We chat to System 7's Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy

Established stars of dance music give us the lowdown on their latest news..

System 7's Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy 'have come in for their fair share of flak and praise from the critics, but the fact is they have a durability that most dance artists would give their eye teeth for, not to mention a loyal fanbase' (RA) that continues to see them headline festivals and events including Glastonbury, Japan's Fuji Rock Festival and Italy’s Sonica Festival. System 7 talk about their new ‘X-Port’ album which is simultaneously released with Mirror System’s ‘N-Port’ album on A-Wave Records. System 7 launch these LPs with a Live show at the Jazz Cafe in London on Wednesday October 28th.

From Steve Hillage's early presence in Planet Gong and the revered ambient opus "Rainbow Dome Musick", there is a cutting experimental edge that runs through System 7’s work including championing and creatng early on with Detroit's Techno godfather Derrick May on the 'Mysterious Traveller' and seminal 'Fire' and 'Water's dual albums, which had a marked influence on the electronic artists that followed - check out Sheffield's Warp label for Black Dog, B12, Autechre, and AFX.

Many of dance music's leading visionaries have also collaborated and remixed System 7 including Richie Hawtin, A Guy Called Gerald, Carl Craig, Dubfire , Laurent Garnier and of course their work with The Orb on the classic 40-minute No 1 single 'Blue Room' and 'Little Fluffy Clouds'. And beyond dance music Steve Hillage produced the groundbreaking early 80s Simple Minds albums 'Sons & Fascination' and 'Sister Feelings Call', which featured their classic instrumental Themes For Great Cities, which would later become a defining Balearic anthem championed by the likes of Paul Oakenfold and Danny Rampling.

Your latest simultaneous album project seems to have a great deal in common with the Point 3 albums and was this a conscious nod to those albums or did you just have loads of material?

We started off this particular project on a long extended trip to Hong Kong and Bali in 2012. We brought some equipment with us for writing music and came up with some good ideas for both Mirror System and System. When we came back we were planning to do make two wholly separate albums to be finished and released at different times, but then we started thinking about how were close to an anniversary of Point 3 Fire and Water. One day we just thought hey! let’s do both albums at the same time and release them simultaneously! And let’s include some tracks where we make a Mirror System version and a System 7 version of the same central musical idea. That’s how we came up with the tracks on the two albums where there is an “N-Port Version” on Mirror System and an “X-Port Version” on System 7, and this is the closest parallel to Fire & Water. But the anniversary is 21 years (3 x 7), so that’s a pretty long time. We’d very much like to think that we’ve progressed in that time. We’re not in any way seeing these new albums as a kind of Fire and Water re-tread – we’re just using the Fire and Water concept as an element in what we feel is a cool way of presenting the full spectrum of our current musical world.

How much extra/advance preparation goes into your shows and how willing are you to compromise and go more commercial if it’s a question of the crowd being more mainstream than your usual audiences?

We can only be ourselves and provide an uplift with our music. The superficial style of the crowd doesn’t matter – we are all human beings and we wish to generate powerful positive energy. We always prepare and rehearse our sets and we try to make each one a bit different, and we like to try out new tracks at a show before finalising them for a record. But we also leave an element of improvisation and flexibility in our set – it’s not all meticulously mapped out and as we are both good musical players as well as DJ/Producers we enjoy to invent new things on stage.

As DJs & Live artists, how important is performance for you (dancing behind the decks, putting your hands in the hair etc?)

It’s important to connect with the crowd, and we always like to have some lights on the crowd so we can see them. Yes sure it’s a performance – we certainly don’t hide behind our equipment – that’s no good at all. We have to animate and excite the people both with our sound and with our presence. But above all it’s important to be natural – to just be our selves.

What about technical trickery: what do you use and how important are DJ tricks such as looping and layering/ 3 or 4 deck mixing etc?)

With System 7 live we have developed our own quite sophisticated setup that allows us to combine our live musicianship with DJ techniques. I use Ableton Live and my own personal guitar rig. Miquette has a Logic rig, her iPad, and live synths like Nord Lead and the wonderful EMS Synthi A (an iconic item from the 70s). It’s all mixed together in a DJ mixer – either a Pioneer DJM900 or an Allen and Heath Xone 92. I also like to use the cross fader for rapid fades with my guitar.

What single piece of technology that's come out in the last 5 years had singly influenced the System 7 sound?

The iPad.

Describe the difference between Mirror System and System 7?

Mirror System is focused on the chilled and downtempo element of our sound. The first Mirror System album was mostly deep chill, with a few more groovy elements such as our moody reworking of Stella by Jam and Spoon, which actually got us into contact with Jam El Mar, who has since collaborated with System 7. We’ve also developed a style of Mirror System tech-house DJing, which works really well in a so full-on way. It’s basically soft tech-house imbued with the Mirror System feeling. Indeed there is now a point between 123 and 125 bpm where Mirror System and System 7 can cross over. System 7 of course goes into much harder dance-floor areas.

