Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Darren Hayman

As singer/guitarist with Peel-favourites Hefner, Darren Hayman cemented his position as one of the leading lights of British indie-pop-folk songwriting at the turn of the century. The band's four albums on the Too Pure label led to adoring praise from listeners and musicians the world over, and although band split in 2002, Darren's subsequent solo work is attracting just as much acclaim. His seventh record, January Songs was recorded - one song a day, each with a video to accompany it - in Jaunary of 2011 (with a little input from some friends), and the limited physical release is out now.

Did you really write and record January Songs in one month?
I really did. There were two things that might be considered a cheat. The chorus to 'I Hung The Monkey' was something I'd had in my head, and I remember singing part of it to Dave Tattersall and I remember him saying he liked it, so I sort of had that in mind for the Wave Pictures. But I still had to write the verse, and structure it all, and make it into a song. The other cheat was on a day when I made some music with Mark Brend, and Mark Brend said "I'd love to do some music with you, but there's no way I could do a song in a day". So what we decided to do there, was that he made the music. So for all I know he might have spent three months on the music. I think he spent a few days or a week or something on the music, but the idea then - to try and keep it true to the idea - was that I didn't listen to the track 'til the day, and so on that day I had to write the lyric for it and record it, so it still felt like I was doing all my work in a day. So apart from that, it was all done in a month. There would be no point in not doing it, really. If you set yourself the challenge... How can you cheat when it's a competition with yourself? What would the point be? It'd be pointless. The whole thing was about me being interested in what I would do, so I had to stick to it.

So you wrote and recorded the album in January of 2011. Did this herald the beginning of your most productive year, musically? It seems like you did a lot last year.
I think that, in some ways, it felt like I didn't make that much music last year actually! It felt like I released a lot. I think there's been years where I've written more songs, and I think 2011 was more about me trying to clear a backlog. January Songs was that in itself, in that creativity can be quite quick for me, it's not always quick - I can spend a couple of years on a song sometimes - but sometimes you do something so quickly, and you're so excited by it. You have a great day in the studio, and you want to turn around and show people instantly. Sometimes the problem with the release process is that by the time you've got something out, you're already on to the next thing.
So 2011 was about releasing things, and particularly January Songs, where I hoped to, hopefully, pass on the excitement of making things quickly, and them being finished quickly.

Is January Songs an album, or is it a compilation? A compilation of your thoughts over a month, maybe?
Yeah. That's a good question, I like that question. It doesn't really feel like an album to me, and I find myself wondering if I did the right thing by deciding to release it (physically). It's a silly thing to say when I'm doing an interview to promote it, but I'm a little bit unsure whether that was absolutely the right thing to do. It was people asking, and people persuading me to, that made me do it. It felt like the point of it existed within those thirty days, and it seemed like it was something that was very suited to the internet, very suited to uploading and downloading. Something that couldn't be done previously, due to us not having internet.

Ok, I see.
Or even certain sites becoming available in the last few years, like Vimeo and Soundcloud and Bandcamp. Even though we've had the internet for... How long have we had the internet for? Thirty years? Twenty years? So no, it doesn't actually feel like an album. Perhaps it's starting to now, since I've been doing these shows. There doesn't seem to be a theme linking it other than the process. But I'd still like people who buy the record to go online and look at all the video diaries and stuff. That seems to me to be a big part of it.

Do you think your idea to hand-draw 1,500 sleeves helped you make up your mind about releasing it?
Yeah, absolutely. Because I think, a lot of people's idea - and a couple of labels that approached me about it - their idea was to make it very lavish, the idea was to have a DVD and a book with pictures. And that seemed to not fit with the spirit of the project. One review I got of it was a fair review, but it wasn't particularly glowing, because it was saying that the idea was better than the actuality. I think that's fair, but it's also my fault for releasing it, because now that I've released it I'm asking for it to be viewed next to an album that I might have... Do you understand what I'm trying to say?

Yeah, it's now a real Darren Hayman album, for sale in shops.

