For Snapped Ankles, the journey into conceptual synth music, like for so many others, began with a love of Kraftwerk. “I loved how they got rid of the drummer and suddenly thought they were robots,” explains Patrick. “They basically decided to embrace new technology and go ‘this is the future and we’re the robots.’ But for us electronic music isn’t the future – electronic music is now vintage.”
The four-piece have taken this idea of regression and run with it. Many bands could be said to encompass the sounds of the forest, by Snapped Ankles almost literally play the plants. Patrick says that they’ve always been into bands like Gum Takes Tooth and Lightning Bolt; “bands using drums and applying the post-punk groove directly. So rather than just buying a synth we thought, why can’t we handmake one or even better, just go out and find a natural one? I found these basic disco triggers and attached them to old bits of timber I’d found in the woods. So we took what looked like a rotten log, added a trigger, and you’ve got your smashed-up synth or guitar, or whatever.”
Snapped Ankles experimental instruments have led, in turn, to a highly experimental approach to making music. Getting together for what they call ‘log jams’, most of the band’s songs evolve from freeform drum sessions that see the four members bashing out rhythms on wood, synths and sequencers. “They tend to be an incubator for working Patrick explains after I ask him about playing out the songs,” he says. “It’s a bit like that Public Enemy story – when they wrote ‘Fear of a Black Planet’ they all stood in a room hitting samplers and making absolute chaos. They’d record everything, listen back and go, ‘yeah, that’s where it’s working.’ We try and emulate that approach, really. It’s about setting up a bunch of bases that we can eventually develop into new sounds.”
These jam sessions also form the foundations of Snapped Ankles’ remarkable live performances. “We’d put on these warehouse shows with performance artists and dancers – all people with good shows, and we apply that thinking to our music.
“I managed to convince the rest of the band to wear ghillie suits. They hadn’t really done art performance before, so it was good for those rock boys to be able to take on a different persona. I mean, none of them have a background in performance art; you have to spend a few years rolling around naked in a bin-bag or covered in butter to free yourself up enough to really do performance art.”
Although it’s a philosophy that is becoming more difficult to pull off now that they’ve become a touring band, the group are determined that no two gigs should ever be the same. “We’re trying to deliver the full experience,” says Patrick, “like, take things somewhere beyond just the music. Putting the mask on helps you transcend just being a musician. You end up with this sense of theatre and I’m always looking for ways you can subvert that. Like maybe the band can walk around the audience, or the crowd can wear the masks.