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What's new in iJamming!...
Tue, Oct 23, 2001
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN: "Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain."
HEDONISM:
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online
From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
MUSING ON A SEPTEMBER MOURNING
PART1:
My immediate reaction to September 11
PART 2: Messages from friends & family overseas
PART 3: Observations & quotes from others.
PART 4: LINKS
PART 5: COPING - 2 weeks later
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
JOHN ACQUAVIVA
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured albums
(Hub, Slumber Party, DJ Harry, Spearhead, The Who tribute
)
Albums that sound different since September 11
(Charlatans UK, Arabian Travels, Cafe del Mar, Sugarcult)
Featured wine region 3:
SOUTHERN RHÔNE WHITES
Featured wine region 4:
SOUTHERN RHÔNE ROSÉS
iJamming! interview:
Jesse Hartman, aka LAPTOP
"Every New York band knows the meaning of failure"
MIX Albums:
Who, what and why you should bother (DB, Spooky, Jody, RSW, Bad Boy Bill)
FEATURED Wines (Langlois Cremant de Loire, Honig Sauvignon Blanc, Campbell's Muscat, Brumont Gros Manseng, Dr Frank Gewürtztraminer, Daubree CoteRotie, Dry Creek Chenin Blanc, Mas Saint Laurent Picpoul, Quivira Dry Creek)
The iJAMMING! interview: DAVID SYLVIAN
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
From Homework to the Disco:
DAFT PUNK
grows up and dumbs down
The iJAMMING! chat:
MARK PERRY

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
The Return of Shoegazing:
DOVES take New York by swarm
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
THE iJAMMING! Book Review:
SNIFFIN' GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
Musing with SALLY TAYLOR:
"I'm not interested in what the major labels have to offer."
From the JAMMING! archives: PAUL WELLER ON POP
Featured wine region 2:
CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES
From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
interviewed in 1978
TRAVIS.
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
Featured Artist Web Site:
LLOYD COLE
From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
Featured vine:
VIOGNIER:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.
The iJAMMING! interview:
BOY GEORGE.
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
SUPERDRAG
They love rock'n'roll but they don't want to deal with the hassle
From the JAMMING! archives: RAYMONDE in 1985
The full iJamming! Contents
the iJAMMING! interview:
DAVID SYLVIAN Pt 2
(Click here for Part 1) (And here for Part 3)

TF: You're right that the industry is in a dramatically different state right now, and yes, Virgin has stuck by you. It used to be enough that a major label could sell enough records around the world by a cult artist like you to make their money back. Does Virgin make enough from you around the world?

DS: Well they cover their costs. Is that enough? I don't know.

TF: Because it's very clear that you have pockets of healthy sales around the world.

DS: And it changes from project to project. Dead Bees did surprisingly well in Germany, and the other albums hadn't. You get an increase here, a decrease there. A lot of people can't stay with me from project to project. If I release an instrumental work, I might lose a bunch of people that were just turned on by Dead Bees, then they hear Approaching Silence and they're like "What's that all about?" and they don't pick up on the work that follows after that. I understand why that is the case. But somehow it all seems to balance itself out in the long run.

TF: A lot of artists have come off major labels in the last few years, and some of them have become more comfortable in that, because they recognize that they're not platinum artists.

DS: To have control over your work. . .I have control over every aspect right now, but it's like pulling teeth trying to get the full support of a company behind you. It's really hard to work with indifference, you can work with just about anything but indifference. There's been an enormous frustration from my side trying to rally the troops around the work. Everybody's enthusiastic about it, they like what they hear, but they don't find a pocket for it, they don't know what to do for it. And I've been around for so long, like you say, that they maybe think that that's it, that I've reached the peak, the cap in terms of the number of sales that I'm ever going to have, and they don't give the push that might drive an album beyond previous sales. It's very frustrating being in that position, but there are many benefits to being on a major label, just that the album is out there, it's accessible, it is advertised to some degree, even though as I said you really have to push the company to be there for you and put the ads in. I would be quite open to being autonomous entirely off my own back either with a small label or my own label, and I'm quite open to staying with Virgin, as long as the spirit of the company is supportive and rallies around the work.

TF: Because some of the people that you work with have ended up in their own more self-controlled independent state, when I think of Robert Fripp and Bill Nelson.

