For those of you who are not familiar Ali Renault is an electronic artist from North West England who co-founded Human Shield & Cyber Dance Records. He has also recorded for Moustache, Andy Blake’s Dissident & Zone, and as Cestrian (or Cestrian Robot) for MNX, Bunker & SOM. He is one half of synth pop duo Heartbreak who release on Lex Records.
We have had our eye on Ali Renault for a while now, since his days in Heartbreak and since he founded Human Shield with Peter Mangalore and Tommy Walker III. As the three were in town together for the Red Laser Disco party featuring Ali Renault and Peter Mangalore a couple of weeks back, we thought it would be the perfect time to see what made the guys tick and find out a little about Ali’s new label Vivod.
Vivod releases limited 12” hand-printed vinyl with individual stickers. Artists to release on the label so far include NCW and Piss, Christopher J Gilbert, Mild Peril, Newcastle’s Emile Strunz, Intergalactic FM regular Iron Blu and of course, Ali. Think body-rockin disco, mid-tempo chuggers, acid basslines and synth heavy, nocturnal yacht jams! Check out their latest release from Tommy Walker III below.
YAMB: Where did the name Vivod come from? What does it mean?
Ali: It doesn’t mean anything other than being a strange place in North Wales. Vivod is somewhere I found myself a few years ago.
YAMB: Nice, we love North Wales. Can think of worse places to find ourselves. So, the label has been going strong for just over a year now. How did the idea come about?
Ali: I had the idea of starting a new label stirring for a couple of years but it wasn’t until I got lost there (Vivod) that the concept fell into place. I knew where I wanted to go musically but had no name for it until that fateful trip.
YAMB: Its easy to get lost in those mountains. I know, I have been a few times. What sort of studio setup are you using to produce your own releases on the label?
Ali: My set up is pretty basic. I have a few synths I’ve been using for years, predominantly the Alpha Juno & SH101 with a few new bits I bought or acquired recently like a Doepfer Dark Energy, Arturia Microbrute and a DX100. My drums are all from the Ableton kits these days and I sequence everything there as well.
YAMB: Do you approach artists yourself for the label?
Ali: I approach them myself. At least it’s been that way up to now. I’ve had a couple of demos from people here and there, but nothing’s suited the label.
YAMB: Do you plan the releases or have a schedule?
Ali: There is a loose schedule but it’s more a case of knowing which artists I want to release without hearing the tracks. Then I release them as the material comes in. The NCW & Piss (Vivod 002 below) release happened super quick. I had something else planned for the second release but after a conversation with Nick, I was reminded of a track he’d played to me 4 years earlier, so went with that at the last minute. It’s cool to be able to do that. This is the first label I’ve set up on my own so I have only myself to answer to, which is both petrifying and liberating.
YAMB: How long do you spend getting each release ready?
Ali: From the moment I hand the tracks in for mastering to when it’s stocked in shops is anything between 7 to 9 weeks. I have to work around the busy schedules of mastering engineers, cutting engineers, pressing plants and screen printers so its not as quick as I’d like, but it’s out of my hands really. Sometimes I don’t have the money to release as quickly as I want to. You just have to make it happen whatever way possible.
YAMB: So I imagine it’s a labour of love?
Ali: Very much so.
YAMB: Do you have plans to re-issue any of the 12″ releases? Or is it strictly a limited release label?
Ali: I don’t plan to re issue the 12″s but will release all the EPs as a Vivodian Soldiers compilation on another format somehow once they’ve all outed on vinyl.
YAMB: What would you think if in years to come people started editing and pressing these tracks themselves, as seen with many disco edits that come out these days?
Ali: I’d like to think that whoever is behind it would have the decency to get in touch but that’s probably unlikely. I don’t own any of the artists’ music so it would be up to those artists to kick up a fuss if they wanted to. That kind of thing only promotes the original product anyway so I don’t see it as a problem.
YAMB: How would you feel about people playing MP3s of your releases?
Ali: Essentially it’s promo, so I’m all for it. I’d prefer it if it was a 320mp3 or WAV, but the music needs to be heard so whatever way it can be played.
YAMB: How did the Tommy Walker III release come about?
Ali: Tommy Walker III and I are old friends and I’ve always loved the music he makes, so it was inevitable. The Relagade track in particular was one that I remember him and Little Fee (The Whip) playing live a lot when they had their band, Daniel, some years ago and it always went down well. It might have been as long as 7 years ago now. I thought other labels had passed on it but I had to pester him to let me have it. I think the track had gone stale on him over the years. At one point he said yes only to retract his offer with a promise to give me some new material. I don’t know what happened but he came round some months later and it’s finally being released.
YAMB: Have you got much else planned for the label this year or any other projects coming up?
Ali: I’m hoping to release 4 more records this year on Vivod. We have an interesting schedule ahead on Cyber Dance and I need to get real and finish off a load of tracks for labels I’ve promised material to. There are some interesting remixes in the pipeline too.
YAMB: If you could pick any artist to release in Vivod, who would it be (alive or dead)?
