Interview with techno artist Alexander Church

In 2001 Alexander Church turned his then 7-year love affair with electronic music into his very own offspring in the form of industrial techno and melodic soundscapes of his own making. This child now grown into maturity has resulted in the artist’s own label Configurations of Self. This label has come as a sort of self-therapy/explanatory session through which Church hopes to reflect on his own life, journey and where he is in that moment. And then, in turn, use that platform to help others do the same – “I aim to help other people who are living their lives in a dysfunctional and self-sabotaging way.”
Alexander Church lent a bit of his time to us for a few questions about his craft, how it all started for him and how important an artists psychology is to their art.
To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?
Mmmm, that’s a difficult one, I would say that my sound depends on my mood and feeling at the time. Currently, I’d say my sound was melodic and humanistic, it kind of represents a shift and change in my life, however, this can change over time and dark industrial music can take over.
How did it all start for you?
It all started around 1996 when I was fortunate enough to be given a YTS at my local record shop, the Disc in Bradford. I was completely consumed by vinyl and all kinds of releases from industrial techno coming from France and the UK based techno and rave scene. I was only 17, however, I would go to the UK raves and immerse myself in the darker sound of techno. My knowledge of the scene and the music releases was quite comprehensive, I used to catalogue my vinyl releases in order and knew all the cat numbers and track titles of all the releases I had. I used to go to the phone box every week and call a small distributor in Paris, who would send me these rare limited industrial noise records. At the raves, I always remember the PRS workers who were tasked with logging down each of tracks the DJs were playing, the DJs were supposed to pass their vinyl to the PRS so they can be catalogued. One of my favourite DJs at the time (The DJ Producer), would never let anyone else touch his vinyl’s, so his sets could never be documented, I asked the PRS if I could have a go at documenting his set, He played his set and I knew every single track, label, artist and cat number he played. After his set, he was shown the document and he was like who did this? And they pointed to me, he came over and was like wow that is awesome, from that moment he helped me with production and making tracks and invited me to his studio so I could watch how he made music, things started to gather momentum from there and I started to collect synths hardware and practised making music.
What three albums would you say influenced your sound the most?
Ed Rush and Optical – Wormhole
Bladerunner Soundtrack 
Fantasia – Twice as Nice
Are there any key pieces of equipment that you can’t live without?
I am quite a keen synth collector and in the past, I have been guilty of thinking that the equipment I have defines the output I get. It took me a lot of years and a lot of money wasted to realise that time spent learning my equipment is much more valuable than the money spent on my equipment. Currently, I am using the Dave Smith OB-6 and the Prophet 6 a lot, they are fantastic synths full of richness, I would be a little lost without them, however, If needed I could live without them.
What are some of your key influences in your music? Whether it be the sound created by others, imagery, films or any kind of art form.
My key influences have always been using music to help me capture my emotions sadness and inner struggles. I had to take a few years away from music, as I started to let my sessions in the studio define my mood. I would feel pressured to make something and feel happy and joyful if it went well, and then sad and down if I could not put anything together. It was a really dark time and I needed to escape from music a little. Now I am not defined by my music-making and am using my studio time as self-reflection and a means of understanding the pain and hurt of others, I am studying to become a counselling psychologist and part of my journey involves working with people and trying to help them through depression, anxiety, bereavement and all kinds of abuse. When I finish my work with clients, I usually come home and go into the studio. This helps me capture my feelings and process what is going on for me. I have also started to use rural locations and photography as a means of escapism too. It’s a release for me and the basis of my new label called Configurations of Self.
What is one sub-genre you think doesn’t get the attention it deserves?
I struggle with the categorisation of music and genres and sub-genres if I am honest. There is so much now it really is hard to keep up with it. I do like and follow the ambient noise and drone scene a little though. In terms of it having more recognition or not. I could not really answer that.
Any new or upcoming artists on your radar?
To be honest, I am not very good at keeping up with the scene and would not know who new or old artists were, I missed a few years away while I pursued other things, so I am just catching up a little. I do however buy lots of vinyl from Decks and Juno, and sometimes buy digital releases too. I must say there is some amazing music out there at the moment and some very talented producers, regardless of genre I try to look for depth in a track and I always try to imagine what the artist was thinking when they made the track, what triggered them into using the sounds they used and what processes were going on inside for them. I do also love the artwork for labels especially vinyl, sometimes there is so much to listen too, I might be drawn to the cover or the artwork and it will make me stop and listen.
What makes your live performances different from the rest?
Currently, I am working with my friend on developing a VR based performance that we are trying to put together. It’s in its early stages of development, however, we want to perform it at an art or media centre. A few years ago, I played a live set with my friend Martin under our Dronelock guise. We immersed ourselves in this stage and media was beamed around us as we played live with some modular and other equipment. It was great fun, however, it was really stressful setting everything up and praying it all worked. I would never take as much gear out these days, for our VR project I am using an Octatrack MK2 and MPC live synced and it’s really fun, I would not call it live, however, the combination allows you to experiment a lot.
What single night out has been the most memorable for you? As a performer? As an attendee?
Far too many memorable nights to mention. When I was younger, it was the Sanctuary in Milton Keynes and The Void in Stoke On Trent, as I got older I’d say Fabric and Tresor in Berlin, Sonar by Day and Woodstock in Amsterdam are my favourite places as an attendee. I have not really performed in many places however Corsica Studios in London was a great venue to perform.
What is your favourite venue of all time?
To be honest, I have to say Woodstock in Amsterdam is my favourite venue of all time, the sound, the location, the people – it is an amazing place to go. I would recommend it to anyone. It finishes around 11.30 pm too, I can’t party like I used to anymore. From a nostalgic perspective, I would have to say the Sanctuary in Milton Keynes.
What can we expect from you in the near future? Any upcoming projects or gigs in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about?
My plan in terms of projects is to grow my Configurations of Self label and use this as an output to process my thoughts and feelings as I progress with my academic study. I am learning about lots of psychological theory and will present theory, media and music with each release on the label. If I can also work on the VR project I’d like people to be able to go on a journey of my mind while they listen to the releases and submerse themselves in Virtual Reality.
Famous last words?
Drink plenty of water daily – it solves a lot of issues and helps us feel good.
cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail