Acid Rooster ::: Interview

Acid Rooster is a band based in Leipzig. After stumbling across their addictive authentic version of psych rock we just had to get them on the blog. Valuing a spirit of improvisation and spontaneity live and in the studio, Acid Rooster’s eponymous record, produced by Jan Werner, is an unmissable treat we recommend you blast your ears with at the earliest available opportunity. If you’re based in Europe, check out their live dates on their Bandcamp page.

ACID ROOSTER Pressefoto 1

TSOFDs: This could be the first time we’ve had a Germany-based group on the blog. Please tell our readers where you come from and what the music scene is like there.

AR: First of all, thank you a lot for your interest in our music. We are really happy that people in China are listening to our record. Most of us live in the city of Leipzig, but originally we come from a small town in the north of Bavaria called Schweinfurt. Germany’s underground music scene is actually pretty lively and diverse. There exists a great network of smaller concert groups and bands that are supporting each other. Leipzig for example has many off spaces and smaller clubs setting up concerts almost every night. But of course it is not like that everywhere. In the countryside or in other towns the situation is totally different. Often the possibilities to set up shows are really bad.

TSOFDs: Thanks for the info. You’re a bona fide psych band if ever we heard one. What inspired you to make this kind of music? Was it to do with the kind of stuff you were listening to when you were growing up or was there a specific psych scene locally that blew your mind and which instantly made you want to participate?

AR: To be honest, we never had a master plan or a certain idea, how we wanted our music to sound. It just comes out of us naturally. Important for our quite spontaneous approach of free thinking music is definitely, that we’ve known each other a very long time and have experienced the same musical socialization. Before starting Acid Rooster we had many different bands from punk to alternative or high energy rock. Besides that, all three of us were going to concerts frequently and collecting vinyl of all kinds of music. We soak up lots of different sounds and the expression of these many influences might be brought out in the sound of Acid Rooster.

TSOFDs: That’s cool that it’s a very organic, natural sound. Your record has a great live feel. Can you give us any kind of insight into the recording process? Was there a concerted effort to make it sound as live as possible or did it just come out this way – from listening we’d presume the core parts were recorded at the same time?

AR: Except for a few overdubs the whole record is recorded live. Before we came to the studio we had just some raw ideas/feels for 3-4 songs, we really wanted to try and the rest was developed quite spontaneously. We were jamming a lot and recorded different ideas. Often we took the first take because these felt the freshest and most authentic for us. Very important for the whole process and the sound was our recording engineer Jan Werner, who plays in the bands Datashock and Yagow. He has lots of experience in recording improvised, free music.

TSOFDs: That approach really paid off. The cliche of course with psychedelic music is that it taps into an alternative state of mind. Those at the forefront of psychedelic music such as The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, etc, it is of course well documented that they more than dabbled in certain substances. Without wishing to give too much away or get yourselves into trouble, do you think it has been useful for musicians to change their brain chemistry in order to make this kind of music or is it a mistake to assume this?

AR: This alternative state of mind is really important for our creativity and expression, but it’s not necessary to take drugs to reach this. The music itself has definitely the power to expand your consciousness and to bring you to a completely different state of mind. Of course we had experiences with mind altering substances and maybe these brought us to our current style, but for now we can say that this is not of big importance for our musical process.



TSOFDs: Reminds me of Bjork I think once saying that she doesn’t meditate because she already has music and music is meditation enough for her. How does the creative process begin? Is one member of the band the visionary or is it a case of jamming around a range of ideas until one takes hold?

AR: The creative process often begins with a rough idea/theme. Sebastian, who is playing the guitar comes along with some chords, a riff or a melody and while playing these we develop our songs. Or otherwise we also often just start improvising together and always record our sessions with a Zoom recorder. We listen to these demos afterwards and pick out the most interesting stuff to work on.

TSOFDs: This Zoom recorder strategy seems to really work for a lot of musicians – I’ve heard of other bands doing this. How long do you refine your ideas before you make a definitive recording? Are you the type of group that works hard for a long time to precisely map out structures and parts or do you simply prefer the aforementioned spontaneity?

AR: We always prefer spontaneity.

TSOFDs: With steadily declining sales due to the Internet/Spotify/etc do you make enough from the group to pursue it full time or do you have other ways of making money from music? Perhaps like most musicians these days it is necessary to have a day job that isn’t based around music?

