Interview with Splash Addict
SB: We met while we were both part of The Syllabus, a professional development programme for 10 artists led by Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge. In conjunction with that we were on a self-directed weekend residency at Guest Projects, London. I was lying on the concrete floor of the studio with a hangover and I seem to remember both of us were troubled by romantic issues. I think Susie asked me to show her how to use Ableton… and it went from there.
SG: My first thoughts on Simon was that he was quite gorgeous and also mysterious. On the first night we all met as a group at Wysing, he went to bed early, not staying up to booze with everyone else. I found it a little aloof and also impressive. Not going with the sway of a crowd y’know? I think he’d been reading poetry at an event the night before and was perhaps ill and/or hungover. It turns out he wasn’t being aloof anyway, but still, I thought he was an intriguing person and also seemed calm, which I liked.
Throughout my work I collaborate with others and earlier in the week on the residency I’d been working with artist and musician Rory Pilgrim, another person I met on The Syllabus. Everyone I met there was just great. Simon and I used a vocal I’d developed earlier that week with Rory and it sounded pretty good straight away. There seems to be an ebb and flow between ideas I develop with Rory and Simon, as well as with other brilliant creative friends. It feels good and healthy.
Once we got back from London to our own respective cities, Simon got in touch to suggest we develop our test into a full track, which then became the track Love Immersion. At the same time as this he was invited by artist Melanie Stidolph to show a film at an event she was curating at Tate St Ives, called All Out of Love. Simon suggested we make a video for our track, which we did, and it worked out pretty well. And here we are now.
You are based in different places: Simon in St Ives, Cornwall, and Susie in Newcastle and currently in Rotterdam. So I’m very intrigued by how you make your songs, what is the starting point? And what process do you follow?
SB: We both have distinct skills – Susie is an experienced vocalist having been in bands including Silver Fox (who have an album with the London label Upset the Rhythm) and I have been producing dance music since I was thirteen. I’ve DJ-ed, but have never performed my own music live, until now. The songs are written by sending each other either lyrics or ideas for tracks and they evolve from there.
SG: I really enjoy coming up with lyrics, which can criss cross into titles for art I make too. For the song Love Immersion I was thinking about an article I’d read in a book called Dressing for Pleasure, given to me by my friend Helen, about the history of AtomAge – a magazine for rubber fetishists set up by John Sutcliffe that ran from the 50’s to the late 1980’s. The publication includes examples of readers letters, one of which I really like. It describes the endeavours of a man who found pleasure and a sense of peace by parking his car near a specific river late at night, and then wading out into the river in the silence and darkness whilst wearing latex clothing from head to toe. In the letter he sent to the magazine he speaks of how he feels safe and calm with the rubber tight all around him, and how he loves how it keeps him totally dry, the rubber acting as an interface between his body and the cool, dark water. I thought it a rather beautiful, specific and honest scenario, so used that as a starting point for the song, which then morphs into a type of love song. Through our conversations online, via text or in person, I would like to think that Simon and I are learning about what type of music we want to make and also what romantic, filthy creatures we both are.
SG: Too much/just the right amount of energy, pop music, love, loss and love again, hope, humour and watersports.
SB: For me, the music production is informed by my love of dance music and rave culture. The visuals are informed by 80s and 90’s music videos, such as George Barber’s scratch videos or SL2’s ‘On a Ragga Tip’. Also, I think we both like music and visual art that is luscious and exuberant, but with melancholic romantic undercurrents.
SB: I wouldn’t say they’re either, however although I listen to new music I don’t try to keep up with current trends in what I produce (a pursuit I see as inherently urban). I grew up going to clubs and raves in rural Devon and Cornwall with distinct scenes which didn’t necessarily reflect national trends – in East Devon it was hard trance and techno and in West Cornwall it was acid house and breakcore influenced by Aphex Twin and Rephlex Records. I also really love Scouse House, which was popular with boy racers in the 90’s in the North of England, so there is a range of influences.
SG: I think our songs are both rural and urban, like when you are on a train looking out of the window and the scenery goes from lush hills, bright yellow gorse bushes and sunshine to then a power station, drizzle, plastic bags stuck in trees and the back of a warehouse that you don’t know what it sells. Now I picture the video for the original track, where Jimmy Somerville is on a train to London, looking out of the window at the scenery whizzing past him.
We are both nature babies and lovers of city fun I would say.
You both work with a range of media other than music, such as painting (both), performance (both), ceramics (Simon) and sculpture (Susie). How does Splash Addict relate to your solo art practices? And what is the relationship between music and the other art forms?
SG: All the work I make has sense of rhythm, be it in via shapes, colours or words. Simon’s work also I would say. We both work with very fluid materials to make images and objects and I guess we are Splash Addicts in this way. Working loosely gives me a thrill.
SB: It’s hard to say for me. I tend to approach making work with both a reverence for tradition and a sense of mischievousness and I think Splash Addict does this in a way. We’re not trying to make avant-garde music. We want people to dance to it, but we’re also unapologetically offering something that might be out-of-synch with current dance music and art-performance trends.
Talking about Splash Addict live performances, you’ve played in venues such as artist studios in London and an old police house in Gateshead, now converted into an experimental art and music space. How has the public been reacting to your music? Has that changed in relation to the venue? I am thinking about your fascination for rave culture and how you explore it through Splash Addict.
SG: People have reacted very positively so far, dancing and swelling forwards towards us as we play. It is a great feeling communicating through music and making people dance en masse, especially if they’ve not heard our songs before. I like to look at people directly when I sing. Eyeball them. Let them know I’m singing for, and to them. I hope everyone in the room feels sexy.
SB: Our music is made for the club, but because we’re both artists, we’re being invited to perform at art events, which is also amazing and fun. Eventually we’d also like to play more club nights and festivals, where the audience are there primarily to dance.
We’re next playing in Liverpool at an artists led assembly, and also in Birmingham as part of Fierce Festival. While Simon was recently undertaking a residency with Standpoint Futures at Chisenhale Studios, London, we made a video for Smalltown Boy which you can watch here. The video for our track Love Immersion is also here. Take a look.
SB: I think we both relate to this tune in different ways. I grew up in a small town in Devon and have lived almost all of my life in fairly rural places that are inherently conservative when it comes to sex and sexuality. I came out as gay late and missed the notion of moving to the city for a liberated lifestyle. But times have changed in the UK since the original tune and video were released and luckily I haven’t experienced any overt homophobia or felt the need to be in a city to ‘find the love that I need’.
SG: Sometimes certain phrases become poignant when I sing them, and take on different moods. For example, when I sing CRY BOY CRY I might be feeling cruel, and that line becomes a Fuck You to someone I love, who doesn't love me back. In my fantasy they're realising that I'm actually pretty great, they want me, but I no longer want them. And I'm watching big tears roll down their face. So here, the original boy leaves the narrative of the song and becomes someone else.
When I’m feeling kind however, I'm singing a generous song. The singular boy instead becomes many people, all trying their best, giving things a go, escaping a damaging or tired situation. I am singing for people moving to different places, reframing and asserting their identity, striving for something better, who have thirst for change. It is a song for people seeking the thrill of the unknown in order to find themselves, even if they are a scared of doing so.
It’s a lullaby to effort.