GLOK is the alter ego of Ride guitarist Andy Bell

Have you always tinkered with electronics? When did you begin to take it seriously?
When I was given my first electric guitar, by a friend of my parents, I didn’t have an amp for a while. I figured out how to plug the guitar into the family Hifi by using the tape deck record input, which, if you turned it right up, gave the guitar an amazing distortion sound. This got me interested in electric sound, and I started buying equipment  at jumble sales, like an old reel to reel tape machine, and eventually my first amp, a small home made amp with the valves all exposed, probably a massive fire hazard. Me and my school mates used to go back to my house after school most days and play around with my bits of recording gear, trying to multitrack by bouncing between tape players. So the hardware of recording, and therefore the sound, has always gone hand in hand for me with playing and creating music.

I was always into a wide range of music and a lot of it was electronic, but in terms of the music I was writing and recording, most of it was  guitar based. In the late 90’s I had a computer running Cubase, and tried to teach myself to program beats and stuff, but it wasn’t easy and I didn’t want to bother with manuals, so I gave up. But over the next few years, the software got easier, and I started to appreciate that some of the older electronic gear had a similar kind of magic to a vintage guitar. It is a natural next step for someone who has an interest in old guitars, amps, effects and recording gear, to move onto old keyboards and synths.

I credit Dave Sitek, who produced the second Beady Eye record, back in 2012, for opening my eyes properly to the potential of early analogue synths and their various possible uses in the recording studio, even on guitar music. He came to the studio with a huge collection of outboard gear. Effects units, samplers, synths, guitar stomp boxes, all a mixture of old and new. Then he proceeded to make use of all this stuff, rigging up mad chains of effects so what started with a guitar part, by the end was some kind of ever evolving, infinite ambient soundscape.

Seeing this process was a big inspiration to me. After that record I got hold of a Yamaha CS-5 and a few other bits and pieces Dave had turned me on to. Then I learned how to use Logic X, and since that point I have been making electronic music alongside guitar music. In fact the lines are now completely blurred, almost everything I do now involves elements of synthesis and elements of guitars. But I have ended up with a lot of instrumental music which seems to exist in a different world to the “band” world, and that’s how GLOK came about.

GLOK began in secrecy… why was this? What does the element of mystery – Boards Of Canada or Burial, for example – add to electronic music?
I was in no rush to have a lot of attention focused on this music. Plus, I didn’t want people to be hearing the first tunes with a picture of me, a middle aged guitarist, in their heads. I wanted the music to exist outside of any preconceptions, at least for a few months, until it felt like I’d established a bit of a musical style with the music I was putting out.

What kit do you use? Are you a software boffin or a hardware guru? Do you prefer analogue kit or digital sounds?
The kit is almost all analogue. I use a Roland 606 Drum machine, a Yamaha CS-5 synth, and a Roland SH 101 synth, on everything. I have a lot of guitar effects units, and a modular synth rig, all of which is useful for processing organic instruments. So I still play acoustic and electric guitars, a real piano, and electric bass, on most of the music I make as GLOK. But I usually process the sounds several times over. It’s quite lo-fi but I like it that way. Then in the end, everything ends up digital because I record it all into my laptop, which runs Logic X. I record and mix 100% “in the box”. I see that as the best of both worlds.

Talk us through this remix… how did you approach it? Did you place limitations down, or was it fairly free-form?
I had a mission – I wanted to really highlight the drums. Loz Colbert is a brilliant drummer and I wanted to keep a lot of his style on the remix. The drum take on the record is made up of loops from a very free drum take. This was a good starting point. I had a lot of fun with it. I burned CDs of the different drum loops, say about 4 minutes of each one, and played around with the CDs on my CDJs, which were plugged into my Space Echo, and from there into a modular guitar stomp box called Tracer City which has quick and easy filters on it. I use that a lot on everything from vocals to guitars to drums. After a good 3 days of experimenting I ended up with tons of crazy drum sounds, which I then had to find the patience to go through and cherry pick all the best bits of, before slotting them into place as part of an arrangement.

Meanwhile, I programmed drum machine parts which were identical to every hit of Loz’s drums on the track, so that at times the remix could become totally machine like,  but even then it was still Loz’s playing at heart. Everything else about the remix was fairly simple. I used the bass, guitars, vocals without too much processing. I ended up with a “psychedelic rock and roll” version, quite heavy, like Hawkwind with beats, then had a crisis of confidence, scrapped everything and re-made it as a totally electronic track, like something by Mr Fingers. Then the deadline was getting closer. I was fried!

So I decided to play it to Erol Alkan, who lives a few minutes from me. Hearing it on his system focused me. Armed with a kick drum sample from Erol’s library, I went back to my studio and pulled an all-nighter to finish the remix, Frankensteining the two versions into one, which to me now sounds like The Horrors playing ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’.

What further projects will GLOK embark on in the future?
Hmm. I would like to make a GLOK ambient album, I can pretty much guarantee that this will happen. The next GLOK track, ‘Kolokol’ is quite ambient, and it’s got me inspired to make more tracks in that vein. Incidentally, I almost made my name ‘Kolokol’ which is Russian for ‘Bell’ but then I discovered that kolokol is also the word for a chemical poison used in assassinations, so it felt a bit dark! I settled on ‘Glok’ which is a mis-spelled version of the German word for ‘Bell’. I think the German connection fits well as there is a strong Krautrock influence in the music.

But back to future plans: In the future I’d like GLOK to do a film score, I’d like to do more remixes, and I plan to continue putting out tracks every month on the Globe label, for as long as they will let me.

Are any GLOK live shows planned?
Not at the moment – but possibly in the future.