What have you been
up to since The Noise Made By People was released?
Trish: After touring the last album,
Steve Perkins, who was playing drums on the album went
on to do his own stuff, so we spent a lot of time looking
for a new drummer without success. We tried a lot of
people, but it just didn’t work out. We also decided
to build our own studio. We spent most of 2001 setting
it all up, and getting everything ready, but we really
struggled to find a good sound, the acoustic in that
studio was so crap.
James: We were also running out of
money. We never had a lot, and the studio was costing
more than we were getting paid.
Trish: The other thing that happened
is that Rob (Mitchell, co-founder of Warp) died. That
was such a massive loss, and that coupled with how we’d
ground to a halt was so annoying and depressing that
we said fuck the studio off and let’s go back
Tim: It was like everything was changing.
We’d got a new studio but that hadn’t worked
out, Rob was moving more and more out of the picture
because of his illness you know, he’d been diagnosed
as having allergies and then we found out he got cancer,
so that was changing, and we didn’t have a drummer.
Did you ever think of giving it all up?
Trish: We knew there was always going
to be an outcome, we knew there was going to be an album
at the end of it, but we didn’t know how long
it was going to take, because we couldn’t blame
producers and engineers this time.
James: Once we’d moved the studio
back home (to James’ flat) and we’d found
Neil (Bullock) who plays drums on the new album, and
the church hall, it really happened very quickly…
Trish: We were really at our wits
end, and we’d been looking for loads of places
to set up a studio and we’d really exhausted what
we thought was everything locally, and we noticed a
jumble sale one Saturday afternoon in the church hall
across the road, and there it was, 60ft ceiling, huge
wooden floor, wooden panelling… it just sounded
beautiful… we would be banging the floor, trying
things... We saw a number to hire the hall, and we recorded
all the drum parts there.
James: We had the record finished
by Christmas 2002 really. So when people think it took
us a long time, making the album was actually a short
process. It was getting to that point that took us some
time, and now it’s waiting for it to be released,
because we’ve been sitting on that album for months
Isn’t it a bit frustrating when you know
you’ve got an album ready to go out?
Trish: Not really because you’re
going to do interviews and tour. You’re probably
going to talk about this album for months, and we’re
already thinking about the next one you know
It took three years for The Noise Made
By People to come out, and there were rumours at
the time that you found it hard to translate your ideas
onto record. What did you find the hardest?
Tim: We knew what we wanted. You spend
years just sitting round listening to music and it filters
down in the same way in everyone’s head within
the group, so it’s hard for a producer to come
in and understand what is it you want. I think we needed
a great technician or an engineer more than a producer
because we knew what sound we wanted.
Trish: What we also realised is that
every brain filters information in a very different
way. You could say to one producer something…
A producer could say “yeah, I can do a wall of
sound” for instance, his actual version of a wall
of sound or the way he interprets it can be really different
from yours. We’d end up arguing with these producers
because they couldn’t do what they said they could.
James: And considering how much money
we were paying them…
Trish: That was the biggest issue.
We were paying big cash for these people, and we didn’t
get what they said they were going to do.
Tim: We can put a microphone in front
of a drum kit and press record, you know what I mean.
There has to be more to it than that to justify the
Echo’s Answer was a rather dark
and quiet track to release as a first single. Was it
you voluntarily taking on preconceptions?
Tim: Not really. The first single we
ever did, Accidentals, was quite similar in
a way you know… it was almost as empty and had
that sort of almost static kind of feel to it. I think
we were referring to that really. Obviously, we knew
we wouldn’t get in the charts with that one (laughs).
Trish: It was a really nice place
to start as well.
You are now a trio but at the time of The
Noise…, you also had Steven Perkins and Roj
Stevens on board. What happened?
