Meeting with Andy Jenkinson, known to acidheads as Ceephax Acid Crew, felt no different than chatting to an old pal about music production. That’s something to be expected, having watched his appearance on Electric Independence, and browsed his twitter account garnished with both thoughts coming straight from the mind of Sir Phax-A-Lot, and pictures of eight-bit sampling material from the 90s. In this exchange, recorded minutes before his show at Nuits sonores 2022, we talked about nostalgia, graphic synthetisers, animals, and all things Ceephax.

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Interviewer: David Bola

Photos: Tony Noel

First I wanted to take a trip down memory lane. I stumbled on a school assignment that you published on your twitter. It’s from way back, you were drawing a comic imagining music from the future, actually our future lives actually. Do you still draw? You had quite the skill even then.  

Andy Jenkinson – Not so much, actually. I was drawing all the time when I was young, and then when music started, that kind of took most of my creative energy, but it’s still there. I’m still kind of thinking, yes, I’m going to get back to that at some point.

What I find interesting is that you already had a keen interest in machines. You had drawn a mechanical dog, you had your music- making machines. Is that something that’s been present with you from a very young age, this love for machines?

A. J – Yeah, for sure. I guess in the 80s, there was this space-age thing. All films and cartoons had lots of machines and robots, it was very much like “Futurism”. As soon as I discovered synths and stuff, I was  completely hooked on that. This is the way to express or transfer these thoughts, I guess, these feelings that I have.

D. B – Speaking of machines, there’s also video games…

A. J – Oh, yeah. I had a Commodore 64 (editor’s note – a type of personal computer, which could be used to run games), I was away playing that and that had the music with it as well it had a really good sound chip. Late 2000, I got some software and started making music with that and a sampler.

I played a gig in Belgium in 2000, I made one track on Amiga (editor’s note – a computer model launched by Commodore) and I played it and everyone went crazy. There’s something in this crispy eight-bit sound. I’m still working with that.

David – For a lot of people, this type of sound generates nostalgia, of course. I wondered if this is what you are looking for, if your work comes from a nostalgic place? 

A. J – I don’t know if it’s nostalgia for me. I just love all those sounds. I don’t really think of it like “I want to be back in 1992”. I just think that these sounds are cool and they work. Hopefully I’m still doing something that’s a bit different to what was done then, rather than just trying to recreate what was done very well before. Hopefully I’m adding some of my own character and ideas to that.

Ceephax Acid Crew & The C-Men © Tony Noel

David – Something that I find quite peculiar also about your work is that there’s a lot of humor involved. It’s serious music, but it doesn’t really take itself seriously. I wonder if it’s something that’s important for you?

A. J – It’s just the way I am. For me, music is completely serious. I mean, it’s all I do. It’s what I do with my life. I mean, every day I’m working with equipment and making music and trying to find stuff. But I like a laugh as well, and I don’t see why I would hide that to try and present myself differently. If the music is good, then I can afford to also enjoy myself. I like to enjoy myself and hopefully people will enjoy that too.

D. B- The music can be funny in itself, and then, there’s the video clips that you produce.

A. J – Yeah (laughs). I think that’s really where my humor takes over. Once I’m filming stuff, I really find it difficult to do it seriously at all. Then I think I’m getting back to this “comic” mindset, whereas the music is probably more serious than that. Once I’m filming, I’m just trying to find jokes and stuff.

David – What kind of tool do you use to film producing the clips?

A. J – I process a lot of stuff with my old Commodore Amiga that I bought in 1992, make a lot of graphics on that. I also used a lot of analog video cameras. I got them from my old University, they were going to throw them away. They were really cool, you could use all the colors and put video through it and stuff.

For Mediterranean Acid and Camelot Chronicles I used a lot of old VHS tapes which I found, collected because it was good source material and messed around with that. The last thing I got recently was this Fairlight CVI (editor’s note – a graphic synthetiser made in 1985). I don’t know if you’ve heard of a Fairlight CMI. It’s one of the really early samplers with a TV screen and it’s really expensive.

They also made a video tool and you can really mess the images up and completely mess the colors. I used it on the “Eurozone” video, but I haven’t had that for long. It was used a lot by some 80s musicians. There’s a Jean-Michel Jarre video “Zoolookologie” where he uses it and it’s quite cheesy. Again, it’s hard to take it seriously what you make of it.

It’s a limitation also. You can’t go into any high-fidelity. For me that works.

D. B-  It also makes you wonder about why there’s a need to have the newest equipment.

A. J – Yeah, I get things and I use them and I don’t ever think right, I need to move on to the next step. I just keep using them. And that’s why even with my live set, I’m using a lot of the same equipment I did 25 years ago. Yeah, I’ve added some things, changed a couple of things, but the whole thing is kind of the same. It can get a bit aspirational to think “I’ll go get the next thing”, I just try and avoid that, really try and use the same tools and hopefully keep going forward.

