It’s not a secret that I enjoyed thoroughly both We were exploding anyway (review) and Heavy Sky (review), the two records that 65daysofstatic released in 2010. I also waited for the stupid fire alarm to go away before their Tramlines gig, but it was not to happen that day.
A few months later, I would go and read that they were going to re-score Silent Running, a film I like because I saw it in a drive-in back in Mexico a few years ago. So it was pretty cool to finally get to see the band rock out at Queens Social Club and even better to catch up with them again. Last year I interviewed Joe Shrewsbury (link), this year I managed to get to chat with Paul Wolinski after their fantastic show.
The focus? The re-score of Silent Running and a couple of questions about Heavy Sky. Separated for your reading pleasure/interest.
“Hippies in space”
How did the idea for re-scoring Silent Running came to happen?
Well, the idea to do a re-score actually came from Glasgow film festival. It was the end of last year, they said “we are curating this film festival, we’d like you to be involved, do you want to re-score a film?”, out of the blue, just like that.
We always wanted to do a soundtrack but this seemed like a great thing to do. We had been touring all year long with the record, we didn’t want to jump straight into recording a new record so it felt right. The best thing is that they gave us free reign. We watched loads of films. I saw Silent Running for the first time relatively recently, I missed it as a kid. I loved it.
From a technical point of view, all the existing soundtrack is mostly self-contained. There’s little parts of the film where there is dialogue and soundtrack, so that meant we could strip out all of the existing music and replace it with our own. The most important thing to us was that we didn’t want to do some art installation style jam session where there would be some film playing and we would be playing on top of it, it could’ve been too self-indulgent.
Since we love films so much, we wanted it to work as a film-going experience too, do a proper soundtrack. Silent Running fitted that and since it’s sci fi, we could use loads of synthethisers. It was our front runner straight ahead.
If anything had happened, would you had gone for another sci fi film or would you’ve tried another genre?
Most of the things we concentrated on were sci fi films because most of our music is pretty melodramatic and we enjoyed synths and crazy things, so sci fi naturally lends itself to that. There were other films we loved, like Blade Runner for instance, but when we considered them we realised we loved the soundtrack so much that everything we could try to do, well, we wouldn’t be happy with, where as with Silent Running, strange thing, it has this sort of folk soundtrack with Joan Baez singing. It’s great on its own right, but it’s so at odds with the film. It’s an early example of sci fi and there’s a strong environmental message on the film I guess, early 70s, that kind of era.
Yes, hippies in space! So we took that part out and added some noise.
Did you have any comments from the composer, Peter Schikel or Douglas Trumbull, the director?
Douglas Trumbull emailed us, which was amazing. We were back from Glasgow and realised we had to get permission. We thought it would be the festival’s responsibility but it was ours. So we emailed him and he replied. Basically said that it didn’t belong to him any more, it belonged to Universal and wished us the best luck in the world.
It was cool because he worked in Blade Runner and 2001 Space Odyssey. He’s the dude.
He knows his model and stuff. Galactica re-used some of his shots.
Yes, the old Galactica did.
Ah, the old one, that makes more sense.
Yeah, not the new one, the new one was too busy…
Then they smoked a bowl and got a little weird by the end.
Started off good and went a little bit crazy, that ending…
It feels they wrote themselves into a corner. I read an article about them not knowing how to finish the series.
They probably thought they were going to get cancelled anyway.
Probably the same thing happened with Lost. “What do we do? Oh, that. Purgatory.”
Oh, I gave up on that one.
I prefer series when the general writer how it’s going to finish, like The Wire and The Shield.
Any plans to record this new stuff?
We would like to if we can. Certainly don’t want to promise anything but it would be lovely if we could get a good recording. We did record Glasgow, we haven’t had time to look at it yet, it’s tricky to know what to do with it. We couldn’t actually re-release the film. If we release it as a soundtrack album, what do we take out and how it works?
It was such a discipline for us to write it and we’re always hard on ourselves. The songs, in our heads, they are not only sounds, they are tied to the images, so not sure how well it stands up on its own. But maybe, it would be nice to have it.
I really enjoyed Huey and Dewey’s theme tunes.
“A bit abrasive but in a good way”
Now let’s go over Heavy Sky EP. As I understood it, they were songs that didn’t fit in We Were Exploding Anyway album?
Yeah, all of them. You see, ‘Guitar cascades’ didn’t get finished ’til after the record was released, but all the rest were recorded and mixed as the same time as the ones that made the cut. At one point, all of them were on the record, but in the end, we found the best mix for the record and we were so happy with it! We still wanted to do something with them and in our heads we had this idea of doing an accompanying piece. It still is part of the record.
It does feel, yes.
There was a bit of a battle to get it released. The compromise was the edit of ‘Tiger girl’. It was a bit strange because it was ten minutes for a reason and the record label insisted on an edit because they said that could be the link, what would get on radio.
“It’s not going to be on the radio, dudes! You’re being crazy!” But that was what it took to get it released. They just wanted it digital. We had a tough year with that label, but it’s all done now. I think it’s our best record we’ve ever done. We are really proud of it.
I really like the flow of the whole album. It’s really a smooth flow. The song change a lot but doesn’t jar me. Heavy sky goes into the same pattern and it’s cohesive.
Glad you say that! For me it felt a bit abrasive but in a good way. It was all the tangents we wanted to explore. The record was more amalgamated.