AR: To be honest, we hardly earn money at all with our music and all of us have regular jobs/family.

TSOFDs: This certainly seems the norm these days. Mainstream radio is of course still mostly dominated by short pop songs – have you found any useful outlets for getting your music to a wider audience – perhaps a particular music podcast or radioshow/magazine/blog that’s been supportive? Perhaps gigging is the only real way to stimulate interest?

AR: We were really surprised, how many radio shows, music blogs or fanzines were interested in our record. For example very positive reviews of magazines like Echoes and Dust and Freq helped us to reach a wider audience. After that some bigger festivals like Le Guess Who? and Roadburn invited us. There was also a lot of support from different Facebook groups for psychedelic music, where our music was shared a lot. Besides that the platform Bandcamp made it possible for us to sell our records to music lovers all over the world.

TSOFDs: That’s brilliant that the music is reaching a wide range of people. Obviously the recent album only arrived in the summer but any plans for future releases? Any other projects you are involved in or other psych bands you’d like to give a shout out to?

AR: Right now we are busy playing shows and trying out new stuff on stage and are looking forward to some demo-recording sessions this winter to collect new ideas for our next record. Apart from Acid Rooster, Sebastian (guitar) and Steffen (drums) joined the garage/indie rock band Suzi Cream Cheese, which had some great tunes in the 80s. They are planning to release a reunion album which was originally written in the early 90s and got lost after they split up. Max sometimes plays solo shows with his sitar.
and synthesizers.

TSOFDs: Amazing. Zappa influences we’re presuming, in the name at least. We’ll look out for that. The sitar/synth combo sounds intriguing also. Thanks so much for taking the time to converse with us.

 

Acid Rooster is available now on Bandcamp.

We Are Aerials ::: Maps

Of course, with the giddying amount of new music available every day, and the fact there is such a wide spectrum of genres and styles to choose from, it is arguably foolish to come to any generalized assertions about what’s good and what isn’t as good in terms of the year’s releases thus far. Everyone has their own taste and their own idea about what they are wanting from what they listen to.

As far as my feelings go though, some of the best records of 2019 I have heard are those which have mined, for want of a better way of putting it, personal loss and sadness. First of all Purple Mountains, the final release of David Berman, is one hell of an album. Perhaps not as cohesive but certainly its equal in terms of depth of emotion is ‘Ghosteen’ from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. And now we have ‘Maps’ by We Are Aerials, the work of Derry singer-songwriter Conor McAteer.

The first two albums I’ve mentioned have been reviewed widely by the tastemakers of the day already, so, you’ll forgive me if I dwell upon ‘Maps’ instead, dedicated to the memory of McAteer’s father.  At seven tracks long, the final one being a distinctive cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Streets of Philadelphia’, this album is the most succinct of the three.

I don’t want to waffle on too long about an LP that is so wonderfully concise. I would rather you just listen to it. Suffice to state, opener ‘Disgrace’ sets the tone and presents some key identifiable sonic characteristics of the overall work and, because it encapsulates the record so well as a whole, the following description of this track is all you should hopefully need in order to give the entire album a go.


Beautifully recorded acoustic guitar combines with equally well captured clear vocals front and center, with a neat string arrangement jabbing in and out, as a dutiful, unflashy rhythm section expertly does the necessary propping. The harmonies are precisely and tenderly deployed and you will welcome their reappearance. A curious chord change around the middle of the track followed by swelling reverb and ambient noise, helps add a valuable extra dimension before the track moves gracefully towards its final conclusion.

There are many talented songwriters in the world but when it all comes together is when they find the means to realize their ideas in the right way or alongside the right personnel. This is immediately noticeable on ‘Maps’ which finds a songwriting talent, that has slowly simmered away over the years, matched, once again, with those who are of equal talent in their ability to perform alongside, record, mix or help produce him. It has all come to the boil for Conor McAteer and to hear this gift and graft come to fruition is positively life-affirming and something any father would be proud of.

 

Maps by We Are Aerials is available  now on Bandcamp.

Interview ::: Paul Morricone

PM2


TSOFDs: Hi Paul, thanks for taking the time. We stumbled across your new material via the BBC DJ Tom Robinson. He seems a very supportive guy when it comes to promoting new/alternative music  – is this the case? Are there any other DJs you would pinpoint that are doing a great job of championing independent UK artists nationally? Who do you tune into when you’re on the lookout for something new or different?

