Somewhat of an unsung legend in UK dance music circles, Richard Norris is about to release the second album of his psych solo project, the Time & Space Machine (TASM). 'Taste The Lazer' is brimming with cosmic disco, extended psychedelic wig-outs, drone-laden experimentation, soundtrack-o-rama and hypnotic grooves, and he'll be taking the project out live this summer to assorted festivals and international events.
Norris is perhaps best known for his work as one half of The Grid, the successful late '80s/early '90s dance project he helmed with Dave Ball from Soft Cell. Before that though he produced arguably the first ever acid house album, 'Jack The Tab' by Psychic TV, and wrote for the NME.
Latterly, as well as his TASM project, he's worked with electro don Erol Alkan as Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve, releasing a number of EPs and remixing the Chemical Brothers and Goldfrapp.
He was also in a mid-noughties electroclash outfit The Droyds, and was a friend of Joe Strummer from The Clash (Strummer called him 'Norro'), producing a number of tracks for his Mescaleros album and hanging out at campfire sessions at assorted festivals experimenting with gear (electronic and otherwise).
He also wrote Paul Oakenfold's biography, but has no plans to write any more books as music is dominating his time at the moment. DJ Mag tracked him down for a chat about psychedelia and fireworks...
Hi Richard, how did the process of recording this album differ from recording the first one, ‘Set Phazer To Stun’?
“It didn't differ too much from the first album, in that me and drummer Wildcat Will went in the studio and laid down endless drum tracks, big fat slabs of shaker and cowbell — endless rhythm. Then I spent a while in my studio overdubbing vocals, sitar machines, Mellotron, Omnichord, ukeleles, cheap beatboxes, slide guitar — the usual stuff. I'm taking it out live this summer, so there was more of an accent on what would work on-stage — hence the eight-minute wig outs — but it's pretty much business as usual.”
What contributions from other people have you had on this album?
“Mainly Wildcat. Erol [Alkan, electro legend] joined in on one tune for some Joy Division guitar and vibes. But it's mainly me on strange instruments.”
Why does it come out so psychedelic?
“I'm trying to make music that has a feeling of sensation to it, that moves your head, heart and body. I'm interested in the hypnotic states music can bring out… I'm attempting to take the dynamics you get from a really strong piece of electronic dance music — hypnosis, repetition, trance, elevation, tension and release — and putting them into a band. It can only turn out to be psychedelic.”
On ‘Pill Party In India’ you twang a three-string fretless cigar box guitar – where did you get one of these from?
“There's a record and guitar shop called Union in my home town of Lewes that is a wonder of nature. First of all, it's one of three independent record stores in our very small town, which is a wonder in itself, and secondly, this one only sells folk and country records. It has clocks on the wall that are set to Lewes time and Nashville time. You'd think it would shut down in a week, given that this is somewhat of a niche concern, but they supplement their income selling banjos, strings and guitars made out of cigar boxes. God bless them. It's run by the brother of the bloke who was Tim in [hit TV show] The Office. My cigar box guitar also sounds like a sitar, which is a bonus. It's all over the album.”
‘Explosions In The Sky’ later on evokes some of the crazy lunacy of Lewes on Guy Fawkes’ night – why do you dig this madness?
“It's on my front door step, I can't avoid it. I particularly like it when they blow up giant effigies of David Cameron. It is one night of pure insanity in a town which is otherwise quite quiet, apart from the weekly blowing up of parking meters.
Which comes first – the emotion or the idea?
“The feeling. The idea comes later. I've tried to do it the other way round, but it's harder. It's difficult to write if you over-think it.”
Which track on the album do you wish you could’ve got your old mate Joe Strummer to guest on?
“'Flow River Flow'. He would have done a plaintive verse about rivers. I once spent an eventful afternoon with Joe in a river at Glastonbury trying to carry a tree the size of a telegraph pole out of the river to use as firewood. We gave up in the end. Too wet.”
What are you going to be doing when you take TASM out live?
“It's going to be Hammond/Mellotron, backwards guitars, vocal harmonies, bass, drums, expanded psych workouts and a mind-opening light show. It's something I've wanted to do for years.”
You’ve never been one to rest on your laurels – what keeps you striving for the next creative spark?
“I can't imagine not being excited about music. There's so much to discover, so much to enjoy, so much to loose yourself in. It would take lifetimes to really get under the skin of it all. It's endless.”
'Taste The Lazer' is out April 9th on Tirk. The Time and Space Machine play various festivals this summer.
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