Hearing Container's debut, LP, for the first time in 2011 was like sipping your first Mango Lassi. Cool, refreshing, mysterious. Tangy. Its label, Spectrum Spools, was still a rookie, curated by a member of one of the period's essential bands, Emeralds. In terms of "mutant techno," the only premonitions were Pete Swanson's self-released cassettes in the wake of Yellow Swans. There was a mystique to say the least. Two years later, we're all properly jaded and Container's music not only holds up, but ascends furiously. With the imminent release of his 12", Treatment, on Immune Records, Ren Schofield has embraced the festival and club circuit. In an unlikely turn, the guy who runs I Just Live Here and used to make noise as God Willing may become one of the hottest techno acts, period. That is, if he keeps making techno.
Ad Hoc: What's on deck for Container?
Ren Schofield: Well, when I get back from tour, I'll be writing new songs and recording again. The plan would be to finish up a double record for Spectrum Spools. That’s what I’m going to be working on all summer when I get back. Hopefully it will be out in the fall.
Ad Hoc: What’s your process like?
RS: My writing process, it kind of takes awhile. Mostly I just go in and mess around. I don’t usually go into the studio with a basic idea for something in my head; it’s more just jamming around. Some ideas will come together and I'll work on building songs through that. It takes a while for me to come up with a finished product—I'll play a song five or six times before it fully gels into something. I’ll have a song going for a couple of months or so and then I just work on recording it. I do a one-take recording, and do a few takes until I feel like it sounds the way it should be.
Ad Hoc: How do you reconcile noise with dance music?
RS: Well, [dance music] is a totally different world, for sure, from what I was used to before. But I like it a lot, because I never really felt it happening. I never really tried to marry techno and noise. I started the project hoping to just play techno-- I never really thought of it as being weird techno. Spectrum Spools didn’t really seem like a techno label either. At first, I was surprised that people who were into techno had ever heard the record, let alone be into it. It’s been a pretty easy change of pace for me to play more real techno shows just because they're so much of a higher level and it's impossible not to like it. There are a bunch of people there and it’s totally the opposite of playing noise shows. And I mean, I like doing that too. Like I’ll play a basement show and have a great time and I’ll play a techno club and have a great time, as long as they're both run properly. High end techno shows pretty much always run well.
Ad Hoc: Well there’s a lot more money oiling those machines. A club can be a very well-funded enterprise that provides that whole package of making a party.
RS: When you play a techno show it’s expected you’re going to get paid, but when you play a noise show and they pay you they’re acting like it’s a pretty amazing feat for them to accomplish. Like I should feel very thankful for it. Like expecting money from a show is a very foreign thing.
Ad Hoc: Are you able to sustain yourself exclusively on music these days? Have you quit the second job?
RS: Yeah, you know, I never really had a second job. I was mostly just doing weird odd jobs here and there for like the last... forever basically. I was scraping by; it was always pretty rough. But now I don’t really have to worry about finding some strange job. I can kind of just hang out and get the ideas going basically, which is amazing.
Ad Hoc: You’re in Nashville right?
RS: I was living in Nashville for awhile, but I couldn’t really handle it and I moved back to Providence, Rhode Island, where I’m from, last summer.
Ad Hoc: Why did you move?
RS: It was totally depressing. When I was living [in Nashville], a lot of people there would say, “It must be cool to be totally isolated, you can be in your own head and you can get things done.” But it’s actually the opposite of that, I've found. Like, there’s literally never a show happening, you never see anything cool, and you never hang out with people who have similar interests. It can be crushingly sad. Over the last year, I had no desire to do anything creatively and a lot of it felt totally forced, and I’d go on tour or something and I’d be like, “Holy shit, I have to move the fuck out of there.” So I eventually made it happen, and that was great. In Providence there’s fun stuff going on all the time and it’s so much better.
Ad Hoc: I saw someone post the statement on Facebook, “Who knew in the year 2013 all the noise musicians would start making disco?” which is a flippant way to put it. Noise very much so came out of Industrial and Power Electronics, music that had a very rigid beat, much like techno does. But the attitude seems to be that all of the sudden some noise guys were like, “Hey, there’s a drum machine.” Do you have any thoughts about this?
RS: Well, I think there’s a lot of noise stuff that will have a buried rhythm. For me, myself, I started getting more interested in rhythmic noise. Having loops going, not even beats but really varied rhythms. That's what really fascinates me-- that's how I got more into playing straight techno, from wanting more interesting rhythms.
You see that happen every few years with different genres. Like with the synth a few years back. No one’s really playing synths that much and all of a sudden, everyone in the Midwest had a synth. And a few people look at it and get bummed out and say people are copying a trend or something. But I really don’t like looking at it that way. It doesn't really matter how people get into things. It makes sense that people would get into it through their friends and people that they know.
Ad Hoc: What has been piquing your interest lately, musically?
RS: I’ve been pretty obsessed with tapes for a few years now. I’d like to do some Container tracks that’s just all tapes. I use tapes in all my songs now. I don’t want to cut out the drum machine or anything, but I would like to get at least a couple tracks worth of just tape. You know, I see people doing tape collage or something and that gets me really psyched. I just think [the tape machine] is the coolest instrument that exists.
One machine I use to make beats and sounds right now is the MC-909, which I’ve been using for a while and it’s subtly starting to die. None of the keyboard buttons really work now, so it completely limits the number of sounds that I can choose from when making a track. I’m getting some new gear pretty soon, and I’d like to get something similar to that, a different style maybe just to see how much that would change the sound. When I finished the last few songs I've been working on, they pretty much didn't feel like techno anymore. It was more like noise rock done electronically. And so I’m getting kind of into that style too.
Ad Hoc: Do you see what you're doing as something rock could turn into, or do you think the noise and techno are going to stay separated from it?
RS: I hadn’t really thought about that, but when you turn on the radio pretty much everything current is electronic music. And even the current rock on the radio-- maybe they’re playing instruments, but it’s so buried in this production machine that it might as well be electronic. So it would just make sense if rock was just done on electronic instruments in a different way. I mean, I guess a lot of people are still into rock, but I haven’t really seen a lot of pretty awesome rock bands recently. Hopefully there’s some insane rock band that comes out of nowhere. It's not like I want the genre to die, but it could happen.
Ad Hoc: I originally heard the whole idea when a friend was talking about Skrillex in relation to dubstep and he was like “Yeah, you know, it’s definitely not dubstep in the British sense. This is a kid who used to be in a screamo band and he’s just making rock music with dubstep elements and can’t people just be cool with it being rock?” Food for thought.
RS: Yeah, there's the arena factor that those guys have.
Ad Hoc: Yeah, exactly. Like instead of AC/DC, it’s just Deadmau5. I don’t know, I'd kind of rather have AC/DC but...
RS: Yeah, AC/DC playing a drum machine.
Ad Hoc: It could happen, right?
RS: Yeah, they've gotta stick with the times.