One of the more intriguing accounts on Soundcloud is that of Lesbian Horse. There are no EPs or albums, just tune after tune of sample-led goodness. And it's intoxicating. On the back of playing a track on my radio show, Sam Jones, the Lesbian Horse in question, got in touch. From that, a plan formed. Do us a mix and we'll have a chat. Modern technology exists to facilitate that.
Go nuts, I said, and so a half-hour mix became an hour. This hasn't been heard by anyone else prior to publication, so crank it up and read the chat Sam and I had below.
IBWM: Well, first things first: wow. Minnie Ripperton and Rik Mayall in the same mix - that has surely never happened before. I guess the first question is; what are we listening to there?
LH: Overall or just those two examples?
The Minnie Ripperton sampling track is absolutely the last time I'm allowed to sample Lovin' You - I've placed an embargo on myself. The sample of Mayall is from a less fondly remembered Comic Strip Presents entitled "Private Enterprise".
IBWM: I think there ought to be an embargo on anyone sampling Lovin' You any more. I've got hundreds of tracks with bits of that on. This one is a bit different though - not gone the full Ripperton.
I did mean overall though. A track listing, if you like.
LH: Good point, I'll send one along shortly. Everything on here I made from samples, no-one else's work aside from the samples stolen, naturally. I may have to make some titles up, a few things here are just dates and I don't want to go all Aphex Twin.
IBWM: No pressure.
How does it all work? Is it a case of hearing a clip of something and that sparking an idea or do the ideas fit the samples? I'm kind of fascinated as to where it all comes from.
LH: I do a lot of Youtube digging, make playlists and I have a few themes for dialogue samples that I constantly return to. It usually starts because I find the right piece of music to borrow from, pitch it up or down a little, find four or five points in the piece which I can juggle between then record a take - four or five minutes, hitting off effects as I go - then re-edit the new thing I've just made by assigning points in that and doing another take. Then the bedding track if you like is cut up, divorced from the source material and I find the next thing to layer over it by random searches in iTunes or matching keys in the djay software - which is a really basic toy which horrifies 'real' DJs.
I like using fragments of vocals to build up melodies so I just take my last recording, record over that, make a new track until it's 'full'. Normally, I don't think to much about things as it's happening. If I find the right next sample, I'll practice it for a minute tops then record my take - worst mistakes I can edit out, good ones make the track in many cases.
There's much more thought applied to the dialogue samples in most cases, but I have go-to genres for the music so there's some cohesion, although I have other sources and it's not set in stone. You'll find a lot of it is built on '60s garage rock drums, surf music, library music and exotica, freaky folk records with breakbeats from the early '70s and old psychedelia. A lot of the drums are the same as Kool Herc used at '70s Bronx block parties.
It formed itself as it went and I followed behind, I'm half making it and half mediating it and I use dialogue samples a lot because nothing ruins pop music like an off lyric.
IBWM: You're prolific on Soundcloud. Easily bored or just a head full of ideas?
LH: Both. This stuff couldn't exist without the internet, I don't have the budget to crate dig records and in any case, there's too much music and I like processing it fast, finding some odd genre, reading about it while I listen to it - although I have that bad DJ habit of listening to 20 seconds of the beginning, middle and end to see if it's useful - and then dragging into what I do if it fits. So one month a lot of rattling, tinny drum sounds appeared and chiming surf guitars because I was hammering Cambodian pop music for a week.
This music is quick to make with a few basic tricks and the ability to count to ten. The real trick is in obsessively sucking up strange pop culture for 30 years. I think that's what people like, it's a Steinski mixtape with a Hawkwind and Gong mindset and a krautrock obsession. I'm 41, I like hip-hop made from samples and I like listening to 12 hours of Turkish psychedelia and I like mixed messages and things taken out of context. I can't play conventional instruments, DJ software is a gift. It's meant for 4/4 but you can use these things the wrong way and get good results and because it's a trick, it's easy to just throw things together all day and record it all. I make loops and find them a year later, by which time they make sense. So it's more of an ongoing obsession and I like the idea of occasional people just getting completely lost in it, which happens from time to time, which means I need to capitalise on that and concoct some sort of Captain Beefheart mystique.
IBWM: The boring influence question now. How I wish there was another way of addressing it... Who, when?
LH: Mo' Wax Records, Steinski, The Avalanches and sample heavy golden age hip-hop. Wu-tang, Gravediggaz, Dr. Octagon. Hawkwind, Gong, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, psychedelia in general but more on the heavy trip side of things rather than the lollipops and rainbows.
