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5Qs

Shadowy UK techno duo Dense & Pika talk studio processes and influences

By Dan Cole
dense pika

As of late there has been a multitude of talented young techno producers emerging from the UK—from Scuba all the way to Blawan. Setting the scene and changing the dynamic from the ever-present Berlin style, these young producers are turning the UK’s clubbing crowd back to the darkened sound of heavy beats.

Earlier this year, Dense & Pika dropped their first EP, Vomee, as a white label—and it immediately began to dominate the sets of many a DJ. Keeping their identities secret, the duo recently signed their latest record, “Crispy Duck,” to Scuba’s Hotflush imprint. We caught up them to inquire as to how they formulated their unique sound and what brought them to the defining Berlin-based techno and bass imprint.

Your productions are very full-bodied, with an extra emphasis on the kick in the mix. What is the reasoning behind this?

Our tracks come from long jam sessions in the studio on various bits of kit, recording the outcome and then editing afterwards. A lot of the time, things will be peaking into the red, but we don’t tend to pull them back. Lots of layering and side-chaining and re-recording things through outboard kit gives us a really full, crunchy sound. We never had a complete vision of how we want things to sound. There has been lots of messing around with things and using equipment the wrong way, distorting, etc., and then stumbling across things. Also, having two people on the kit, rather than one person, means you can create moments that you would not be able to create on your own—combinations of synths running though outboard that can only happen with two people at the controls. We find this process of making music hugely engaging and enjoyable.

Is there a particular piece of gear, or technique, you use to get this unique sound?

We have four outboard pedals: analog delay, low-pass filter, ring modulator, and a Murf that we run everything through, so this really warms up the productions. All the drums are very classic off the 909, so we try and keep our palette of sounds simple.

The “Buttplug” EP feels as though it’s making audio references to more classic techno and house. Was this the objective here?

We grew up listening to lots of old UK acid techno from labels like Pounding Grooves and Routemaster, and more classical techno like Jeff Mills and Surgeon, so this obviously has an influence on what we make together. There is also a big influence from old rave records from the ’90s, which have a certain audio aesthetic that can only come from hardware. Maybe it’s a combination of the three. Nothing is planned really, but obviously we touch on reference points that have inspired us in the past.

There are other contemporaries in the field making extremely killer techno at the moment (Blawan, etc.). What do you think has spurred this new generation of artists?

I don’t think anyone is trying to re-invent the wheel with this kind of techno. It’s just about having fun with machines and laying down the heaviest groove you can. It’s also one of the most creative areas of dance music with the least restrictions, which makes it an appealing area to work in. Germany has its own sounding techno and this is the way UK techno sounds at the moment.

How do you think your new EP sits with the other Hotflush catalog, and what spurred you to work with Scuba?

Hotflush have been great to work with. We originally had no plans to release on any other labels, but the timing and the sound felt right.