Talk Show Host: 005: Randolph & Mortimer

Last year, a new artist from Sheffield appeared, apparently out of nowhere. Said artist was Randolph & Mortimer, and I featured their first single The Markets in Tuesday Ten: 162. Then in fortuitous timing, I received new single Debt Is King the other week, in time for Tuesday Ten: 180, and I took the opportunity to exchange e-mails with the artist, which turned into the interview below. So, anyway: introducing Randolph & Mortimer, of Sheffield, England. What are the origins of Randolph & Mortimer? I’m guessing the name comes from the film Trading Places, but what about the musical origins?

Randolph & Mortimer: It is indeed from Trading Places. I’ve been involved in electronic music for a while, more the club side of things, but always wanted to form an industrial outfit and Randolph & Mortimer seemed like a logical progression. We detected a distinct Ministry influence to the sound of the project, what other musical influences would you say are important to the sound of R&M?

Randolph & Mortimer: Definitely early Ministry, the albums The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste and The Land of Rape and Honey have been a big influence. 80s industrial/EBM: I’m no expert on that scene but I’ve listened to a shit load it over the years. The usual suspects, early Nitzer Ebb, Pailhead, Front 242, Gary Numan, some of the darker Depeche Mode, Machines of Loving Grace etc, it’s all been thrown into the mix but this isn’t 100% about nostalgia. Contemporary techno & electronica: Gesaffelstein, Randomer, Oliver Huntemann and ambient/leftfield artists Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, LFO, Mogwai, Arab Strap have influenced R&M. Fugazi play their part as well, not necessarily in the R&M sound but in their approach, the concept that eclecticism can be a major part.

Also I think the way the samples and vocals are used and delivered in R&M owe a lot to bands like early Discharge or Black Flag, their bluntness and immediacy in conveying a message has always appealed. Sometime less is more and their minimal lyrical style really delivered the goods, definitely inspired by that approach. Wow, Machines Of Loving Grace? That’s not an influence I hear many people mention.

Randolph & Mortimer: It’s funny with regards to MOLG, back in 1991 or 92 we had a couple of new guys take over the running of out local youth club and they were very leftfield in their music choices. They put posters for acts like Spiral Tribe, Nitzer Ebb etc in the club and nobody new what or who they were, me and my and pals were all metallers, primarily thashers. One day one of the the youth club leaders gave me a tape and on one side was The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste and the other was the first MOLG album. There was no tracklistings just the music, to this day I couldn’t tell you names of most of the the tracks, but I absolutely caned that tape. It was so different to anything I was listening to at the time. Funny how that one tape completely opened a whole new musical world to me. You also mentioned the importance of the eclecticism of bands like Fugazi. From the point of view of someone who has worked outside the industrial scene in recent times, have you found the reaction to be different between listeners inside and outside of that scene? Are other scenes more inclusive, or just as inward looking?

Randolph & Mortimer: I’d say it’s been even on both counts, the reaction on the whole has been very cool indeed. Way more than we expected. There’s two very definite responses we’ve been getting, the people outside the industrial scene who know nothing about industrial music are taking it as some kind of noisy electronic punk and the people in the industrial scene are saying it sounds like old Ministry, haha. It’s just been great to have such a broad set of people responding.

I think all scenes are equally as inward looking, I guess a scene has to be inward looking. There has to be some kind of blueprint for other acts to follow as there has to be ‘sound’ that the identifies that scene. A good thing or a bad thing? I think it’s a good thing to a point but inevitably some people can start getting way too picky about what fits the scene and before you know it you start getting sub-genres and everything gets way too anal. Like my previous answer I’m not up on the current Industrial scene but I guess from your question the scene isn’t like the scene I grew up with, to me industrial was *the* scene for being inclusive, bands were so eclectic, drawing in inspiration from all over the place and that’s why I always wanted to work on an industrial project. If you check out the track War Game you’ll see R&M isn’t just about noise, that’s almost ambient. The idea with that track was to have a quite an ambient, relaxing feel to the sounds and use the visuals to provide the harsh, rawness that guitars. etc provide in Debt Is King and The Markets. Once we get the album it will be interesting to see the reaction as the finished tracks range from the raw industrial, to ambient, raging techno. It’s definitely a mixed bag of tricks. There appears to be an effort to keep this project as anonymous as possible (little biographical info, samples rather than vocals, etc). Is this a deliberate thing, and if so, why?

