THUMP are pretty excited to bring you the exclusive premiere of Millie & Andrea's Drop The Vowels LP, the collaborative project between UK techno producers Andy Stott and Miles Whittaker. The album sees Andy Stott's progressive, dub-flecked techno come together with Miles Whittaker's gritty sound (see taken to new heights as part of Demdike Stare's brilliant Testpressing releases); lighter touches of house, techno and dub, with a sprinkling of dust over it all.
We spoke to Andy Stott about the project, the album, the coming live show this Friday at the Evian Christ Waterfall EP launch in London—and how Andy loves Jai Paul and Lil B.
THUMP: Tell me about the Millie & Andrea project; do you work together in the studio? What's the process like?
Andy Stott: I don't think Miles and I have worked on any of the same tracks together. I'll submit tracks, and then he will. The Millie & Andrea releases are own individual tracks—but they come out together. We used work on some tracks together, but we probably just get inspiration from doing that.
Why has it worked out like that?
I still live in Manchester, and when we first started the project Miles lived in Burnley, which is only 45 minutes up the motorway. I could go up and visit him in his studio and vice versa. But Miles lives in Berlin now, and since we started the project he's become incredibly busy with his solo work and Demdike Stare. When Luxury Problems came out I got increasingly busy as well. Getting together is so difficult; the only way for the album to work would be doing it that way.
Do you think the Millie & Andrea sound is a departure from your solo work?
I think so, because we've both moved on with our individual styles. This album is more engineered for the dance floor, and just the difference between the earlier stuff—having both moved on in production, and the way we approach tracks—has given it a bit more maturity. I think we both benefit from working like that. There are still tracks sat on my computer from years ago where Miles would be struggling with it and he'd get to a point where he'd send it over to me and say, "Can do anything with this?," and it just wouldn't work. It's really bizarre.
The album, for all its influences, feels very raw, yet with a real eye on melody. What have you been listening to? What's influenced that tone in the album?
Andy Stott: I got introduced to Jai Paul, and the production on his stuff is super squashed, super compressed, and then there's something really nasty underneath. It's ultimately pop music, really bright, but the production on it is so nasty. And I don't mean nasty in a bad way. It's like, "Bloody hell." That was really inspiring to me: how can you make something that's so smashed together production wise sound really, really accessible. I wanted to make something a brighter, but still be a bit nasty at the same way. Some of the faster tracks like 'Corrosive', I played at Pitchfork festival—and I saw Lil B there too. In a loud environment like that.... I'd never heard beats like that before. That was an inspiration to me too.
You like Lil B? That's nuts. I wouldn't have expected that.
Andy Stott: I've only seen this live set. A friend of mine played me some Lil B years ago, and I honestly to this day can't remember it but he said, "I played you some Lil B, but I don't think you could take it seriously." I don't know what it was about it at first, but I saw it live and it was one of the heaviest things. Something just, smacked me in the face when I heard it. There was one track in particular—it's like a drone track, a really heavy drone track with a trap style beat over the top—and I thought, "This is next level. This is unbelievable." The 12" that came out before the album, the Stage 2 12," I wrote that on the plane when I came back from Chicago, because I was so inspired by the Lil B set.
He's a hell of a character—and really into some unexpected music, too.
Andy Stott: Lil B is into Grouper and stuff like that. I find that really amazing. My small claim to fame is that me and Evian Christ were having a kick about in Lil B's dressing room once, knocking over all of his gear and stuff.
What is it about that unpolished sound that appeals to you so much?
Andy Stott: I've always really enjoyed that side of production. I've been trying to incorporate it into my stuff; to perfect that rough, gritty, that almost fall-into-bits style. I think you could not necessarily have the same track side-by-side, but for me it just gives it something else. Anything that makes you reel back a bit and go, "Oh god"... It's just aggression.
This is what I'm saying about the Jai Paul album. It's really pretty, and if you strip that element away, all the melodies are quite beautiful. To me, it sounds like it's been carefully put together, and then thrown into the washing machine. Whatever's left over is the one. It makes you clench your fists a bit when you listen to it even though it's pop music. If pop music can get that reaction, techno is just going to be wild.
And how is the live show coming together—especially seeing as you didn't produce the album in the studio together. How's the process with that been?
Andy Stott: This is the bit where we're actually banging our heads together and getting on with it. We're performing together, so we've got to know what each of us are doing, and we've got to know changes. The track selection is old and new, so we've worked out a sequence—and Miles is a bit of a hardware nut, to be honest. I don't know what he's going to be bringing. I'll probably find out at sound check.
So, expect something a bit improvised?
Andy Stott: There's definitely a structure there, but it's more of a guide really. Miles and I know each other really well though. I'll be getting on with something, constructing a rack live the way it's supposed to be on the record with subtle variations, and Miles will have re-sampled me; made some sort of sound-up from the effects that he's going to bring, start creeping that in, I'll hear it coming in, make a space for it.
I enjoy the semi-improvisational element of live techno shows though. It's more interesting for artist and crowd.
Andy Stott: Definitely, that's what it's all about. There's two extremes. You can't turn up not having done anything, and just hitting start and just trying to wing it. That's not on. On the other hand, when it's rehearsed to death, and you know what you're going to do every second of the performance—that's too mechanical for us. I don't know if some people work like that, I would imagine some people do, but it's too mechanical or Miles and I. There's got to be space for improvisation. That means no two live shows are the same. I love the idea of that.
Finally, how do you think Drop The Vowels sounds?
Andy Stott: It sounds like Millie and Andrea grown up a bit. I can't describe it. It just takes a while for you to actually hear it as an album. Once you've finished writing the tracks and everything, you need to step away from it for a bit. I can hear it as an album, the way it runs and everything, but when you've made something? And you haven't listened to it for a long time? You always hear it differently.
You can follow Lauren Martin on Twitter here: @codeinedrums