Ali: Fatima Yamaha / Billy Cobham
YAMB: Finally. What are your feelings about the current state of the record industry?
Ali: The MUSIC industry is in tatters. Major labels are playing a safe game with the acts they sign and as a result their output isn’t very interesting. I’m not a fan of the larger independents either. Nobody seems to know what they’re doing or have the confidence to trust their artists.
The RECORD industry on the other hand seems pretty healthy at the moment. Lots of new labels cropping up putting out some great material. Not always the case, but in general over the last 3 years it’s turned around I reckon.
Tommy Walker III, the mysterious man behind the latest Vivod release, was out at Red Laser Disco for a boogie. He has been producing self-professed “machine driven sex patterns” for around 15 years, releasing on labels such as Rotten Row, Cyber Dance Records and Human Shield, which he ran with Ali and Pete. We put a few questions to this eccentric fellow and tried to decipher the answers.
YAMB: Where did the name Tommy Walker III come from and what does it mean?
TW III: Its a close variant of my real name. Thomas is from biblical Greek, but its actually my family name. There are countless Thomas’s that came before me. Walker is apparently from the leather industry. We used to walk around collecting animal shit and piss to treat the leather with. I chose this particular version of my name in reference to my grandfather who was known as Tommy and who died very recently at the age of 93.
YAMB: When did you start making music?
TW III: I started learning the piano when I was 11. Only started getting really interested in producing music at the age of 13 via a mate of mine who was a bit of a child synth wizard (I remember him doing concerts at our primary school). He’s now a policeman.
YAMB: How did you hook up with Ali?
TW III: Via mutual friend Peter Mangalore. We were all from Chester, but I didn’t meet Ali until Me and Pete moved up to Manchester in 1996 or so. That’s when we started working together on the Human Shield record label.
YAMB: What do you think about the ethos behind his Vivod label?
TW III: I cant profess to have any insider knowledge about where he is coming from in terms of this label specifically…but me Pete and Ali are normally to be found singing from the same hymn sheet both musically and conceptually and have been for many years now. We are all pretty much thematically aligned in one way or another.
YAMB: Your last release was on Rothmans (listen below). The label is a firm YAMB favourite. Who is behind that and how did you get involved?
TW III: I’m not joking when I say I have no bloody idea, apart from its a guy. I knew Ali had a couple of things out with them and liked what they had been putting out. We’d also been giving their releases some plays on the Magic Waves shows we do on Intergalactic FM. Ali suggested I send them some tracks. I did. They liked them…
YAMB: Anything you would like to share about your Magic Waves radio show? How did you get involved? Whats the ethos behind it? Are you looking for guests and how would they contact you to get involved?
TW III: I came into the radio thing through James aka Casionova, who also runs Cyber Dance, a label that I’ve had a long time association with (I did all the graphics from around 2007 until 2012 and had a couple of releases with them). We take turns each week to do the show from a different location, so the third Sunday of the month is the Chester edition. There’s also London, Glasgow and Berlin editions….I present the show and Moot and Rossi Dee play the records. We like to think we try to represent whats going on the the North West of England at the moment with our kind of music. So we’ve had guests like Christian Wood of Red laser records and Kid Machine. We’re always trying to push local music, people who don’t normally get an outlet in small towns like Chester. Hopefully we can give them a platform to get out there to a global audience. You can find us every third Sunday of the month via our Facebook page and get in touch if you have any ideas for guests or would like to get on their yourself. Recording of our previous shows are on Intergalactic FM (link below).
YAMB: I’ve seen you have some live shows approaching. Last time I caught you at The Audiofarm Festival it was the highlight of my weekend. Any shows you want to shout about?
TW III: I will be appearing as a resident at the new Rothmans presents night in Manchester…not sure if that will be a full live set or just a DJ thing. Hopefully I will get another slot at The Audio Farm Festival, last year was mega!
YAMB: Any more releases upcoming?
TW III: Lots of stuff recorded but concentrating on the live stuff for now.
YAMB: If you could banish a track to hell for all eternity?
TW III: There’s too much choice right now.
YAMB: Anything pushing your buttons at the moment?
TW III: Everything Ste Spandex seems to come out with right now is amazing. He puts on a proper good live show too. Most stuff on Red Laser Records is right up my street.
We are into Ste Spandex very much too. The above release also on the Rothmans imprint features a remix from him and there’s lots more to come. He has also passed us some of his unreleased material which we are currently sifting through before getting up on here. You can see a preview of one of his live sets below.
Snap up the Tommy Walker III Vinyl from Juno while you can. Theres only 175 copies available: http://www.juno.co.uk/labels/Vivod/
You can find out more on all of the above at the following sites:
Ali Renault Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/ali-renault
Tommy Walker III Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/tommy-walker-3
Intergalacrtive FM / Magic Waves: https://intergalacticfm.com/page/magic_waves/
Ste Spandex Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/ste-spandex
Red Laser Records Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/red-laser-records
Red Laser Records Blog: http://redlaserrecords.blogspot.co.uk/
Audio Farm Festival Page: http://www.audiofarm.co.uk/