Jack Dangers has been making music for over twenty years. His pioneering work with Meat Beat Manifesto continues to inspire and fascinate. With the new album Answers Come In Dreams released in October 2010, Mr. Dangers shows no signs of slowing down. The album is a dark excursion into dubstep, electro, and ambience. I caught up with Jack Dangers to ask him about his work and his enthusiasm for electronic music history.
interview by Mike Parker
There has been a transformation in the sound of Jack Dangers and Meat Beat Manifesto. This process can be traced over the years. Recently, you acquired a Synthi 100, which is a rare and vintage synthesizer from the early 1970s. Can you share with us your thoughts on the role of the Synthi 100 Synthesizer in this transformation?
JD : I’m looking at it now! Well, something this big coming into the studio is going to make its presence known and demand attention. [writer’s note : The Synthi 100 is a massive instrument. You can see a picture of one HERE] It can be so many different things. A synthesizer with 7200 control points available at your disposal makes it difficult for me to know where to start, really. I’m still learning how to use it. I think I always will be. It’s so vast, what you can do with it. Even if someone came up with a digital version of it, a software version, you wouldn’t be able to fathom what to do with it without being able to stand in front of the thing and start throwing pins in the patchbay grids to route the signals. The people who designed it bordered on the eccentric. It’s quite unlike anything I’ve ever used. I’ve got a bunch of different modular synthesizers and they’re all pretty easy to grasp, but this one I am still learning.
When did you become comfortable with the Synthi 100?
JD : Probably after about three months of just playing with it.
When did your first recordings with it appear?
JD : I purchased it back in the late 90’s from the University of Adelaide in Australia. I think there were only about 27 of them ever made. Afterwards, I sent it away for almost a year for repairs and modifications. My first recordings with it appeared in 2002 [on the album RUOK?].
What was the greatest challenge that the Synthi 100 presented?
JD : Getting it in the room! It took like 6 people to get it through the window and maneuver it into my studio. It was a bit like getting a piano delivered.
Listening to your solo recordings such as Sci-Fi Sound Effects, Music for Planetarium, and Loudness Clarifies gives me the impression that certain tracks from those releases are sketches for later compositions by Meat Beat Manifesto. Can you elaborate on that and explain your compositional methods?
JD : I suppose everything I do is a possible sketch for a Meat Beat track. Those albums you mentioned were definitely solo projects that I did from scratch.
Some of the short tracks on Sci Fi Sound Effects sound almost like index cards from your thought processes.
JD : Yes. From my Rolodex!
Growing up in the United Kingdom, how much were you exposed to the works of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and what are your thoughts about its legacy?
JD : They definitely weren’t taken seriously when I was a lad. They were a division of the BBC which primarily made sound effects for Doctor Who and science fiction programs, or whenever they needed some weird sounds in the background for other projects. I remember I did a John Peel Session back in the early 90s and the first thing I did when I got there was ask, ‘Where’s the Radiophonic Workshop?’ So, I actually did get to see it before they closed it down. But they didn’t have the Synthi 100. It had already been removed about 12 years previous to my visit. The BBC Radiophonic Workshop wasn’t taken seriously until it was gone and then it was too late. John Baker was my favorite artist from that collective, the stuff from the 60s…
Your interest in science fiction films is evident in the live performances of Meat Beat Manifesto and in your “live” soundtrack for Forbidden Planet. If you were to recommend another classic film to your fans, what would it be and why?
JD : Dark Star, directed by John Carpenter. It’s my favorite science fiction film of all time. It used sublime humor. It’s eccentric. I know some people have sampled bits and pieces from it over the years. I remember hearing it on the very first Human League record, Being Boiled… the 7 inch version on the B side.
If indeed “answers come in dreams”, then what are the questions posed by the new album? Have your dream experiences directly affected this album?
JD : The title is more of a play on words than a process regarding dreams. If you take the first letter of each word… It’s more along those lines. I’ve been purposely cryptic. It’s an album mainly of instrumentals. The videos that are included on the DVD [with the British import version] might shed some light on your question.
It sounds like you are reconciling different aspects of electronic music such as electro and dubstep. But in the hands of Meat Beat manifesto, this process feels so natural, like they always belonged together. When you are writing music, are you conscious of this?
JD : Well, not really. If there is a link between any of it (and all of it), it would probably be dub. The way I got into dub was from Cabaret Voltaire. And from listening to John Peel’s radio show. That was 30 years ago. If there’s any thread through everything I’ve done, it would be my inspiration from reggae and dub music.
On a personal note, I’ve attended two performances of Meat Beat Manifesto in Buffalo, NY. On both occasions, I noticed a strong reaction from the audience to some of your classic tracks. What strikes me is that the old tracks sound better than ever and your new material sounds equally devastating, if not more so. When is the next tour?
JD : The tour starts in February!
US Tour Dates
Feb 2 – Seattle, WA EL Corazon
Feb 3 – Portland, OR Peter’s Room Under Roseland
Feb 4 – Vancouver, BC Venue
Feb 9 – Los Angeles, CA El Rey
Feb 11 – San Francisco, CA Mezzanine
Feb 15 – Denver, CO Summit Music Hall
Feb 16 – Chicago, IL Bottom Lounge
Feb 19 – New York, NY Santo’s Party House