Third album done and dusted, U.S. Tour on the horizon, how does it feel being a musician in 2015?
That’s a good question, kind of a funny question – I don’t know if there’s anything else quite like being an independent musician in this day and age, in this society. So much of what it is is so nebulous and indistinct, fleeting and non-repetitive in a way – which, in that way makes it seem like a perfect metaphor for the quintessential human life actually. You definitely have to be (or become) pretty good at defining meaning for yourself, which is something I’ve worked on my whole adult life. I was just reading something written by a music publisher, he was talking about the so-called de-valuing of music, which is something I’ve certainly thought about. Talking about how, like, if you walked into a Bentley showroom and said, “hey can I just pay what I want for this blue one?” – you know, how that would go over.
How the term file sharing is kind of a joke, a real cop-out, a gloss-over, like it should really be called willful copyright infringement or file stealing, and I just had to laugh. All that is so far from my daily reality. I mean, on one level all that stuff is true of course, and is obviously very pertinent to my specific life, and if I really started to think about it I’m sure I could get pissed off about it – but really, when I talk to myself it’s much more like “well, I’m just fine. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to spend a lot of my time doing exactly what I want to be doing, and growing at it and in other areas, moving in the direction I want to move in.” You know, and I have this very long-term view of things anyway. I always have. That’s a good thing for a contemporary indie musician to have. Well, for me it is anyway.
It's been written that your new album is a significant change of direction that has come about since you entered your thirties. Is that something you can expand on?
Well, as far as I can tell, there have been marked shifts in both the content and the sound of the music from my first two albums to this one. And as far as me being in a different stage of my life, I think that pertains primarily to the lyrics, or what the album is “about” on a textual level. If I think about the kinds of thoughts, ideas, feelings, observations that I was having during the course of writing this record, I would agree that the sensibility, overall as well as the specific kinds of problems I was trying to work out or address in these songs, are those of my life in my thirties, and much less about the specific things I was worrying about in my twenties. Of course, I think there’s certainly a degree of overlap – me being the same person, just a bit older – but I would agree this is a document of a slightly more matured person, and mindset. And with respect to the other part, the musical, or more formal half of the record, I’d say it’s only natural to want to change as an artist. I certainly wanted to on this one, and I intend to on every one. I’m really looking forward to doing something very different on the next one in fact.
What was different in the studio this time around and how long did the process take from writing the first song to the album hitting the shelves?
It was a very different process this time around. The largest difference was that Godfrey Diamond and I rehearsed the foundation of the band, the rhythm section, before going into the studio to cut basics. On the first two records, it was my voice and acoustic guitar that made up the bed tracks on top of which everything else was added. And the other huge difference was having the Alomars (Carlos Alomar, Robin Clark, Lea-Lórien Alomar) and Gordon Grody create this family feeling when we did the background vocals, which are the other crucial part of how the record turned out. That was something incredibly special, and totally unique to this album. I wrote the first couple songs a good while before I wrote the rest of the album, and probably a solid two years between that first writing and the album being released. It’s always my wish to close that gap. My dream is to someday write something and record it immediately.
How does the spark of an idea arrive that drives you to write a new song and what comes first, words or music?
Generally speaking it’s music then words for me, although there have been a number of exceptions to that rule, including three or four of the songs on this record. Accordingly, the initial impetus for a song can either be a musical figure, or a lyrical one. Occasionally they’ll happen simultaneously.
Do you ever write music with an eye to whether it will sell or have popular appeal?
No, I just think that the music that has always touched me the most happens to be somewhat conventionally song-structured songs, and probably mostly those with great, personal melodies. I also think that as I do get older, I’m really drawn to the idea that the best music, the best anything for that matter, is possibly that which a two or three, or maybe five or six year old could most naturally relate to. You know, less thinking, more feeling. That’s after all what made me love music in the first place. In any case, my music doesn’t sound to me like anything I’m hearing on the radio these days anyway.
Any chance of any U.K. dates this year?
Well I would very seriously love to but not surprisingly it’s going to come down to finances. Another one of those “real” realities of being a contemporary DIY indie artist. You have to make decisions like “branch out into new touring regions, or promote the new album.” But it is among the highest items on my list to get over there already. Please let your club-owner / show-booker readers know that if they are willing to cover my expenses, I am there.
Who designed and what was the inspiration for the cover of the album?
I designed it, and I think a good bit of the inspiration came from the notion of moving (sometimes expressed as driving), which is a theme dealt with throughout the album, in some songs more than others. Songbird, which starts out the album, is probably the most concrete example of this, and that probably also has something to do with why I put that imagery together in that way.
Do you have any downtime away from music and if so, how do you like to spend your free time?
Not much in the way of down time, per se. When I’m not doing music in whatever form, I work in film and video in a variety of capacities, have done just about everything over the years – shoot, write, edit, direct, produce. And as far as free time, the best of all is when I can get away with my wife, anywhere, as long as we’re alone together. And during my solo free time, whenever and wherever that is, I write songs. I also love to read and do so a good amount. I think this has definitely increased in my thirties. Oh, and movies. I’m obsessed with going to movies in the theatre. I go by myself all the time.
What one piece of advice would you give to anyone starting out on a music career in 2015?
Do what you’re drawn to the most, what excites you the most, and do it as much as you can. And surround yourself with good people!
What was your favourite record during school/college time that you still play today?
There are a few but Peter Gabriel’s Us always seems to stick out. Increasingly, as I get farther away from the time when I listened most intensely, which was in college and the couple years after, I’m struck by just how much that period of his career heavily influenced my relationship to music and songwriting at a very crucial stage in my development, and to me those influences still show up regularly. That record and period of his had a profound influence on me.
Second album done and dusted, what was different in the studio this time around?
It was very different in that we hardly used a proper studio as such. On "Woodditton Wives Club" I recorded the whole thing at Press Play Studio in London, which is owned by Andy Ramsay of Stereolab (he produced too). Spent the best part of ten days in there and it was a great experience.
For the new record we didn't spend much time in "proper" studios at all, just to record some drums really. A couple of days was all we had. The rest of it was either sent to me via the wonder of modern technology (Robert Rotifer's electric guitar parts from Canterbury, the horns from the USA, Laura J Martin's in Liverpool, John Howard's piano in Spain, etc, etc) or in my little home studio, which isn't very high-tech at all.
Putting this record together was like a jig-saw that Bear (The producer) & I had to piece to together. It was a really interesting way to work actually. A bit like a sculpture appearing out of a big piece of rock. We just did whatever we fancied doing on any given day.
You have lived in both Liverpool and Cambridgeshire; does either location inspire your music?
Absolutely, you can't escape your roots (and I wouldn't want too) so Liverpool never really leaves me wherever I am. I suppose that's how most people feel about their home town. It's a very musical place you know..
The countryside in which I live now though, the space, the peace, the strange people who live in the village (all lovely of course), how could it not....
How would you describe your songs for people that have not heard your music yet?
That's a difficult one. Something I always struggle with. I'm into writing songs, I'm not really that bothered about the genre or whatever. I just like to follow my nose, not force things, amuse myself.
There are a million artists I admire but this album has been compared to people like Sufjan Stevens, The Miserable Rich, Nick Drake, Tim Buckley but then again I've also had Field Music and even Charlie Chaplin.
There was a review the other day that said one the songs sounded like "Prince"!
I'm not sure. I suppose deep down I'd like be like Harry Nilsson. He just did whatever he liked. When they asked him what his style was he said "well they're just songs, you know..."
Are there any stories behind any of the songs on the new record that you would particularly like to share?
There's stories behind most of them but I think it's best to let people listen to them and work out what they think.
I did have this idea when I was making the record that these were the thoughts rushing through someone's head as they were about to die. I put it together like that. Then when I realised how pretentious that sounded I stopped mentioning it!
Who designed and what was the inspiration for the cover for the album?
The album cover was designed by my friends at Design Friendship, extremely talented people who have helped me with all sorts of stuff over the years. They're absolute diamonds. The photo, however, was taken by another very good of mine Frank Van Delft in Holland. He took me to a museum of old computers and typewriters and just took loads of shots. They're virtual reality glasses circa 1993 I've got in my hands!
Do you ever write music with an eye to whether it will sell or have a popular appeal?
No I don't. I wish I did, maybe I'd have more money.
Just how difficult is it to earn a living wage from being a musician these days and where would you say your strongest fan base is domiciled at the moment?
It's very difficult but the flip-side is anyone can get out there and make records nowadays. There's not so many gate-keepers and if people like what you do they can generally stumble upon you. That's what's happened to me, it's all been a bit of an accident. I was meant to have given up any ideas of a music career when I moved to the country a few years back. It didn't quite work out like that.
I don't do it for money, which is just as well.
I think probably most people know of me in Holland, where my first record went down quite well. They're lovely people the Dutch.
Do you have any downtime away from music and if so, how do you like to spend your free time?
I spend most of my time looking after my kids so I don't get much downtime, and when I do I normally seek out my guitar! If I'm not doing that I'm probably watching Everton lose on the TV.
How important do you think it is for new artists in 2014 to find a label?
I don't know. It would be handy for me but then on the other hand I get to do what I like. You can do it either way, I suppose the difference right now is you don't NEED them. Although saying that, I wouldn't mind having some big label behind me, it would take the pressure off financially that's for sure. EMI? Sony? I'm here if you need me.
What was your favourite record during school/college time that you still play today?
There are so many. David Ackles eponymous first album. That was a very important LP to me.
What are your musical plans for 2015 and how far do you actually plan ahead when it comes to your musical activities?
I don't really plan anything, maybe I should! I'm going to Holland to play some shows in a few weeks, then I'll be going back over later in the year. We'll be recording a new album for release hopefully in the autumn.
I'm hoping to tour in the UK too. Anyone out there interested in having me come play do drop me a line : )
Both of Alex’s albums are available via Bandcamp so you can have a listen for yourself HERE
Has the musical year of 2014 been kind to you, what are your highlights?
Yeah, I'd say so. It's been a year of hard work, lots of writing, touring, and studio time. I'd say the highlights were making a record with my best buds and touring in England.
New album and tour early next year, is it time to kick back and relax over the holidays?
Yes! I have this whole month of December off, so I get to spend some time with my gal and my family.
Where are you spending Christmas this year and do you have any traditions for this time of year, that make you think, 'this is Christmas'
We will be going to Dallas, my hometown, this year for Christmas. My family's Christmas tradition is not having a tradition. One time we had Chinese take-out for our Christmas meal. I actually quite enjoy how laid back we are over the holidays.
Where did you record the new album ‘All These Dreams'' and how long did you spend in the studio?
We spent 10 days total recording at The Casino, which is a studio in East Nashville run by Eric Masse.
Was there anything different about the recording process this time around or, ideas you tired out for the first time?
I think this time around the process was more thought out than anything I've done before. The producers (Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson) and I put a lot of work into the arrangement of the songs. We also put strings on all but two songs, which was a new and very cool thing to witness in the studio.
Any particular stories around any of the songs on ‘All These Dreams' that you would like to share?
Suwannee County, the last track on the record, was based on a conversation I had with an old man at gas station in Florida about fishing and spirituality... two things that share a common thread, for me at least.
How important do you think it is for new artists in 2015 to find a label and how is life at Loose?
For me, finding a label home at Loose has been gratifying. They have supplied ideas and connections I would never have had before.
You are touring with Justin Townes Earle in January/February. Do you know each other well or, do you normally just get acquainted as the tour progresses?
I got to know Justin when I was "tour managing" Caitlin Rose on some dates she supported. I say "tour managing" because I was really just hanging out. Justin is a super talented guy. I'm looking forward to opening up his shows.
