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IN CONVERSATION: Dan Carey – AIM Red Carpet series

One week after Cult Label Speedy Wunderground’s tenth anniversary party, co- founder and legendary producer Dan Carey picked up the Association of Independent Music (AIM) Innovator Award at The Roundhouse alongside fellow winners including Björk, Ezra Collective and Avelino. A visionary and driving force behind some of the most impactful debuts in recent years, Carey’s production skills have been showcased on releases from the likes of Fontaines DC, Squid, Kae Tempest and Kylie Minogue to name a few. With four Grammy and Mercury nominations, as well as a UK Producer of the Year award under his belt, Carey’s signature style and continued dedication to his label has had huge influence across the independent music community and he has made his mark on some of the most successful and buzzed about debut albums out right now.

Picking up his AIM Innovator award he said: “When I was a kid I always wanted to be an inventor, so it’s nice to be recognised as an Innovator. When making music, one of my preoccupations is trying to make things sound new, like they haven’t been done before. It doesn’t always go that well. Sometimes if you make something you think is new, other people think it sounds weird and it doesn’t fit in…so it’s nice to have something suggesting that it might be good .

I’ve always had hundreds of different strands that make up what I do; production and writing and bands and label and all the different things that go on and they’ve been trying to derail each other for years and trip each other over and work against each other and in the last couple of years they are working together and making each other better. I need to thank my manager Eric- We nicknamed him Air Traffic Control because there’s too much going on for him to deal with- not too much- just enough unless Pierre (Hall) and  Alexis (Smith) from Speedy are there… I keep changing my mind and doing unpredictable stuff and the three of them to help make everything work okay.

Entering the opulent AIM award ceremony, Carey was kind enough to speak to GIITTV on the red carpet. After congratulating him on his well deserved win, we chatted about the amazing Speedy Wunderground tenth anniversary party that had taken place the week before in Shoreditch “Thanks for coming” he said. Carey had incredibly played continuously for four hours on the night with twelve acts who seamlessly played the same instruments back to back from the same stage all accompanied by the legendary producer, giving us a glimpse into his innovative work in the studio. “It was amazing.” I said, “How did you play for over four hours with every single one of the 12 bands?” Dan replied,

“It was long but I was so excited to have everyone there together and we made it flow really quickly because no one was allowed to bring their own gear- they all played the same instruments so I just sat there twiddling knobs and playing guitar.

The Speedy Wunderground Anniversary party was fresh with frenetic energy sonic swirls – The converted Shoreditch ware house-Village Underground- was the perfect canvas from which to paint an expansive ten year sonic mural from the stage. On socials Speedy Wunder rightly described it as “Pure Magic from start to finish.” Those who were lucky enough to attend the event got to experience what it must be like in the studio; that tenacity, deep love of music and instinctive connection and respect and circuitry between producer and artist, all working in perfect undulating, frenetic harmony, pushing boundaries in experimental playful bliss. More established artists like Kae Tempest performed back to back with the emerging talent, all sharing instruments in a communal love of the craft. The synchronicity respect and connection between artist and producer were undeniable, with each act building on the fusion of the next.

Speedy are renowned for their innovative methods including singles being recorded in one day and finishing before midnight with no lunch break during recording and mixing days giving a sense of jeopardy and snapshot of the day. That is the kind of pressure that can create diamonds. Fontaines DC famously described how Carey would get them to record several tracks in a row and then he would delete them, if there were any mistakes. Carey created that same sense of high risk playfulness and tenacity at the Village Underground. By having twelve acts play the same instruments for over four hours with a quick turnaround and hardly any gaps. It was such a gift to get a glimpse into the process in the studio, with Carey on the stage the entire time, like a Warholian genius at the mixing desk improvising in real time over the tracks, it’s in that experimental realm where off-beat beauty is found.

When asked how he come up with his innovative ten point Speedy Wunderground Formula, Carey said: “It’s just as a way of getting things done without all those things that slow you down when you are making a record, I just wanted a way of having fun and making records quickly……..and to do away with some of the stuff and it’s nice to not have those things that slow you down.”

This same speed and efficiency was shown at the tenth anniversary gig and it was that pressure that created pure magic. With over twelve world class acts sharing the same instruments with hardly any soundchecks they were on a tight schedule all playing for around fifteen mins each in front of their peers and a sold out crowd of 700. Carey himself accompanied every SINGLE one of the bands and arts artists in their four and a half hour long sets, either from behind the decks or on guitar– as he does in the studio, creating that hot pressure cooker effect where new flavours can meld, marinade and soar.

It was pure alchemy to see that kind of sonic magic in practice and to see the tenacity, skill and innovation that goes on within Speedy Wunderground. With that kind of high speed sonic risk, came the ultimate euphoric reward, with each band feeding off the energy of the last in kinetic fusion. Carey’s stamina, talent and instinctive connection with each band that played was phenomenal and the turn of the century warehouse offered the perfect blank canvas. Acts included O. Honeyglaze, Miss Tiny, youngblackmale with Carey’s Savage Gary persona, Joyeria, Moreish idols, Viji, The Lounge Society, Heartworms, Kae Tempest with Savage Gary and Socttibrains followed by DJs including Rob da Bank, Heavenly and Later Youth.

One of the most exciting bands on the night was Dan’s project Miss Tiny with Benjamin Romans-Hopcraft of Childhood, Warmduscher fame. Miss Tiny’s universe is a romance of heritage, rebellion, and decade long friendship between Dan and Ben. Having seen them play at The Shaklewell Arms and The Great Escape as well as Mutations festival the superlative guitar skills and intrinsic passion for music was clear. With so many successes under his belt it’s incredible to hear someone play with such a cutting edge band at grassroots venues, almost incognito, for the sheer love of the craft. When asked about Miss Tiny, Dan said,

Well, I became friends with Ben when we made the Childhood record and it we spent so long doing it and playing stuff for each other just for the enjoyment of doing it that. We thought, well we may as well try and record it and put it out and because we’ve got the label it just seemed to make sense. I don’t know I just do everything quite instinctively so it just feels good.”

Speaking of the future, Carey said, “I’ve got an exciting project with Model/Actriz and with Kenny Beats and some rappers coming up. That’s going to be interesting.

Our red carpet chat wrapped up with, “Thank you and Congratulations on your award! I can’t believe you played for over four hours at the tenth anniversary party last week. It was amazing!”

To which Dan replied, “Glad you were there. Thanks for coming!” and with that he made off into the opulent Roundhouse with Bjork, Nova Twins, Ezra Collective and Avelino to celebrate with his fellow award winners and nominees; an authentic trailblazer and sonic genius- one of the most defining producers of a generation.

Dan Carey Speedy Wunderground Winner Innovator Award

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.