Terminal V Podcast 033 || Alien Communications
A sound born from the heady days 90’s rave culture but very much aimed at the future of electronic music the duo of Alien Communications is on a mission to send minds into orbit. This may sound too much like a play on words but from the music they play, to their visuals and artwork that surround their own productions and labels DJ Rise and Simon Bays have crafted something rather special in Alien Communications.
With only a few EP’s being released via their namesake imprint AC took it upon themselves to create a full 360 album concept that includes a sprawling 16-track array of sonic adventures, an accompanying 90-minute long audio-visual experience that was picked up by Boiler Room all cut into glorious heavy weight vinyl.
As well as their own musical output AC also curate some of the biggest events in London that incorporate all their joint influences into a massive multi room party at The Cause. It is these mutual musical leanings that take centre stage during their breakneck podcast for us and it won’t be long before the pair are back in Scotland…
What has been happening outside of the studio lately guys?
After investing so much time and energy into producing our debut album and film, it was pretty satisfying to see it premiered by Boiler Room and finally going out to the world. We are huge fans of the platform, so it was great to see it find a home there.
Since then, we’ve been concentrating on the long-awaited return of clubbing and our residency events at The Cause, London. Our next party is on Saturday 9th October and is the biggest we’ve ever curated, featuring the likes of Mathew Jonson, Move D, DJ Masda, Paramida, DMX Krew.
It’s great to be back in the booth (and on the dance floor!), but we’re planning on returning to the studio very soon, so look out for some brand-new music alongside our parties and gigs in 2022.
There are serious 90’s rave influences in almost every facet of AC, where did the project come from?
Although this project only started in 2019, we’ve been DJing, producing, and promoting parties for a combined total of more than 30 years. After dedicating so much time to the craft, we felt we had something to offer the scene – and a responsibility to fly the flag for how we think underground dance music culture should be presented to the world.
Whilst definitely drawing on influences from the 90s and beyond, we always try to look forwards. Whether it’s in our own productions, other artists’ releases on the label, or AJAM’s amazing visuals, you’ll also always find an air of futurism around Alien Communications.
What artists were you listening to and events were you going to back in the day that led you here?
Since Bays is almost a decade younger than me, I suppose it’s best to answer this one separately!
There were a few clubs and parties that really programmed my mind and changed my perceptions in the early 2000s. I had some great times at the early Asylum and Technique parties in Leeds. They always booked amazing techno and disco artists. Then, I would say the very early days of Circo Loco at DC10, from around 2001-2004. They were magical – DC10 on a Monday morning was kind of like my generation’s Paradise Garage. Although it may have changed a lot since then, Ibiza was very special in this window of time.
In the late 2000s, the Below parties in Birmingham were insane. If you know, you know! I was lucky to play there a lot over this period. It was like my second home. In that time, I also took numerous trips to Robert Johnson which were super-inspiring, as well as visiting all the usual suspects in Berlin like Panorama Bar and Club der Visionäre. The Secretsundaze parties of that era were amazing, too.
Growing up in Newcastle, I remember sneaking into parties like Shindig at Digital and Cosmic Ballroom’s Nice as a 16/17-year-old. Then, after moving to Edinburgh in 2008, I had some great nights at Musika with the likes of Luciano at Ocean Terminal, as well as some inspirational experiences at Sub Club’s legendary Subculture with Harri & Domenic.
Throughout the last decade, I’ve also spent many weekends in Berlin visiting the likes of Berghain and Hoppetosse. One set which sticks in my mind was a techno special from DJ Harvey in the Berghain main room. But my journey towards Alien Communications really started on the Fabric dance floor in 2014. Seeing Ricardo Villalobos play b2b with Craig Richards for the first time, on that sound system, until about 1 pm the next day, was truly mind-blowing. I’ve tried not to miss a party with Ricardo at Fabric since.
Releasing an album as your second solo release is also pretty daring, was this always the plan? Explain the process?
From the outside looking in, this may seem daring, but given how long we’ve been working at things behind the scenes, for us, it made total sense.
After the success of our debut EP, we wanted to take things up a level and make a statement. Creating a 16-track album with an accompanying animated film, a 90-minute long audio-visual experience, required us to draw on years of experience and a sea of influence. It took a lot out of us and the amazing AJAM (who produces our visuals), both mentally and physically… but we couldn’t be prouder of how it’s turned out.
