How did you get to Gracelands?
I’ve worked with [artist] Alexandre Perigot for a few years. He comes up with these crazy ideas I half understand, then I go and do something with them. We once did a project called Fanclubbing in a deserted arts centre in Marseille, and by the end we had a whole album. This is the same. It is noise. No noise. Some noise. It’s kind of like plunderphonics, using stuff from all over the world, so it tends to work at the drop of a map.
Film soundtracks, art projects and dance scores—accident or design?
My life has generally been an accident. I’ve never had a grand plan and I’m always stuck for ideas. I’m incapable of doing the same thing twice. It’s not in my personality to repeat myself. I can’t even remember lyrics. I’ve got no idea, because I’ve got no ideas.
Lana Lara Lata works with sound and colour—ambient or just obscure?
I’m never sure about ambient, but I’ve an idea for an album. There’s a restaurant I go to in London, and Harold Pinter’s always in there. I always hear him talking to people, and he has such a distinctive voice I thought I’d tape him without him knowing until I’ve got all these recordings, then do something with them. No-one has to hear him clearly, and no-one has to know it’s Harold Pinter, but his voice is so intriguing it’ll be a good place for me to start thinking about things.
Terry Riley, David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, Throbbing Gristle. They changed my life. I’ve also seen everyone you’ve never heard of. My first gig was Stray and Rare Bird at the Record Mirror Festival at Olympia. I saw the Sex Pistols at the ridiculous Screen On The Green show. Johnny Rotten was amazing. The first time I saw Throbbing Gristle I was terrified and wanted to run away. Seeing them at the Tate recently I wanted them to be unbearable again, but it was so listenable it was ridiculous. Now I listen to Throbbing Gristle while I’m washing the floor.
Choir boy. Child actor. Teeny-bopper idol
I was in this BBC series called The Silver Sword . One of the actors introduced me to Jonathan King who must’ve thought, ‘pretty young boy, blue eyes, blond hair. Let’s make him Britain’s answer to David Cassidy’. It didn’t work, but when you’re 15 years old and someone wants to make an album with you, it’s amazing. It was awful, but it was fun. I was on telly a lot, and chased by girls who wanted to sleep with me. There was no AIDS, and it was a very promiscuous time. With girls. It’s the same today, whether it’s with Take That or any of the new guitar bands. They’re all manufactured.
Your work for Derek Jarman also bridged visual with aural
It was punk time, and everything was wide open. I’d just been the Green Cross Code boy on three public safety ads, didn’t have a job, and ended up working on The Tempest. Derek’s visuals, the like of which you’ve never seen before, are in front of you and he gave you the space to do anything you liked.
What new music are you listening to?
The new Bjork album’s fantastic. Alva Noto, which is Ryuichi Sakamoto and Carsten Nicolai. I like my minimal electronics, but too much of it isn’t a good thing. CocoRosie’s album’s good. Therre Thaemlitz is a transgendered guy who lives in Japan and does stuff called Fag Jazz. He can’t play, it’s all wrong, but it’s the most exciting electronic music I’ve heard for years. But I’m not a purist—I loved the Beatles’ Love album.
Seizing the means of production
There’s a lot of experimental and ambient stuff, but a lot of it is very bad. You can tell what equipment everybody’s got. There’s a lot of people making music now who shouldn’t. As soon as someone does something new now they give it a name. Glitch? Who cares?
What art do you have on your walls?
I’ve got a piece by Barry Flanagan, who sculpts these awful bronze leaping hares, but I’ve got some plain monochrome canvasses he did in the 60s. I’ve got two kids, so I’ve got a lot of their pictures on the wall. I wish I had one of Derek’s paintings, but he’s given me enough already, and you can’t have everything.
Who’s Simon Fisher Turner now?
I’m lost. Lost in fatherhood. Lost in producing a new album. Lost with technology. I tried chopping up everything I’ve ever done, and made a 45 minute collage of my musical life so far, but I’ve not done anything with it yet.
Favourite Elvis song?
‘Heartbreak Hotel’, but that’s because John Cale’s version was so good. Elvis’s voice was amazing, but what a beautifully mismanaged man.
Interview by Neil Cooper