3 Questions: Rick Wakeman

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Rick Wakeman originally wanted to be a concert pianist until the steady work of a session musician beckoned. His dependable talent for nailing a part in one solitary take lead to memorable contributions such as playing Mellotron on David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, work on Lou Reed’s post-Velvets debut LP and with Marc Bolan’s as he metamorphosed into a glam megastar with T-Rex.

Best known for several stints in Yes alongside his solo work and complex and extravagantly-executed stage shows, Wakeman was also one of the earliest keyboardists to see the limitless potential of the synthesizer through a bargain purchase of a Minimoog from actor Jack Wild. (The Artful Dodger-playing actor had assumed his synth was on the blink because it could only play one note at a time.)

This weekend, Wakeman celebrated turning seventy earlier in 2019 with two final performances of his Journey To The Centre Of The Earth album at the Royal Festival Hall in London, the location of its original presentation in 1974.

What is your earliest memory?

Crawling backwards. I never crawled forwards. I can remember getting stuck under the sideboard and having to be yanked out.

I was a very early talker and a very late walker. I can remember the first time I walked and checked it with my mother many years later and, to her amazement, I was spot on.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Always look for the good points in people. My father said that everybody has some good points and if you can find them, you will get more out of knowing the person.

In general he was right, but I have met a few who have absolutely no endearing qualities!

When are you most productive or inspired?

Early morning. I get up around 5 and my brain is whirring from the moment I put the kettle on. Things go downhill after that!

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Kepier Widow – Perspectives And Boundaries

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Kepier Widow is the alias of North Manchester’s Alexander Roberts. With releases over the last couple of years on labels like Rusted Tone and Panurus, Perspectives And Boundaries is perhaps his most ambitious project to date, consisting of four 30-minute pieces of audio art across two cassettes released by Chelmsford’s Misophonia imprint.

What’s immediately apparent from the opening moments of the Perspectives cassette is that this is a beautiful sprawl of a project, and by the conclusion of the final passages of Boundaries it’s clear that Roberts possesses a potentially limitless capacity for sonic adventuring. Ideas are spliced in, developed quickly and already in the past by the time you’ve got your head around them, whether moments of found sound or intricately detailed electronic music fragments or surreptitious recordings of overheard conversation placed jarringly out of context. Elsewhere, you pick up backward sounds and heavily-disguised vocals that, were it the Sixties or even a NON LP, would have had people claiming to be able to hear satanic orders and coded messages. And who knows? Maybe that’s what they are.

As I made my way though Roberts’ two-hour opus perhaps the most unexpected result was how I found myself thinking about my childhood. There’s a looped laugh at the start of the second part of Perspectives that took me back to a scratched LP of children’s songs wherein ‘The Laughing Policeman’ would cackle menacingly until you ran screaming from the room. Elsewhere, one of the muted electronic passages took on an atmospheric Eighties soundtrack vibe, immediately transporting me back to my pre-teen years glued to episodes of Airwolf.

Perspectives And Boundaries by Kepier Widow is out now on Misophonia.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

3 Questions: S. T. Manville

S. T. Manville released his debut album, Somebody Else’s Songs, earlier this year, collecting together eleven surprising covers of tracks by Jimmy Eat World, Green Day and others. At the very end of June, Manville released ‘Make Believe’, a self-penned piece of tranquil acoustic music for guitar, ukulele and violin that perfectly details our uncomfortable relationship with growing up, being full of wistful nostalgia, regret and hope.

Here, Manville talks about spelling, overcoming shyness and being inspired during the middle of the night.

What’s your earliest memory?

There are a few and I don’t know what order they came in so here’s the two that contend for earliest…

I think my brother Patrick was born but still a baby so I would have been about two or three. My mum took us to feed the ducks, which was a short drive from where we lived. God knows how but she managed to throw the house and car keys into the pond along with the bread. After getting really flustered and shouting a bit she jumped in after them and managed to get them out.

I was thinking about this recently and decided it was too insane to have really happened so I asked my mum if I’d made it up. I hadn’t. When I asked her why she jumped in and didn’t just leave it her reasoning was that ‘Mobiles didn’t exist then.’ I’m not fully sure I see the logic in that, but she’s a smart woman and so there must have been some sense in it.

The other memory is being in the car with my mum and dad around the same age. They used to use the time old trick of spelling out words to each other when they didn’t want me to understand what they were talking about. During one of these covert conversations I asked if we could get some ‘B-C-P-S.’ When they asked what I was on about I replied with ‘Chips’. I’ve always been a great speller.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

‘Shy kids get nought,’ a really good friend said it in passing once, and it’s stuck with me. He probably doesn’t even remember saying it, but I genuinely live my life by it. There’s no shame in asking for help, guidance, or bit of shameless self promotion, if you ask in the right way and it comes from a sincere place.

Where are you most productive or inspired?

I’ve learnt that when inspiration happens, I just need to get on with it while it’s there, and when it isn’t I need to be patient, not force it and just wait until it reappears.

The times in the cycle that I’m not being musically creative can be pretty horrible, with plenty of self doubt and worrying about whether I’ll ever be able to write again, but I’ve been doing this for so long I’ve gotten better at dealing with those feelings. Sometimes it helps to find new music that inspires me, and sometimes I find that it’s better not listening to any music at all for weeks.

