It has been a while that we wanted to make an interview with Merv, finally it happened ! A lot of interesting information in here ! Thank you for your time, Merv , it was a pleasure. Interview is made by Gagarin Project.

Hello Merv! First of all, thank you for accepting our invitation to this interview and finding time to answer our questions.

What’s up, What’s happening in your life ?

– Hey mate…my pleasure!
It’s probably easier to ask me what’s NOT happening in my life! Life, for me, is always full on and chaotic..just the way I like it..I am currently in India and it’s one week to go before my first main gig here, in Goa, a new festival called ‘Hilltopia’..any excuse to escape the brutal English winter!

For people that don’t follow you closely on social media, can you resume what were you doing during the past couple of years?

– pretty much doing the same as I’ve been doing the past 30 years..experimenting with all kinds of music in between gigging like crazy all over the world.The last couple of years have been interesting though as I’ve been working on some different collaboration projects, not only in the studio but also doing live gigs with them.I’m still delving deep into the world of modular synthesizers which keeps expanding and growing at a crazy rate.Loads of wacky experimental modules are being produced all the time so its a dream for me as I’m always looking to make unheard alien’s an endless quest!

What are your inspirations in life a part of music ?

– Life itself is an inspiration..I never get bored with anything I’m involved with..I don’t sit around wasting time…I’m very hyper and have endless energy…for my music, literally anything can inspire me to imagination always worked overtime, probably due to the fact of growing up in the 70’s where we only had our imaginary worlds to play within…no computer games, hardly any TV channels – information came from books or other people passing it had to piece a lot of things together yourself, inside your own head.So when I create or hear even one or two sounds, I’m already hearing a whole track in my may not come out the same as I had imagined it but it’s usually something that’s at least an interesting workable piece of music.

Your musical journey began with Frenzy, a band far removed from your music today. Is there anything from those days that is still a part of you?

– Haha! Man you have been digging deep into my past!
My musical journey actually started way before that..In 1979 I was in a school punk band at first, playing the drums..that didnt go anywhere but a year later I went to college and my main class tutor happened to also be the music teacher.He saw my enthusiasm for music and so trusted me with the key to the music room every lunchtime.In that room were various instruments like a drum kit, amps, microphones and a synthesiser which became the one thing that I became obsessed with – it was a Korg MS20, a semi modular analogue synth from the 70’s, complete with instruction manual and some patch cables.Having grown up on a diet of weird 1950’s to 1970’s Science Fiction movies, as soon as I heard this things making wobbly basses and squelchy acidic noises I was hooked!That coupled with what was happening in music at the time was a life changing moment..I was already listening to bands like Kraftwerk, Gary Numan and Depeche Mode so discovering a synth was like finding God!So while my mates were playing football every lunchtime, or chasing girls, I was sat alone in a room making subsonic wacky UFO noises..oh well!
My musical evolution then completely veered off on a tangent as I joined a covers band on vocals and guitar and began gigging regularly most weekends doing long sets of covers that usually included stopping for a break while people played Bingo!We were kind of a novelty act cos we were all very young {9 – 14 years old} but could play the stuff really well..this really was the period where I learned a lot about musical structures, chords, pitching, harmonies etc..almost like a chef has to learn the classic cookery techniques before trying his own thing..
This band took me up to the time where the teenage angst was setting in and to when I left school..I started working at my fathers engineering factory but tragedy struck when I crushed my left index finger in a hydraulic press and was rushed to hospital.I lost most of the finger and was totally heartbroken when I realised that this was the end of my guitar playing days.A few weeks later I bumped into a school friend who was making psychobilly punk music and beginning to tour around Europe as this scene was growing pretty large..he asked if I could still play the drums with my injury, which was something I hadn’t even considered or tried, so I had a go and was immediately flying around the kit like a crazy man!And so followed endless drives all over Europe, visiting weird cities and living in the backs of transit vans and cheap motels..and that was my first real taste of ‘being in a band’ doing original material to huge audiences and learning the disicplines of touring..and to answer your original question this is how I first felt the power you need to deliver to a crowd, to entertain them, to work your ass to death on stage and always deliver every ounce of energy in your body into your performance..something I carry to this day..if someone see’s you having a bloody fantastic time on stage while you deliver your music then how can they not enjoy the show?