Trish: Steve was never really part
of the band, so it was just four of us when we released
The Noise… While recording Haha Sound,
we’d all started to drift apart from Roj in a
way. It just happens really you know, some relationships
only last so long, some working relationships are even
shorter. We’re still friends, but he’s off
doing his own things now, so hopefully, you’ll
see him resurface with his own stuff. We hadn’t
really been working for long with Roj on the album,
but he had a great part in some of the songs, like Colour
Me In, producing it and arranging it. We used his
sound here and there really. We’re working with
Billy Bainbridge from Plone live now.
James: Yes, it’s still five
of us on stage.
Trish: Billy’s got his own plans
for music as well
No more Plone albums though…
James: Maybe… there’s a
Plone album ready to go if anyone wants to put it out…
Was coming from Birmingham an advantage, being
outside of London, or was it a handicap when it came
to getting some recognition?
Trish: Both really.
Tim: Living in Birmingham allows you
to develop away from everything. A lot of bands that
come from London are over very quickly because they
get interest from opportunist record labels that push
them and put all kind of strains on the bands, they
don’t allow them to develop properly. The great
think with being signed with Warp as well is that they’re
willing to let us do what we want and especially the
great thing with Rob was that he would give us the confidence
to go in the way we wanted to go. People wanted to sign
us in London, we met a lot of record company people,
and you could tell we had absolutely nothing in common
with them. The only thing they saw in us was some sort
of marketing thing. The hunt that goes on for new bands...
At the time, for Warp to sign you was seen
as an unusual move…
Trish: It was totally natural for us,
because of Rob.
James: You mean it was weird for people
who knew the label?
Trish: Because all of a sudden everybody’s
foundations were being shook a little. Warp were never
about being so rigidly one thing.
James: We’ve been living with
that for years, especially in Europe where they’re
really into their techno and stuff
Trish: We were seen as ruining the
Warp label (band laughs). “Why, oh why?...”
I mean, Jimi Tenor was one thing, but Broadcast, fucking
James: I find we get judged differently
because of being on that label. We signed to Warp because
we loved Rob so much, you know…
Trish: He understood what we were
doing. Very rarely do you get to work so closely with
the guy who runs and owns the label. It was just perfect
really. People can get all uppity about Warp this and
that, but if you’d met Steve (Beckett) and Rob,
they were really open minded about music.
Did you know them before signing to Warp?
Trish: No, we just got to know Rob
during the courting process… well, it’s
the wrong word, but you know…
Tim: We didn’t know them before.
We heard they were looking to sign new bands, a tape
got passed on, and Rob just came to see us play live,
he listened to our stuff a few times and he decided
he liked it.
James: I think we come under harsher
scrutiny being on that label than, say, if we’d
just signed to EMI where people would just see us as
a rock band or an indie band experimenting or something.
You get harsher criticism.
Tim: Journalists, especially lazy
ones, look for something to write about, and the contrast
with us being on Warp, it’s so simple, and a lot
of journalists pick up on that… you know. Is the
state of journalism so bad that they can’t see
beyond the surface that Warp is a record label that’s
opened to new ideas?
Trish: What journalists don’t
realise is that a million of other journalists have
written that, and that’s why you often get the
same questions or the same… “are you sick
of the Stereolab comparison?”. Haven’t you
guessed that it’s has been asked a million times
Tim: If you want to do well as a journalist,
maybe consider looking outside of what everyone else
is doing. It’s something that’s true with
music or any art form.
Mentioning the S word…
James: the Lab?...
yes… In the early days, you were often
associated with them. Did you feel like you were part
of a scene of some sort?
James: Being in Birmingham and Stereolab
living in London, it wasn’t really much of a scene.
We knew them and we’d put a record out on their
label, but it didn’t feel like a scene. I think
it was pretty much a journalist thing. We don’t
really sound like them you know, maybe we’ve got
similar references, but that’s all.
Trish: In the great scheme of all
the music in the world, we are occupying the same ground.
