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.

Quaker Parents ::: No Travel

There’s  a new album on Bandcamp from Quaker Parents.

We are immediately enamored by the experimental approach that conjures up fond memories of Pavement.

Quaker Parents always seems to tread a somewhat lo-fi and exploratory path but this never comes at the expense of enjoyment and accessibility.

To our tastes it’s a perfect combo. Check out Quaker Parents’ latest song/video and decide for yourselves.

Note the inclusion of Microsoft Solitaire which makes us feel nostalgic for the PCs of our younger years – cool idea. The calming isolation of playing cards solo somehow fits perfectly the soothing intent of a song holding at bay an ominous undercurrent.

Junks ::: Lobotomy

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Delighted to receive in our inbox yet another sumptuous slice of synth driven retro-pop from Junks. Junks’ output has been consistent to say the least. Time and time again they manage to come up with these sparkling 80s leaning audio gems.

This time around, although the beats and electronica, unsurprisingly, take a central role, it’s the guitar power chords that add the extra texture pinning it all together. There’s been more six string creeping into Junks’ compositions of late and it’s a welcome development.

On the surface you have a simple but effective pop tune but dig a little deeper and you will appreciate the craft that has gone into it. Take how long the intro lasts for example. The perfect length to set the scene and add the requisite level of suspense. And consider the meter and delivery of the vocal line. It provides the crucial element which makes this song go from credible arrangement to bona fide earworm.

Throw in the tight harmonies and quirky backing vocals and you have the necessary fairy dust sprinkled atop to take the edge off what is actually quite a dark track, about retaining a sense of identity in an increasingly confused and unnerving world. Inspect for yourself in this here lyric video:

 

This song will be available for purchase via iTunes and Bandcamp on May 10th.

 

A remix by Steo Le Panda will also be available that day.

Interview ::: Skinshape

TSOFDs: It’s interesting you’re the second artist we’ve interviewed recently who isn’t overly interested in self-promotion. We’re hoping this heralds a new wave of artists that would rather spend their time working on their music than paying for Facebook boosts which only bots click on. Anyway, we’re grateful you’ve been kind enough to put aside time to converse with us. Conor McAteer (We Are Aerials) states it makes him feel ‘mucky’ trying to sell himself. Is this something you can relate to – should the work just speak for itself?

WD: I can definitely relate to that. It’s important for a musician to have a good understanding and respect for promotion and how/when to utilise it, but many artists are way too involved in self-promotion and creating their online persona with daily posts of miscellaneous fodder. I prefer to be patient and let things grow naturally. I’m not going to post something on social media if I don’t feel like it and I’m not going to force myself to do a post every day on Instagram… When I have something that carries at least some meaning then I will consider sharing it. Ultimately it’s about the music and not the person(s) behind it.

skinshape

TSOFDs: Seems like advice we could all benefit from heeding whether musicians or not. More straightforward question. Where did the title ‘Filoxiny’ come from?

WD: Filoxiny is taken from the Greek word ‘philoxenia,’ which I learnt from my good friend Basilis from Greece, who released the first Skinshape album back in 2014. He mispronounced when he first tried to tell me about this word and it came out as ‘filoxiny’. The cool thing is that there is no word in English for this! It means something like ‘generosity of spirit,’ in other words hospitality to your guest/patron but to a much greater degree, i.e. ‘my home is your home.’

TSOFDs: Great to learn something new and, yes, we couldn’t suss out where the word came from with a quick search online. Makes a nice change to find the Internet doesn’t have all the answers. Speaking of which, the Internet couldn’t provide us with a definite answer regarding whether you’ve turned your back on touring? Do you see making a record a bit like painting a picture – once it’s done it’s done?

WD: I don’t think I can say I’ve definitely turned my back on touring forever but for the time being it feels very right. I’m happy where I am, and I try to keep my life simple. I am busy enough as it is and trying to keep your head straight in this world is not easy so I think if I started touring I would lose it! Also, touring generally puts a lot of stress on personal relationships and I don’t want to do that to my partner. I am choosing a path where I am not all about ‘me and my music.’

TSOFDs: Sounds entirely sensible. Perceptions of musicians can be a bit reductive. People seem to think all an artist should be doing is making a record/promoting a record/touring a record. Can you tell us some of the things you’d rather be doing than trying to get a band together/touring – how do you like to spend your time when you’re not writing and recording – where do your other interests lie?

WD: That is quite reductive, but then isn’t that what musicians generally do? We spend a long time writing an album, and then we spend a long time recording it, and then we spend a long time promoting and releasing it, and then we spend some more time touring it and playing lots of festivals… And then we do it many times over. It’s quite relentless actually. But yes, there can be more things that a musician can do if they think to try… I read a lot of books, especially travel and philosophy books. I sell secondhand vinyl as a hobby (part-time job), I work with my girlfriend and we share the money we earn, that’s quite fun. In the future I’d like to write a book, probably non-fiction. I’m terrible at drawing so I could never paint. I could try photography, I sometimes think I can see good photo opportunities walking around London. Apart from ‘work’ related stuff, family and my partner are very important to me, and I prioritise them above anything else ultimately.

TSOFDS: It certainly seems to have proven beneficial to find a pace of life that works for you – so many artists seem to just burn out. Your recording process sounds really cool and there’s a beautiful overall tone to the final result. Can you tell us about some of the gear you use – is it simply a matter of plugging into a computer and mixing in the box or is the recording chain more complicated than that?