But it is only concept. It's all concept. It's not necessarily quality, it's whether you like the idea of it or not. So consequently, I wanted the release itself to be conceptual, and in some ways reflect this theme of hard work. I'm still really pleased with that idea actually, so that's definitely the idea that made me release it. I thought that idea was very funny. Very silly.

When I heard of this idea, I expected it to be squiggles, but it's far from it.
Well, they're not all good! Like the songs! When I was doing the songs, one rule that I didn't necessarily make public, was that all the songs must be something that your mother, or my mother, would call a 'song'. In that I couldn't necessarily do 'soundscapes', you know? Or odd art experimental music. Not saying they're not songs - I love that music too - but it had to have rules, and so it had to be something that anyone would recognise as a song. With a verse and a chorus. A traditional song. So likewise, I felt that the pictures had to be that way. I couldn't throw a bucket of paint across 50 sleeves. They had to be recognisable drawings, which I guess is an experiment of constraint, making me more conservative, but there you go.

Today is supposed to be 'Blue Monday', the most depressing day of the year. Did you write the songs with each day in mind, or did you come up with stuff one day that you used another day?
The Blue Monday thing is a complete fabrication. I was reading about this yesterday, it was invented about three or four years ago. What was the company...

I think it was a travel agent.
Right, yeah. Umm... What do you mean? Do you mean "Was it a blank page every day?"

Yeah, exactly.
No. I suppose in that sense it's a bit album-like. I was still thinking of it as a sequence, so I'd be thinking about how it would contrast, so if I'd done a run of fast songs I'd be thinking about that, and there was a desire to not repeat myself so as it got towards the end I did start doing things like spoken word, and I did an acappella song. So I think I wanted the fatigue, and the desperation, and the difficulty of it to increase, to make it more interesting.
The first few days were definitely easier, although actually the last few days weren't necessarily the hardest. The hardest bit was actually just about a week in. Days five, six and seven were really hard for some reason. Then I guess I found the rhythm after that.

What are you listening to just now?
Literally, what was on the computer as I came off to answer the phone, was Guided By Voices. It wasn't the new one, I know they've released a new one - it was Alien Lanes. It the Alien Lanes line-up that's reformed, isn't it? I like that album a lot. But in general, I've been listening to quite a lot of jazz, which I didn't think would ever happen to me. But I think it happens to everybody. Or every man, anyway, at a certain age.

I heard you've been listening to a lot of stuff on ECM lately. I suppose if you're listening to jazz, you might as well get right into it with some ECM.
Yeah, I kind of bypassed the easy stuff, really. Straight away I was kind of drawn to things like later John Coltrane, or Ornette Coleman. I always used to sort of resent it, because I thought of it as an egotistical music. On one level it is, I suppose, with all the solos, but now it almost feels the opposite. It almost seems 'egoless'. Because everyone solos all the time, there seem to be no rules, almost the opposite. It seems incredibly collaborative, and it seems a music where the bass player is definitely as important as the pianist or the saxophonist. That's kind of what I've been thinking about as I listen to it - that actually now, rock seems much more about the ego than jazz. And that's not what I used to think.

What's been happening with your live shows? Was it half the album last week and half next week? Is that right?
I didn't play absolutely everything (from the first half), I did about twelve or thirteen from the first fifteen, and I'll do the same next time. I felt that for the audience's good it just need a little editing, you know? There were a few there that they could do without, so I took it upon myself to at least make it a comfortable set length! Fifteen or sixteen songs is just a bit too long for a set.

Do you think playing it live bookends the whole thing for you? You made it in January of last year, and now you're closing the book on it by actually playing it live.
Yeah. I'm keen to move on from this one. Like I say, the idea was originally to stop the bottleneck, but what it's done is put another record in the release schedule. So I do feel that I want to draw a line under it, so I'm thinking that I won't play those songs in my regular set. It's not that I'm not fond of it - in fact I'm really, really pleased I had the idea, I've got no regrets about doing it - but I just like that the idea of it having this little separate life, like 'that funny thing he did once'. So I might retire the songs at the end of January.

