Clark Kent's Rock and Roll Revue #014: One Unique Signal (part one)/Presence by Graeme 'Dumbjaw' Lynch
Nick Keach: 'For me, this is about creative purging, discovery and...fun? '
Sub-edited by Kate Shall
- John Clay a.k.a Clark Kent
Last week we had the fantastic review of One Unique Signal in this very here blog... Let's find out a little bit more about those crazed scientists that put together that wild free-flowing jalopy that was Aether. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, clowns and posers, hipsters and twats - you get the idea - I now present to you... One Unique Signal! (the first half of...)
- One Unique Signal hanging out in Spain. Nice.
Points raised: vocal necessity, less is more, mission statements...
O.K., do you guys have a current mission statement? Has it always been thus?
All good John, sounds like a plan!
Ok then...Zero mission statement, at least from an outward perspective. For me, this is about creative purging, discovery and...fun? Certainly it has ever been thus.
The band is – I know people hate the term – a supergroup. How difficult/easy is the writing process, and are there any tricks you use to shove off the shackles of writers' block?
The line up has been as it is now for around eight years, and in that time we have all at some point or another been in other projects. We all play in Telescopes from time to time, Byron and myself also do Rohame with Anji Cheung and Jodie Cox (Narrows/Tropics/ Dylan Carlson). Jim, Messenger and Dan were in a couple of projects prior to Signal, on which they can better elaborate. Writing process is generally the kicking around of ideas in the practice room. Having said that, the latest LP was for the most part assembled from demos Byron and I wrote individually and offered up. Everyone in the band is a stand alone writer and has ideas to chuck into the pot. When the light dims in one corner, it's always shinning from another. We can be lazy at times but we don't suffer from creative block. 2013 has been a good year for writing and recording. We have almost another album's worth of recordings we're sitting on, left over from the Aether sessions as well as a number of early stage demos.
- One Unique Signal
Let's talk genre constraints/strengths. Ever been tempted to do a vocally led release, or is the appeal just not present for you?
Baron von Jackson
Hey John, how's it going? When it comes to vocals, personally I've never seen them as either a constraint or a strength, rather another element to add to the mix. Sometimes holding back can add to the impact, although this can often lead to complications when playing live rather than recording.
With the writing process, I have also put a couple of things out as The Mutual Extermination Club; this tends to be things which are either a bit weird for the Signal or just wouldn't really work with a full band. In terms of writing, I find doing something completely different from time to time helps focus or at least purges some of the odd ideas.
Re: mission statement, I have to agree with Nick, I enjoy spending time and making music with these guys because they are open to ideas rather than focused on selecting ones which re-enforce a predetermined plan.
Feel free to answer any questions, be they answered already! Send me that link to The Mutual Extermination Club! Penultimate question: What makes for a bad drone rock group? Is there more good out there than bad, or do you veer away from commenting on the scene?
- Artwork for Aether
Constraints... Dan DNA who records and co produces us had us all meet up in his studio a couple of months before our 2012 tour. The idea was to see how we coped with the task of writing something more accessible and as you say more vocally led. We approached it tongue in cheek and viewed it as an experiment. The end result was the two tracks 88 & Salon Echoic. People definitely picked up on it. We had a few radio shows whack it on repeat and got asked to do a men's fashion store opening in Shoreditch, which we had to decline in fairness. I wouldn't want people to expect those kinds of songs from us in future. The process was interesting but there was a playfulness to the tracks, 88 in particular, that doesn't come naturally to us. On the new record there are oodles of vox compared to previous work. In terms of genre constraints, we have never really known what we are aside from noisy and repetitious. I've never felt worried about whether or not what we are serving up sits with anything else we've done. Closest to that feeling was when we were sat around a table prior to doing 88/Salon Echoic. Aether has songs where we sound like we did on our first single, like we did on Villains as well as super mellow tracks and darker atmospherics. Despite all that, to me we still carry a sound throughout that people who know us will recognise.
MORE OF THIS INTERVIEW NEXT WEEK MONDAY!
And now, for something not entirely different, and yet completely worthy of your time:
Graeme Lynch: 'The idea [...] is for people to use their own feelings and emotions and find their own interpretation'
Graeme Lynch, bassist in punk rock band Dumbjaw, has written an ambient solo album... Presence. Let's delve deep into the mind of this wild-eyed Liverpudlian musical maverick and arranger supreme...
Points raised: instrumental drone rock, the pros and cons of sampling, and a mystery film music project...
Hello Graeme! Cheers for taking the time to chit chat with me today regarding your album! Very different from your Dumbjaw/Maxine and the Minions projects. Wanna tell me of the concept behind Presence?
Presence started off as an experimental jam when I was at home and mucking about with my bass guitar trying different sounds. And I thought, may as well make an album out of it!
Nice. I find that instrumentals elicit imagery based on the sounds. On Track 1 I thought of a coma patient coming around. Probably due to the respiratory sounds! Do you begin with an image in your head, or are these tunes random?
The idea of the songs is for people to use their own feelings and emotions and find their own interpretation of what they think the song or sound could be about. It was quite similar during the writing process.
What did you hope to gain from the experience of writing this way, and is this your first attempt at a solo project?
I suppose the expectation was to actually finish writing it! It was something I've never done before. And writing an album using only a bass guitar and logic sounds was different. I wouldn't go as far as saying it's leading to an attempt at a solo project. But I am working on writing music for a film at the moment. So it's definitely helped push me in that direction.
