Ren Schofield makes my favourite electronic music. As Container he produces raw, abrasive techno informed by a past playing in various outfits in the Providence, Rhode Island noise scene and solo improvised explorations. In 2013 I was fortunate to bring Container to Australia and share some bills. His show in Melbourne, with the equally amazing Matthew Brown, was easily one of the best shows I’ve attended. I caught up with Ren earlier this year when he returned to Australia for Adelaide’s Unsound festival and can confirm that his new material is as visceral and pounding as ever.
Container's latest album will be released on June 8 via Spectrum Spools. Like his previous two albums for Spectrum Spools, the latest is simply titled LP.
Noisey: Do you see Container as having appeal on the dance floor? Is this your intention? Do you predominantly play clubs/with electronic acts?
Ren Schofield: When I first started playing actual dance nights I was completely unfamiliar with that culture, so for a while it was pretty new and interesting, but I’ve grown to become sort of irritated by performing in that setting. I do intend for the music to have a danceability, but I feel that only comes across in the proper environment, which for me is not a dance club. There’s a big difference between parties and shows and I feel like my music works much better in the show atmosphere, amongst other live acts. There’s been lots of nights where it’s a bunch of DJ’s and I’m the one live act playing right in the middle and when I go on, in my opinion, it really crushes the momentum and ruins the vibe of the party…which I’m happy to do, but it isn’t necessarily ideal.
What equipment do you use? Has it changed over time?
I use a Roland MC-909, a Tascam 414 4 track, two DD-6 delay pedals, and some cassettes. Theres been some minor fluctuations along the way, but more or less this is the ‘classic’ set up.
Why hardware and not a laptop?
When I was younger there was a stigma around laptops amongst my crew, like if you saw someone with one it meant that they almost definitely sucked. I don’t hold to this opinion so strongly anymore, and in fact I’ve been quite curious about learning some music programs, but having no knowledge of how they work and until recently not having a computer capable of hosting the software is most likely why I use hardware instead. I guess most of my reservations are just about laptops in the live setting…they obviously can be highly versatile musical tools capable of doing things I can’t even comprehend, and theres lots of records I love that I know are all laptop, but live, aside from being incredibly un-engaging to watch someone play…I feel like they lack a variety of textures and despite sounding impressively ‘hi-def’, come off as sort of one-note. But again, I literally have never played one, so I don’t really know what I’m talking about, this is another reason why I’m interested in learning more.
How long have you lived in Providence? How has it shaped the way you listen to make music?
I grew up here, eventually moved away for a while, and I’ve been back for about 3 years at this point. Discovering the local scene when I was in high school around 2001 was my first exposure to any generally bizarre and abstract music and it introduced me to everything I’m involved in now. I think I do have some subconsciously ingrained ideals about how to make music, and in a certain sense of how music should be, that stem back to ‘my formative years’ here. Being skeptical of laptop performances and serious DJ’s would be a direct result of this.
Container is informed by noise and dance music. What do your listening habits gravitate towards?
Generally my interests lean towards, I don’t want to say noise, but music that sounds somewhat weird or wrong, whether it be techno or rock or whatever. I can be quite charmed by music that is unrefined and a bit sloppy, but my favorite stuff is when the music is extremely tight and composed, yet still manages to capture that clueless element, and despite being completely serious, also sounds fun. It’s rare and it’s hard to do, but that really blows me away. I’m not usually interested in hearing someone nail a particular style of music extremely well, I’d rather they did a horrible job of it, because to me thats when some interesting things might start to happen.
How does the new LP compare to previous work? I hear some more acidic lines in it.
For me it’s just a logical continuation. I don’t want to force some major change in style on myself or impose some conceptual guideline for an album, because that just isn’t what this project is about, change will occur naturally. The new record is literally just the next batch of songs I wrote that I was happy with. I think it’s a bit more direct and abrasive than my last release, the songs are all pretty short and the progressions are a bit faster paced. In my mind theres some pop hooks in there, but they might not be as clearly visible as on the last record.
The video for “Eject” is great. Has Val (Unicorn Hard-On) done much video work before?
Some but not a whole lot. All that footage is from a VHS tape Val found in a thrift store in Virginia in the early 2000’. It’s a home movie labeled Kev’s Video. It’s a pretty amazing video really. Val and I were talking and I asked if she could think of anyone I could ask to make a video for me and she suggested she make one out of the Kev’s Video footage and I was like “Yes, please.”
What was the highlight of your recent brief trip to Australia?
Some highlights were definitely going bowling, hanging out at the Majestic Rooftop Garden Hotel drinking Melbourne Bitter, the lamb at the Afghan Charcoal House, checking out all the Unsound stuff, and just hanging around Adelaide in general. It was great to be there for a few days, since I was coming from six weeks of endless snow back home.
'LP' is available June 8 via Spectrum Spools.