What are your plans for 2012 then?
I have an album coming out in the spring, called Lido, which is my first instrumental album. It's not jazz! But maybe that taste informs it a little bit... There was a certain looseness in my approach to it. I would never say it was jazz.

But if somebody called it jazz, would you be disappointed?
I think I would actually. I think I'd say "You don't know what you're talking about!" But you can never tell how these things seep through, how things things influence you, can you? If you're listening to that much of something then it must make some impression on what you do. I make instrumental music a lot, and it's the first time I've had the guts to release it.

The full January Songs story can be found here.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Olly Todd

Poet. Skateboarder. Bohemian. Traveller. Wayward Boy. However you picture Olly Todd, you need to appreciate that he's an interesting guy - with a lot on his mind. Since returning from the US to skate for London's gritty designer triangle-enthusiasts Palace, he's been filling his head with skateboarding, poetry and music; the latter of which shall be discussed forthwith.

What's your favourite video section track?
The opening credits to ‘Wheels on Fire’ - the old Santa Cruz video. I'm not sure of the name of the song but it’s by Claus Grabke’s band, Eight Dayz. (The song is 'What's So Strange About Me.') It was literally the first song I heard accompanying skating and it just embodies that excitement and awe I felt towards what was to become, for me, a whole new world.

What's your favourite video overall, for music?
Stereo’s ‘A Visual Sound’. An almost entire jazz soundtrack was the perfect compliment to the style of skateboarding and locations in that video. As a thought-out, planned concept, from start to finish, it just totally works.

Did the first skateboard videos you watched influence your listening preferences?
Of course. And it was rad because no-one at my school knew any of those bands so it felt special.

Is there a song you play in your head to get you hyped when you're trying something?
Err, ‘Let’s Get It Up’ by AC/DC?

What's your favourite album of all time, and why?
I dunno man. It always changes but for now let’s just say ‘Exile on Main Street’ by The Rolling Stones.

Where has the best music- the UK or America?
I reckon the UK’s take on American music so, effectively, both. The Stones, Led Zeppelin etc. How they interpreted and responded to what was happening across the pond.

What's your earliest musical memory?
Folk songs round the campfire in the middle of Stone Henge at summer solstice.

What was the first album you bought with your own money?
I can’t remember the name of the album, but it was Iron Maiden on vinyl.

What are you listening to just now? Tell us about it.
I think I’m having a midlife crisis because I’ve just started getting into hip-hop. Rob put a playlist on my iPod and it’s called ‘Toddy loves Rappers’ and it’s so sick. Biggie, Wu-Tang, Dre, Snoop, Ghostface, Mobb Deep… All the classics.

Who has the best lyrics?
David Bowie 

Anything coming out soon you're excited about?
Oasis have split up mate!

What was your first gig? How was it?
Despite the Oasis fanaticism, it was Blur, sometime in the wonderful nineties, at Mile End. This chick at school who I fancied broke up with her boyfriend so she took me instead. Ten hour coach trip from Whitehaven, first time in London, first note I ever heard live and it’s the opening chords to the song ‘Tracy Jacks’ and I’m bouncing around with 50,000 people. Did not know what to expect. It was fucking awesome. Did not seal the deal with the chick though.

What gig in history do you wish you could have been at?

Jesus. When King Arthur serenaded Lady Guinevere at Camelot?

What's the best gig you've been to?

Wu-Tang at Kentish town summer 2011. EPIC.

Do you ever dabble in making music yourself?
No. I mean... Well... Me and my house mates plus Joel O’Connor had a pretty epic jam-sesh one night and laid down a pretty tight track. I mean, well, I screamed our address, by way of lyrics, repeatedly for an hour while the lads played guitar and harmonica. Safe to say it’s a classic.

What was the last album you acquired?
‘The Element of Freedom’- Alicia Keys. No shit.

