Volume 93, Issue 101

Friday, April 7, 2000


Weekend Pass

Dracula casts ballet in new light

SNFU nears the home stretch

Scanner earning raves from pirating airwaves

Rouse at Home as a songwriter

Step Kings step to risky beat


Scanner earning raves from pirating airwaves

Gazette file photo

By Adam Bailey
Gazette Staff

Trying to conduct a phone interview with the man known as Scanner is like trying to change the course of a speedy, bubbling river – it's best to just let it flow.

Scanner, a.k.a Robin Rimbaud, has been at the forefront of the experimental electronica scene since Atari was a household name. Based in London, England, he has developed a reputation in the UK as a musician, DJ, designer and visual artist who is not afraid to incorporate unorthodox techniques and materials into his work.

Best known in North American underground scenes for his forward-thinking, experimental music, Scanner borrows his name from his weapon of choice – a police scanner. Much of his music incorporates voices pirated from cellular phone conversations interwoven with the abstract textures of down tempo electronica.

In contrast to his music, he is cheery and bright in conversation. "If I used a CD player, I would have called myself 'CD player,'" he smiles. "It's not a funny joke, it's English."

Although he is well known for his eclectic taste and style, Scanner admits he didn't grow up spinning records. "I don't come from a musical background. I actually studied literature so I'm very interested in narrative.

"I listen to electronic, pop and film music, all sorts of stuff. I don't just sit at home and listen to the radiator."

Even though he is widely known in underground circles, Scanner claims to devote only 20 per cent of his time to music. "My relationship with the industry is very removed," he says. "I have very little to do with it."

This is a little hard to believe, especially considering the huge amount of material he released in the '90s and the fact that his own record label, Sulfur, is geared towards releasing music that major labels would never touch. "Sulfur is meant to reflect my eclectic listening. It lets me take risks," he says. "I'm ever shape changing and shifting. The stuff I do now is more weirded-out than ever."

In between his frequent releases, Scanner also finds the time to tour and play live shows throughout the world. "I'm not a jukebox," he explains. "I'm not a band like Nine Inch Nails or Radiohead. I'm somebody who releases a record that has nothing to do with my life. I keep on doing a million and one things."

His latest release, DJ Spooky vs. Scanner – The Quick and the Dead, is part one of The Meld Series, a collection of records providing a platform on which outstanding musicians from all genres can work together.

A dark and moody album, The Quick and the Dead showcases both DJ Spooky and Scanner, allowing them to experiment with different styles and sounds, resulting in a diverse record. "I try to create happy music," he laments. "But it just doesn't work."

Although he produces a great amount of material for Sulfur records and other labels, Scanner is heavily involved in electronic media of all sorts. Ranging from computer interface designs to museum exhibitions to web authoring, Scanner considers himself a "digital media person."

"My web site is a reflection of that," he comments. "It's a reflection of the digital landscape we're in. It tells you nothing while telling you everything."

Scanner also has opinions about the recent upsurge in the popularity of electronic music and the future of the music industry. "The underground movement is very powerful," he says. "It scares the industry, which I think is a positive thing. I find that very exciting."

As far as projects down the road, Scanner is as enthusiastic about his own future as he is about the industry's. "The Chronos String Quartet from the [United] States has asked me to work with them, which is fantastic," he exclaims. "I love that type of challenge. The work stays alive for me as long as things keep changing."

Obviously a diverse and interesting individual, Scanner's knack for producing the extraordinary has won him acclaim abroad and if things keep heading in the current direction, he's sure to make waves in North America.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000