What music did you listen to during school/college days that still send a shiver of greatness down your spine today?
Everyone I discovered and fell in love with during that time of my life are still my all time favorites - Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Kris Kristofferson, Jackson Browne, and Leonard Cohen come to mind.
How do you step away from music and is the spark of a new song more likely to occur on or, off the road?
I step away from music by going fishing. To answer the second question, I almost never write on the road. I might gather general ideas, but I'm too distracted to sit down and try and write.
Tour Dates 2015
18 Jan GATESHEAD, Caedmon Hall
19 Jan MANCHESTER, Band on the Wall
21 Jan OSLO, John Dee
23 Jan STOCKHOLM, Sodra Teatern
24 Jan GOTHENBURG, Pustervik
25 Jan MALMO, KB
26 Jan BERLIN, Grüner Salon
28 Jan HAMBURG, Nochtspeicher
29 Jan AMSTERDAM, Paradiso
30 Jan GRONINGEN, Oosterpoort
31 Jan ROTTERDAM, Rotown
01 Feb UTRECHT, Tivoli Vredenburg
03 Feb LEEDS, Brudenell Social Club
04 Feb NOTTINGHAM, Glee Club
05 Feb BRISTOL, The Tunnels
06 Feb LONDON, Union Chapel
Andrew's new album ‘All The Dreams” is released on Loose Records on 26th January 2014
Photo by Melissa Madison Fuller
How did the band come together and with what ambitions?
The band came together as all significant historical meetings of great minds do in a pub in Shepherds bush. Our ambition was to fulfill our lifelong dream of starting a Screamohardcoretechnoindustrialdeathmetaldrumnbass band. We wanted to create a sound that could kill a man or at the very least inflict the brown frequency. But that didn't work out. So we settled for melodramatic French pop instead. oui.
How do you go about creating new music, do you have to been in a certain space, mentally or physically or, is it, when the spark strikes?
Well usually it goes a little bit like this...
Turn off the lights.
Light a candle.
Pour a little rum.
Dust off the piano,tune the guitar.
Refill our rum.
Say a little prayer to Apollo.
And hope for the best.
Marketing an album sung in French to global market, did you think that was risky from a sales perspective?
We always knew singing in French would make life a little harder for us but it's also what makes us feel a little bit different (in London anyhow). Also the French language seemed to compliment the music far more than English did. So to hell with the consequences to sales!!! By the way our next album is in Latin.
Are there any particular stories you would like to share behind the songs on the record?
No particular story to tell about any particular song on the album but I will tell you this.... That WHOLE record was created from fun and frolics with friends and music. Something good came out of those daft winter nights.
There seems to be some modern band influences to your sound, Tindersticks? Elbow? Are there any bands that you particularly draw inspiration from?
Well that's a strange thing. All the Bonbons have very different tastes in music from each other yet we seem to find a common ground in the music that we make. But there's one thing that unites us all!!.. None of us listen to any other music that sounds like the music we make. I think that's odd and unexplainable.
Where did you play your first gig? Any particular memories?
Our first gig together as Les Bonbons was held where all great significant historical debut gigs are held in a pub, in shepherds Bush. The same pub where we first met in fact. Not the same night tho. I remember Fred Bonbon was very very very scared. Not because it was our first gig but because it was Halloween. Ha!
If the band could choose to be on the cover of a magazine, which magazine would it be?
How will you be spending Christmas this year and if you had to choose one album of 2014 as your favourite, what would it be and why?
Finishing our second album this winter......... and learning Latin.
Favourite albums of 2014?
Our two favourite albums of the year are: Mick Harvey - Intoxicated Man and Pink Elephants Double LP re-release (Mute Records) and Goastt - Midnight Sun (Chimera Music)
Joyeux Noel to everyone ! xx
Wow, time flies, a decade on Warp Records, how has your outlook changed towards being in the music industry over the years?
That’s a big question. Over the last decade huge technological changes have hit the industry. Some of these have been for the better; when Flashlight Seasons first came out, Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, This Is My Jam, Tumblr et al didn’t exist; these are now recognised as essential profiling and marketing tools for releases. I signed just on the cusp of mass downloading. The year I recorded Flashlight Seasons was the year I got broadband fitted!
Now a whole generation of music lovers has grown up not having ever paid for music; or perhaps more interestingly, not having ever bought a physical recording. Insofar as we can convince people to pay for music at all, it has changed from an ownership model to a rental ‘music on demand’ model where people want to be able to access whatever music they want wherever they are. Spotify, for instance, allows them to do this. It’s not yet clear how well this works out for the composers, but there will always be people who want vinyl, which has became a kind of antiquated luxury item capable of paradoxically delivering superior sound quality.
For Gravenhurst the biggest changes have been personal. In a documentary on Gerry Rafferty I watched recently, La Roux’s Elly Jackson said that when you go from being unsigned to being a professional musician, music goes from being something you do almost 100% of the time to about 20% of the time, and I thought that was very perceptive. Being on a label like Warp has shielded me from the excesses of the music industry ‘machine’; I wasn’t forced or cajoled into doing anything I was uncomfortable with, but on the other hand it took me years to learn how to say no. (I’m actually very proud of the fact that I’ve never turned down an interview.) But most crucially I didn’t yet have a manager and I wasn’t coping well with managing myself. I couldn’t find the time to actually pick up the guitar; I was forever answering emails, and Warp was having to pick up duties that a manager should fulfil.
Fortunately, this period only lasted until the summer of 2005 when I was contacted by Michelle who offered to manage me, and I think I agreed before she had finished the sentence. Michelle was already managing the Ralfe Band and had been working in the industry for many years beforehand and within minutes of meeting her it became clear she knew far more about it than I did. She took on pretty much 100% of the administrative side of it – she runs the Gravenhurst machine; I just have to provide the fuel. I won’t stretch this metaphor any further.