What band do you wish you could have been inn and why?

Girls Aloud. Why? Need you ask?

Who on Palace has the best and worst taste in music?

I have the worst for sure. Rory has one of the most impressive and eclectic tastes in music I’ve encountered.

Anything you'd like to recommend?

Hall and Oates.

Chomsky argued that music is integral to evolution, as it essentially existed before language. Pinker countered that music is 'auditory cheesecake', and exists purely for pleasure. Your thoughts?
Forgive the hyperbole and sentimentality, but music is of vital importance. For our happiness, our relationships, our intelligence, our responses to the world, our everything. I think that gentleman is wrong to trivialize it. It’s not even like I’m a fan of music because that’s like saying I’m a fan of oxygen. 


Daniel 'Snowy' Kinloch skateboards so well, that the good people over at Landscape make skateboards with his name on them- and pay him for it! He's also really good at listening to music, although nobody pays him to do that- he does that for fun. Everybody's always asking him about skateboarding, but nobody talks to him about music, so we thought we'd ask the Lancashire lad with the Madchester graphics what he's been putting in his ears recently.

What's your favourite video section track, and why?
I always loved Wiily Santos' part in the Birdhouse video Ravers, he had The Beatles 'Here Comes The Sun' running into 'Yellow Submarine'. It was was one of the first videos I had and one of the first parts I watched over and over. I don't know, it just had good vibes. I watched it a lot one cold northern winter, and it made me think of the sunshine...
But for hype Cardiel's section on (Transworld's) Sight Unseen with Sizzla, got it spot on with that!

What's your favourite video overall, for music, and why?
There's one video that above all just captured a time for me, and makes me smile every time I watch it. The Holy Bible of skate videos, Zoo York Mixtape forever ever be thy name, amen. "Big shout on the east coast!"

Is there a song you play in your head to get you hyped when you're trying something?
Always, but it changes constantly. I must have gone through thousands over the years. I'm not really someone who skates with an iPod so day-to-day it'll be the last good tune I heard that sticks in my head, or sometimes- embarrassingly- a bad pop song I hear on the radio while getting a drink from the shop.

Who's idea were the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses boards? How did they come about?
The Stones Roses have always been one of my favourite bands, and I ended up using 'Elephant Stone' in my Portraits part. The graphic was originally DJ's concept, the first in a series of 'one off' graphics for Landscape. We're both are big fans of John Squire's album artwork and we tried to keep it as true as possible to the original. It ended up being one of our best selling boards and we re-released it in silver. The Stone Roses re-released the special edition album, so it just seemed natural for us to release the limited edition gold version that was laser etched and numbered.
Again, the Happy Mondays have always been one of my favourite bands, I spent a few years growing up in Manchester and that era of music has always fascinated me. When we were finishing up filming for Horizons we were having problems finding a tune for my part but I always had one in mind- 'Kinky Afro'. I actually went travelling around South America straight after we finished filming for Horizons so missed the editing, premiere and what we were going to do for the next boards. I didn't even know what tune I was going to have so DJ designed it for me as a surprise. For me the best touch was the pair of Bez's maracas for the top graphic. Fucking legend!

What was the first album you bought with your own money?
Haha! The first album I ever bought with my own money was Micheal Jackson's 'Bad'. I remember this quite vividly, I was about five years old shopping in Asda with my mum and I think it was on a special. I thought he was the baddest back then, shame what happened really.

What are you listening to just now?
I'm always listening to a lot of different music, but at the moment I've been getting into quite a bit of old school house. Like rare old grooves. 808 State, Omar-S, Mr. Fingers, Inner City, House 2 House etc... There's quite a few of us down here that have been getting into it, and we have a legend friend, DJ John Night. His sets could make anyone love it!

