Sometimes we surprise even ourselves.
With the new Burial EP (‘Kindred’) leaking out of the ClashMusic stereo, someone pointed out that we had – in fact – already interviewed the reclusive London producer. Back in late 2007, Clash journalist Adam Park was dispatched for a rare chat with the seminal sonic talent.
The interview came at a time when no one knew who Burial was, or even if this dubstep thing had legs. The piece went to print, but since ClashMusic wasn’t yet born the interview never found its way online – until now.
Searching through the archives, we are pleased to be able to breath new life into a classic piece.
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True or false: the most exciting thing to emerge from London’s music scene in recent years is a sweaty little smack-oik who mistakes his own gauche laziness for Dickensian wit. No conferring please…
Encouragingly most people will plump for ‘False’; recognising that the blanket coverage afforded bony white lads in porkpie hats doesn’t automatically imbue their creative output with any artistic merit or spark. What it does however represent is a seemingly calculated agenda by mainstream media to suffocate any indigenous British urban scene that doesn’t adhere to the indie-rock schematic.
You want proof? Take Drum & Bass; a genre deftly neutered by a Mercury sponsored coffee table. Or how about Garage and its descent into a Cristal quagmire – wherein the various protagonists were cast as social pariahs rather than lovable junkies. Even the highly marketable Grime scene was swiftly led astray through a collective desire to nurture peripheral rivalries at the expense of the music. David Icke ramblings? Perhaps. But the stark fact remains that most home grown underground scenes are bluntly suffocated in their infancy. It is therefore gratifying to introduce not only the second wave of a genre so entrenched in Blighty its veins run with tea and Carling, but also signal the return of its prodigal son. Dubstep and a nation salutes you.
Having released an eponymous LP that sieved an utterly unique and haunting death-rattle from the murky sonic palette of Dubstep, Burial stuck to the pirate aesthetic which birthed the genre by declining to revel his identity. With his second album ‘Untrue’ poised to drop on Hyperdub, speculation of Burial’s true name is still the subject of much contention – with the likes of Kode 9, Aphex Twin and The Bug all mooted as being the talent behind the wires. Speaking from his South London gaff, Burial (AKA pick a card, any card) seems bemused by the level of intrigue surrounding the contents of his passport and offers forth a succinct (if somewhat cliched) summary of his motivation. “I’m just low key and prefer people to listen to the tunes without me cluttering it all up…”. Cheers for that then.
First exposure to Burial can be a disorientating experience. Emerging from a genre that doggedly perches on the cutting edge, Burial seems intent on imbuing his strain of Dubstep with a foreboding and sensory-clipped sense of decay – something he puts down to a distrust of modern life’s technological blitzkrieg. “I like the old days…no internet, no mobile phones; just the record”, he explains. “Old underground producers – their releases had a mystery to them. When all you’ve got is a logo, track name and music, it makes you focus more on what’s important. I’m not some full time music person and it’s a laugh making music, but all I want is to make tiunes – nothing else. I’m not behind the decks, I’m raving at the back. I could step up to the plate…but I don’t want to.”
Whilst early contenders for the Dubstep fiefdom relied on the juxtaposition of punishing bass and primary coloured melodies, Burial employed a clashing spectrum of sound that is well beyond the sticky floored predilection that outsiders assume populates the clubs. “Raw, rolling drums and sub is the sound I love,” Burial reveals, “and if you don’t get that then you won’t ever get it.” With the stated aim of “wanting to make the UK underground album I’d have loved as a kid:, Burial injects a dollop of pathos into his work – harking back to the C90 history of British music wherein the hiss and crackle were an integral by-product of the sound.
“Listening to old tapes and tunes can’t help but make you sad,” he explains. “They tried to unite the UK and it didn’t happen, so you feel like you’re listening to ghosts. Things move on; ravers get older and it’s emotional to hear tunes like the Omni Trio’s ‘Through The Vibe’ – it brings on a darkness that can make you cry whilst still being uplifting. I wanted that in the album.” So is Dubstep a dark place? “No, I don’t think so. Many of the sounds do reach back into the echoes of a past where come out, but it’s a balanced place and some of those ghosts are uplifting – sweet sound, vocals and strings. It isn’t all dark – at least I hope not…”
With his new material – “something like before, but not as homemade – more rolling, more underground, less to hook on to…basically stepping it up a bit” – Burial signs off with a discussion on why he thinks Dubstep seems to have captured the imagination of so many, so quickly; its versatility. “There are shards and spines of sound that you can either follow or ignore,” he elucidates. “The exoskeleton of bears are upfront for the club, but weaved around that are the deep and personal elements to follow whilst sitting around with friends. It should work whether you’re in a car, taking a walk, in the club or on your Playstation.”
However just as you’re thinking the UK underground has gone all introspective, Burial joyfully bulldozes the mood with a final thought on his output to date; “to be honest I’m happy if a few people are into it…it’s not perfect. It’s a mess.” Self-deprecating too – how quintessentially British can you get?
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Words by Adam Park