I just have to make records, perform shows, have my photo taken and do interviews and she does everything else. She also acts as my closest creative confidante; she’s the first person to hear a new song and she isn’t afraid to tell me if it needs more work or if I’m being lazy. She’s a very close friend. I couldn’t put a song on an album if Michelle didn’t love it too; some musicians find it baffling that I let my manager have a say in the creative process, but for me it’s essential. She has to push the music for me and she can’t do that if she doesn’t believe in it. Going back to 2004, I definitely had that kind of childish reaction to press coverage that many musicians suffer – that “Whatever they say I am, that’s what I’m not”. It’s only recently clicked with me that I should have been glad for the Nick Drake comparisons – he wrote Pink Moon, one of my favourite albums! OK, so Simon & Garfunkel are a far more formative influence on Gravenhurst, but come on, Nick fucking Drake - there are far worse people to be compared to!
The other really significant change for me took place in 2008 when after touring The Western Lands I stopped touring with a band and just did sporadic solo shows. For a while I stopped doing anything. I’d also recently got divorced and had a lot of issues to contend with. Perhaps a year went by without me writing anything.
There were a few problems with the Gravenhurst ‘rock’ line-up: we were loud, and playing the more post-rock Gravenhurst albums (Fires In Distant Buildings and The Western Lands) I kept straining and losing my voice. But I just wasn’t happy touring. Looking back, there was nothing wrong with that band, (though we lacked vocal harmonies but my good friend Robin Allender was playing bass and he would likely have provided them if I’d asked); really the problem was me. I thought I hated touring, and given you have to tour to promote albums I seriously questioned whether I wanted to continue at all, in many senses.
The big change came in 2011 when Paul Smith of Maximo Park invited me to support him in a solo capacity on his new solo album tour, and I met his backing-band-mates, and we had an amazing three weeks. I realised I could tour provided I surrounded myself with women (Freudian psychoanalysts get your pens out) so when I then completed The Ghost In Daylight in 2012 I poached Claire Adams and Rachel Lancaster from Paul’s band. Claire plays bass and drums in lots of bands including Beards, but in the Gravenhurst Ensemble she plays drums and sings harmonies. Rachel plays guitar and bass and sings her own solo material and plays in various bands including Silver Fox, though in the Ensemble she mainly plays bass, synth and sings harmonies. The only drawback to this is that they live in Leeds and Newcastle respectively, while I live in Bristol. This makes rehearsing difficult. But I needed a band for The Ghost In Daylight touring and Michelle said “Geography aside, who would you most like to have in your band?” and they were the simple answer.
So we decided that mattered most and, we would have to work around the geographical logistics somehow. We’ve managed around a hundred gigs now. It’s not really a conscious process, but they keep me sane on tour. We’ve never really discussed it. It’s a subconscious thing. They just make me feel like I can do it. Partly because they are amazing musicians with beautiful voices, and partly because they are such awesome dudes. Ten years ago I suffered that anxiety most songwriters feel, as to whether they will write a song as good as the last. I don’t really think like that now. I don’t know why; I just don’t think in those terms anymore.
Whose idea was it for the 10th anniversary album reissues and with what aim?
I don’t recall who first mooted the notion but it was likely either me or Michelle, and after discussion of what it could involve, such as touring Flashlight Seasons from start to finish (see below), we put it to Warp, who had just taken on a new staff member Matthew Jones to work on archives and special projects, so it was perfect timing.
You ended up with a whole album of archived songs (Offerings). How did you decide what material to include and are there still unearthed songs that may see the light of day in the future?
There is actually a lot more unreleased stuff, because the decision over which songs to include was based on the period on which the songs were recorded. We restricted ourselves to what we called the ‘Flashlight-Black Holes era’. There is quite a lot of material that was recorded for Fires In Distant Buildings and onwards, so there will almost certainly be another compilation of unreleased stuff in the future. I have a terrible memory, and it seems I recorded a lot of stuff and then forgot about it. And the ten songs on Offerings were whittled down from sixteen contenders – whether those will see the light of day I don’t know... hardcore completists might have to locate and burgle my hard drives.
How important do you think it is for new artists in 2014 to find a label?
Whilst there are multiple avenues for making your music available to the public that didn’t exist a decade ago, just making something available doesn’t make it known. Having a record label with the capital to put into promoting you is what makes the difference. People might get discovered online, on youtube, bandcamp etc, but they then sign to a label. Unless a band isn’t interested in an industry career anyway – and I know many fine bands who couldn’t give a shit about getting signed – finding the right record label is largely the difference between making music, and making music that the public knows about.
Of course it is on a sliding scale; Warp won’t spend the money promoting my records that they will spend on, say, Grizzly Bear because my music has a more niche appeal. That said, Warp is a label full of artists who should logically have niche appeal, but Boards Of Canada and Aphex Twin album promotions have to involve listening parties, where the press are invited to hear the record, to prevent the albums being leaked. The Warp roster is full of frankly peculiar success stories. It’s a huge privilege to be part of it. I’m not the only ‘singer-songwriter’ anymore either! Lonelady has a second album in the works and I’ve become friends with Steven ‘Bibio’ Wilkinson, and it turns out we are both hugely more excited about synths than guitars.
You are also a freelance journalist and producer as well as being a musician, any preferences if you had to choose one career over the other?
I need them all in my life, for the sake of my mental health. I see the journalism as a kind of intellectual counterweight to the purely creative act of composing music. Now is a terrible time for print journalism and journalism in general so I’m very lucky to be published by a website as good as The Quietus.
The second career as a journalist came about because I was blogging fairly regularly while writing for Bristol and Bath’s magazine Venue, a listings magazine with a very high standard of critical writing. Venue sadly folded, and while I didn’t write for them every day or week and wasn’t dependent on them as some of my friends were (most of whom are now treading water as freelancers) I noticed something missing in my life. I blogged more regularly, as well as doing my satirical/profane web ‘comic’ Ultraskull, and I had got to know John Doran (Quietus editor) after he interviewed me back in 2007, and we’d stayed in touch. We had discussed the philosopher John Gray in our interview, and an opportunity to interview him came up in 2013. John Doran wrote that he didn’t expect me to have the time to be able to do it but asked if I had any questions I’d like to pass his way. I replied –faster than I’ve ever replied to any email- that I actually did have time to interview him and I very much wanted to do so!