What was your first gig? How was it?
I suppose my first real gig was Glastonbury Festival... My Mum used to work there in the early-to-mid 90s and so I used to go with her. Pretty surreal running around somewhere like that just becoming a teenager. It's a bit of a blur but I saw some wicked bands and some not so wicked. I wish I'd known then what I know now about music 'cause some real legends played back then and I didn't have a clue.

What gig in history do you wish you could have been at?
I'd always liked to have been been at Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. Maybe more for the atmosphere and what was happening at the time.

Do you ever dabble in making music yourself?
No, not really. I've jammed with friends messing about but I don't think that counts. I wish I was more musical, I just need to pick up that geets...

What's the best gig you've been to?
Seen quite a few lately, and actually watched Wu-Tang twice this year, but without a doubt GZA/Genius, he played like a three hour set in this little venue in North London. Good people, good vibes and he absolutely merked it!

What's your favourite album art?
Ha! Well this is funny because I used to pore through my dads record collection when i was a wee laddie, and it was pretty vast and varied- Hawkwind, Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Cult, The Cure, Sade, Joy Division, Fleetwood Mac... But one that always stuck out in my mind Is Jean-Michel Jarre's 'Oxygene'. I don't know why, 'cause I don't even like the music, but something about it just stuck in my mind.

What was the last album you acquired?
The last album to physically cross my palms was an album I got as a Christmas present, and I'm afraid to say it wasn't very good. It was a Gorillaz album, bless my nan. 

What band do you wish you could have been in?
Damn. There's a lot bands from a lot of different times. It would be one that pushed the boundaries of music as well as other areas. If you're gonna be in a band then you have to do it properly, like the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses etc, but I'd have to say right now probably Motorhead with Lemmy. But I'm pretty sure I'd have been dead within a week.

Who on Landscape has the best and worst taste in music?
We've all got a pretty varied taste in music and at the end of the day its personal preference. If I have to call it though, I'll say I've the worst and everyone else the best!

Colin Kennedy

As Blueprint pro, father, husband and Nike SB team manager, Colin Kennedy keeps himself busy. He can put up with drunk people like a champ, is ridiculously down for skateboarding and has always got something interesting in his headphones. It seemed appropriate we should take the time to find out exactly what...

What's your favourite video overall, for music?
Easy. Video Days. Short video and completely to the point. Classic tracks - Coltrane, Black Flag, Dinosaur, Milk... They broke the mould on that one. However, it was Spike Jonze's magnum opus in skateboarding, so of course it was good.

Have you got a least favourite, not including the Rhythm video?
Easy, any recent video that chose to not licence music and just took the first thing they could get their hands out without licence and completely missed the point about what makes a skate video. If you're not a big company, take the risk on the music, it'll most probably be worth it.

Did the first skateboard videos you watched influence your listening preferences?
Absolutely. More often than not we would have dubs of skate video soundtracks direct to analogue cassette from the VHS copy, with the skate sounds included. This was my listening preference, but to come back to the question, it certainly guided me towards punk and hip-hop, because more often than not that was what was used on skate videos.

Is there a song you play in your head to get you hyped when you're trying something?
I don't try so many things anymore, but when I do the main thing my brain is doing is a  basic risk assessment. Last time I can actually remember a track fully influencing a trick I was trying was actually at the Berrics. It was Slayer playing and I ended up cracking my canister on the floor. We turned the music off after that.

What's your favourite album of all time, and why?
This is impossible to answer but in a Desert Island Discs style, I'd like to proffer that Brian Eno's 'Another Green World' ticks a hell of a lot of boxes.

What's your earliest musical memory?
The Alan Parsons Project - 'The Turn Of A Friendly Card'. My Dad owned it and used to play it quite frequently and hence so did I, as I got a little older. So many recordings that are vivid memories to me from the past are synth-based or have some sort of electronic influence.

What was the first album you bought with your own money?
The Communards - 'Communards'. I think my sister convinced me to buy it as she had already spent her money on another record. It grew on me. The synth influence was always there and it has stayed with me.

What's your favourite album art?
Public Enemy - 'Yo! Bum Rush the Show'.

