Spectral Electronica : The Ghostly Sounds of worriedaboutsatan

Somewhere over in Yorkshire, England you’ll find Gavin Miller and Thomas Ragsdale summoning electronic spirits in order to hypnotize you into a blissful state of musical euphoria. Miller and Ragsdale are the sole members of the electronic musical outfit known as worriedaboutsatan, and the sound they create is a mixture of ambient techno and atmospheric soundscapes. When I first heard them I instantly felt at ease. There’s a dramatic sweep in their music, and especially on their newest release, Blank Tape. It’s all very cinematic. Like, these guys seriously need to score something for Denis Villeneuve at some point. But besides that cinematic feel, worriedaboutsatan create moody soundscapes you can easily get lost in(with or without chemical help.) I was reminded of Boards of Canada, but there’s a lot going on.

Once I heard a few of their albums I knew I had to reach out and see if Gavin and Thomas would be up to the jhubner73 treatment. They were. We talked about fan forums, 70s string machines, harassing Spencer Hickman, and what “spectral eletronica” is. Enjoy.

J. Hubner: So tell me the story of worriedaboutsatan. How did you guys get together?

Tom:  We were both in a band called Johnny Poindexter around 2002-2003, which was kind of a post-rock/big riff/Tool/Sigur Ros kind of band! We were into extremely loud soundscapes and that kind of thing. It was Gavin’s band and they needed another guitarist, so I gladly accepted the challenge of an audition. We played a few gigs, but ultimately due to ‘drummer issues’ the band broke up (like most bands with drummers do!) and we ended up a duo making electronica.

J. Hubner: How did you end up with the name worriedaboutsatan? I like it. The whole “satanic panic” thing is a hobby of mine.

Gavin: Ah, this one! It was basically me trying to show off on an internet forum in the mid 00s. I was a massive fan of the Belgian band dEUS, and when I joined their forum I decided to be really pretentious and thought I needed a name that screamed ‘I know more about this band than you’, so raided my CD collection of theirs and found a really obscure b-side from 1996 or so called ‘Worried About Satan’. So just put it all as one word and called myself that. The forum were working on a covers CD at one point, and so I decided to submit a cover of one of their songs, and just kept on recording stuff, and the name stuck!

J. Hubner: If you had to narrow the list of bands and artists that had the biggest impact on your sound to just three, what would that list look like?

Tom: Tough one! I’d have to say Underworld, Boards Of Canada and Trentemoller. We stole quite a lot from these guys in the early stages of the band, and they taught us how to be a band in an electronic way.

J. Hubner: For the uninitiated, what is “spectral electronica”? 

Gavin: Ha! Ah, that was initially a nice sounding phrase to use on our biog, but I guess it evokes the ghostly kind of atmospheres we like, and the eerie sounds we tend to use a lot.

J. Hubner: Are you horror/sci fi fans as well? Does cinema help mold the sound and aesthetic of the band?

Gavin: Yeah, we certainly watch our fair share of horror and sci-fi, and our sound is fairly cinematic I guess too. We also tend to take a fair bit of inspiration from Philip K Dick books and stuff like that – I think we’re basically big geeks and love anything a bit weird!

J. Hubner: What’s one of the most influential films for you guys? And why?

Tom: ‘The Thing’ would be no. 1 for us in that respect. We love building tension and a minimal approach to writing to music, which is the highpoint of the film’s score. We seem to pick up on the creepy side of films and soundtracks, and this one’s been with us for a long time.

J. Hubner: Listening to your newest album ‘Blank Tape’, there’s both an atmospheric quality and a heavy dance vibe. What is the writing process like for worriedaboutsatan? Do you have a practice space where you can hash things out, or is it more of a file sharing thing?

Gavin: We kind of work both ways really – sometimes one of us will have a little idea that we’ll flesh out when we get together in the studio, or sometimes we’ll just get together and have a bit of a jam and see where it takes us – I suppose it keeps things pretty interesting when putting stuff together!

J. Hubner: Do you guys use much in the way of analog gear? If so, what are some of your go-to instruments?

Tom: Yes, we’re big fans. We like to use a lot of instruments in our music. Our go to instruments are definitely guitar and piano. Most people who hear our music probably don’t hear these instruments, but most of the textures we make are from loops drenched in reverb that we’ve played in live. We also have a decent collection of vintage kit from 70s string machines to Russian guitar pedals.

J. Hubner: Do you guys self-produce? Do you have your own studio where you can record?

Gavin: We do! it’s just easier (and cheaper!) for us to work like that. Tom has the main studio, and I have a little setup at mine too, but that’s mainly for little ideas or sketches.

J. Hubner: There seems to be an almost ambient vibe throughout your full-lengths and EPs. From Arrivals to Even Temper to Blank Tape there’s been this spatial feel throughout. How do you guys see your sound changing and evolving from 10 years ago to now? How has the creative process changed for you?

Tom: I think it’s mostly due to what we’re into musically and what we’re listening to. We take a lot of inspiration from our music collections and this obviously changes through the years! I think our style changes, but our ‘vibe’ definitely stays the same! There’s always an underlying element that instantly recognisable as ‘worriedaboutsatan’, whether that’s certain sounds or how the music is put together. We used to be quite focused on making ‘dance music’, but since we’ve mellowed out in our 30s we’re more interested in writing music you can light a blunt to.

Photo by Magda Wrzeszcz

J. Hubner: Can you tell me about your upcoming release with Death Waltz Originals? How did you get hooked up with Spencer Hickman? 

Tom: Basically, I’ve been harassing Spencer for about 4 years! I did a film score a while ago and sent it to him for a listen and he seemed to quite like it, so I kept sending him bits and pieces. Over the course of a few years we talked a little bit and eventually met up. We had some tracks finished with no home and I dropped them his way for a listen!

J. Hubner: Besides the EP, what else is in store for worriedaboutsatan?

Gavin: As always, it’s as much touring as possible, and as much recording as possible too. We never really sit still for more than 5 seconds, so we’re always working on something. We also run a little label called This Is It Forever, where we realise small runs of solo stuff alongside the satan stuff, and this keeps us pretty busy as well.

Okay, now that you’re done reading go over to worriedaboutsatan’s Bandcamp page and listen to their impressive body of work. And be on the lookout for their release with the excellent Death Waltz Originals. If you like their Facebook page you might get that info sooner rather than later.

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