Musician, producer, long-time Andrew Weatherall cohort, catering wiz, open mic troubadourette and all-round techno legend, Nina Walsh offers up her thoughts on the people, places and events that shaped her
My dad used to play Elvis all the time. We had this eight-track machine with quadraphonic sound and a little controller so that you could ping from each speaker. It always amazed us because it had an oscilloscope on the front of it. It looked like a submarine’s radar display when you were panning the sound around the four speakers. We used to have fun with ‘In The Ghetto’ spinning around in our living room. For us, listening to music was a real visual thing as well. It was all very exciting when we fired up the music and we could watch it as well as listen to it. Maybe that’s why I’m interested in machines… It’s all your fault father!
Tennessee Ernie Ford’s ‘16 Tons’ was a big song in our house. In fact, I do a good slightly drunk rendition of that at the odd open mic night. So there was Elvis, who else? My dad liked lots of film soundtracks, he used to love a good western, still does. So there’d be a lot of Morricone. We were totally oblivious to how cool that music was at that time obviously. It was just dad music back then. I’ve still got that eight-track machine in my garage actually, there’s a big box of cartridges with it too, but they sound like they’re underwater. One day I plan to get it fixed and up and running again.
Before I came to London and got involved in the whole acid house thing, I was really big on rockabilly, partly because of my dad and his Elvis Presley infatuation probably. I later discovered that Andrew [Weatherall] and I used to drink in the same pub, The Hero in Bagshot. We didn’t know each other at that point, I only found out later that he was one of the cool Windsor rockabillies who we used to see there. I was only about 14 at the time, drinking highly illegally. So Andrew has been a huge influence on me, obviously, and then there’s my big brother Craig, who was into a lot of reggae and he used to play Van Morrison constantly as well, so that’s another echo from my past. I’m a combination of reggae, rockabilly and Van Morrison… with an oscilloscope.
… AND PLACES
What is around you has a massive impact on the way you write and make music. I like to change the environment I work in quite a lot, literally up the studio and move it to a different place. I’m mid-move at the moment, actually both Andrew and myself are moving our studios. Last year we had three studios where we made Andrew’s album ‘Convenanza’ and our Woodleigh Research Facility record.
Most of ‘Convenanza’ was done in a very bleak, rundown mews in Streatham. It was a bit creepy, I didn’t like being there on my own at night. It’s not a dark record at all, but it was quite intense working there because there was literally nothing to distract you apart from dodgy takeaways, you know, Kebabalcious and Chickenish. Then we came back to mine for a few months and we ended up in Youth’s shed in his back garden in Wandsworth, which was fun. Three very, very different environments.
I’ve been further afield than south London though. I went to Somerset for nine months, that was really good fun. I set up a little studio and I was cooking quite a lot at the time. I do catering for film crews, which I kind of fell into. My brother is an animation director and his producer had forgotten to get a caterer. He knew I could cook and decided I could quite easily do something for 40 people, which I’d never done in my life before. I took on the challenge and didn’t stop working for a couple of years.
I wrote quite a lot of music there, but as is quite often the case it just sits there doing nothing for a while before it gets revisited. I ended up using it for this band I work with, Bio Muse, who are an Italian outfit, quite industrial, on Tony Thorpe’s Language label. We’ve had this ongoing album project for over 10 years! We started it before you could do file sharing so I would send multi-track tapes over to Italy and I’d go over there for a week and then they’d come here, it just kind of went on like that for years. Tony decided to ramp it up again last year so I thought I’d dig out some of the stuff I did in Somerset. It was actually quite folky and I sent them the vocals to put through the Bio Muse mangle, which sounds quite interesting. The world wasn’t quite ready for it 10 years ago, but I think it probably is now.
Death has played quite a large part in my life. It seems to have followed me around and it has had a major influence on my music. I’ve lost a whole gang of people – two best friends, one when I was 17, one when I was 30, I lost a flatmate and I lost my partner four years ago… you kind of want to know where they’ve gone, which has led me down some quite peculiar paths and that has no doubt influenced the various different music things that I do. My C-Pij project was all about dealing with loss. It was fairly avant garde, but without quite understanding what I was doing. It was “Let’s make some mad noises with machines to deal with it”. And then later on with my ‘Bright Lights & Filthy Nights’ album I was kind of getting my head around it. I’m trying to avoid the cliche of saying it was therapy, but I guess it kind of was.
There’s much worse ways of dealing with that kind of thing, but as one of my songs says there’s beauty in my darkest nights… which there is because one of my best friends left an amazing little girl behind who is now my best friend, Lotte. She is a great guitarist and we play open mic nights together. She’s better than I am these days. So my friend Lisa does definitely live on in many different forms, her daughter being a big one. And there’s all the music that she’s inspired as well.
Woodleigh Research Facility’s ‘The Phoenix Suburb’ is out on Rotters Golf Club