‘Seeing Giant Swan was one of the first times we’d seen dance music performed with the energy of a live band, and it was revolutionary.’ Says Scalping’s Alex Hill.
Having only formed in 2017 the Bristol band have made quite an impression with their heady mix of punk fire and techno pulses delivered via dizzying audio-visual live shows over the last couple of years.
At a time when Bristol currently feels like a hotbed of exciting new acts, Scalping are ostensibly marrying the punk spirit of contemporaries like Idles and Heavy Lungs with the city’s rich electronic music heritage.
Their live energy evokes the essence of Bristol’s Howling Owl label, while they recently captured that dynamism on wax having signed to Council Records last year.
The Chamber EP is their debut release, and acts as the perfect taster of the noise-rock and pounding dance hybrid music they make.
The rest of the year will see the band embark on an extensive UK festival tour, but before they hit the road we caught up with Alex to find out what makes the band tick…
Bristol’s music scene seems to be thriving at the moment, how healthy does it feel to you?
It’s been incredible since we’ve lived here, but it definitely feels like the music here is currently getting a bit more attention from outside of Bristol, maybe a side effect of the success of Idles. A lot of our friends here seem to be finding their feet musically all at the same time which is exciting, looking forward to seeing how everything develops over the next few years. The scene is small and everyone knows and supports each other regardless of genre.
The Bristol Germ, run by Alastair Shuttleworth, is an illustrated music magazine and a good place to start for anyone unfamiliar with Bristol’s current music scene.
How much do you think the city’s musical history has fed into the music you make?
This might sound like a huge cliché, but sound system culture is the main thing from Bristol’s musical history that has inspired us. Experiencing the physical power of a rig surrounded by people made dance music make a lot more sense for all of us. Specific artists associated with the city (Massive Attack, Portishead etc) haven’t been particularly influential to us.
What initially inspired you to embark on elaborate audio-visual shows?
Jason, our visual artist, has been part of the band from the start and he plays live alongside us. When we were initially starting up the project, we saw Jason doing visuals at an event in Bristol and it just seemed like a perfect fit for him to be involved.
Who or what are your biggest influences, and what are the origins of the techno-punk hybrid you’ve created?
The golden era of Bristol label Howling Owl’s events had a massive impact on us, being subjected to so many incredibly varied experimental artists fuelled our desire to be part of the scene in the city. Seeing Giant Swan was one of the first times we’d seen dance music performed with the energy of a live band, and it was revolutionary.
Outside of Bristol, it’s mainly artists that use a hybrid of ‘live’ and electronic instruments in their music, and/or artists who pull from many different genres stylistically. Deftones, Factory Floor, A Place To Bury Strangers, Daniel Avery, Marie Davidson and Godflesh are all favourites.
How would you describe your music to the uninitiated?
A live band playing industrial techno.
How did your relationship with Council Records come about?
We’ve known Sam from Council for a long time and when he was starting the label, he expressed an interest in working with us. It was an obvious choice for us and to be the first release on the label is a privilege, we’re really excited to see where the label goes.
What was the thinking behind your debut release Chamber?
We wanted to try and capture a more succinct version of tracks from the live show that could be played out in a club. We spent a while working on the balance of guitar music and dance music production styles to get the tracks to sit in the right place. Then we were lucky enough to be able to include incredible remixes from our friends Bruce and October which added a whole other dynamic to the release.
You have a lot of UK festival dates coming up, how do you go about translating your records to a live situation?
We’d been playing live for nearly two years before releasing any music, so the live show has always come first. Ideas are generated as demos, loops or riffs on the computer and taken to the rehearsal room where we flesh them out to work as a band.
Who do you have on repeat at the moment?
Housewives, Ossia, Boy Harsher, Billie Eilish
What do the band have in store for the rest of the year?
We’ve got a lot of festivals coming up, really looking forward to Test Pressing, Great Escape and Green Man in particular. There will be another release of some sort by the end of the year along with more videos.
Forthcoming tour dates:
27 April Test Pressing Festival, London
3 May Liverpool Sound City 2019, Liverpool
4 May Portsmouth Psych Fest 2019, Portsmouth
4 May The Dingwalls Weekender, London
5 May Sounds from the Other City, Salford
9 May The Great Escape 2019, Brighton
12 July Beat-Herder 2019, Sawley
19 July Doune The Rabbit Hole 2019, Stirlingshire
25 July Farmfest 2019, Somerset
15 August Green Man 2019, Crickhowell
23 August Future Yard Festival, Birkenhead