ordered 65daysofstatic’s new album, The Destruction of Small Ideas, as a birthday present to myself. It arrived from the rainforest last Wednesday and inside three listens I was struck enough to write a review for Stylus there and then. I mailed it to Todd, and it ran the following day, on which morning I realized that 65daysofstatic were playing live in Exeter that very night…
Stealing an hour off work that afternoon I headed for the venue at around four. Noticing monitors and instruments being unloaded by the stage door, I sauntered into the dressing room looking for someone to ask for an impromptu interview, and found my way to the tour manager and half the band. In the exciting world of internet music journalism, this is often how you
There is a concern that men who wear black onstage and play serious instrumental music backed with apocalyptic imagery may, perhaps, be a touch po-faced, but inside five minutes of walking into the dressing room I was sitting with one of the band outside the venue on a patch of sickly grass and anachronistic rubble, chatting away happily in the sunshine.
Normally I’d break up an interview tape and reshape it to try and contextualize various points, but in this case I think the straight transcription is far more interesting, so here we go...
This is Nick from Stylus talking to-
Joe, from 65daysofstatic.
Who plays one of the guitars. Anyway. After your second album, to be honest, I wasn’t that fussed about the new one when I heard it was coming, until a friend told me the production on it was a lot more open, and to my tastes. I thought the first one was good, slightly flawed. Second one I thought was… at the time I didn’t realize it but with the gift of hindsight I’d say I didn’t like the production and mixing on it.
Sure, sure, that’s fair enough.
And just over a year ago I wrote an article for Stylus about the evil that is dynamic range compression, which has proven to be quite a big thing. It started off as just me listening to records and being pissed off with them.
Is that the article about The Flaming Lips and the cymbals on The Killers’ album?
That’s actually the article that inspired us to make this album the way we made it.
Wow. That’s awesome.
I had no idea it was you when we sat down. I read this randomly in June last year and I passed it on to everybody I know who makes music and it actually is the very reason that we made this new album the way we made it. How cool is that?! You’re essentially the main influence behind our new record! Haha...
Awesome. [Slightly fazed] That’s wonderful. I read the band’s blog the other day, before I bought the record, and I thought maybe it was possible that you’d read it, cos the thing that made me buy the record was a line about how you’d wanted to make a quieter record. I wasn’t expecting this though.
How weird is that? That’s genuinely strange. Cos I was just sat in my little room and read it and went “this is amazing” and gave it to everyone else in the band, and we spent a year finding out more about it and… basically this album is modeled on that article and Harvest by Neil Young and the volume that’s recorded at, because that has probably the greatest guitar solo of all time, in my opinion, on “Alabama”. You obviously really know what you’re talking about with this.
It’s entirely theoretical; I did my degree in Media & Popular Culture with Philosophy, and did a module of work in a recording studio, but I don’t play a note, I don’t sing, I’ve never been in a band, I’ve never wanted to be in a band. I just… like listening.
So you’re the knowledge… do you find people in bands quite difficult cos they don’t know what they’re talking about with regards to… popular culture, and the way things work? I think that if you’re lucky enough, especially in today’s world, to have any kind of record deal, any chance to get music out there, then you have a duty to try and push something, somewhere, rather than regurgitating things because culture is slowly homogenizing into a single… noise… coming out of a microphone like in 1984 or something. But I don’t have a degree in it so… I don’t know. But I’m very interested in it.
[A discussion about digital Dictaphones ensues, until the interview I did with Patrick Wolf is mentioned.]
Was it a good interview?
Yeah, yeah, he’s a really interesting guy, and I love his music. Seeing him here [Exeter Phoenix] a couple of years ago was one of the best gigs I’ve been to, actually, just him and a ukulele and stuff.
I’m a big fan of his first album. I like the second one; I haven’t heard the third one.
The first one I liked, the second one I adored cos it’s about this part of the country.
Yeah yeah, he went down to Cornwall, didn’t he?
And I live in Dawlish and went to school in Teignmouth, and that track on the album [“Teignmouth”] is about the train journey I made every day as a kid to school.
I’ve actually spent a lot of time down in this area, I went out with a girl for quite a while whose family’s from a little further down the coast. I really like it.
Cos you boys are from Sheffield, aren’t you? You haven’t really got an accent.
I was born in Sheffield, yeah. Watch my accent come out now… Me and Rob the drummer were born in Sheffield, Si [bass & [programming] and Paul [other guitar, piano, programming] are from Chester and Manchester respectively.
My family’s from Sheffield originally, but I was born down here. It’s a small world, isn’t it?
Yeah, that… about the article, that’s really cool. Haha! It’s crazy.