Interesting, more about that film score later. First though, talk me through Track 2 briefly...reminds me of The Dope Show By Marilyn Manson, in a good way.
I've had a few people saying they can hear a Marilyn Manson influence on some tracks. Track 2 was the second track I wrote, funnily enough, and it's the first track I began to write using my bass guitar. The first track is just piano and synths. So it's when the idea of an album started to take shape. I wanted it dark and almost mysterious. Which is why it has panned synths through out the song constantly panning from left to right and back again. Almost painting an environment in your head and making the song feel real.
I wish my headphones weren't so fucked, although I can notice the panning on my speakers. Nice one man. And for those who may not know your music and have yet to experience Presence, here it is... https://soundcloud.com/graeme-lynch/sets/presence
Got a mad question for you... Hendrix and many other artists from a bygone time allowed nature and mechanical environs to influence their sounds, from animals to the whir of the helicopter. I find that many musicians now are quite oblivious to that, and instead use other bands or genres to find new songs. When was the last time you were inspired beyond another person's material?
I suppose for this album their wasn't an influence. I'm a huge Nine Inch Nails fan and their music amazes me. You can hear it on Presence. But I wouldn't say I sat down and thought "If Trent Reznor can do it, why can't I". Ok maybe a little... But creating those sounds myself without using any influence or template or sample was extremely fun to do. So I guess the album was self inspired. It's been a while since I'd say another person's music has inspired me as such. I did watch The Social Network movie the other month. The soundtrack was also written by Trent Reznor, I guess that inspired me.
Trent is amazing isn't he? I wanna keep on this thing about inspiration and the world around us. I can't help but wonder how different Presence would be if you had the same technology to make it on, but were alive fifty plus years ago... Care to remark on that?
I think it may have been slightly difficult to recreate some of the sounds without using modern day technology. But I'm sure some of it can be done. If you check out Led Zeppelin's When The Levee breaks, Jimmy Page used a micing theory and shoved John Bonham's drum kit under a set of stairs or something like that. The drum sounds are massive. It'd be real fun to try create a similar album using analogue technology and physics.
Wow! I never thought about it that way. Something that separates your music from other electronica - and I can't figure out if it's a negative - your denial of sampling. The odd 'natural' sound, be it vocal or industrial might lend a further humanity to your music. Was denial of the world outside the cyber a conscious decision?
I wanted to keep the album instrumental simply because I wanted to do everything on the album and I'm not really much of a confident singer. And drafting someone else in to add vocals took away from the fact that I'd created something all by myself. And as for the industrial sounding, it's something I never tried before and I'd always wanted to.
Appreciate the candidness man. Right, back to tracks! Track 3 is harder than Track 2…we’re getting progressively more rocky…is the albums track listing significant? 3 segues nicely into the very rocky 4…and 3 is a fave of mine by the way!
I think the album has a kind of soft opener, rocky core and ends a bit more gently. Track 3 was one of the last songs I wrote but ended up early on in the album to keep the general soft hard soft vibe of the album.
Do you reckon Dumbjaw will ever have an electronic period? I know Lenny is down with the vibe so...a possibility then?
It's something we've spoken about and something we're very open to. So maybe. We'll see!
Hooray! According Facebook you are moving all over London...it must be weird finding the odd question greeting you every time you pop up again from the underground! O.K. penultimate question: Would you find it offensive if I said you have a future in video game music?
Haha yeah I'm on a train back to Essex as we speak! Interview on the move. No absolutely not. I love music, creating it and listening to it. I'm looking at going into writing for films etc. as I mentioned but that doesn't specifically mean films. I'm looking to cover everything and anything. Music adds so much to a visual and can change the way you perceive what you're watching simply by changing the music about. I find that quite impressive.
Right Mr Lynch, to wrap up, I thought you could tell us more about this film score you're working on?
Unfortunately I've been told to keep my lips sealed I'm afraid! But I'm really enjoying it so far...
C'mon...give us a little taste of what the process is like? Clark Kent wants a little teaspoon, if not an actual scoop!
That's all I can say, sorry!
Fine! I've got a back up final question...Will we be seeing more solo material in the future, or have you purged yourself of the need to do your own thing? More like Track 13 and Track 1 please!!
The idea was to just do one. But I had fun doing it. I'd like to do another album but collaborate with someone. Preferably who can sing haha. But generally keeping the sound and genre the same. I'm having fun working with piano. Something I've done before. I should really buy one...
I'll shout you the piano if you let me sing/scream Trent/Cobain style over a few tracks... How about you get a whole load of different voices over tracks with a thematic thread?
I was thinking of using a female singer. Dark and eerie singing. That'd be cool. Like that French band who supported Maxine and the Minions in the Dublin castle.
Fine then...no piano for you! Lovely to chat to you, really...gonna have a listen to How To Destroy Angels as they remind me of Presence (I've been listening to the album during this convo).
The band that you're talking about are called Black Cherry...I think! I'll post a link when I upload this thing.
Thanks again man...keep on playing them there tunes squire!
Yeah that's the one. I'll have to check them out a bit more. Cool John, thanks!
That's it for this week folks, and please check out these bands! They're worth your time! And if you know of any bands you'd like to see in this blog... get in touch with me, and we can work something out...