WD: Ah this is the question I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me for a long time, hahaha. What studio nerd doesn’t love to talk about gear? My recording process is quite weird really, because the music gives the impression of a band jamming out. But really there is no band and everything is built up layer by layer, usually starting with the drums. I always try to push myself with new techniques and ideas to make the recordings more unique. There’s lots of little studio tricks I’ve used that you may notice if you listen carefully, especially in the third album ‘Life & Love.’ But back to the gear! The important thing for a sound like Skinshape is to use as much vintage gear as possible. We don’t want any of that sharp digital high end! I always record the drums to tape, that is the first thing. Sometimes I mix the drums down to one channel, which is more limited to mix later on but it’s more exciting to do, and it challenges you to nail the sound at the start. Other times I record the individual drum microphones and mix them later, it’s nice if I want a stereo drum sound, like on the track ‘I Didn’t Know.’ The rest of the music is not generally recorded to tape, but I use vintage valve preamplifiers to record nearly everything through before it reaches the computer. I generally use cheap microphones as well, the only time I’ve used expensive microphones was to record the strings and horns, I hired a couple of Neumanns for those sessions to make sure I had the best possible sound.

TSOFDs: That’s an awesome insight to gain. Here’s hoping it inspires any aspiring recording enthusiasts out there to nail the sound at source. Putting recording to one side, what tends to come first – words or music – how do your songs generally start life?

WD: Music nearly always comes first. I need to create a vibe to feel inspired and write some lyrics. I usually start with drums and then add some guitar or bass to build the vibe. On Filoxiny I sometimes started with synthetic orchestral sounds or piano to build my idea, and replaced those later with the real thing. Due to the cost of hiring the musicians to play some of the parts it’s essential to make sure you have their parts correct so that you don’t have to get them back in a second time.


TSOFDs: Good advice. African music seems to be something you’re passionate about as a listener. Which countries in Africa in particular – which African artists would you recommend to our readers that they may not have heard?

WD: African music has been my great passion for a few years now. I love Congolese music the most at the moment, there is something so profound and deep about it. I have about 100 7″ vinyl from Congo and it’s growing every day. I also regularly listen to music from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast. Generally these are all on original old vinyl, which I have spent many many hours searching listening and collecting over years. The fact is that much of the music can only be heard on vinyl so if you want to discover it you don’t really have any choice! But it’s not a bad thing, as the quality is usually much higher than on any format or YouTube video.

TSOFDs: It’s time to get off the computer people! But after finishing reading this, obviously. You’re described as a Londoner. Where in London are you from? How have the music scenes you’ve been involved with changed over the years? Has London changed for better or worse for musicians would you say?

WD: I am actually not a Londoner it is just where I have lived for nearly 10 years. I’ve actually from a town called Swanage in the county of Dorset. It’s a beautiful place and I’m proud to be from there. London is sadly a necessity for many people, musicians or otherwise. It’s where I come to meet musicians, work at my studio. And it can’t be denied that it is one of the best places on Earth to find myriad amazing musicians. I can testify to that because not only have I found some of the best ‘Western’ musicians to record some of my previous work, but I am currently finding amazing musicians from Africa and Latin America for my new material without even having to leave my city… it’s amazing, really! London is amazing, the only drawback is that due to the number of outstanding musicians in this city, it can be quite difficult for many to find a voice and stand out from the rest.

TSOFDs: In terms of ensuring your voice, as it were, is heard precisely how you want people to hear it, what do you find hardest about making a record? A lot of musicians I talk to find coming up with the core parts not so difficult but then deciding on a final mix can be absolute torture. Any tips that might help someone who’s hit a brick wall push through to the end?

WD: The hardest part of making a record is definitely the period after you’ve created your initial idea that you are happy with. It’s a laborious process building up the songs and making them interesting. Finishing a song seems to be the part that many musicians struggle with. Sometimes people create something great and then they just give up before they get to finish it, and that can be dangerous because you may lose interest in that song and never finish it. I find it’s imperative to force yourself to finish a song, even if you don’t really have that much motivation to finish it. Sometimes it’s the encouragement of others that gives me the drive to struggle through. Finalising the mix is also a looooong process. I usually do 20-50 mixes of a song before it’s done, listening to every mix on my iPod (yes I still have an iPod) and making little notes to change in the next mix. It’s usually very minor tweaks just bringing everything into balance better. My advice to anyone who has hit a brick wall, is to push through! And bounce the mix off someone whose ears you trust to get a second opinion, someone who is going to be honest whether they think it’s good or bad. If someone asks you, ‘Hey what is this song?’ that is usually a sign that you are on the right track!

TSOFDs: Top tips. What’s next for Skinshape? Any new records in the pipeline or new projects?

WD: Up next is my next LP which is something like 50% complete. I am not going to say too much but I will say that it is totally different to Filoxiny, much more upbeat, funky and very world music orientated, drawing on music from places such as Mali, Congo, Nigeria, Benin, Ethiopia, La Reunion, Cuba, the US and many more. It is an exploration of rhythm, poly-rhythm and grooves. I am very excited about it and it has been a big challenge for me so far but I am starting to see progress with it so that’s great.

TSOFDs: We can’t wait to hear it – really appreciate you giving us your precious time.

WD: Many thanks for the brilliant questions, it’s nice to see someone who does not just ask the standard stuff!

 

Filoxiny is out now on Lewis Recordings.