What do you remember from the early Planet Dog days and the Megadog parties?

– not a fackin’ lot! {laughs!}
– It was actually a very exciting time – electronic music was evolving and expanding at an incredible sounds and styles came along all the time..artists all sounded individual and one was copying eachother even though we all took inspiration from eachother..the parties were epic..ferocious long all nighters with amazing line ups and fresh cutting edge look back at some of the gig posters now and you cannot believe some of the line ups! Aphex Twin, Orbital, Underworld, Eat Static, all together, as the soundtrack for the whole night..the mainstream press were also noticing the scene suddenly growing and all of our releases were starting to hit the national charts! And all this while the government jumped in to start passing new laws to stop ‘any gatherings with electronic repetitve beats’ from happening…crazy times..but I realised very early on that I wanted to do much more than just make loud thumping 12” singles for DJ’s to play..I was yearning to make full length explore different tempi and to explore the capabilities of the instruments as computers were becoming very advanced and opening up huge worlds of possibilities to the ‘bedroom producer’ generation.

You have a new album just released can you tell us a little about it ?

– ‘Last Ship to Paradise’ happened because Interchill Records approached me about doing a follow up album to ‘Back to Earth’ that they did with me around 2007/8..I’ve always loved and respected Andrew from that label and had done many individual tracks for their various compilations over the years.But we both felt that doing another full length album together was a good idea and the right time to do it.He was also very interested in the modular music we were making so experimenting with more downtempo stuff was a great experience while at the same time, learning loads about patching the modulars, trying endless experiments etc…

As you might now, we have featured it in catalog, so basically we think that this album can be played at chillout areas at festivals and in many other places.

You might agree that there’s still no clear differentiation between words chillout. Downtempo, psydub, ambient, psychill and psybient.

– Thank God! I don’t like things that get compartmentalised..order..labels..brands…psychedelia is all about breaking down barriers! I love it when I hear a new piece of music and I am – challenged..I have no reference point..its fresh! New! Repetition bores my inspiration away..

What kind of chill music do you prefer ?

I dont have any specific preferences..all depends on the mood I’m in..I grew up listening to sooo many different kinds of music as there was always music being played in my parents house..which probably explains my adversity to sticking to one genre or style..I like variety..I like the way music changes your mood, makes you reflect..triggers memories and emotions..its alchemy!

What about psychill and psybient do you listen any ?

Again these genre names…so limiting..I listen to weird, mad and crazy psychedelic electronica..all kinds..and I have still never lost my passion for World /Ethnic Music..I’ve been listening to that since the mid 80s..African, Arabic, Eastern European Gypsy stuff…anything thats interesting or provokes a reaction..Even better is the mixing of electonics into those traditional styles…I first heard that done in the 80s by bands like Suns of Arqa, West India Company, Najma, Cheb Khaled, African Headcharge etc

Both you and Joie have said in the past that psytrance artists aren’t daring enough. Do you feel the same about psychedelic downtempo?

For about the last 6 years I have been telling a lot of people that the psy downtempo scene is where all the interesting production and ideas are happening!Its where I’m hearing the best experimentation and production in my opinion..unpredictable music, interesting crossover styles etc..this kind of approach is what keeps a scene healthy and more importantly pushes the music forwards..I never get stuck in the past…But I never lose my respect for the past..its there as inspiration, always, because thats where I came from..but some people just get trapped in the past…or get stuck copying each-other which I find completely insane..when I first joined or formed bands we had our obvious heroes and idols…but they were there to inspire us and to make us create something new from that..the last thing I ever wanted to do was sound like a band I loved..pointless…if you have no identity in the music scene then how can you expect people to even remember you? Thats why I never minded doing exactly the opposite to the rest of the herd…Baaaaah!

