We Are Glass: An Interview With Dead Fader
As Dead Fader, UK-born, Berlin-based John Cohen draws on ambient, noise and techno to create panoramic and hard-hitting electronic music which packs an emotional punch. In 2014 Cohen released two Dead Fader albums – Blood Forest and Scorched – which saw his music evolve into a signature style as moving as it is excoriating. It would be a gross oversimplification to suggest that the project now occupies a liminal space between revered Scottish duo Boards Of Canada and Australian sound artist Ben Frost but as a rough guide it’s not entirely misleading. Cohen reactivated the project in June of this year with the HYP 30 EP (available as a free download) followed by this month’s Sun Copter 12″. Both serve as appetisers for new full-length LP Glass Underworld, out October 22nd via Robot Elephant. In addition to his Dead Fader releases, Cohen has released work under his own name via Broken 20 (Tar River, 2011) and Exotic Pylon (Deaf Arena, 2013). We collared the producer to discuss music, love, cities and underwater gigs.
How would you describe Dead Fader if you absolutely had to?
Its a near impossible task. Every time I try to describe it to someone I fail miserably. Because, by its very nature, it takes genres and styles and mixes it all up. And I don’t want to over simplify it or overindulge either.
Which of your releases would you recommend to a complete newcomer?
I would say Glass Underworld, for me it’s my best work. most realised, and I can still listen to it a year after finishing it. so maybe that says something.
How do you feel the project has evolved over the years?
Dead Fader started off almost as an offshoot. It was the heavy/distorted/party tracks that a lot of my friends loved, and so urged me to put out. But I was always making more emotive stuff at the same time. I think over the years I’ve become more confident putting out the emotional side of things. I feel less stigma about that. For me the music I wanna listen to at home and at venues resonates with me in an emotional way.
You’ve said that Glass Underworld is influenced by falling in love. Can you elaborate on this?
Well, around June 2014 I met the love of my life, and that was the time I started making the tracks for the album. It had such a huge impact on me. and I think it channeled into the music in a big way.
You tend to maintain a delicate balance between melody and noise. Are you naturally more inclined towards one than the other?
Not really. I’m always looking for a balance. I don’t really like to call my music noise music either because I think it has too many negative connotations. I see my music as having a lot of imperfections though. For me the imperfections are just as important as perfection. For me you really need these things to learn because I guess life is full of imperfections. It’s what also makes it beautiful. Things that are too perfect become lifeless and boring. So I guess its about that balance, the all-elusive Umami as people like to talk in food terms. Haha.
What distinguishes Dead Fader from the work you release under your own name?
I was putting out more dark emotive stuff under my own name when DF started with my friend Barry. But when we split in 2011, I slowly started to put out everything under one name.
You’ve put out a fair bit of music over the past couple of years. Is your work rate accelerating?
I don’t think it’s accelerating but I think it’s becoming more direct. I am happier with the things I produce. I think listening back to my early works, I feel there were a lot of ideas but my finished tracks were all over the place. I think I’ve also become more relaxed in putting it all out there and thankfully have had labels who want to work with me on releasing it.
Has the move from the UK to Berlin had an influence on the music you make?
I think it influenced me more for just being a huge city. And in that city I’ve still found my voice, and not got lost. That has been amazing. But I’ve never been part of any scenes. Maybe I straggle sometimes on the edge. I don’t know. I would say more that the internet has inspired me. It’s opened up everything for me. All music everywhere. What an advancement in human knowledge the last 15 years. And I was lucky enough to grow up at the perfect time. I was 12 or 13 just starting to make music on computers at that time.
Who are your absolute almighty godhead musical inspirations and why?
Boards Of Canada of course have been so important to me. The simplicity but complexity of their work. The chords and melodies just blow me away. And Pan Sonic also. It’s powerful. But also very emotional for me. I don’t listen to Pan Sonic everyday like I do Boards though. I have to be in a certain mood for it.
If you could perform a Dead Fader set in any location on Earth where would it be?
Hmmm, thats a difficult one. I could tell you about my genius idea, Dead Fader 2.0, but maybe I’ll save that one, if it ever comes about. I don’t want anyone thwarting my plans. Maybe here. I always wanted to play underwater.
Interview: Joseph Stannard
Listen to ‘Mud Underworld’ from Glass Underworld: