John Loder's Southern Sonic Style
*This presentation will be rescheduled to another dat ein semester two. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.*
Recording has always been a means of social control, a stake in politics, regardless of the available technologies. – Jacques Attali
I got in touch with John Loder and said, ‘How about us doing a demo?’ and he said, ‘Well, I’ll get an 8-track.’ – Penny Rimbaud
In recent years, fora such as The Art of Record Production and scholars including Albin Zak, Mark Cunningham, Greg Milner and David Morton have made significant progress in filling the scholarly void existing between popular music performance and reception. Socio-cultural and analytical works on sound production practice[s] have, however, reinforced a ‘recordist canon’, prioritising the work of 1950s and 1960s pop and rock recordists. However, little acknowledgement has been afforded to the work of later recordists, particularly those working in non-mainstream music[s].
This research considers the work and influence of John Loder, sound recordist and founder of Southern Records and Southern Studios in Wood Green, London. As a key member of pre-Crass collective EXIT and later referred to as Crass’ ‘9th member’, Loder’s commitment to DIY aesthetics, analogue recording practice and contract-free music production can be traced in a sonically discernable production style. Upon analysing the technological and processual attributes of Loder’s work, namely Crass’ The Feeding of the 5000, Side 1 of Big Black’s Songs About Fucking, Babes In Toyland’s To Mother and The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy. To conceptualise Loder’s work as representative of a musical ‘underworld’ seems apt. Upon analysing Loder’s recordings, a distinctive sonic style becomes apparent. The counterculture-affiliated, alternative acts with whom he worked and his avant-garde recording influences conflate to represent the antithesis of 1970s-1990s commercial music releases. Additionally, Loder’s stake in feminist politics is considered via his work on Crass’ Penis Envy and PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me. Avoiding problematic diagnoses of ‘auteurism’, this research seeks to evaluate Loder’s role as one of ‘sonic orchestrator’; bringing organisation and control to the often challenging, chaotic and noise-driven post punk music[s]. Finally, Loder’s influence on recordists Steve Albini and Harvey Birrell is traced through a distinct sonic continuum of alternative recording aesthetics long into the 1990s.