Today I’m drawn back to a work I originally released in 1996 on the Chreode label, a tiny and quite wonderfully obscure label run by the late John Everall. I’m grateful that I’ve somehow held tightly onto my archives, back to recordings from the earliest days of portable tape recorders in my bedroom, aged 10 years old. Quite literally trawling the archives!

A pile of CDs on a wooden floor. The image is in black and white of an flower with the words SCANNER printed all around

Back in the mid 1990s life seems quite different in many ways. We weren’t connected through screens and mobile technologies at nearly the level of saturation that we experience today. To watch a film, beyond your local cinema, meant a visit to a Blockbuster video or even local corner shop. People would meet in record shops and excitedly talk about new music. For anyone in London, Fatcat Records in Covent Garden was the epicentre of this independent cultural interaction, and I would meet so many like-minded souls, and just stand there listening to music in a show for hours!

My listening habits back in 1996

My own listening habits were varied. Indeed, I just put this mix together of music that I was listening to around the time of making this release. It features toe-tapping music from Brian Eno & Jah Wobble, Basic Channel, The Orb, Meat Beat Manifesto, Coil, Unkle and many others.

John Everall and I would engage in extended playful telephone conversations, where he’d always refer to me as ‘old boy’ in his charming old school manner, coughing in between the endless supply of cigarettes balanced on his lips. We shared close friends in the British band Coil and it was always fun exchanging stories between Geff/John Balance, John and myself, endlessly punning on language and words. Then one day he simply asked, why don’t you make a record for me?

So, there I was sitting on the floor on my all black living room in Battersea, South London, with my Fostex 280 four-track tape recorder and playing my tatty cheap Yamaha DX100 keyboard. I would record directly to cassette tape, manipulate the speed, adding noises and sounds, introducing found voices from my ever dependable radio scanner, and adding randomly picked up mobile telephone conversations in the locality.

How to repair equipment by not treating it with any respect

In his ever charming way John was able to encourage remixes from Mick Harris (Scorn/Napalm Death) and Bill Laswell (Material/legendary music producer). Mick and I had met a few times at live shows and I vividly remember him showing me how to ‘repair’ a piece of gear that didn’t work at a gig of mine. He marched across to the table, picked it up, shook it vigorously, slammed it down hard on the table top, exclaiming, ‘there you go mate, don’t treat it with any respect!’ And lo and behold, it worked again! I would not recommend trying this at home folks 😀

I later met up with Bill Laswell in New York City outside St Mark’s Bookshop, a truly magnificent place to discover new publications, long before real-estate and the growth of online sales devoured them. I recall just talking on the street, unable to get as far as inside a cafe as we were so engaging in conversation, getting increasingly colder as time passed.

A Compact disc cover and disc lie flat on a white surface, displacing the subdued artwork, black and white, with a flower and the word Scanner repeated over the artwork and CD

I recently returned to the material at the invitation of Vladimir Manevtsov who runs the Russian label Aquarellist, who wanted to release Trawl in a limited edition of 300 copies on CD in a 4-panel soft touch laminated digipak. Why not I thought? And why not add some unreleased material to it to make it extra appealing. Returning to the original tapes I was able to create two new works using the identical sounds, but using the technology of the present day, which was quite a thrill.

The original photos for the sleeve

For the artwork I also returned to some solarised photos I took back in the 1980s that seem to match the mood of the recordings. Here’s an exclusive look at them here.

Three solarised images of flowers, two in black and white, one in colour. Very abstract and strange

Origins of the name Trawl

As to why Trawl? Well, I’ve long been an admirer of the experimental British writer BS Johnson and he published a book with the same name in 1966. The novel describes a challenging three-week journey aboard a deep-sea fishing trawler, which apparently Johnson himself undertook to prepare for the book. It’s an isolating and strange world, but the emotional character of the main protagonist can be mapped in his ups and downs just like a trawler, rising and falling. I found this concept fascinating and so choose to use this very name.

Let me close by reproducing the most ridiculous press I pulled together for the release at the time. Read entirely with a sense of irony please.

Trawl is a virtual alter collaboration of Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner. In stark contrast to the scanned ethernet soundscapes of the Scanner material, the work of Trawl focuses on the bass and the swinging hips music of the younger generation. Put down that Semiotexte pamphlet, wash up those coffee cups and throw on your rhythm clogs for a bout of hedonistic spinal assault. 

Muscle-bound, chart-bound and a heaving body of pure sensuality” is what the press have called Trawl. Try and imagine a future with music as cool as a 60 watt bulb and as smooth as a super-models legs and you are somewhere near the work of Trawl.

Pick up the full release on Bandcamp.

In memory of John Everall of Sentrax who kindly supported this release. RIP you fine man.