Prior to her JägerHaus stage show at this year’s All Points East, Nik Void spoke to us about Glasgow record institution Rubadub, a fear of flying and overcoming industry misconceptions.
It seems a lifetime ago now – before the world cup, before the heat wave, but at the beginning of the summer All Points East took over Victoria Park for their maiden voyage. Over the course of the week the JägerHaus stage invited the likes of Warpaint, Bakar, Jelani Blackman and Tiffany Calver to play on their stage, punters enjoying the sunshine and sipping on Jäger cocktails. For me, one of the most exciting artists on the JägerHaus bill was the incredible Nik Void of Factory Floor.
Though she makes up one half of Factory Floor and one third of Carter Tutti Void – her project with Chris Carter and Cosey Fanny Tutti of Chris & Cosey and Throbbing Gristle – of late Nik Void has been working on her solo live set. As she stepped onto stage, somewhat dwarfed by the myriad of modular machines and wires on the table, her gaze was focused, her hands poised. Her set was deserving of a larger crowd, and probably a later show time, but Nik’s manipulation of drum machines and synthesisers had us gripped. Sharing a similar space to the post-industrial music she puts out as Factory Floor, Nik’s live modular set feels experimental yet structured, practiced yet improvised – a hypnotising brew of undulating synths and hypnotising rhythms.
Sipping on my own Jäger cocktail and eying up the fresh fruit in her dressing room (read: a tent we sat in, practically shouting at each other over raucous guitar in the background), prior to her JägerHaus stage show at this year’s All Points East, Nik Void and I spoke about Glasgow record institution Rubadub, a fear of flying and overcoming industry misconceptions.
What have you been up to?
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks in the studio writing a fresh new set. I’ve been collaborating with the Editions Migo founder Peter Rehberg, then there’s Factory Floor, and I work as Carter Tutti Void with Chris and Cosey. So I’m walking a few different tangents, and focusing on my solo work too. My live set up is a growing project.
How do you prepare for your live sets?
I use a modular system for my live sets. Since I started with Factory Floor my focus has moved to electronics. There’s synths, sequencers, percussion like 808s, 909s, I’m using tools of the dance sphere from a different angle; mashing it up with noise and inspired by my experimental guitar techniques. What I like about what I do is that I’m learning the technicalities of all these different avenues of making music, and simultaneously reintroducing an instinctive approach that I think is really important.
In terms of Factory Floor, what’s on the horizon, can we expect more?
We’ve been working together for eight years now! The last thing Gabe and I were working on was A Soundtrack For A Film, the soundtrack we’ve scored for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It’s a box set, coming out October 12th via our imprint H/O/D Records. Even though the soundtrack format is different for us, we still we needed to experiment on our terms, so right now we’re not creatively working together, but we’ve got shows booked for later on in the year.
Can you tell me about an electronic artist you saw that was instrumental in your decision to pursue electronic music yourself?
It first struck me when I saw Pan Sonic play in London, they took over an old Victorian building in Russell Square. That was the first time I felt the strength of working with sound in a scientific way, which had a physical impact. That was when I fell in love with the idea of minimal electronics. From there it grew to using electronics with guitars, and then my work with Chris Carter and Cosey led to making punk with electronics. I’d say other artists have influenced me as well as going to shows, and playing electronic festivals across Europe like Club To Club in Italy. I’m interested in marrying visual arts and music, and I think the intersection of that seems to lie predominantly with electronics.
When you started making music and manipulating these machines yourself, was it something that came naturally to you?
Honestly I used to watch YouTube videos to work things out. There’s also that difficulty – and I’m loathed to say this – but being a female artist you don’t want to ask for people’s help. My first introduction was during a visit to Glasgow. I went to Rubadub, some of the staff are real modular enthusiasts and they really helped give me direction. From then I was hooked, and I started collecting all these different synths. What’s fascinating is that I’ll vaguely familiarise myself with a manual, but then you start to make the machine work for you by experimenting. Guitars for example are very physical, you pick it up and instantly you can play a sound. Sometimes with a synth you’re like “What is this? I can’t get any sound out of this!” I’ve been using these systems for nearly four years now, and it’s only now that I really feel like I’m getting to grips with them, and bringing my own personality into it.