PM: Hi there Fighting Dogs. It’s been quite a surprise getting some airplay. I know that most things people get to listen to on any station have generally been placed there in some way. There is often an industry of people meeting up, making plans and scheduling in the artists so to get even a single play is an achievement when you haven’t got someone behind you. Tom Robinson is particularly good at being open and accessible to new artists and goes out of his way to listen to and play the things that float his boat. I’ve got to hear lots of great new stuff on his show that would never have found its way to my ears. These days, everyone can broadcast their music in some way so it’s quite daunting to know where to start looking for something new. The traditional channels will always be full of the things that are being paid for and promoted, so it takes effort to dig deeper. Services like Spotify now have sophisticated ways in marketing and placing new music to appear in front of you so there are less and less coincidences. You would need to explore further to find something genuinely unpromoted. I’ve always loved going to gigs – local ones, random ones in whichever town I’m in, etc. People need to make an effort, be brave and physically buy the record of the band they’ve just seen and liked regardless of whether it’s an ‘established act’ or not.

TSOFDs: Great answer. Anyone just coming across your stuff for the first time should rightly come to the conclusion you’re by no means a newbie when it comes to the business of songwriting. Can you give us a summary of the projects you’ve been involved in prior to or in addition to your work as a solo artist? When and how did you first get started?

PM: I’ve been in The Scaramanga Six since 1995. We’ve never stopped and still regularly write, record and play whenever we can. It’s a proper rock cottage industry that refuses to cease. The thing is that where some people have a go at being in a band then life gets in the way, they tend to stop – I can’t do that. Just because I’ve got a really tight deadline or a stack of bills to sort out, it doesn’t mean I’ve not still got a head full of ideas that keep appearing. I can’t just switch it off and ignore it. The Scaramanga Six have always seemed to find a way to keep existing despite everything and we are about to start on our next album. Me and Steve from The Six have also spent the last couple of decades as part of an educational pop outfit called Being 747 that toured schools and science festivals playing songs all about the history of life on earth and other sciences. Dave Cooke is the main man behind all of that and is a true songwriting genius. The solo album is the same as being in The Scaramanga Six except it is a slightly different musical palette.

TSOFDs: Leeds (and its surrounding areas) is increasingly well known for its progressive, inclusive, rich and varied music scene, and a certain DIY spirit. Does this assessment ring true with your personal experiences?

PM: I’ve gigged in and around the Leeds scene for years and it is always full of weird and wonderful musical activity. There are still lots of small places you can discover where bands are playing. Walk around the Hyde Park area and you’ll hear something coming out of a student’s bedroom. When we created Wrath Records in 2001, there was so much going on that we were probably one of dozens of similar labels putting out stuff at that time. The breadth of the music scene is also pretty astounding – there’s a hell of a lot of urban and homegrown studio acts putting stuff out. Definitely a DIY ethos all round, backed up by audiences still willing to find their way up the stairs of a pub to a back room to hear some sweaty noise on a Tuesday night.

TSOFDs: Do you see any significant challenges on the horizon regarding the health of live music in Leeds or more widely in the UK? Would you say the current environment is hostile towards artists or supportive, and how does this compare to times gone by?

PM: The biggest challenge is not to make live music but to find a way of getting people to notice you. There is always a place to play and if you can’t get a gig in a traditional venue, you can put one on yourself. Or you could broadcast it yourself. More people are making music now than ever. I think the main difference in live music these days is the way it is approached. Groups can often see the live gig as the thing they do to play their studio creations. Perhaps a band didn’t exist, but merely the ideas of one person on a laptop with a lot of plugins. Then a gig happens and the music you hear is a strange concoction of layers played from a Mac and a selection of assembled musicians each with their own ‘set up’. It is all a bit clean. I’d like to walk into a pub, chance upon a group of people who have barely rehearsed, are too drunk to play and can’t even remember how the song ends – that’s much more exciting.

TSOFDs: True. Sometimes it’s more fun when it sounds like the wheels could come off at any moment. Let’s move on to your solo work. We were blown away by your song ‘Estranged’. When it comes to the instrumentation/arrangement/production/engineering did you work completely alone? We’d love to have some backstory on how this track was created.