So John Doran kindly gave me the gig, and the interview with John Gray took place over email, back and forth, over a couple of weeks. I was delighted because John Gray told me it was the most penetrating interview he had ever done, and invited me for tea in London to discuss the issues further. Back of the net!
After that I; tried to write more regularly, but as my main income does still come from music I try to prioritise that. But I just recently interviewed Alan Moore so that’s two of my literary heroes interviewed. Gordon Burn sadly died a few years ago so I won’t be able to interview my favourite British writer of the past forty years, but as soon as David Peace writes a book that isn’t about sport (about which I know nothing) and gets back to crime I’ll be after him.
As for production, I produce my own records and there aren’t many producers I can imagine working with, just because my process is so ungainly and random, but I’ve tried to push my remixing services because it’s such fun; I get to crank out the drum machines and synths and demonstrate a side of myself as a producer that perhaps isn’t so evident in Gravenhurst records. So far I’ve done three commercial remixes, but only the 9 Bach and Dive Index ones have been released to date– there’s more to come, but my particular favourite will be released to coincide with another release from the band in question.
One of your articles in 2008 'Why I Hate Rock n Roll' painted a pretty bleak picture of the gig scene in this country, have thing improved?
In terms of the state of the touring circuit, largely no. Some independent venues go the extra mile to make sure the artists are looked after, but even the best run venues in the UK don’t compare to the level of hospitality which is the norm in Europe. But that essay was most importantly about Rock ‘n’ Roll as an idea, a legend, a convenient fiction conjured up to excuse the ineptitude, zero hospitality and a whole host of other bullshit behaviours, by both bands as well as promoters, and that legend persists.
Rock ‘n’ roll will never die because so many music fans and music writers believe in it as an idea; they love its grubby authenticity and roguish credibility. It is the music industry equivalent of the lad mags that glorify East End criminal gangsters who once tortured people and pulled their teeth out with pliers – they portray these ‘geezers’ in an aspirational light.
It’s utterly fucking despicable and I won’t have any part of it. But to return to the touring circuit; the UK has an atrocious reputation worldwide for its awful gigging circuit – mainly its hospitality, backstage facilities and half-arsed promoters. It’s not as often the sound that is the problem – we have our fair share of great engineers and decent rigs, but we have a hell of a way to go if we want to attract bands to play here with anything other than a heavy heart and a sense of trepidation.
Do you have any live dates planned to tie in with the re-releases?
Yep – we have booked an extensive UK and European tour where we will play Flashlight Seasons from beginning to end followed by half an hour of other material!
How do you go about creating new music, do you have to be in a certain space, mentally and physically or is it, when the spark strikes?
I honestly wish I knew, and then I could put a leash on it and control it to some extent. I work slowly and I don’t work often. I am lazy, but when I do actually start something it has to be perfect; I also don’t get inspired that often. I don’t work fast enough on my lyrics; I take ages to get them right, but I should really treat writing and recording as a nine to five job like many others do. But I’m a lazy fucking bastard, and I’ve always been a night owl. I never feel right or remotely creative until the evening. Repeated attempts at forcing myself into a regular routine have collapsed in failure.
How is the music scene in Bristol today, any artists emerging that we should investigate more?
The music scene in Bristol is as eclectic as it ever was, though unfortunately the press outside of Bristol generally only pays attention to the bass music. That was particularly understandable from 2007 onwards when we had a remarkable second renaissance of bass music here, led by producers such as Pinch, Peveralist, Joker and Ginz, but as the dubstep sound has dissolved to some extent and crossed over into techno and the resurgence of house there has been less press coverage of Bristol.
There are loads of great guitar and noise bands, but if they aren’t signed to a London label they won’t get written about. That’s likely true of any city that isn’t London. It’s probably true of London too! But there are quite a few bands in Bristol who have been going for many years and have positively rejected the music industry and any notion of an industry career, and just make music for their own pleasure. Many of these bands are superb. But if you want some hot tips, I suggest you check out SJ Esau’s latest album ‘Exploding Views’ on from Scratch Records, and Paul Jebanasam’s ‘Rites’, on Subtext. The former is demented folk-hip hop Husker Du pop, the latter a haunting work of modern composition that brings to mind alien beings terra-forming a planet in an electrical storm.
Do you have any plans for 2015 and how far do you actually plan ahead when it comes to your musical activities?
We will tour Flashlight Seasons for as long as people want to hear it; I think we’ll enjoy that a lot. I’d like to release a new album next year but it’s only half written and only very slightly recorded. A central problem is that I don’t plan ahead nearly enough. I need someone standing over me, cracking a whip, then Gravenhurst fans would get their money’s worth.
Enter the world of the music and writing of Nick Talbot HERE
The tour below accompanies the reissue of the two classic albums, 'Flashlight Seasons' and 'Black Holes In The Sand', and the additional new album: 'Offerings: Lost Songs 2000 – 2004', a compilation of unreleased material from that period. Released on 1st December 2014, the three albums will be pressed on vinyl accompanied with digital download codes and essays by Nick reflecting on this early material after a decade of progress. A triple CD release will comprise all three albums. All available via the Warp Shop
Road to Horizon are a 5 piece Nu Metal band from Yorkshire, currently on tour with Enter The Lexicon.
You're halfway through a tour with Enter the Lexicon, how's it going ? No Yorkshire/Geordie rivalries?
No those guys are great, it's been a good tour so far and we are all on speaking terms. We do seem to have a party bus reputation though (please note this interview is taking place on the bands amazing ford transit hotel) last night in Leeds was a respectable 3.30am (it was a Saturday).