What are you listening to just now?
Lately, some of the Berghain techno, Marcel Dettman. Some of the podcasts at Resident Advisor, Martyn, Mike Huckaby. East Village Radio was a great tip off from Mackey. That's a completely random station from NYC so it's often nice to not make a choice and have a freeform listening session. Caribou's 'Swim' Album is still a favourite and is still on steady play.

Do you get to buy much stuff on tour?
All the time, but digitally. I rarely go into music shops and no longer have any nostalgia for physical formats; files are good for me for the time-being, and a lot easier to manage. I use the phone to download podcasts and music when I'm on the move, and it's still a trip to me that this technology is so readily available. Pick up a song over the air whilst at the airport? Beautiful and seamless technology.

What do you think about the composed-soundtrack thing for skate videos? Was the Mark Jackson stuff an early example of that?
It depends to what extent someone might take it to, and the context. More often than not the celebrated scored videos haven't got me too excited. I'm from the old school of thought on working the footage 'round a great song. Mark Jackson was a close associate of Blueprint so it was a natural progression to get him involved in things in the past, but I wouldn't say it was scoring akin to other such videos, like 'The End', for example.

Do you start getting a song in your head for a section when you're filming, or does that come after?
Not at all. Magee has always been a pessimist with a vision, concept and idea for a video but he would never be public about these decisions until the bulk of the footage was in the bag. You were filming up 'til you were about 70% of a part then you might be able to talk music. It was an ingrained mindset.

Blueprint has a really strong identity despite - unlike some other companies - being 'associated' with any type of music. How do you reckon this was achieved?
Dan's aspiration to just get it right and make the videos palatable and interesting. It was a cohesive vision but the brand is communicated through the diversity of the team riders. I think the team brought a lot of those influences to the plate, and we all travelled and spent a lot of time together filming those videos, so each of our tastes and influences would cross pollinate and naturally Dan picks up on those influences.

Anything coming out soon you're excited about?
I would say the new Shed album. I don't buy many full techno releases anymore but I have always picked up his long players as they seem to have that re-visitable album quality to them and a good palette of sounds and dynamics.

What was your first gig?
It would be hard to pinpoint the actual one. There was a time when there was a rash of gigs going through Glasgow and that was perhaps the most memorable time, more so than any particular gig. Fugazi, PE, Beastie Boys, Rollins Band. Stereotypical skate sounds of the time but dynamite gigs.

What gig in history do you wish you could have been at?
I really never thought I had this nostalgia in me until recently. I was watching the Stone Roses press release interview about their Heaton Park 'reunion' gigs next year and although I am a fan of the first album, their gigs were notoriously a shambles or complete pish, but it did get me to thinking there are so many great bands that I listen to now that are in most cases not together or around anymore. Such an example would be Sabbath at the height of their career.

What's the best gig you've been to?
House of Pain, Cypress Hill and Funkdoobiest at the Barrowlands in Glasgow. Not so much for the music but for the insane Glasgow crowd and the chaos and atmosphere in there. They have an expression in Scotland for this - 'the place wis jumpin'. Absolute dynamite, tension and noise.

Do you go to clubs?
Rarely, I would go more given the chance; but I love to if the music is to my liking. Just rare to find someone in my generation who's still down to go. I can still throw down to the early hours. 

What's happening with the music you do just now?
It's in a perpetual state of flux in my computer. Same old same old. Nothing new there. 

What's your favourite band/label t-shirt?
Always has to be the 'DK' Dead Kennedys logo. Classic.

What band do you wish you could have been in?
Iron Maiden, mainly for the tours. They have their own private passenger jet that Bruce Dickinson flies with the whole crew and stage set. Absolute insanity. 

Anything you'd like to recommend?
To never disregard the importance of challenging and 'different' music. Without it, there is no music.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Peaking Lights

Peaking Lights are husband-and-wife duo Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis, and their latest album, '936' is a gorgeous, immersive mixture of dub, psychedelic space rock, minimal house, Krautrock and pop. Previously released on LA's Not Not Fun label, it's recently had a worldwide release on Domino off-shoot Weird World. The pair were holed up in New York recording their next album when I phoned them to talk about synths, surfing and soul...

