Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Walter Peck”?
As much as it’s an entertaining idea, “Walter Peck” probably doesn’t qualify as a “single” since that word implies some sort of coherent business plan and financial ambition. We prefer to think of it a little more pragmatically. We somehow managed to get our shit together for a large enough window of time to release a track into the general populace where, free of charge, it could be savoured like birdsong in the morning or shunned like a burp in a lift. Delete as appropriate.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
As a concept, fundamentally it addresses the death of “Walter Peck”. A character midway between some tragic fiction and a real-life close friend who passed away recently. The titles of the tracks and overall mood are intended as a reflection of the many long conversation I personally had with that friend prior to his death about mortality, the futility of art and the pathetic, desperate vanity of humans in general. The work of a number of writers, thinkers and artists played a big part in it, hence “Ernest Becker”.
Musically we were all inspired in different ways by five quite varied tastes, albeit with huge amounts of common ground. Everything from the likes of Sunn0))) and Godspeed You! Black Emperor right through to Autechre, Fourtet and Neu!, not to mention Graham’s massive knowledge and love of jazz, played their considerable part.
The single comes off your new album The Remains of Water Peck – what’s the story behind the title?
Again, you flatter our level of organisation. The Remains of Walter Peck is an EP of three tracks not an album. The album is mooted for the end of this year.
“The Remains…” element stems from those long (frequently stoned) conversations about impending oblivion I mentioned earlier. The record and the circumstances around it are very much part of “Walter’s” legacy. The inception of the band was in part due to an idea he and I had some time back, before illness intervened. The relationships that were formed from it since owe a lot to him, in particular that of our friendship with Ben, whom I only met personally via Walter and other mutual friends and whom I first had serious drinks with on the night of Walter’s wake after I found myself at a Fuck Buttons show with his ashes in my back-pack. Walter had wanted to go to the show anyway, so it seemed fitting.
The ashes ended up in the middle of a pub table in Edinburgh as a group of us got pretty smashed. The urn actually ended up going missing in macabre comic fashion. It’s fine. I found them eventually. I also vaguely remember a tour manager trying to strangle me. It was a big night.
So in real terms, the friendships that came from Walter’s death are a very real legacy and from those friendships sprouted an entire record and batch of songs, a recording trip to Orkney, countless incredible memories of that, road-trips, drunken nights, jokes and an entire new adventure in a new band that is ongoing in a big way.
So much more so than a bunch of ashes currently drifting on the Pacific Ocean, this music, the wosdom and the opportunities and friendships it has fostered are the real remains of Walter Peck. At least, the ones he would be most proud of.
How was the recording and writing process?
Arduous at times. Blissful at others.
We travelled to an abandoned church in remote Orkney for the recording sessions which was an incredible experience.
Working at the beach in this ancient building, watching seals in the water, pods of killer whales in the sea, no cops, a local shop that opened for 2 hours a day 4 days a week, stepping out to drink beers in some ancient village ruins that were older than the pyramids…. really mind-blowing stuff at times. Everyone that went – the band plus Ben and our engineer Valerio – will genuinely never forget that experience.
That said, I have never worked harder at something that was meant to be fun. We had lots to do so were quite literally taking it in shifts. Up and recording at 10am, still recording at 4am the next morning. That routine for over a week. If you finished your part, you went into the kitchen and started making a meal for 7 people. Or you travelled to the other side of the island to stock up on alcohol and fruit.
It was incredibly intensive but as a result there is a real consistent feel to the material that resulted. We’re getting suck into the six tracks intended for the album now but there is still some way to go.
What was it like to work with Ben Power and how did that relationship develop?
As I mentioned earlier, Ben and I met in bizarre circumstances thanks to Walter.
Working with Ben can only loosely be described as such since it is basically just an excuse for all of us to hang out together. But in terms of his approach to his craft, it is really quite astonishing. It quickly becomes obvious just how much of a professional this guy is. Without you actually witnessing him go at it, it’s hard to do it justice, but what might take us days to capture in a studio takes him minutes. Luigi in particular, who is a fairly successful producer and engineer in his own right, will be the first to tell you how much working with Ben has upped his own game and made us all aspire to a higher level of professionalism in our various roles.
It’s worth noting though that when he gets in that zone, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Ben’s eyes roll up in his head as he goes into an Ableton trance. Like some creepy parka-wearing electro-borg powered only by quality Gin and trail mix.
How much did he get to influence the album?
Ben’s influence on the EP is considerable of course. We co-wrote “Ernest Becker” with him. It was originally a 4am improv session from Orkney that we collectively revisited and made into something distinct and massive. It’s a fitting amalgam of our tastes and his.
I think, where his influence is most apparent – and the reason we wanted him to get involved – was in the bravery of his production decisions. We are an electro-rock band but, in my experience, electro-rock records can often feel either too lo-fi or too slick. We wanted something nasty and visceral but with real clarity. Ben has made a career of that in Fuck Buttons and now in Blanck Mass so there was no better person to turn to.
For me, that stems from brave production choices. We are a relatively new band and as such sometimes we are inclined to shy away from anything too radical when producing. Ben is the opposite. He is more than happy to run a £3000 synth through a £15 guitar pedal. And it really works. In the long-run we want to be of that same mind-set so it was a very deliberate decision to immerse ourselves in that attitude from the start.
That, I would say, has been his biggest influence on our work: take more chances.
How did pessimism get to inspire the lyrics on this album?
Hugely. We were so pessimistic in fact that we gave up on lyrics altogether.
Any plans to hit the road?
There are lots of plans in the near future. In June we Play Brew at the Bog Festival in Scotland. There are a few more such festival shows after that, as well as a Glasgow and Aberdeen date in August. Then in late September it looks like a few weeks on continental Europe where, to be frank, we feel more at home – certainly musically – than we do in the UK.
The attitude to live shows on the European underground is also refreshing. It feels less like grovelling – breaking your back trying to convince people why they should bother switching off their Xbox and come out to see you – and more like they are genuinely grateful for you taking the time to travel so far and put on a show.
What else is happening next in Outblinker’s world?
In Outblinker’s world we plan to get wired into this bloody album production, albeit painfully aware that, by the time Trump is elected in November, society might well have disintegrated to such an extent that there was no bloody point doing the record and the time might have been better spent hoarding canned foods in our underground bunker and sharpening sticks for survival in the post-apocalyptic wasteland to come.