The Faultlines EP is out October, and is supported by a very indie movie style video. It has an expensive feel to it, how much input did you have?
It was totally ours, the wasteland and old sign making factory are all in Sheffield, The actors are mates and all post prod is what we can do ourselves, cost was minimal as we have to do it ourselves (check out "faultlines" on you tube).
You were working with producer Lee Batiuk on the EP, how did that come about?
Lucky break really, our old manager had a contact and we made the most of it, you make your own luck when the chance is there.
What's the plans post tour? Writing, Recording?
We never stop writing; we are always looking at lyrics and sounds playing with them looking for the hook. There is a lot of material and we would love a chance to get a full album out there.
How long has the band been together, many line up changes or is it a happy long term bunch of mates?
Since 2008 in various guises, we like the 5 piece set up now, all the components work, there is a real band ready to break vibe.
Thanks guys love the van, and wish you the best, the video alone is worth people taking the time to see where Nu Metal is heading.
Questions from iain @docswallow
Mykl (thin strings & vocals), Ben (skins) & Danny (thick strings & other voice)
You're halfway through your October Tour, how's it going ?
Excellent, it's been eventful. Our gear blew in Leeds last night so brought a quiet close to the set. We're getting on with the other bands too, no diva's on this tour. We are the quiet band though early to bed etc... unlike the others (Yorkshire band Road To Horizon are on the tour).
As a band you seem very aware of promotion by social media, has that become a forced industry requirement or something that you naturally enjoy?
It's the natural thing to do, we all have our personal accounts on facebook, twitter etc so it's an easy step to get details of what were doing out there on a band accounts. The fans love it as its such an easy way to have some personal, even 1 to 1, time with fans that can be miles away.
What's the plans post tour? Writing, recording?
We have got tons in the bag already, our hope is to be able to get it out in album form, at least that the hope. We enjoy writing and developing all the material we have.
You're a 3 piece from Newcastle just guitars and skins, has that always been the band format?
It's been settled for about a year, Ben joined as drummer last November and it's working well
The tattooed lady design you are currently using for the ep and merch, whose concept was that, it's certainly en vogue at the moment.
An ex member found it and it seemed to work for us, so many people have said its familiar so hopefully it will work in our favour and remind peole of us wherever they see it.
You have a deal with Kill/Hurt Records in LA, that's impressive how did it come about?
We were amazed when we heard they were coming to see us, one of their guys was in Newcastle and opted to see us when a date didn't pan out, so luck plays a large part in it, lets face it you hear so much in this business you learn to take it all with a gravel bag of salt!
Questions from Iain @docswallow
Hi Michael, how's life for you in the music industry in 2014 compared to previous years?
Funny thing is it has always been the same. I have my fan base and most are musicians and it seems I have had the same fans all my life. Having said that, since 2007 when I felt right to be back in the loop of Rock’n Roll my fan base started to become bigger year after year. Right now is a fantastic time and with a real good new album to be released in spring 2015 titled Spirit on a Mission it should be getting even better. I have a steady record company supporting me very well and I enjoy my freedom of creativity. I am very fortunate.
Did you make any changes to the recording process for the 'Bridge the Gap' album or try any new approaches to the record as a whole?
I am always current with myself meaning I create in the now and what comes out is what I believe in at the time. Since Bridge The Gap I feel like my youth is coming back and I feel very connected with how I felt when I was 17 years old. I want it fast, heavy and melodic. With Wayne’s 7str guitar added to it (especially on the new album -Spirit on a Mission-) it all becomes very big. It’s a lot of fun.
What is your favourite guitar and what guitar would you suggest as a starter for all the kids out there picking the instrument up for the first time?
I think it comes down to personal taste. Of course a Dean is a great guitar for experienced and inexperienced people alike. Dean has cheaper guitars that sound and play amazing. I just tried one of the cheaper models that was lying around in my house on some songs on the new album and it and sounds and played fantastic. It was a Strangers model made in Korea.
Do you have much music stored away in an archive that might see the light of day sometime?
I play and discover on a regular basis. By the time I do my next album I have enough new material.
Where did you play your first gig and last gig. Any particular memories of both?
My first gig I think was with the Scorpions age 11. I went with my parents to Elze where the Scorpions had a concert and ended somehow up on stage with them playing a Shadows instrumental song.I don’t remember how I felt or anything about the gig itself. Last Gig was in Germany in August; The sound on stage was one of the worse it felt especially after all the great sounding festival stages. My equipment broke down and I thought how am I going to make it through this. It ended up a fantastic show. It was like a miracle.
What was the first record you ever brought and the most prized record in your music collection today?
I only remember having bought 1 record with my friend at age 14 or 15.It was Deep Purple in Rock. We heard about the singer singing really high so we were curious and bought it.
A December UK coming up, what can the audience expect this time around?
We play a new song off our new album- Spirit on a Mission- a bunch of the Bridge The Gap album and a bunch of different classics we haven’t played before and of course the Must Play ones.
How do you keep healthy enough for your relentless touring schedule and is there any downtime away from music?
My life is music. It’s all fun. It never feels like work.
Finally, who controls the music or TV on the tour bus and what are the current favourites?
I travel by car and train whenever I can. It makes it feel like being on a sight seeing trip or holiday
UK TOUR DETAILS for DECEMBER .. Read More.......
New album ‘The Third Day’ was produced entirely by yourselves; what drove that decision and how did the experience turn out?
Our sound is heavily layered, and it's always tricky to translate from the abstract plane of what-it-sounds-like-in-our-heads to the concrete one of what-it-actually-sounds-like. Previous collaborators have manfully wrestled with the task, but this time around I wanted to see if it was possible to pull it off without outside help. Doing so robbed us so thoroughly of objectivity that I'm really not sure whether we succeeded or not. If not, there's always show jumping.
Apart from the self-production, what else was different about the recording process this time around?
