In Conversation: Beatrice Dillon

In Conversation: Beatrice Dillon

Beatrice Dillon is one of the last remaining auteurs in dance music today, and one of the hardest working artists in her field. Via a background in fine art and stints spent behind the counter and some of London’s finest record shops, she has emerged as a unique voice at the intersection of experimental music and techno since debuting on Where To Now? in 2014. Her discography is concise and to the point but recorded music is just one element of her practice, which includes live performance, improvisation, and sound art experiments. With a new album due out shortly for PAN, she gave us a rare insight into her listening habits and influences. 

Semtek: In previous interviews you talked a lot about the importance of listening alongside writing. What was the last LP you listened to?

Beatrice Dillon: I’ve listened to less music, more radio and podcasts recently. A friend recommended the Dissect series on Kendrick Lamar, it’s really in-depth and interesting even if like me, you’re not that familiar with the music. The last proper LP was some of Mayumi Miyata – Sho Cosmos. Spencer from Visible Cloaks passed it on to me. I was curious about the sample which Bjork used from that album for Venus As A Boy. It’s instantly recognisable in Music for Sho and Harp.

S: What kind of context do you imagine your work being heard in primarily, are you writing principally for the club? 

BD: I definitely consider the context, but the pull of the club for me isn’t necessarily dance music it’s more the dynamic range available on a good club sound system.

S: That’s interesting, which venues where you have played have stood out as having the best sound systems for your music?

BD: The systems at Circus Osaka and WWW Tokyo in Japan really stand out for me. I did live shows there and the sound clarity in those venues was inspiring. De School Amsterdam, Soup Kitchen Manchester, Corsica Studios and Pickle Factory in London are great too. I DJed on the Killasan sound system in Rome alongside Mark Ernestus & Tikiman, Rabih Beaini and Shackleton a few years ago and that was super nice sound quality.

S: Do you think that the system of funding and residencies which experimental composers are well-versed in can work for dance music producers as well?

BD: I don’t know. Funding and residencies can really help artists making more marginal, less commercially viable work but it’s obviously not the fairest method of supporting the arts. Ideally there’d be more funding opportunities for a greater number of artists of different abilities, ages and stages to create work and build financially sustainable careers.

S: As an artist living and working in London what are the aspects of the city which inspire you?

BD: People, friendships, parks, NTS, architecture.

S: What was it that made you want to explore the sound of string instruments on the new LP? 

BD: This is the first time I’ve worked with strings. I deliberately sought contrasting sound and instrumentation to mix with my electronics.

S: Does sampling interest you as a composer or do you prefer to work with real musicians?

BD: I’m less and less interested in sampling. I was never into that vintage analog synth thing so it took me a while to find synths that I actually enjoyed listening to and working with. I like the accuracy and flexibility of digital synthesis. Working with ‘real’ musicians can be very rewarding, watching and listening to someone think in real time through music, you can get happily lost in it.

S: Working with live musicians must open up new possibilities for performance, do you plan to tour the new LP live? 

BD: The different instruments play a part in the album but overall it’s an electronic album, so the new live set is a club adaptation with the most of the acoustic elements replaced with new synth parts. There’s also a few new unreleased, faster clubbier tracks, which is where i’m heading with the new solo material i’m working on.

S: Do you think there’s a space for acoustic or acousmatic sounds in the club?

Maybe not, I don’t know. Away from dance music, for me it’s most interesting in black American music production, if you consider the part that string and brass arrangements played in making disco, the Philadelphia sound or 1960s soul so powerful and exciting. I’m thinking of the string arrangements on amazing records like Donald Byrd’s Places and Spaces, Teddy Pendergrass’ You Can’t Hide From Yourself, Gladys Knight & The Pips gorgeous It’s A Better Than Good Time.

Beatrice Dillon’s Workaround LP is out via Pan on February 21st 

Photographs: Jojo Mathiszig