PM: I sat in front of a 10 year old laptop with a vastly outdated version of Garageband in front of me. It has a small selection of loops you can pick and throw onto a timeline. I figured that I’d have a go at not writing a song but simply pulling looped beats down then randomly writing some musical phrases with a rubbish sounding string sound to see what would stick. Then I started singing over the result and a song was formed. Actually one of the first songs I’ve written not using a guitar. Once this demo was done, I got Mitch and Ant who are a rhythm section to play along to the actual track. We then recorded all of this properly at 2Fly Studios in Sheffield with Alan Smyth, keeping most of the rubbish Garageband demo on it. Then I got in touch with a long-time friend and collaborator Spike Scott who is a composer for TV shows. Spike took the demos and recreated the string arrangements with a lot more whistles and bells on. I effectively produced everything, making tweaks to the arrangements until the dynamics were right. Then I decided to play a sax solo in the middle of it all.


TSOFDs: That’s a really cool insight. Sonically speaking, do you think ‘Estranged’ kind of encapsulates the rest of the material on your new record – all similarly big-sounding?

PM: ‘Estranged’ was one of the last tracks I’d written for this album – this is often the case with a set of songs. You start off in one place then the last few elements seems to be the distillation of everything. ‘The Dissolving Man’ is all very autobiographical and I wanted each track to be a short film in its own right. The whole thing is played as a three-piece – myself, Ant and Mitch. Then I just threw whatever I felt was right over the top. I wanted this to be a sophisticated record, with lots of attention to natural dynamics and arrangement. The sound in my head is big, so things are always going to be big.

TSOFDs: What is your philosophy in terms of taking the new album to the stage? Are you trying to stay true to how the songs are presented on the record or do you strip things down? Who accompanies you?

PM: The plan was to be able to gig easily. We’ve already been playing this material live over the last few months – either as the three-piece band with backing tracks or just me on my own singing karaoke style to the whole recordings. Both seem to work well – it is all about trying to create a vehicle for performance. I’m not interested in stripping things down even if it’s just me – acoustic act I am not.

PM1

TSOFDs: As you’ve stated, the title of the new album is ‘The Dissolving Man’. You’ve already touched on how it’s autobiographical. This title, combined with the title of the aforementioned song ‘Estranged’, more than hints at themes of alienation. Would you say this is something of a lyrical thread running through the LP and, if so, what has prompted this? If not, please tell us what has inspired these titles.

PM: I’m a middle aged man and things are falling off already. As you get older, you carry more baggage and life experiences with you. It is always good to incorporate things you observe from other people’s lives too. I mentioned that a lot of this was autobiographical but only as a reference to creating much more exaggerated stories to listen to. It is all a work of fiction but like any good crime writer, there has to be some element of darkness already in the mind to conceive of things.

TSOFDs: The group you also play in, The Scaramanga Six, recorded with Steve Albini – what was it like to record with one of the greats?

PM: We paid him to do a job. He was very workmanlike and wore a boiler suit.

TSOFDs: Ha – that certainly rings true. For our UK readers, when is the best time to catch you playing songs from the new record live?

PM: I need to arrange some more gigs. Anyone reading this can help by putting us on. Have gig, will travel.

TSOFDs: Promoters, what are you waiting for? Thanks for answering our nosey questions Paul – we wish you the very best for the new album and indeed all your future endeavors.

 

The Dissolving Man is out now.

Interview ::: Willem (Durian)

Durian is a Hangzhou-based fusion band. The group, comprising of members from different countries, take collective responsibility for their songwriting which has now borne fruit in the form of not one but two stupendous debut releases. A veritable force in their live guise and true favorites of the local Hangzhou music scene, we are very grateful to Willem from the band for taking some time out to converse with us.  

Durian

TSOFDs: Hi Willem. Very good of you to answer our questions. Tell us about the group and how you all ended up in China. Why the name Durian?

W(D): Our original line-up was a bunch of us who were hovering around the China Academy of Art all the time in 2012-13. I was actually the only one who wasn’t a student there but I was hanging out there anyway. The name Durian came about in the same way that many other great ideas do: while walking on the street talking about nothing. My conversation partner, now my wife, suggested: why not call yourselves Durian? And indeed, why not? I like random things, and what’s more random than a durian? As it turned out, we are very much like the fruit. Our music and style get people opinionated. It’s somewhat of an acquired taste to like durian, it’s not for everyone, but at least it evokes an instant opinion in everyone, either positive or negative.