What does the Strontium Dogs album you’re making with Martian Arts sound like?

Radiation soaked acid glitchy dirty mutated acid music..inspired by acid house and techno but again, our own twist on it…dragging old influences and inspirations into the 21st century! (I hope!) The emphasis is also on the modular side..both Nektarios and myself live for finding new interesting synth sounds and we work in quite similar ways…the music just pours out so easily when we work together..

Weirdness, apart from creativity, is the one constant element in your music, regardless of the genre. This seems to be the case with a large number of UK psychedelic artists, from Syd Barrett to 90s psytrance to Shpongle and beyond. Is it a cultural trait?
I’m not sure you would call it a trait per se..its more of the place you end up as a musician, if you have travelled down ‘that path’..its amazing how you meet so many like minded artists in the scene who have all ended up in that special place via their various paths in life..but I think a lot of the psychedelic UK artists, especially from the past, have all had that spark of English eccentricity about them..unique one offs like Syd barrett, Brian Jones, Jimmy Page etc all made their own mark and pushed the scene into new dimensions..expanded minds..brought new sounds etc..
For my music, the ‘weirdness’ isn’t a pre conceived thing thats in a specific menu to ‘add later’ to every track…this stuff naturally evolves in the tracks as a result of experimenting with sounds and textures…to add layers..colors…moods…

In your case how does the process of recording usually go? What are the best conditions to produce music in your case?

I don’t really have any set ‘method of working’…I actually start completely from scratch for every single track I write.Which means I don’t use an old drum kit and reload it…I don’t use the same synth sounds again…I build every track from nothing..even more so since since using the modular equipment as you have to literally make every patch from scratch and theres no way of saving anything..this I like! Working this way, it means a new track can start in a variety of ways for example: just a drum beat or just a simple many cases though, a tune will probably evolve from a weird sample or simple synth loop…I spend a lot of time just messing with synths or drums and recording improvised chunks of sound..then I go through those checking for interesting little loops or ‘a vibe’..

You’ve said that Eat Static started out with you and Joie “necking a few and seeing how silly [you] could get with synths.” Are psychedelics still a part of the writing process?

Or even live? I have heard those things are very bad for you so I usually only have a cup of tea and a biscuit before going on stage…(Now SOME things in life should remain a secret!) You worked with several labels.

   It’s interesting to know what usually influences your decision when choosing a label for a record ?

Actually, I would say the labels usually choose me..I have always tried to stay independent and be in the lovely position of doing what the hell I like!Label wise AND musically! This is even more important to me as I still love to write many kinds of music so the label choice really depends on what I am inspired  to write at that time…

  Do you listen to other psy producers ?
  Anybody impressed you lately ?

