Hertz So Good
MAIN Brings Its Meticulous Noise To AmericaTHE FIRST THING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MAIN is that the British duo of Robert Hampson and Scott Dawson is deadly serious about its music. This extends to all aspects of packaging and artwork. HERTZ, a.k.a. Hz, (on Beggars Banquet) comes in an elaborate fold-out, double-digipak with an artsy booklet decorated with extreme close-ups of what appear to be mineral strata. (the original UK edition was issued as six seperate EPs, plus a box for housing the set.) This seriousness certainly applies to the recording of the percussion-free, guitar-generated, heavily treated sounds; the pair has a reputation for fussing over the final product for months on end, sometimes having as many as 48 guitar overdubs meticulously arranged and layered in the mix for a single track.
The second thing you need to know about Main is that Hampson and Dawson don't take themselves too seriously. This is, after all, a duo that playfully drops Sun Ra quotes like "drumless space" and "stellar evolution" on its sleaves-and, on the back of Hz, sends props out to NBA stars Patrick Ewing and Muggsy Bogues!
"We're big basketball fans," says Hampson, via phone from London. "Scott's the Charlotte fan and I'm a Knicks fan. And no, we're not the kind of people that just sit over in the corner and be obsessed and miserable. I mean, we've gotta have fun and chill out, too. You know, people take our little things too seriously--'Ah ha! "drumless space!"' They should lighten up a bit. It's all a bit of fun. I love dropping a clue once in while."
>Hammpsons been dropping clues with Main since about 1990, releasing a slew of provocative, out-there records. (Incedently, the just-issued, UK-only ORR, credited to Hampson, Bruce Gilbert and Paul Kendall, dates from '90 and offers a sort of missing-link peek at the Hampson timeline.) From '86 to '90, Hampson and Dawson earned a bit of pop-stardom in psychedelic brain-throbsters Loop; perhaps as a reaction to that fame, Main has become a refuge for them. And a departure, for each Main record has drifted further and further from the pop mainstream. With Hz, the group has arrived at what Britain's The Wire magazine astutely describes as "the aural equivalent of an isolation tank. "When I suggest to Hampson that his densely textured music is the ultimate surround sound for adventurous guitar freaks, he agrees.
"We don't approach anything in a traditional manner when we're creating pieces of music," he says. "That's the whole thing, really, to take this icon-the guitar-out of context as not being this rock-stable-reference. It should be distorted and contorted and put in different contexts, really. With the (Hz) EPs, the analogy I always use is that there's this really huge mansion and you have a Walkman on, and basically every hall or room you went into was a different enviroment. And the rapid shifts in the music tones were that way of expressing it, of the way it is like walking around and you can shift in your own space, within different enviroments. That was the reasoning behind the six seperate EPs."
Serious iconoclasts, or maybe just bored with the usual rock cliches, Main hopes to reach its growing American fanbase this fall. "Hopefully," says Hampson, "we'll hook up with Labradford and take it on the road as a package, promote it as an 'Evening Of Main And Labradford' and maybe just a sympathetic DJ along as well. Not just a normal gig, not even dictate a running order...I don't think people know how to act at a live show now, how to appreciate a live performance. Certainly with Main, it has to be listened to. If you don't, you miss the whole point of it. The whole reasoning behind Main is the "density of sound' and the little things going on in the background, which are integral. It's not one of those things you can put on and wave your hands at friends. [Laughing] Unless they all take large quantities of drugs and sit back in the bedroom!"
Originally appeared in Magnet magazine, August/September 1996, Issue #24
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