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Multiples - Two Hours Or Something


Talking with Speedy J and Surgeon about their debut collaborative album.

By John Chiaverina


Most techno fans don’t need an introduction to Surgeon and Speedy J, but here’s one anyway. Surgeon (real name: Anthony Child) is a British electronic music DJ and producer who is perhaps best known for a pummeling, forward-thinking brand of techno, one he’s been developing for over three decades. Speedy J (real name: Jochem George Paap) is a Dutch electronic music DJ and producer who is also three decades deep in the game. In that time, he has made everything from cerebral electronica to certified anthems. 

That’s a combined six decades of techno knowledge between the two. It would be impossible to sum up each artist’s achievements succinctly. Together, Speedy J and Surgeon make music as Multiples, and recently they released their debut LP, Two Hours Or Something, on STOOR, Paap’s dynamic Rotterdam-based label, studio space, and live events operation. The record, recorded at STOOR, is a thoroughly psychedelic collection of improvised, one-take tracks that teeter on the edge of rhythmic music and something else entirely. We caught up with the artists on Zoom and chatted about the release, which, when collected on Nina, comes with an exclusive bonus track. The edited interview is below.

Multiples - Two Hours Or Something
Multiples - Two Hours Or SomethingSTOOR

  • 1Minimum Space
  • 2Sounds Good To Me
  • 3Spirit
  • 4The Dog’s Name
  • 5Ratterdam
  • 6Coffee Nerd
  • 7Two Hours Or Something
  • 8System Down
  • 9Walkie
  • 10Wet Socks
  • 11Train to Hoofddorp

So you've been collaborating for a few years now. I'm curious why you chose to wait a bit to put out a proper record. 

Speedy J: Well it wasn't a choice, you know. It was not like, Let's wait a bit before we record something in the studio—this just seemed to be the occasion where the calendars matched up and the time was right. We’ve performed since 2017, as Multiples. We did a bunch of shows together, and last year in August we had a gig in Berlin together at a place called Zenner. It was a concert environment, not really a club night, but sort of an afternoon concert type vibe. And that was on a Thursday, and we both had the weekend off after that, so we decided to use that time to travel to Rotterdam and spend a few days recording. Basically, those sessions are what ended up as the album. 

So there's no editing at all on this record? 

Speedy J: No. We spent two days recording sessions and we used our setup that we use for gigs. We both are fairly familiar with the instruments that we use. And yeah, we just set everything up in the studio and pressed start. We recorded four two-hour sessions or something like that, and we lifted the moments that ended up as the tracks from those sessions. So basically, we looked for a nice starting point and then let the music just run until it became something else, or became what we felt was the end of the track. That's how we selected the bits, I guess, right, Tony?

Surgeon: Yeah. I think all of the tracks on the album to quite a large extent, they start in one space and end up in a different space. I really like how they turn out that way, where I have this idea sonically that we're exploring a space. We're like, OK, what is this space? How big is the space? Where does it go? Where can you go in this space? And then it mutates into something else—sometimes quite suddenly. If that happens, we both kind of react in the same way to it. 

We used exactly the same live set up that we used at the gig that Jochem was talking about in Berlin before we did these sessions. So it was really fun to do the live set, which is a three-hour live set, to kind of stretch out a bit more and then take that into the studio and just sort of go further, really. We were talking before about how when we started the project, it was a lot more straightforward. And I think gradually we seem to have been taking it further and further. I’ve alway really liked that idea. It’s still techno, but it's like, OK, how much can you stretch this without it not being techno anymore. That's always an idea that I really like exploring and I think we do that a lot with this project. 

Speedy J: Yeah, I think we don't even have concepts in mind, such as genres or anything. We don't even have a direction when we start improvising. We just basically press start, and then sounds sort of come in, and we respond to each other. We find the space where you can add something or where you can change something, and that way we both explore the space as Tony calls it—there's this sort of setting or an environment that emerges from the jam. And we basically respond to whatever is going on. 

I think with this way of playing, it's as much a listening exercise as it is a playing exercise, because you have to kind of accept whatever is going on, and then just find things that you can add or contribute to it, and take stuff away to keep it sort of coherent. We really have no idea and even no communication verbally going on before we start playing or before we start improvising. It's just basically very, very abstract. Maybe we talk in very abstract ways, like, Let's skip this part of the session, a bit more space between the sounds, or let's try to do something more trippy—not anything regarding tempo or scales or any sort of direction. It's just the overall mood sort of dictates where we go.

I'm curious as to where you overlap and diverge when it comes to your musical sensibilities. And if that's a conversation that plays out when you're improvising with each other at all. 

Speedy J: Well, I think Tony has something to say about this, too. But I would say that the lack of understanding where we overlap is probably more important than where we actually do. When we play together, it's really a very intuitive affair—we just let the music or whatever's going on dictate the direction we're going. Sometimes the role of providing maybe the structure or the backbone of the music is in Tony's hands, and other times, it sort of falls into my hands. It's nothing that we talk about in advance. It just sort of emerges like that. 