D. B – I’ve heard of people saying “I’m done with that synth, I feel like I’ve used all of the juice and I’m not going to get anything new out of it”. And  I don’t feel like it’s something that you experience also.

A. J – I mean, the only way that would happen is if I didn’t quite like the sound of it. The only things I’ve ever sold are things I didn’t gel with, basically. So I couldn’t get quite the sound I wanted. 

The fact that you’re using this type of tools for live show leaves room for the unexpected. Do you enjoy this unpredictable element to your shows? 

A. J – Yes, I like the chaotic element. Not completely, because it would be worrying if nothing was going to work. I like the fact that you’re free to kind of mess it up or change things. I didn’t find a different way to do the performances. Because I haven’t really made any music with Ableton or a computer, I don’t even know how to do it differently. I think also the separate outputs of each machine makes it really good for live shows. It’s very separated and you can easily change the EQ and the volume of the sound. So that just makes it very flexible.

D. B- For the listener it makes it unique, you feel that something unplanned can always pop up.

A. J – Yeah, the structure is always going to be different, sometimes I’ll make a mistake, then it goes in another direction and it’s like “oh, yeah, this is cool, maybe I should do a remix because I’ve come up with a new way of playing the song just from improvising”.

Ceephax Acid Crew & The C-Men © Tony Noel

I’ve caught a bit of that improvised goodness in an old BBC1 “Breezeblock” show, a live recording from one “Acid on Sea” party. Acid on Sea was one of the first tracks you put out, but this was not an event of your creation right? 

A. J – It wasn’t me organizing, but “Acid on Sea” was the name of a track on my first release. This promoter guy in London really liked the name and my music. He was throwing boat parties on the Thames going up and down. And I think he did about four or five of them, and I played all of them, obviously, because it was my name. 

Today, at Nuits sonores, you are performing with a Vjing artist, C-Men. How did you start working with him?

A. J – I’ve known Julian for years through gigs, we’ve played a lot of the same shows, he works with Amigas also. Actually my booking agent is a really old friend of his as well and he suggested that we do this collaboration. It made sense because I can give him visuals I’ve made on my Amiga and just send them to him and you can put them into his Amiga… It just makes perfect sense actually. It’s effortless. He’s got like two Amigas out there with a mixer and some old school Vjing software.

Your relationship to the visual medium goes beyond clips and live vjing, you’ve also made the soundtrack for a film “The Crisp Chronicles”, made by your older brother Jonny Jenkinson & Philip Thompson. What can you tell us about that? 

A. J – That was just basically me and my friends in the 2000s just messing around on a Saturday. They made a movie with crisps where they were animating them and it was kind of a gangster movie. I made the soundtrack in one day.

D. B – Are you into gangster stories ? It’s a theme you use also in “My Way of Life

A. J – Yeah, kind of. I don’t know (Laughs) Actually when I was growing up it was all about Ice-T and N.W.A. and all this gangster rap stuff and I was really into that. Me and my brother tried to make some gangster rap stuff, luckily it doesn’t exist anymore because I’m sure it’s pretty embarrassing. (Laughs).

Ceephax Acid Crew & The C-Men © Tony Noel

This is something I should have asked at the beginning of the interview, where does the “crew” in Ceephax Acid Crew? 

Actually, I don’t know where the crew comes from. I think my first gig I played in London was advertised as “Ceephax Acid Crew” but I don’t think I wrote the name.

Before that I had a band called “C-Fax”, spelled a bit differently. We did a gig and it was more like rock, but it was completely jokes as well. It was a joke band. Not long after that I started making some acid and I had a gig really soon. I’d only been making tracks like a couple of months or something, I was a newbie.

Then I got signed by DMX to Breakin’ Records for that.  Anyway, I think on the flyer, it got added as CFAX acid crew, and that just became the norm. There’s only one of me. There was already DMX Krew, and he started with three people and then he became one, but he stayed DMX Krew.

It’s possible that maybe it came from that somewhere. It’s a bit of a mystery to me, actually.

You thought about making a Discogs for Byron (your cat), right?

Yeah, for sure (Laughs). Sometimes he’ll just sit on a synthesizer and just create some drone tunes. He’s always with me every day, when I’m making music. Actually, I miss him now because I have to leave him on his own. Someone comes in and feeds him. So it’s all good. But yeah, I do love animals.

D. B –  You thought of collaborating with animals? Like maybe creating a track with a junglist bird? 

Yeah (Laughs). The only thing that really stops me doing that is that I haven’t really got very good, like a microphone. But if I was to use some stuff that other people had made then. Yeah, for sure. Birdsong is amazing. I went to see some Nightingales the other day near my house and listening to them. It’s incredible stuff.

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About the interviewer

David Bola is We are Europe Media‘s content editor. Formerly working at Radio Nova as a freelance journalist and hosts a monthly residency on Piñata Radio, with Ludotek, a show focused on video game music.

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