Music & clubs

Fox on the Run: Fantastic Mr Fox

INTERVIEW: British Berlin-based musician Stephen Gomberg knows what it's like to be a prince of grimey, self-taught melancholia and he knows where the melody comes from. See for yourself at new show Fri, May 10 at Gretchen.

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Photo by Rasa Urnieziute

Of Fantastic Mr Fox and occasional Jackal Youth fame, Berlin-based Wolverhampton native Stephen Gomberg, has shaken up Britain’s left field future Bass scene with his capacity for conjuring majestic melancholia.

Gomberg balances melodic, grime-inflected 4/4 beats and has an upcoming double A-Side and imminent debut album, both to be released on Bristol’s prolific Black Acre imprint. Freshly returned to Berlin’s industrial shores following a solo tour of Australia, the wily 24-year-old is gearing up to debut at this year’s MELT! festival, initially reaching his paws out to Gretchen on Friday, May 10. He’s joined by Adrian Sherwood (On U Sound/UK), Shigeto (Ghostly International/USA) and Soulmind (Joint Breaks) on this day.

Your release pace is glacial.

Erm, probably because I’m really self-critical. Like at the time when I made “If I” on the first EP that I released [2010’s Sketches (Black Acre)], I loved it. That’s probably the only song I’ve ever made where I felt like I’d completely finished it. But now when I listen to it, it sounds like it’s a bit of a mess. I don’t know if it’s like this for other people, but for me it’s rare that I can make something that I’m completely happy with. But the main point is to improve and learn more about music so, as long as I’m doing that with each release, then it’s fine: to just let go of things and see it all as a learning process.

“Pascal’s Chorus” on 2012’s San’en EP (Black Acre) was hailed by FACT as your best thing. How important are reviews?

With reviews, I think most people would like to say it’s separate to how happy you are with something but, of course, it has an impact. It’s the same with anything you create. Part of that is knowing if you get good reviews in certain publications that it’ll be good for your career. It’s hard not to get involved in that whole different side of things once you’ve started making a living off it. You’ve got to become aware of all those things. Yeah, “Pascal’s Chorus” is the one I can still listen to now.

How involved are you in “the scene”?

It’s better to stay out of it, I think. I think it’s quite easy to get caught up in that whole world and ending up only friends with people to do with music.

Can’t hurt for picking up tricks of the trade, though?

Oh yeah [laughs]. I’d probably know a lot more about how to make music. My knowledge is pretty limited, as most of it is self-taught. Like a few days ago, I discovered a sampler feature on Ableton which means I can load up sounds over the whole keyboard. I always knew you could do it but I didn’t realize how. And it’s high quality, so now I’ll be able to use a greater variety of sounds on future releases.

You just got back from your first stint in Australia.

Probably the most memorable gig was Adelaide [laughs]. It was a small gig — there were only about 40 or 50 people there. But towards the end of the set the entire crowd started taking their t-shirts off and rushed the DJ booth to try to take my t-shirt off as well [laughs]. It’s quite a small place so I think people were just really excited that there was someone not from Adelaide there.

What’s next?

I’m really excited to be playing at Melt, Sónar and Dour for the first time this summer. I’ve only played in Berlin a couple of times before as well, so my Gretchen gig will be exciting. I’ve also just finished two singles [“Jackal Youth” and “Trapped”]; they’re probably more “dancefloor” than anything I’ve ever made before and will be out in July. With the album, I want it to sound more organic than what I’ve done before. There will be a few vocal tracks on it, but I’d ideally like to use just one female vocalist.


Erm, well by using real sounds. When I played in Melbourne, a DJ gave me a playlist of his favorite soul records which I’ve been enjoying listening to. The thing when you produce is that whenever you’re listening to modern music, you end up analyzing the production techniques a lot of the time and it’s harder to enjoy the music. Whereas with old soul records or even newer beatless stuff like Tim Hecker, I find I can listen to it without even thinking about what’s going on and purely enjoy it as a whole and stop trying to pick it apart. That’s the music I enjoy most.

Appetite May 10, 23:30 | Gretchen, Obentrautstraße 19-21, U-Bhf Hallesches Tor