File under artists who inspire us: Lee Gamble is for us the embodiment of thoughtful, adventurous sound making. CDM’s Zuzana Friday talks to him about his latest project, UIQ – one that brings rich discourse and dimension to music. -Ed.
You could say that Lee Gamble has a degree in making abstract music – using samples, snippets, and elements of styles ranging from jungle to techno. The master producer ‘sound wizard’ contributed to PAN Records’ discography with a number of releases combining his musical roots and sound phantasmagorias.
For his own record label UIQ, he merges similarly volatile music from various parts of the world with his other lesser-known interests – his work in philosophy, art, and (as a part of the Cyrk Collective) curating. UIQ, the new imprint of this Birmingham-born, London-based artist, goes beyond the usual label business by exposing talent from unexpected parts of the world, visual artists and philosophers, and on to real (terrestrial) radio waves.
Gamble’s choice for the first EP on the label was Martin Rokis (aka N1L) – a Latvian artist working with sound, performances, and installations. Rokis’ earlier musical production under his real name tended more to digital squeaks and fluctuating noises more than anything resembling dance music – listen here:
But as N1L, those creative bursts are formed into beat structures, happily without restraining his aggressive and experimental approach. It’s an enjoyable combination of his earlier work, deep house / dub techno elements, post-jungle/grime beats, and bass.
The second release on UIQ is the EP Bionic Ahmed by Ahmed El Ghazoly, alias Zuli, a multi-instrumentalist, producer, and DJ. Bionic Ahmed is Zuli’s debut record, but he’s been an important figure of the Cairo’s underground scene for over ten years. He’s a co-founder of VENT, a music space and club, connected to the London-based record label of the same name. That series has hosted names like Ben UFO, Aurora Halal, and Lee Gamble himself.
For a debut record, the sound of Bionic Ahmed is QUIte UnIQue. Rusty metal vibrations echo over hissing sounds of electronic fauna; beats fluctuate between post-grime/DnB and percussive rhythms in claustrophobic loops with occasional ghost-like glimpses of a human voice… all sculpted with an outstanding sense for composition and sound design.
As UIQ’s purpose is to draw wider attention to new, emerging artists, Gamble created a sublabel called ‘UIQ Inversions’ for his own music, where the first EP Chain Kinematics was just released in May. Gamble’s reconnection with his multimedia/interdisciplinary past is underlined by the fact that the music video for his fourth track of the new EP, called “004,” is made by Dave Gaskarth, another Cyrk member.
Just this week, UIQ0005 – Glasz by Lanark Artefax dropped, by 22-year-old Glaswegian producer Calum MacRa. (More on that release from Juno Download.)
I asked Lee Gamble about his past, present, and future activities, his love for radio and the artists he releases on UIQ.
Friday: You yourself release music on PAN Records, a label founded by your comrade Bill Kouligas, which released many other great musicians such as Mika Vainio, Objekt, and Visionist. When have you decided to start your own imprint, and do you plan to release something of your own on UIQ?
Lee: Well, having a label was always something I’d liked to have done earlier. It just wasn’t that easy. I used to be be involved in curating and running a collective called Cyrk. There was the Cyrk radio series, featuring the likes of Russell Haswell, conceptual sound artist JLIAT, Peter Rehberg (MEGO), Mark Stewart of Mark Stewart and the Mafia, Perc, Mark Fell, EVOL, Phil Niblock. There were lots, we organised events in galleries, music events, radio, film events and this would have naturally been a place to begin a label from. But there was no cash available. Simple, really.
So, I have just released a 12” of my work on UIQ Inversions – Chain Kinematics. This will be a side label of the main UIQ that will release my stuff only. I basically want UIQ to be a free space for newer artists, so I felt putting my own work out on it would mean me getting in the way somehow. Also, I wanted for a long time to do a series of 12”s of my own. It’s great to have some control of my work and a release schedule that’s my own too. I can get stuff out there fairly quickly on Inversions. Working with labels is great and I’ll continue to do that, but it’s interesting at this point for me also to direct myself too.
You mentioned you were part of Cyrk. Does UIQ in any sense follow your activities or ideas within the collective?
Sure, UIQ is like the bifurcated offspring of Cyrk — like its older brother. As I mentioned, Cyrk was responsible for several music events, a couple of curated film events, three radio series, an event in a concert hall with Phill Niblock, conceptual stuff… I’m a bit more established as an artist now, so I have contacts to make things happen, and a little more resources. I had zero access to money when I was doing Cyrk stuff. This is why some of it ended up as radio, people would do a radio show/mix for free! And there weren’t as many podcasts back then, so it did OK. People liked them.
Some of the Cyrk nights were quite mental though. The idea was to really clash stuff. In London at the time, I really remember either being able to go to an improvisation/experimental event, or an academic event or a rave/club. So Cyrk just threw all of this together, we’d have some lowercase improv, then we’d DJ in between, like at club volume, mixing A Guy Called Gerald on top of Florian Hecker records or whatever. Then there’d be someone doing some spoken word thing about food, then back to DJing. UIQ of course follows this system of clashing — the attempt to cross-pollinate, non-hierarchical hybrids.
You’re a resident on London-based NTS Radio, where apart from your regular monthly shows, you’ve recorded UIQ Session, where you invited multi-disciplinary artist Mark Fell and philosopher Thomas Metzinger to talk about perception, hallucination, silence and other subjects overlapping music and art. How are these topics connected to what UIQ is about? Who would you invite for the next session in case you plan to do so?
I’m really keen to continue my interest in radio with UIQ. I moved to London from Birmingham in 2001 and got involved with Resonance 104.4 FM pretty soon after that. Before that, in Birmingham, as a teenager, I played sometimes on pirate radio there – as you say, I now have my monthly NTS show for a couple of years. So radio has always been a feature for me.
To be honest, I’d love to do a lot more radio art stuff. For me now, time is a problem, these things take a long time to make but I have a lot of ideas for it as a medium. UIQ is open. So, the Metzinger interview came about naturally as my friend Mark (Fell) had invited him over to do a talk in London. I knew Thomas’ work, so we hooked it up. It’s nice to push music’s boundaries out a little in relation to ‘journalism’, or conversation. I had a long for conversation with Robin Mackay last year too.
Sam, who works on UIQ stuff with me, is an amateur radio operator/nerd (I cleared the use of the term ‘nerd’ with him by the way 😉 ) and we’re part-way assembling our own VLF (Very Low Frequency) receiver and SDR (software-defined radio) stream. The monitoring station will be at my house, and we’ll be able to stream the signal anywhere with internet. VLF refers to the section of the RF spectrum between 3kHz and 30kHz — basically picking up natural (lightning, electrical storms) and man-made signals. Submarines, communication systems, the national grid can be also be accessed via our UIQ VLF Stream. So, yeah – we’re going to be using radio for sure. I plan to do more UIQ radio interventions on NTS too.
UIQ seems to be more than a regular music label. You cite Jean Baudrillard as one of the inspirations for UIQ, the first release is by a conceptual artist and for the radio session, you invite a philosopher rather than a musician. It seems like you’re striving for a space where complex topics overlapping the music scene can be discussed and elaborated. How far from the truth is this assumption? And is one of UIQ’s aims to give people from rather non-musical fields the exposure and chance to promote their work beyond academic or art world?
Yeah, it’s not only a record label, I mean, it’s releasing records, but I don’t want to think of it as just a label. There’s this initial part of it that is and that’s really important, but it will morph and allow itself to flip. Music in some way is like the connecting bond for it. It’s possible to get into all sorts of things using music as an anchor point. That takes time, and it will involve itself in activities when either the opportunity arises or there feels a need for a project to be related to UIQ.
The thing with technology is that we’re not sure what’s happening around the corner, where it’s going etc. So, UIQ has to be onto that, it has to be malleable.
My interests in philosophy will bleed into UIQ, as will my other interests. At this point, I’m working with Dave Gaskarth, who is a designer and video artist / animator, and Sam Keating-Fry, who is a web programmer and radio tech nerd – so there are those feeds too. I see it as a platform really, a ‘portal’ for me to explore this and that, with and without other people. I know myself and Bill (Kouligas) share a feeling that narrowing down to a ‘record label’ can just be inhibiting, so I’m keen to let ideas move in via music, and those things can be extra-musical but related.
Did you know Martins Rokis first as an artist or as a musician? And how have you decided that his first EP as N1L will be the first release ever on UIQ?
Me and Martins met online around 2005/6-ish. We came across each other’s work – we were both working in ‘computer music’ – using computer languages and other forms of non-standard synthesis to produce sound. There weren’t too many people into it outside of academia, really, so a few of us knew each other online as it was. He wasn’t doing anything like N1L as far as I knew then! He sent me this stuff a lot later. I had been planning UIQ – I didn’t want to release my own work as the first one, I wanted to release people who weren’t known. So, once I heard these N1L tracks (he sent me a few) that got the wheels turning. 🙂 He’s sent me a whole bunch of new N1L stuff that’s amazing. He’s got some skills. Watch out for the next N1L EP…
ZULI, or Ahmed El Ghazoly, runs an art space/ club VENT in Cairo, where he hosted a show of yours. Is this how you two first met? Which aspects of Zuli’s work were the decisive ones that made you want to release his EP under your new label?
ZULI was sending me stuff over the last couple of years, mainly for my NTS show, I think. I used to play bits, so as soon as I started UIQ I chatted to him about an EP. For me, like N1L, ZULI has his own sound, the way he writes patterns, his influences, where he’s from. The fact that these guys aren’t well known interests me too, also their geographical locations. But ultimately their tracks. I have the next batch of ZULI too, which is also amazing 🙂 I’d like to work over time with artists if possible, I’m not in a position to officially sign acts with deals (as most small labels aren’t), but I’d like to develop with them, alongside them if possible. Like a two way thing. That instinctively feels good…
Could you reveal next artists, releases or activities connected to UIQ?
Hmm, no. I want to keep them quiet until they drop. But, there are two EPs imminent – UIQ005 is out on 21st July, and UIQ003 is out on 12th August. All people with little or relatively no profile as yet. It’s great working this way, then these ‘new’ artists help UIQ to develop an identity as well as their own, or something like that!? It also encourages me to keep moving as a listener. There are artists out there I love, and would love to release, but this way I have to do more work, more listening, but also am forced to make choices that aren’t based on what I know to work, so it’s more interesting/ challenging this way and helps UIQ to build its identity alongside these artists. We’ll be looking to launch the VLF stream soon, and are curating some events hopefully this year.
Official website with newsletter: http://u-i-q.org/
Lee Gamble’s shows on NTS Radio: