Daniel Smith

11:15 24th September 2003
Hexstatic logo

Hexstatic are Stuart Warren-Hill & Robin Bruson they set the place alight with real time VJ mixing and more samples than a sperm clinic. Gigwise caught up with Hexstatic backstage before their recent gig in Manchester:

Stuart: We both do visuals and music but when we play live, he (Robin) is in control of the audio output, I'm in control of the video output. We both trigger pre-edited video samples from our DV cameras using Mac based software on our laptops.

One of my favourite singles is Timber where you collaborated with Coldcut using samples from Chainsaws! Can you tell us about how that came to be?
Stuart: We contacted Greenpeace and said you give us the footage, and you can use the track for promotion and presentations, which worked really well, because video sample clearance is really expensive.

At this time, David Byrne had asked Patrick (DJ Food) to remix a tune of his, as he had been so impressed with DJ Food's The Crow. While making Timber, I was in front of my computer with my headphones on, editing like a nutter. When you've been in front of the computer all day you get a bit 'zoned out' and you can't communicate very well. I looked down and there's David Byrne sat next to me, nodding away, intently listening to Timber. I was so freaked out! I couldn't believe it. I played him the finished product he loved it, and we ended up doing visuals for him at the Lisbon Expo in 1998 which was amazing. It was an outdoor audio/visual stadium that had a massive jumbotron screen above the stage that rotated during the day.

Robin: It was the end of our collaboration with Coldcut, it was the last single that came out from that album, and it was really successful - so we decided we wanted to carry on as Hexstatic, but still remain in the Ninja Tune family.

You mentioned video samples being expensive. What's the most you've had to pay for clearance?

Stuart: Well, the only time we've had to pay for a clip was in the Auto video, which was Jimmy Saville. A friend of mine works in a video library and he was able to get a tape of all those old adverts, you know the ones - the public information films like the green cross code. It turned out the tape had been made by an old uni friend of mine, so I gave him a call to ask him about clearance. He told us we could use it, but it would cost about 500 quid for like, ten seconds, but what you need to do is get his permission. So I rung up his PA, left a message and the next morning I get a call - "Hello, it's Jimmy Saville here!" It made my day. He was a bit worried though, because the sample we used was "Clunk, click every trip" which could be used in all sorts of subversive ways! "You're not using for anything to do with drugs are you?" He said, and I was like "Naaaah, not at all!" So he said it was fine.

Your latest release is a mix album entitled Listen and learn, which is a release from Ninja's own Solid Steel collective. Tell us about your choices.
Robin: We set out to do the ultimate mix tape that you'd give to a mate, so we filled it with our favourite tunes, the ones we really like and it's a bit of a departure from the first Ninja mix we did as it was more of a 'trainspotter' selection. This one is a lot more varied. All the stuff that's influenced us - the electro section especially is what we were both influenced by.

The CD contains some ground-breaking time stretching techniques I have not heard before. What did you use to create these?

Stuart: I was really into the CD mixers, so for a while I was about, testing all the different types available. Numark approached us and gave us some new CD mixing decks, and the great thing about those is they have 100% tempo shift so you can take it down to one sample bit so it makes a really cool squidgy noise!

Robin: We use turntables as well, but there are a lot of purists out there who only use vinyl and who see it as sacrilege using digital mixers. It's just about being open to new technologies - I see it as the way forward, the evolution of music. We are also in talks with a company who are designing a DVD player that has a tempo control, so we can integrate it into our mixers and have live visuals looped, or mixed in the same way as you would have with a CD mixer deck, and then your DJ mixer will be an video and audio mixer at the same time.

Tell us about your last album, Rewind.
Stuart: Rewind was done on a 100Mhz Mac - it was switched on for 6 months! We never switched it off - for one sequence, at the start of "Machine Toy", there's a siren that flies around for about 30 seconds. That took three days to render.

Do you have total say on what is on your interactive CD-ROM albums?
Stuart: Yes. We made the lot! We're really into old arcade games, and we wanted to use vector graphics in the style of an old machine called Battlezone. So we enlisted the help of a design company called Stake who made the graphics, but apart from that it's all us.

Robin: There was a plan to revive some of the old arcade games, and turn them into four-player versions, but it never came about. We would have loved to write some tracks to put into those games. It's a good thing that on this tour we got sponsorship from Shinobi that is being re-released on Playstation, and we've wanted to do this for ages. I remember playing the original Shinobi, so we took loads of samples from the game and made a track out of it.

How did you make the Deadly media video?
Stuart: The money we made from the Lisbon Expo, I bought a rotating satellite dish, and you can track about eight satellites at a time. One night I just started recording randomly from news channels and I cut up each one, took their mouths' and sequenced them individually. The English news reader was talking about a gas attack on a town in Japan, and he was talking about "Deadly nerve gas" and the media were out there reporting it, so I just took the "Deadly" and the "Media" and it went together really well. I like how it started out really random and ended up as something I was really proud of.

And we were proud of it too, lads! Good job and good gig!

More about: