Published Nov 11, 2014Manchester producer Andy Stott turned a lot of heads with his 2012 opus, Luxury Problems. That album saw him begin a partnership with his former piano teacher, an opera-trained vocalist, as well as work towards a more accessible, slow-burning sound with his deep, spacious electronic music. But for his follow-up, Faith in Strangers (out November 18 via Modern Love), one piece of equipment purchased on eBay changed everything for him.
"I bought a drum machine a couple of years ago, and having gone deeper into it, I don't think I can write a track without it now," Stott tells Exclaim! "It's one of the main features on the album as well. I think one main piece of equipment can dictate what you make."
Stott didn't just rely on the drum machine, he completely turned the process of how he makes music on its head. After creating with software for years, he abandoned it for hardware.
"[The process] was massively different because Luxury Problems was about 85 to 90 percent done on software, with a little bit of hardware," he explains. "And Faith in Strangers is the complete opposite, 90 percent hardware. The computer was used for a bit of percussion, but mainly for multi-tracking. So the process was completely flipped upside down."
By turning things upside down, Stott had his work cut out for him. The new gear he acquired took time to figure out, but once he was comfortable he found that using it produced the results he was looking for.
"I invested in quite a bit of hardware and I had to learn it," he says. "It was like pushing two bits of equipment, effects mainly, just pushing them to the limits and seeing what happened. And then bringing that level of distortion back and making it usable. You just can't do that with software. It doesn't sound as nice when you try and max things out. It was more time consuming, but at the same time it was a massive learning curve."
Faith in Strangers also includes many found sounds and field recordings. Stott tracked down most of these in his mundane daily routine, and at one of his city's most treasured attractions.
"There is a car park in Manchester — when I got out of the car and slammed the door shut, just the reverb and the delay from doing that was unbelievable. I just thought, 'I need to come back here,'" he admits. "There are places with industrial sounds, like this museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, and there is tons of stuff in there. The big clang in 'Science and Industry' is from a big piston on a steam engine. But I take my Zoom recorder everywhere I go and try to record wherever I go."
As for the album's title, which is shared with one of its tracks, Stott isn't trying to make a thoughtful statement, but reflect on his career and how it constantly finds him meeting new people and putting his trust in them.
"With what I do now I travel a lot, going to different countries nearly every weekend where I meet different people every time," he explains. "We just did a tour with Demdike Stare across America, and we go as far as Australia and Japan, and especially when I'm travelling alone, I've never been to this place before, I've never met these people that are bringing me over, and I feel so far away from home, and doing what I'm doing I have total faith in complete strangers. It's just something I thought about. The track and the album title I chose because I'll read it in years and know exactly where it came from and what I was thinking at this point in time."