                                                       Peaking Lights. Photograph by Ben Poster

So you're both in New York just now?
I: Yeah, we're here recording just now, at Mexican Summer's recording studio. We're working on our next record. We're working with Al Carlson (producer who's worked with everyone from Oneohtrix Point Never to Lady Gaga). He's awesome.
A: He's actually here, he just rolled in with his bike helmet on. 

How was the move from Not Not Fun to Weird World? They're distributed by Domino, so it must be a bit of a change.
A: Amazing. It was great!
I: Everybody's just been wonderful to work with. We're just really happy to be working with a label that can take our music to the wider masses.


And with that comes touring. How's that working out?
A: It's great. We did a lot of touring in the past, but we've just had a kid, so it's a little bit different from what we've done before. In how we're able to tour, I mean. We can't play shows unless we have someone to watch him, y'know?
I: At this point we can't really do huge tours. We're doing shorter tours, but as he gets older that'll change. We're still playing! Just a little bit less frequently.

You build a lot of your synths yourself, so is your sound borne of necessity? Or did you build these things to create the sound that you wanted?
A: It's definitely a little bit of both. How much is anything a necessity, except for food and water and air?
I: I think what Aaron's getting at is that- we couldn't afford to buy some crazy $30,000 vintage synth- but Aaron started building synths somewhat out of necessity to create cool sounds, and then it turned into sort of "Well, actually, these synths make really unique sounds that no one else is making!" So now it's become a really integral part of what we do.

With that being the case, do you worry about taking your equipment on tour? Do you worry about anything happening to it?
A: Yeah!
I: Yeah! Even travelling sometimes, the synths will get out of tune or something from being bumped around, so it's always a little bit of an issue. Even flying overseas. One of Aaron's synths is in a suitcase- it looks like a briefcase- and it's just got all these bare wires, and we're always afraid they're going to think it's a bomb or something...

                                                       Peaking Lights. Photograph by Ben Poster 

Do you use any modern equipment? Any emulators or anything?
I: I just use regular synths. We use a right wide variety of stuff, from pretty cheap vintage Casios to Nord stuff, y'know? The stuff that Aaron uses, he runs through his own filters that he made. He kinda uses his own synths, mostly.
A: Yeah. My own stuff mostly. I guess it's just how we managed to write songs. Over the years it's just figuring out who plays what, and what's easiest. We're becoming a bit more focused with what we're doing. It used to be that we'd play with these massive stacks of...
I: Stuff.
A: Stuff. Home-made synths and the like.
I: It was a little ridiculous. It was stacks and stacks of stuff, and it'd take us forever to set up. We've streamlined it since! We've picked our favourite stuff so we can actually play live and not have it be insane!
A: We used to have to get to shows an hour and a half early because it would take so long to set up, man!

Indra, you're from a punk background, and Aaron, you're from a noise background. Do you think the DIY aesthetic- and the rawness- of these cultures have contributed to the sound of Peaking Lights?

A: It's definitely contributed. There's a lot of our past influences that have helped us develop with this.
I: I think life leads you to where you are. So what you've done in the past leads you to where you are in the present, y'know?

A lot of the press about Peaking Lights talks about the krautrock influence, but not so much about the dub side of it. Did you plan to have such a dub sound, or was that the product of your home-made synths?
A: It's something we definitely set out to do. It's a big influence to us, especially with the home-made synths. Dub definitely influenced me in building stuff like that, just being able to say "Fuck it, I can do whatever I want to do!" It's definitely a conscious decision to let that influence shine through.

