'Music built for purpose': An Interview with Surly

At first glance, Polish jazz and Chicago footwork aren’t two genres that go hand-in-hand. One is an improvised art form forbidden under Stalinist rule and recorded as part political protest, part experimental exploration; the other is the frenetic electronic patterning of rhythms and dubby bass produced to inspire dancers to move. Yet, for New Zealand-based producer Scott Ludvigson, aka Surly, the connections are apparent. His latest EP, Trip to Warsaw, is a collection of jazz-influenced footwork; its songs feature eerie horn samples, rattling basslines, and pensive melodies that inspire both movement and introspection.

“Chicago was a hotbed for jazz and blues in the early 20th century and that influence can be heard in the sampling used in Chicago house,” Ludvigson explains, citing dance music’s debt to jazz in iconic tracks like Mr. Fingers’s “What About This Love” or Kerri Chandler’s rework of Nina Simone’s “See Line Woman.” “A lot of footwork producers use harmonically complex chords and combine samples in ways that might seem to clash, but which create a tension and a sense of urgency that gives me the same feeling I get from jazz.”

The catalyst to Ludvigson realizing this association of genres and contexts was his father, Tom, a jazz musician who played with Krzysztof Ścierański from Polish fusion group Laboratorium. “Music was very important in my house growing up,” Ludvigson says. “It was never a question of if one does music; I thought everyone made music! At home we listened to a lot of jazz, but also electronic music from Kraftwerk to Dave Angel and Daft Punk. Dad was always into non-4/4 time signatures and that led me to embrace the polyrhythms of footwork.”

Read the feature on Bandcamp Daily.

[This piece was published on 16/03/18]