What else is cooking in the studio at the moment?
With regards to the label, we have loads coming up…
A new EP from Berlin-based Omega Men, who we are big fans of and will be working with more in the future.
A 2xLP album from Glasgow’s Modus, having released his ’Super-Kamio’ EP earlier in the year. This is special, drawing on influences of Detroit techno, electro, and IDM in true Modus style. We can’t wait to get that out.
DJ.Rise also has a new solo project, Age of Hyperion, releasing at the end of this year and Bays has some serious dance floor movers coming out on his Space Dust imprint from the likes of Bolam and Jos.
You have been putting together some huge parties at The Cause, how have those been going?
As I’m sure the guys at Terminal V will testify, programming a series of parties with 50+ international artists can be challenging! But once you see the lineups announced and packed dance floors, it’s very rewarding.
Our events at The Cause take place for 18 hours straight, with 1,500 people spanning across 7 rooms, and in 2021 alone we’ve booked the likes of Mathew Jonson, Move D, Steffi & Virginia, DJ Masda, Vera, DMX Krew, Ryan Elliott, Paramida and Claro Intelecto, as well as Scotland’s Harri & Domenic and Theo Kottis.
We believe that our parties are some of the biggest and best around, curating insane lineups but maintaining an underground ethos. We’re grateful to Stuart Glen, the club’s owner, for showing so much faith in us and allowing us such free rein in terms of programming and bookings. It’s allowed us to create something really special.
It’s sad to hear that the venue is under threat, where does that leave your London events going forward?
On one hand, it’s devastating. It’s an amazing place. An ex-mechanics depot with several brilliant rooms, sound systems, and a truly underground feel. We’ve had some unbelievable times at the venue – both on the dance floor and in the booth.
On the other hand, even if the bricks and mortar are destroyed and turned into another soulless block of new-build flats, the soul of The Cause will live on! This location was always going to be temporary and I’m sure the venue’s ownership will find a new site that’s just as exciting… they too have a philosophy of always looking forwards that perfectly fits that of our own.
When can we expect to see a reboot of your Scottish events series, and will it take a similar shape to your sprawling London events?
You can definitely expect to see Alien Communications parties return to Scotland very soon. Without using this phrase lightly, we can’t wait to get back to welcoming some of the “world’s best DJs” to Edinburgh.
However, given that it’s a much smaller city than London, with a much smaller underground dance music scene, we think our format of inviting one very special guest to share the Cabaret Voltaire booth with us at each party is still the way to go. To be honest, we like this style of party just as much, with all eyes on one carefully selected artist – a forward-thinking booking, often making their debut in the capital.
With your first album and massive events firing in London already under your belt what big plans have you got coming up next?
As previously touched on, we’re very excited at the prospect of restarting our parties back in Scotland, as well as getting back into the studio and creating more EPs designed to move dance floors. Aside from parties and releases of our own, we also can’t wait to play at some very cool parties around Europe for other promoters we admire and release some amazing new music from other artists on the label. There are lots of things in the pipeline!
Tell us about the mix you have produced for us?
Musically, we (DJ.Rise and Bays) discussed creating something that would appeal to Terminal V’s huge base of followers, in Alien Communications style. You’ll find just over two hours of fast-paced techno and electro records which we’ve been feeling over the last few months.
We also wanted to create something real and raw, that accurately represents what it’s like to see us play in a club, and decided the only way to do this would be to record the set in one take, using all vinyl, 2 x Technics 1210s, and a 2-channel mixer. We’re really happy with the selections and aesthetic, and hope you like it too!
Vinyl as a performance format and as a culture is clearly central to AC, are you a purely vinyl-only act?
The debate of digital vs. vinyl DJing has been going on since the dawn of CDJs, and it is a tough one since it is a bit polarising. First and foremost, the most important thing is that people enjoy listening to good music – however this is transmitted.
For us, it comes down to personal preference. We are both vinyl addicts. We love the art form. We love finding those special bombs, many of which aren’t available digitally. We love the effort it takes to create and manufacture records. We both feel the pleasure you get from playing vinyl is in a league of its own compared to mixing other formats.
But as long as people are contributing to the scene and the culture with the right motives, they have our utmost respect.
Interview by Stu Todd