Because of the self-production, there was no demo stage. The demos effectively became the finished product, after honing and refining. This was good in that we only had to hear each song 50,000 times as opposed to 100,000 times, and so only wanted to maim, not kill, small defenceless animals afterwards. Progress.
Who designed the album cover and how did you decide on the finished design?
The cover was designed by Ross Macrae and Brendan McCarthy of the arts collective Ray. I had worked with them on the giant TR-909 project and also with Brendan on the video for the first single August. Both the video and the artwork were inspired by Codex Seraphinianus, a psychedelic illustrated encyclopaedia created by Italian architect Luigi Serafini in the 1980s.
The band came together in 2005. Do you collectively still have the same dreams and ambitions or have they changes as the years have rolled by?
The music industry is unrecognisable now compared to what it was in the early 2000s. Artists now are forced to be pragmatic, and to learn some non-musical skills in order survive. That's not necessarily a bad thing. How crap most music still is, despite the death of big labeldom's bête noire, is definitely a bad thing.
Do you think that you can categorise the band's music, you have had the tags of prog, post-rock and shoegaze before?
Different listeners hear different things and are free to categorise as they please. We certainly don't have a tag in mind while we're writing music. That way lies samehood.
What is your song writing process and where do you tend to write. Any particular places you draw inspiration from?
The process is to make it as easy as possible for yourself to follow through on an idea. Have the instruments set up and ready to go so that when inspiration does occasionally strike, the constitutionally lazy human brain can't make excuses to do something less taxing instead. I tend to draw inspiration from non-musical sources like books and films rather than other music.
Are there any particular stories you would like to share behind the songs on the record?
Some are quite personal, but I don't like revealing exactly what any song is 'about'. Music is a conversation between the creator and the listener. Lyrics are poetry, not prose. If you declare that a song means this and not that, you're essentially hogging the conversation. When a listener reads into the lyrics a meaning that moves him or her, that meaning is every bit as valid as the one the writer started out with.
Just how difficult is it to earn a living wage from being a musician these days and where would you say are the bands strongest fan base are domiciled at the moment?
Borderline impossible. Our fanbase is very widely spread; I'm not sure I could pick one area where they're concentrated more than any other. It's great to get positive feedback on Monday from Sao Paolo, on Tuesday from Tehran and on Wednesday from Calgary. For some reason we never hear anything on Thursdays.
In fantasyland, if you could play in another band on stage (past or present), who would it be and why?
None. My favourite bands are my favourite bands because they're so good. Why spoil them by adding me?
Finally, what is the one piece of advice you would like to pass on to any new band starting out today?
Don't listen to other bands' advice.
'New England' is the band's third album; what was different in the studio this time around as against when recording the first two records?
The main difference was Ezra Meredith (producer) joined the band. Ezra and Joel Meredith (Pedal Steel on all 3 records) would work on the record when I wasn’t there. I think they were listening to a lot of Spiritualized around the time of the New England sessions. I’d come over and they’d play tracks for me. Needless to say, I was blown away. Also, our live set picks up where this record left off. Songs have been stretched out and expanded on sonic-ally. We plan to go back in the studio for the follow up to New England this fall. I like to think it will continue where Well-Lit Highway left off.
How has your music evolved to reach the songs recorded on 'New England'. Has the style/ subject matters or song writing changed?
I don’t think the root subject matter will ever change. I seem to write the same song over and over.
Be it place, thing or person I write about that same lonesome feeling. That feeling could be the loneliness of heartache, getting old. It’s all plain loneliness when you boil it down. Even a little happy song can’t escape my sad song filter. I guess I’ve gotten better at how to express that with more style, but like Neil Y. said, “it’s all one song”.
I also remember Jason Molina describing this and when you listen to his songs you will hear the same lines and subject matter throughout. Train, Moon and so on…
The album has what I would call a 'widescreen gritty Americana' sound, how would you describe your music?
Not to dodge this one but I’ve always had a hard time labelling our sound. After one of our live sets earlier this year a guy came up to us and said, “shoegazer country”. I like the way that sounds, I guess. I’d compare it to Dylan, in the sense that the sounds from Blonde on Blonde compared to Time Out of Mind are so different, but the songs are the same. Imagine “Visions of Johanna” going all “Trouble Your Mind” after a few verses. The space is there to do it.
Does Portland influence your music when writing songs?
It does but not as much as people and their stories. Those stories really could take place anywhere. Portland, OR, Portland, ME or Isle of Portland. I try to write songs that anyone anywhere could relate to.
Back to college days, what were the albums exchanged with fellow students as you went through the education system that you still play today?
I made it halfway through college and then I moved to San Francisco to skateboard. This would have been ‘93-’97, I guess… I don’t think I listened to a single thing that would have been “new” then. List of records, and memories are foggy:
Goats Head Soup - Rolling Stones
Harvest and Harvest Moon – Neil Young
The Phoenix Concerts – John Stewart
Mermaid Ave - Billy Bragg and Wilco
Desire - Bob Dylan
How important is social media in the promotion of your music these days and do you personally use twitter, facebook etc?
I use facebook. I wish there was one way to speak to your fans or reach a potential audience all at once, but really it all comes back to playing live and radio/internet featuring artists.
What is your preference for listening to music, Vinyl, CD, Cassette, Download etc and have you heard of the new PONO portable player championed by Neil Young that allows listeners to hear studio quality sound?
I heard Neil Young was divorcing his wife because he caught her with an mp3 player (that’s a joke). I haven’t heard a PONO, but I do play higher quality audio files rather than mp3s, whenever possible. I prefer vinyl. My label offers a ‘High Quality’ download when you buy the vinyl of New England (deerlodgepdx.com).
What are your interests outside music and do you have much time to follow them?
Family and no, there’s never enough time.
Is there any chance of the band playing in the UK anytime soon?
I’ve always felt my music was better received across the pond, but nothing’s planned right now.