I think the overlap is in that we are both very willing to listen, that we're both very kind of laid back about it, we are not trying to push an idea into the session when it's not appropriate. It's just we both listen to the other person all the time, and just respond, that's basically what it is. Maybe when we play live, the roles are a little bit more fixed, but during the studio sessions, any of us can do anything really. 

Surgeon: I agree with all of what Jochem says. But there's also, I feel, some kind of musical DNA that we both share in terms of the fact that we started in the scene and started making music in the early 90s. Coming through that and just seeing what was happening with techno, but also with the Warp Artificial Intelligence series, and Autechre and Aphex Twin. That kind of DNA, I think, is part of who both me and Jochem are, and we've intersected with those things in different ways over the years. I think we kind of draw on all of that stuff, but a lot of other music as well, and ideas about improvisation. So I think we draw on a big pool of electronic music, a lot of which does overlap, but a lot also doesn't overlap. And I think that's kind of fun and interesting as well, that we bring different stuff to the project. 

Yeah, Tony, you played in a jazz fusion band in college, right? 

Surgeon: Yeah, I was kind of doing sound effects, really. I used tape loops and effects and I think some kind of very basic Arp synthesizer to just make sounds more than play melodies. I mean, I think the musical skill was definitely with the other musicians as opposed to with me. [Laughs] I know how to make noises, I’m not so great with the notes in a conventional sort of way. 

The name of the record is kind of casual and the song titles feel like inside jokes a little bit. What was your process like making this record? It's sort of serious improvised music, but I can kind of tell you had some fun making it. You had a fun couple days. 

Surgeon: Yeah, that's good that that came across. Jochem’s good at telling the story about how the title came about, so I'm handing that one over to him. 

Speedy J: [Laughs] Well, to me, titles really are a necessary evil, so if we can, in this case, we chose to actually use phrases or ideas that somehow were connected to the time when we recorded the sessions. And for example, the title of the album, Two Hours or Something, was like, when we improvised together in the studio, like I said before, there was hardly any communication verbally. We are aware of each other's presence, but at the same time, we were in this sort of bubble, just going by intuition. There's very little exchange of words, and at some point during one of the sessions, we were finished and we were still processing the mind trip that we experienced for the last two hours. 

And it is a really almost spiritual experience, because you're both on the same trip and you don't know where it's going, you're just going along with the ride, you know? And at some point we decided, Okay, now let's just stop the recording because if something goes wrong, if we record longer and we lose it, we lose a lot of stuff. Just to make sure the recording was actually captured, I stopped the multi-track on the computer. And, and then I said, “How long were we recording for?” And then Tony said, “Two hours or something.” It sounded very casual and very sort of nonchalant. And I thought, yeah, that kind of captures the whole mood of the session. Like, yeah, what do we have? I don't know, two hours or something. [Laughs] You know what I mean? 

Surgeon: All the track titles, they're all very biographical, related to the time that we were working on it. Because it's a really bizarre and intense kind of state of mind that you get into doing those long, long sessions. You kind of have to lose your mind a bit to get into that state. And yeah, it doesn't just go away straight away, either.

Were you drinking a lot of coffee? 

Surgeon: “Coffee Nerd,” that's Jochem’s—well, I assume it's Jochem’s—favorite coffee spot, just around the corner. So, yeah, it was good to take a break and go out and get some coffee there. 

Speedy J: Well, the choice was, I can make coffee here with this sort of standard off the shelf filter coffee machine, or we can get something more special at a place where there are some coffee nerds, they do all this hipster coffee type stuff. And then we decided to go there. And then Tony remembered that and contributed that title to the album. 

I'm curious if you each have a favorite record or track by each other? Just within each other's discographies, if you have a favorite. I know you've both been making music for decades and it's sprawling, but does anything come to mind? 

Surgeon: Oh, that's a difficult one. 

Speedy J: Well, there's one track that I've always played, I still play to this day. And I don't know what it’s called, but it's definitely by you. [Laughs] There’s this triple, this triple sound.

Speedy J attempts to relay the rhythm of the track with his mouth.

Surgeon: Oh, yeah, “[Intro] Version II.” 

Speedy J: Oh, right. Yeah, that's the one. 

Surgeon: One from Tresor. Yeah, you've done lots with strange titles for sure. “Krekc,” or something like that. 

Speedy J: Oh, yeah, yeah. 

Surgeon: That right? 

Speedy J: Yeah, yeah. “Krekc” is a track. 

Surgeon: But also, was it the first Artificial Intelligence album, the compilation? What's your track on there? 

Speedy J: There's two. There's one called “De-Orbit” and the other one's called “Fill 3.”

Surgeon: “De-Orbit” always has had a special place for me. 

Speedy J; I mean, I don't know if I even know all of your stuff. [Laughs] But I do know a lot of stuff. Your discography is massive. I like all of it, to be honest. The track I just mentioned is the one that stands out in terms of the one that I like to play in sets, but there's also a lot of music that is not really suitable to throw in when you're doing a DJ set, but it's still amazing to listen to.

Surgeon: I think the spirit's still there. I hear you exploring a lot of different—it's not just one idea. You've explored hardware stuff and then you’ve really gone into the software kind of realms as well. So yeah, there's a lot to choose from.

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