• Phoebe Gardner

In conversation with Techno's punk-kids: Minimal Violence

Ahead of their Gabber Eleganza performance the duo talk to HUNGER about Vancouver, techno purists and dystopian soundtracks.

InDreams, Minimal Violence’s debut album, took the electronic music world by surprise. Once underdogs of the industrial scene, Ashlee Luk and Lida P have now created a space for their undeniably raw, heavy and most importantly, new, sound in techno.

Ashlee and Lida called HUNGER from Berlin, where the pair recently moved to from their home city of Vancouver. It seems wherever Ashlee and Lida go they make waves; they are a staple within Vancouver’s punk and electronic music community, from co-founding experimental dance music collective Sacred Sound Club to Ashlee playing in her punk band Lié. The duo’s DIY ethic is pivotal in creating new spaces for artists and sounds, and their unconventional path to techno is central to their conceptualisation of the genre.

While Ashlee and Lida aren’t dedicating their music to purposely challenging techno as a genre, their punk past and eclectic musical influences from Psychic TV to ‘Baby Wants to Ride’ by Frankie Knuckles has naturally reflected in their sound with magical consequences. Minimal Violence is so original that even the hardest techno fans are unsure on how to embrace it, as Lida jokingly discusses “I think techno purists don’t know what to do with us”. Their music is not only high-energy techno with a punk perspective, it is its own narrative, for example the themes in InDreams centre around the dystopian ‘InDreams inc.’ megacorp with rave-inspired, cult imagery but metaphorically reflects on binaries within society whilst also being open-ended.

Music is returning to its cult symbolisation with resurgences in heavy metal and rave. A key figure in the hard-core revival is Alberto Guerrini, who founded Gabber Eleganza, the project building a bridge between the sonic landscape and aesthetic side of hardcore and post-rave cultures, and the contemporary culture of music and art. With international sell-out shows, a clothing line, exhibitions and photography books, Gabber Eleganza is quickly transcending from project to movement. By booking artists like Minimal Violence, Alberto shows dedication to the future of hardcore music rather than just reminiscing to the summer of ’89 with rose-tinted glasses.

Scroll down to read our interview with Ashlee and Lida.

You guys started out in Vancouver’s punk scene, what was that like?

Lida: I still like a good punk show.

Ashlee: I do think coming from that scene is evident in some of our earlier shows, we still keep that middle ground sometimes, like recently playing at Hoco Festival in Tucson, it was just us and some hardcore bands. It wasn’t a straight-up punk show though, or a straight-up techno show, but a combination of the two.

Your Sacred Sound Club has introduced a surge of cutting-edge electronic artists to the Vancouver, how has the city’s musical reputation changed? 

A: At the time it was us and a group of our friends who were just hanging out and playing records together, and we were annoyed that no one booked a lot of artists that we wanted to see. So at the time, it was really our only option for how we could see more experimental artists.

L: At the time Vancouver was much more defined by house and disco I would say…

A: Yeah I think if you look back at Vancouver five years ago Mood Hut and 1080p was the biggest thing to come out of Vancouver and that’s what people associated it with primarily, aside from functional business techno, like that was what Vancouver was and now I feel Vancouver has actually become a really diverse city with some amazing crews putting together much more experimental shows. 

How did you start making techno music?

L: January 2015 is where we began.

A: But there was never an intent for what it was going to be, we weren’t like ‘we want to play Berghain’.

L: It was never a goal or never a sound we were hoping to fit in with.

A: Lida came and joined me on one of my bands’ tours and we were hanging out in Berlin, it was just something we realised that we wanted to do together while watching some inspirational shows. I think in a lot of ways the Sacred Sound Club collective really were influencers in our taste at that point, we were all listening to music that was expanding what we had started with and that informed the sound that we were developing.

What were those influences?

L: At the beginning it was a lot of Chris and Cosey and Physic TV definitely.

A: Then we got into LA Club Resource, BAROC and a lot of lo-fi noisy techno sounds really got us to this zone. It was like ‘oh this is electronic music, but it still sounds really punk.’

L: Yeah it wasn’t as polished and predictable as traditional techno might be.

A: I know for myself a big moment was always hearing ‘Baby Wants to Ride’ for the first time and realising how the sound of Chicago house straddled the line between minimal synth and real electronic music, I was like ‘woah things can be grittier and more melodic at the same point.’

I read that you once said that “I don’t think techno purists would even bother listening to our music,” what did you mean by this?

A: We don’t have an opposition to techno purists at all, I think it’s a little funny sometimes…

L: Explain it with producers saying how many bars until the kick comes in… there’s a formula…

A: We were told by friends of ours that you need to follow this specific formula and I was like ‘What, that’s a thing!… Yeah it’s so somebody knows when to mix in the track’. This is why no one plays our music at clubs. (laughs)

Yet InDreams has been named one of the best techno albums in full recently …Does every Techno producer need to be a little bit more punk?

A +L: Yes. (laughs)

A: That being said there’s a lot of great techno artists we love out there. We totally respect a lot of that stuff and it’s not to take a stab at it any of it, I just think sometimes techno takes itself too seriously.

L: Yeah and I think techno purists don’t know what to do with us, which might be a good thing.

InDreams to me is the soundtrack to a dystopian synthetic future, it would be brilliant to accompany Ghost in the Shell.

L: I love that.

A: I think dystopian future was definitely in our headspace creating this. At the start conceptualising an album seemed a little bit intimidating to us, so we wanted to create a framework and InDreams is really about framework. Creating this fictional corporation and in this fictional future where you can manufacture and sell dreams and that’s part of the whole capitalist economy there, creating that gave us a vibe to sit in.

Are there political aspects a lot of the time in your work?

A: I would use the word conceptual more than directly political because InDreams can reflect our society right now, but there are also a lot of ways to interpret InDreams. We wanted it to be open-ended so we could use it to communicate with other artists and work towards future collaborations.

What can the crowd expect to hear/experience/feel at your Gabber Eleganza performance?

L: We’re going to be DJing which is something we rarely do so that’ll be really fun. It’s an opportunity to just have fun and take things in a totally different direction.

What does Gabba Eleganzer represent in the dance music industry?

A: He’s [Alberto Guerrini] is a really pivotal figure of the hard dance movement and this new resurgence of hard-techno. He’s also highlighting the positive aspects of that community and the scene historically, because there’s been some negative associations too. He does a really good job of showcasing the positive community aspect of it.

Any new music coming up?

A: No we’re done (laughs). We actually just finished recording an EP,  I’m not exactly sure when that’s coming yet. We’re also working towards getting together another album but we’re also stuck for the next month because all of our shipment from Canada has been locked in transit so we don’t have any recording equipment.

L: But we’re going to use the opportunity to re-write the live set because we do have that equipment, make the most of our abilities.

A: Yes, our live set has really been shifting and forming for the past few months into something new from InDreams, whilst still incorporating some elements of InDreams so we’re really excited to have the equipment to start actually transcribing that into new tracks.

Thanks Ashlee and Lida!

You can see the duo play at Gabber Eleganzer at FOLD on November 30, purchase tickets here.

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