Minotaur Shock

After a four year hiatus, Bristolian David Edwards, aka Minotaur Shock, is back with a new album.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 21 Aug 2012
  • min read
The multi-instrumentalist uses his Minotaur Shock project to explore a vast musical landscape, touching on soothing electronica in the same vein as Four Tet and Pedro, and melding it with found sounds and home recordings.

With his new album, Orchard, released on Monday, we caught up with him to find out about the recording process, the Gold Panda and Bass Clef remixes, and his take on the 'grandfather of folktronica' moniker that he's carried around for the last decade.

How long was your new album in the pipeline?
Erm, quite a while I think. I finished it around December or January; I can’t really remember to be honest with you. I wrote it at home and then recorded some extra bits so it’s been re-written quite a bit.

You recorded it in a proper studio, didn’t you?
Yeah, I added bits in a proper studio. I demoed most of it at home using fake instruments and then went into a studio to re-record the fake instruments using real instruments.

How does that process differ from the previous albums you’ve done?
Erm… I’ve not ever done it that way! Since the last album I’ve been playing live here and there, and I’ve been playing the drums live. So with this album, I wanted to actually record live drums on it rather than fake drums. I just wanted to get some of that live atmosphere across.

How do you think your sound has changed since you first started out?
I’m definitely a lot more relaxed things now. With this album I didn’t have a record deal or anything; I just recorded it because it’s one of those itches you’ve just got to scratch really. So there was no pressure which was really nice.

I didn’t even really think it would ever come out. It was one of those things where I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just go into the studio and record it’. I know I’ve not been out of the game, but keeping an eye on things, and not seeing where I fit in really.

It’s interesting you say that. When you first started out, you were classed with lots of other like-minded artists like Fout Tet and Pedro. In retrospect, how do you feel about that and how did it shape your direction, if at all?
It kind of puzzled me a bit. Four Tet and me were doing kind of similar stuff about 10 years ago. I think we grew up listening to the same sort of music, so it was inevitable that we’d make similar music. I know he does a lot of dancefloor-friendly stuff now, and I’ve not done that, kind of deliberately, really.

I don’t really go out that much any more, so I just wanted to make something that was the soundtrack to what I’d be doing really! I stuck to that and never really followed… You know, I didn’t make a dubstep album or something, just because I wouldn’t be able to do it.

So when you look at music and different scenes, you don’t necessarily think, ‘that’s the place for me’...
Yes, but equally, saying that, electronic music in the last couple of years has had a sort of resurgence, which is why I guess I made an album. There’s a lot of stuff coming out now which isn’t a million miles away from what we were doing quite a while ago. Although it’s got a modern spin on it, the general climate is more accepting to the kind of twaddle that I do!

Early on you were constantly described as folktronica. What do you think of folktronica as a tag?
It used to annoy me a bit, just because I couldn’t really listen to folk when I first started out. I was like, ‘Oh, why are they calling me folk? I hate folk. Folk is old man music!’ And now of course, I listen to folk being an old man. So with this one, I thought why not? It’s gonna get the folktronica label, so I might as well use more acoustic instruments now than I have on the past couple of albums!

Partly, it changed for me as well. I’ve been recording at home mainly on the computer with no real acoustic instruments, so I thought I’d just get some acoustic guitars out and try and play them and stick them on there.

The thing that always made me shudder was being called folktronica. But now I’ve actively courted it, and am trying to start a folktronica revival!

You’ve done loads of remixes – for the likes of Bloc Party and Super Furry Animals - I just wondered how that process differs for you than writing your own stuff?
When I do a remix I try to set stupid little rules for myself. Like with the Bloc Party remix, I didn’t want to add any instruments. I just wanted to use what they’d sent me and re-order it and produce something using their sound.

Sometimes I’ll try not to use anything that the original people have sent me and see if I get away with it! So it’s kind of like a testing ground for ideas. It’s good in that sense that I try out different things when doing remixes. But again, I still don’t really know where the place is for my music, so I don’t know whether I should be making a dance remix or just sort of doing what I do. It’s kind of fun really.

What do you feel about people remixing your stuff? Is it something that excites you or are you not really bothered?
It’s always good when someone does a really good remix! But then if someone does something and you think, ‘Oh, that’s not really that good’ then you’re kind of duty-bound to praise it because someone’s worked on what you’ve done.

The remixes that I’ve done for this album were people whose work I’ve admired, and it’s nice when you ask someone you admire to do one, and then they actually turn out really good.

Gold Panda has remixed Saundersfoot on your new album. How did the collaboration come about? Do you two know each other and it came about that way, or was it a mutual appreciation of each other’s music?
A bit of both really. When his first stuff came out, I contacted him on MySpace - it was back in the heady days of MySpace! We just kept in touch really, we chat on the internet a lot. He was based in London when he started and now he’s in Berlin, but we do catch up pretty much every day about nonsense and that. I think I remixed one of his and he remixed one of mine.

