Vereker: Fear Eats The Soul

Scott Wilson speaks to recent L.I.E.S. signing Oliver Vereker about his unique take on industrial techno, the teenage years spent as part of L.A.’s noise scene and his distinct video work.

“It’s not like we’re conceptualising for hours about how to make it as grainy or as vintage as possible, there’s just kind of an energy about it,” Oliver Vereker says of his recent video work, “this thing that doesn’t really take too much preconception.” This idea of doing things very much on the fly is perhaps unsurprising when you listen to his music. The 22-year old Vereker’s recent pair of 12”s for Ron Morelli’s L.I.E.S. have – even by the label’s already severe standards – provided some of this year’s most unhinged techno, combining the slamming forward momentum of early ’90s N.Y. industrial with the kind of abrasive hardware-generated sonics recently explored by the likes of Container and Truss’s now retired MPIA3 alias.

This type of iron-clad techno is certainly not unique at the moment; acts like brotherly duo AnD and Blawan, as well as the Perc Trax label have been largely leading the way in the UK, while an increasing number of projects are springing up to emulate them, be it Scottish duo Clouds, New York’s Fifth Wall Records or any one the increasing flood of anonymous white label projects that seem to be pushing techno ever harder and faster. But Vereker’s music has something different about it. While tracks like “Rosite” combine a relentless 4/4 throb with a coiling atonal lead accompanied by high frequencies designed to shred eardrums in warehouses, and “Fear Eats The Soul” builds an unstoppable momentum with its endlessly revving bassline, tracks like “Next” and “Untitled” aren’t afraid to drop the tempo to 120BPM, utilising an ever more discordant slurry of acrid tones and pitched down bass growls to bend minds on the dancefloor.

His music seems more closely aligned to the noise-influenced techno of Container at times than the growing trend for warehouse sized productions, and it’s perhaps unsurprising to find out that while living in Los Angeles in his teens, Vereker played in punk and black metal bands,  heavily influenced by groups like Corrupted from Japan and Akitsa from Quebec. “For me black metal and noise were quite similar,” Vereker explains, “both shared the same DIY/lo-fi tape aesthetic I was into at the time.”

However, it was through his nascent video work – in collaboration with close friend Juan Bocca – that Vereker was first introduced to the wider world last year.  “It was kind of my attempt at integrating what I wanted to do with my studies,” he explains, “so I used some of the facilities at school, but it was pretty much an independent project.”

The first video from the partnership to emerge arrived last August, and provided a visual accompaniment to Mutant Beat Dance’s “Sketch III”. A heavily saturated piece of VHS abuse created on old analogue editing equipment, its lysergic visuals offered the perfect counterpoint to the distinctly psychedelic quality of the track itself. However, it was, as Vereker admits, “an experiment”.  It was their second video – for Morelli and Steve Summers’ Two Dogs In A House project – that seemed to fully accomplish what Vereker and Bocca wanted to achieve. “It was something that we prepared for and planned ahead of time, but yeah, I felt like the second one was a bit more realised fully.”

Where the first video was quite obviously a montage of faintly picaresque city scenes, the promo for the menacing noise house of “Eliminator” was something considerably more conceptual; black and white for the most part, it depicted particularly sinister scenes of Japanese shibari bondage, with the subjects increasingly reduced to stark monochromatic silhouettes through a coarse window of analogue fuzz. “I guess the VHS aesthetic is something I hadn’t really seen in a while,” explains Vereker, “I mean I love weird ‘80s industrial music videos, like those of Borghesia. I guess it just made sense, both of our tastes combined made it happen.”

This taste for harsher sounds is something that has been with Vereker since his teenage years.  Originally hailing from Bath, England, Vereker left the UK at a young age and moved with his parents to the USA, where he lived in Atlanta and Los Angeles, before moving to his current base of San Francisco where he is finishing a fine art course.  It was during his time in Los Angeles that Vereker began collecting tapes; the work of Pan Sonic provided an early route into the foundations of noise and industrial music, stating that they made him “think about noise in a different way”, while artists like Russell Haswell and Editions Mego boss Peter Rehberg also figured heavily in his influences; an interest in musique concrète also led him to pick up some of PAN artist Lee Gamble’s early work on the Entr’acte label.

As well as the punk and black metal scenes, Vereker became involved with the city’s close knit noise community during his formative years in L.A, citing artists like The Haters, Pedestrian Deposit, John Wiese and Jason Crumer among those that inspired him to make his own work. At this time he developed a friendship with future L.I.E.S. artist Delroy Edwards  – known primarily now for his slamming ghetto house-inspired productions – and their common interest in harsher sounds led them to form a joint industrial project, as well as providing Vereker’s eventual introduction to Morelli years later when Edwards worked at New York’s A1 Records.

“We made our own tapes – we didn’t release anything, but we played shows, which was kind of a fun way to experiment and to contribute in a small way to the music scene at the time,” Vereker explains. “I guess it really just opened the doors to understanding electronics and bettering my ability to make music later on, so I look at it as just a learning point.” This early experience was to pave the way for his future productions, which were to incorporate his other musical interests: house and techno.