TSOFDs: We’ve seen you play over the years in different venues around Hangzhou. Would it be fair to say your line-up has changed quite a lot – there seems now to have been a deliberate decision taken to present your core dynamic as a four-piece?

W(D): Our current line-up is very different from what it was a few years back. We had the standard drums-bass-guitar-singer line-up back then, with occasional additional instruments and guest musicians, like an extra vocalist, a keyboard, and later on more and more often saxophone. Our current line-up is the reason why we sound the way we do, it’s a rather rare combination of instruments for a ‘rock band’ or whatever we are. We don’t have a bass player these days, and there’s a good reason for that. For many years we had a hard time finding a steady bassist. While we were trying to move on as a band and book festivals and so on, we found ourselves often stuck without a bass, so we’d have to cancel. Of course there’s a certain logic to it that musicians would prefer paying gigs like weddings or so over uncertain and weird gigs with no pay (like ours). Anyway, the bass became somewhat of a liability and this spurred Daniel into action: he remodeled his guitar into what he calls a ‘tritar’. I think his obsession with the band Morphine had some influence on that: Mark Sandman played a two-string bass and had a whole musical philosophy about his less-is-more approach. In short, it’s a three-string electric guitar, but with very thick guitar string, and the whole thing is tuned down to C-G-C. It’s an interesting sound, because it really stands in the middle between a bass and something guitar-ish. Daniel plays them in a finger-picking way and has a lot of bossa nova-influences in his rhythmical approach. In our current line-up, I switched the electric guitar for the keys, my first instrument. Our four-piece now is: tritar/vocals, keys, saxophone/clarinet, drums. It’s a combination you don’t often hear.


TSOFDs: Having been a staple of the Hangzhou live scene for a long time, we’ve been aching to hear some recorded output. Now suddenly you have two records released in the same month. It feels like waiting for a bus back in the UK – it takes an age then two arrive at once. What prompted the decision to release two records?

W(D): We are very much a live band. Playing live has been our identity and musical philosophy. A lot of our songs were born during jams in front of a live audience, and if they weren’t, they at least took shape during live performances, when we could test in real-time what works with an audience and what doesn’t. We used to do a lot of improv, and I think even to this day we have never played one of our songs the same way twice (even though I now realize that’s not always a proof of interesting musicianship, it can as well just mean that we forget how to play them). So anyway, recording has always been a painstaking process for us, and we can’t be blamed for lack of trying. We’ve had several sessions and attempts over the years, but it never really seemed to capture the sound of the band. I think at some point we’d already given up on it. Last year we kind of unexpectedly won the Battle of the Bands at 9 Club, and I was supposed to leave China that summer to move back to Europe, so we all had a now-or-never feeling and went along with the momentum we were having. It seemed logical to record all our songs, but divided over two sessions, since our old sound is so different from what we’re doing now. We found some old friends to record to older, funkier stuff, in the ‘Coincidence’ album, and then recorded the newer stuff with our current four-piece, on ‘Kind of Nasty’. It just seemed more logical to separate them in two albums. I also felt it is a cool concept to have two albums as our debut output. All in all, it was the right decision to wait for such a long time. These songs have matured and changed a lot through our concerts. Some of the songs on the album were written six years ago, but I don’t believe we should have recorded them any earlier. They really had to go through some kind of musical puberty first.

TSOFDs: Where did you settle on to record your material? Did you take a lead in producing and engineering it yourself or did you trust someone else to do justice to the Durian sound?

W(D): One of our conditions was that we wanted to record everything live in the studio, and not instrument by instrument. For a while, we played with the idea to rent 9 Club and record there, but we finally decided to record at Nest Audio Studio, the owner of which is our friend Xiao Fei 小飞, who used to play drums in the band Spice. Everything you hear on both albums is recording live in the studio, and overdubs are minimal.
All four of us are pretty much illiterate when it comes to mixing and engineering. We did the production ourselves, in terms of musical decisions, you know, which instruments go where, where to change the dynamics, and so on, but the mixing was done by a Japanese contact of ours. He likes our music, which was the most important condition for us to believe he was going to do justice to our sound. We had to explain some things to him, but he was very communicative and didn’t try to push his own vision too much, which is what we needed.

TSOFDs: Did you find the recording process opened up new avenues to explore in your songs or do you feel you stuck very closely to how you’ve been playing the material live?

