​Things Squarepusher Gives Zero Fucks About

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​Things Squarepusher Gives Zero Fucks About

The famously contrarian producer on his new album, live show, and why he breaks his own rules.

Damogen Furies, Squarepusher's 14th studio album, was released last week amidst the kind of fanfare and critical acclaim only reserved for classics. The release has been lauded as a focused and palatable appropriation of the breakneck glitch that is a hallmark of the UK polymath's aesthetic. Someone forgot to pass that memo on to Tom Jenkinson, though. "I woke up today and I didn't even remember it was happening," he laughs, brushing off the dust from two weekends closing out the Gobi Tent at Coachella. "It's an odd thing. The excitement, for me, tends to culminate during mastering sessions. That's the point at which I take my hands off. By the time it comes to release, I'm thinking about what I'm gonna do next."

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What's next is a litany of tour dates that sees Squarepusher appear everywhere from Berghain to Lovebox Festival in London to the Sydney Opera House. It's as though his music, almost singular in its dense contrarianism, fits in nowhere and everywhere at once. "It feels positive to me that one weekend I'll be at a jazz festival, and the next an EDM festival, and then the next is some experimental-electronic thing," says Jenkinson. "It feels positive that these promoters are bold enough to include me in this diverse array of events. Let's face it, I don't feel like I fit in at any of them, but it produces this potential for interesting responses."

There could be no more remarkable or varied responses than those at that recent shindig in the Mojave desert. "Coachella was the most recent festival and it was really…interesting," Jenkinson explains. "The first weekend, I really didn't enjoy it. I thought it was awful. The people in the auditorium were somehow unable to latch on to anything happening on stage. The music events felt tangential or irrelevant to anyone's experience there. It didn't feel like it was connecting with anyone."

"The second weekend felt quite different," Jenkinson goes on. "The audience was much more engaged and responding to all the shifts and changes in the music. Having done the first Coachella, the second one, I tried to take account of what the situation was like. I tried to really accentuate the events and subtlety just got thrown away, any subtle or meditative or thoughtful aspect of the music got destroyed in the name of making it as slamming and attention-grabbing set as possible."

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It's that ability to re-address his material on the fly that makes Squarepusher such a flexible performative entity, but his penchant for the mutable is born more from the fear of boredom than it is the love for bookings. "My attitude towards music is geared towards change and progression," he says. "Being forced to remain in a stagnant situation, repeating the same musical gesture again and again is completely abhorrent to me."

Tom Jenkinson, the man behind the Squarepusher mask

That vein of reasoning is why Squarepusher's live show is already veering from the material on the just-released Damogen Furies. "I've been touring it since March, 12 or 14 dates so far, and already, it's developing," he says. "It's a completely different setup entirely from the Ufabulum tour. The idea is to get as far away as I can from pre-set hardware or commercially available software, so that I can move away from the tramlines that those pieces of hardware and software force you into…I'm finding ways to put new spins on that material. It's quite important for me to do that. It's a selfish thing. I don't want to be up there, bored out of my brains, doing that same old piece the same way, the same experience over and over again. I can't tolerate it."

Thankfully, one thing Squarepusher has become a little better at tolerating is interviews. The famously contrarian Jenkinson approaches them with a newfound patience. "I used to be much more obstinate, make things up for the sake of it, make up different characters," he says. "I'm through with that. It was driven by the fact that I felt, suddenly, that my freedom and my privacy had been massively encroached upon and I responded to it in an aggressive fashion. It was a way of coping with a very strange situation. I went from being a completely unknown person to someone with a public profile. Some people are really kitted out for that. I'm not. That produced an aggressive, obstructive response form me early in my career. These days, I quite like talking to people and listening to what they have to say."

It's as if Jenkinson's staunch contrarianism is in effect even towards his own contrarianism. "If I sense that i've become bound by a set of rules, I will try and break them, even if they're my own," he says. "If something starts feeling like a habit, a machine-like response, whether that's in the context of music, interviews, any of my interests, I will start to try to erode that set of rules and rethink it. When it becomes a comfortable routine, that's when I feel the need to smash it up and start again. I don't know if it's through sheer contrarianism or a lack of patience or what, but I cannot stand things once I can predict them."

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Jemayel Khawaja is the Managing Editor of THUMP