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t’s been 16 years since

the last album from dance outfit Leftfield. Neil and Paul split back in 2002 and now, finally, Neil has returned with a worth-the –wait classic in Alternative Light Source. Not only that, but for the very first time he’s bringing the whole Leftfield shebang up to Norwich. With tracks like Open Up or Afrika Shox through to Head and Shoulders, Leftfield continue to bring us dance music that challenges and delights. I spoke to Neil about how the scene’s changed since he was last around and where he thinks Leftfield fits in now. Welcome back mate. We’ve been waiting for you.

“I love knobs and tweaking things and you don’t get that with a computer”

14 / October 2015/

I’m really looking forward to your gig here in Norwich! I don’t think we’ve played in Norwich before, but I don’t know why. Tere’re a lot of people looking forward to this tour because they haven’t seen us play live before. You were originally in a band before you started making electronic music. What was it that turned you onto dance music? Both Paul (ex member of Leftfield) and I were in bands when we started Leftfield. I know exactly the point when I knew I didn’t want to be in the band anymore; when I went to see Afrika Bambaaataa play. I was always listening to rock, punk and also disco and soul, and some of that early hip hop blew our minds; for example, Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force. No one nowadays can really get what it was like back then. Grandmaster Flash… music like that was just so different. People like Kraftwerk were using drum machines but when it all happened right across the board, and people like Te Human League started using synths, I found that what we were doing with guitars in the band was unsatisfying. But we couldn’t afford the equipment; the first drum machine that became available was £2,000 back in 1981, so can you imagine what that would be these days?! I just remember disbanding the band I was in and I didn’t make any more music until midi came along, and samplers in 1984. Was it a process of learning to use these new pieces of equipment through making your own mistakes then? Exactly. A sampler is an extraordinary machine, although people don’t really use them now. I had an Akai S960…like a gray box with a screen and buttons. Te main thing about it was that each individual sound could have its own output. Tat was revolutionary. Sampling is so easy; I could teach someone to use one in five minutes and then it’s just what you use it for. I had a really primitive set up; it included a sequencer which tells the midi which order to play the sounds in. I wasn’t particularly technical but I worked out enough to make it work for me. And what do you use to make music now? Tings have gone really minimal again and

everything is getting smaller. I work with a guy called Adam Wren who’s on the new record. Because the speed of chips and the fact that memory is so enormous, the quality of plug- in technology has just gone through the roof. A lot of purists complain that you lose warmth in the sound but that’s a load of baloney. I use old keyboards, old drum machines, but I plug them in one at a time. I don’t actually need a mixing desk any more. Really all you need is good monitors and a good room; big studios are dying off for that reason. I love knobs and tweaking things and you don’t get that with a computer but you do have absolute control of what you’re doing. What did you do between Leftfield splitting in 2002 and starting to play out again in 2010? Actually, I spent most of that time trying to make music that didn’t sound like Leftfield and working with other people. When the name went I felt like I couldn’t make that type of music anymore which is a bit stupid really because in actual fact I should have carried on. I started to do other things thinking that that form of electronic music was over. I started to pick up guitars was still electronic and some of it was quite ahead of its time, but didn’t really commit to anything. As soon as I started doing Leftfield again I realised I wanted to fully re-commit to electronic music. Te new album is still beautifully Leftfield, but was there a temptation to be influenced by dance trends like dubstep or grime? Well, I do listen to lot of music so absolutely, yes. Tere’s such a lot of great music being made. People like Hudson Mohawke I always namecheck for the quality of what he does and the ideas behind it. I listened to dubstep when it was really big. A lot of producers making records now, people like Boddika who are actually big but no one knows about them because it’s house/techno that’s really powerful and dark…Daniel Avery…all those guys, they’re doing their thing separately from the whole festival scene. Will any of the guest singers be joining you on stage at UEA? Yeah we will; it’s a bit early yet, we have to see who’s available. We have had Jason from Sleaford Mods come along sometimes for his track Head and Shoulders. It’s going to be a big show with a live band. Tere’s some talk of a 20th anniversary Leftism gig, playing the whole album the beginning of next year; I’d love to get John Lydon along to do Open Up.

INFORMATION Leftfield play Te Nick Raynes LCR at UEA on 16th October. Tickets available from Read the full interview at

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