I’m so happy about this cos most of what we do at Stylus is unpaid, we just do it off our own backs because we care, we’re completely independent, and when I set out writing that article I guess it was my dream that people would read it and make better sounding records, better records. Seeing its tendrils spread out is amazing, but knowing that it did this, and helped produce a record I really love, this is just bizarre and wonderful together.
I think there’s a definite… I talk to a lot of people in bands at the moment and there’s a definite movement that way with mastering now, people are realizing. It’s really interesting.
Cos its so pointless to make a record that only sounds good on a laptop, cos nothing sounds ‘good’ on a laptop.
Or radio, cos that’s another main push for it. But I guess it’s major label influence, to have everything louder than everything else.
Actually the weirdest thing when I was researching it and asking questions on pro-recording forums, is that engineers were saying it wasn’t record company people asking for it, which kind of shocked me, cos you assume it’s evil record company people in suits, but people were saying “actually no, it’s artists themselves”, who’ve got some kind of short-sighted ego thing going on, and they want to be louder. Because I guess if you spend so long with a record, the process of making it, writing, recording, mixing, I guess by the end you might be so familiar with it, and sick of it, that you can’t really hear it anymore.
Well there’s been a very strange reception to this new record, and that reflects what people are used to hearing now. A lot of people listen to this one and find it really difficult and kind of rejected it, which is, you know, their right to do, but then there’s other people going “I hated it when I first heard it, but if you turn it up you get the separation and the depth” and then they’re loving it when they do that.
When I started researching it I vaguely knew what I was hearing but not precisely, and now its like I’m fine-tuned, and almost like a Pavlov’s Dog thing, if I hear a badly done record that doesn't have space in it, it gives me a headache. But as soon as I put your new one on… I mean the pianos, the way they fall quiet, they go so quiet, and its beautiful, and it comes back at you [making tidal wave gestures]. When I was a kid and I was listening to music all I ever wanted was a big hi-fi and sit in front of it and get music to blast my head off.
Yeah yeah! Well, that’s exactly what you’ll get from our live show, unfortunately, haha.
Well I’ve got some earplugs which lower the volume at gigs, which is useful. Not even that, really; they just take the top level of treble off, cos that’s what makes your ears ring.
A friend of mine who I passed the article onto, I think he attempted and possibly succeeded in getting his label to let him completely remaster his album. His name’s Feedle and the album is Leave Now For Adventure. It’s just on a very small label.
Graham Sutton from Bark Psychosis got in touch with me after the article went up, I’d interviewed him a couple of years before, and he said “thank you, this needed to be written, the amount of times I’ve been in the studio with a band and they’ve asked me to max everything out”, and he reckons that there will come a time, inside the next few years, when a lot of records from the last five or six years will get remastered to add the range back because people will just get so fed up and realize they don’t want to listen to music they otherwise love because it’s flat.
Make them quieter. It makes so much sense.
Yeah. Um, this is all kinds of weird. Shall we do these silly questions that I was originally intending on doing?
Do you know what? [Looking at sheet of questions] I hate questions like this but I’m in a really good mood! Let’s do them.
OK. Hand drier or paper towel?
Hand drier. No paper, less waste.
What about all that electricity, and they spray germs around the room?
OK, well… I like machines that blow air out then!
Have you seen the new Dyson Airblade things?
Yeah, they have them in Japan, we used them at a festival backstage. I was really - I thought it was gonna cut my hands off, the way you put them in and the word ‘blade’! But it was really good.
That’s the fourth path, I guess. I asked Patrick Wolf this and he said “I wipe my hands on my trousers” so, you know…
You should ask these questions to Tom Waits cos he’s cleverer than me, he’d be good, and fast. Getting an interview might be more difficult though.
True, true. OK. Dogs or cats?
Cats. Noble animal. I like dogs but cats have… they don’t take any shit. And they know things we don’t. They’re leaders.
Terence Malick or George Lucas?
He directed Days of Heaven and Badlands in the 70s, took a 25 year holiday and then did The Thin Red Line and The New World. He’s interesting. He did a philosophy degree and then at 30 decided to make films, so went back to school and learnt.
Oh well Malick then, I really like The Thin Red Line. Plus George Lucas has kind of formed the culture of guitar technicians everywhere. Our guitar tech has Darth Vader every time he gets a text and that’s just sad.
Eric Clapton or My Bloody Valentine?
My Bloody Valentine, hands down. Just for Loveless. And Kevin Shields, just… genius, really.
London or New York?
I’ve never been to New York.
You should. I hear it’s nice. Not that I’ve been either! Phil Collins or Buddy Rich?
Phil Collins. Genesis, man. I’ve yet to meet a drummer who doesn’t secretly love Genesis.
He is a really good drummer, even if he is a slap-headed Tory git. Soup or sandwich?
Both. Dip one in the other.
Good answer. Favorite record in the world right now?