“Techno and house is something that I’ve always been into on the side as well,” Vereker reveals, “it was just of recently when I started to bridge the gap. Even when I was into the experimental stuff I was always listening to dance music and messing around on the side trying to make dance tracks,” he explains. “I had a good friend who worked in a record store in L.A. who put me on to a lot of techno – a lot of Joey Beltram, some of the German techno, Chain Reaction – I guess you could say that was a starting point for me.”

Despite the experimental nature of the Chain Reaction material and the darker, weightier, more confrontational elements of Beltram’s productions being in evidence within Vereker’s work, the producer is keen to dispel any suggestions that his work is a conscious attempt to recreate these sounds. “Any of the times that I’ve tried to make a track when I was particularly influenced by a particular artist it didn’t really pan out,” he explains. “The tracks that have been most successful are just pure energy, y’know, not really thinking much about it, trying to just have my gear set up and ready to go. It’s more of a performance for me, not too much thought goes into it really.”

This is something that Vereker obviously has in common with other L.I.E.S. artists such as Svengalisghost and Steve Summers, with a sound coming out the other end that is both rigid and untamed. However, despite his music sounding almost like his video work looks, with a muddy sound that is momentarily shocked through with ripples of fluorescent energy at regular intervals, his sound, like his video work, is the result of accident rather than design. “It’s not intentional,” he explains, “it’s just kind of the way I make things I guess.”

Like Summers, who recently noted that he didn’t realise his music was lo-fi until he read the description of one of his records, Vereker’s setup – including an assortment of analogue synths and drum machines picked up over the years – isn’t necessarily hand picked to get a specifically lo-fi sound.  “I have to say it’s just as a result of the equipment that I’m using and general knowledge of recording,” Vereker explains,  “it’s just what I can do right now, but it’s definitely an aesthetic I plan on sticking with.”

Despite only having only recently released two records, it’s clear from his immersion in both styles that Vereker isn’t just jumping on the noise techno bandwagon. “I generally think it’s pretty cool that people are opening up their ears and their tastes are changing,” Vereker explains. “It was something that I always wanted to see happen. Not just the connection of noise and techno, but I think the fact that people are getting more open to experimental music – it allows artists to really show what they got.”

However, as a resident of San Francisco, Vereker is somewhat disconnected from most of his L.I.E.S. label mates, and indeed much of the noise scene his roots are in. Given the similar techno being made by the likes of Led Er Est’s Shawn O’Sullivan in New York, a city with a thriving noise scene and its own techno-focused club in the form of The Bunker, does Vereker feel disconnected from what’s going on outside? “I feel like New York and San Francisco are just very different cities,” he explains. “In San Francisco it’s kind of hard – I’ve just started playing shows here recently, and it’s such a small city and such a small scene that it’s rare that people kind of shake it up a bit, whereas in New York I feel that there’s so many people, so much going on, so much music, it’s kind of exciting and there’s an energy – so with Shawn making his techno, it’s gonna be well received, and probably a little scene going on up there surrounding it, but here it just seems like there’s not too much unity pulling this scene together.”

Although he is currently still finishing his studies, and won’t be able to make a planned move to either Los Angeles, New York or Europe in the near future, he already has a number of projects in the pipeline. Both he and his old friend Delroy Edwards have teamed up again on a collaborative project, which Vereker will say little about beyond the fact that it’s “not going to be some industrial noise”.  Perhaps more intriguing is the news that Ike Yard’s Stuart Argabright has approached Vereker for a rework of a track from his new collaborative project JBLA, which will be putting out an EP called The Phantom Minds on Desire Records later this year.. “He (Argabright) had met Ron and Marquis (Svengalisghost) in Paris sometime last year, and was keen on working with some of the L.I.E.S. artists, and I guess I was one of them. We just recently got in touch, so we’ll see what happens there, but it’s an honour to be working with him, I’m really, really excited about that,” Vereker enthuses.

Vereker’s productions are undoubtedly very much part of a zeitgeist, but they feel less transient than most, and he sees the recent move in dance music towards something more experimental to be something with similar longevity. “It’s just great to hear Bill Kouligas do a DJ set and not really know what to expect,” he enthuses, “the same with Ron. I think they’re pretty important DJs to have around right now, really opening up people’s tastes. I think it’s something that’s definitely going to have a lasting effect on electronic music. I don’t think it’s just a trend that you see right now – even though it’s easy to call it a trend.”

Given that Vereker has only had two EPs out so far, both on L.I.E.S, with a sound that arguably has appeal to the wider section techno community who may not view L.I.E.S. as such, is Vereker worried that high might become pigeonholed as a ‘L.I.E.S. artist’? “At this point, I think for right now since everyone on the label is pretty much friends, it’s a great label to be represented by,” he says proudly. “I’m in really good company, and I’ve got so much respect for everyone on the label, I wouldn’t see it differently right now. I definitely don’t plan to stop making music so we’ll see. I’m sure there will be more individual projects going on in the future, but for right now it’s great to be with the L.I.E.S. guys.”

Interview by Scott Wilson
Black & White shot used courtesy of Alexa Mae Munson
Header image by Ilaria Pace from a picture by Mona Varichon