Addict Music Interview – Leftfield

October 31, 2010 by  

There are few artists that hold as much influence over the current musical landscape than Leftfield’s Neil Barnes. Having been amongst the pioneers of the UK electronica and dance movement, Barnes’ music has been transcendent and influential to say the least. From Leftfield’s early collaboration with John Lydon, on their d?but album Leftism, to their seminal second album Rhythm and Stealth, the electronic duo have always pushed the boundaries of the genre. Yet, as we found out, being at the forefront is not always easy…

After achieving such success in the 90s why did you stop making music?

I think we felt like we were fed up with each other and we felt like we?d done as much as we could at that time. We worked so hard over 13 years, or however long it was, that I probably think we?d exhausted everything up to that point.

So what have you been doing with yourself in your time away from Leftfield?

I?ve been writing lots of demos. I can?t talk for Paul, because I?m doing this interview on my own, but I think he?s been DJing and preparing a solo album. I?ve spent such a long time away from my family that I?ve put a lot of time into my family. Just to recharge the batteries, you know?

You?ve done some concerts already without Paul, how did they go? How did it affect your performance?

The fact that Paul?s not there hasn?t affected any performance at all as far as I?m concerned. We?ve done a brilliant job, I?ve got a fantastic new group of people out there. We?ve had a fantastic summer, it?s worked brilliantly – that?s why we?re doing this tour.

It?s far better than I thought it would be. I didn?t know what to expect after so long, coming back I thought we might get booed off stage! I?m just going out there and performing the music that me and Paul made to the best of my ability.

Yeah, and you?ve got a lot of loyal fans as well.

We?ve got an amazing group of people – and a lot of new people too. We played at Benicassim and I looked down, the first 40 rows were all in their early 20s and younger!

So back in the ?90s, did you know how big dance music was going to be and how many genres were going to branch off from it?

No, nobody did. I didn?t think it was going to become festivals dedicated just to electronic music – it was just an underground thing. Us, the Chemical Brothers, Underworld and maybe a few other people were the only people who got on the radio. It was hard to get electronic music on radio, and then suddenly when they got it, that?s all you heard. And now it has become such an enormous part of the industry.

And what are your thoughts on dubstep?

I love dubstep, you know I love it. It?s a bit of a broad term, I like intelligent dubstep – maybe that?s a genre as well! I?m into the stuff which is trying to go forward. There?s a lot of dubstep I adore, like I really love Joker. There are a lot of people in that area that I think are awesome. It?s an exciting new development.

What about the ever-growing music scene? Bedroom DJs and how technology has become more available to amateur musicians.

I think there are 2 ways of looking at it. Firstly you can say it?s fantastic that a lot of people have the opportunity to make electronic music. I know a lot of people making music now who are doing it out of their bedrooms who are doing a really good job.

The bad side of it is the watering down of things. People copying other things rather than doing something unique. The problem is that everyone has the same software, so everything starts sounding the same. And I do notice that a lot. When I listen to commercial techno I don?t like it because I think it all sounds the same. Even in the dubstep area there are loads of people making the same sounding music. That?s not good!

But for opening up new people I think it?s good because studios are expensive. Anyway we all started somewhere – I started in the kitchen!

Which current artists do you think are pushing the boundaries?

I think The xx have done that. I think they?re making music which is really exciting. I think Scream have done a brilliant job. I also think Magnetic Man is really interesting because it?s pop, and I like that. I like some of the stuff that La Roux does and Fever Ray has got a brilliant album. I?m obsessed by music, I listen to rock, electronic music… I think that that?s my mission to not cut myself off from other genres.

And by combining dub, reggae and house music you?ve succeeded, haven?t you?

I hope so. When we made Leftism I was going out to watch Mogwai! I?m a big Mogwai fan. I love interesting and extreme music. I went to se that film Social Network and Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails did some of the music on it which is brilliant. He?s made some amazing music and has got a very interesting attitude, I like people like that. I do have discussions with young people who just listen to techno or just listen to house music and I can?t understand it. I don?t get what the mentality is to cut yourself off from a whole other area and say ?I just listen to techno?.

Are you working on a new album at the moment?

I?m absolutely just working on the tour. I haven?t got time to do anything else. I tried my best to fit in some time but it?s a big job to arrange a tour. So I?m either doing that, or playing it. You know, I don?t stop.

There are no plans for a new Leftfield album, let?s make that plain now. But I am going to start doing things, yes, basically, but the tour is going into next year anyway. We?re going to Australia in March – I couldn?t turn that down because people seem so gagging for us to go over there. I?m hoping to get working on some new music in January.

Leftfield are currently on a UK tour, which will see the band perform in Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Plymouth, Bristol before culminating in a homecoming show at London?s O2 Academy Brixton.

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