Interview by Helena Markos
Friday afternoon, in Stokes Croft, at the very heart of Bristol, next to the legendary “The Mild Mild West” Banksy graffiti, at the Canteen, I have an insightful chat with the artist Void Cells. Hailing from Latvia, Alex has been living in Bristol for about a year now and he has been actively involved in the city’s vibrant and versatile music scene.
In the light of his upcoming debut EP “Saturated Faces”, on Blind Allies, Alex has openly talked about his views on the contemporary dark sound, the Bristolian scene and the challenges artists face nowadays. Void Cells is delivering sounds that convey a wild romanticism, that evokes intense sensations and triggers unexplored territories; an amalgamation of salvage industrial textures and a dramatic synth dystopia.
T.O.P: Hi Alex! How has your journey into the music started and what would you say would be the highlight of it so far?
Void Cells: Hi, I can’t pinpoint a specific highlight until this point, because it was a small journey with its’ ups and downs, all of them were in a way highlights. If I had to choose a few,it would be back when I was 16 and I went to Riga, the capital of Latvia, for my first DJ set, where I met a few people from the local music scene. When I was 14 years old, I started playing at the school disco with my best friend and I was involved in other school activities that required DIY sound engineering skills and the basic knowledge of someone who plays music from a laptop. Back in the days, I was quite into heavy and trash metal, influenced by my elder brother who got his first tapes and CDs and brought them home for us to listen. I was also into d & b music, and this is how I got into dark d & b.
T.O.P: Do you feel you are carrying elements from your cultural identity into your music, even though you have been living in the UK for about 8 years now?
Void Cells: Yes, there are definitely some parts of my upbringing that influenced my music, especially the environment I grew up in. My early interests, the rawness of the surroundings and the melancholy of my childhood by the sea. My hometown Liepaja is well known as the Rock city of Latvia and it is recognised as a significant cultural spot in Latvia.
I was always surrounded by a certain rawness, such as abandoned second world war military buildings and forts, missile launch spots etc., all spread-out over the area where I grew up. These factors combined with my childhood minimalism, fostered a desire in me to reverse the entropy. Back then, industrial elements did not really exist and I have always felt that my environment is not loud enough, “it’s not screamy enough”, “it’s not metallic enough”…
T.O.P: Alex, we got to know you through your releases on prominent Latvian record label Blind Allies; Would you tell me a few things about this work?
Void Cells: I know the man behind the label for quite a while now, but we have only started collaborating very recently. We were some of the few who were interested in the more obscure sounds, such as electro, techno, ebm, as well as the purity of music creation through hardware; the relationship between a human and machines. Of course, there are plenty of other good artists in this genre in Latvia, it’s just that with Blind Allies there was an instant connection.
T.O.P: Is there any specific person, moment, experience that you feel have played a significant role for you, both as a person and as an artist?
Void Cells: Every person in my lifetime has played a role in some shape or form, maybe not all of them were positive but it all contributed to my sonic expression. I did Sound Engineering and Masters in Acoustics and this taught me not just to trust my guts but also to question everything around me; understanding that there is nothing such as right and nothing such as wrong and we are only limited by our imagination and social norms.
T.O.P: In a post – rave era, what do you feel are the biggest challenges and how do you deal with them?
Void Cells: The biggest challenge as well as the biggest advantage of the modern music scene is the plethora of opportunities for artists, which also creates huge competition.The freedom and ability to create music or any other art form pushes the boundaries of art resulting in a new artist from a different background appearing on a daily basis. Obviously, there is no such thing as bad music acoustically speaking. Some people get excited by car breaks, others by pop music and some by classical music. The sound itself is being translated in our brains and it’s impossible to make objective statements about something that is subjective.
However, nowadays, it feels like music only is not enough in the music industry. The image of the artist in terms of social media, high visibility and social activity, strong statements that are unrelated to music itself, contribute to the final product. Each person decides for themselves what is suitable for them…
T.O.P: Any upcoming releases, collaborations you would like to announce?
Void Cells: Early this year, I am releasing my first solo EP on Blind Allies, which includes a remix from the amazing Spanish duo NX1.
T.O.P: Any memorable event at which you performed and why?
Void Cells: This year I had a modular live performance, warming up for REKA. It was definitely a night to remember in all aspects.
T.O.P: Alex, how do you feel about the music scene here in Bristol?
Void Cells: It’ s widely known that Bristol has its own sound, which is highly influenced by bass music of any type. However, I have never experienced such a diversity of views anywhere else, which creates pluralism in the city’s musical expression. Bristol has a strong techno, electro/ebm scene, with a good number of promoters pushing the scene forward.
T.O.P: Which album or track would you suggest as a mind healer?
Void Cells: Although it might seem as a cliché to some, the first two albums of Burial played a major role in my life. Aesthetically speaking, they resonated the hardest in my teen years, thus they are my main choice for mind healing.
Video credits: Inconvinient Reality