Right now, cos I only heard it first yesterday, Live At Massey Hall 1971 by Neil Young, which just got released. How someone only 24 can do that, I can’t fathom.
I guess the record I’ve played most, recently, although I’ve played it to death and probably won’t play it ever again now just cos I’ve listened to it everywhere I’ve been, is the last Joanna Newsom. I think it’s an insanely brave piece of music making. I’ve never heard anything like it, lyrically, musically. It’s a great story if you hear about her doing the string arrangements with Van Dyke Parks, cos he did it for a lot less money than he’d normally ask for something like that, and sending her these arrangements and she’s trying to make this unassailable record and sends them back asking for changes.
Most anticipated record is the new Youth Movie Soundtrack Strategies record, their first full-length. We did our first tour with them. They’re an amazing band, but they’ve only done a mini-album and an EP, and it’s been a long time. It’s gonna be pretty special.
What can you cook?
Oh loads of stuff. Actually I can cook a mean scrambled eggs;!
That’s good, cos scrambled eggs is difficult. Do you use a saucepan or microwave?
Oh saucepan! Microwave; that’s heresy. I found an amazing recipe actually about cooking scrambled eggs that had a similar effect on me as yours did about mastering, which says, like, get a good book, crack your eggs straight into the pan, mash them up, and then put them literally under a match and leave them for 45 minutes, go and read, and then those eggs are done. I don’t have time for that often obviously, but it works!
That’s a good approach. I read something similar about sausages, saying put them in a pan, on the lowest heat possible, and go away for an hour and leave them alone. When you come back, they’ll probably be ready! What’s your favorite film?
Oh, there’s too many. From my childhood, E.T. I guess.
If you were in “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” what anthropomorphized fast food item would you be?
What the hell’s “Aqua Teen Hunger Force”?
I only heard of it the other day and now it fascinates me. It’s an ‘adult cartoon’ on the Cartoon Network featuring a nasty milkshake, a stupid meat patty, and a magic bag of chips, or something. So which anthropomorphized fast food item would you be?
I’d be the napkin.
Who in the band has the best taste in shoes?
All of them except me.
What do you like to think people are doing while they’re listening to your band?
Something that makes them feel… free.
What DON’T you like to think people are doing while they’re listening to your band?
If you were a car, what car would you be?
A new car that runs on solar power and toothpaste.
Who is your oddest living relative?
Who is your favorite cartoon dog?
Everyone says that. I think cos no one’s sure whether Goofy’s a dog, and Pluto’s kind of rubbish.
The dog in Watership Down as well, at the end who tries to kill them. He’s a mean dog.
I’ve not seen that film for years. I think it traumatized me as a kid. When they cross the road, and the one who gets caught in the snare; it’s horrific.
It is pretty dark, that film. You’ll see some of it in our visuals for the show, actually.
Are naturists weird exhibitionists or liberated souls?
I have no idea, hahaha!
What insect were you in a previous life?
If you were stranded on an island with no food, which band member would you eat first?
One of the ex band members, I think. I wouldn’t want to eat any of these guys yet. They’re nice. Although Simon’s verging on vegan so his meat would probably be, you know, healthiest. Like those Japanese cows fed on beer and massaged every day.
MySpace: amazing social tool or cultural cancer of the 21st century?
This is an ongoing debate on this tour actually, because Josh Pearson, our support, the guy who used to be in Lift to Experience, he’s probably right, he says the internet is this generation’s printing press, and breaks down the barriers of communication. Which I can see. I… hate MySpace. It’s very useful for getting people to listen to our music and keeping people informed, but…
I think psychologically as a species, cos we’ve only really had the net as a useable everyday tool for about a decade, at decent speeds and in offices and stuff, we don’t quite know how to deal with the internet yet, don’t realize its potential. I was out last weekend with quite a few people who are several years younger than me, and they spent all night, in the pub, drinking cocktails and taking pictures of each other on their phones. And then the next morning they were all uploaded to MySpace by like 9am. What’s that about?
Murdoch owns it now, doesn’t he? There’s just so much shit there. I think it’s a really good example of us abusing an amazing tool. I mean it’s amazing that I can talk in real time with someone in Japan, that communication tool is so amazing, and the information on there is mind-boggling, but we spend our whole time taking pictures of ourselves and inventing identities on MySpace and reading crap. That tool could be used so subversively to change things. I’d rather be out in the sunshine talking to someone really, but the internet’s just gonna be instrumental in humanity’s bright future. Or the opposite.
OK, nearly there now. It was my birthday on Tuesday, and also Brian Eno’s—who would you rather send a card to?
I’d send you a card, man.
Thank you very much. Have you ever been in a submarine?
Neither have I. Do you wanna go in a submarine?
Yeah, I’d do that if it was safe. I’d rather go in a hot air balloon though.