I’m always listening to and looking for, new a fan and not just as ‘a DJ’..I have been an avid music collector since around 1972! Before most of your fans were born I expect! I was given a Radiogram by my Grandmother when I was about 6 years old..a Radiogram, for those that don’t know, is a record player housed in a large wooden cabinet, usually in lovely oak or walnut like a piece of furniture and it also had a radio built in and a mono speaker..some also had a storage space inside for your vinyl records..the spindle to load the vinyl on was very long and you could load 7 or 8 records at once on there and when one finished the next one would drop..on top of receiving that, my parents had quite an extensive record collection so I’d spend hours trawling through 100s of 7” singles and albums..I always seemed to prefer the weirder tunes…B sides were more interesting to me..that has stuck with me to this day..I remember the records that made the most impact on me were the ones that had an atmosphere…they sounded moody or unique..tracks like ‘Pipeline’ by The Chantays or ‘Take Five’ by Dave Brubeck..I also loved the early, more psychedelic tracks like ‘See Emily Play’ and ‘Arnold Layne’ by Pink Floyd..also, a really big influence was Brian Eno while he was with Roxy Music in the early 70s..that was probably my first experience of hearing the EMS style synth and the use of weird tapes and ambiences in the background of relatively normal songs…this clash always fascinated me and affects what I do now still to this day… As for the more recent Psy downtempo producers that I’ve heard, my favorite, without question, would be all of the projects by Greg Hunter.. Waveshaper, Old Mu, Dubsahara, Subsurfing, Slak Magic, Az-Ra etc..all are of the highest standard and are deeply layered with textures and soundscapes and most have a tinge of the Middle East which most people will know, I am deeply fond of music from those regions..I finally got to know Greg properly a couple of years back and hadn’t realised that he was a massive fan of my other band ‘Ozric Tentacles’ in the 80’s and that he had also been in a festival type band that were playing several of the events that the Ozrics were also doing in the 80s.. so we kinda travelled the same path to get to where we both are now..other producers I respect are Seb Taylor with Hibernation and Kaya project, Richard Devine, Bill Laswell, Eitan Reiter, Robbert Heijnen, System 7, Julian Lecoq, Scann-Tec, Trente Moller, Alwoods, Black Dog, Plaid, Rip Off Artist, Spooky, AFX, Tripswitch, Solar Fields, Carbon based Lifeforms, Sahale, Zen Racoon, Flembaz, Speedy J, Higher Intelligence Agency, Legion of Green Men and Mogwai…there’s countless other tracks too that I have but have no clue as to who they are!

 What tendencies in psychedelic music do you see nowadays?

My main gripe is the amount of producers who are happy to just copy eachother and follow some universal formula..sharing track templates and all sharing the same synth patches…madness! Its the quickest way to destroy any of your own personality in a track..who the hell wants to be a sheep as part of a herd? Go do something unique! Take risks! Create something fresh and forward thinking! (I’ll stop now to keep my blood pressure down! Nurse! Oxygen please!!)

Questions from your Fans and our readers:

What inspired his fascination with UFOs? Has he ever seen a UFO himself?

I grew up in the South West of England right in the centre of all the ancient Neolithic stone circles and man made temples..I saw my first crop circle when I was 11..I grew up on 50s/60s/70s Science Fiction movies (ie when they were good!) All these things affected me at an early age..I always felt quite isolated from the Human I didn’t really belong… I saw a UFO in the 90s while traveling home from a gig..a proper ‘close encounters’ style sighting..with 2 other scared the shit outta me to be honest!haha! The music is always happy and fun.

Never thought to experiment with the dark side of the static?

Have you listened to the last album I made? ‘Last Ship to Paradise’ was certainly NOT happy and fun considering I wrote it while going through a divorce, 2 kidneys packed up, a suicide attempt and then the death of my mother…all these emotions were present within the tracks on that album… how was psychill music scene in 1994-1995 ? It was all just called ‘Ambient’ around that time..chillout rooms at raves were still relatively new but some great music was around..people like Mixmaster Morris and Pete Namlok were releasing great chill music as was Biosphere and Black Dog and also labels like Apollo.. (some tracks from his album Implant, and tracks by Astralasia and Banco de Gaia )

How does Mr. Merv think, did they create the whole genre “psychedelic chillout” in 1994 in UK? or maybe genre was born earlier in psychedelic rock times, or maybe later in TIP and Twisted era?

We were actually writing electronic chilled tracks in 1987 and 1988 before we became Eat Static..we came from the psychedelic underground scene in the UK so our inspirations were coming from the 70s psy classics like Gong, Hawkwind and Can..we never sat thinking of the style or creating genres..we just loved our psy music and did our own versions of it..mushroom tea was also responsible for many a wayward session..