W(D): Believe me, even when recording we are still playing ‘live’ so even when we have 2 or 3 good takes of one song, they’re still very different. So maybe we really just don’t know what we’re doing. Recording definitely forced us to be very conscious about the songs, about what comes where, to add the right ingredient at exactly the right time. Actually, the recording itself went very fast: it took us one day per album. The real struggle took place during the approximately 9 months following those sessions. What to change, where to add a tiny detail or layer, what to delete, what to overdub. I learned about Daniel that he’s quite the perfectionist, who would have thought. In no way are our songs very close to how we used to play them live, because they are changing all the time anyway. On the contrary even, now that we have good recordings, when we play live we have been diverting less from the ‘standard track’ as heard on the recording. So recording has kind of had an opposite effect on us. But I think it’s a good thing. It’s made us a better band.


TSOFDs: It might be a difficult question in light of your different backgrounds and influences but can you point us to bands you’d cite as important influences who we should be checking out and listening to?

W(D): Everything is an influence in a way. For Daniel, I know his influences can sometimes more be found in poetry and theatre, or even the visual arts, than in music. He conceives song structures visually, like the song ‘Mandala’ is supposed to be shaped like a mandala. The instrumental section in the middle is the center of the mandala, so to speak, before getting back to the beginning of the round shape.

Sometimes an influence is more a certain state of mind, or energy, than a specific sound. I used to be really into Yunnan, as I’d lived there for over two years, and I loved the local music and musicians. Some of that influence can be heard in the bonus track on the ‘Coincidence’ album (Jekyll) but is harder to pinpoint on other tracks, as it’s more of a state of mind. Sigo, our first song, was written during a trip there.

For Daniel, it’s the band Morphine and their approach to music. We’re both huge fans of Tom Waits, even though I don’t know how this is reflected in our music, apart maybe from in Daniel’s voice. For Lucian, the sax player, it’s everything he listens to. There’s so much paraphrasing in his solos and riffs. If you want to go die-hard music nerd on his solos, you can find echoes of Sonny Rollins, Gilberto Gil, afrobeat, The Skatalites, classical music, and so on.

I’ve heard people compare us to Talking Heads. I liked that comparison, firstly because I’m a huge fan, and also because we (esp. in the older incarnation of Durian) also had something going on with one-chord songs with layer upon layer of sound, using riffs as building blocks. Recently someone said the song ‘The Wave’ reminded him of Weather Report. That’s a flattering one too. Anyhow, if you want recommendations, one can never go wrong with Tom Waits. That man’s oeuvre is like a universe.

TSOFDs: Good recommends. Good chat. Thanks for your time Willem!

 

Durian’s music can be purchased here on Bandcamp.

Jump For Neon ::: Broken Heart Attack

This is the premiere of the Jump For Neon MV ‘Broken Heart Attack’.

You can buy the single here.

The video was made by Hangzhou-based Irish artist John Carroll.

For those familiar with the city, it features instantly recognizable Hangzhou landmarks whilst also tapping into ancient Chinese folk art forms such as shadow play/puppetry and paper cutting.

This bold animation takes a simple pop song ruing the wasted potential of an individual and employs this as a jumping off point to explore broader and darker themes, in what could be interpreted as something of an appeal to our shared humanity.

There is of course a notable China slant, not least the juxtaposition between tradition and modernity. However, there is something for anyone here who can relate to the notion of battling inner demons whilst negotiating the general angst that comes with simply existing in the world, and all the external psychological pressures constantly raining down on us this necessarily entails.

Broken Heart Attack is taken from the Jump For Neon album ‘Vicious Tricycle’, out now on Medic Independent Records.

Interview ::: Emerson Snowe

Emerson SnoweTSOFDs: Hi Emerson, thanks for conversing with us. Please tell our readers about your early life – where are you from and what led you towards a career in music?

ES: Hey no problem, thanks for reaching out! I grew up in a small country town in North Australia, I have always been creating – whether it be through art or music, I always have needed a way to express myself. Music always felt right and there was no second guess that I had when it came to it.

TSOFDs: Which artists inspired you to become a musician and songwriter?

ES: I‘d say my biggest influences were and have been Christopher Owens and Sufjan Stevens.

TSOFDs: Good choices. What’s been the most enjoyable moment of your career to date?

ES: I think it would have to be this past UK and Euro tour I‘ve just completed. Traveling to these cities and towns I never thought I would get a chance to and actually meeting people who have been following me for so many years has been amazing.

