Belfast producer looks backwards, in order to move forwards...

There's a point in your late teens when childish desires have faded, but the ineffable energy of childhood still remains. Ambition soars, with late adolescence often leading to grandiose projects – writing the Great American Novel, for instance, or railroading across Europe.

For Space Dimension Controller, though, this meant one thing: making an album that would reach up to his influences. As an 18 year old in Belfast has was besotted with electronic music, consuming virtually every artifact from Warp he could lay his hands on. Gathering his own makeshift equipment, he spent hour after hour working out new techniques, with restriction and the sheer poverty of information becoming the mother of invention.

Somehow, it worked. Laying dormant for almost a decade, Space Dimension Controller released these recordings as 'Orange Dopamine' last month. Chatting amiably to Clash, the producer has a wry sense of detachment from those feverish teenage recording sessions. “It went from being addicted to World of Warcraft,” he muses, “to being addicted to making nerdy music that no girl would ever dance to in their life.”

'Orange Dopamine' he says, is a lengthy love letter to his influences, to Boards Of Canada's retro-futurism, or the sublime melancholia of Aphex Twin's ambient fetish, running alongside a blossoming appreciation of early house and techno. “That would have been pretty much the only thing I was listening to at that time in my life, really, to be honest. It was kind of just at the start of when I was starting to get into the 80s stuff as well. There's also a very big 80s vibe in some of the tracks.”

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Setting himself up in his room, the prodigal producer then began weaving together these bizarre electronic sounds with segments of his favourite films. “It was my old bedroom in my mum's house,” he says. “It was all done in a PC, with Cubase 3. But a few tape decks, some synths, and all the drum sounds – more of the drum sounds – are made from scratch, with some granular programs.”

The approach was hugely experimental, with Space Dimension Controller admitting that he simply didn't know what he was doing. “I just saw interviews that these artists had done, and they'd given a brief description of what... not how they did it, but the sound of it, and I kind of just figured out how to do it myself.” “Basically it took a long time,” he says. “I can't believe how patient I was, it's fucking ridiculous.”

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I can't believe how patient I was...

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Each segment was literally hand-crafted, with each note taking hours to perfect. “Say I wanted one of the synth tracks: I would record 64 bars of that, that melody, at double tempo and up one octave, and then I would record it onto the tape. And then I would put the tape at half speed. And then I would record it back in, because that's the way I wanted it to sound at the end.”

“And I did that with every single track, in the track,” he explains. “Every single drum, every single synth, every single thing. It was quite... I can't believe it. Because now I would not be arsed to do that. This is just me being 18 and probably... more patient, maybe.”

The teenage electronic boffin turned his bedroom in a shrine to sonic experimentation, building vast contraptions to aid him in his quest. “There's one that isn't on the album, but it's about 10 minutes long, and it's a really ambient one,” he tells me. “But it's not something that I really invented, it's a similar kind of thing to what Brian Eno used to do.”

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This is just me being 18 and probably... more patient, maybe.

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“I had two reel to reel tape recorders – one was on one side of the room, and one was on the other. But I had cut a big massive tape loop in between, so it was about six metres long, this tape. It kept going round and round and round. William Basinski, 'Disintegration Tapes' kind of vibe. I positioned it so that there was a little bit of sand paper underneath it and as it went round it kept getting completely fucked, basically.”

It sounds a little like a conceptual art project, I offer. Something you'd see in a gallery space, rather than a club.

“Yeah, but I was just in my room,” he laughs. “With my mum shouting up: dinner's ready!”

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Although Belfast has a fertile club scene at that point Space Dimension Controller felt very much like a lone voice. However Planet Mu artist and John Peel favourite Boxcutter freely gave the teenager some (often brutally honest) advice. “He really helped me out. He was really harsh with his criticism, and that really helped me become better,” the producer recalls. “Getting shouted at by him... well, not shouted, but ripped apart. It's like, you don't want that to happen again, you want to make something better.”

At that point Space Dimension Controller had only just begun to dip his toes into club culture, with his primary exposure to electronic music coming from those lengthy study periods beside his bedroom stereo. “I was never really a clubber at that age,” he recalls. “I'm not even really a clubber now. it's just that I'm in them a lot. I'm just there. I found myself at ambient gigs, and maybe more IDM gigs. But not like going to see a big house and techno DJ, or anything. That was never really my thing. And still isn't, really, my thing.”

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It's about nostalgia inception...

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Fuelled by imperial 90s electronica and excerpts from films such as Escape From New York and Short Circuit, 'Orange Dopamine' is a loving homage of a certain era. Yet it now has a very real sense of nostalgia for Space Dimension Controller – despite the rough 'n' ready nature of the recordings, they never left him. “I would listen to it,” he admits. “It's probably my favourite thing that I've made. I would just listen to it, myself. It's funny, I'm nostalgic about it. I'm nostalgic about it, and the whole concept of the album is being nostalgic about something else. It's about nostalgia inception.”

The wonderfully damaged sound - “it was all done on old cassette tapes... Hence why it sounds so fucked!” - is matched perfectly to artwork from Jacob Chabeaux, whose bright-to-the-point-of-distortion imagery echoes the music within. Space Dimension Controller was never, though, tempted to re-arrange, or even improve on those initial recordings. “No, I would never do that,” he insists. “Leave it as it is. There's no need to do that. No way. Because you just end up ruining it, and thinking of it in a way that you do with things you make now, and that just wouldn't make sense. I want to keep the 18 year old me intact.”

With 'Orange Dopmanine' finally released, the producer feels able to head back into the studio and work on his next studio album. “I've got the story for the next Space Dimension Controller album kind of mostly done... in my head, and written down a bit. I just need to get started on it, basically. I'm in a bit of a lull, though, I'm just not really interested in going near the studio. But I'm feeling it a bit more now, though, so I think I might go start on that pretty soon.”

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I want to keep the 18 year old me intact...

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Probed on the sci-fi themes of his debut release, the producer reveals that he actually wants to go further, and further into the unknown. “I'll probably make it even more ridiculous this time round, to be honest,” he chuckles. “I've got this massive story in my head, and it's completely ridiculous. And it'll probably scare even more people than the last one did. Just need to do it.”

It's clear throughout our conversation that Space Dimension Controller still feels enormous affection for that 18 year old producer, left to his own devices in a ramshackle, home-made studio. “I was just making it for me,” he says at one point. “I still am like that, it's in the background – even if I don't want it to be – whenever I make tunes these days. I'm always thinking about: oh, is this going to make people dance, or not? But without knowing I'm thinking about it. Sub-consciously. I'm still making it for myself, but there's definitely something there that's twisting me a little bit. Which is annoying.”

“I just need to get one of those de-neuralisers from Men In Black to become naive again,” he says. “It's be fucking amazing.”

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'Orange Dopamine' is out now on Ninja Tune.

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