Roman Fatigue: Proc Fiskal Interviewed

Roman Fatigue: Proc Fiskal Interviewed

Hyperdub producer on distorting folk paradigms on his dazzling new album...

Proc Fiskal, unlike The Sith, does not deal in absolutes. However, he does deal in oxymorons. The words ‘repulsive’ and ‘disgusting’ traditionally inspire grotesque images that one would not wish to be any part of, but there is beauty to be found amongst the ‘shite’, emm, we mean rubble.

“I was attracted to the repulsiveness of it all”, says the producer, real name Joe Powers, as we begin to discuss his new album on Hyperdub - 'Sire Spine Sysex' - following a day-in-the-life debut album on the iconic UK label, headed by fellow Scotsman Kode9. On the follow-up the thematic consistency remains, but Scottish Tourism snippets and Celtic and Scottish folk samples now replace the conversations between friends over pints and cigarettes. It’s also an altogether warmer record; a futuristic body of modern pop, a manic dissection of personal and cultural baggage.

- - -

- - -

“My parents didn’t particularly like folk, it was more their parents that were into it”, he tells me. “My parents came up in more of a punk environment. It was the older members of the family that were these 60’s, hippy, folk people. At family occasions my Granda will play the bagpipes or whatever.”

Powers' grandfather was a key figure in the Scottish folk revival of the 60s, and his great aunt was a founding member of cult children’s folk roadshow The Singing Kettle. Mutually inspired and disgusted by the stereotypical, tourist view of Scottishness, having grown up in one of Edinburgh’s lesser-off areas, Powers decided to manipulate the cliche of Scottishness being a pre-packaged thing. “I’m working with horrible Scottish stuff, but in a less horrible way”, he says.

“I was enjoying that Scottish tourism angle a lot. The music that I was sampling was that kind of music - very touristy, very stereotypically Scottish. The elaborate bullshit I came up with in my head surrounding the title was that I, sort of, envisioned this siren woman. A Scottish woman in the water, communicating through a spinal, inner-messaging. Fairy, pixie folklore. I thought it was funny, because it sounds like a bad tattoo. Yeah, that’s it, I wanted it to sound like a bad tattoo. Like a really massive tribal.”

- - -

- - -

Critics and fans alike have been categorising the Proc Fiskal sound as Scottish grime, and while in a way it is, labelling it something so vague almost feels like a disservice to the artist. The left-field aesthetic that has become a staple of his productions can float anywhere between 140 and 160, bridging elements of footwork, juke, contemporary pop and experimental electronic across a river of endless possibilities.

Videogames are a fountain of inspiration for the artist. Littered throughout the record are dusty flutes and early 00’s era polyphonics that nostalgically transport the listener back to playing an old GameBoy Color.

“There’s a game called Evergrace that came out on Playstation 2”, he says. “It’s got lots of different folk elements. You know in Japanese RPG’s when they do Celtic, European folklore stuff but it’s kind of twisted? I’m really into the sound of badly sampled flutes and stuff like that.”

- - -

- - -

Video-game samples have always been a staple within UK music, most notably grime and drum & bass (see the Drum & Bass In Video Games Twitter account for some excellent examples), and as our conversation enters its final moments I’m keen to learn more about how the contemporary Scottish scene treats such genres. In a previous interview Powers stated that there wasn’t much of a scene for grime when he started, has anything changed?

“There’s a radio scene for it, grime had that little period of time where people were doing a lot of stuff at stations with it, like the Radar Radio thing”, he says. “That’s stopped now, and it’s now got a slightly wider lens. Like an NTS type thing, there’s a couple of stations in Edinburgh that do very diverse stuff.”

“I kind of tapped out going to clubs and that a little before lockdown. I’m not too heavily involved in a ‘scene’, I know a couple of people making tunes, but it’s all online now anyway. You can be a part of a micro-scene on the internet.”

- - -

- - -

 'Sire Spine Sysex' is out now on Hyperdub.

Words: Andrew Moore
Photo Credit: Sophie Lunts

- - -

Follow Clash

Buy Clash Magazine