DSs: Robert is a good example but it's actually quite hard to sustain those smaller independent labels, though Robert has done a good job of it so far. Bill has been up and down with labels of one kind or another. The guys from Japan have their own label now. I know it's difficult, it's not easy getting the work out there and letting everyone know it exists. I asked my brother if he would still sign up to a major label again having been autonomous, and he said yeah, so there are clear benefits.


TF: I'm interested in the process of taking such a long time between albums. There are other musicians from what I would call "my generation" who have recently taken similarly long time between albums. I'm thinking of Green/Scritti Politti and Matt Johnson/The The. In those cases, their need both for artistic freedom and to catch up with a persona life superseded the need to keep putting work out there, and I was wondering if that was the same for you.

DS: Yeah, life takes over sometimes. I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - and why not? Because it will come back into the work ultimately. I don't feel the need to prove myself a prolific artist to justify my status as an artist. It seems irrelevant how many albums I put out, but rather the quality that is important. If I make a handful of albums in a lifetime that I can really stand by and say 'that's work I'm proud of' I think that's enough, as long as my life has been full enough to compensate for the small number of albums released during that period of time.

"Life takes over sometimes. I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - and why not? Because it will come back into the work ultimately."

On how marriage (to Ingrid Chavez, left) and parenthood cut into recording.

I got so involved with so many things when I moved to the States, with my family, marriage, children, and then meeting certain [spiritual] teachers, that it was really hard for me to get into the studio and focus in on work. And there were periods of time when I thought well maybe that was it, that I wasn't going to return to it, because there are other areas of life that were calling. It wasn't that I wasn't enjoying music - though the recording of Dead Bees was frustrating and seemed to have numerous obstacles placed in its path along its development - I just thought at some point "Maybe I'm meant to stop now, and maybe my time is up and I should be focusing on these other elements that are really fascinating me." But it wasn't to be so. And I'm really happy that it wasn't so.

TF: But sometimes it takes leaving the studio and leaving the music and doing other things to have the calling of doing the music as well.

DS: It really does. And the period before that was really intense in another way, it was a very difficult period to work through, a very heavy period. And again I couldn't really see the work, because I couldn't really understand what it was I was living through. I was feeling incapacitated in a certain way, and very restless and every time I tried to sit down and write material it didn't mean anything to me, I wasn't making the connection. And I felt that it was because I didn't understand the predicament I was in, I wasn't able to write from that place, I was imitating myself really.

TF: You've built your own studio and are doing all your recording there now. Why?

DS: You tire of being in studios A lot of them aren't particularly creative environments- not by a long shot. And I like to work slowly, and that's costly. So to have a base where it wasn't costing me anything was a real luxury, and when it as necessary to move out into studios or desirable to get a new perspective on the work, I tried to pick places that didn't conform to the normal standards. That actually have quite a strong spirit. Real world obviously does; Daniel Lanois' place Kingsway had a wonderful spirit. I just tire of being in the traditional studio environment. I can't see myself working in that environment again. I find it totally sterile.

TF: So is the ambiance you create homely?

DS: In a sense. But it's my space, it's a quiet space, where I can shut the door on the world and focus in on my work, and that's important. And I can work entirely alone. I don't need anybody in that room with me. Which is wonderful in the writing it's necessary, but also in the recording stage of the vocals. To be entirely alone when recording the vocals was a wonderful liberty that I had never experienced before.

TF: You loaded up with Pro Tools and all of that?

DS: It started piecemeal, we had a couple of ADATs, and Ingrid and I were doing some demos at home, and my engineer Dave Kent came into that situation and made some suggestions as to how we would improve on the set up. And we just had so many problems with the ADATs, I know some people who have had no problem at all, but I swear to God we didn't have one tape that didn't get mangled and destroyed in the process of recording. So we turned to the hard drive and saw that as a positive solution. We started out with something like a 4 gig hard drive and a really humble Pro Tools set up and that just expanded as the album went on.

TF: Have you turned into more of a studio buff than you once were, out of necessity?

DS: Out of necessity I have yeah. When I started out on Dead Bees, I was going to initially do it with Ryuichi. There were going to be a number of people... As I took over the production reigns entirely, we got into the Pro Tools system, I got into learning how to handle that myself, necessarily so; where other contributors had fallen short in terms of their musical contribution I had to pick that up and work that out for myself, so I was far more involved musically and on an engineering-production level than I intended. But I learned an awful lot in the process, thoroughly enjoyed it and wouldn't have it any other way now.

TF: So there's obviously a financial investment in terms of setting up a studio that can produce the quality of music that you're known for, but to you that investment pays off in terms of not having to look at the clock in someone else's studio.

