An interview with Surgeon
At this point, with some 20+ years behind him Anthony ‘Surgeon’ Child needs little introduction. The British techno maverick is not only one of the worlds finest DJs he’s a honed pro in the studio. When he’s not holding down his essential monthly broadcast on former pirate Rinse FM, Child continues to assert his presence over club and ears worldwide.
Rachael Kissane hit him up recently for a chat on behalf of Darkfloor.
Hi Tony, what’s your first musical memory?
Your dad has great taste. Did this music inspire a big interest in science fiction at that age?
I remember that the sounds seemed to come from a different universe, they fascinated me.
In terms of science fiction, a lot seems to be progressively becoming science fact at the moment. I read a quote from Squarepusher a few years back that said that techno ‘just seemed like robot music. Not just dead robots. Really kind of alive’. How would you interpret this quote?
I’ve never really associated techno with robots or spaceships, anything as literal as that. It’s always been more of a mind-state for me
Interesting. Could you detail exactly what you mean by mind-state?
State of mind. Something deeper and more abstract than a sci-fi narrative.
Sounds can be used to communicate on a deeper level than language?
Yes, I believe that to be so. I see this in action every weekend. I think it’s a very primal human characteristic.
If music and movement (dance) can express emotion, where does consciousness come into play?
On a certain level consciousness is part of everything, I think music and dance tunes into the deeper level of that. The connection, that’s the key.
Is music more than merely an escape from the self and if so, how so?
I think it’s much deeper than that. It’s losing your ‘self’ and feeling connected to something far greater than yourself.
Do you think there is something specific about heavy and visceral music that has an affect on the individual?
Sometimes people need a great intensity to feel something if they are disconnected from themselves. Also, overload is a very effective hypnotic technique.
As in a sort of sensory overload which temporarily frees the mind from thought?
Yes, that’s a part of it. A hypnotic trance.
It seems like what you’re saying relates a lot to Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious, which makes me ask what parallels you see between Shamanism and DJing?
Well I haven’t studied Jung and don’t know enough about his theories to say if it relates to what I said. Does it relate to Jung?
I’m sure there are. I’m not an expert on Shamanism, though when you really get beneath the surface all of these ideas link up.
It connects with something very deep in the human consciousness.
It’s also about having fun, going out, boy meets girl, boy meets boy, girl meets girl…
There are so many levels all operating at the same time.
True that. I now have Aphex Twin’s ‘Girl Boy‘ track in my head. Regarding the collective unconscious – Jung’s theory goes into the fact that humankind possesses innate wisdom ie. archetypes and symbols common to us all and present before we came to experience anything individually, so maybe music can activate it and cause crowds to connect on a more unconscious and primitive level.
I can connect with that idea, but that’s not really what I was suggesting. More that level of connection in the club, we’re all breathing the same air and being vibrated by the same sound waves. It builds a deep level of connection. Everyone together in sync.
How do you think rave culture has changed from the time you began DJing, How do you compare it to now?
I think that there have been many changes on the surface of rave culture, the quality of audio and visual systems is much better than it was before and generally events are much better organised, but the deeper level on which this situation functions is the same.
Do you think the term ‘Rave’ is still relevant today?
Think about the different meanings ‘electro’ and ‘minimal’ have had over the years. ‘Rave’ is just a label that get’s used in different ways according to fashion. It’s a good word though, for me it has a positive connotation.
It sure is a great word. You’ve spoken about hypnosis and trance, how does this relate to the idea of intention you mentioned?
Hypnosis and trance are states of mind, a focusing of attention. That doesn’t directly relate to intention. Intention is the force behind an action that gives its power.
As regards to creating a DJ set, how then do you keep another artist’s intention integral?
Well I don’t generally. Most material I use in my DJ sets are tools to create a certain effect in the audience, a means to an end.
What do you think are the benefits of these states of mind? Do you think you could provide an example of a particular track you have made and describe the intention behind it?
Liberation perhaps? I feel we’re getting a bit bogged down in the intellectual details. It’s also about jumping around and having fun!
What is fun!? haha joking. Ok then, let’s scrap that last question. Here’s a replacement: what’s the most bizarrely funny thing that’s happened during your DJ career?
We don’t have to scrap it, I like the conversation. Just feel like balancing it out with something more absurd and light-hearted.
I remember one that really made me laugh-
Maybe about 16 or 17 years ago I was DJing at ‘The End’ in London. There was a row of trainspotters in front of the DJ booth while I was playing and one guy who looked really fucked up kept waving a £20 note at me. I just ignored him thinking that perhaps he wanted to buy the record that was playing as that’s happened before. He kept waving the £20 note at me and ended up throwing it at me, I threw it back at him.
He started putting his hands on the records that were playing like he was trying to pick something up. By this time the promoter saw what was happening and pulled the guy away.
Turned out that the guy was on acid, thought he was at the bar and was trying to order a drink.
Ahahaha, I hope that poor man eventually reached his final destination. Have you any more absurd stories to add to our increasingly balanced equation? I read in a recent interview with those Blacknecks scallywags that you have ‘always got a packet of wafer thin ham on the go’. What do you have to say on this matter?
I love the absurd. British Murder Boys are Britain’s best loved absurdist space rock duo.
The thing about ham isn’t true, I’m vegetarian.
Haha. The world needs more ridiculousness, that’s for sure! Have you and Mr O’Connor got any gigs/ new releases planned in the near future? And have you got any music coming out at any stage soon?
What’s the most recent annoying ear worm you’ve had stuck in your head, and what is the last track that gave you goosebumps?
I recently listened to Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works again. The melody from Tha really stuck in my head. I’d wake up and it would be there. I’ve been playing it in my DJ sets recently, layering it over beats. It creates a really unique atmosphere.
A brain worm of the highest order is that. I heard you play it at your last Awakenings set, that distortion layered over the melody and beats made it tear right through you. One thing that the neuroscience of music cannot seem to be able to explain is why some people like dissonance over others. What is your take on the matter?
I think on a deep level we like to regard the difference between 2 things.
Sweet <> bitter etc.
Yes. Polar opposites that cannot exist without each other, yet invariably interconnect at some stage along a continuum. Always great food for thought that.
On another note, how would you describe music to someone who has been deaf since birth?
I think I’d take a very practical approach and get them to feel the vibration of sounds from a speaker.
And what are your top three tried and tested tracks always guaranteed to destroy the place?
Savage. Would that happen to be the ‘Hokusai- Black Rose‘ remix perchance?
That’s a good one too.
I must keep an ear out for that Blawan remix. I see this is out.
“As above so below”, lovely lovely.
I hope you enjoyed the interview Tony and thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.