Friday, 13 March 2009

INTERVIEW: The Village Orchestra [Stuff]

With humble beginnings as part of the group Marcia Blane School For Girls, The Village Orchestra is surprisingly just one man, Ruaridh Law. He makes music that fuses the wild static of ambient and the constant drum thump of techno and after the release of his latest digital only album ‘The Dark Is Rising’ we thought it only right that the producer of such an intricate work deserves the chance to grace us with his knowledge. Plus he was super keen to whip us up a mix…

Sonic Router: Can you provide those who may not know you with a bit of background info?

TVO: names Ruaridh, I come from just outside Glasgow. I’ve been making music since I was about 15 or so, firstly as part of The Marcia Blaine School for Girls, a perennially under-achieving group that did all kinds of things but were sort of pigeonholed into the ‘idm/electronica’ sphere, and then later under some other names. I did an album of ambient techno as The Village Orchestra, a 7” and a couple of ultra obscure drone guitar albums as Accrual, and some other things. Now I’m concentrating on The Village Orchestra (or sometimes TVO), recording deep techno and abstract ambient stuff.

Outside of music who are you? What do you do on the daily?

I run a cafe called D’Nisi in Glasgow, which is a total passion of mine – good coffee good food etc. Between that, music, and spending time with my (very heavily pregnant) wife, that’s my whole life.

How did you get into recording music?

It’s a bit hard to remember exactly, but I do know that an older guy I knew who used to swap Amiga games with me had handed me all these disks of samples and the Soundtracker software (really early Tracker app). That’s what really made me realise you could do more than play electric guitar badly in indie covers bands, which was what my mates were doing at the time. Bryan who was one of the guys I did the Marcia Blaine stuff had got interested in this stuff at the same time and we just started putting stuff together.

What’s your production set up like? Do you use software most of the time while producing or do you have a nice stash of synths and all that to play with?

I’m a software man really, I do have some bits of kit but I’m terrible at mistreating things – I have more broken reverbs than you can imagine, some busted controllers, a box of 6 or 7 knackered mini-discs, and too many soundcards to count. Plus an SH101 with chocolate stuck between the keys.

Software wise I use Audiomulch, Reaper, Reaktor and Max/MSP.

How did you hook up with Stuff and Highpoint Lowlife?

Both really through getting to know the guys behind the labels and getting on really well with them. Richard from Stuff I’ve known for years and we used to do a night occasionally with him called Off The Hook which turned into what’s now Numbers. We gave him a Marcia track for the first Stuff 12” and it went from there.

Thorsten Highpoint saw a post on a message board I’d put up and just got in touch – he had close ties to Glasgow and knew some of the same people as we did. Again we gave him some tracks and it all led from there.

What the two labels have in common is a massive integrity and a zeal to do things a bit differently, and to not be tied to the traditional CD album/12” single trope. It’s really refreshing.

The ‘Dark Is Rising’ album is one deep and expansive piece of work, what are the ideas behind the album?

When I started writing it I was in a pretty pessimistic frame of mind. That, coupled with some of the esoteric stuff I was reading around then on Chaos Magick, form the general mood. The title is taken from a series of children’s books by Susan Cooper and some of the track titles come from there too – they were a big influence.

The recent 12” had a 2562 remix of ‘Afanc’ on it how did that come about and what did you like about it?

We were keen to get a remixer and the label basically asked who I would like. Dave 2562 had only put out two 12”s under that name at the time we asked him but those plus the A Made Up Sound 12” were the best records I had heard all year. He finished it off then came to do a DJ gig over here with me supporting – getting to hear the mix for the first time over the huge PA was tremendous.

I love the mix, to my ears it’s got more in common with guys like Sutekh and Auch than necessarily dubstep, but it takes the bass weight and syncopation from there and just nails it.

Musical influences (to me anyway) are always so vast asking someone to name one is like sacrilege to my entire record collection. Can you name 3 artists/albums/whatevs that have most influenced your production to date?

Zoviet France – In Version
Basic Channel – Octagon
Black Dog Productions - Bytes

What music are you feeling at the moment old and new?

