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Leeds' LFO on Techno, Life and London

Author: Jonty Skrufff
Sunday, October 5, 2003
Techno Leeds legend Mark Bell first made his name in 1990 when LFO's first track LFO was snapped up by Warp Records and went on to become one of the first UK techno anthems, selling well over 100,000 copies. Consolidating he success with two albums Frequencies and Advance, by the mid 90s he found himself producing albums for Depeche Mode and Bjork, leading him to scale back LFO activities almost to the point of non-existence.

7 years on, however, he's suddenly storming back into public consciousness, courtesy of his justifiably acclaimed comeback single Freak and his equally interesting new album Sheath. While Freaks been devastating dance floors, whether techno or electroclash, Sheath is a considerably more complex offering, featuring clicks and breaks tracks next to string drenched electronica and 80s tinged electro of seriously high quality. Which is no small achievement given, the providence of how the album came into being.

"This album came about by accident when my friend made a cassette for his car with my stuff on that I'd made over the past seven years," Mark told Skrufff.

"I was and am quite happy just making music for myself though when I heard the tape I thought 'Brilliant, I can give this to Warp and they'll stop pestering me every two years for new material."

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Freak has been a floor filler at electro clubs like Nag, Nag, Nag; how much do you keep up to speed with musical trends-

LFO: "I go to friends' parties and the odd club when I'm in the mood though I made Freak purely for me to play when I DJ, it's just the kind of track I'd like to hear if I went out. I made the track in one day and I actually make tracks like that every week, anyway. That just happened to be the one my friend picked out to stick on the original cassette. I could do a whole album of tracks like Freak if I wanted but when it comes to releasing music the whole process feels like work. I'm spoiled because having done the Bjork and Depeche Mode records I don't totally need to do LFO for the money now, I'm lucky. On the trend question, It'd be a full time job keeping up with the million and one sub genres of 'dance' though | like places that play allsorts of crap, like Nag, Nag, Nag for instance."

Skrufff: Are you still going out clubbing much-

LFO: "Yeah, there are some good places in Leeds I go to but they're more like bars with DJs where the DJs are playing for fun rather than being paid. So you might hear Underground Resistance followed by Motorhead's Ace Of Spades, and anything else, as long as it's good. I did a remix for that electroclash band Whatever It Takes (W.I.T.) I came across a little mpeg (video) of them on the internet and they just looked funny because they couldn't dance at all. It just looked like they were having fun doing it and the track sounded quite good so I emailed them and asked them to send the parts, and they ended up using my track as backing for their live shows. I'm happy that fun is coming back into the club scene, I never liked that chin-scratching, train-spotting attitude- it's horrible. I don't like this attitude of liking a track because it will fit with other ones, that means nothing stands out."

Skrufff: You're seen as one of acid house's pioneers-do you feel any affinity with today's house culture and its superclubs-

LFO: "The whole superclub thing was a right pile of toss (rubbish- Slang Ed.) I've got nothing against furry bras, trust me, but paying lots of money to get in, wearing my shirt open to the waist with fake tan on the collar- no thanks. I live in Leeds and I've been to Gatecrasher just the once when my ex (girlfriend) made me go. It was terrible, it had absolutely nothing to do with the music; it was like a big Sharon and Tracy club."

Skrufff: Having worked closely with Bjork and Depeche Mode; both globally recognised acts, did you spot any common characteristics-

LFO: "Both are quite humbled by the adorati