I know Eat Static mainly from Goa-trance music so how they ended up doing downtempo/dub/chill album? I understood that it’s done entirely with modular synthesizers so what kind of process is that and how they ended doing so compared to old setup (and what kind setup was the old)?

We didn’t ‘end up’ doing chill and downtempo music..if you listen to any of our albums you will hear that every single album has a chilled section philosophy was always to make albums that took you on a whole journey..a mixture of emotions and grooves…its been there from the beginning.. Using the modular set up has been very inspiring and took me back to the joys of using analogue equipment again..computers have made people very lazy…I had even become guilty of that myself..until the day I suddenly threw my mouse across the room, a few years back, while trying to write some automation track and I had to ask myself ‘what the fuck am I doing here?’ I then dragged all my old analogue synths back out, crippled myself crawling around the studio floor for hours, plugging endless jack leads back in but then once I got back to physically playing and doing synth overdubs as a manual live performance again, the music suddenly sprang back into life again and I started to sound exactly like Eat Static again! That was actually the exact time that Eurorack modular was surfacing and nudging its nose into the big wide world..I started to explore what modules were being made out there (via advice from Benji Vaughn actually!) and found companies like Make Noise that made things called ‘The Wogglebug’ and non linear sequencers like ‘The Rene’..for me it was a revelation cos it seemed like I could finally build my own synthesizer! I then happened to be in the right place at the right time and managed to get hold of an E-MU modular..less than 100 were made and it dates back to I actually then built a ‘hybrid’ modular..half E-MU and half eurorack..this has been growing and expanding for 5 years now and its become a MONSTER..40 odd oscillators, over 10 different filters…countless VCAs and Egs..and every-time I’m using it, it just sounds…alive…..alien….

Are we going to see and hear Eat Static playing next summer in festival chill-out stages?

How could I not? As much as I love blasting it out on a main stage playing the psy trance stuff, I’ve always preferred performing the live Chill stuff..there’s a lot more space for actually playing stuff on top and for experimenting..I also have started having a few guests joining me on stage for chill sets like at the last Boom festival where Murat Ertel from a Turkish band called Babazula came on to play electric those kinda things! I’ve also started other projects like ‘Tentacles of Static’ with Ed Ozric and ‘Shpongle Static’ with Simon Posford.

Tell us about your latest release with Shpongle. How did idea came along ? Was it planned ? Did you do some repetition / rehersals ?

The idea came from Wegha Andras at Ozora Festival..every year when we discuss the next Ozora we brainstorm possible collab ideas..sometimes I suggest things to him and vice versa..last year he asked me about a collab with Simon Posford and told me he had already asked Simon and he was up for it! So we decided to each give each other 5 or 6 tracks each..shpongle ones for me..static ones for him..we decided NO RULES and we could each do what the fuck we wanted to to each-others tunes..i kicked it off with a mix of ‘BEIJA FLOR’ and straight away I could tell this was going to work as Simons speciality is that mid range melodic and voicey stuff whereas my speciality was the pounding, heavier drum styles and percussion..we also decided to not be too snobby and ‘artisty’ and choose well known classics of ours rather than obscure weird tracks..the results were fantastic but what was really special was that the tracks were all prepared for a live concert rather than for an the tracks were great fun and good to improvise with while we performed it at Ozora..the vibe in the crowd was also amazing cos no one knew what the hell was going to included! We recorded it just in case it was ok and afterwards we thought this had to be released..cos it captured a very special energy and magic…its been released this week on Twisted Records so – ‘Kids! Go buy a copy! Support the underground! Support the artists so we can continue to feed and melt your brains! – I just wanna say – Massive love to everyone who has supported Eat Static and all my music/imperfections for the past 30 years! It means everything!Stay high n Stay gooooood…. – Alien over and out….

Thanks for your time! Any words/wishes for readers ?

Stay true to who you are! Never compromise! Do everything 100% from the heart! Look after your planet! Love your brothers and sisters! Just….CARE!