Thursday, 19 September 2013

Sub Squared: A New Project


We speak with Paul Cooper of Project Squared about his new black paper bag project, Sub Squared.

Over several cups of tea on a cold east London night I met Paul Cooper for the first time. He invited me up to his apartment to listen to some of his favourite records, recent purchases and to talk about his label Project Squared, which was then readying the release of Kowton & Tom Dicicco’s joint Untitled EP. Project Squared at the time was releasing an intriguing concoction of garage, dubstep and dub techno influenced music, with the label's inaugural release giving one third of the Livity Sound troupe, Asusu, a place to release his first record, with the Bristolian following up with a second 12" the next year. 

Project Squared delivered other 12"s from Manchester duo AnD, whose 2011 Algorythmic Love EP remains in total contrast to the “harder harder harder harder” techno they are producing today, while Estonian artist L-OW provided the Pinpoint / Diver EP. That particular release featured an impressive and extended Furesshu edit of "Diver", whose dubby and functional Lucid / All I Want EP made way for the first remix by Shifted.

It’s been two years since that night in Bethnal Green, with Cooper moving to pastures new in Australia, while TEA relocated itself to London. Since Cooper's move to Melbourne he's become a familiar face among the local scene, hooking up with some of the city’s more accomplished, albeit underground, techno producers such as Ben Mill, aka Ground Loop (and the soon to be CTZN alias), and Craig McWhinney who ended Project Squared’s two year release drought with the syncopated and body rhythmic Make Your Mess EP.

Amidst this globe trotting a new pursuit has taken shape, Sub Squared, a fresh venture independent from Project: Mooncircle, the hip hop imprint run by Gordon Gieseking that is parent label to Cooper's Project Squared. So with all this talk of labels, sub-labels and projects, we caught up with the Sub & Project Squared boss, over email this time, where he spoke to TEA about a new life down under, his fascination with the cosmos and the pictures NASA takes of it, being heckled during a set at London club Plastic People, supporting MC duo Cannibal Ox - and the debut 12” from Sub Squared’s first signing, Siberian artist Ghostek. 

Paul Cooper has also provided a mix to showcase some of the upcoming Sub Squared material, including the just-released Ghostek 12" which you can stream below, while further exhibiting the Sub Squared aesthetic. 



Hey Paul, how’s it going?

Very well thanks James. Staring into excel at work, focusing on music in my spare time, seeing friends, enjoying my girlfriend's company, trying to stay sane.

It’s been a year since you made the moved to Melbourne from London, how are you finding the change?

Melbourne has many things that London doesn't and visa-versa, for example for me having such sparsely populated incredible countryside close by is amazing after spending all my life living in the south east of England. The food here is a lot better in general than in the UK, the atmosphere about the city is a lot more relaxed, the weather of course... On the other hand I miss London's clubs - being able to go out and hear cutting edge international and national djs and live acts on decent systems. 

There's a lot of Djs and producers in Melbourne but there's not really any club spaces that are focused primarily on the sound system. The Black promoters put together the best venue that I’ve experienced here in a basement with a properly setup hired system. It makes me wonder why someone with the cash to setup a club can’t do the same.

You’ve hooked up with local producer Craig McWhinney since you’ve been there?

Gordon (co-founder of Project Squared) initially put me on to Craig's music before I even knew I was moving to Australia. We talked about doing a record via email, then I found out I was moving over here and we started hanging out once I was in town. His “Make Your Mess” EP came out on Project Squared back in February this year. We've got a pretty similar taste in dance music and we get on well, they'll be a McWhinney EP coming out on Sub Squared next. There's a bunch of other local mates that I should call out too: Daniel (Filipovic) and the Pinksilver boys, Nic Tuohey, Ground Loop (CTZN), Lost Few and Lorenzo from Black, Will Elder, Phaon and Glen (Daniel), Asha Dirge, Carlos Matic, Kloke and Enclave. All great producers and-or DJs. 



Before we get on to your new sub-label, how are things going with Project Squared?

Things have slowed down with Project Squared. We’ve only released one record since the start of 2012. It’s not as if we ever had a particularly full schedule – we put out three 12"s a year for a couple of years – but one record in two years is obviously pretty sluggish. Part of it is perhaps just not coming across music of enough calibre to warrant release; part of it is having a series of unfortunate situations where I had releases that we wanted to put out, but the artists changed their minds about the tracks before release. 

Another part of it is that I run the label with Gordon Gieseking, a long-time friend and partner musically, and our taste is getting pretty divergent. That makes agreeing on releases and putting them out difficult. This is pretty much why I started Sub Squared. Saying all that, we're getting the next Project Squared release together at the moment which will hopefully be out this year or early next year. Neither of us feel the need to put out music for the sake of it - we wait until we can find something that we both think is amazing. 

So Sub Squared is your primary focus now? 

At the moment I've got the Ghostek release on Sub Squared imminent, but also as I said we're trying to get the tracks for the ninth Project Squared release sorted. There's also the second Sub Squared release from Craig McWhinney planned, just got the pre-masters from Craig today, so things have picked up a fair bit recently.



Not many people know, but you were once releasing hip hop beats as Mr Cooper. Has any of that translated into production?

I used to make hip hop, both production for rappers and solo-instrumental stuff. At first I was in a group called Mummy Fortuna’s Theatre Company during a particularly emo patch of my late teenage years. We released on Lex Records, a fledgling Warp Records offshoot at the time. I remember playing a set of Mo’ Wax style Hip Hop at Plastic People before realising or caring about how important the club was, we supported Cannibal Ox once as well. I remember at that show being up on stage in a packed club shitting myself, the audience went really quiet when we got up and someone shouted 'don’t fuck up'. The nerves must have been pretty obvious rather than the usual Hip Hop bravado. My mate Joe always carried the shows though, he was an incredible rapper.