The collage posters in Dead Kennedys and Crass records when I was a teenager. Wax Trax records, Sub Pop and punk and underground bands I saw in TJs in Newport in the early '90s because we were lucky enough to have good people booking shows - Nation of Ulysses, Babes In Toyland, The Jesus Lizard, dozens of them.
Faceless bleeping music in the early 90s in fields, faceless dance music in general.
Can, Amon Duul, Cluster, Harmonia, Neu, Faust, Ash Ra Tempel, Gong, Hawkwind.
Generally now, I like genres - weird micro genres of old music or finding psychedelia from countries you wouldn't expect. So I like Pakistani film music with surf guitars and cheap synths. And Giallo soundtracks.
But I'm too lazy to obsess over a bands entire output* and I like B-side vinyl rips of old 7 inches where I just know it as 'that one with that noise in it'.
* - Except if you're Can or Neu.
IBWM: You mention Newport. From there to London and now the French Riviera. I can understand wanting out of London, but that's a bit extreme.
LH: Well Newport is a horrible town with some good people and it used to have interesting underclass bohemia and a lot of creative people - still does - but it's like a lot of the UK outside London. It's in managed decline with some new corporate shopping developments to keep people from rioting. I like my friends there but I hate the place, the local council are philistines and the place is awash with legal highs, nail bars and chain store coffee. All the junkies are dying from Spice addiction. London isn't for artists any more. It's for people who want to live in alienated glass boxes in the sky, drinking the same chain store coffee they shill to the plebs in my home town.
The Riviera is where my partner is. Simple as that. It's full of money and people in status cars whose status I have no admiration for or desire to attain. It's just guys with sexual anxiety and too much money and those guys never have anything good on their stereos either.
IBWM: Is that general disaffection with the place a source of inspiration? 'This is bollocks, but in these sounds I can be what I want, where I want'.
LH: Every time. Make a little sound world, fill it with sly pokes at 'the man' or people who don't think, sugar the pill a little, disappear into it as escapism.
IBWM: I think I've waited long enough for this now - Lesbian Horse?
LH: I used to write occasional blog posts about imaginary bands, Lesbian Horse were a highly experimental prog-freak out band. I was thinking about Magma and the Source Family at the time, so they are somewhere between Gong and Scientology. When I first uploaded tracks to Soundcloud, I looked back over my work and picked that name in the early hours of the morning and have been explaining myself ever since.
IBWM: It's become a rod for your own back? I actually quite like it. It works.
LH: I like it too, but I feel this is a good place to say thanks but I am aware there is a book called "The Big Book Of Lesbian Horse Stories" - I had the name before that was published and before an indie game developer unleashed Super Lesbian Horse RPG - so no need to send me that 5493th Jpg of the cover. Also, thanks, I have enough pictures of rubber fetish lovers in bridle tack and saddles to be getting on with. I love the way many people assume I'm female and probably a lesbian and that credulity is alive and well in a super-connected electronic world of information and lies, I'm surprised no one has written me an angry email after finding out I'm not a real horse.
I like Lesbian Horse because like all great band names it mean everything and nothing at all. But not in a blandly corporate way like say 'Coldplay' which could be a band or medical supplies company or Keane & Ass. Accountants. One thing I'm really opposed to and I'm guessing this isn't controversial is the horoscopic school of all things to everyone song writing...
"This next one is the new single from our latest album. It's about a vague and universal emotion that we all feel and I've made it non-specific so you can attach your own highs and lows to the steadily rise bland euphoria." Sometimes when artists say they don't want to specify what a song means, it's because they are worried about alienating key demographics.
Ever notice the way you can take a single word and make it an indie band name for different eras by make it plural or adding a 'the'?
Early '90s baggy/grebo/NME student bands - Flan
Turn of the century garage rock revival indie - The Flans
Mid '00s deck shoes and saying you listen to RnB all the time in interviews mid table festival bands - Flans
IBWM: It's like the homogenisation of the high street. Every town, every city, you've got Nandos, Greggs, Paddy fucking Power, Costa Coffee... Could be anywhere, like this amorphous grey blob is somehow the pinnacle of man's achievement on this earth. The relentless pursuit of making everything shit. Well, except Hebden Bridge perhaps.
The same is true in the Labour leadership thing. Several shades of beige trying to be less opinionated than the rest. And they wonder why Jeremy Corbyn gets so much traction.
