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A Magazine for Sheffield

Åyusp "I remember being totally blown away, but for reasons I didn't then understand"

We speak to the Sheffield-based duo who found their path to electronic music through the mysterious music emanating from Germany in the 1970s.

by DJ Tat


Born out of a love for timeless German electronic music from the early seventies and beyond, Åyusp straddle the divide between cosmic beatless sounds from outer space and a cracking four to the floor terrestrial party.

The duo of Graham McElearney and Paul Mills have tapped into their extensive collective musical knowledge and dropped their first self-released mini album in 2019. Despite the impact of Covid, they’re now back on track with their lush electronic agenda.

At the core of your collaboration is a passion for Kosmische music, otherwise known as ‘cosmic’. What is it and how did you get into it?

Paul Mills: My introduction to this music was through listening to the likes of Tangerine Dream and Ashra on the radio in my early teens. The first thing I ever wanted to do musically was be in a synth band, but in those days synths were very expensive so I ended up playing guitar instead!

Graham McElearney: I was always really fascinated by synth-based music, from childhood really. The very first pop single I ever asked my folks to get me was ‘Son of My Father’ by Chicory Tip when I was about eight. I only found out last year that it was written and produced by Giorgio Moroder, who of course was responsible for another tune which I totally loved as a young child, ‘I Feel Love’.

I then remember seeing the (now slightly infamous) BBC broadcast of Tangerine Dream playing from Coventry Cathedral, and being totally blown away but for reasons I didn't then really understand.

What was the catalyst for forming Åyusp and what musical paths brought you together as a duo?

GM: I knew Paul had been doing all sorts of interesting electronica for the whole time I'd known him (about 30 years now!). In about 2015 or so Paul asked me to do some harp for a track he was doing with his Weird and Wonderful band, who really are a precursor to Åyusp. We got talking more then, which is when we discovered we both had a passion for the Kosmische stuff.

Sheffield is a city synonymous with electronic music, but it’s never truly embraced the ambient or Kosmische sounds you’ve chosen to build your output around. Why do you think that is?

PM: It was the post-punk electronic scene that drew me to Sheffield – Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League, Hula, etc.

All those bands were influenced by Kosmische bands but took it in their own direction, so I think the influences are there in a lot of Sheffield music, it's just how it represents itself is always unique to each band.

You started in 2016 and were gaining momentum until lockdown. What was the impact on your collaboration? Was there a feeling of having to start from scratch?

GM: Yeah I think the impact of lockdown has been pretty immense for lots of people of course. But what I’ve found really surprising is how hard it’s been to dig ourselves back out of the slump we all went into.

Having said that, we did manage to release ‘Wild Edges’ in 2020, which was a collection of some soundtracks we’d recorded for an installation for the fantastic Festival of the Mind. And we did also release the Varmelodi EP in June 2021, so we were able to at least try and maintain some action.

We managed to do a lot of those working remotely and sharing projects together online. We’ve really only just started to get back into gigging this year though. We only had one definite gig booked in for last year and I managed to go and get Covid two days before, so that was out of the window!

What’s your workflow when making music? So you take turns leading and are there certain things you take charge of individually?

GM: Not a specific workflow as such. Some things come out of us jamming together, and sometimes one of us might start off with some ideas and then the other one can add their bits to.

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I find working with Paul helps me to focus my ideas – otherwise I think I’d end up with a hard drive full of 32-bar loops that would never see the light of day!

You’ve played a few live gigs, most recently supporting the veteran ambient group Marconi Union at Yellow Arch. It must feel like you’re doing something right?

GM: Yeah, we actually first played with Marconi back in 2019 at the Subliminal Impulse festival in Manchester. They seem like really nice guys to work with and of course they sound amazing, so we’re hoping we can do more – which was in fact the plan before lockdown came.

You recently released a radio edit of ‘Traumen’ on Bandcamp as a teaser for your forthcoming album. What can you tell us about that?

GM: Yes, we’re currently working on that now. There will be some new tunes as well as at least one piece that’s been in our live set for a few years now, but not released.

We’re hoping to have the album out for early 2024, with another single in time for the winter solstice.

The radio edit is a snapshot of a far more epic 14-minute version which was produced by Dean Honer from I Monster as well as other notable Sheffield acts. What kind of instructions did you give to Dean or did you just let him ‘do his thing?’

GM: Working with Dean is fantastic. We tend to give him a pretty well worked out demo of what we’re thinking, but we’re always very open to him adding elements or changing things. He certainly did this on ‘Traumen’, with a few extra synth parts and some neat drum fills!

What else can we expect from Åyusp going forward?

Forthcoming gigs in Sheffield include the Fly Tower at the Abbeydale Picture House on 21 September, Planet Zogg on 29 September and a new single on the winter solstice. New album early 2024!

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