“When I started Container I wasn’t consciously trying to make weird music,” Ren Schofield (Container) told Resident Advisor in 2011. “I was actually trying to do a straight-ahead techno project, but… people have been talking about how weird the music is.” On the fringes of Noise, where it crosses over into elements of Techno, is where the music of Container exists. Schofield’s only intention for the project was to make “accessible party music,” but since releasing his debut LP in 2011, the music has been embraced for its “weirdness,” by an audience dancing in the margins of club music and noise music enthusiasts looking for some kind of familiar beat construction in the barrage of distortion and feedback the predicates that genre. In that respect the music of Container is “accessible party music,” if that party were at the gates of hell and we were all dancing to Gabriel’s horn.
Schofield’s music as Container makes no concessions for accessibility in any traditional form through a barrage of incessant drums and a sonic soup of incoherent one-note bass modulations. A profusion of controlled chaos prevails, as scattered elements come together in a cacophonous harmony with specific designs on the dance floor. Container is a centrifuge of unbridled energy, set loose on the very same instruments that prelude Techno’s designs, but converge on the borders of DIY, Punk and Noise, for something more tactile and raw. Since his debut LP, Schofield has gone on to release three more on Spectrum Spools – all simply entitled LP – and a host of EPs and cassettes on labels like Liberation Technologies (Mute), Diagonal and his own I Just Live Here cassette label. His live performances have become the stuff of mythic lore, praised for the visceral energy, coercing static dance floors into movement as non-partisan audiences are compelled forward by the sheer intensity of the music.
“I now do the same thing I did in noise,” he explained to RA. “It’s the same approach, just a different sound.” Schofield arrived at this interpretation of Techno through an unfamiliar route. Where most artists working in the field perpetuate the rhetoric where a legacy defined by Detroit and Berlin emboldened them to a career in this music, Schofield’s history is more complex than the sum of those parts. Growing up in Providence, Rhode Island in the USA, Schofield’s music career started as “a teenager” about 15 years ago. “I started touring with bands after high school in 2003,” he recalled in an interview with Vice, “and then started focussing mostly on solo stuff in 2007.” In Providence he stepped into a “really cool” music scene, one “based on warehouse venues that change somewhat frequently due to people moving out of town, or getting kicked out of the space.” The setting provided an exciting platform for “like-minded” individuals like Schofield who would thrive in the DIY nature of these venues, which over twenty years became “very ingrained in the musical culture of the city.”
His first solo projects, Age Wave and God Willing embraced this “musical culture,” and aligned itself with the Noise scene that would naturally thrive in this kind of environment. In 2009 he started Container alongside these projects, but “for the first two years it existed, (it) wasn’t something that (he) spent a lot of time on” according to that RA interview. “Once in a while when I’d feel like doing something with beats I would work on it,” but at that time it was “not something that I was taking seriously” he told Jain Pain during an interview in 2013. He only “became more interested in Techno after playing it for a while” and only then Container would become his “main focus.” This change in direction was inspired in part by Daniel Bell’s (DBX) track, “Losing Control.” Upon hearing the “classic minimal Techno track,” he got it in his “head to do something like that [track] just to see how it would turn out.” He knew he “had the gear to pull it off” and set about creating the same kind of “really minimal, one beat” track, layering some vocals over the top, and through imitation he established his own, more abrasive interpretation of that style of music. “That is how I got into Techno,” he told Jain Pain, but it’s not Techno in any traditional sense of the genre.
With “more and more people” from the noise scene “excited to hear heavy beat stuff rather than just noise” and with Techno’s own modulation between elements of Punk and DIY coming to the fore, Container arrived at a time when these borders would become really blurred. Alongside other American artists like Aurora Halal, Via App, and Unicorn Hard-On (aka Valerie Martino – Schofield’s inamorata), Schofield would help usher in a style of Techno in the USA that the press eventually would coin Punk Techno. Unicorn Hard-On played a significant role in the “transition from God Willing to Container” according to the RA interview. “Towards the end of God Willing,” Schofield “was incorporating more beats and tape loops” in his music and with a rhythm taking more of a central role it “eventually, it bled into one thing” to become Container.
With Container “everything is composed with live playback in mind” according to the interview in Vice, which sets the project apart from the more traditional adaption of Techno. Container is a live project for Schofield, but at the same time it dissociates itself from the rest of the live, Noise scene as music that is fully composed rather than free improvised. His music arrives through a kind of “trial and error” approach, and by his own account is more “inspired by Rock music than Techno.” His only objective behind the music it seems is to “to play a killer live set” and that’s where that unbridled energy comes from. There are traces of it across all his records, and it’s at its most impressive when experienced in the live context. It’s here where his ideologies part ways with the Techno canon. “Live music for the techno scene seems like an afterthought in a weird way,” he clarifies to Jain Pain. “It isn’t even about playing a show; it is more about getting a party going, which I am not interested in at all.” For Schofield it’s more like a rock concert a performance of music, and ironically approaching it this way, he succeeds in bringing that “party vibe” to the situation as his 2014 Boiler Room performance can attest to.
Schofield’s unusual route towards Techno, has a unique effect on the execution of his music, and sets him apart from those that follow the more traditional route in the genre. He very rarely even listens to Techno outside of the live context, but when he does, it’s usually reserved for music that foregoes the traditional ideologies of the genre. “When I am hanging out at home and I wanna listen to Techno, my favorite thing is this band Frak.”
Like Frak, Schofield feigns the traditional approach to Techno, manipulating the genre’s sound palette to his own destructive designs and negating the passive, functional purpose of the music for a more assertive position in the context of club music. For the past seven years he’s been refining this sound with his unique twist, and alongside his peers like Unicorn Hard-On, Container has redefined the borders between Noise, Punk, DIY and Techno. It’s music that won’t acquiesce to the homogenous common denominator, pursuing the pure counter-cultural aspects of these musical genres as it swims upstream from everything else around it.
*Container plays Gateavisa & Gyldne Sprekk pres: Container (US), live!