After that I released two solo instrumental albums. The first initially as a CD-only release on Wimm Recordings from Tokyo, then (I released it) on vinyl with Project Mooncircle, and then (I had) another LP exclusively on Project Mooncircle. I also produced a track for Sage Francis that came out on Epitaph. 

For the last three years or so I haven’t really been able to finish a track. Occasionally I sit down and have a go at it, and I’ve got some promising loops on the computer, but the passion for making tunes isn’t there anymore and I never finish anything. It was hard transitioning from hip hop; (going from) entirely sample-based production, to trying to use clean, electronic sounds, to trying to make techno and dubstep tunes. I care less about fitting into a genre now though and producers like Miles, that seem to use a lot of samples and do it in a really freeform way, might lead me back to production. I need to get more disciplined about sitting down and getting back into it though. 

I know you are a big fan sounds from the UK. Is Sub Squared an outlet for that?

I like the ‘UK sound’, and you can definitely hear that in the first release from Ghostek, despite the fact that he comes from a mining town in Siberia; but the label isn’t meant exclusively for that sound. As I mentioned previously, it’s really just meant as an outlet for my own taste in unreleased music, rather than a collaborative venture as what Project Squared has been so far. 

Ghostek’s record has elements of garage, dubstep and darker techno, the second record from Craig McWhinney that I’ve got lined up is more firmly rooted in techno. On the other hand I don’t particularly want to release music that just sounds like stereotypical stuff from a current niche genre, but a good tune is a good tune. It’s best not to philosophise too much about it; just release what you really like, and what you still really like after a few weeks of listening. 

The label has a cosmic aesthetic.

I spent quite a while trying to come up an idea for the artwork. The obvious choice - to keep costs low - is to do hand stamping, but it’s been done to death, and besides I’m in Australia and the records are in Europe. After a while I settled on using images from the Cassini probe programme. Incredible photographs of Saturn’s moons, with shadow, contrast and colours that are amazing. I love the aesthetic of them, seeing pictures like that makes you forget about your daily bullshit, just as an good piece of music does. I recommend a google image search. 

So I guess you could call it a scientific aesthetic, not a science-fiction aesthetic? Did you see that meteor that flew over Russia in February?

I did read about the meteor strike at the time, but any link between releasing a record by a Russian producer and having what appears to be an asteroid on the artwork is purely coincidental! I’m not really interested in trying to portray a 'sci-fi' aesthetic, we’re not going to go all Jeff Mills and start having flying saucers on the labels or having concept-records about what it’s like to travel at the speed of light. Saying that though, links between the image of the label, and films like 2001(: A Space Odyssey) are easy to make. I love that film in particular, as well as a lot of other sci-fi film and literature, so I suppose that influenced my choosing of the photographs on some level.





Where does the connection with Ghostek come from? What is it that you liked about the release to have it as Sub Squared's first.

He sent a demo to the Project Squared email address.  I heard his earlier stuff and thought it was good, but the tunes in this demo were in a different league. I think he’s really found his own sound in the tracks on this release, more so than his previous stuff where you could hear the influences a lot more. I’m missing Plastic People too, and this to me, is a FWD record through and through. It captures a period of time when I was living in London and going out to a lot of nights where this sort of thing was being played.

What can you tell us about Ben Mill's CTZN project?

I don't really know what Ben's intention is with the CTZN project to be honest. He's played me the tune in the mix, which is really held-back and sparse, and another one that was quite banging and abrasive too, both under the same alias. You'll have to ask him for the conceptual detail. The important thing is that more Ben Mill, Ground Loop, CTZN tracks exist in the world.

What are your future plans for Sub Squared and Project Squared?

Release more high quality music on both labels. 

Tell us about the mix?

I wanted to do a mix that showcases the forthcoming Ghostek EP, so it includes three tracks from the record, and some other forthcoming music from Sub Squared. Worked around that are a bunch of other recent records that I’ve bought since coming to Australia – I haven’t got my whole collection here with me so it’s pretty much only new stuff. The first 40 minutes is all from vinyl, after that I mixed a few unreleased and digital only tunes in Ableton and glued it on to the vinyl section.

And how have you found any tea you like down under?

When I first got here I was shocked by the prominence of the 'tagged bag' on the tea scene (gives a poor brew, and the tag always ends up in the water) and I was considering ridiculous ideas like getting my parents to send over boxes of clipper tea bags from the UK. I'll put that down to early days homesickness. I quickly discovered Bushell’s rounds, which are now the stock tea bag of choice in the Cooper household.

TEA

Sub Squared Soundcloud
Sub Squared Facebook
Sub Squared Bandcamp

  
Tracklist:

01. Ghostek – Jaws  [Sub Squared] 
02. Line Cook – Zero [Basement Floor Records]
03. Breaker 1 2 - 2 [Forbidden Planet]
04. Berk Offset – Essbudenbude [Klangscheiben-Records]
05 .Ghostek – Vampires [Sub Squared] 
06. Asusu – Velez [Livity Sound]
07. Zeitgeber – Body Out [Stroboscopic Artefacts]
08. Tum Hulbruk - Dimens [LNUK Records]
09. Walton - Homage [Keysound]
10. Ghostek – No Way Out [Sub Squared] 
11. Kevin McPhee – In Circles [WNCL Recordings]
12. Tom Dicicco - Future Fiction [Project Mooncircle]
13. Craig McWhinney - Pulse For Harvest [Sub Squared] (forthcoming)
14. CTZN - Citizen One (unreleased)

Paul Cooper Sub Squared mix Duration: 1:23:04

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