I'm going to break this question down into two separate areas. On the one hand there are the musical influences and on the other there are the actual subject matters that inspire individual pieces of music.
With Spurious Transients, which is essentially my solo recording project, my number one musical influence were those bands from the so-called "krautrock" movement (which of course everyone says never existed, but we've got to call it something). Bands like Neu!, Can, Faust, Kraftwerk. About 7 or 8 years ago I'd been listening to those first three albums by Neu! and decided that I wanted to make my own music in the krautrock vein. I really loved that motorik/apache beat and the hypnotic grooves that could be attained often driving along on just the one chord. I also liked the more off-the-wall avant garde pieces of music that say Can or Faust had recorded, and really liked how the juxtaposition of having a strident up-tempo motorik track opening an album to be followed with a very down tempo more sedate ambient piece.
I did wonder if a non-German artist could produce music befitting the name, but soon discovered there were plenty of others out there all over the world also producing neo-krautrock. So that was my original intention when recording tracks for the Spurious Transients album "Portraits Of A Landscape" (to be released this Summer 2014 on nanoBox records), although I now think I may have gone beyond that original vision and perhaps other ideas have crept in there too. So, the listener might not automatically say to themselves, "Ah, a krautrock record". It's very difficult, this album has been in the making for the last two years and I've be so close to all those pieces of music that it's very hard for me to imagine how anyone else might perceive it. The two sides of the record are quite different, but I believe do complement each other.
The industrial side is very electronic and in places quite harsh (on the track "Industry/Catastrophe" I quite literally went around banging things with a hammer) whereas the nature side is much more organic sounding and features tanpura drones and EBow guitars. A couple of years ago I went to see a concert of classical Indian music by sitar player Purbayan Chatterjee and I really wanted to get some of that kind of vibe onto the album. I used an electronic tanpura to produce that Indian-style drone on a couple of the tracks and also tuned my guitar to a drone tuning, letting the open strings ring out, and fed it through a couple of delay pedals so as to achieve a faux sitar sound.
As to the subject matter, what the tracks are actually about, in a way I wanted it to be a concept album but in the loosest possible sense. I didn't want some enormous over-arching umbrella storyline or some contrived plot of sorts, I just wanted the album to be evocative of... well, in this instance... the landscape in which I am living here in South West Wales. I live just inside the Pembrokeshire border, not far from either Ceredigion or Carmarthenshire, and in general the countryside is absolutely beautiful. I can travel to the beach in about 20 minutes or be up in Preseli mountains in about the same time. There are stone circles and ancient burial sites to visit. The whole place has a very mystical feel to it. I can even look out of my bedroom window and see a standing stone, not 10 metres from the house. You don't get that kind of thing living in the city. But you don't have to travel too far - for example westwards to Milford Haven or else eastwards along the M4 corridor to Swansea and Port Talbot - before you encounter areas of heavy industry which is the complete antithesis to the natural and ancient beauty of the landscape, but of course socially and economically we wouldn't survive without it.
And the other thing is, all along I've wanted to release this album as a vinyl LP record, so I was thinking how do you make the most of the format, having two sides of a record each containing 20 minutes of music? I thought, let's split the album into two parts; one side would be about living alongside nature within the ancient landscape, and the other would be about how that landscape has been appropriated by industry. It's two sides of the same coin, nature versus industry. I'm not trying to preach or say what is wrong and what is right, I'm just illustrating what is there without making any comment either for or against. For instance, on the industrial side of the record there is a track called "Baglan Bay" which was inspired by driving along the M4 motorway at night through Port Talbot and towards Swansea, and watching the lights of the Port Talbot steel works and the Baglan Bay refinery brilliantly illuminated and twinkling away in the darkness like a castle in a child's fairy story. I always thought it was quite beautiful.
What are your aims?
