Podcast Spotlight: Line Noise

In our new monthly series, we’ll shine a light on some of our favourite podcasts. We’ll talk to their creators about what goes into their making, and why you should listen to it. 

We start by talking to Daft Punk’s Discovery author Ben Cardew about his electronic music podcast Line Noise. Ben is a well-established electronic music journalist. Having written for Pitchfork, Rivera Sound and The Guardian, Ben has access to unique, high profile guests from across the electronic sub-genre spectrum: from DJ Deeon to Photek and Paul Woolford/Special Request. 

Line Noise aims to ‘pick apart the threads of electronic music’ and every episode helps do exactly that. The podcast’s loose interview format (and Ben’s sharp knack for focused questioning) makes it a great informative listen. It gives the listener some genuine insight into the creative methods of some of our favourite names in electronic music. If you’ve ever wondered why New York’s finest Acemo loves the UK sound, or how Jayda G’s experience working with whales influences her productions, this is the podcast series to listen to.

You’re currently based in Spain, has being outside the UK had any influence on your podcasting approach, music journalism or outlook on electronic music? 

I’ve been in Spain for more than a decade so it is hard to say. I still consume a lot of UK and US media, more so than Spanish things, so maybe not that much. I would say however, that I am far more open to Spanish music than I would have been, had I stayed in the UK. 

Have you ever read any particular books or articles that have changed how you look at or think about, electronic music? 

Simon Reynolds’ Energy Flash is an obvious one. I read it a long LONG time ago but I do remember really enjoying the way it made a case for the fundamental importance of dancing to electronic music. He is a great writer.

Do you have any guests lined up to appear on the podcast you are particularly excited to talk with? If so, any hints? 

Kevin Saunderson is next. I really wanted to get him for a long time and in the end, I was able to speak to him. He’s a legend. The 100th Line Noise isn’t that far away and I would love a special guest for that. I was vaguely talking about the possibility of someone very special indeed, but I see the chances of it happening as basically 0%. Sadly. Oh, and I am trying for someone once in a very legendary group.

What do you find most satisfying about interviewing guests on the podcast? 

Because Line Noise is basically my thing – it goes out on Radio Primavera Sound but they pretty much allow me to do what I want – I can utterly indulge myself in guests, talking to people who are my heroes, regardless of whether an editor or someone up the food chain likes them. I mean… I got to talk to Photek and Krust FFS!

Have you had any guests on the podcast that you particularly enjoyed talking to? Are there any particular qualities a guest possesses that makes them entertaining to talk to on an electronic music podcast? 

I have enjoyed talking to all of them. Louie Vega gave me two hours! What a nice man. I’d say the most important qualities are being open to explaining your work process and way of thinking. As well as generally being relaxed.

Any Spanish artists or authors that we should know about? 

Maria Arnal i Marcel Bagés have made one of the albums of 2021 in Clamor. Such a great album. In terms of authors, I love Javier Cercas. Las Leyes de la Frontera (or Outlaws in English) is brilliant. Oh and Homeland by Fernando Aramburu is stunning. 

You have experience writing about music for Pitchfork and The Guardian as well as podcasting. Are there any advantages to broadcasting about electronic music in a podcast format, vs writing about it in a  traditional, written article format? 

Podcasting gives you more time, it’s more relaxed. If I want a podcast to be 90 minutes long, it can be. You don’t have to rush and force things. There are no word limits to conform to. Also, it is great to actually hear the artist talk. it gives another level, It’s more intimate, which is an old podcasting cliché but true.

What moved you to start a podcast? Did you feel there was a lack of conversation about electronic music online? Or did you want to contribute to existing conversations? 

At the time we – me and Philip Sherburne – started Line Noise, in 2016, there were no podcasts that took electronic music seriously, as far as we could see. Like a kind of New York Times podcast for electronic music. So we thought we would make it ourselves. I listen to so many podcasts, it seemed an obvious thing to do. But that’s not to say there wasn’t conversation. Just it wasn’t really in podcast form.

Adverts on podcasts: necessary evil, mortal sin or just part of running a successful podcast? 

Absolutely 100% fine with it. I mean, if I don’t pay for a podcast, how can I object to adverts?

You’ve spent a fair amount of your time writing about musicians that hide behind masks, and most musicians hide behind some form of moniker. Does podcast conversation with electronic musicians break through the mythos that can surround them? Or is it simply an opportunity to hear voices and opinions we don’t get the chance to in clubs and at events? 

I don’t think I want to break through the mythos. That sounds a bit harsh. I find getting to know about people actually enhances the mythos, for me. Wolfgang Flür’s book I Was A Robot, which kind of goes behind the scenes of Kraftwerk, only made me love them more. I find the idea of Daft Punk as two fairly normal blokes from Paris actually a lot more interesting than the notion of them as two robots.

In your episode with Photek you asked Rupert if he thought DnB had reached its full potential? Do you feel DnB has hit a plateau with how advanced modern production has come? Or do you think the sub-genre has plenty of new directions left in which to go? 

I think DnB is very interesting because, on the one hand, you have things like Alix Perez or Camo & Krooked, which is very popular in DnB clubs. (I mean, I think… kind of hard to see from Barcelona), which I don’t really like. Then you have more revivalist things like Tim Reaper, which I love. But they seem, to me anyway, to be slightly operating in different worlds. It feels a little to me like DnB has hit a plateau – and in fact, did a while ago – but I am too far outside of modern DnB to be able to really say that. It’s not my place. My thing was the outrageous drum programming in DnB. And that seems less prevalent in modern DnB. But, again, not really for me to say.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to start a podcast about electronic music? Are there any key ingredients you feel makes an interesting and original music podcast? 

A sense of humour is important! That’s not to say you can’t take it seriously. I take the music and culture very seriously. But you can do so with a sense of humour and a sense of the ridiculous!