LH: All stadium indie bands end up wearing one of those Kings Of Leon leather jackets in the end and having 'that' haircut with that beard. But the thing is, people want it, they want their watered down take on the Pixies, Radiohead, etc filleted and made easier to consume. I never liked The Stone Roses, I hated Brit Pop, I don't like Weller, I don't automatically think The Beatles are amazing. I like the music but I hate the brand, as if they were special when it was the times that were special and they were the pop culture antenna, making it easy to digest. Important? Yes. End of the fucking world? Not at all. Disco was just as much of a revolution as punk, I'll take someone making an out of tune racket over some heritage bullshit like Royal Blood, talking about real music like it's 1974, Yes are in the middle of a 7/8 moog solo scheduled to finish sometime in 1982 and kids need to stop being fed the lie that guitars are somehow more authentic. Would be a fairly free association take on that.
IBWM: So you're in this to please yourself and if anyone else likes it, added bonus?
LH: You are trying to make me say "I make this stuff for myself and if anyone likes it, that's a bonus" - aren't you?
I won't be drawn. I want everyone to like it, because then they might go look at alternatives to the alternatives that PR departments offer them as well. I'm re-arranging the things that are meaningful to me - good and bad - into a sound collage you can occasionally dance to and if that means someone finds out there was an anti-rockist German explosion of electronic creativity from the late '60s onwards that was led in equal parts by musicians and non-musicians then that's the bonus. Everyone go listen to Crass, Can and Arthur Russell and leave the overly sugared , unhealthy snack music for the car.
IBWM: I wouldn't wish to put words in your mouth.
Is there a plan then? Get this stuff out on physical releases, launch a cultural counter-offensive?
LH: I'm not too concerned about real world releases and I don't subscribe to the concept of the album. I've made four-hour tracks, I've made 30-second doodles, I'd like to do something that exists but there's no funds for that and I do like the diary-like quality of making and posting, seeing the thing creep along and evolve rather than, it's quarter four of the economic year, here is my definitive artistic statement covering the last three years. The plan was always, post music, infringe copyright, apply anarcho-punk training to breakbeats and samples, encourage people to think and churn up drugs, religion, the occult, counter-culture references, trash aesthetics, underground weirdness, science fiction horror and mixed morality into something expansive that's fun for people to unravel. Do I think doing lots of psychedelic drugs in your late teens is a good idea? Yes and no. Can you tell that I'm an evangelist for altered states by listening? Probably, but then there's that troubling voice over of the ruined '70s junkie just when the music got sweet, so maybe not.
I think this is just what the inside of my head sounds like to be honest, I think about this stuff all day and I made counter-culture grindhouse punk rock kitsch trash a whole life's obsession (although I am zen-like and own nothing bar clothes, a laptop and hard drives now). Which is why I weep when I hear Mumford & Sons, because I love my internal monologue and picture show, theirs must be so dull and samey all the time.
IBWM: Theirs will start slow then speed up and go loud. With a banjo. Trust fund wurzels.
On that note, then, I think we'll call it. Thanks so much for the mix and your time.
LH: Have you not seen, Mumford & Sons have done a Kings Of Leon and used the Matchbox 20 setting on the mixing desk to make everything bland and Mid-Atlantic. They also have 'those' leather jackets now. Typical phase two of the operation, remove any quirks, smooth the ride, they are the 21st Century James Last Orchestra.
Illuminati Funtime - Lesbian Horse & His Honking Geese
We Created A L.O.V.E. Machine - L'Orse Et Jim
Interfere With Your Alpha Waves - Lesbian Horse Feat. Geese
The Speaker Cone Vibrates At A Certain Rate - Lesbian Horse & The Canadian Geese Free Jazz Ensemble
The Pupils Of Your Eyes Expand - Leslie Horseman & The Modern Geese Quartet
I'm Interested In Most Phases Of Data Processing - Lesbian Horse Associates with the kind assistance of Mood Ring Holdings & Partners
Living In The Brains Of An Old Indian Man - Nano-Horse & Macro-Horse (+The Tundra Drummers Of Space-Time Polynesia)
Going To Have A Bad Trip - Lesbian Horse & The Frank Exchange
Matching Towels - Lesbian Horse Meets Torrid Dangers
On Retiring An Overused Samples - L.Horse Feat. Phobic MC
Goblin School - L3SB1ΔN. HΔRS3
It's All The Same Day - Babyhorse Feat. Prompt Email
Haunted Mood Ring - Lesbian Horse & The Subdued Tones Of Many Monks
It's Much Too Dangerous To Jump Through With Your Clothes On - Lesbian Horse & The Summerisle Community Players