Documentaries that involve electronic music are usually hit or miss; either the film misses the point of the original usage of the music or it goes on a different direction altogether. However, with Speaking In Code, there’s depth in each dimension of the film; from the characters of the artists featured, their bosses, their families, and the world around them. The filmmakers themselves also become centralized figures in the film, as a natural plot progresses that struggles passionately between the journey of pure techno love and love amongst themselves. A film worth watching more than once, Speaking In Code is nothing short of an extraordinary documentation of fandom, freedom and everything in between. URB had a chance to speak to the director, Amy Grill about the starting point, her exposure to techno and the bits that happened in between.
URB: When did you decide to embark on the journey that was documenting this experience?
AMY GRILL: Phillip Sherburne, David Day and myself were at the 2005 Winter Music Conference. We were on a sweaty dancefloor in some Miami club and we were discussing the scene, how much we loved techno during that time and all the characters that made us feel passionate about it. What I realized was that there were no techno documentaries that captured the essence of the producers and DJs, the characters of the techno world. While this is all happening, Diddy comes out of a megatrailer while Felix Da Housecat was spinning. Bizarre but true.
URB:What was your first techno exposure and what drew you to it?
AG: In the mid-to-late ’90s at the University of Kansas, I was into music in general, but more towards indie rock. But later, I got into Doctor Octagon and DJ Shadow. DJ Shadow was my first emotive exposure to electronic music, and because of the care he put into his sample-picking it was the perfect bridge to electronic music. I got into big-beats, and some minimal. In the early 2000s, the label of Kompakt gave me my proper “oh my God” moment into techno.
URB: The cast of characters is so deep from the Wighnomy Bros to Modeselektor and Monolake; how did you consider your ‘cast’ qualifications?
AG: We researched a lot, watched a lot of electronic music documentaries. We went impromptu to some festivals and interviewed artists unknowingly as a test for “casting.” The biggest questions we faced: “Who is the most interesting person to watch?”, “Who do you want to watch when they do nothing but make funny faces?”, “Who has a life that’s different from the techno world?” Monolake is the quirky mad-scientist but also he’s the creator of Ableton LIVE, which is significant to electronic culture. The Wighnomy Brothers had a very human element to their music and it showed in the film, and Modeselektor were just musicians working hard time and time again. Now look at them!
URB: The hype for the Wighnomy Bros were big in this film (they have recently disbanded), but Modeselektor were the titans in the end, blowing up exponentially. Did you expect any of the outcomes present to happen?
AG: With Modeselektor, there was a huge feeling they would blow up, and I couldn’t be more prouder of them. As for The Wighnomy Bros. I did not expect them to fall apart, but I expected something to happen I knew they would somehwat struggle with the fame but I would never think the outcome would end up the way it did.
URB: What was the wear-and-tear like for yourself and everyone involved during the years of putting this film together?
AG: There were definitely a lot of huge ups & downs that you see a lot of lighter stuff on camera. The years I put into making this film were both the best and worst years of my life. We were pretty honest about our struggles in the film and we didn’t hide it. I had a full-time job and juggled traveling internationally on the weekends, David was working for Forced Exposure and bringing Boston to techno glory. Nothing was easy and that’s in the film for everyone to see. This film was introspective towards techno and our love for it. Everything in between is just part of life, something anyone who watches can hopefully relate to.
Enjoy this extra interview with Bryan Kasenic (aka Spinoza/creator of The Bunker weekly in Brooklyn) discussing Minimalism in NYC.