TSOFDs: Sounds like a whole heap of fun. The new EP is called ‘That’s Rock’n’Roll’. What does this title mean to you?

ES: It’s sort of a joke with myself in ways, I guess if you were being literal with it, my music isn’t really rock n roll – or maybe it is. I can’t really say. It’s more so about the ridiculousness of what I choose to do with my life and labeling it under rock and roll.

TSOFDs: Tell us more about this EP – who did you work with to make this record?

ES: I recorded it with a producer named Konstantin Kersting (The Belligerents). We had never met before the recording process but we had a lot of mutual friends, I have always loved what he did creatively and I knew we could create something beautiful together with the songs I brought to him. It was recorded over 14 days over 2 years haha. I kept writing songs within the time so I kept adding songs to the EP.

TSOFDs: You played SXSW this year – how was it?

ES: Intense – I had a really great time and met some amazing people. It‘s a great opportunity to meet so many and I’m happy i got the chance to be a part of it. I played some interesting shows, I just wanted to make the most of it since I usually have to travel a fair distance to do these kinds of things.

TSOFDs: It’s certainly proving a busy year for you – and there are some new releases on the horizon too?

ES: The plan is to release two new tracks within the end of this year – I have so many tracks I’m just trying to piece together the next eight which will be on the next release. I’m super excited about what’s to come – hopefully it won’t be long till I make it over to your way!

TSOFDs: Fingers crossed! Thanks a lot for your time Emerson – best of luck with the new releases.

John Carroll ::: John MOuse

We are buzzing to be bringing together two of our favorite Johns for this interview: John Carroll and John MOuse. John Carroll, who kindly agreed to come up with the following questions, is originally from the Republic of Ireland, but has been based in Hangzhou, China for many years. During this time his achievements include establishing a record label and helping acts perform in China, whilst also producing critically acclaimed music of his own. Carroll has toured this vast country either as part of a band or as a solo artist, one of the first foreigners to ever do so independently following China’s opening up – playing tiny venues through to huge festivals – and everywhere in between. He is also a skilled animator. John MOuse, hailing from Wales, has received rave reviews from numerous respected music publications including The Line of Best Fit, Drowned in Sound, and Louder Than War, blown away audiences at festivals such as Green Man, played alongside notable bands including Future of the Left and Half Man Half Biscuit and is something of a Celtic trailblazer himself, not only when considering the overall brilliance and uniqueness of his output but also, more specifically, his seeing through of brave and standout concepts, in particular The Fen Sessions. He has also collaborated with artists such as Sweet Baboo and Los Campesinos, and has seen his work given airplay by an impressively long list of BBC DJs.

JC: Hello John MOuse. To what extent is nostalgia important to you, not only in terms of writing, but also in your recording process?

JM: Hello. Nostalgia is one of the main drivers in the lyrical content of the songs. I read that pure memory is limited to motor skills and muscle memory and everything else has to have an element of nostalgia, where we apply our present emotions onto occurrences that happened in the past. We frame them how we want to, we reframe them depending on our circumstances, experiences and emotions. There is no nostalgic element to the recording process as I have no real early memories of recording and I have very little input into this process.

JC: What are your earliest memories of music in the home? How do you think that has influenced you?

JM: My very earliest are Eurovision songs and silly pop music like Black Lace or Boney M. It didn’t get much better after that – the bought music in my household was pretty limited to Queen and Chris De Burgh. I really grew into the popular music of the time, I was a big fan of Michael Jackson and I think Bad was one of the first records I owned. My mother though did have one Bryan Ferry greatest hits and I liked his singing style, it wasn’t until later on that I discovered Roxy Music, and the same could be said for The Beatles, Paul McCartney was the man who did the Frog Song and Mull of Kintyre. Pop music though definitely influences my love of melodies and big choruses that you can sing along to.

JC: The Fen Sessions was conceptually a ballsy move as regards the brevity of access to the recordings. It reminds me to an extent of a book called ‘The 17’ by Bill Drummond. Can you briefly explain the genesis of this idea? Did it reveal to you any dark or lighter truths about the way people find new music? With such a time restraint to push against what, if any, difficulties did the task put on your shoulders?