How active is the gig circuit around Portland and is it still the case that being on the road is the only way to make an income as a musician these days?"
Everyone in the band holds down a day job. Playing around Portland has never really paid… so many bands. On the upside, there are some of the best musicians in the world to play with. It’s a rewarding community as a music fan, too.
Hi Dan,, how's life in sunny Hackney in 2014?
The Hells Angels UK HQ is next door and they're celebrating their 45th year at that address, so the road is closed off and stuffed to the brim with Harley's and leather clad men from another world. Soon they'll all be revving their engines in loud salute to their fellow people. It is exhilarating but I won't be renewing my membership.
What drove the decision to make your new album 'Distance' with a band as against your more recent solo (ish) albums?
Just to keep challenging myself and the songs, looking for new directions and surprises. We wanted to capture gut reactions to the songs rather than long winded, meticulously planned parts. So we just did one rehearsal before the recording session, then tried to capture the spirit of this collection of people. This was definitely the best recording session I've ever been a part of. Focused but wandering through the songs.
A pretty stellar band, how did you all come together?
They are a wonderful bunch, I'm in love with them all. We're all friends and always doing odd bits together here and there... It seemed like a great opportunity to get everyone in one room for a few days.
Do you write songs from real life experiences or do you make up the storyline. Where did you compose the songs on the album?
There's a line of truth in every song and I write a story around it. Or if not truth then a way of expressing an emotion or feeling that rings true to me. Most of the songs were written in an ex-army bunker in Montauk, Long Island. Going to another place is a way of divorcing myself from my everyday life in London... so I don't end up writing songs about my evening in with the laundry, or how upset I am that the sage plant isn't flourishing the way I hoped it would.
Any plans to hit the road solo or with a band for this release?
I'll be doing a few shows here and there... odd dates are popping up in September. Some of them will just be me and Horse, traveling by train, doing Alan Bennett impressions to pass the time. Some shows will be a bigger band. I'll keep you posted.
How hard is it to actually make a living as a musician these days and is it your full time job?
I imagine it’s impossible for most musicians to make a living just from records and touring, a few make it that way of course but a record is not something I've ever expected to make a living from, I do it because I cant stop myself, and it makes me happy.
How would you describe your songs for people that have not heard your music yet?
I'm relying on you to do that for me! But if forced I’d say my records are their own world and you have to go there, if you don't like it, I'll make sure you get home safely.
Is there any place that you have a burning ambition to play a gig at? When was your first gig and what are your memories of that show?
I'd love to play some of the European amphitheaters and I'd like to go back to End of the Road festival. My first show was with my old band Absentee, we played a Mojo magazine London festival, I was scared and uncertain why I'd made the choice to put myself in front of a group of potentially unreactive strangers . I still feel that way but I've gotten more used to it over the last 10 years.
What music have you enjoyed listening to so far this year?
I haven't listened to a lot, I've been seeing gigs to make up for it. Broken Twin, Beth Orton, the Nonesuch label birthday shows and a John Cage prepared piano piece were all highlights.
What was the idea behind the photo on the album cover and where was it taken?
The photo was taken by a friend of mine in Morocco. It seemed to evoke all the aspects of the album title without explicitly suggesting one thing... I love that shot.
'Distance' is being released as a digital download, a CD and on vinyl. What is your preference?
I'm old, I still love the romance of vinyl... the warmth of the sound and the physicality of the object. I still try to give the Cd's some aspect of that by screen printing them and making packaging from hand. As for MP3's, what can I wrap those in? A computer I suppose? I have nothing against MP3's, I think they sound fine and they're a lot cheaper to post to a friend.. I'm just a little old fashioned I suppose.
You made some of the best new music I saw at the Great Escape festival. How was it playing there?
Great Escape is a good thing to do, there's always people there and most of the time it's people who've never seen you before which is how we like it. It was a bit if a blur cus we did 4 shows in 2 days and drank a lot but we had fun.
I saw you at the Sound Republic party. Did the different gigs vary?
Yeah, every show's different I guess. We enjoyed that courtyard. In those situations everything's pretty rushed but I kinda like the chaos.
It was good to finally hear some strong politics from the stage, just like the old days …. Tell me what you write about, and how that fits with your often delicate and calming music
We tend to write about things relevant to us. Whether it's about politics or just things we find funny, or disturbing, about human behaviour. I think we're really failed social scientists disillusioned with society at heart. It can sound a bit morbid but once you accept how things are and forge your own little space and morals out it's not so bad. I dunno how it fits in with the music but we usually know when something's right.
Many of your songs are very catchy/hypnotic – I am still humming Nite Life - and could become very popular. Is that an aim? How would you cope with success?
I think every artist wants their work to reach and affect as many people as possible and if they say anything different they're talking shit. I like music that has hooks and I like music that conveys an emotion without lyrical content. I think our lyrics might hinder mainstream success but f*ck it, if it happens then great. I dunno how we'd handle being successful, it's funny cus I've honestly never wanted to be "famous", I think I'd like to be respected for our work but I don't think we'd be any good at being spotted in the street etc, we'd probably end up tellin people to f*ck off.
Amazing videos. Tell me about those
Erm... To be honest I'm not a very visual person so the videos are usually left to the label and directors. All I do is turn up, look like a twat and then watch it once when it's finishes, cringe and pretend it doesn't exist.
Also great to see your punk side project Get Hot…
Ha yeah, it's good to vent sometimes. Get Hot is ridiculous but it's a great excuse to hang out with people we like.
Any upcoming gigs/festivals?
We're doin Bestival and at the moment that's the only thing in the diary. Keep an eye out though cus we're plannin on doin a fair bit after the summer.
And finally, please recommend one of your own tracks and one by another artist, for our readers pleasure
By us I'd say Utopia. It's angry and we really like it even if other people don't. Someone else I'd say 'Alive in the Septic Tank' by Clarence Clarity. It's ridiculous.
Questions from Kevin Hand - @Kevinhand3