"My DJing has changed a lot from when I was younger. I don't play as much… sorry! I'm playing football on the PlayStation," slurs the anonymous Actress as he tries to give an interview while simultaneously punting a digital ball across a digital field from his home in South London. The producer, DJ, and label manager grew up in Wolverhampton, a small city in the West Midlands region, where he did, consequently, play football as a teenager before sustaining an injury that cut his athletic career dramatically short. Since then, he's decided to give 100% of his attention to his other passion—electronic music—and this choice has worked out smashingly.
So named to toy with notions of gender, as well as the performative aspects of being a musician, Actress has remixed the likes of Joy Orbison, Alex Smoke, and Tom Trago, and maintains a reputation for playing varied DJ sets that encompass techno, house, hip-hop, boogie—whatever a particular night calls for. He currently runs Werk Discs, which has released records by a distinctly fresh crop of producers including Starkey, Lukid, and Disrupt, as well as his own debut LP, 2008's Hazyville. Werk also released Zomby's instant classic, Where Were You in '92?, which led to the mysterious beatsmith remixing Actress' "Paint, Straw and Bubbles" 12-inch as well as some one-off collaborations between the two, like "Nothing," a dubsteppy fog of a track drowning in heavy drum claps.
While Hazyville exhibited a cohesive sound and was a moody, forward-thinking take on techno, Actress' latest record, Splazsh, is an exercise in exponential edits. "It's called Splazsh because, if you've got a brush with paint on it and you throw it at the canvas, it's just going to fragment and sparkle and spray—and that's kind of how I saw the tracks," he explains.
To craft the album, Actress says he was constantly altering sounds in real time. "Always Human" takes bits of a Human League song and reconfigures them into an entirely new creation, a happy, bumping house tune with crunchy hits and unintelligible vocals. Other tracks, like the otherworldly, epically jackin' "Hubble," "tend to evolve from one point—maybe a sample that, at the end of it, is no longer there," he describes. "And I'm not quite sure exactly how. It's kind of gotten to the point [where] it's just melted and smelted down."
To amp up for some live sets this summer—for which he's figuring out how to balance material from both albums—Actress' PlayStation has been helpful. "Things like this are training for me because it just sharpens how you press keys on a MIDI keyboard, it sharpens how you play notes, it sharpens how you see sound in terms of movement and 3D." he says. He's also been reading books on visual artists Claude Monet, Francis Bacon, and Henri Matisse, gaining inspiration for future tunes. "Hopefully you've fed the mind enough to come with something fresh and relevant to what's going on in contemporary music," he muses. If Splazsh is any indication, Actress won't have any problems in that department.
Splazsh is out now on Honest Jon's.