Factory Floor interview: ‘We had gospel coming through the walls at 3am’

The London dance act have singlehandedly given Seven Sisters a claim to coolness. We find out how at their warehouse studio

© Ed Marshall
 

Yep, you read that right. Seven Sisters is cool – it’s just not a well-known fact. I live in the area and only recently found out that, for the last few years, my favourite London band have been making their debut album on a dilapidated industrial estate just up the road– a spot away from the influence of the east London music scene of which they were once a part. Sound artist Nik Void, drummer Gabe Gurnsey and programmer Dom Butler make rough-edged dance music as Factory Floor, generating a uniquely visceral sound that’s somewhere between Fabric at 3am and a fax machine exploding. Oh, and it’s really loud. ‘We have to saturate the space,’ says Butler, the thoughtful one, of their deafeningly loud performances. ‘It’s cleansing’.

Luckily, they live in a place so noisy that no-one minds the sound of arpeggiated synths running for hours on end. ‘All next door is still working factories,’ Void tells me. ‘There also used to be a lot of gospel churches with big PA systems, so you could hear preaching coming through the walls at two or three in the morning.’

Things have begun to quieten down, however, now that the band’s self-titled debut is complete. ‘A lot of the equipment’s been moved out, or sold, because we’re broke,’ Void admits, with a wry smile. Even the group’s bongos are out of commission – smashed to stop Gurnsey playing them so obsessively. ‘It was quite an intense way of working,’ says the percussionist, lighting up another cigarette. ‘Sometimes we’d run for six hours with one idea. We almost tried to capture what we did live on record, but it was just impossible. The tracks are snippets, really, because we need so long to get into a locked groove, you know? You press record and then you’re three hours down the line thinking: What the fuck’s going on? It’s quite a hypnotic process.’

‘Hypnotic’ is the right word. Listen to Factory Floor’s new record for long enough and you’ll start to lose yourself in the endless loops, ethereal vocals and brain-bashing drum kicks. ‘It’s like a feeling, isn’t it?’ reflects Butler. ‘This noise and rhythm that starts to become clearer and more in focus until, all of a sudden you reach a moment of clarity.’ It’s the same search for headspace that informed the band’s move to Seven Sisters, as Void explains: ‘We were in East London before, so we moved away to North London, so we could be in our own bubble and not be influenced by all the things that were going on around us.’ It worked – their debut album is as vicious as the industrial experiments of ’80s bands such as New Order and Throbbing Gristle, yet also classy and disco enough to get them signed to New York’s DFA record label. In other words they’re a London band busting out of the ‘London’ pigeon-hole.

In future, they’re hoping to take things even further out – to the point of spontaneous nudity, no less. ‘That’s what I love, when people are so away with it that they’re taking their clothes off,’ enthuses Gurnsey, remembering a performance at Tate Modern where just that happened. ‘Maybe that’s the way forward?’

Watch Factory Floor's 'Fall Back' video

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