What advice would you give to women who are trying to negotiate the music industry? What have you learned that you could pass onto those who may be a few steps behind you?
There’s still a massive divide, but I’m really hoping it’s improving. There’s this misconception when you’re a female in a band, people assume you’re not behind the scenes; you’re not working in the studio, not engineering your own work or producing your own material. It’s very frustrating. It’s always assumed that it’s the men in Factory Floor, but really we’re very united. We’re a team and we do things together. The music industry misses out so much from that viewpoint. For anyone who is just starting out, we’re in a much more fortunate position compared to when I was doing the same 15 years ago. Things are changing. I think the fact that you can have your own social platform and have more a voice behind what you’re creating is really beneficial. I’ve always been very shy, using tools to hide my identity wherever I could. I like the working process more than the rest of it. It’s a bit of a battlefield though, just go out there and do your thing!
“I hope that when people listen to my work it makes them think differently about how to approach music, how to listen to music, and also give them a sense of freedom.”
What do you think about London’s current musical climate, and how do you think the city has influenced your sound over the years?
The city influenced my sound huge amounts when I moved here in 2008. The chance meetings, conversations and musical experiences all shaped and shifted my work to where I am now. Around 2010 to 2016 Factory Floor were lucky enough to catch the tail-end of finding accessible warehouse spaces to perform in before developers took over. Our studio and home was set up in an ex-clothing factory in north London. We had the space to create and collaborate. It is almost impossible to do this now, but things are on the turn with the government support of the Agent of Change bill. It’s reassuring that the importance of live venues and practice spaces is being recognised.
Musically, who would you say you’re most influenced by?
Glenn Branca passed away last week. I was hugely influenced by his work, his approach to guitar was a clear and beautiful language in a time when there was a lot of anger in New York. I’ve worked with Rhys Chatham on a few things, he was working in 80s New York too. I feel like I’ve gone down this road, and I keep bumping into this absolutely amazing people. That’s the great thing about this industry, you get to meet so many incredible creative people. Chris and Cosey have had a huge influence on me too. Getting their recognition, knowing they see me as a serious artist, that was a huge thing for me. Then of course working with Gabe and Dom has been hugely enlightening.
How would you describe the music you make to someone that hasn’t heard of you?
Challenging compositions. I try to avoid the expected, and that naturally comes through with the tools and instruments I use. I’d say I’m a bridge between ambient techno and avant-garde, working in different feels, sort of on the fence. I like it there. I hope that when people listen to my work it makes them think differently about how to approach music, how to listen to music, and also give them a sense of freedom.
Which artists do you think are doing interesting things at the moment?
Marta Salogni is so awesome, she actually mixed our last Factory Floor record. She’s an inspiration. She came from a tiny town in Italy and just got out there, pushed her way through, kept at it and worked really hard. She’s achieved so much. There’s also Klara Lewis from Sweden. I’ve worked with her before, she manipulates electronics to make this amazing soundscape-type work.
Is there a show you’ve played, solo or otherwise, that sticks out as particularly memorable?
I’d have to say the first Carter Tutti Void show we did at Roundhouse in Camden. Chris and Cosey have diehard fans, I was quaking in my boots about going out on stage in front of them. Then, as soon as the riff had started, I turned around and everybody was moving and smiling and I was like, wow. That was probably the most memorable show I’ve played. It was small, in one of the archways, it was really intense, for us and for the audience.
What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of your career so far?
Flying! I’m terrified of flying. I get really anxious the night before, and now I’m carrying this modular case around with me it’s just worse because it looks like a bomb from the 1920s or something. I just have to focus on getting where I’m going, as I know as soon as I’m there I’ll enjoy it.
Finally, what’s been the proudest moment of your career?
I think it would be the ICA Residency that we did for over a year. It was my first hand in curating, I got Peter Gordon flown over from New York! It took a lot of time, and a lot of effort with not much of a budget, but there was a real freedom to do what I wanted. We gave our audiences this once in a lifetime experience of seeing these people work together, those were many of my proudest moments.
Factory Floor’s ‘A Soundtrack For A Film’ will be released on 12th October. Pre-order here.