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Experimental Interview

This is: Loula Yorke

This is Loula Yorke. The Suffolk-based sound artist gives us an insight into her influences and current practice. From raves to workshops, via leftist techno performed on synths built into tree trunks.

So you’ve been involved in the more “DiY” fringes of electronic music for a while now. How did that all come about?

Through my band TR-33N, which is a long-term collaboration with Dave Stitch that has its roots in the DIY arts/rave scene in London, where we met in 2002-ish. All those networks were really influential for me. Our first gigs were through sound systems like Headfuk and Hekate, or in spaces with a totally self-organising ethic, like Temporary Autonomous Art; I remember an early guest spot on iLLFM, that kind of thing. 

Has your background in autonomous events influenced your current projects and themes?

100%! But I’m ready to take this energy above ground.

Atari Punk Girls. Awesome name and amazing project. Can you explain more and how people can get involved?

Thank you! In a nutshell, Atari Punk Girls is a workshop and performance series that harnesses the enabling ethic of punk and ‘DiY’ to open up possibilities for electronic music-making for teenage girls. The name is a homage to that well-known beginners’ synth build, the Atari Punk Console, and it was chosen because one of the first activities was supporting girls to build their own noise instruments based on that design. For the next iteration of workshops, I’ve actually got a really awesome new build based around a 40106 hex inverter chip so I’m moving on from the apcs, but I love the name and we’re definitely keeping it! 

I’ve been commissioned to co-create a live Atari Punk Girls staged performance with 10 girls aged 12-15 for an arts festival in Suffolk later this year and I am just about to head into the R&D residency, which is very exciting. The project is being supported by the Arts Council as well as the wonderful people at synth company Thonk and an amazing production team at a Suffolk arts organisation I can’t name just yet. The other big news – apart from the funding and the new synth design – is that APG is going AV, baby! The girls are going to have a crack at making oscilloscope visuals using a brand new eurorack lazer interface module I’ve got my hands on. I really wanted to add a visual aspect to the work: we talk so much about sound waves and it’s going to be amazing for workshop participants and audiences to actually SEE the noises we’re making as we go along.

As for how people can get involved: Send us your unwanted effects units, pedals, synths, samplers, amps, cables – anything useful! Broken stuff, not so much 😉

A venue owner described you (fondly) to me as the ‘log lady’. Twin Peaks references aside, can you give us a rundown on your innalog live performance rig?

It’s a bit of a mishmash really. I’ve got two modular synths housed in a big, heavy lumps of wood. Quite literally logs that have been chainsawed up and hollowed out with a chisel. No case or lid, just bits of bubble wrap between them and the elements. They’re called the Innalog and the TREE-S80. There are others in the set – the Log of Rhythm and a benjolin – but they don’t come out live. It’s all fairly affordable eurorack stuff in there: a frequency central Waverider, a Radio Music for vocal samples, a Temps Utile for rhythm, an O_C for quantising and sequencing, a very ancient Turing machine, then a delay, cheap DIY versions of both Rings and Clouds, a diy CS-80 filter on loan from Stitch. I use a TR09 drum machine as the master clock: it has trigger that sends out CV. Then distortion and reverb pedals, and occasionally a x0xb0x. Everything goes into a zedi10 mixer. The whole point of modular I think is to have everything fitting in one case with a lid and a single plug, which is not how I currently roll 😂

Techno may have hedonistic associations, in Europe especially. Techno’s roots in Detroit however, involved themes around science fiction, totalitarianism and protest. I noticed your bio describes as “Techno meets Leftism”? How are your political leanings reflected in the music? 

I wouldn’t say I spend a lot of time trying to sneak agit-prop into my tunes, but I did recently rip a youtube clip of Gillian Anderson reading out a primer on Marx’s theory of alienation. And honestly I think this is my sweet spot and I want live here forever. I try to centre women’s voices as much as possible when I’m hunting for samples, but they’re not necessarily saying inspiring or clever things. I’m more interested in incorporating material that shines a light on society’s deliberate misunderstanding of women, and exploring the situations and archetypes we get shunted into. 

In terms of my overall sound, I fully believe that noise, bass, kicks, wavey synths – they’re all a source of power – and that my job is to hand that power to an audience. I want listeners and audiences to leave feeling grounded and hopeful, connected and revitalised. 

Finally, what’s coming up? Gigs/releases/workshops etc?

I’m playing null+void LIVE on 20 March at the Glove That Fits in Dalston, London, and closing a queer noise night at The Glory, London, on 21 March. We’re recording a new TR-33N EP for a hot new London party label in April that I don’t think I can talk about yet but it’s gonna be a belter!