Belfast-based tech-wizard Space Dimension Controller is about to release an album he made when he was 18 and constructed from personal fragments of a puberty spent nerding out. If that sounds like an unusual path to underground music success, it’ll make a lot more sense when you hear SDC’s sound. Which is, in a word, eccentric. Cobbled and spliced from Sci-Fi VHS tapes, his capital E electronic sound is heavy on SFX and gloriously polyphonic discordance. It was just last month that SDC released a taster of what’s to come from his LP, Orange Melamine, in the form of “Gullfire”, a crunchy cut full of synthetic charm and uniquely off-beat character. Right up our street then, if we’re honest.
One listen and you’ll be either disorientated (don’t worry, just roll with it) or eagerly awaiting the late May release date of the other 12 tracks from the record. Then there’s his extensive Soundcloud catalogue to dive into: full of similarly glitchy treats that are perfect for sitting back and letting your mind wander away to. Or indeed, the perfect soundtrack to our interview with the bedroom producer himself, where he talks telling stories, cinema, and why he’s more geek than bad boy – and all the better for it.
Your music and the stories and characters you create really tell a great narrative, have you always enjoyed story telling?
Thanks a lot. Yes I have written many screenplays and have always had an idea to do a scifi cartoon so the public can finally meet Mr 8040. I’ve been watching film and reading comics since I can remember and the direct line of narrative in a musical piece has always interested me. Trying to make a getaway scene come alive in someone’s head without a visual element is a challenge within itself, it’s definitely something I’ve been doing since I was a kid and still love to do now.
I’m really interested in how you came up with the concept for Orange Melamine? Did you have the story and music mapped out alongside each other or did the story influence the music?
Orange Melamime was influenced by old cartoons and TV I watched when I was a child. Stuff like M.A.S.K, Space Above and Beyond and Ghost in the Shell. The soundbites and samples are all taken directly from VHS and really do make up my teenage years. It was something I took a long time over and not so much a narrative but an over arcing influence from these things I experienced as a teenager at the time. It’s an album I’m really proud of even all these years later! I can’t believe I was so patient and took my time to really plot the album.
You used to play lead guitar in a local metal band, do you play any other instruments? And how do the different instruments you play influence the music you make?
Yes this is true! The band I was in was really hard and we would all use multi guitar pedals for recording. I obvs dabble with synths and keyboards. My set up is all hardware at home and i try to make things as direct sounding as possible via the equipment I’ve got. Stripping things back, using the bare basics and keeping my set up minimal has always been key. I always end up spending way too much money on my studio but it’s something I love and get wrapped up in. I believe your studio is more important than your home but I still buy as many action figures for both.
Your debut single, “The Love Quadrant”, featured lyrics from your girlfriend at the time, Kat. How did you find it working with your other half? Is it something you’d do again?
That single has been nothing but a blessing to me so I would say it worked well. I can’t comment on whether I would do it again but never say never.
“The Love Quadrant” came out when you were 18, had you been making music before that? Is it something you’ve always done?
I’ve been making music and short films since I was around 13. It’s something I’ve always been into and I got really inspired by old warp records releases – I just dived head first into it all. I’ll go through patches of struggling with the love to make music and then I’ll be walking home and just start whistling a melody or the eventual lead line will just come to me. It’s something that I have to lay down fast before it leaves my head and you never know when these things might appear so I’ve probs lost a lot of songs when touring haha. The process of making music should always be in the spur of the moment but with a plan in place for the overall sound design, an album can have continuity with still switching between genres and that’s down to subtle things like using the same drums and mixing, it’s truly an artform making an album and I love the challenge.
You didn’t sit any of your GCSE’s, and you’ve said before that you were a “school refuser”, so do you think in a way you kind of rejected formal education so you could pursue your creativity?
School just wasn’t my thing and I couldn’t sit around trying to focus on things that didn’t interest me. I wouldn’t say I rejected it for that reason but having the spare time when I was meant to be in class definitely helped me hone my craft haha. School is hugely important for various reasons but I didn’t really enjoy it and found the whole process limiting. I think schools should definitely take on more freeform ideas around education and engage the creative as much as the academic. I loved that time in my life and it was something that I wouldn’t recommend to do. It was definitely something I chose and maybe not for the right reasons you know?
Would you say you were a ‘bad boy’? Did you used to sneak out when you were underage?
Coming from Belfast I would not say I was a bad boy at all. I was more of a geek and I used the time to watch anime and Bladerunner. Belfast is an amazing place but filled with characters and I was more into searching dial up internet for releases than hanging out on the corner.
You actually released an ambient album under a different name, didn’t you? Tell me about that
I’d prefer people to find these things themselves and then put two and two together. I love ambient music and it’s something that came naturally to me
The new album’s dripping in references to 80’s and 90’s sci-fi films; what’s your favourite film and how does that influence your sound and particularly this album?
Escape from New York is definitely one of my favourite films from the genre (my actual favourite is Braveheart) and all John Carpenter soundtracks have a massive influence on my records. Atmosphere was so integral to his movies and for him to do all the soundtracks alongside his visual work is just incredible. Cinematics in music are hard to come by but he nailed both mediums perfectly imo.
Would you maybe like to go in to film eventually?
This is something I talk about often and have always wanted to do on my own terms. I’ve been trying to finish my screenplay for around 3yrs and feel like it’s something I’ll do when i get bored of djing every weekend. I only recently saw Ex Machina and I love that Black Mirror style of scifi when it seems really real. The future is definitely now here and the iPhone proves that you can do so much with a tiny device, I think this is era is going to expand on many ideas via film making and then some genius finding some way to make them real. I’d love to score a short film and then start working towards more long form ideas around cinema.
What’s your ultimate collaboration?
Aphex Twin – every time I see him we get along so well. Huge influence on me and my music! We spent a lot of time together at Pleasure Principle Festival and he is such a character. I always doubt collaborations with your heroes would work but with him you never know
Ten years from now, where will Space Dimension Controller be?
Riding a custom old school Lunar Roving Vehicle with gold alloys on Mars and heading to the space bay to head to my next show
The live album show will be 13th May at The Pickle Factory and “Orange Melamine” is out on Ninja Tune 27th May