I tend to find inspiration in two places – from other music or art that I enjoy, and from watching general life unfold around me. The only real criteria for creativity, in my case, is sobriety and sun light. I’ve never been able to write or do anything creative unless I’m sober, and so I usually tend to work during the day. I find it really hard to work after about 7pm. When I see people in the studio at 3am getting stoned, drinking beers I always think, ‘How are you getting anything done?’

That said, I have woken up in the middle of the night a few times over the years with lyrics and melodies that I’ve written in my sleep, and then I’ve had to sneak downstairs to record a voice note. My wife loves that…

Make Believe by S. T. Manville is out now on Difficult. Listen on Spotify. Read the Further. review of Somebody Else’s Songs here.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

3 Questions: Sweatson Klank

Earlier this month LA’s Sweatson Klank (Thomas Wilson) dropped what is undoubtedly an early contender for the album of the summer in the form of his Super Natural Delights LP, containing twelve tracks of feel-good, electronically-infused hip-hop. The collection showcases Wilson’s uncanny ability to solder dexterous instrumental components to a circuit board of engaging, inventive rhythms, taking in everything from jazz to soul to electro.

In the latest of Further.’s 3 Questions micro-features, Wilson talks about early cycle experiences and the value of a decent night’s sleep.

Read the Further. review of Super Natural Delights here.

What is your earliest memory?

My earliest memory is of my dad trying to teach me to ride a bike in Paris, France. I was born there and he used to bring me to the park so I could learn to ride. I started with training wheels of course and I still remember the day the training wheels came off. It was a glorious feeling.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

The best advice I’ve ever gotten was to stop comparing myself to other people. It’s still a daily practice to remind myself not to do that. Comparison only leads to disappointment.

Part of that advice was also to learn to love yourself and embrace who you are and be grateful for what you have. Once you can put this into practice, life just seems a lot more enjoyable.

Where are you most productive or inspired?

I used to be most inspired and productive late at night but in the last few years it’s totally reversed. I’m at my best in the morning. Ideas flow clearly, and I get as much done in a couple hours in the morning as I used to get done all day! It’s amazing what being well rested does for creativity and productivity.

Super Natural Delights by Sweatson Klank is out now on Friends Of Friends.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

3 Questions: WARMLAND

WARMLAND are a Reykjavík duo of Arnar Guðjónsson and Hrafn Thoroddsen, whose debut album Unison Love is released by the Aeronaut label on June 21 2019.

Comprising twelve songs showcasing quietly sincere, beatific vocals and a rich, compelling tapestry of icy synth melodies, Unison Love is executed with a knowingly anthemic, widescreen intelligent pop smarts.

WARMLAND play Secret Solstice this weekend in Reykjavík. Watch the video for ‘Further’ below.

What is your earliest memory?

Arnar: Escaping kindergarten by digging a hole under the fence and running down the street when I was three or four years old. I managed to run quite a distance until a random person from the street spotted me and stopped me. I guess I never really liked kindergarten.

Hrafn: I guess it would be my dog, her name was Dimma (Dark) and she was absolutely crazy, but kind to me. She used to drag me across the playground, terrorise the postman and dig up the neighbourhood. She eventually went on to live on the ‘farm’.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s given you?

Arnar: Stay true to yourself and don’t worry about what other people say or think. Working in music and creative arts, you can’t make everyone happy and there are always going to be negative voices out there. So it’s very important that you stay true to your vision and never compromise.

Hrafn: Be good to people and don’t be an asshole. I gravitate to good people both professionally and personally so thankfully my life is asshole-free… mostly.

When are you most productive or inspired?

Arnar: Over the dark winter in Iceland. I get easily distracted by good weather and sun. Maybe the 24-hour darkness forces you to go within yourself and be more creative. Working on music in the studio in a snow storm is the perfect condition for me.

Hrafn: I get inspired after dark and I censor things less between the twilights. I sometimes sit and do nothing in the studio until the light fades, then things get going. The midnight sun during summer can be a bit problematic, but then you just go out and enjoy it.

Unison Love by WARMLAND is released by Aeronaut on June 21 2019. Buy the record at Bandcamp.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Christopher Willits – Sunset

San Francisco ambient musician Christopher Willits’s precise instructions for listening to Sunset, his latest collection of five ephemeral pieces for his long term Ghostly label home, asks you to “Begin the music fifteen minutes before the sun sets.” The collection is designed to reflect the changing light and warmth of the end of the day, in so doing allowing a deep connection to form between the listener and her or his surroundings, concurrently creating a Zen-like spiritual appreciation of the moment.

I didn’t listen to this at sunset, nor was I particularly aware of my surroundings at the time: I first played this after a difficult June evening, in the early morning, on a train; the sun was hidden behind a screen of impenetrable rain clouds and its warmth was utterly absent. It was arguably the opposite of what Willits intended for his music, but it presented a sort of stillness and reassuring calm that felt necessary at that point.

That’s not to suggest that these pieces are devoid of colour and emotion. Amid long electronic tones, overlapping drones, and some heavily-processed and virtually unrecognisable guitars, moments of tension arise before quietly resolving themselves and moving on; subtle harmonic ebbs and flows give rise to unintentional melodies, while the woodland sounds of ‘Transpire’ transport you from the synthetic world to the real one. It is a collection of resolute, irrepressible beauty, and one that might just leave you feeling a little altered (for the better) after.

Sunset by Christopher Willits is released by Ghostly International on June 14 2019. The timing of this post’s publication coincided with the estimated time of sunset in the UK town where I live.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.