Do you think the internet has made it easier or more difficult for musicians to be heard and make a living? On the press release for your last album, you were quite vocal about the culture of ripping people’s music. What are your thoughts on that now?
It’s quite weird actually. I’d never actually used a Twitter account or anything before. And that’s weird because you get direct feedback from people almost immediately, which is almost a double-edged sword I suppose. But I guess it’s made it easier for people starting out, when you’re coming at it like I have, from an unsuccessful internet presence, it’s kind of nice to stick something up online, send people a link and then people hear it. But I’ve got no idea really how it’s gonna go with this album.

How does it feel to be back on Melodic then, having started out with the label then switched to 4AD?
It feels really nice actually, it’s like coming home. It’s nice to be able to phone up the person that’s putting your records out with stupid questions and speak to them directly.

The last album didn’t come out physically, so it’s really nice that this album’s coming out on vinyl and CD.

Are you going to do any live stuff around it?
Yeah, I’m trying to work out what to do really. I haven’t got anything lined up at the moment, but I’m sure as soon as I get a gig booked that’s gonna kick me up the arse to get something together!

Are you going to invite other people in to help with that?
Erm… Ideally yes, but in reality I think it’s just difficult I guess because we’re not gonna get enough cash to pay people what I think I should be paying them. It’s enough of a struggle to get myself to a gig, through the gig and get home, let alone worrying about other people!

And I think when you’ve written all the music, and it’s almost like employing session musicians really, even though you’re probably friendly with them, they won’t get as much out of it as you do.

In the past year or two, I’ve worked out how to do it live, sort of take the drums and try and do everything myself and actually make it kind of interesting for me rather than just sort of being stood behind a laptop.

What’s your background? You were a drummer to start off with, weren’t you?
Yeah, I’ve drummed in bands before, alongside the early stuff. Since then I’ve had kids and not done as much live stuff as I might have done. It’s just nice to get out there and sit behind a drum kit and actually hit things, and I think you can respond to the crowd as well. If people are dancing it spurs you on to hit the drums harder, which you can’t do with a laptop. You’re kind of stuck. Maybe you can wiggle about a bit more the set you’re playing is the same set you would have played when you were rehearsing!

I think when you’re actually feeding off people, you can muck about with things a bit more and build things that way.

So do you still play with Bronze Age Fox?
No, we stopped a while ago. Again, everyone sort of got to the point where other things became more important, and you just can’t really keep doing it.

Do you enjoy playing collaboratively or doing stuff on your own?
I really like doing collaborative stuff. I’d like to do something meaty, like a proper album with somebody else or something. I’ve never done anything like that. I’ve had people playing on my records, and again, that’s been a case of I have written the parts and then sent them to people, and they’ve recorded their bits or whatever. So it’s been collaborative but not in the same room, and it’s not written collaboratively. I like the idea of doing that, perhaps working with a vocalist and working on something together…

If you could collaborate with anyone, what would your dream project be?
I’ve always wanted to do something with Paddy McAloon from Prefab Sprout. I think he’s a bit of a recluse these days, but I love his voice and I love his songs and that would be a dream.

Do you think of yourself as a drummer who produces or a producer who drums?
Probably a producer who drums because I’m not very good at drumming!

We won’t tell anyone!
I wouldn’t like to enter a drumming competition - a drum off - I think I’d lose! But it’s nice, you know, I like the idea that a drum is a drum. A snare drum and a kick drum – they’re going to sound like a drum kit. A drum machine, you’ve got loads of possibilities, you know the drum machine you use has kind of weird baggage about it, depending on if you are you using a 909 or an 808. You’re kind of referencing a lot of other records.

With a drum kit, it’s just a drum kit and I like that. Again, that’s why I used acoustic guitars on the album, because it is just an acoustic guitar, you can’t muck about with it that much.

Did you play everything on Orchard?
Pretty much. There’s some violin that was recorded by a guy called James who I’ve worked with in the past. I’ll play it with a fake violin and then he’ll play proper violin. I’ve got a friend, Emily, who plays the flute and clarinet. I’d much rather have the sound of a real instrument than a fake one. But I can’t play the flute!

The very last thing we want to ask you: what is your favourite sound in all the world?
Errmmmm… that’s a tough one, isn’t it? I don’t know really. You’re supposed to say you’re kids laughing, aren’t you? But to be honest with you, I’ve just been over to Cabot Circus, which is a big shopping centre in Bristol, and it’s got a big curved roof. I love the sound in there, just the way the crowd is kind of reflected back in this weird, ambient mush. I’d love to go in when there’s nobody there and sit down with a drum kit. So, the sound of Cabot Circus shopping mall in Bristol is my favourite sound in the world!