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Pitchshifter Biography

"This LP is a big progression from the last - more of a leap, in fact," states Pitchshifter frontman/provocateur J.S. Clayden of the band's new album, www.pitchshifter.com (DGC Records). He points to a couple of new elements lurking in the outfit's compulsively aggressive rock: drum 'n' bass rhythms and punk guitar lines. "This is a new kind of music for us," he continues. "We don't know what it's called yet. Maybe we should let the fans decide."

Encouraging fans to think for themselves, however, is not new for Pitchshifter. The Nottingham, England-based group - Clayden, his brother, bassist Mark Clayden, guitarist-programmer Johnny Carter and, onstage, percussionist D. Walters - has been exhorting listeners to challenge the status quo since they kicked off the U.K.'s "extreme noise" mania back in the early'90s.

Clayden declares: "Pitchshifter is about making people think. Making them think about the world around them, about how they perceive music, about how they perceive themselves. Pitchshifter is about not sifting there and being spoon-fed their news anymore - we've got to get out and hunt the truth down on our own."

More evidence of the band's unusually attentive relationship with their fans - and tendency to stick it to The Man whenever possible - is track 14 of www.r)itchshifter.com (released by Geffen Records in the U.K. March 2, 1998, and DGC in the U.S. April 7, 1998). The last cut on the album, it consists of 50 samples that appear previously on the disc. They are available to fans as a gift from the band, a practice Pitchshifter began with 1996's lnfotainment? "That's so all the pirates out there who are going to sample us anyway can have an easier job of it," Clayden explains. "Besides, we've stolen so many samples in the past, we figured it was time to give something back."

In and around www.pitchshifter.com is up-for-grabs samples are contributions by incendiary guitarist Jim Davies, the man who put the licks to Prodigy's "Firestartee' and "Breathe"; Bivouac's Paul Yeadon, who added some acoustic guitar - "Yes, acoustic," assures Clayden; and Keith York (Bivouac, Lightning Seeds, Doctor Phibes), who laid down live drums that were later sampled and looped. Clayden adds: "Sir Keith of York came in for one 20-hour jam session - nufter that he is - and jammed live to the demo tapes, adding his fat breaks and fills."

The album was produced by Machine, known for his work with White Zombie. Says Clayden: "Machine worked really closely with us to make sure we were able to transpose all of our ideas onto the music. He's a great guy - anyone who skateboards to work is okay by us."

Machine informs: "In my first-ever phone conversation with J.S., he said: 'Let's make the sickest, most ultimate guitar/dance music crossover record imaginable.' And that's exactly what we did."

Pitchshifter has been spreading their special "sickness" since they formed in 1991. That year the band released their debut, Industrial, on the Peaceville label. It was followed in 1992 by the EP Submit, issued by the English indie Earache. Submif s fierce and fiery combination of radical attitude, guitar crunch and sledgehammer beats began to permeate the underground. Earache went on to put out the full-length Desensitized (1 993), the EP Pitchshifter vs. Biohazard Therar)v? Gunshot (The Remix Wars) (1 994), and the long-player I nfotainment?

In support of these, Pitchshifter headlined tours throughout the U.K., Europe and the U.S., mounting frequently out-of-control live shows with acts like Fugazi, Helmet, Napalm Death and the Melvins. The band's innovative use of live slide shows and computer programming - not to mention dissemination of rabble-rousing propaganda leaflets - left many a clubgoer wondering what had hit them.

Pitchshifter also logged numerous festival dates as the decade wore on, including England's popular Reading and Phoenix outings. In fact, the band holds the distinction of being the only group in the history of the Phoenix Festival (held annually near Stratford-upon-Avon) to have been unplugged. That was in 1995, when they played the main stage and outraged officials by inviting roughly 1 00 fans onstage.

This censure was a marked contrast, however, to the endorsement the band picked up the day before the show when a crop circle in the shape of an eye - Pitchshifter's logo - appeared in a field half a mile from the site of the festival. Clayden insists the band had nothing to do with it, remarking: "If we did want to make an 80-meter-long eye in the grass, we wouldn't know how to do it. We make music; we don't burn eyes into grass." Researchers have off icially dubbed the formation, which a notable British crop circle association has determined is not a hoax, 'The Stratford Eye." Guessing who may be behind it, Pitchshifter's frontman says: "There are two possibilities: An extremely zealous Pitchshifter fan stuck it there - or aliens like loud music."

Though the intergalactic jury remains out for the moment, there's no doubt other musicians enjoy Pitchshifter's heavy groove music. By the time lnfotainment? broke the band through to a mainstream audience on the Continent - the video for "Underachiever' was a staple on MTV Europe - Korn, Tool, Ministry, Biohazard and Girls Against Boys had come calling with invitations for Pitchshifter to join them on tour.

Their status as an artist favorite was confirmed with Pitchshifter vs. Biohazard Therar)v? Gunshot (The Remix Wars), which featured the titular musicians' remixes of Pitchshifter songs. -Meanwhile, Carter and Clayden similarly expanded their horizons with remixes of material from Clawfinger and Misery Loves Co., among others.

Having learned their lessons well, Pitchshifter now emerge with www.i)itchshifter.com, the sound of technology used to create maximum chaos. "We realized we all like two things, breakbeats and punk," Clayden reveals, expounding on how the band arrived at their current juncture. "We have a punk mentalityanddrum'n'bassisthepunkofthe'90s. It just seemed natural to make these sounds the backbone of this album."

Once they had established this course, Pitchshifter decided to connect with a record label that would understand where they were going. DGC's Brian Long understood; he signed the band in the spring of 1997. Machine quickly became the clear front-runner in the producer sweepstakes.

Demos for the album were recorded at Pitchshifter's own PSI Studios in Nottingham, with Carter engirreering. According to Clayden, many of the disc's samples were also created by the band at PSI. "We used everything we had," he illustrates. "We sampled buckets of water, we shouted into cheap microphones, we recorded each other ripping up magazines and spraying graffiti onto walls. We even sampled bees."

Guitars, bass and drums were recorded at London's Protocol Studios that summer. But, Clayden allows, "quite a few guitar solos and vocal performances you hear on the album were actually recorded back home at PSI. Some of the demo material ended up on the LP because it sounded so good and we couldn't recreate it. Once the tracks were finished, we converted all the recordings from analog studio tape to digital computer disks."

The next phase in the birthing of www.r)itchshifter.com came at the Machine Shop, in Hoboken, N.J. Clayden narrates: "We flew over there with the computer disks, and I recorded my vocals. After that, we sampled, flipped, reversed, delayed, distorted and generally bastardized the songs into new hybrids of the originals. And we still managed to keep the live crunch we had going in. We had a lot of fun throwing ideas around and seeing what worked. Basically, we ignored convention and just did whatever sounded good coming out of the speakers."

"There was nothing but inspiration across the board," Machine assures. "These guys are awesome programmers. All we had to do was bring their live guitars and drums into that environment. Once that shit hit the hard drive, there was no stopping us from making and manipulating the sonice boom this record became.
 


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