Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Forest Swords

This one-man project from the Wirral has constructed one of the finest records the UK underground has heard for a while - imagine Burial crossed with the Velvet Underground, crossed with Seefeel crossed with Lee Perry, crossed with Ennio Morricone and produced by Timbaland, and you're getting close. Dagger Paths (out on Olde English Spelling Bee) is a record of shuddering psychedelic hip-hop/dub/drone, made from processed guitars and bass, fragmented vocal samples, dubbed-out drones and analogue celluloid atmospheres. It's a widescreen vision of an indefinably bleak-yet-lovely late night Britain, and I think, one of the few indispensable records of recent years. My friend Roddy and I grabbed Matt Barnes after he finished one of his rare gigs.

N: You've just played to a sold-out Stereo, despite being signed to a tiny label and having had virtually no press. How did that come about?
I dunno, I guess a lot of it's word of mouth. People just find out about it through YouTube and stuff like that, or they'll see my name on the bill and just stream it and decide to come along. Obviously it depends who you clash with, but it's incredibly flattering - I've never been to Glasgow before, and you never know what to expect, or to expect from a crowd. I'd maybe know what to expect from Liverpool or Manchester, but to come this far up and get a response like that is just amazing. I've not really played live before, so I guess that's why people are maybe curious about it. I had a kind of year off last year, because I had some hearing problems, so I couldn't make any new music or play any shows. It's maybe snowballed a bit.

N: You've not had a record out for a while.
Yeah, not for about eighteen months.

R: I bought the Rattling Cage 7", and it was expensive, it was eight quid or something. Then it was his birthday, so I had to give it to him. I went back to buy it and it was only on eBay, and it was twenty-five quid. That was just in a couple of days.
It's crazy. It's hard to explain without sounding like a dick, but maybe it just connects with people in different ways. In different ways to how people normally discover bands. It's maybe that it's just this different vibe, this different energy that people engage with.

R: I used to listen to a lot of ambient stuff when I was younger, but it seems like what you do is miss out all the bits that aren't really necessary.
That's really interesting. I agree with that. I went to art school in Liverpool, and did a degree in design, and the first thing we got taught was that everything you do has to have its own place, and justify its own place, within what ever you do. So it makes what you do more articulate. If something isn't necessary, you take it out. Because you can't justify it being there if it serves no purpose. You have to strip it down to the bare bones of what it has to be.

N: Is your music a hobby?
Yeah, I've got a day job.

N: Which is?
You won't believe this. I design the Celtic magazine.

R: No way!
I went to the Celtic shop before, and I was totally geeking out. We publish it down in Liverpool. They write it up here, but we design it in Liverpool. That's my job. Because of that I know everything about Celtic - I know fuck all about any other football team, but I could tell you anything about Celtic.

N: Do you sit down with the intention of writing a tune, or do they just come together?
I kind of play around with riffs and beats and stuff, and it's just a case of layering it, and seeing what works. It's just all layers.

R: We'd first heard of you through a skateboard forum. This guy from a place called Cumbernauld posted the Miarches video.

Oh, wow! You see, that's crazy to me. That's an example of word of mouth I guess. The internet just diminishes everything, so you don't need to make so much of an effort to find out about stuff.

N: What do you listen to yourself?
I listen to a lot of hip-hop. I listen to hip-hop radio stations so it just kind of seeps in. Old stuff's brilliant, but I like the production on the current stuff. It's quite pop-y, but if you listen to the sounds, there's these weird things that sometimes get through. It's very over-thought, whereas early hip-hop is a lot freer. It goes back to what we were saying before - it's articulate. There's no bullshit. Stuff like Ennio Morricone too. It's weird too, I was saying to my friend, there's a lot of Glasgow bands I grew up with. A lot of Chemikal Underground bands. A lot of electronic music. Lots of Kraftwerk.

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