I've never thought of making this album as being some big money making exercise, for me it's more about the thrill of making a record of my own music, getting it out there and hopefully someone is going to buy it! Hopefully they'll like it too! It's only a very limited edition release anyway, which I kind of like in a way, it makes it seem more exclusive, and it's like a reaction against the mainstream music business. Making it available as a vinyl record is a definite reaction against digital downloads, which I absolutely abhor; they suck the soul right out of music for me (having said that I believe the album will come with a free download, so I'm aware of the irony there before someone points it out to me). And it's like when I used to edit a small press Sci-Fi magazine several years ago, it's a small underground operation which isn't designed to appeal to the masses but rather to like-minded souls with similar tastes.
So my aims, I guess, are to make some kind of an impression with this record which should see me infused with the enthusiasm to go ahead and record a second album. I do have a two album deal with the record label, so that is the general plan but I'd rather record something that I am passionate about and would enjoy listen to myself rather than ending up pointlessly churning out a "Metal Machine Music" just to fullfill the contract.The other aim is to actually play some gigs to help launch the album. Which will be interesting as for most of the tracks I had no idea what was going to happen before pressing the "Record" button. Most of the parts were improvised during the recording, and nothing was written down, no notes were made, so I'm going to have to "back engineer" the tracks and see if I can work out how they were played. I don't think I'd want to reproduce them exactly as they are on the record, but I'd like to get the general vibe. And of course it would mean assembling a band of sorts too, as I don't want to be up there playing a lone guitar with pre-recorded backing tracks covering everything else. Actually, I quite like the idea of getting a saxophone player involved, even though there's no sax on the album.
What plans do you have for the future?
We've been recording some new material too. One area we are interesting in is combining our music with the spoken word. We've been working with a local poet called Dave Urwin whose poetry is like social comment, very cutting and direct, a bit in-your-face perhaps, but not without humour and very very effective. We were working on one of his poems recently and I commented to Paul that we'd accidentally just re-invented rap.I've also been involved with Welsh progressive/psychedelic band Sendelica, who have been quite prolific in the last 10 years or so having recorded something like 14 albums, and who are very well known on the live circuit. They've recorded with various record labels including their own, and occasionally turn up on releases from cult vinyl-only record label Fruits De Mer. Last year I interviewed Pete Bingham, the guitarist, for a certain upmarket glossy Welsh magazine and we sort of formed a friendship, and then later when they were looking for a bass guitarist to fill-in for Glenda Pescado whose job means that he isn't always available for Sendelica gigs, Pete thought of me. It really was an honour to have been asked to join the band even in the capacity of someone sitting on the subs bench, as I had been - and still am of course - a fan of the band.
When I asked Pete why of all people they asked me, he said that it's because they thought I was someone they'd all get on well with, which is something they consider to be quite important. I wasn't really even a bass player, so it was a bit like being thrown in at the deep end. I bought myself a bass and had three weeks to learn Sendelica's set playing along to CDs of their music each and every day before my first gig with them which was at Leamington Spa supporting Here and Now. The gig seemed to go very well, I really enjoyed playing it, and afterwards I had several audience members approach me and say, "Thanks, that was great, we really liked that." I felt a bit of a fake as I'd only been with the band five minutes and nearly replied that I was just the stand-in guy, but something stopped me and I said to myself "Just take the compliment and enjoy it".So, there'll most likely be a few more Sendelica gigs later in the year, and I'm going to join the band on-stage for their encore at "Crabstock", the Fruits De Mer Records Festival of Psychedeliain Cardigan this coming Saturday 26th May. Glen will be on bass as usual for that gig, but on this one particular song they need an extra guitar, so I'm going to be doing that.Actually I'm quite pleased that Pete awoke the bass within me as I think I now have found "MY instrument".
I'm really enjoying playing bass; at the moment it is my preference over guitar. I was never comfortable with the whole lead guitar thing, being centre stage as it were, and I really found rhythm guitar to be excrutiatingly boring. But the bass has an essential role along with the dums forming the foundation behind the music, so in a way it's kind of at the back - BUT at the same time it does give scope for improvisation and some more fluid playing.So yeah, those are my plans, just to keep playing and making music. If it really is going nowhere in say a year or two's time, then I might have to reconsider and get myself a "proper" job (not that there are any to be found down in this corner of Wales), but for now I'm having a blast.