The following interview taken from the companion booklet to Trance Europe Express 5:
Outcast is the latest project from York-based Beaumont Hannant, in cahoots with long-term engineer Richard Brown - and it's quite a departure, you could say.
Over the past few years, Hannant has been quietly making a name for himself via some extraordinary, densely-layered, pop-corning electonic albums for GPR. Up there with Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert, and Mike Paradinas, he has been one of the most influential technicians in the British electronic underground.
Now Beaumont has cast off his serious techno image, signing to indie label One Little Indian as Outcast and releasing the trip-hoppy "Out of Tune." You can't really gauge Outcast from 'Peach Taxi,' their straight 4/4 contribution to this edition of Trance Europe Express. "We don't want people expecting any one thing..." he says.
In 1996 Outcast remixed soul-jazz diva Jhelissa, as well as Björk's 'Hyperballad,' which they played with her at the Phoenix and on Top of the Pops. As for their debut album, it's fundamentally a hip hop album, with vocals.
Songs? Singing? Vocals are anathema to most electronic musicians: apart from the odd sample, of course. A vocal immediately frames the music within a certain context, culture, language - not to mention a traditional song structure. These are constraints from which many '90's electronicists, with their other-worldly quests, wish to escape. Beau used to be associated with this school. So what changed?
"After my first couple of albums - which featured some stuff that shouldn't have been released - it was like, well, I've done enough of this sort of stuff. I wanted to add another element."
Working with vocalists shouldn't be seen as some sort of lock-'em-in-the-Tower offence of high treason. The human voice is another instrument at the disposal of techno knob-twiddlers.
"Out of Tune" features Kirsty Yates, whose previous guises included Insides, makers of the haunting "Euphoria", and Bullet, of the criminally-ignored scorchin' hip-hoppers Silver Bullet ('20 Seconds to Comply,' 'Bring Forth the Guillotine,' and 'Undercover Anarchist'). The album also features Sarah Winton, new signing to the Clean Up label: her 1992 release "You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down" was another too well kept secret.
"In some tracks, a vocal can be the missing element," Beau says, in his typically under-stated manner. "With others you can't see a vocal going anywhere near it. You can't say anything more than that really."
Teaming up officially with Richard Brown must've played a part in Hannant's metamorphosis. Beau was already using Richard's studio for his forays into sound textures: "I've learned everything from Richard. He has been my only influence, as it were, on the technical side."
It came to the point where Richard would be sitting around his studio with his feet up every day, twiddling his thumbs. It was inevitable that he would get involved on one level or another.
"Nearly two years ago we decided we were going to start a production company together," Beau says, "and the combination works, I think, and that's what's important."
At first, with his solo stuff, he was just glad that somebody was listening. He claims now to be happy with only a handful of his solo tracks, realising that he sometimes took himself too seriously.
"At times, I tried to really get into what I was doing, analyse everything, and it just failed," he says. "You have to take a step back and start writing afresh. If you analyse everything you go up your own arse. Try to polish everything and you start to lose the plot. Working with someone else stops you going that bit too far."
After witnessing the 1986 World Mixing Championships, Beau became a hip hop/electro DJ, but he was also into indie and could have ended up in a band instead. "It happened that I was thrown into a studio with a sampler and keyboards," he says. "If there'd been a drumkit and a guitar it could've ended up different."
What, like Shed Seven or something?
"Funny you should mention them, I know them really well..." Well, York is quite a small place. The plot thickens.
"I used to go to their practices and stuff. In their early days, when they did their first gigs in York, I was sort-of managing them and DJing for them in the pubs..."
Beaumont Hannant used to manage Shed Seven!
It's strange, yet it fits the post-acid house, eclectic (neé Balearic) vibe that is consistent in Beaumont's work.
"You could play whatever you wanted back in those days," he says. "Every track was a winner. Now in every club you get one type of music - if you want another you go to a different club."
He reminisces fondly about Leeds' Warehouse and hearing LFO for the first time, but slams clubs that claim to be eclectic but aren't.
"People claim they're up for anything, but they've got preconceptions of what being far out and wacky is all about," he says. "Eclectic is about hearing all these different types of music under one roof and if you've got a preconception about it already then it's going to be broken."
I still can't quite get my head around this Shed Seven thing. Surely after prolonged exposure to limitless sound technology, a trad four-piece band seems, well, a bit primitive? "In some respects, I wouldn't mind such a set-up. You can be in a band, but still be experimental - like Nine Inch Nails, for instance.
"A lot of their stuff is played, then fucked with. If you fuck with FX, do stuff with a sampler and all the rest, you can come up with some unusual icing on a track."
Outcast are now playing live too. Perhaps they'll be up to some traditional high jinks rock 'n' roll antics? "Only getting pissed really," says Beau, wryly. "I like the TV in the room."