YANK SCALLY is a mysterious figure, who reached out from the ether into our inbox with a single line – “hello. im from toxteth” – and a link to his SoundCloud page. Intrigued, we opened it to find a veritable goldmine of slickly produced, experimental electronic music that spanned styles and genres effortlessly. Three Thousand is an indie pop banger, fully ready to play in the background of a Thomas Cook advert. His 1980s series is modern, pitch-perfect repurposing of nostalgic 80s synth sounds, as naturally trendy as Stranger Things. But we were shocked to see that most of his songs have less than a hundred plays. Realising that we may have discovered a secret gem before the rest of the world catches up, we reached out to him to find out more.
“I’m completely self-taught, no teachers and I don’t even watch YouTube guides,” he tells us. But somehow, with an intuitive process of trial and error, which has been ongoing for “a little over 10 years” with “a very minimal set-up”, Yank Scally has attained a level of sonic virtuosity that is hard to find. “Never had monitors or anything like that,” he says. “I got a Roland SH 201 on my 16th birthday and learned synthesis.” He describes his upbringing as “not particularly musical”; the seeds of musical passion were sown in him immaculately, by God, or maybe by Daft Punk.
“On my 11th birthday I was given a mp3 player, it could only fit about three or four albums on there. I got LimeWire out and the first songs I got were from that Discovery album,” he recalls. “It was the track Nightvision that I heard while riding my bike around, headphones in, that affected me the most… I wanted to do this, I wanted to do what these robots did and make music.” A lack of access to resources has never deterred him. When we visited his home studio, we were surprised to find that he produces his pristine tunes on shitty speakers and FruityLoops. He doesn’t care; he’s ambitious. “I’m working on a very dramatic, OTT live set,” he says. “I want to blow people’s minds.”
This, however, is not to say that he is in any kind of rush. He is a perfectionist, intent on delivering Yank Scally in its purest form. In fact, if you visit his SoundCloud page, you won’t find any of the tracks that intrigued us in the first place – he has wiped it completely, and released three new songs. Previously, it was like a tasting menu, with offerings like Burial Copy, an homage to one of his favourite producers. It is as though all the musical genres present themselves to him as a palette, and he is free to take a dab of this and that as he sees fit. He sees himself as a sound designer: “You can design a song and you can make it sound like whatever you want. If I put a jungle tune over a slow indie song, and it goes off, it adds a whole new level and feeling to it. A once dismal song could become a danceable bop, and vice-versa.”
For a natural musical shape-shifter, it can take time to find out how everything will fit together. His new songs bring together the breadth of his influences, and the new album he is working on is founded on the same concept: “I really want to get, like, the polar opposites to collaborate on one track. Like instrumentalists, rappers and singers that are so far apart.” If anyone is capable of acting as a bridge, it’s Yank Scally – the hybridity of identity is the cornerstone of his work. He calls himself Yank Scally because “it is two words that I can identify with. I’m half American and I grew up in rough parts of Liverpool”. A silent mover, friends with rappers and donk DJs alike, Yank Scally is one to watch.