Randolph & Mortimer: It just feels right to have a certain amount of anonymity around Randolph & Mortimer but it’s no real secret, I’m the instigator of R&M and I’ve been involved in the underground electronic music scene for a long time and if people really want to know about R&M, and who I am, then a quick bit of googling will give you the information required but it’s not that interesting or important. The plan is for R&M is to become a bit of a collective with input from other musicians, actors and visual artists, so for the time being there’s no traditional ‘band’ structure to R&M. Also this is a brand new project with extremely limited musical history, only three videos out there, so we haven’t got a lot to talk about when it comes to a biog. I could write a biog but essentially it would be 97% bullshit, then again would that be much different from most band biogs? Political comment has been plainly obvious in each of the songs released so far – either in looking at the past, or dealing with the present. In a climate where political comment in music (even in industrial) is conspicuous by it’s absence, in the main, do you find it important to speak out?

Randolph & Mortimer: I can’t really comment on the lack of politics in the current industrial scene as to be honest I know absolutely nothing about the modern industrial scene now but the original industrial I grew up with, and still listen to, seemed very political. Industrial music always seemed to go hand in hand with politics, it’s seems the perfect tool for delivering this kind of subject matter. Politics are an integral part of this project and I think now more than ever it’s good for some people to speak out, not about preaching though just about raising awareness.

Obviously the vast majority of bands won’t touch politics as it puts people off and it doesn’t sell, a lot of people use music as an escape from all the bullshit in the world and that’s more than understandable. What’s going to have more mass appeal? A song about going out, getting smashed up and partying all night long or a song raising the issue of personal finance and debt? No contest really but not all art should be all about escapism, there should always be a minority of artists questioning what’s going out there. I guess for every 99% that are wanting songs about partying or falling in love there are 1% who are looking for something more, a small % who are very much interested in music that brings politics and social issues to the fore and that’s what R&M is about. As I noted in my original coverage of first single The Markets, I stumbled across R&M thanks to European industrial ‘sites Side-Line and Release Magazine. Were you surprised to find the reaction coming from there rather than your home country initially?

Randolph & Mortimer: I was surprised they picked on The Markets to be honest, given the profile of those sites. Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Russia, New Zealand, had some great responses but hardly any response from UK blogs. We did approach UK people but it’s difficult, it’s a bit like cold calling, really you need to got through a PR firm to get some decent exposure. Recently we’ve noticed UK people are hearing the music though the videos and soundcloud, gradually the sounds are getting out there, and although it’s really early days the reaction has been fucking great. So far your releases have broadly been available for free – is this a policy you feel is the right way to go nowadays when releasing individual tracks, or is this the only answer when releasing music on the internet in the present time? (In other words, are we now in a modern equivalent of tape-trading when spreading the word about new bands, I wonder…)

Randolph & Mortimer: For the time being this seems like the way forward for this project. It would be good to have an album rather than individual tracks but work, life, plus a broken hard drive which lost a lot of ideas, have meant the album is taking way longer than planned. At the moment it’s just important to just to get some music out there and get the ball rolling. It is like tape trading, bands start out, they give away tapes, cds at shows to help get their name out there. We’re just not doing the shows and we’re giving away mp3s to help spread the word but same principle. I don’t it’s necessary to give everything away for free and eventually we will have music that people can buy but at the moment free sounds is the R&M policy. What are the next steps – is there an album to come, or even live work?

Randolph & Mortimer: Yeah, planning both and hopefully delivering both before the year ends. Trying to finish off the album at the moment but it’s taking a bit longer than I’d like to finish, a proper job is limiting studio time. The bulk of the tracks and demos are sorted though. As you can probably guess from my essay length answer about musical influences earlier it’s going to be an eclectic affair.

The live show is constantly in my mind and will be the next stage it’s just a case of figuring it out, it will start out as a band thing but ideally I’d like visual element to play a major part as well but we’ll see how that pans out. Would be be good to get out there and play a couple of shows soon though, it feels like this music could translate well to the live environment.

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