cosey – I wanted to step back slightly because I wanted people to hear what Nik and Cosey were doing because I thought what they were doing was really good. That’s why the rhythms aren’t getting too complicated – I’m not doing a lot with the rhythms, I’m stepping back in that situation.

Cosey – All three of us, it wasn’t just like me and Nik on guitar or manipulation – all three of us were doing different kinds of stuff.

Chris – TG – very often – we didn’t know who was doing what. Carter Tutti Void at the Roundhouse sometimes I didn’t have a clue – apart from the fact that I was doing the rhythm – who was doing stuff on top of that. It was quite good!

Was the emphasis on sound and textures rather than melody lines?

Cosey – Yeah definitely in that context. I don’t know about Nik but sometimes playing an instrument isn’t enough for me, I just like vocalising! It adds a different sort of element to it. For me, it sort of vocalised how I felt internally about the sound and the effect it was having on me and I wanted to emphasise that. It wasn’t about sharing it in anyway! Selfish, really, but that’s why I’m there.

Nik – where did the sounds on the sampler come from?

Nik – Some of the vocal samples which were in the sampler were there before I went over. I think it was only a few but these obviously can be changed yet again by putting through the other electronics and pedals that I had on the table. There’s going to be a video out soon but we were all set out on three tables, and on the tables were had our tools set out in front of us – which were like our electronics. So the great thing about having a vocal in a sampler is that you can change it through filters to fit in with what was going on. I really enjoy doing stuff like that. I do live vocals with Factory Floor but I love the sound of Cosey’s live vocals. Same with the guitars, I love to play guitar and put it through effects. I felt that would be a different sonic sound to what Cosey did with her vocals and that enabled us to have our own space.

Whose idea was it to release this as a record?

Cosey – We felt in the spirit of the way it came about – it was all very sort of quick and unexpected and we kept within the spirit of that by just preparing it minimally and putting it into a live situation and running with it. So it seemed to us that it would be just fine to complete the whole thing by releasing it as a live album. The whole concept and the whole journey and the whole wonderful experience we all had was all encapsulated in that album. It just seemed right for us to do that because so many people couldn’t get into the gig as the room was so small. There was that kind of sense of obligation as well.

The mixing / mastering process must have been quite simple.

Chris – There wasn’t any. What you hear is what Mute recorded on the night – there was no post-production at all. That’s partly why we released it. Actually, we weren’t even sure that Mute had released it but soon after they sent us a copy, a file to listen to and we were just blown away. We thought, people have to hear this. We don’t even know who recorded it. You’re hearing exactly what we recorded on the night and what we played, so it’s one of those happy sort of coincidences.

Do you know if it even came straight off the mixing desk?

Chris - Well it didn’t come off there because we had our own sound engineer – Charlie Chicken – who always does our sound and it didn’t come off his desk because he wasn’t even sure if it was recorded. Somewhere, somebody split all the lines and send it off to – I guess they had a mobile recording studio out the back somewhere.

Has this left a mark on you?

Cosey – Yeah I’m scarred for life!

Nik – I think it definitely has made my confidence a bit better, about working with other people and just having confidence from what I’m doing myself as a musician – to say, look I’m going down the right path, I think. Developing my own sound and just being brave with that – that’s definitely what that taught me.

Cosey – I think with us as well it was just a re-confirmation that magic can happen sometimes when people come together ‘cause it’s not very often, to be honest, musically that you meet people who you can work with so readily.

Chris – We knew Nik, and had thought that we could probably work with her and that’s why we chose her but it’s still a gamble when you do something like that. The fact that it was so positive and the outcome was so good – it was such a great performance. I’ll never forget that performance.

Cosey – I think it helped that none of us had any expectation and I don’t think the audience did apart from wanting to enjoy whatever we did. I think that helped the whole gig, to be honest. The energy in there was so open hearted that all three of us were allowed to do just whatever we wanted to do and it was just great.

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'Transverse' is out now.

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