You both listen to a lot of hip-hop too. Do you pay attention to the production methods in modern hip-hop?
I: Maybe subconsciously. Not in the way that we're looking for sounds, but it's something we both really like. It's not like we could ever be a hip-hop band.
A: Well, Indra might think that...
I: It just seems a little more possible to create a dub sound, and of course that's our own interpretation of it too. It's not like we're gonna sound like a Jamaican band, y'know?
A: We just look outside. We really listen to very little modern music. We really just listen to older music. Lots of reggae and dub, soul music, Latin, jazz, Afro. Even old techno and disco. We don't have a CD player, and I don't think either of us really listen to stuff on the internet.

                                                 Aaron, Mikko, Indra. Photograph by Ben Poster

How significant was your move to Wisconsin?
I: Well I'm from there, and Aaron's from California. We've lived in Wisconsin for four years but we did meet out in the Bay Area, because that's where we were living. I think it's been a good opportunity for us to just... focus on what we're doing. We lived in the country for a couple of years, we had this great house we were renting, we had a lot of space with not distractions. We created the music for fun, it was like an activity for us. It wasn't like we could go out and do much in the evenings so we would do stuff at home. Create music.
A: It definitely helped us focus, with the space. We were able to build a studio up more. There was time, so I was able to do a bit more circuit bending and building.
I: We actually ended up opening a store, in Madison, selling vintage clothes and records. It was called 'Good Style'. We just sold it this year, and it's doing really well, actually. We had a lot of in-stores and art and that kinda stuff. We tried to start a little cultural centre. But we're moving back to LA.

How come?
I: We both miss California a lot! The ocean, the weather... Wisconsin was really good for us- to focus and start what we're doing- but now that we've established that we're really missing the coast.
A: I miss the coast. Where I grew up, on the beach, I was pretty much surfing every day. For real man, I miss just being able to go surfing. I miss the ocean a lot. It's in my blood!

Aaron, I'm told you worked on a 'legendary soul project' in a record shop in Oakland. What was that?
A: Oh, that dig? I was working at Saturn Records in Oakland and we bought this collection. It was a couple hundred thousand pieces. It was from a warehouse that had been repossessed by the bank, and it was all these unplayed 45s that had, like, personal notes from all these people. One was from James Brown. It was like "Hey, my band's playing in Oakland, can you book my show for me?" Just stuff like that. My job was to catalogue the records, so I was just listening to stuff and pricing it.

Do you think that if you'd met each other ten years ago, and moved to Wisconsin then, you'd still be making the same music? Is there anything from the last ten years reflected in Peaking Lights?
I: Ten years ago I was just starting with that band Numbers, and I was in a different headspace. I was really into punk and post-punk music. I feel like Peaking Lights is a development for me. Maybe like something you can't really create until you're at a certain point in your life. I should say that Aaron and I played in a band called Rahdunes first, which was a kind of psych-noise Throbbing Gristle sort of band. That was a huge departure for me, from what I was doing in Numbers. It opened my mind to improvising, and playing such a different kind of music. I think that was the turning point for me.

There seem to be quite a few people stepping away from Noise music just now, and a lot of people are mellowing out- even Merzbow's toned it down. And of course it's now fashionable...
A: I think it's just changing. There are always gonna be people who are not gonna tone it down at all, and then there's people who just have an experimental mindset, who just want to try whatever is out there. For Merzbow to tone it down a notch, it makes total sense. When I think about it I'm like "Well, how the fuck did he get there in the first place?" And it was just by experimenting, and fucking around, y'know?
I: And you don't want to just play the same thing over and over either. You want to develop, and explore new sounds.
A: Our friends Wolf Eyes played in Madison recently and they were just so good. It felt like where they were at when I would see them in the late nineties. To me they still have this amazing energy, it's just a different tone. They're still developing, they're not stagnating.

What's the new Peaking Lights record going to be like?

A: It's probably a little bit of a step away.
I: It's not going to be totally different, but it's definitely going to be a continuation, another chapter. A development!

Here's a mix Peaking Lights made. Keep up to date with their touring schedule, new material and remix album at their site.
MIXXED-UP by Peaking Lights