Large Number : Ann Shenton
Tales of an analogue woman

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Ann Shenton is the analogue woman. Her fascination for old synthesizers and their delicious wobbly and warm tones led her to form 'weirdo' post-rock experimental electronic trio Add N To (X) in 1993 with fellow vintage synth fan Barry Smith, and Theremin expert Steven Claydon. After a few moderately successful albums the band split.
    A couple of years ago, in search of excitement, Ann joined up with an Idaho biker gang, giving it all up for two wheels and a more precarious way of life. But the lack of sea and English pubs lured her back to genteel Windsor in England. For now, she is getting creative with dodgy cider, wood-craft, soldering irons and a satirical paper called the Dedworth Echo. Oh, and a new band.

Large Number - Click to enlargeLarge Number's first album, Spray On Sound, features some or none of the following: Ann, old Add N To (X) chum and drummer Rob Allum, a blind banjo player, a guitarist, a sackload of old synths strung together with bits of yoghurt carton and sticky back plastic, and producer Pierre Duplan with a pocket full of 50p pieces. The result is a . . . well read the review elsewhere on counterculture.

counterculture: You are the analogue woman - so what's wrong with digital?

Ann Shenton: Je suis analogue woman. I need the physical element of actually touching an instrument, it's an illness I have got, I don't know. I could never read a book from a computer screen; I need the feel of the paper. It's the same with synths. The feel of the dials, the sticky surfaces and the broken keys like teeth all have a secret history.

cc: If you like the tactile nature of old analogue stuff, do you get really attached to them - and maybe give them names? I'm thinking [BB King's Gibson semi-acoustic] Lucille here . . . but then he had loads of different Lucilles, apparently . . .

AS: I 'spose becoming attached to an old synth is like having a favourite leather mackintosh that's gone in and out of fashion; it looks knackered but you don't care, you love it. I don't give the synths soppy names; just bitch, sicko, swine and broken.

cc: You steered clear of the studio for Spray On Sound [it was partly recorded on a farm on the site of a disused military test site] - do you find the environment oppressive?

AS: The purpose built studio seems too much like a factory to me. Some place where music is pumped out like sausage meat being forced into skins. We recorded in Orfordness and Somerset, and at an old library in south London. I love the unpredictable you see. At the house in Somerset we had to put 50p in the electric meter, and Pierre the producer was going mental in case the money ran out and the computer would crash and we'd loose everything. That was funny. The sheepdog got into the kitchen and stole our dinner. One night Marc (label manager) went missing so we thought he'd done a runner, but he'd got lost on the way home from the cider house, fell down a hole, was covered in blood and cow shit and had lost his clothes on the barbed wire. We had to pretend we were bird spotters from BBC Wales cause the landlord saw all our equipment and started asking questions - we didn't want to get thrown out because of noise. The mad woman was going through our bins, and the roadies bought some 'singers' back with them who were in fact thieving south west hookers.

Large Number - Click to enlargecc: You make the experience of recording the album sound like a real laugh, which is just what it should be - or do you think artists should suffer for their art?

AS: When we go to record we try to make the situation as different to normal life as possible, which is why I like to take everyone and everything to a secret location to become removed from things like gas bills and public transport. I certainly do think that artists should suffer for their work - there is nothing constructive about having an over paid flunky at the band's disposal running around organising pizza and cocaine.

cc: Apart from the music, you make driftwood replicas of old analogue equipment, you edit a satirical paper, grow vegetables, and make cider. What other creative outlets do you harbour, and what would you like to do next?

AS: What would I like to do next? I would like to go back to Berlin and go to the secret underground electronic club; I need to clear the overgrown area in the field for planting; learn how to make wine as cider turns you mad and violent; the MS20 [Korg keyboard] needs fixing; the Dedworth Echo needs some work; I want to go to Brighton and find the member of prog band Fleur de Lys who lives there; and contact the electric violinist from Curved Air for the next recording.

cc: Curved Air? Fleur de Lys? - have you got some sort of prog thing going on then?

AS: I do love Fleur de Lys, Amon Düül, prog, kraut, Bruce Hack, Pierre Henry, Monsieur Frog, Kate Bush, Queen, gypsy music, Lee Hazelwood, folk, electronic . . . a good dose of everything - but not anything.

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