Tim: I think the most immediate thing
you could say is about the idea of using analogue keyboards
really, and it was like a new idea at the time, or something
that was popular, and that’s probably why we got
linked to them. We like them you know…
James: Yeah, it’s never really
bothered us. They’re great…
Trish: I’m sure that if we’d
compared record collections, we would see where we link….
You name people such as The United States Of
America or Ennio Morricone as influences, but how would
you say they influenced the way you write/arrange music?
Tim: With The United States Of America,
it’s more the idea of that band rather than a
literal interpretation of what they sound like. They
were one of the few bands in the late sixties who would
fuse avant-guard with pop and rock you know, probably
along with the Velvet Underground. When we listen to
that, it suggests the kind of freedom that you can have
with song writing, that we don’t need to be tied
down to chords and stuff. It’s that idea that
a song can go anywhere in its arrangements and sound
and feel that probably appealed to us.
James: I think with this album, we’ve
took these ideas that we really love and realised their
Haha Sound was recorded in James’s house.
How did not being rushed to record impact on the album?
Trish: It gave us a bit of freedom
James: it also brings a lot of problems
with it. I don’t know of many bands who do that
really. They go in a studio with a producer and things…
Tim: I think that by the time the
studio had moved back to your (James’) house,
the shit was hitting the fan really. What was going
to happen? We’d moved back, things had been going
wrong, even when Neil started and the drums worked,
time was of the essence you know. We were breaking deadlines,
and we put pressure on ourselves.
Were you pushed by Warp to get the album ready?
James: Not at all
Trish: I think that with loosing Rob,
it just seemed like what would be would be, you know.
There’s no point forcing things, if they’re
not ready they’ll happen in their own time. What’s
the point of putting all that stress and pressure on
bands and people? When Rob died, there was a real step
back… kind of “hold on, there’s a
bigger picture, it’s not all about racing along
with your head down trying to make it on time.
How does it differ from The Noise…?
How would you say your sound has evolved or changed?
Tim: I think the intent come from the
same place, but the production has evolved, the song
writing as well. The Noise Made By People was
Trish: Trying to get somewhere.
James: It was more like a scrap book.
It was much less of a singular thing, whereas even though
some of the songs were written some time ago, the new
LP is much more of a collective whole.
Trish: I think there’s more
of a kind of optimism to it as well. Much more of a
spirit about it, the rhythmical elements are more profound
Did you sit down and think about that or did
things happen quite naturally?
Tim: No, we never sat down or discuss
Trish: There are things that you think
are missing, like you think “I’d like to
do a bit more of that this time”. I think what
we said was that it would be nice to have a bit more
of a rhythmical element in the music. You do have that
little wish list that you bring to yourself.
Trish, you name a few cinematographic references
for this album (Milos Forman’s Love Of A Blonde,
Hans Richter’s Dreams That Money Can Buy,
or Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders, a Czech
horror/fairytale). Has cinema always been a big influence,
Trish: I think it’s more and
more. We’re lucky enough to have a great little
video shop in Moseley, and lots of friends work there
so you get free videos, they never charge us. It’s
just a great cult video shop that has a great Eastern
European film section, avant-garde, animation…
I just go down, get a lot of videos, tape-to-tape them
and watch them at my own leisure. When I fancy a bit
of telly and I don’t want to watch fucking Big
Brother or whatever shit they try to push on me next,
I’ll watch Daisies, or Valerie…
and hearing the soundtrack as well, you’ll never
see the film released over here… It was released
on Redemption, but it’ll never be released on
DVD for the next twenty years, if it ever does. It’s
a great way to access soundtracks without having to
go to some dusty European record shop…
Tim: Or hear a soundtrack that never
came out or you’d never get to hear it...
James: It’s the great thing
about cinema. Everything’s in there. It’s
not like music and cinema separately. They’re
the same thing. We probably can draw just as much from
the film as from the music.
Trish: We get all sorts from films.
Music, video ideas, press shot ideas, lyrics…
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