Tim Burgess talks to Nik Colk Void

Nik Colk Void and Tim Burgess are kindred spirits who form the perfect creative union. The enigmatic Void is one third of Factory Floor and Carter Tutti Void and also releases works under her own name. Burgess, meanwhile, is best known as The Charlatans’ frontman and for his impressive catalogue of collaborations, from The Chemical Brothers to The Horrors and, most recently, Kurt Wagner of Lambchop. In this talk, chaired by Nazanin Shahnavaz, Void and Burgess discuss the concept of the “glitch” among other things.

Tim Burgess “Glitch” is a word often used to describe an impermanent fault. This notion suits your work, I think. Your bowing guitar and cut-up vocal style, your sound goes in and out, it corrects itself then goes somewhere completely new… Is that what you were thinking when you began this technique?
Nik Colk Void Creative accidents are always a good place to start when you’re looking for something new. I really wanted to reinvent my guitar-playing to suit my interests as a performer. I am into the bodily relationship with the guitar, rather than traditions. I pick up bows and sticks. Yes, it creates an unpredictable sound and “glitches”, but with practice and repetition I’ve found I can make it work. It’s a very organic and honest way of playing, like a new language.

TB Can you explain the concept of Gold E?
NCV I’ve been working on a series of works based around Solid Sound. It came from my desire to communicate sound as a solid object. I recorded a bowing piece, got a test pressing on seven-inch vinyl, used this as the prototype for a silicone mould and cast my own version of the record in polyurethane resin, 300 to be exact, and used this as the sleeve for the release. The sleeve was playable yet with the imperfections of air pockets, its inevitable scratches would create imperfect sound. The sleeves will last for years, but the grooves will warp and disintegrate over time, so the sound will forever change as the material deteriorates.

TB My favorite Factory Floor gigs are when things go out of time and the wonky timing becomes time. Not everyone can do this. Can you replicate this on record?
NCV When we play live it is semi-improvised so we can’t control this time default, especially as a lot of our equipment is analogue, but we can work it to our advantage. To the audience, it gives a sense of tension; the fear that it might all collapse at any moment. This also gives a sense of excitement; to recreate this on record is something we are not even trying to attempt.

TB No one knows what to expect next with Factory Floor. Is this intentional?
NCV Factory Floor came together very quickly. After a month, we were playing live and before we knew it, Stephen Morris from New Order was recording us. We ourselves didn’t know what to expect, we were simultaneously discovering who we were as a group, how we wanted to sound and getting to know each other in front of an audience. All very unveiling, zero rehearsing.

TB My favourite band growing up were New Order and Factory Floor remind me of them, chiefly in the way that you write the songs onstage. As a fan, that gives a real insight to the personalities in the band and, also, of the songs.
NCV Thanks, that’s a real compliment. People do often mention New Order but I think they just see the word “factory” and it gets them all giddy. For us, the term is more about creation and repetition. This is why we set up the way we do live; it’s more like an assembly line. 

TB In the same breath people also mention Throbbing Gristle, presumably because of your work with Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti. How did that come about?
NCV Chris played onstage with us at Primavera festival. Then they asked me to collaborate with them for the Mute Short Circuit event at the Roundhouse. We performed together as Carter Tutti Void. It was by luck that Mute recorded the performance, which was released last year. To work with them was great; it felt so natural straight away. I love the record, which again is unrehearsed and instantaneous. It is an archive of a one-off event, and I think it will bring joy to many for a long time.

TB It was my favourite record of last year. So haunting, tribal and free.
NCV As someone who grew up in Northwich, what was it like being propelled into the world of Top of the Pops, getting mobbed while traveling the world? Were you prepared for it?

TB I was prepared by my own standards and for my age, I suppose. I was very young… 21 actually. Looking back, I was very insular. I grew up in a small town and Manchester was the centre of my world. Manchester is quite a small city but it was the place I gravitated to and the place that made me. I remember the first time I went to Japan -– I packed eight Pot Noodles. I knew I was going for a week and I was very certain I wouldn’t like the food. The first night I got there I fell asleep with jet lag at 9pm then woke at 1am. After failing to get back to sleep, I decided I would go and find a fork to eat my Pot Noodle. Language barriers got lost in translation between a northern scamp and the helpful Japanese night porters. They finished up giving me a toothbrush so, not wanting to take it any further, I went back to my room, and that’s when my survival instinct kicked in. A toothbrush makes a great stirrer and doubles up as a handy fork too. But why I chose Pot Noodles to take to Japan is, of course, now a little strange. Japanese food is now probably my favourite.
NCV Aweee! Pot Noodle with a toothbrush! Any regrets about your youthful glitches backstage?

TB Hmm. Well, we were told Madonna was coming to a show we played at the Limelight in New York. I pinged an E and went backstage. I was lying on the floor looking up at a girl who was sitting on a chair looking down at me when Madonna walked through the dressing room flanked by three bodyguards. All, including Madonna, were kitted with Ray-Bans. She looked at me lying amongst cans, ashtrays and deli trays and said one word: “Gross”. I figured it was me she was talking about but it could quite rightly have been the processed meat and cigarette ash. Later, I heard she had wanted to meet me and got the rest of The Charlatans barred from their own dressing room. It’s a regret just because I don’t really feel like I met her.
NCV Aghh (choke), so you could have had a Madonna romance! There are no drugs these days, I hear. Instead, there’s transcendental meditation, awards from the David Lynch Foundation and a successful collaboration with Kurt Wagner. You’re also playing a show at the Barbican with Lambchop – how did that come about?

TB Well, I have known Kurt since 2001 and been a fan of Lambchop since the late ’90s. We often talked about making a record together and it finally happened in Nashville, 2011. The album came out last year and I called it Oh No I Love You. When I was doing interviews for the record I mentioned the Barbican as having special meaning for me. They got in touch and asked if we would like to do a special show. Kurt wanted to bring Lambchop and that was that – we are playing together in June.
NCV Your label, O Genesis, has a pretty diverse roster – R Stevie Moore, Ian Rankin, Was this planned?

TB To be fair, it’s your label, too, and we both have quite individual tastes as well as shared ones. I personally take each release as it comes. It’s a small label and I like that. If big things come along then great, but small significant releases for me are the key.
NCV What about your hair? Your look is always changing?

TB Hey, Nik, let’s leave all the hair comments to Facebook and YouTube!

Factory Floor is currently in the studio recording a new album due for release in May.

Tim Burgess, accompanied by Lambchop, performs at the Barbican in June.

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  • Tim Burgess Talks to Nik Colk Void