By Daniel SylvesterIf there is a "Squarepusher sound," it would be best described as the battle between digital decay and analog ingenuity. But, since 2004's Ultravisitor, Tom Jenkinson's (aka Squarepusher) absolute fixation with the bass guitar has all but defined his work. On Ufabulum, the 13th full-length from the Essex, UK marvel, Jenkinson packs up and leaves his comfort zone for a warmer digital embrace. Originally envisioned as a companion piece to his visually stunning, LED-laden live show, Ufabulum shows Squarepusher pushing forward some of his leanest, most unfurled compositions to date. When it's all said and done, Ufabulum isn't the great emancipating departure people make it out to be, but it does express just how inspired this legend can still sound.
Where are you right now? I'm in Austria; I'm playing a festival tomorrow night.
And this is one of your first shows for the new tour, correct? We've done five now, so this will be number six.
Are you feeling the buzz around your new album? Because there certainly seems to be one. Actually, funnily enough, there's one thing that is quite good, because it's statistically based, rather than based on hypothesis or chat. The album is number 16 in Japan, which is good, on the main chart, which also incorporates all of their domestic Japanese pop music and all international releases. For someone who's not going out of their way to form or generate a nice, concise or polite musical product, that seems quite remarkable, to me.
What's your take on the overall buzz, internationally? I have to say I probably could extract something from it, but partly, I've been on the road, so I haven't really been able to look at any particular pieces of information that have been flying around. But, in all honesty, I don't tend to do that anyway. At the start of my career, I had a little bit more of the arrogance of youth, I suppose, and I used to occasionally check out reviews, particularly if someone told me there was a good one. It has its pluses and minuses, but I tend to stay clear of the general hubbub about music, whether it's about my music or someone else's. I think partly because my introduction to the world of music was a very singular affair. I used to just listen to music on my own on the radio or tapes I would find lying around the house; it was a very personally, specific investigation. I didn't know anyone, besides my parents, obviously, but certainly amongst my friends, I didn't know anyone who liked music. It took about ten years, when I became a teenager, until my friends and people around me started to become interested in music. But by that point, a lot of my mentality had been formed, in the sense that I was used to "going it alone," finding out things and just going with my response.
I had the impression that this album was sort of a response to, not only the musical landscape of the moment, but also the type of music you had been making over the last six or seven years. I'm always keen on interpretation and on the other hand, I'm always keen not to tell people if they're right or wrong. I really like to foster intelligent speculation and criticism; I don't like to shut it down by saying, "Well, here's the answer and that's the end of the story." Maybe some people would see that as evasive or being difficult, but I see it as a mark of respect for them. I don't know if people have speculated, but there is one thing that I wouldn't shy away from saying. Regarding my work, I got to the point where I was sick of playing instruments, making music that depended on live instrumental playing, having to sit down in the studio and having to rattle out takes on a guitar, drum kit, keyboard or what have you. I think in addition to engineering it myself and trying to keep a producer's eye on the whole thing, that it's extremely hard work. So doing this album is certainly reactionary, in that I wanted to get away from that method. It'll always be a part of my work ― the live playing. I love the craft of playing instruments and I think it always acts as a good reference point, for me, when I'm programming because one shows you a lot about the other, even if it's kind of in a negative way, where that instrument shows you what the other ones can't do. So, for me, at the moment, doing this record is sort of like a holiday, in a way, because in a lot of ways, it's kind of a lot easier. If you fuck it up you can just go back and change it and you've always got time to kind of rearrange things.