DS: Absolutely. It's a wonderful freedom to have. I've never been good at working under pressure. I just like taking my time on a project, I like to get to it when I'm ready, and when I am ready I like to focus in on itself. And having 1st/2nd/3rd bashes at things. Whether it's a vocal or overdub. I remember getting to the vocals on Dead Bees four years after having written the material. It takes time to work yourself back into the material so that you get the nuances down. I would sing these songs every day until it felt right, until it was coming back at me through the speakers the way I intended it. I had never been given that luxury before - so it was a real eye opener.

TF: Although you use a lot of other musicians, I always get the impression you could play pretty much what you wanted to.

DS: Oh no, I'm definitely not a technically proficient musician, by any stretch of the imagination. I think of myself as a non-musician. I mean, I get by. I can write, and I can perform, to a certain extent, and that's what I've enjoyed over the years - working with non musicians, and matching that with some beautifully technically proficient musicians that come in and play wonderfully lucid lines and performances and so on. I think of the band Japan as being a group of non-musicians. We're all self-taught, and although we've matured over the years and become more proficient in what we do, there are wonderful holes in our education which will never be filled. And what that's meant is that when you're working together in the studio and when it comes time for a break - be it guitar or keyboard or whatever - we may not be proficient enough to take that solo, and so we have to come up with alternate means for producing something for that spot, and I've always found that that creative means of getting round your shortcomings was far more interesting,, ultimately, than just whacking out another solo. So I've loved working with Japan and the Rain Tree Crow project extended on that, and Holgar Czukay and other non musicians, because you have to find interesting ways of getting around certain problems that arise due to your lack of your technical proficiency as a player.

TF: You're also somebody who is qualified as a visual artist, and it just occurred to me that now that one can record at home with all this equipment and you can see what you're doing - you can see the shapes and so on. Do you see a difference in that you can see the structure of a song more in terms of a visual piece?

DS: The structure of a song is a far more internal experience for me, Yeah you can see it drawn out on the screen but I experience it differently internally. Having said that, having the ability to go right into apiece of music and fine edit performances, I go to town on that, I thoroughly enjoy it, I'm well known for editing the performances of contributors. If someone comes in and solos for me and gives me six takes, I'll be slicing that performance up for some time, getting it just the way I want it, mixing the performances to get the performance that really suits me. The same with my vocal performances, I'll edit it until it feels right. What I did feel about the pro tools system was that you could go to town on it, editing material over and over, refining it and refining it without killing the spirit of the piece and that was not true when working with analogue tape or digital tape. You could only go so far before you began to lose it, it would die in your head. With Pro Tools I found I could work on it endlessly, and I could in a sense enhance the spirit of a piece, in some cases the original performances weren't really up to scratch, and I was able to bring them into focus. I remember talking to Michael Brook around the time I was making the album, and he was saying the same thing, because he was working with music that Musrat Ali Khan had done and was contributing new rhythm sections and everything to the original performances. The final album sounded so organic to me, and he said "No, it was six months sweating with Pro Tools, everything was out of time and out of tune." And that was an eye opener for me, so I said "Okay, that's a system I have to check out.'

GA: It seemed even more apparent on Dead Bees that kind of editing of a performers' work. I know you said at one point you had more unsatisfactory performances, but I just wondered how you felt about how you seem to have take it to another level, taking these performances, chopping them up, and I suspect, sticking them in other songs they weren't intended for. You felt the Pro Tools system afforded you that possibility.

DS: It liberated me. I don't think the album could have been made without that system. I was having such difficulties getting the right performances that I saw no other options other this approach. If it hadn't been open to me, I think it would have been lost.

GA: And in a way it cycles back to the whole thing with Holgar Czukay, because I was very struck back in '82 when The Peak of Normal came out and there was this whole thing on the back about "painting in sound, rerecording enriched" and in a way it seem s like it's new and it's old. Holgar was doing it then, and you're doing it in Pro Tools.

DS: That's very true, Holgar is very much ahead of his time in the way he thinks about music and the approach he takes to editing music. I recognized that a long time ago. When I first worked with him on Brilliant Trees, he was working with these two dictaphones, and this was around the time that emulators were coming out, sampling was really just beginning to take shape, and he was saying "I'm way ahead of technology here," just using these two IBM dictaphones. And he was, because the way he could manipulate the performances - and it was a very live, real time performance he was getting with those dictaphones - was something we were incapable of doing at that time with the samplers.

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