Part extreme noise terror, part euphoria, East London’s Factory Floor have made a name for themselves as being loud and uncompromising, or as they stress in the interview below “brutal”. Having walked half-way in during their set supporting American synth act Cold Cave earlier this year, Factory Floor’s performance was very much a “what the fuck?” moment, unsure as to either quickly vacate the room or take stock of the diffused electronic/industrial free-form concoctions they were composing. We stayed… with reservations.
In the following months their stature has grown considerably as has the evolution of the band, creating a foreboding Suicide-like minimalist menace that could potentially take off in any direction. Having recently released a pair of 12″ singles “Wooden Box” and “Lying” remixed by members of the experimental electronica old guard (Steven Morris of New Order and Chris Carter of Throbbing Gristle), Chris Berkley of Static caught up with Gabriel Gurnsey and Nik Colk from Factory Floor shortly after their appearance at the Offset Festival in London in September to find out more.
It’s nice to see you guys out and about playing summer festivals in England. I never would’ve thought that Factory Floor would’ve been that outdoors experience. I was expecting only to ever see you guys playing dank basements.
Gabe: No, we love summer, we love festivals. We like playing outdoors to loads of people. I don’t know. We’re out of the basement now.
It was interesting to see you play at this festival and see how euphoric the Factory Floor set got. Does that always happen or was it a rare occasion the reaction of the crowd.
Nik: I think it’s a reaction of playing outside in the summer at festivals. A lot of our sets are kinda improvised, so it’s just the way it was kind of growing. It was such a good vibe and everyone was dancing, so we just turned into this euphoric, massive anthem.
It was almost rave-like…
Gabe: Yeah, that’s the way it was heading, I think. Going out of the winter and into the summer… and back into the winter.
Other times have you played sets where people were sort of looking at the ground, absorbing more of what you’re playing?
Nik: The responses of the audience are they usually just stare straight through us as if being exposed to something traumatic. I think we realised our shows were getting quite brutal, especially, volume-wise. In a basement, it’s quite brutal for an audience to watch. We didn’t have our sound guy at this festival, so we were kinda bringing up the sound a lot on stage. If we’re in a basement, sound resonates, he mixes it up as well. It’s a quite traumatic experience. We don’t mean it to be.
So every Factory Floor show can be quite different then, can it?
Gabe: Yeah, definitely. It’s kinda book-ended by a couple of tracks, but it just takes on a life of its own, depending on the audience and depending on how we’re feeling or whatever. That’s the way we work.
Did you have to start finding your own spaces when Factory Floor began? How did you first start doing shows?
Nik: I think the first show we did was in a church in Shoreditch. Ever since through the people that were there, the talk of Factory Floor resonated and we kept on getting offered more and more interesting shows.
Gabe: I think the sound really suited the church and it just grew from that.
Nik. It’s been non-stop ever since and I think that’s why a lot of our shows are improvised, because we haven’t had time to stop.
How did you all in Factory Floor get started? I want you to make it perfect and tell me you all met at Art School. Is that true at all?
Gabe: (laughs) No, it’s not true. We just met out and about, by being in London and being in the same area. Our interests in music were all the same. It just came together and we just started rehearsing and it was great.
Nik: I joined later. I wasn’t one of the first members of Factory Floor, in fact none of us are. I saw Gabe and Dom playing and really enjoyed it and I just emailed them on Myspace and said I just bought the single in Rough Trade and they heard my solo stuff and said come down and do some singing on a track and it turned into just joining.
Was that kind of old-fashioned collective thing where you had shape-shifting members and were still trying to work out a sound?
Gabe: Yeah, definitely. Factory Floor has always been like a progression. I think we’ve got to a point where we’re happy with all the members (laughs).
So was the concept first and foremost making a performance or making music? What sort of order did things happen in?
Gabe: The concept was to go in and see what happens, and you can see that in our releases, it’s changed by members changing. But now we’re set on what we’re doing – me, Dom and Nik. We’re just happy with it now and it’s going to progress in that way.
There still seems to be quite a steely, or an uncompromising reserve about what you do. There’s no 3 minute radio-friendly songs about Factory Floor. Has it always been reasonably extreme?
Nik: Yeah, it has been extreme. We have been trying to figure out our sound as we’ve been going along. Each of us has been playing our own instruments for quite a few years, doing our own solo work, so when we’ve come together we bring what we’ve learnt in the past to what we’re doing now.
Quite bloody-minded is what you say…
We’ve just recently recorded a track with Steven Morris producing and that track has probably taken us about three months to do because yeah, we’re bloody-minded, and we keep going back and forth and changing things, and making my section sound louder than his section.
You one-up yourselves, do you? You go out of the room and they go ’let’s make our bits louder’.
Gabe: Yeah, basically, that’s the way it work. We even delete stuff. I don’t know. It’s ridiculous. But it’s all fun…
There also seems to be quite a visual aspect to the stuff that Factory Floor do. I mean the release had the DVD with it, which was of dancing dirt. A fun thing to watch on a Saturday night at home.
Nik: I like that. “Dancing dirt“…
For people who haven’t seen it, it’s dirt dropped on a speaker or something, vibrating to the sounds of your music for 50-odd minutes or so.
Nik: It’s all come from guitar feedback. It’s like graphite powder. It’s all just experimenting with video and sound, because we kind of do our own artwork as well, and incorporating film into Factory Floor. That’s coming under “FFF”. We’ve done a few exhibitions already where we’ve had that shown. It’s just because we need that different creative outlet.
Gabe: There’s not one side of us really. We just do three minute pop songs. We’re doing the art stuff and the video stuff and it all comes in.
So do you get as many offers to do art installations as gigs as Factory Floor? Have you had a few galleries begging you to come down?
Nik: We’ve had a few artists who’ve asked us to do their openings to do sound installations and things like that, but we haven’t managed to get round to doing it because we’ve been concentrating on the music side. That’s something we hope to do next year.
As well as those artists coming out of the woodwork and for all the hipster that have been excited about Factory Floor, a whole lot of the old guys have resurfaced as well. You said you’ve done a single with Steven Morris from New Order and Chris Carter has done a remix. Are those guys thinking like it’s 1985 all over again with you?
Gabe: I think they see in us what they were interested in doing with their own bands early on. That kind of, I don’t know, brutality that was on the edge and is never kind of safe. I think both Throbbing Gristle and New Order, specifically in the early days. So I think they identify with it in that way.
Do you think it’s hard that a lot of bands make compromises over time and in a career it’s hard to stick to those rules.
Gabe: I don’t know. That’s a difficult one. I guess we’ll see what happens to us (laughs).
We’ll see what happens when you record your next album with Rick Rubin in Ibiza or something.
Gabe. (laughs) Yeah, I’m up for that.
So if it’s taken you three months to do a Factory Floor single, how far away is a Factory Floor album?
Gabe: Well, ten tracks, ten times three…. No, I’m only kidding. I don’t know. It is pretty close. We want to release something early next year and play all the festivals again. We’re writing at the minute and we have to form it to how we want it.
First broadcast on Static on 11/11/10. Static can be heard on Sydney’s 2SER (107.3 FM) and via the Internet (www.2ser.com) every Thursday evening (AEST).