Interview: Interesting Times Gang

I went pretty far afield with some of the samples on this one, stuff that if I had been working with a collaborator, they would likely have vetoed. But in the end I was answerable only to myself.

Interesting Times Gang is the latest project from Ian Miller (Kowloon Walled City, Strangelight, Less Art, Redemption 87 and more) and their latest album The Spirit Of Science Fiction features all manner of beat laden goodness with a heady mix of samples. Gavin Brown caught up with Ian, who told us all about The Spirit Of Science Fiction and Interesting Times Gang as well as discussing all manner of things about breaks, beats and hip hop.

Echoes and Dust is also proud to an exclusive premiere of The Spirit Of Science Fiction which can be found below, so you can immerse yourself first in the albums beats and breaks.

E&D: Your new album The Spirit Of Science Fiction is out very soon. How did the creation of the album go and was it a smooth process?

Ian: Tough question! I guess it was smooth? This was my second go at an instrumental beat-based record, and I’d worked out some of the kinks on the first one (Beats, No Rhymes, No Life). So yeah, I felt comfortable with the assignment and (mostly) just had fun with it.

E&D: How has the new material been received so far?

Ian: Yeah, people seem to dig it!

E&D: Did you work with anyone else on this album that you can tell us about?

Ian: The music was all me, from composition to recording to mastering. I was psyched to work with Nick Davis on the cover art though. We talked a lot about the aesthetic I was looking for, and I couldn’t be happier with what he delivered.

E&D: You have been very prolific with Interesting Times Gang material. Did you want to keep busy with it and bring out as much as you can?

Ian: I’ve definitely hit pause on the Interesting Times Gang stuff at the moment. During the peaks of COVID and shelter in place, I had lots of time and energy to devote to my solo stuff. Now that my bands are active again and shows are happening, most of my musical energies are going elsewhere. So I don’t actually know what the future holds for this project!

E&D: Do you love being able to be so eclectic with the music of Interesting Times Gang?

Ian: I really do. I went pretty far afield with some of the samples on this one — stuff that if I had been working with a collaborator, they would likely have vetoed. But in the end I was answerable only to myself. For better or for worse!

E&D: How did the Interesting Times Gang project start in the first place and what do you still want to achieve with your music?

Ian: I’ve been fascinated with samples and breaks for as long as I can remember. There’s always a part of me that’s listening for ways to reinterpret existing sounds, so Interesting Times Gang gives me an outlet for that. In terms of what I want to achieve, I’d just love to have people hear and enjoy the music.

E&D: You use breaks by Charlie Daniels, Misfits and the Move on The Spirit Of Science Fiction. Do you always want to keep it fresh and inventive when it comes to using breaks?

Ian: Absolutely! I mean, I love hearing Funky Drummer or the Amen break as much as anyone, but I’d just as soon leave those in the hands of more accomplished producers. I like the challenge of making a compelling track based on a Roxy sample, or seeing if I can successfully combine a Dead and a Black Flag song into something coherent.

E&D: Who are your biggest inspirations when it comes to making beats?

Ian: As I’m fond of saying, everything goes back to the Bomb Squad for me. The Shocklees and the rest of that crew pushed the envelope of what was possible in hip hop and ultimately ended up making something that transcended the genre. I also love the Big Beat stuff from the turn of the millennium, especially Chemical Brothers and Liam Howlett of the Prodigy. Discovering Aphex Twin and Squarepusher were also huge for me. And more recently I’ve been inspired by early and mid-period El-P productions as well as Timbaland and Dilla. Always Dilla!

E&D: In your opinion, what is the greatest breakbeat ever?

Ian: I think it would have to be between the two I cited above: Funky Drummer and Amen. I can’t think of any others that have inspired so many producers and lit up so many dance floors.

E&D: Have you thought about having any rappers spit verses over the beats of Interesting Times Gang and who would you love to work with?

Ian: Oh man, that list would be endless! I’d love to have Vince Staples or JPEGMAFIA on a track. Danny Brown would be amazing as well, that guy has some pretty broad taste in beats. Freddie Gibbs. Any of the Griselda Gang. I’ll cut it there because otherwise I could just go on forever.

E&D: How did you get into electronic music and hip hop in the first place?

Ian: I remember hearing early Sugar Hill tracks in middle school, but the first thing I ever bought was the self-titled Run DMC record in ’84. Back then every Def Jam release was a monumental step forward in terms of rhyming and production. Nation of Millions was the apotheosis for me. But I still try to stay current, even though that’s not even remotely possible to do.

E&D: What are your some of your favourite ever science fiction movies and books?

Ian: Oh man, I love sci-fi so much. The title of this record actually comes from a Roberto Bolaño book, though. I love Bolaño and have devoured everything I can find in translation. My all-time favourite SF authors are probably Ursula LeGuin, Iain Banks, Kim Stanley Robinson, and William Gibson. I know I’m forgetting a ton of great writers but those are the ones who come to mind immediately. For movies: Stalker. 2001. Alien and Aliens. Bladerunner and BR2049. I’m also loving Andor and the Amazon Prime adaptation of Gibson’s The Peripheral. I highly recommend both of those if you’re looking for new stuff to get into.

Pax Aeternum will release The Spirit Of Science Fiction on November 18th. Find preorders at Bandcamp here.

Photo by Rachel Z Photography.

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