JM: I haven’t heard of The 17 but will check it out. The idea was spawned mainly from frustration. Frustration from the time and hard work that goes into the traditional process of recording and releasing an album and for very little reach for an independent underground artist. I also wanted to see how many people actually engaged with John MOuse on social media. The actual challenge of producing the material didn’t really concern me, it wasn’t a driver, I was comfortable that I would be able to achieve the outcomes. The response during the process statistically was in line with my expectations, just over a hundred people downloaded the album, this is in keeping with previous releases and crowdfunding campaigns. There were however some interesting and unexpected outcomes, for instance I did not expect or indicate that people should pay for the music, but down to Bandcamp’s facility to allow people to pay if they want for the music over half of the supporters did this, and so we ended up making some money on the back of the process. Also Henning Wehn (the German stand-up comedian) tweeted about it, which was really bizarre. There was lots of interaction after each song was posted up and it really helped the process knowing people were out there, listening and downloading the music, especially when we hit some creative and psychical walls. The hardest task was re-motivating ourselves for day two. Day one, we were fresh, keen, excited, we had lots of ideas and creativity. Day two we had been out the previous night for light celebrations, started later in the morning and it didn’t feel new and the element of the unknown had gone. It was interesting hearing people’s feedback on those songs, there were two in particular where the process was really difficult, but I conducted a post sessions questionnaire and the enjoyment for people for those songs hadn’t diminished.

JC: Would you like to continue releasing like this in the future, and do you think you would encourage other artists to seek similar ways of releasing their work?

JM: I don’t know. I am failing to see the point of making recorded music at all.

JC: When I hear your songs you mention names of people/personalities in your stories. Are they real or made up? Does juxtaposing characters allow you more freedom to tackle heavier subject matter rather than being entirely first person/subjective?

JM: I think most of the names come from famous personalities, I like the idea of faction. I like what Tarantino did when he blew up Hitler and Goebbels in a cinema. I like The Dammed United. I don’t see my subject matter as heavy. I mostly recall tales, I don’t intentionally put any weight on them, they just are stories. It’s like this is my fun, if I am honest in the emotion then I can play around with the characters or the settings.

JC: Music or lyrics first? When you decide to start working on a new song does it come from a clean slate, or do you have a specific process in place? Do you keep a treasure chest of ideas in place to pick from before getting stuck in?

JM: Lyrics – I’m really not that good a musician. I don’t have any time to really have a specific process, I just find opportunities to write when I can, so maybe that was what was nice about The Fen Sessions. All the lyrical content develops at different paces, sometimes there is a lot of pre-editing done without writing anything down, I’ll ruminate an idea or a story from the past and think about themes and how they can be twisted or what would make them interesting or sometimes I’ll just try and write as much as I can down about an incident and then carve it up from there.

JC: Ringo, Paul, John, George, or none of the above? And why?

JM: The Beatles. Hive thinking is best yeah? That’s how the Chinese sent 15 people to Mars. What is the point in picking one of them? Without each other they would never have made the songs they did.

JC: Are you in a relationship/do you have your own family? If so, how do you balance touring, gigging, etc with the day to day of family life? Do you have an isolated room you retreat to in order to work?

JM: I’m married, we have two children. I have never been offered or had the opportunity to tour so that’s easy to handle. We gig maybe once every month over a year, most of the members of the band I play with all have their own lives. It’s tough to get gigs when your market is predominantly middle aged men, promoters know this, so why would you get loads of support slots with young up and coming bands. I get to support the retrospective acts, but they don’t come around as often and there are other acts like me in the same position so I wouldn’t get them all. I don’t have an isolated room, I’ll work where I can find some space, though this will change and I am going to get more serious with my songwriting and try and produce better work – after all – Sternberg’s five components of creativity states that you need a safe creative environment to allow creativity to occur.

JC: What’s next for JM?

JM: John MOuse is dying. There was The Death of John MOuse, an album that was supposed to mark the end of this creative endeavour but then there was still something left to explore, so I resurrected the project for one more album and shows to promote it, but that album was out a year ago now. John MOuse started as a bedroom project for me to try and write music again after a three year break, since then I have collaborated with 28 people, worked with a songwriting partner and producer on and off throughout that period and for the last five years, worked consistently with a settled live band. The live shows are totally different to the recorded music and there is now an increasing disconnect between what we do live and the name and the concept of John MOuse.

 

 

Hear more of John MOuse’s music by visiting Bandcamp.

Visit John Carroll’s Bandcamp by clicking here.