Where did the name System 7 come from and does it have a strong meaning ??

The most important bit is the number 7 which for us is a magic number. The System bit came from the French slang phrase ‘systeme D’ or ‘systeme demerde’ which means living by your wits, improvising, ducking and diving. We combine the two.

You have sold over 270,000 albums and over 85,000 singles, and do you have a favourite System 7 track that never leaves your set ?? What are your proudest musical moments?

‘AlphaWave’ has been our biggest and most consistent track. We¹ve had quite a few musical moments of which we are proudest:- ‘Space Bird’ going to Number One on Beatport was one : being publicly congratulated by a Tibetan Lama in his closing speech at the Miyajima Sacred Music Festival for making ‘techno music that feels a bit like our mantras’ was another.

What are the major influences such as key people, DJ's, producers or clubs etc on your musical career?

My number one all time musical influence is Jimi Hendrix. Meeting and working with Alex Paterson, Derrick May, Carl Craig, Laurent Garnier and others has had a profound influence. We’ve never had the opportunity to work with Jeff Mills, but he also has been a big influence. Spending time in Ibiza at both the big clubs like Pacha and Space and the small clubs like Underground has been big for us, as has playing at massive trance parties like Universo Paralello in Brazil and Boom in Portugal. More recently spending time in Berlin has had a major effect, and experiencing clubs like Berghain/Panorama Bar with DJs like Ben Klock has rocked our world!

Around at the birth of acid house, what inspired you then and continues to inspire you to make music?

We had an involvement with the dance/club scene from before acid house, partly through our numerous connections in the 70s and partly through my production work with early Simple Minds etc. The Simple Minds track “Themes For Great Cities’ which I produced and mixed became a bit of a ‘balearic’ hit in Ibiza in 87 but the acid house explosion definitely pushed things over the edge for us. Our friends who made the Turbosound sound systems started providing rigs for a lot of the big rave parties and we started going to more dance events, which had a definite effect on us and meeting Alex Paterson in 1989 was a definite catalyst. Also some tracks like ‘Sueno Latino’ (based on a sample from our friend Manuel Gottsching) and Derrick May¹s ‘Strings of Life’ and ‘It Is What It Is’ had a major effect. We met Derrick in 1990.

What was your first break - was it your first big record and did it set you on your path?

I wouldn’t say we really had a big break at System 7, but it was a good moment when Virgin Records in 1989, after pestering me for years to make another rock album, agreed to support our new dance music project. Meeting Alex Paterson and Derrick May at that time was also important because we created enduring relationships that last to this day from which we learned a lot and made some great tracks.

You seem to be part of a global underground of like-mindedproducers. DJ's and promoters whose networking keeps you all busy much of the time, and is this true and how did you forge your international links/friends??

It¹s an organic thing, starting in the 1970s through our links to the German psychedelic music scene (Can, Neu, Kraftwerk, Manuel Gottsching etc), to Glastonbury Festival and other aspects of the UK festival movement, and to the Turbosound sound system inventors (now called Funktion One). These a major roots of the UK ‘rave’ and dance music scene that has spread across
the globe.

Can you tell us 7 things about System 7 we might not know or we should know

1. People think our name System 7 was taken from the name of the Apple operating system software in the early 90s. This isn¹t true. We had the name before that.
2. We had to change our name to 777 for a while because we had a complaint from a rock band called System Seven ¬ but they faded away after a while and we reverted back to the name System 7.
3. The first ever System 7 live show was also the first ever Orb show (Linford Studios 1990).
4. We were working with Alex Paterson of The Orb on 11th September 2001 in the studio. At the actual moment the towers were falling we made a special music jam to try and bring good energy into the world.
5. Our label name A-Wave signifies ‘AlphaWave’, our biggest ever track.
6. Jam El Mar (Jam and Spoon), who we worked with on the ‘Phoenix’ album, was a fan of Gong and The Steve Hillage Band when he was young in the late 70s.
7. Our first ever System 7 Japanese video was in 1992 for the song ‘Freedom Fighters’, with Japanese singer Monday Michiru and Manchester rapper Aniff Cousins (a friend of A Guy Called Gerald)

How does it feel to have been on top of the scene for the twenty years or so that you have been working as System 7?

We love what we do and as long as we keep having fun, learning new things, and meeting interesting people we will continue onwards and upwards.

System 7’s ‘X-Port’ album is simultaneously released with Mirror System’s ‘N-Port’ album and out now on A-Wave Records. System 7 and Mirror System’s Live dates are Wednesday October 28th at the Jazz Cafe, London; Saturday November 21st at Megadog 30th Anniversary Event at The Academy, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PR; Thursday 26th November at The Rescue Rooms, Masonic Place, Goldsmith Street, Nottingham and Friday November 27th at The Talking Heads, 320 Portswood Road, Southampton, SO17 2TD

Added on October 27, 2015
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