Round here there’s never a day without Coil or Carl Craig getting an airing. I’ve been digging out all my old Chain Reaction 12”s recently too and am utterly in awe of most of them. Anything T++ does is always mind blowing and his recent mixes and the Applepips 12” have been genius. The recent stuff on the Ancient Methods and Sandwell District labels have given me faith that techno is still exciting.

I missed the boat on a lot of Zomby and Starkey tunes first time round so I’m getting better acquainted with that. Finally the new .SND album on Raster is jaw-dropping.

What’s it like DJing out at Numbers in Glasgow, who’s your favourite person to be on the line-up with? What music do you prefer performing alongside – to bounce off etc etc?

DJing at Numbers is pretty much the best thing in the world. The crowd are so responsive and up for it that it’s just a constant pleasure. In terms of playing with, my erstwhile Marcia partner Production Unit and I have been DJing together for what must be about 8 years or more and we can each steer each other in the right direction, as it were.

The great thing about Numbers though is that each of the residents has a unique style which sometimes can involve massive genre jumps in the space of a set – its making this all seem seamless and natural that makes it such a good night! Guests wise I’ve managed to play alongside some of my heroes, Surgeon and DJ Pete being the two highlights...

When you DJ out what kind of thing do you play and what are your biggest tracks?

I play lots of different things – not so much hip-hop but pretty much everything else with an electronic bend to it. Dubstep, techno, old acid, house, the odd garage or 2-step record, idm stuff like autechre, electro, old hardcore/rave tunes, Chicago jacking stuff, and plenty of bootlegs and edits prepared for the night. The homemade stuff often gets the biggest response.

If The Village Orchestra was an orchestra for an actual village what village would it be for?

I have a bit of a thing for forests so 30 seconds google research suggests that Suriname has some of the most remote forest villages in the world. That would do me fine!

Is the anything else to come from you in 09?

One album coming soon on a limited, beautifully packaged CD-R on Highpoint Lowlife called ‘I Can Hear The Sirens Singing Again’ which is an abstract experimental live performance I did sound tracking Takashi Miike’s ‘MPD Psycho’ at a festival last year, with contributions from some other artists on there too (Erstlaub, Bovine Life, Knoxompax and Dirty Hope).

A new Village Orchestra album maybe later this year titled ‘Ablaze At Noon’, again abstract stuff (i.e. not techno...) with a visual collaboration with Bryan Marcia included as a limited dvd, hopefully, based around the psychogeography of the Dalston and Stoke Newington areas of London.

Also I have a new EPs worth of techno and electro stuff finished that will hopefully see the light of day somewhere. Plus some other things I cant talk about yet...

EXCLUSIVE DOWNLOAD: The Village Orchestra - Diverted Mail Mix


Peter Rehberg - ml3 (Mego)
.SND - Atavism 02 (Raster-Noton)
Kikoman - Untitled (Dum)
TVO - Noro (Unreleased)
DJ Slip - Change Yer Fuckin' Head (Missile)
STP - The Fall (T++ mix) (SubSolo)
Boards of Canada - Chinook (Skam)
Three Six Mafia - Sippin' On Some Syrup (Production Unit remix) (Unreleased)
2562 - Hijack (Original Mix) (3024)
MC Unknown - Untitled (1994) (Logistic)
Reel 2 Real - Conway (Armand's Brooklyn Jungle mix) (Strictly Rhythm)
Moves!!! - All Skate (Dress2Sweat)
Kalon - Haiku (Female edit) (Sandwell District)
Milanese - Vanilla Monkey (Arcola)
Squarepusher - Venus No. 17 Acid Mix (TVO edit) (Unreleased)
Lory D - Remixalo (Wireblock)



  1. nice interview and a WOW tracklist to boot !!

    lovely for a Friday evening ;)

    cheers sonic and Ruaridh


  2. didn't clock how good that tracklisting was til today - snd, three six, rehberg, lory d. need to shift my arse and listen to it..

    that TVO 12" on stuff is amazing.


  3. u dunn know lea. you dunn know.

  4. could you please re-upload the mix? sendspace says it's deleted

  5. @luka - sorry, we've had to make amends. Check out fairtilizer account: shortly. it'll be up there for DL by the end of the day.