Now that you mention ‘Guitar cascades’, did you wanted to re-use some ideas from ‘Tiger girl’ to make it related songs? Like bookends?
Not consciously. The kind of 4/4 kick drum standard, well, Simon and me use programming. I always wanted 4/4 kick drums but never sounded like we wanted it. It’s a simple rhythm but there’s nothing to hide behind, in one sense. Crazy glitchy bits are a lot easier because you can just confuse people, so you hide behind complexity. With only 4 kicks, that’s it, it seems braver. It has taken a long time and a lot of syncopated rhythms to finally get a 4 / 4 rhythm right!
The big difference between ‘Tiger girl’ and ‘Guitar cascades’ was that we wanted ‘Tiger girl’ to be as noisy as possible and as much fun as possible to play live too. ‘Guitar cascades’ was a really new thing for us and Joe was doing it tonight during the film. All of the electronics on that song are organic. He has these two tape loops, which we made from cassette tapes and sticky tape. It’s really fun, controllable, noisy and confusing. That’s how we did ‘Guitar cascades’, we were recording guitars into tape loops. We can’t afford Space Echoes and proper expensive pedals, so we got cheap old cassette tapes and create these incredible noises.
Sounds kinda what the BBC radiophonic did.
Yeah, they were brilliant!
Who did the cover art?
A guy called Caspar, he lives in New York. We met him during Destruction. We were in the studio and he emailed out of the blue saying “I’m a graphic designer, I have a company in New York, I love your band, your website is rubbish, can I redo it?” and we said yes and asked “how much you want?” and he came back with some ridiculous expensive figure which is what his company usually charges and we laughed at him “ha ha, that’s really funny, we can offer you nothing, but you can do it” and he still did it.
It’s a very nice relationship, he’s really good and he’s basically the same as us, but his medium is artwork and he’s so good and so busy. It’s really good to know someone in New York because you can get into the cool parties and meet the crazy people and we can just sit down and not do too much.
It goes well with the music.
We learned a lot of lessons with Destruction. It was an end of an era for us. We used to do all the artwork for those records, and we are musicians, not graphic artists. The next thing we were going to do we would have to step it up and I think we did it on every respect except maybe the label (laughs).
We had long, long conversations with Caspar about a logo and everything. We thought about an 8 bit graphic of a boy and girl kissing, and then make it real, an evolution of that idea, not too smooth or clean and he got this great photograph. He got all these great images.
I asked Joe which was his fave song from We were exploding anyway and now I ask you, which one is yours?
It’s a really hard question, you know? I mean, I’d probably say ‘Tiger Girl’ if I had to choose one, but that would be only because it was the last song we wrote for the record and the EP, really. It was the last week before the album, we were in the studio thinking something was missing and suddenly we realised the one thing missing was a ten minute noise dance track, so we tried to write one.
For the rest of the record we were really disciplined and only put what is needed in a song, leave some spaces. But we did the opposite for ‘Tiger girl’. For the first half we only did the electronic parts and the second half we just thought that we should have whatever could be the craziest thing we could do when we play it live. I can’t play the drums but I do there, we threw everything we had at the song!
You said about loops and electronics. What drove you into electronics, was it the range of options of what you could do?
For me, personally, I wasn’t driven to it, I actually really liked it. My parents had great music taste and when I was 7 I had this tape of New Order and would listen to it constantly, it had really good programming. When I was in school, they would let me borrow the school drum machine and I would take it home and that’s how I started. It wasn’t until I got into University that I listened to guitar music, stuff like Deftones, At the drive in, and …and you will know us by the trail of dead. I’m the other way around than the rest of the band. I had an Amiga when I was little, which is not as good as an Atari, like a lot of musicians had.
Good graphics, though.
I had a Commodore 64, though, so Amiga was the superior one.
Haha, well, that’s how it went. Electronics was definitely my best choice. I don’t really play the guitar that much, I do sometimes because it’s fun, but I like piano and programming.
Any plans for this year?
We are doing some more Silent Running shows, the last one is September. We toured for a year and that’s just finished. We are not ready to start writing a record yet and it’s nice to have Silent Running because it makes us keep doing stuff whilst we decide what we do next.
We’ll do bits and pieces. I’m doing a solo project, maybe I’ll do something in a few weeks. It was our ten year anniversary last month (April), we’ve been doing for a long time, none of us are bored at all, but it was a long year last year.
We were so happy with the record but for so many reasons, not least, no ones buying music anymore, which is not an intrinsic bad thing at all, I’m happy people are sharing music, but the reality is that it’s hard and we are a band that doesn’t make that much from touring. When we tour properly, we try to do our best and give the best show we can and treat the crew right. It costs more but it makes the show better.
Money is always tight but it keeps us on survival mode. We could start writing straight away and keep the momentum going. We don’t want to stop touring, but touring for the sake of touring is cheating, so we need to write something really good, otherwise, we don’t deserve people’s attention.
We are so lucky because we are a strange band but people are willing to give us their time , we owe it to them to have something new to say than just another exploding album, that’s not the way to do it.
That’s very kind. I wish I had a hat so I could tip it to you!
Thanks . I’d like to wear hats.
Thank you very much, Paul.
Thanks to 65daysofstatic and Tom for this interview. Extra special thanks to my co-writer Tonan for suggesting a few questions.