Hi Matthew, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I have been well. Been on holiday with the missus driving through Cornwall having a lot of cream teas. Lovely.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Never Yesterday”?
Yeah, we are releasing ‘Never Yesterday’ as a video. It’s a song I had been slowly writing for almost a decade. I would forget about it for a while and then when I picked up a guitar it would come back to me. For a while I thought it was someone else’s song as it seemed too familiar. But that’s probably because it had been bouncing around in my loaf for so long. It’s a song about a relationship collapse, mostly the one with myself. New York becomes the metaphor for all of the issues I am working with in the song. It’s a song that contains lot of disparate emotions and fragmented memories from many years all overflowing in the form an emotional ‘collapse’. These isolated memories become the vehicle to represent the ‘loss of sense of place’….a sense of home. It’s a ‘I am thoroughly and completely lost’ kind of song. It’s the last song on the album. It ends with a proper crescendo.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
Yes, it will be released as a video. It’s a wild collage of public domain footage and stuff I have shot on my iphone. It works as a sort of dream sequence and uses dozens of visual ideas as metaphors for the narrative of the feeling of love ‘lost’.
The single comes off your new album One, what’s the story behind the title?
I shared the album initially with friends and family on the one year anniversary of my sobriety. A more public release came almost a year later. We released that on Carl Negin’s birthday. Carl ( a former band mate) recorded the record with me. The name ONE seemed appropriate. I intend to number all the future albums that are on this theme. I have an idea for a future album that is based on my grandmother’s diary of a ship voyage she made from the Southampton to New York. That will have a proper name if I ever get around to it.
Is this a concept album?
Yes. The story starts in 1999 and works its way up to 2012. The bigger concept I was after was ‘cinemanic’. It’s meant to be hazy and shift radically in mood from manic to depressive. The themes are sleep deprivation, anxiety, dependency and fear of change (The beautiful Fear). They all exhibit themselves in the various stories that make up the songs. Many of the songs join together so one doesn’t necessarily know exactly where one song ends and another begins. People have told me it is a ‘headphones only’ album and I like that. There is a lot of detail texture going on. We are working on TWO now which picks up in 2012 and works its way through until July 2014. TWO is shaping up to be a longer and even more musically diverse piece.
Would both installments share the same theme?
Yes, the second installment is a continuation, however where ONE exhibits the symptoms abstractly, TWO develops the idea of alternating denial and acceptance, clarity and haze. The end of TWO resolves and hopefully makes sense of the work as a whole. It’s an autobiographical piece. Something I should probably keep to myself. I have always been drawn to the idea of a concept album. Dark Side of the Moon being the most inspirational record for me. I like the way you have to listen to it as a whole piece. When iPods first came out I burned it into iTunes as a single 42 minute and 57 second piece of music. I don’t shuffle records. I am a ‘mixed tape purest’. The order of the songs is critical. A great mixed tape, is a concept (compilation) album.
How was the recording and writing process?
We record remotely in three locations. Brooklyn, Miami Beach and Baltimore. Recently Woody Pak has been contributing orchestration for our upcoming album ‘TWO’ so that makes it four locations as he’s usually in Seoul Korea. It’s a virtual project more than a ‘band’. Both Carl and myself studied architecture and in many ways we build and design the music, piece by piece. We don’t play live together when we record. I do all the singing and we share all the other instrumentation without much preconception as to who will play or program what. I start by creating a session that has the structure and enough elements to describe the song’s mood and then we slowly alternately add and subtract from there. It’s quite an experimental process.
What was it like to work with John O’Mahoney and how did that relationship develop?
It was a fantastic experience. I met John outside a pub in NYC waiting for a premiere football game many moons ago. We were both up early but the Pub never opened. We just walked around the east village and chatted. Our love for shoegaze music, Fender Jaguar Guitars and a particular football team made us fast friends. He’s from Cork in Ireland so we also had that common bond of being expats in NYC. (I am from England) John’s a very talented and accomplished producer and mixer. He’s worked with everyone in some capacity. One Sunday afternoon he invited me over to Chung King studios where he was engineering. Set up in the studio was all of Bowie’s stuff. His jacket was on the chair…his cigarettes, his guitar, his notebook with lyrics…It was a very surreal moment to get that close to God. Shivers as I write.
In our case John only mixed ‘Never Yesterday’ he didn’t produce it. I wish he had produced the song and the whole album for that matter. Unfortunately economy meant that Carl and myself mixed all the other tracks on the album. John did act as an adviser though. When we were approaching final mixes we would send him each song and he would send back pretty detailed notes of how to tweak the mix. Lots of ‘the snare at 3:14 makes me blink and bring up the high hat 1.5 dB’. Carl and I spend months sharing files back and forth until it approaches the vision I have in my head. With John he sent back a mix in 48 hours and I only had one comment to slightly turn down an echo for two seconds on a vocal part. Otherwise given the material we sent him the mix was in my mind perfect. He’s a total artist and I hope that we will work together in a more extensive capacity down the road.
Would all the songs deal with relationships issues – where did you find the inspiration for the songsand lyrics?
The album is about the relationship I have with myself as one half heads for the edge while the other is trying desperately to stay on board and in control. The themes include dependency, anxiety and sleep depravation (the devil’s work). The songs are all directly related to my life. Every lyric means something very particular to me. It’s like a diary and I am slowly trying to sort out my mind through writing it all down as music. Sometimes it takes me a while to figure out what a song is exactly about as the writing process comes in stages. You might start with a few chords and a lyric that comes to you, but you have to work at it to find the rest of that story and why that particular idea came back to the surface in the first place. I never sit down and say to myself ‘I am going to write a song about X that sounds like Y’. It’s more like a discovery process. The songs tell the story of a repetitive cycle I got stuck in. Thankfully I am in good shape these days.
Any plans to hit the road?
I intend to do a tour of rehab centers after we have finished the next album. I’d like to help people suffering from addiction and depression. Live it’s just me and an acoustic guitar, stripped down to the bare essentials. I tell a lot of stories and actually joke a lot to lighten up the darkness in the music. Throw in some British self-deprecation and that’s a Beautiful Fear show for you.
What else is happening next in The Beautiful Fear’s world?
Just getting the next record sorted. Thank you.